Last year my top performing blog started reporting unusual numbers. Adsense click through rates (CTR) went down from about 6-8% to the 3-4% range. I normally do very well on the blog with affiliate marketing and those numbers seemed wonky as well. I chocked it up to slow winter until a few days later I was at another computer and had to make a change on the site.. When I typed in the URL to login I waited, and waited. and waited. I thought for second something was wrong with server and left it but it bothered me all day.
When I was home later that night and had some time I went to investigated more. I used one of many free an online tools to check site load time. BINGO.
My site was talking a long time to load- upwards of 8 seconds. That is an eternity on the Internet where people want it fast and want it now.
A few months earlier I had hard coded all my sidebars ( used static html for my pages and categories) . I had thought about then to install some kind of cache plugin but figured since I hard coded everything it wasn’t a big deal (!) and besides my speeds were fine.
I checked few things before I went into full blown panic. I had a ton of scripts running on the site and other plugins that were hard on sever- like Related Posts , AdSense , Daily Top 10 Posts, affiliate scripts and ads, etc and disabled those those to see if it helped. It did but only slightly. The site pages were stil taking 5-6 seconds to load. This was really bad.
I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try a plugin that cached pages on my site. This means that when a visitor comes to your site instead of the server database working at producing a “new” page every time it will store or caches it as a static html file for next visitors.
I installed the the popular WP-Cache for WordPress. It was simple to install and user friendly. By default it will “store” pages for 3600s or 60 minutes. This will be too long for some sites and you should change it. Also be aware that when you make changes to your site you may not see them because page is cached. You can go into WP-Options and clear cache or if you are making major changes disable the plugin in while you work.
You can also try WP Super Cache which works the same way; however it will not cache files for users who are logged in ( like you, the admin) and users who have left comments. I have not used it but keep meaning to switch over.
Did installing WP-Cache Work?
Yes, instantly. The load time went for 7 seconds to .1 second. A HUGE difference.
Load time is one of the top reasons visitors leave your site. How can they click on your ads follow affiliate links or read your posts if they leave?
I used to think that just hard coding pages would be enough but clearly I was wrong. I installed WP-Cache on all my sites that week. My CTRs went up across the board and affiliate links levelled out and went back to a “normal” range.
In hindsight I should have installed the caching plugin when my traffic started creeping up. The site went from about 1-2,000 visitors to 50,000 visitors that year and was not on a dedicated server. A link to the site as on CNN main web site on week and I had constant sever issues that week could have been avoided if I had wp-cache installed.
WP-Cache is now one of the first plugins I install on a new blog. Great posts and original content will not be read if visitors abandon the site before the page loads.