A picture of a computer showing a graph of Nick Byrd's website traffic data from Nick Byrd's blog post about WordPress Optimization.

11 Steps Toward WordPress Optimization (for both of us)

This is a WordPress website. And I have done a lot of WordPress optimization in the last 6 months. That optimization correlates with a more than 500% increase in traffic and an almost 50% reduction in webpage loading time. In case you’re interested in how I optimize the website, I’ll tell you how below.

A.  Security

1.  Your connection to this site is encrypted! So no one can see what email address you use to subscribe to or comment on this blog (more on that below). It’s like your bank’s website, your credit card’s website, etc. That’s why you see the lock logo in your address bar, by the way. Apparently Google’s search gods prefer secure websites. I hope you do too.

How I did it: Most website hosts will do this for free. I had to purchase an SSL certificate from SSL.com and then ask my web host to install it — more on web hosting below. (Feel free to help me cover this kind of cost.)

2.  I run regular anti-malware scans on the site to make sure that it is not wreaking havoc on me or you or anyone else.

How I did it: with the Security and Brute-Force Firewall plugin.

B.  WordPress Optimization

3.  The site is now faster (and no longer hosted by a Endurance International Group company) after switching from Bluehost to a new host.

How I did it: I bought a new web hosting plan. I tried InMotion for a bit, but changed again when their prices rose faster than their quality. I now use DreamHost.

4.  Your browser can now load each page of the site much faster because I’ve eliminated a bunch of unnecessary processes and information.

How I did it: I used the Smush It plugin to compress all the website’s images to the optimal size (see also a no-plugin method of compressing images), I installed the WP Fastest Cache plugin to cache the website for repeat visitors, I installed the Autoptimize to minimize/combine the CSS and JS files that your browser uses to render the website, and then I used the P3 profiler plugin to run a cost-benefit analysis of my plugins, and deleted some unmentioned plugins that were not worth their load time costs. Here’s a more detailed explanation.

C.  Subscription Options

5.  Now you can subscribe via email from any blog post (in the menu).

How I did it: I used another of WordPress’s Jetpack features.

6.  If you’re using iOS 9 or later, then you can add my blog to your Apple News  app with this link — if you’re on your mobile device, that is.

How I did it: I submitted my blog’s feed to Apple News.

7.  You can now find all the blog’s feeds in the menu under “Follow” from any blog post.

How I did it: I used a WordPress text widget.

D.  Social Network Stuff

8. There are sharing buttons at the bottom of each post and page. If you have shared a post from the page, thank you! And if you are finding this post helpful, feel free to share it.

How I did it: I used the Social Warfare plugin.

9.  The menu has social media icons that link to the blog’s social media pages.

How I did it: I used one of WordPress’s Jetpack features.

E.  Cost Offsetting 

Explanation: This website costs me over $100/year. (I make about $17,000/year.)

10.  If you don’t use an ad blocker, then you will sometimes see an ad on this blog website, but not in the main area (i.e., where you read posts). These ads help cover the costs of the site.

How I did it: I made a Google Adsense account and copy-pasted an ad’s code into a WordPress text widget. I also use native ads from Amazon to show you books that are related to what you’re reading.

11.  You can now chip in towards the cost of the website. I never realized that any of you would be interested in this until one of you told me to make this Patreon page so that you can make donations to the blog.

How I did it: Patreon or PayPal will tell you.

F.  WordPress’s Built-in Features

You might have noticed that many of the new features are made possible by WordPress. WordPress is a (website) Content Management System (CMS). I’ve used a few CMSs at this point (including Squarespace) and I prefer WordPress. Here’s what I think WordPress does well:

  • Website templates: they’re free, good-looking, customizable, well-supported, and frequently updated. (NB: I don’t know of a single paid website template that enjoys as much support or as many updates as WordPress’s free templates.)
  • Plans for everyone: it’s got free options as well as a few paid options. The pricing is pretty competitive: https://wordpress.com/pricing/ (see also the self-hosted options: https://wordpress.org/hosting/)
  • Support: WordPress has robust support community as well as some dedicated WordPress support people: https://wordpress.org/support/
  • Customizability (for self-hosted sites): WordPress users have access to over 50,000 third-party (and sometimes open-source) plugins, many of which also have plans for everyone (free and paid): https://wordpress.org/plugins/

Confession: At this point, I wish my site were a WordPress.com site rather than a self-hosted WordPress site. The occasional challenges of working separately with a third-party host and with WordPress are grow my old. The WordPress experience is much easier, so it’d be nice if I could go to just WordPress for both hosting and content management.

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Nick Byrd

Nick is a cognitive scientist at Florida State University studying reasoning, wellbeing, and willpower. Check out his blog at byrdnick.com/blog

2 thoughts on “11 Steps Toward WordPress Optimization (for both of us)”

    1. Wow! $102/year for VPS using SSDs with SSL and no arbitrary limits?! Almost sounds too good to be true.

      Simba, is there a third party review of Pride Tech out there (e.g., by PC World)? Or is there a comparison of hosts that include Pride Tech? I did a couple google searches and didn’t find anything.

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