Web Design and Development
Every year, WordPress hosts its WordCamps in cities all over the world. These informal gatherings feature numerous sessions and discussions about key WordPress topics, useful for both users and developers.
Here are a few tips and reminders from this WordCamp weekend. These WordCamp sessions covered numerous topics — from plugin development to WordPress entrepreneurship to Being the Best You can Be, courtesy of Brian Richards — but the areas that I’ll focus on are: Speed and Scalability & Search Engine Optimization.
Here are some tips to speed up your WordPress site and prepare for increased traffic. (Many of these tips were suggested by TJ Stein of Media Temple in his session, Developing Fast & Scalable Servers for WordPress.)
Plugins are often the reason why a WordPress site is slow. In some cases, just the sheer number of plugins and added functionality is the problem. In other cases, plugins are poorly coded and make inefficient or unnecessary queries. So if your site is slow, audit your plugins. Make sure that you have a GOOD reason to use each one. And if your site is still slow, take a look under the hood and make sure that the plugin is well-written. In some cases, it might be better to write your own plugin or set of functions to handle a task.
On large WordPress websites, you will notice performance issues if your permalinks do not contain the post ID, or at least the date. Of course, if you you have structured your site using custom post types or pages, chances are, you do not want to include the post ID in your url. If this is the case, consider caching.
Caching is by far the easiest way to speed up your WordPress site. Caching basically involves creating ‘static’ pages. What this means is that when users visit your website, its pages do not need to be generated each time from the database. This also means that your pages can be delivered more quickly AND your website/host can handle many more visitors at once than if it were regenerating pages each time they were requested. Some highly recommended caching plugins include WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
All of us typically start out on shared hosting. Why? It’s cheap, it’s easy to use, and anything else would be overkill. But at some point, you may outgrow your hosting. When this happens, no amount of optimization will help you. You will need to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated hosting environment that gives you more resources. You should also consider a content delivery network.
Content Delivery Networks, often referred to as CDNs, improve site performance and speed by delivering your website’s static files through dozens or hundreds of servers strategically positioned around the world so that files are delivered quickly and via servers that are in a city closest to the visitor’s physical location.
Similar to a content delivery network, the new CloudFlare service also caches your static files and delivers them to visitors from a globally distributed network of servers. Two added benefits to CloudFlare are that (a) the basic service is free and (b) your site will also benefit from increased security and 100% uptime. Because you rout your traffic through CloudFlare’s server by using their nameservers, CloudFlare is able to thwart known security threats. They also "limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources."
If your website is poised for exponential growth, you will also need to consider ways to optimize your server by tweaking its configuration. Some servers, applications and tools to consider include:
Some other tips include (1) disabling InnoDB databases, as they are not used by WordPress, (2) enabling slow request logs for troubleshooting, and (3) setting up slave databases for additional capacity and redundancy. Doing so also helps in cases where you need to restore data. It is also a good idea to place databases on a different servers than the rest of your website.
This year, there were several sessions aimed at helping both users and developers optimize their websites for search engines. While most of the search engine optimization tips were already well-known, there were also some lesser-known tips that were mentioned.
Here are some key SEO tips that you should consider incorporating into your website. (Most of these tips were suggested by Mert Sahinoglu in his session, Advanced SEO: Thinking Like a Searchbot.)
Be sure that you are have unique titles, meta keywords, and meta descriptions for each page of your website. Use custom permalinks and make sure that your urls contain relevant keywords. It is also a good idea to incorporate sitemaps and submit them to search engines. Lastly, regularly check for broken links. Some plugins which will help you in optimization include: WordPress SEO by Yoast, Google XML Sitemaps, and All In One SEO Pack.
On most blogs, users are allowed to leave comments. These comments are of great value, because they may add additional keywords to your pages and they also maintain activity on a page by adding fresh content. However, the user url is of little, if any, value. So should you allow allow your comments to also have a link attached? Short answer, probably not, as doing so causes your site to lose a bit of value. However, they are useful for providing visitors with an incentive to comment. One suggestion is to use the Facebook discussion/commenting plugin. In this way, you do not give visitors actual links on your page and you have the added benefit of getting Facebook activity. This could make it easier for your content to spread and potentially go viral.
As of last year, Google revealed that it used site speed as a key metric in determining the value of a website. What this means is that your website should be as fast as possible. If it is slow, your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) could be negatively effected.
All links are not created equal. Get links from other bloggers and websites within your industry and your geographical area.
Your WordPress blog automatically creates feeds… Feeds for posts, feeds for categories, feeds for comments, feeds for authors, etc… But what it doesn’t do is create feeds for content type. So if you have videos, consider creating a video feed an submitting those to the appropriate search engine. And if you have products that you sell, create a product/data feed or file and submit it to Google Base and other comparison shopping search engines. This will improve the visibility of your content.
One new SEO tip is incorporating the rel="author" and rel="me" attributes in link tags. The value of doing this is that Google, which supports this attribute, can determine who the content belongs to, regardless of where the content is located on the web.
So, how do you do implement the rel="author" and rel="me" attributes?
After you publish an article somewhere on the web, the link attached to your byline should use the rel="author" attribute and point to your author page. Then on the author page, you can use the rel="me" attribute in links to other author pages that you may have on different websites. Finally, if you have a verified Google profile with an image attached, you can enable your profile thumbnail to show up next to your search result listings. This can help you to solidify your identity on the web and increase your click-through rates. For more information on this topic, take a look at Yoast’s implementation of rel="author" and rel="me" attributes. Also, the Official Google Blog has its own article on this topic entitled Authorship Markup and Web Search.
Enjoyed these tips? Why not consider going to a WordCamp near you? WordPress’ WordCamps happen year round in cities all around the world. See the schedule of upcoming WordCamps on the official WordCamp website.Tags: optimization, speed, WordPress