One of my clients, Chardon United Methodist Church recently commissioned me to update and backup their site quarterly. I designed it for them a couple years ago with the priority being ease-of-use for them to add to and maintain going forward. They need to add events, blog posts and members to groups, so there were a lot of considerations when developing. However, these functions have likely led them to outgrowing their current server.

While being ecstatic with the design and functionality, a growing concern for them has been the increasingly slow loading times and they asked me for suggestions. There are many factors that go into a site’s performance and I thought I should share some of the most critical with those of you that may also have this concern. First… how important is your site speed?

Google and your prospects think your page loading performance is extremely important

People have increasingly shorter attention spans today and studies show that the slower your page loading time, the higher your bounce rate (leaving your site after initial view). And while no one but Google knows their true algorithms, we see glaring evidence that Google ranks upon two main factors: site speed and proper design.

Rather than recreate the wheel, I thought I’d share my (slightly edited) quarterly report with you as I think many people could use these tips.

Note that I wasn’t consulted on their hosting decision. I’m sure that decision was made many years ago, and I’ve found that I have to switch hosts about every five years as the players in this field quickly outpace each other.

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Hi Jen and John,

Update to my latest update:

I backed up and updated the Church site today. I downloaded a full copy for safe keeping.

I didn’t fully update WordPress because of this error: “You cannot update because WordPress 5.2.2 requires PHP version 5.6.20 or higher. You are running version 5.4.45”. I can upgrade our PHP in the Cpanel, but I don’t want to risk conflicts with some of our MANY plugins. I figure we’re best off waiting until the next quarter to do that.

All is good, but the site is really slowwwwwww

It only scores a “4” on Google’s Pagespeed Insights, in spite of using Smush to optimize images and WP SuperCache to optimize CSS and JS code.

I just improved it all the way to 6 by changing our Reading Settings from Full Text to Summary. Looking at our Archives, I don’t see that this will inconvenience anyone.

Here are the main problems/solutions:

1. The extensive plugin usage is server-intensive. The only thing that can help that is upgrading the server, preferably to a WP-managed one. Myself, I moved my main sites from InMotion Hosting to SiteGround last year strictly for performance reasons and my site speed increased 10-fold. Not exaggerating.

2. All those MP3s should be hosted on SoundCloud. As stated here:

You can directly upload audio and video files to your WordPress site, and it will automatically display them in an HTML5 player…But you should NEVER do that!
Hosting audio and videos will cost you bandwidth. You could be charged overage fees by your web hosting company, or they may even shut down your site altogether, even if your plan includes “unlimited” bandwidth.
Hosting large media files also increases your backup sizes tremendously, and makes it difficult for you to restore WordPress from backup.
Instead, you should use an audio and video hosting service like YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, SoundCloud, etc., and let them take care of the hard work. They have the bandwidth for it!

3. All those PDFs should be stored on a separate server. We can get 5 gigs for free and a ton more super cheap:

4. YouTube Pro plugin: I left it alone because I don’t know how you guys have been utilizing it, but YouTube functionality is integrated into our theme, so this is redundant and an unnecessary (small) drag on the system. Basically, we always want to use as few plugins as necessary for performance reasons.

5. You also may find that the SSL (https security) plugin has a redirection error. This seems to be due to the WordFence plugin. So, I tested the SSL with Qualys SSL Labs test tool. And it’s fully operational.

That’s it for now!!

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Final thoughts…

The moral to the story is that it’s a great idea to have your trusted developer take a look under the hood now and then if you’ve been managing your website yourself. It’s kind of like changing the oil in your car periodically – it’s going to save you money in the long run.

Over 50 Starting Over is my DIY program for the not-so-technically inclined that want to create their own lead generating online presence. It is powered by my years of experience providing these services with my company Barry Edwards, author.

logo, Edwards Communications - Internet marketing, Cleveland, Ohio

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