[Updated: December 2017]
WordPress is one of most utilized CMS(content management software) currently on the internet. It powers around 40% of currently live websites.
WordPress is indeed a versatile and efficient software. Though the other reason for this popularity is that, it is free. Hence it is most used CMS. Which also means that many one-click installs and installation tutorials are there about WordPress as compared to any other software.
The real problem is that one click install models have created wrong expectations from WordPress.
Which means, click ‘install WordPress’ and, you have a website. Now all you need is content.
How awesome that would be !?
But this is not how it works. For any WordPress based site to work at the most effective level, it requires an understanding of certain factors. I have explained these factors in this post. You follow these steps to have a perfectly tuned WordPress installation
Hosting: Shared or VPS?
Till sometime back, shared hosting option provided by likes of Bluehost, Hostgator used to be recommended choice for newbies. As resources are shared, prices are cheaper as compared to dedicated hosting. For a website with low to medium traffic, this is a good option. Plus, you get access to user-friendly cpanel to handle backend of your website. This is also the option where you get a one-click install of WordPress.
Problem with shared hosting is that you are sharing your resources with many, many other people and their websites. Thus if that server has some big website, then it can slow down all websites on that server. And you can not control that.
But, things that changed with the advent of DigitalOcean and Linode. Now you get a server with the price of $5 per month. This server when configured properly, is good for handling a good amount of traffic. With good tutorials available, you can install WordPress yourself.
At today’s price level, the difference between shared hosting & VPS is minimal (around $1 per month at max). So the choice is: How serious are you about your website?
To make it a simple choice, If you are serious about growing your website and want to use the tutorials published on tinkoor to grow high traffic over time, Use VPS. You always get system resources as per your plan and presence of other website doesn’t affect your website’s resources. I have used both DigitalOcean and Linode. They offer great services.
If you are not afraid of a little bit of tweaking, then VPS gives you control to make your hosting optimized. You choose OS, base server, then you can tweak it for best performance. This way you actually build a site from the ground up, customized for you. This also brings up the next point. The choice of server.
Server: Apache or Nginx? (if self-hosting)
This point applies only when you are self-hosting your WordPress.
Apache has been with WordPress since the beginning, but Nginx is gaining prominence due to the way it handles high-performance web hosting tasks. Nginx is designed to handle a large number of visitors at same time. And these days, all it takes is one viral post, great offer on your site, some news to bring that much traffic to your website in a matter of minutes. There are plenty of website with more than 40,000 views per day working flawlessly on $5 server. Without slowing down.
You can read more about this comparison, here: Apache or Nginx?
Your theme choice depends on lots of factors. One of major factor is content. A media heavy website’s theme structure will be totally different from a text-heavy website. The main focus content of your website should be highlighted. If your content is media based, then media boxes should get bigger visibility and vice versa.
A note about free themes
You must have heard a lot about free themes on WordPress. If you have simple requirements, and a little bit of coding experience, then free theme may do your work. I will suggest sticking with top 3-4 free themes provided in WordPress suggested a list for that. But, other than that, a free theme is not such a good idea. It due to following reasons that have surfaced over the time:
- No technical support, fewer updates. Very less number of free themes are updated on a consistent basis. So, there is a chance that a theme was last updated few months back, meaning it may be incompatible with current version of WordPress or some plugin of your website. If you run into an error, there is no technical support either.
- Presence of backlinks. Many free themes have been found to provide a backlink to developer’s website. Which is alright, as he needs to get due credit for his work. But what about masked links to unknown or shady websites? Not good practice.
- Malware. There are many reports about encrypted codes in a free theme which had malware in them. Such sites are looked down upon by Google and will pull down your ranking.
If you are building a website with sincere purpose then I would recommend to explore the paid version of themes. Most of the premium developers, provide a trial period of their product. Thus you can test theme that suits your requirements and then finalize your purchase.
Here is the list of studios/developers which we have used for our clients and personal use and found to be providing competent services:
WordPress provides a base to your website, you need to install a plugin to have features on your website. Like you need plugin for image handling, social buttons, slideshow feature, lead generation and so on. These features are provided by different plugins, that you need to install. But you need to be careful with plugins, as sometimes plugins don’t work well with each other. Sometimes, they bloat the database also, thus leading to poor performance of website.
