How To Make Your Blog Load Faster By Offloading Server Resources

Seeing how well my post on How To Make Your WordPress Blog Load Faster went over, I decided that I should post a follow up. The nice thing about this follow up is that it can be applied to all blogs and not just those powered by WordPress.

With very few exceptions, all blogs are hosted on a server with limited resources (CPU, memory, storage, etc.). If those resources get tapped out, the blog will slow down and perform poorly. If the resources get overloaded, then the blog won’t load at all. In order to increase performance and handle more traffic, most bloggers will try to increase the resources available by upgrading to a bigger server or hosting plan. Before you do that however, try these tips to make your blog load faster by offloading server resources to other services.

Offload Email To Google Apps

Handling email can take up a lot of server resources. If you are like me and use your domain for your email address ([email protected]), then you should consider offloading that Google Apps.

By letting Google take care of your email, you’ll free up your server to do the more important stuff, like serving web pages. It’s not the sending and receiving of an email that takes up a lot of resource (unless you’re sending out a ton of emails, in which case, you’ll want to do the next step) it’s the dealing with all the spam. I send only about a dozen emails a day but I get thousands of spam every day and the server has to deal with them. By offloading my domain emails to Google Apps, I give that problem to Google and save resources on my server. Best of all, Google Apps is free! They do have a paid plan but most bloggers will never need it.

Offload Newsletter To Aweber

I used to send out my newsletters using my own server and newsletter software. Now, I just use Aweber. Not only does this save server resources but a lot more of my emails got to their recipients because of Aweber’s uncanny ability to break through the spam filters.

Aweber offers a $1 trial account for all new customers. The account is just like a normal Aweber account and includes unlimited email campaigns, newsletter, broadcasts and follow ups. It’s a great way to test drive Aweber to see what it can do for your blog.

$1 Aweber Offer

Offload Imagines To Flickr

I used to store all my images on the server. Now, I store them on Flickr and hotlink to them. Not only does this save server resources but you also save a ton of storage space as well. Using Flickr is extremely economical. You are allowed to upload up to 200 images for free. Go above that and you’ll have to upgrade to a Pro account which cost $24.95 a year ($47.99 for two years). The Pro account allows you to upload an unlimited number of images.

There’s an easy way and a hard way to use Flickr on your blog. The hard way is to go to your Flickr account to get the URL for the image you want to embed and enter it into your blog post. Th easy way is by using the he Flickr Photo Album for WordPress plugin. The plugin allows you to pull in your Flickr photosets and display them as albums on your WordPress site. There is a pretty simple template provided, but you can customize the templates to match the look and feel of your own blog (See my photo album).

Flickr Photo Album for WordPress

Flickr Photo Album for WordPress will also add a new Flickr icon to your WordPress edit screen. Clicking the icon will bring up your Flickr photo stream which allows you to easily insert your Flickr photos into your blog posts with just a couple clicks. You can either have your inserted photos link back to your WordPress Flickr photo album or directly to your Flickr.com photo page.

Flickr Photo Album for WordPress

Flickr Photo Album for WordPress is pretty easy to install and use. However, making a custom photo album may require the help of your web designer. Most bloggers either use the supplied template or just link to their photo albums on Flickr. From a branding stand point, it’s better to keep the album on your blog and create a new template that matches your blog’s look and feel.

Prevent Hotlinking On Your Sever

While Flickr may allow you to hotlink and embed imagines hosted by them on your blog, you should not allow others to hotlink and embed images hosted on your server. Flickr may have the resources to do it but you’ll want to save your resources for your blog only. You can prevent image hotlinking by adding the following code into your blog .htaccess file:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/(wp-login.php|wp-admin/|wp-content/plugins/|wp-includes/).* [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://www.johnchow.com.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(ico|pdf|flv|jpg|jpeg|mp3|mpg|mp4|mov|wav|wmv|png|gif|swf|css|js)$ – [F,NS,L]

Change the domain to your blog and you’re set. The code will prevent the hotlinking of photos, musics, video or any other files you want to add.

Create Your Own CDN with Dropbox

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) like MaxCDN is one of the best way to offload server resources. The only problem is it cost money. Mind you, the cost is pretty minimum. MaxCDN charges $39.95 for the first 1000GB of data transfer. My blog uses around 2GB per day of CDN traffic. That works out to less than 80 cents a day. However, there will always be some people who’ll want a free option.

