How To Drastically Increase Your Blog's Page Load Speed and SEO

by Robb Sutton

In the world of websites, speed is essential. Not only does your page load speed directly affect how your readers interact with your site, but now it also directly affects your search engine performance as Google as integrated it into their algorithm.

The problem…

WordPress site are generally slow. However, it’s not their fault as the stock install performs incredibly well. Even if you do everything you can within your admin and on page content (tips for that here), you are going to end up with a slow loading site. With all of the designs, images and code we add to our installs via uploads and plugins, we end up clogging the system and slowing down the train. Even if you are running an extremely fast host (which most are not), you still run into the same problem…just on a lesser scale than those that are on slow, shared hosting.

The good news…

There is a solution for sites on inexpensive or expensive hosting that will drastically increase your blog’s page load speed that will ultimately help you on this site as well.

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

CDN is a Content Delivery Network of highly-optimized servers all around the world working together to distribute your content (CSS and Javascript files, downloadable objects, applications, real-time media streams, and much more) through hundreds of servers instead of a single host. This “smart route” technology makes sure each visitor to your site gets their data from the city closest to them.

Long story short, a CDN service caches your files remotely on multiple servers around the world to makes sure your readers get the most efficient path insuring fast load times. The result is drastic and instant.

What have I been doing lately on my sites?

To test out the theory, I went live with a CDN service on my highest traffic site, Mountain.Bike198.com. Within two hours of taking the system live, we cut my page load speeds down to a 1/3 of what they were before. It was incredible.

To make sure I wasn’t just going insane, I sent out a quick Facebook update to some friends to see if they could tell a difference and all of them were amazed. The site did not load slowly before, but new, faster load speeds made for a better experience as you click around articles. I also used several tools around the web that test your page load speed to get a better metric, and it averaged out to a 1/3 to 1/2 the speed it was originally. That is a big change.

Based off of these results, I am now in the process of integrating my CDN service into all of my sites (only really takes about 10 minutes to setup…I just haven’t gotten around to it) to keep things as efficient as possible.

What’s the downside?

Nothing is without a downside…and in this case…it is cost.

Luckily, using a CDN service used to be extremely expensive and that was the main reason I have not used this solution up until this point. Now, you can find a CDN service that gives you 1 TB of usage for around 39 bucks like I did with MaxCDN. That 1 TB should last me almost a year given today’s traffic levels which really isn’t bad for under 40 dollars. In the past, it would have been a lot more than that, but thanks to companies like Amazon providing inexpensive, fast storage options…the playing field has been leveled for online storage.

Should you use a CDN service?

As with any paid service, there is always the question on whether it is a right fit for you. When I looked at what my sites needed…I looked at several key factors.

  • My sites are image heavy…both in the design and in the articles. My cycling sites have a lot of multiple image reviews and numerous plugin integrations, so the benefit of taking on a system like this has a huge impact.
  • SEO competition in my markets is really high. I need to efficiently run every aspect of my blogs to be competitive, so page load speed is just as important as any other factor.
  • Readers in my niche have complained about other sites loading slowly in the past, so they are sensitive to page load speed in site preferences.

If you are in the same boat I am, then a CDN service is worth the investment and will show a return. If you are just blogging for fun or to share information with family, simple changes like hosting and image optimization will probably be fine and there is no need to speed extra money on a service like this one.

As I mentioned before, the best pricing for a quality service I could find was MaxCDN and I have been incredibly happy with the results so far. There were easy step by step instructions to get you up and running in WordPress with W3 Total Cache (which you should be running anyway) and other blogging platforms. You can check them out by clicking here.

14 comments

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14 comments

Scott Webb March 17, 2011 - 11:33 am

My website – nuwomb.com – is related to photography and I know my site is hurting in speed. I’m not familiar enough with all of this other stuff to jump in. This post helps me out a bit more and I may have to look into it soon if traffic grows (it better). I’ll have to look into a few ways to test the speed and try out a CDN. Thanks

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Robb Sutton March 17, 2011 - 11:39 am

Scott,

A CDN is something you should really look into for your site. I know exactly what you are talking about with photography sites as you do not want to get the resolution and the quality of the images down to a point that they do not look their best. A CDN would cache your images and get them to load much faster for your visitors.

I am actually starting to build out RobbSutton.com to host my images…so I’ll be doing this to get the same result. I’m not a pro by any stretch…but I like to think I get an ok shot every now and then!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rsutton1223/

Let me know if you ever have any other questions about it.

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Andrew Rondeau March 17, 2011 - 12:07 pm

Robb,

I recently added a CDN (Rackspace) along with W3-Total-Cache to my blog and I also have experienced a similar improvement in load time.

Anyone reading should do it…small bucks for huge gains.

Andrew

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Ahmad Wali March 17, 2011 - 12:31 pm

I think CDN is only for professional bloggers. Beginners or people not making enough are not recommended to spend that much. Also 39$ is for first time discount after that it will be 99$.

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Justin Shattuck March 17, 2011 - 4:07 pm

Where is my credit link?! I’m the guru who gives you these bright and lovely ideas! haha. /me fades back into the background to continue crunching up wonderful web apps :cough: visit http://stow.in/ and signup for beta :cough: :cough: :cough: go now :cough: :hiccup:

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Robb Sutton March 17, 2011 - 7:27 pm

SPAM!!! haha…j/k

Thanks for the heads up BTW!

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Todd March 17, 2011 - 4:45 pm

I just started using MaxCDN on my site and it made a HUGE difference! It works very well with WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.

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Robb Sutton March 17, 2011 - 7:27 pm

WordPress SEO is one of my favorite SEO plugins.

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Jimmy Moncrief March 22, 2011 - 4:04 am

Great Posts but don’t you think this is just for high traffic blogs like yours?

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Robb Sutton March 22, 2011 - 10:23 am

Jimmy, No I don’t. Page load speed is very important for every blog.

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Suraj Vibhute March 24, 2011 - 7:28 pm

Yeah CDN is really helpful to make blog fast, I am using MaxCDN, but as blog serve more than 5GB each day I host most of the images on Picasa.

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John Tuggle April 17, 2011 - 1:30 pm

I use W3 Total Cache in conjunction with Amazon S3. This is very fast and inexpensive.

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Ross November 29, 2011 - 6:50 pm

I realize this is an older post but wanted to ask a question about using a CDN with WordPress to host images. I’ve been taking bigger and bigger images on trips and adventures but have shied away from putting them on the blog because they eat up so much bandwidth through my already limited plan. Can you use the images for all the functions in WooTheme themes?

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Robb Sutton November 30, 2011 - 4:05 pm

With the CDN, you operate as normal and the service remotely hosts automatically. For your pictures, bring the size down to 1000px on the long side and compress them for web. They will still look awesome and the file size will be manageable.

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