We’ve already talked about how important it is for a serious blogger to host privately and find a good host with the features you need. We recommend Siteground as we’ve used them for years to host our websites and in this article, we’ll be discussing a major benefit of their platform; The Siteground Optimizer WordPress Plugin.
The Siteground Optimizer
You’ll find a huge number of options when the SG Optimizer is installed and ready to go. Don’t be put off! We’ll talk about each of these in turn and point out the important ones that will help to make your site speedy and user friendly. The important thing, for now, is to make sure the plugin is installed, up to date and enabled. If you’ve used Siteground’s built-in service to make a WordPress installation for you, the plugin should already be there ready to go and visible on your WordPress bar at the left of the screen.
Dynamic caching keeps a copy of your blog content in the server’s memory and serves it to users when they go to your site. This increases speeds on your user’s end and smooths out loading, it should always be on. You can manually purge caches below if there have been major changes to your blog and you want to delete the cached pages.
The automatic cache purge below will handle deleting cached pages automatically if you switch it on and is recommended. Browser specific caching is usually not necessary and should only be switched on if you have any problems with some browsers loading content incorrectly. If for some reason, there are pages that you don’t want to cache at all you can specify these as instructed in the box below. You can even test a page URL to ensure that it’s being cached correctly.
Memcached is a separate feature that caches queries to your database, this is particularly useful if you have a search feature that is used regularly, such as in an online shop. For most standard blogs there is no reason to enable this option.
These features will help keep your blog secure and optimise some of the back end of your website to be more efficient.
Enabling HTTPS is a must on the modern web. This increases confidence in your website for your users by providing a secure connection online to your web pages. The little lock icon in the address bar of your browser? That is what this option enables, and the option should always be turned on. The option below to fix insecure content is also good to have turned on, it’ll make sure any errors are fixed in advance and ensures any links etc. are served securely.
The WordPress Heartbeat API is a tool that checks for tasks to be executed on your blog pages. The problem with this is the frequency at which it performs these checks. It can cause wasted CPU cycles on your host’s server which is not a good thing by any means! This option allows Siteground to manage this for you and should be switched on.
For most sites, DNS pre-fetch can be safely ignored, however, you will want to enable scheduled database maintenance. This keeps your site’s footprint small by automatically deleting drafts and post revisions that have been left dormant for more than a week. It’ll also keep your trash folders empty. We choose to keep this turned on for optimisation purposes, but a word of caution; if you regularly keep drafts of posts that you are writing over a long period of time, you may want to turn this off and make sure you regularly delete unnecessary content yourself! Alternatively, here’s a little tip, write your posts in Word and keep them saved locally then upload and publish the final version when you’re happy with it!
GZIP compression and browser caching will always be on, and these two things are important for your page speed.
Front End Optimisation
Minifying and combining files is an important functionality in the Siteground Optimizer that makes the code in the background of your website more efficient and smaller so that when a reader arrives to view a post the page loads as fast as possible. As such, the following options should always be enabled:
- Minify HTML Output
- Defer render-blocking JS
- Minify CSS Files
- Combine CSS Files
- Preload Combined CSS
Beyond this, web fonts optimisation is a great tool if you use any custom fonts on your blog (such as Google fonts) and allows the font files to be loaded quickly. You should only link to fonts that you use on the website if you choose to enable this option, otherwise, you are loading extra data for nothing.
Remove query strings from static resources is a good thing to have turned on as a small further optimisation, but the final switch for disabling emojis is largely a personal choice. If you want emojis to appear in your content and comments you will clearly want to leave this option turned off, while realising that generating emojis does slow down page rendering speeds.
The bulk of the data that is served from your host’s server to your readers is usually going to be media on a modern website. Images and video are a major part of the modern web and ensuring speedy delivery to your readers is great for retention. No one wants to be sat at a loading webpage! The SG Optimizer offers several tools to do this, often things that plugin developers expect you to pay for separately, which is another reason we reckon Siteground’s hosting is such great value.
New Images Optimisation will automatically squish any images that you add to your site as they are added, ensuring they are lightweight but still of good quality, make sure you turn this on. The existing images optimisation tool is useful if you have just switched to Siteground and would like the plugin to work on images you uploaded previously.
WebP is a new generation image format designed for modern web browsers that allow high-quality images to be served at small file sizes. The SG Optimizer can automatically generate copies of your images in this format and serve those to compatible browsers (basically every major one!) for a speed boost. We highly recommend that you turn this option on. The optimisation level is totally your call, but 75% lossy is a good middle ground if you have lots of high-quality images to show off! You can bulk generate or delete these WebP images below if you ever need to.
Lazy loading media is a term that means only what is visible in the browser’s “viewport” will be loaded when the webpage is first accessed by a reader. Everything below that will only be rendered when the user scrolls. This is a great way to speed up the first view of your web pages and we turn all the options in here on for our blogs. You can read more about each option by hovering over the little “i” symbol for each. If you find that something on your page is not quite rendering correctly, you can exclude it using the exclusion box. Generally, images, videos, Gravatars and thumbnails are a good minimum.
The final feature we’ll talk about is the speed test that’s built into the plugin. You can paste the URL of any of your posts and pages in here for quick analysis by the Google PageSpeed tool, which will generate any further recommendations for site optimisations that you can work on separately. Just choose if you’d like a desktop or mobile simulation and click analyse!
The Siteground Optimizer Plugin – What A Great Tool!
This one plugin combines all the functionality of many others, which would often be asking for more of your hard-earned cash, into a single tool that truly makes optimising your blog a breeze. The fact that it’s included with *Siteground’s hosting is a great bonus, so if you go with our recommended host, make sure you make the most of this essential plugin!
If you have any questions, as always, we’re here to help!