You can create a free quassi-CDN by using Dropbox. By uploading your themes CSS, JavaScript, and Images into your Dropbox ‘Public’ folder and serving these files from the Dropbox network, you’ll reduce the bandwidth of your server and allow users to load your blog faster. How do you do this? There’s a plugin for that!

Using Dropbox as a CDN

Dropbox CDN is a WordPress plugin that turns Dropbox in to a content delivery network. It’s a not a true CDN since Dropbox doesn’t replicate your files across the world like MaxCDN would but it is a good way to offload the serving of static elements to another service.

A Dropbox account is free if you store less than 2GB of data (you get 2.25GB if you sign up via my link).

Offload Redirects to LinkTrackr

If you’re an affiliate marketer, then no doubt you cloak all your affiliate links through some kind of URL redirect. One of the best redirect tools is the Ninja Affiliate plugin by MaxBlogPress. Ninja is a great tool but because it sits on your server, it can take up a lot resources if you’re using it to serve a ton of redirects.

For my affiliate promotions, I offload the redirects to LinkTrackr. This is hosted service that offers a lot more features than Ninja. I’ve been using LinkTrackr since the service came out. It’s extremely easy to use and gives you instant access to solid features without taking up any of your server resources. Here’s what LinkTrackr can do for you:

  • Mask and cloak all your affiliate links in one central location
  • Automatically convert keywords to links in WordPress
  • Analyze your top traffic sources with instant campaign tracking
  • Integrate TID tracking from your affiliate network to track conversions
  • Shorten affiliate URLs (with your own custom domain like I do)
  • Enables readers to share your cloaked link on FaceBook and Twitter

To try LinkTrackr, simply go and create your account. Use the coupon code JOHNCHOW to get 20% off any paid LinkTrackr plans, but there’s also a free option so you can test drive LinkTrackr for one full year.


60 thoughts on “How To Make Your Blog Load Faster By Offloading Server Resources”

  1. Tim Trice says:

    Absolutely disagree with the Flickr issue – the last thing you should want is outlinking to outside sources for your imagery. Imagery should be appropriately optimized to reduce server load, yes. But linking out to another server just slows down the page load times, frustrates visitors who have to wait for the images to load, and hurts page SEO because of the longer page speeds.

    Cache your files, use PHP’s gzip or even Apache’s, if you can. But don’t outlink to images. And combine JS and CSS files, too. (yes, I’m guilty of not following the last rule). The fewer, the faster

    John, you could use a little optimizing, yourself! 😉

    1. John Chow says:

      Ah, so you’re saying your server can serve images faster than than the 1000’s of servers that powers Flickr? Somehow, I highly doubt that. Following your logic, why don’t you host your videos on your server instead of embedding them with YouTube?

      Speaking of optimization. Maybe you should start with your site? I recommend you start by replacing the index page.

      “Your website is ready.

      This site has been successfully created and is ready for content to be added. Replace this default page with your own index page.”

      1. John,

        Your advice in this post does not add up… In comparison ShoeMoney.com loads faster than your site and even the images have faster load times. What is Shoemoney’s secret? Is it Flickr? Nope. Instead he hosts his images on his server.

        1. John Chow says:

          Don’t know where you get that from. My blog loads way faster than Shoe’s. http://cl.ly/1N3P3C1R3D2Z2Q3K3j26

          1. http://tools.pingdom.com

            It loads sites from test sites worldwide so it’s probably the most accurate what of measuring.

            I would be interested though in doing a benchmark…. for instance getting the same image uploading it to flickr and embedding into a plain html page and comparing the total page load time of the two.

          2. John Chow says:

            Why don’t you try it and report back? 🙂 I’m sure the findings would be interesting.

          3. Justin says:

            interesting comparison, John.
            I did it again with the site u were using. shoe’s site doesn’t even show up. totally timeout on me.
            here’s the screen shot to share.
            http://bit.ly/gYvRjg

            Tho I don’t have a site with such huge traffic coming through. but I learn a lot from this article. Thanks John.

      2. Max says:

        @Tim & John: Guys, you are both correct, just you are not adding enough context around your points, so one at a time.

