If you ever find yourself with time to spare as a WordPress blogger, you could do a lot worse than carrying out some spring cleaning and WordPress optimization techniques to keep everything ship shape. Let’s be honest, you’d never live in your home and not tidy it up regularly or leave something broken without having it fixed. The attitude towards your WordPress blog should be no different.
Unlike your home though, unless something catastrophic is happening, sometimes you might not be aware of the problems your blog has. Sometimes you have to go looking for them.
So, when you have downtime (actually you should make time!), set yourself some WordPress maintenance tasks to:
- Look for problems.
- Grease the wheels.
- Freshen up.
8 WordPress Optimization Techniques
In this post I’m going to recommend 8 optimization techniques for you to use regularly to ensure your WordPress blog runs more like a Ferrari and less like a Lada!
So let’s get started…
1. Check Your WordPress Version
What version of WordPress are you running?
It might seem a patronizing question, but many self-hosting WordPress bloggers don’t know what version they’re running. More worryingly though, they don’t know whether they are even running an up to date version.
Now this needn’t necessarily be a problem for those who’ve configured WordPress to update automatically, but this might be cause for concern for anyone who’s switched off auto updates.
Of course I understand the fear people have of updates breaking their blogs, but there are good reasons to update WordPress to the latest version.
- Security updates.
- Bug Fixes.
- Enhancements to existing functionality.
- New features.
- Performance improvements.
Old versions of WordPress are not as secure as the most recent release. Why work hard building up your blog to risk someone exploiting something older and more vulnerable?
There may be bugs with your older version of WordPress that you don’t know about and just because you can’t see them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a problem. Bug fixes in the latest WordPress release will fix them to make sure your blog runs optimally.
Some of the tools you have might not be quite as slick as updated versions in a new release. If an enhancement makes your life easier or improves what your WordPress installation presently offers, that’s got to be a good thing, right?
New WordPress releases may include new features to make your blog more whizz-bang!
They might also deliver performance increases, where even the smallest improvements can make a big difference to how quickly your blog loads. This can help to optimize WordPress for SEO.
Honestly people, this is one of the WordPress optimization techniques you should be employing on a regular basis.
2. WordPress Plugin Maintenance
There are a couple of WordPress optimizations to look at here.
Firstly, do you have any WordPress plugins installed but deactivated? If so, are you planning on using them again? If you’ve got redundant plugins loafing around your WordPress blog, I’d seriously consider deleting them.
Why keep them just for the heck of it?
Redundant WordPress plugins take up space on your server that’s best made available from other things. Oftentimes plugins have their own databases, and perhaps add data to other tables. In general, the more data you have in database tables, the longer it takes for queries running on them to execute.
Redundant data is like redundant plugins: you don’t need it so why keep it?
When you delete a WordPress plugin, all the program files that run it, along with the data it has created in your database are purged from your server. This offers potential page load speed improvements, even if the improvements are small.
Secondly, do you allow your plugins to update themselves automatically? Or have you configured WordPress to ask your permission before the updates happen?
Oftentimes WordPress plugin developers release updated versions to make optimizations, fix bugs or kill security problems. As a rule it’s a good idea to keep your plugins up to date because fixes and / or enhancements will likely improve how the plugins operate.
Of course you should always check the new versions are compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid anything flaky happening. But that said, running a plugin you haven’t updated for 2 years, that has had a bunch of updates in that time is potentially risky too.
3. Check for Unused WordPress Themes
Like unused plugins, curating a bunch of unused themes is not a good policy… don’t be sentimental about it because they can do more harm than good. If you are really attached to them and can’t bear to let them go, zip them up and keep them as backups on your server.
Unused WordPress themes do a number of things
- Use up storage on your server.
- Increase the size of backups.
- Make your themes area in your WordPress admin untidy.
- Potentially create page speed performance lag.
By removing unused themes you’ll make your admin area tidier, reduce backup sizes and may even make page load speed gains for the theme you are using.
But more than this, old themes can be vulnerable to attack… even if they aren’t active. Who’s to say some clever clogs with nefarious intentions won’t try to find a way in to your system to exploit vulnerabilities with a specific unused antique theme you happen have?
Is it worth taking the risk to find out?
4. Check for Errors
How often are you checking behind the scenes for errors? Do you know if a plugin you’re using is doing something it shouldn’t behind the scenes?