Below mentioned is list of plugins, that you need at absolute minimum for your installation. They are well rated, duly updated and work well with current versions of wordpress.
Yoast SEO (link)
This is one of the simplest SEO tool. Once you have activated it, it opens by default when you are creating or editing any post. It keep three main points in focus:
- Focus keyword: This is the keyword which is submitted to search engine for that post. So when that keyword is searched, your particular post is also considered for that keyword. How to reach highers on that keyword ranking is explained in separate post.
- Meta description: This is small description that you see under any search result. It highlights the main factors in your post. It should be formed with thought as this is first impression of your post.
- Analysis of post. Your post is evaluated based on current standard and important points are highlighted. These are placement of focus word, number of time focus keyword is present in a post, Headline and paragraphs formats, outbound links, images etc. It is good idea to have Yoast SEO rating of atleast good before publishing a post.
As per standards for webmasters prescribed here (Google page: technical details) contents of your website should be packed and delivered efficiently. In simple terms, images, customised css etc. should be compressed/minified. This improves the performance of website as data transferred is less. This also helps to keep your rating good from search engine point of view. Now the link is long to read.
So just install any of these cache plugins and in their basic settings, they take care of these things.
If your website has any kind of image, you should use this plugin. BTW, you should use images on your website. This makes your website visually appealing. Also it is good from SEO perspective. T
This is image optimization plugin. It compresses your uploaded images. This helps in improving speed of loading of images for viewers of website.
This is also a recommended plugin for socially connected viewers. It makes it easy for reader’s to share your content by just clicking the icons. You have to confirgure it though, by creating an account at shareaholic.com. It gives option of monetizing your content also. I would suggest to first test it without monetizing and then when you feel comfortable, enable the option.
AMP & Instant Article by pagefrog(link):
These are new standard being introduced by Google and Facebook. They are mobile reading standards, which make it easier to present content on mobiles. With more readers present on mobile, this is way to go. You should include them in your plugin list to make your website mobile ready.
FBIA is a new mobile format developed by Facebook, which can be served to visitors accessing your content from the Facebook mobile app. AMP is a new mobile format developed by Google, which can be served to visitors accessing your content from Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest mobile apps.
Wrapping it all up:
These points are more than enough to give you an efficient . If you doing it for first time, install wordpress and plugins recommended above. Enable basic settings and play around with look and feel of your website.
You should also remember these two sites:
These tools give a quick check to your site from page loading point of view. This is very important. Visitors won’t wait forever for your page to load. Your website should load up fast. If installing any plugin, slows down the site, deactivate it at once and check. If activating any feature slows down your loading time, deactivate it and debug the reason.
But even a optimized website loads slow, and the reason is distance between server of website and viewer of site. To solve that you should use the next step.
To read more about what a CDN(cloud distribution Network) is, please follow this link. They have collection of strategically located servers throughout the world.
They store the static content(posts, images etc.) of your website. The visitor to your website, is served from server nearest to him. It helps in two ways:
- Reduces latency : As data is served from nearest server, it helps in delivering the website content in fastest way. This is also considered an important criteria from search engine point of view.
- Reduces load on server: When you have several hundred(or more) simultaneously accessing your site, it puts load on server. When CDN is working, this load is distributed to several servers overall the world. So, it reduces the load on your main server.
This also reduces the requirements of server to host the website. On lighter note, you can use the saved money to market your website 🙂
For most websites, cloudflare and amazon cloudfront(free tier) are more than sufficient. For heavy traffic, there are many good options. Here is the list of what I have used over last few years, both for my clients and myself. I found their services to be satisfactory:
- cdn77: provides 14 day trial, without credit card. Simple and easy to use interface. Recommended
- Amazon Cloudfront: AWS services by amazon provides a free tier (upto 50GB total) for 1 year.
- MaxCDN: They were leader for long time and has good presence of servers all over the world. Their recent prices are little expensive, as a result other providers have gained prominence. You can try out their services with free test accounts and a 30-day money back guarantee.
WordPress offers a lot of scope to customize. But this is better done when you understand your wordpress installation.
Is there any other technique which you follow to make wordpress run faster and better? Do let me know via comments. Don’t forget to Subscribe to our newsletter for more such articles.