        @Tim: First, linking to another server for static content does not necessarily slow page load times. A separate request is made by the browser for an image even when they are residing on the same machine. Assuming all things equal as far as the machine’s available bandwidth and response times, at worst, the only delay comes if the second machine’s IP is not yet in the DNS resolver cache of the machine on which you are running your browser.

        It is considered a best practice for site loading to move static resources (css, js images and so on) to a separate server that only serves static pages, nginx is sometimes a popular choice for that server as it is super fast.

        A logical extension of this would be to use a content delivery network (CDN) for the same reason, it works particularly well when your audience is distributed accross the world. CDNs work by replicating content to multiple fast servers spread across the world (or North America, depending on their market) and use a technology such as BGP Anycast on their DNS servers to route your request to the closes machine on their network to you that has the content that you requested.

        This is where a lot of glowing recommendations for CDNs do go awry.. CDNs are great when you have clients world wide, however, using something like Flickr can, in my experience, give you slower image loads than serving static content from your own separate static resource server, especially if the vast majority of your audience is close to your server geographically.

        If your audience is higly localized, lets say your web-server is in Vancouver at Peer 1, and your audience is mainly from the pacific north-west and Vancouver and the valley. In this case using a static resource only web-server will provide arguably better performance than a CDN with its closes POP in Los Angeles.

        @John: if your site loads slowly, it may very well have an impact on your SEO, and by implication SERPs, in that your site will never be fully indexed by Google and so on. Search engines have a limited resource budget to index your site (they also have to make money after all), so if your site does not give them lots of stuff while their search budget lasts, they will move on without indexing everything, and obviously un-indexed stuff cannot be returned on SERPs.

        That said, if Google and friends sees your site as important (based on other factors such as the number of inlinks you have), it may spend more time indexing your site, so in effect Google and Friends will favor you with a larger “search budget” as your site adds value to their index (and by implication customers)

        Google and friends are in the business of giving the best results they can to their searchers (Clients), thus if your site is slow, they will not necessarily think your site is a search result that will provide most satisfaction to their clients.

        On the CDN note, if you want something really cheap for a CDN, don’t forget to look at Amazon’s S3 and Cloudfront service.

    2. You are correct about offloading images to a third-party provider or service like Flickr this actually would be really bad for load times and would penalize a site when it comes to SEO and rankings.

      😛 John could use some optimizing and even a grammar/spell checker plugin for wordpress

      1. John Chow says:

        In no way does hosting an image on Flickr penalizes your blog’s SEO. The only diff would be people doing a Google image search would find your Flickr page instead of your blog. This won’t be a problem if you tag and link all your images correctly.

        As for the load time, I highly doubt any server you are on can match what Flickr is running.

        1. Slower load times penalize SEO…. Flickr will increase page load times.

          1. John Chow says:

            And how does Flickr increase load time? 1000’s of servers vs a single server or in most cases, shared hosting. All I know, for blogs that run a Flickr plugin to show their photos, those images are among the first things to load.

          2. Tim Trice says:

            It’s not the 1,000’s of servers that would slow it down. It’s the request the browsers would have to send to those servers and wait for a return back.

            If you want a bag of chips, are you giong to get them out of your pantry or from the grocery store? The chips may be fresher at the grocery store, but that doesn’t mean you’re conserving energy by driving.

            And, yes, you caught my site at a bad time. Moving hosts. And I hate WP plugins that write absolute paths to files.

            Here’s an additional tip: add this line in your theme’s functions.php file:

            That alone will compress your pages near 75%. Might be well worth the hassle of hosting images on Flickr.

          3. Tim Trice says:

            Ah, yes, sites block php.

            Within php tags, add this line:

            ini_set(‘zlib.output_compression’, ‘6’);

          4. John Chow says:

            A HTTP request is a HTTP request. It doesn’t matter if the request goes to your server or Flickr’s. if your server is overloaded due to low resources, you’re going to have slow load time. You won’t find a single blog that has everything done right on its own server. Ads will come from Google or another networks, stat tracking, CDN, YouTube, etc. all will come form other services.

          5. weird news says:

            I think you are both right, I depends greatly on the amount of images the site in question uses. If you run a photo blog with tons of pics the offsite would be best.

            Few images, onsite would be better.