Sometimes out WordPress blogs can misbehave technically, without us being aware. It’s worth checking every once in a while to feel confident that your blog is ship-shape with no errors dragging it down.
There are a several techniques and tools to check.
- Google Search Console.
- Cross-Browser Testing.
- Server Logs.
Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is a great place to start checking for errors. It has a number of reports highlighting what’s not working as it should, such as:
- Manual Actions (for checking Google SEO Penalties).
- Security Issues.
- Mobile Usability.
Each report will show you if you have errors in any of these areas and if you do, advise you how to fix them.
If you don’t have access to the GSC, you can set one up very quickly and easily. Here’s how you do it: how to set up Google Search Console accounts.
Do you only ever look at your blog in your preferred browser? If you do, you might be missing display issues in other browsers.
Different web browsers tend to have their own personalities. They follow the rules and standards of HTML and CSS but they tend to add their own interpretation of some. Hence different browsers often display content differently.
Sometimes these interpretations don’t cause a noticeable problem. Other times they break the look, feel and layout of your blog.
You can check your WordPress blog routinely in browser rendering test tools, such as:
- Browsershots (free to use).
- LambdaTest (a subscription-based tool but you can sign-up for 1 hour of browser compatibility testing every month).
- Experitest (3 hours of testing free for 30 days).
Cross-browser testing will show you if you have any major errors to fix for specific browser rendering issues.
If you have access to your server logs you may be able to pick up information about repeating errors there. This can help you troubleshoot problems or identify areas that need improvement.
You might see errors when visitors access specific pages are scripts that malfunction.
5. Optimize Your WordPress CSS
Perhaps your CSS needs a whip-through with a feather duster? If you have lots of style rules commented out an no longer need them, why not just delete them?
If you have lots of commented out style rules you should get rid of them. Make your CSS file as lightweight as possible to reduce page load times. Even though you might not reduce page load substantially every millisecond helps.
Reducing the size of your CSS file is one of the most simple WordPress optimization techniques you can possibly make. It’s straightforward and quick to implement so there’s no valid reason why not to do it today!
6. Check Your Broken Links
This is something we should all check often, since links can become broken every single day without us realizing.
Firstly let’s be clear about the difference between internal links and external links.
Internal links are links from your WordPress posts to any other page or post on your blog. External links are links from your posts to pages on other blogs or sites you don’t own.
Are broken links really a big deal? In a word… yes! Broken links are bad for lots of reasons, such as:
- Hurting your SEO.
- Wasting search engine spider crawling time.
- Breaking visitor trust.
- Increasing bounce rates.
You can check your broken links with free tools such as:
Combine the tools above to find broken internal and external links.
BrokenLinkCheck and Screaming Frog will also tell you if they find broken images on your WordPress blog. These too need to be fixed because it looks poor if visitors land on a post with missing images.
7. Update Old Posts
Go back and check your old posts, especially those with evergreen content that remains useful to your visitors. Make sure your content is relevant and if not add edits to bring it up to date or add new information now available.
Check your posts for spelling mistakes and poor style. Spelling mistakes are a no-no and should be corrected. It may also be be you haven’t looked at your older posts for a while and you may see inconsistencies with your current writing style you’d like to correct to bring them into line.
Also check affiliate links to ensure you’re linking out to all the opportunities you have now but at the time of writing didn’t. You should also check to see that the affiliate products you link to are still available and replace them if the program is no longer running.
There’s no point sending traffic affiliate products if you’re no longer a part of the affiliate program they relate to or if you no longer endorse the product.
8. Update Your Homepage
How is your homepage looking? Has it looked the same for a while?
If regular visitors hit your homepage frequently and see that nothing has moved on, they may be tempted not to drill down any further into your content.
Freshening up your homepage with new images or a fresh configuration will show your regular visitors that your blog is moving with the times.
A Final Note on WordPress Optimization Techniques
Taking stock of your current WordPress configuration and all your existing content will make your blog all the more better for it.
The benefits of using WordPress optimization techniques are they will:
- Improve the performance of your WordPress blog.
- Enhance your SEO, making your posts more search engine friendly.
- Create more revenue opportunities for you.
- Fix problems you don’t know about.
- Tighten up your security.
- Improve the experience for your visitors.
Can you think of a good reason NOT to implement some WordPress optimizations today?
Do you use any of WordPress optimization techniques above? Drop me a comment below and share your experiences.