Pretty much like everyone else, I have a strong dislike for websites that are filled with ads, autoplay videos, and popups etc. All these so-called ‘features’ make pages terribly slow but I know webmasters have their own reasons to continue using them.
When I started this blog nearly two years ago, I made a resolution that it will not be having any of these elements. I did not want to annoy my visitors by serving them a page that loaded painfully slow.
The reason is simple. People like speed and they won’t wait until your crappy, pathetically slow page loads. They will close the page and switch to another site. I do that, you do that, and everyone else does that, too. Unless your site has some content that is not found anywhere else, why would I waste my time looking at a page that’s taking ages to load?
The dislike for slow pages led me to a phase when I was obsessed with the speed of my own blog. I did everything in my reach to make sure my blog loaded quickly and provided a smooth experience to my readers. All these efforts paid off and if you look at the recent speed test of my blog, you will see it takes less than 3 or sometimes 4 seconds to load a page.
In this article today, I want to share everything I did to make my travel blog faster, smoother, and better. Have a look and make changes where possible to make your own blog less annoying to your readers.
1. I Switched to a Better Host
Do whatever you want to do but your blog will only be as fast as your web host is. When you are starting your blog, you might be a little low on money. But don’t let money be an excuse for choosing a crappy, slow host who doesn’t understand the concept of speed.
Yes, a domain registrar may seem like a good place to buy a domain and host it there for cheap. But believe me, if you really wish your blog performs well in future, you have to invest in a better web host from the very first day.
I initially hosted my blog with a domain registrar as well. I thought I would change to a better, faster host when I have more money but I was wrong. The frequent downtime and slow pages lead your visitors away and it’s possible they’ll never come back. Search engines don’t like slow websites, either. So if your blog is hosted on a slow host, your chances to appear higher in search results will be bleak.
To deal with a slow blog, I decided to change my host and I chose DreamHost. After switching to DreamHost, my blog experienced nearly zero downtime and it loads extremely fast. I saw lower bounce rate and better earnings, too.
If DreamHost’s $120 per year ($9.95/month) plan sounds like too much at the beginning, I would suggest you go with Hostinger which is a highly affordable and fast host. You will get three years of unlimited hosting for just $138 (3.84/month) with Hostinger.
2. I Started Optimising Images
Images are crucial for a travel blog. I take lots of photos and put them in my articles where relevant. Images help convey a story easily and I can’t imagine an article without images.
Photos taken on a DSLR camera are large in size. If you put them on your server in their full size, they are going to take a lot of space. Moreover, large images will take more time to load.
To make sure my pages load quickly, I make sure not to put images in their full size. I lower the resolution before uploading them to my blog. This helps in reducing the size of a photo.
But lowering the resolution of your photos isn’t really enough. Photographs contain a lot of data that might not be useful for you or your readers. This is why I use image compression tools to strip such data. These image optimisers reduce the size of my photos without a notable loss in quality.
Optimised images take less space on the server and are quicker to load. This in turn, reduces the overall time it takes for a page to load.
Believe it or not, the theme of your blog plays an important role in the speed and eventual success. In addition to giving it the desired look and feel, your blog’s theme can also make your blog faster or slower.
A well-coded theme that is optimised for performance will make sure the theme files are loaded quickly. This will improve the overall load time of your blog.
To make my travel blog faster, I went through many themes before settling for Herald by Meks HQ. Themes by Meks are well-coded, easy to setup, and provide great look and feel. In fact, I get many compliments from my readers for the way my blog looks.
Not all themes are developed alike. And you should choose a theme that’s built for the purpose of your blog. A multipurpose business theme, for example, might not be a good choice for a travel blog and using a travel-specific theme would be a better idea.
The theme I use is not specifically built for a travel blog but it meets almost all of my expectations. I have a lot of customisation options available and I like the simple look and feel it provides to my blog. Did I mention it speed-up my blog, too?
After I switched to a faster host, changed my theme, and started optimising my images, I saw a great boost in the overall speed of my blog. But I wasn’t satisfied. Not yet. When checking my blog with different speed test tools, I came to know there were things that were still slowing my pages down. And if I could get rid of them, it could speed-up my blog even further.
So I decided to let go of things that weren’t on my must-have list and I began with plugins. I stopped using Jetpack – one of the most popular WordPress plugins. Removing Jetpack helped my blog with better speed.