            The hot link tip is great many fail to mention that.

            In the line ini_set(‘zlib.output_compression’, ’6′); what is the “6” ?

            I just installed the W3 cache and it requires zlib compression off and memcache on $25 hostgator 🙂 doing that now.

          6. You also realize that a browser by default only sends x amount of http requests at a time. If it has to open a additional http request to a second server this slows down the whole process.

            Yes people can fine tune their browsers to send far more requests for faster loading but the average joe doesn’t do this.

            In closing Flickr throttles traffic in general and also does rate limiting. Specifically they throttle more international traffic then domestic U.S. traffic and from the looks of your blog John a large portion of your traffic is international from places like asia.

          7. John Chow says:

            Pulling your image from Fickr wouldn’t create an extra request vs. pulling it from your own server. An image request is still 1 request whether it comes from Flickr, your server or anywhere else.

            I do have posts where images are pulled from my server. When Michael does a review, he doesn’t pull images from Flickr because he doesn’t have access to my Flickr account, so he puts them on the server instead.

            Kwan’s post with 4 images on the server and 34 comments:
            http://www.johnchow.com/simplify-your-ad-sales-with-publisher-media/

            My post with 6 images from Flickr and 49 comments:
            http://www.johnchow.com/come-party-with-me-at-the-affiliate-summit-tip-off-party/

            Speed difference after 10 runs: http://cl.ly/3N0v431V2B442C0Q030L

          8. Justin says:

            That’s very true. The limitation doesn’t only come from the browser’s request limit, HTTP server tend to have a restrict upload speed to single IP which is download speed for visitor. I have tested off loading some component to different HTTP server does help loading speed.

            Many webpage having trouble to complete the download 100% often due to Ads or tracking component link to other server that actually time out on the request.

            The pingdom tool Ben recommended actually tell us a lot more information on each individual component’s loading time.

            Great thread!!

    3. Kristi says:

      I don’t know about hurting SEO due to load time, but having the images off site on Flickr does hurt SEO in the sense that your site won’t rank in image searches. I had a huge surge of traffic recently because of an image on my server that was alt tagged “Happy Holidays.” I’m not sure it would be directed to my site if the image had been hosted on Flickr or another image server though.

      1. John Chow says:

        Well, if you were wanting people looking for “Happy Holidays” to come to your site, then it’s a good thing. 🙂 Me, I rather save my resources and send them to the Flickr site. Saving resources also means not targeting everyone on the Net.

      2. Harshad says:

        Agree with the good thing about getting traffic via images but with my experience all traffic that comes via an image search does not have good quality. Most of them have interest in just the image and nothing else.

    4. Harshad says:

      I think it depends on where you are pulling the images from. If you are pulling it from a crappy site then there will be a problem for sure. But if you are pulling the images from something like fickr, it should not cause any problems.

  2. This is a nice trick. Flickr is getting more and more popular.

    Thank you for the great insight.

  3. Dino Vedo says:

    Good tips, any good Flickr album plugins?

    1. Harshad says:

      Unfortunately, there are not many plugins for flickr. I use tantan on my blog as well but it’s in a lot of mess.

      1. I also thinks the flickr makes a sites loader time more than the normal album if you fix them in a normal way, but it’s an opportunity to findout some plugin to remove the tension.

  4. PPC Ian says:

    Awesome stuff, thanks for sharing John! I really like the Flickr tip, I had never thought of that!

  5. Yeah, I noticed your blog loads really fast and i’ve often wondered how you did it; especially considering the amount of content and gadgets you have on this thing. Thanks for the info

  6. Staupenet says:

    Thanks for the information!

  7. ikki says:

    nice tips, i will try this flickr plugin

  8. Jesse says:

    Great follow up post to your original speed tip article. I agree though that Flickr doesn’t really work. I actually just migrated back from using Flickr for my images and my page speed increased. But, I had an image intensive homepage, so there were a lot of http requests to Flickr. If you have just 1 image or 2, then Flickr will definitely help you out with speed. But, if you have any more than that on a single page, then I wouldn’t do the Flickr things. Thanks John. Always excellent articles here!

  9. Why would you bother arguing with John Chow??? I am sure he has tested this out…after all that is what he has been doing, optimizing his blog.

