How to speed up your WordPress blog on shared hosting

Yesterday’s post was about how I was forced to find myself a new host and ended up with shared hosting (again). Today’s post is perhaps more useful: the tips I was given from various sources on how to speed up my blogs. There are several advantage of speeding up your blog:

  • Google likes fast sites
  • Your host will like you better and therefore chances of your blog being killed are smaller (no guarantee – some of these tips were in place when Hostgator killed my blogs two weeks ago). Anyhow, following tips like this can postpone having to upgrade your hosting.

The advantages of shared hosting over VPS (virtual private server) or Dedicated Server hosting (in the cloud or not) are not merely price. Yes, it’s usually cheaper to have shared hosting. However, the main advantage, as I see it, is that shared hosting is usually way easier to manage. Less options = less confusion. Leave the technical stuff to the experts: the host. Unfortunately, your host is not always an expert on WordPress.

Here are my tips:

1) You need to cache your blog

I knew this. I had followed Yoast’s advice and installed w3total cache on most of my blogs. However, it turns out that Hostgator likes WP SuperCache better. I do think the advantages of the first over the second are mostly to do with blogs on VPS, so on a shared host WP Super Cache is probably the best caching plugin. Hostgator has a list of their preferred WP Super Cache settings that you should look at.

2) You should use as few plugins as you can manage

This is a tough one. Most of my blogs have about 13 plugins – and I’m sure each one slows them down, though of course some, like WP SuperCache, speed them up again.

Do uninstall plugins you don’t use anymore. Even when they’re not active, they still make your blog slower.

3) Images should be minimized

Again, I knew this. I use WP Smush.it.

4) Any plugin that creates automatic links is suspect

For SEO purposes you want to interlink your content. However, automatic links take time to calculate. A lot: they have to go through the whole database each time a link is created. For that reason Hostgator advised me (privately) to get rid of my related posts plugins or at least find a recent one that made page speed a priority.

Fast Related Posts Plugin

I found only one plugin that did so: SEO Auto Links and Related Posts

I bought the premium version. At only $4,99 it’s positively cheap. The reason it’s fast is that it has it’s own built in caching system. You can set the time for it to refresh. Obviously: refreshing more often means more server load. I left the settings at default (7 days).

Personally I think auto links in my content look spammy, so I turned that option off. Otherwise, a great plugin.

When looking at my databases I was shocked to find that the popular YARP had created it’s own database tables. Talk about overkill!

I would have thought related posts were cached, but perhaps they aren’t.

Most popular posts plugin

It hurt to get rid of this plugin. On a blog with hundreds of posts I want to show off my best stuff and give them a link from the front page so they continue ranking. And of course I prefer it if that happens automatically.

However, on blogs where I used this plugin, I’ve replaced it with manually adding my most popular posts to the top menu, usually in a drop down menu.

5) Spam

I already used Akismet to get rid of spam. It really should be on every WordPress install.

Hostgator insisted however that I also install a captcha plugin to limit the AMOUNT of spam the server had to deal with. Sensible advice, even if it may end up limiting the amount of genuine comments I get on my blogs. I ended up with SI-Captcha Anti Spam. It has since survived review by SEO Praxis, so I think it must be alright.

6) SEO

I was using different SEO plugins on different blogs. Hostgator advised Greg’s High Performance SEO.

Do look at your settings though. Greg has some weird things in there:

  • Head Meta Content > Keywords:
    Do uncheck all boxes there. You do NOT need to automatically generate keyword metatags. They’ve been unused by Google for a decade.
  • Head Meta Content >Robots:
    • Author archives should be ignored by search engines if there’s only one author.
    • Yes – Exclude All Search Results Pages from Search Engine Indexing (I can’t think of one case where you would want search results visible to Google)
    • Tags and categories: in most cases you want only one of these indexed.
    • Date based archives: should only be indexed if you don’t use tags or categories.
    • Yes – Exclude All Attachment Pages from Search Engine Indexing (again: I can’t think of one case where you would want attachment pages visible to Google)
    • Yes – When Excluding, Also Tell Search Engines Not to Follow Links
  • Head content > canonical urls:
    I have all checkboxes filled in that section.
  • Legacy SEO Plugins
    If you’re moving from one SEO plugin to another, do check out the options here.

7) Database management

Databases are a bit scary for many people. The least you should do is set up an automatic Database backup. On a shared host you’ll usually need a plugin for this. Enter WP-dbmanager.

  • Make sure it zips the database
  • Optimize and repair the database ever year or so (preferably more often, of course). You can’t set a timer on this, unfortunately. Still, it’s nice not to have to log into your hosting backend to edit the databases. Makes dealing with them slightly less intimidating.
  • Take a look at tables that don’t belong, like those YARP tables I complained about above.
  • You can set it to have the database mailed or for it to be shared on your host.

8) WordPress security

I’m having Better WP Security set up on my sites. It helps make it harder for spammers and hackers to find your site and attack it at it’s most vulnerable points: where it’s like every other WordPress site out there. The options are a bit overwhelming, so it’s good that there’s a video to walk you through it.

9) Keeping your blogs updated

This is one thing I’ve always tried to do, however, with over 20 blogs it does become time consuming. Enter WP Remote (not a plugin).

10) Post revisions

Recent versions of WordPress automatically keep a lot of post revisions in the database. This is great if you are into history. However, it also takes up a lot of database space.

The easiest way to keep this under control is by setting a maximum no. of post revisions to be stored. This goes in the wp-config.php file:

define('WP_POST_REVISIONS', 3);

Some of these tips courtesy of my new host: SEO Praxis.

6 thoughts on “How to speed up your WordPress blog on shared hosting”

  1. Good points. I will have to compare what I have been using to your list. Especially yarpp. I have that on all my blogs.

    1. Do note that the related links plugin I recommend here inserts auto links to itself (probably not more than one per site) – though you can turn that off if you’re a premium user. It also won’t install on every host. Though if you’re with hostgator or SEO Praxis, you’ll find it works.

  2. I’d recommend using Cloudfare (it’s free), I’d also argue that the number of plugins (2) is a rudimentary point, firebug for firefox is a great plugin which will help you to identify plugins which use too many database queries / take too long doing so.

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