These days having a faster website is more important than ever. Besides keeping your visitors happy and not getting them frustrated enough to leave your site, a faster loading website may actually help you out when it comes to the search engines.
Hristo Pandjarov is a WordPress and SEO expert at SiteGround. Recently, I had a chance to talk with Hristo about website speed. He offered a number of helpful tips involving everything from web servers and reverse proxies to database issues to content optimization and more.
We also discussed how SiteGround helps its customers to speed up their websites.
Web Hosting Cat: Let’s start off with a little bit about your background. What kinds of cool stuff do you work on for SiteGround?
Hristo Pandjarov: I work on pretty much everything we make for our WordPress customers. Our latest and coolest tools are our staging tool that allows you to make quickly a copy of your website so you don’t have to work on your live pages. And, we have one of the most sophisticated caching systems: our SuperCacher—which greatly improves the performance of your website.
WHC: How much of a difference does web hosting actually make in terms of site speed?
HP: It does make a lot of difference. If you haven’t put in enough effort to optimize your server communications, server configuration, your network, your data center; you won’t be getting good speeds. Providing people with just PHP and MySQL is not enough anymore. A quality web hosting provider should give you a nice caching mechanism like Nginx or Varnish and tools that you can use to improve your website.
WHC: Can you talk a little bit about reverse proxies versus file caching? Is it similar? Is one better than the other? What would you recommend?
HP: They work in a similar way. They both store the final output of your website in a cache. And then when the next visitor opens the same page, if that content is not changed, they will get the cached version of it instead of the dynamic one. So, this way you’re saving MySQL database requests, you’re saving the work of the PHP service, and generally it makes your loading times faster.
The difference is that the plugins that provide file caching; they store that information on the server’s hard drive, while reverse proxies store it in the server’s memory. And furthermore, they work in front of the web server. So, your reverse proxies are way more sophisticated than your regular file caching. You get the information from the RAM, which is pretty much the fastest place you’re going to get that info from.
WHC: Databases are another big issue where you can have bottlenecks. What are the best ways to handle slow queries with your databases?
HP: First you need to monitor your slow queries. The MySQL slow query log will point you to the reason for those [slow] queries. Probably you have an unoptimized plugin or a piece of code you have written that is not good. There isn’t one rule to fix all of those problems.
WHC: Everybody’s website needs to have compelling content. What are some of the ways we can optimize our page content so it gets loaded faster?
WHC: Finally, getting down to the browser level, is there anything that can be done to optimize your individual browsers to make things faster?
Another thing is to gzip compress your content. This way you transmit a compressed version of that data through the network.
WHC: Anything exciting coming down the pike at SiteGround?
HP: We have a lot of cool things planned ahead. My advice would be to keep an eye on our blog. We just introduced our new cloud hosting platform. It’s container based. It’s super-fast. It’s really, really scalable. We are constantly working on adding new stuff [and] improving our service.