    Why don’t you try and handle a massive blog and all its images… Who cares about a bit of SEO when he has sh*t loads of content to make up for it…

    Thanks for the cool tips John!!! I thought your blog loaded really fast too…and your still working on it…LOL

    1. Some people do seem too wrapped up in SEO. They should probably check out some of Shoemoney’s posts because he made some good points about it.

      1. PPC Ian says:

        I couldn’t agree more. If it’s good enough for John Chow, it’s good enough for any of the folks commenting here. No use arguing with John! 🙂

  10. Ari says:

    Good Post, thank you for sharing John, I will try for my site.

  11. Someone said the blog is loading slow for them. Ever since you optimized/got rid of some stuff, John, your blog had been loading faster for me. I haven’t been having any issues at all. Not one.

  12. JPop says:

    Great article John! Thanks for all these useful informations, I will try it for my blog 🙂

  13. Abhik says:

    Can’t agree on offloading theme images to Flickr.

    However, it’s a good idea to use a CDN for themes and uploads.

  14. I don’t use flickr links because my blog uses a thumbnail script that only uses images hosted my server.

  15. Great post John first off. Secondly thanks for the useful tips everyone should take note of these tips and reference them. The speed of a blogs loading time is crucial and it can mean the difference from big money to no money. If your blog loads slowly people will not stick around and wait which equals a lot of lost revenue.

    Google is also putting more weight when ranking sites from the speed of its load time so its more important now than ever!

  16. Van says:

    Using Flickr is impossible for the site which has stored tons of images. However i found some really necessary technique here. Thank you for your great post!

  17. fas says:

    You also need a paid Flickr account for images if you use alot.

    1. John Chow says:

      It cost $48 for two years. You can’t get cheaper image hosting anywhere else.

  18. JPop says:

    Thanks for this great tutorial, I will apply that to my blog!

  19. Olá John Chow! Obrigado pelas informações. O meu maior problema é a hospedagem de imagens, tenho que editar todas as magens para não ultrapassar o limite de hospedagem. Quanto mais leve as imagens, melhor para carregarem nas páginas do blog.

    Abraço.

  20. Bill Scully says:

    Now I understand why a lot of people are using Flickr images, but note that a lot of big companies block access to Flickr and only get a red x. If your target audience is fortune 500, I don’t recommend it.

    1. Harshad says:

      That can happen with YouTube as well.

    2. d3so says:

      What do you mean they block access to twitter?

      1. Harshad says:

        Block acces to Flickr. Some organizations block access to websites like flickr, youtube etc. so that their employees can concentrate more on work.

  21. Marita says:

    I love that you offer concrete advice on how to improve our blogs – thanks for the tips here! I’ve kind of given up on using flickr for images because I can’t even get their widgets to load at an acceptable speed. But individual images is a whole different story, I’ll give it a try.

  22. Lucian says:

    I totally agree 🙂

  23. d3so says:

    I do all of those except preventing hotlinking and use a CDN network.

  24. Gary Parenti says:

    Hey John,

    I feel like I walked into a War Zone here..
    I know that you have many years experience
    with all of this.I read something about you getting
    started in 1999,when Black Blogs were the norm..As
    a Blogger with very little experience with all of this ,I will
    do what I can to load my Blog as fast as possible for my
    visitors..As we all know waiting on a site to load that is slow sometimes is frustrating and we just Kill the tab…Seems to me that my Blog loads faster in different Browsers…With Chrome 1st , Firefox 2nd and IE I completely give up on…I’m getting out of here John B4 a sniper attacks me..Good Stuff John,as far as I’m concerned you are one of the best Bloggers on Earth..

    Gary,

    1. Gary Parenti says:

      I Forgot to add,

      John doesn’t it also matter on your computer..?
      Like Mine is a 2003 HP with 768 MB Ram
      and only 9% space left on c drive….
      My brother has 4 gig ram and
      almost a terabyte of storage.
      With plenty left.His loads
      10 faster than mine…

      Just Wondering,
      Gary,

  25. OTEP says:

    I’m new here! John Chow I’m following your blog, keep posting informative materials. I like your site! 😉

  26. ikki says:

    i use these tips, and my website loads up faster, thanks

  27. GTA 5 says:

    Great post John! I also use all these tips and my websites load up faster.

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