Another thing that came across those speed test results more often was Gravatar. So I began using the WP User Avatar plugin that hosts my own avatar and a default avatar for my visitors – locally. This helped me reduce the number of requests sent to third-party domains and improved the speed a bit further.
I also removed some plugins that weren’t really necessary for my blog to function. Some plugins like my contact form – I replaced them with other, better plugins.
I also removed the Instagram feed plugin from my blog which reduced the number of requests and the page load time was now even better. (I kind of needed a way to show my feed. So I started using the plugin once again.)
Social media share buttons are a must-have for every blog. But native share buttons affect the speed a lot. I started using Easy Social Share for WordPress plugin – which is fast, offers its own cache and minification, and is easy to use. It also provides me with a way to collect subscribers so no need for an additional plugin.
5. I Stopped Displaying Ads
If you’re running your blog as a hobby and don’t intend to earn money from it, then you might not care about this. But my blogs earn me my bread and butter. So I definitely use ads by AdSense. These ads don’t earn me very much but can still make me some money every few months.
Ads served by AdSense and other providers make your page slower, a lot slower. All speed test tools will flag AdSense scripts and to improve the speed of my blog, I removed all AdSense ads. This step increased the overall page load time to a great extent.
But hey, what about my bread? And what about butter? I mean, I love butter. How do I earn it? So yes, I put those ads back and I’m keeping them until other ways of making money start performing better.
Like many other travel blogs, I used to place flight and hotel search boxes on my blog. When someone books a flight or a hotel room, I would earn some commission. Great! So I placed those search boxes and waited for some money to start rolling.
Nope, it didn’t happen. My visitors were not really interested in searching and booking flights or accommodation from my blog. Not yet, at least. And moreover, those scripts were slowing my blog down!
So I removed all those travel affiliate scripts which meant fewer requests to third-party domains and better performance. And to continue my earning through different travel affiliate programs, I emphasised on plain-text links. I also created a white label search engine where my visitors can search and book their flights and rooms – without having to deal with my slow blog.
7. I Started Hosting Google Fonts Locally
Google Fonts is one of the easiest ways to use beautiful fonts on your blog. Most themes nowadays support Google Fonts.
Google Fonts are typically loaded from Google’s own domain. Which means additional requests will be made in order to load and display fonts. Which, in turn, will slower your blog a little bit more.
To overcome this, I started hosting Google Fonts locally – on my own server. This reduced the number of requests sent to third-party domains and helped me improve the total page load time further.
Google Analytics is a great way to keep a track of your visitors. It tells you about the number of visitors, page views, bounce rate etc. among other things.
When I tested the speed of my blog on different speed testers, all of them – including Google’s own Pagespeed Insights, flagged the Google Analytics script which reduced the performance of my pages. To get rid of this flag, I began using Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS) that allowed me to host Google Analytics script locally.
I got rid of the flag and it improved my blog’s performance score.
Everything I Did to Make My Travel Blog Faster: Summary
To make my travel blog faster, I switched to a better, faster host that is DreamHost. I made sure my WordPress theme was well-coded and my images were optimised using image compression tools. Moreover, I got rid of some plugins completely or replaced them with better ones. I stopped using affiliate scripts to display flight and hotel search boxes.
All these steps improved the speed of my travel blog in unexpected ways. After all this, the home page of my blog began loading in less than 4 seconds. The first-byte time was now less than 400 ms.
Yes, I began displaying ads and started using the Instagram feed plugin once again. Ads help me make some money while displaying Instagram feed helps me with some followers. I am not enthusiastic about both of them and I will remove them once again if I don’t see a long-term benefit.
Although my obsession with the speed of my blog is over, I have not stopped tweaking things wherever I can. I will continue optimising my blog to make further improvements.
If you are serious about making blogging your full-time career, you have to invest a lot of time and energy to make sure your blog doesn’t remain just another blog. There might be a million blogs out there but what you do differently will always be appreciated. Having a super-fast blog is only the first step in making a good impression, of course. You have to pay more attention to the content because that’s what your visitors are there for.
That’s all, ladies, gentlemen, and everyone else. You were reading I Did These 8 Things to Make My Travel Blog Faster than Ever. I hope you found this article useful and I’d like to thank you for reading.
Like what you read? Please share with others. How do you make your blog faster? Share your tips with me!