3 More Blog Optimization Routines

Last month, Darren Rowse asked me to contribute a post to Problogger about methods to increase page loads. He gets a lot of questions from his community and he wanted someone who had some experience in the area to help out. I obliged.

Please read it.

I wanted to follow up that article with a few page load and other optimization techniques, largely because, as I surf around the internetz, I’m noticing an increasing number of blogs that are very weighed down.

The golden rule here is that if a page takes longer than 2 seconds to load, it’s too heavy. Realistically, you want to shoot for a page load of under a second. In an era where broadband is ubiquitous, there is no excuse.

Images

While I talked about images in the post at Darren’s blog, I really want to hammer this home. Kill the background images. The textured backgrounds, though they look good, are sucking your bandwidth. The same can be said for full-size banner headers. The only image that really should be in your header is a logo and it should be cropped to the size it actually is. Unless there is just some aspect of your branding that has to be fit into a full 750 or 1000px wide header image, you’re wasting your users bandwidth and slowing down your site.

Google Analytics

This is not really a page load issue, but it is a highly valuable point that at the time of writing the Problogger article, I was unaware of. Duncan Riley actually had a fantastic pointer about Google Analytics code that suggested going against the conventional wisdom (and Google recommended) approach of inserting the code in the footer and instead placing it in the head of the page.

Google recommends (and it is standard practice for most tracking code) that the code be placed in the footer as it will end up being the last thing to load, allowing the rest of the page to render and give the appearance of a quicker load. Duncan notes, however, that sometimes readers move on before that Analytics code is loaded preventing a registration of a pageview.

Since reading that article, I moved my GA code to the header and have experienced only a miniscule reduction in load time, but have increased the number of pageview. It’s important to note, though, that the pageviews are not changing, just the perception. If you run ads, it is the perception of pageviews that advertisers are buying ads based on – so you do want this to be perceived closer to the actual pageview number.

WordPress users, reduce your plugins!

Some people love using every plugin under the sun for WordPress. It’s as bad as those people that install every Facebook app around (Love you both, Lorelle and Cathryn!). The end result is slower load time.

This could be for a number of reasons. Plugins don’t necessarily go through the same QA and optimization process as the core WordPress code therefore, the activation of a plugin could introduce inefficient code or load unnecessary PHP processes into memory. Also, plugins that provide configuration options may also expose uncertain conditions when configured in certain way. The Google Sitemaps plugin is a great example of a plugin that, when misconfigured, can cause detrimental effects on a server which directly affects load time.

As always, my recommendation is always to run a tight ship, lean and mean is the best policy, and only use what you actually need. And if you stop using a plugin, make sure you deactivate it. There’s a security aspect to this as well.

Just a few more tips from experience. Feel free to add your own in comments.

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Twitter Pitching

Yesterday, I released the WP-Twitterpitch plugin which has already gotten a few good writeups. The response is moderate. Some people don’t want pitches in their direct message box. Others think that TwitPitches should follow the Stowe Boyd model of public pitches. Still others could see the plugin being used as a contact form.

Sure. Yes, yes and yes. The application of the plugin is completely subjective so get creative with it! :)

As a sidenote, I’ve gotten a handful of “pitches” so far. Only one real pitch. Everyone else is kicking the tires – which is fun. I like getting anonymous tweets to my direct message box.

In the words of Instapundit… heh.

Examples of such entertainment include:

  • You should only post about Erin, Queen of Spain, forever. Why? Um…’cause she said so. I think I need this. stupid PR can pitch me here
  • Hey Aaron, great idea. Much better than the tons of spam we’re now gettting via the technosailor tips hotline. Congrats! Editorial Note: this person must be a technosailor.com writer getting general emails to the tips@technosailor.com – we like real tips, not spam, by the way.
  • Sorry, just testing your plugin.
  • So does this go direct to you as a dm or something? Cool.
  • Hello God! Editorial Note: this one is my favorite.

Good times. I imagine real pitching will happen over time and I’ll suffer the anonymous stuff for awhile. :-)

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WordPress Plugin: WP-Twitterpitch

Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about PR pitches gone bad. Stowe Boyd coined the word Twit Pitches last month. The concept is to force PR firms to use the economy of words (characters?) to pitch bloggers. It’s a reality in life, and I fight with my wife on this regularly, that no one cares about your “thing” as much as you do and so are less likely to want to give you the time to “pitch” the story or idea. You need to be quick, succinct and use compelling hooks.

Thus, the Twitter Pitch was born.

I’m releasing a new plugin that I hacked together over the weekend called WP-Twitterpitch that I’m also running here at Technosailor. Check out the navigation for a demo.

WP-TwitterPitch is all about getting the pitch delivered to you in the form you want to get it delivered – in other words in Twitter format. If you’re like me, then your Twitter direct message box is a lot like your email inbox. Personally, I don’t want to get pitches from PR companies in certain email inboxes. For whatever reason, I may not check them or they are personal, etc.

Twitter, however, provides the ultimate quick-messaging system. This plugin provides a template tag that you can drop anywhere in your theme. Clicking the link provides lightbox-like functionality for a “pitch form”. Using the form does not require a Twitter account (but does require that you have a secondary Twitter account you can use for this purpose, since you can’t send Direct Messages to yourself via Twitter). Note: Your WP-TwitterPitch Twitter account must follow the account that is being pitched and vica versa. This is a one-off action (hopefully, depending on Twitter) and only needs to be done when setting up WP-TwitterPitch.

Messages sent from the form are DMmed to the account getting the pitch and the form is limited to 140 characters or less. The beauty of linguistic efficiency.

Installation

  1. Upload the
    1
    wp-twitterpitch

    folder to the

    1
    /wp-content/plugins/

    directory

  2. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress
  3. Edit Admin options to include Twitter ID to pitch, Twitter ID and Password to send Twitter pitches
  4. as, as well as a message to “pitchers” that will be displayed in the form after the pitch has been sent.

    Place wherever you want the link to appear

Direct Download Link

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