Almost exactly one year ago, I moved this blog – Dumb Passive Income – to the best and fastest web hosting company available for WordPress – WPEngine. My experience over the past year with them has been extraordinary. To say that I have been satisfied would be a vast understatement. I’ve been more than satisfied. If you haven’t read it before, I encourage you to read my original article on my experience with moving this blog over to WPEngine.
Site speed (page load times) was my number one reason for moving in the first place. And my results have been remarkable. But here’s the thing… I left some of my best money-making niche websites on my old Hostgator shared hosting account. Load times on those sites continued to be horrendous. Makes me wonder if those sites would have been making even more money if I hadn’t left them on that slow shared server for so long. I did finally move them, but what took me so long…?
Fastest Web Hosting Comes with a Price
When I first opened up an account at WPEngine (affiliate link) one year ago, I started with their Personal plan for $29/month. As you can see in the image below, this plan allows for only one WordPress install. Meaning I could only have one site on that account. I know it’s a little expensive. But I did my research and this type of managed WordPress hosting has similar costs with other providers.
If I wanted to add any more of my sites to this account, the next upgrade available was the Professional Plan for $99/month! That’s a LOT of money to spend on hosting when I’m buying hosting over at Bluehost for many of my newer sites for as little as $3.95/month.
My Site Speed Obsession
Over the past several months, I’ve come across quite a few ‘site speed articles’ on blogs written by other internet marketers and niche website creators. The general consensus is that…Choosing the fastest web hosting provider makes the biggest difference in site speed and page load times.Click To Tweet
And I agree! But one thing that I saw others taking advantage of that I wasn’t was the use of content delivery networks (CDN’s).
Don’t know what a CDN is? I had to research it myself. Here is a nice infographic on WPBeginner that explains what a CDN is and makes it easy to understand.
Because of my site speed obsession – I knew I needed to start using CDN’s. So, I started to weigh my options…
On the WPEngine Personal plan that I had, I would have had to pay an extra $19.95/month to activate a CDN for my one domain. That would have brought my monthly cost up to nearly $50/month just for this blog!
I looked into buying managed WordPress hosting from other providers – but buying and activating a CDN is totally separate and not included in the cost with any that I looked at. There are lots of different CDN companies available and the pricing varies greatly. This was starting to sound complicated.
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
The old ‘KISS’ acronym never fails. When I choose to embrace it, things usually work out for the better. When I ignore the ‘KISS’ acronym, things get messy and complicated.
In this case, ‘keeping it simple’ meant staying with the hosting company that I am already using. After upgrading to the Professional Plan on WPEngine and moving my sites over – activating the CDN for each domain was as easy as marking a checkbox for each domain. It really doesn’t get any easier than that!
Results After Activating CDN
I took before and after screenshots of website speed tests for Dumb Passive Income. This is the only site I previously had on WPEngine and did not have a CDN activated for it. So this is my only site where I can compare the effectiveness of a CDN.
Note: all website speed tests were performed using http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ – results vary each and every time you perform a test, so I ran the test several times for each site and took a screenshot of what I felt was average or best.
Dumb Passive Income was loading at just over 1 second, on average, before I activated the CDN.
After activating the CDN, the average load time for Dumb Passive Income is just under 1 second!
Moving Niche Sites to WPEngine
Now that I was up and running on the Professional plan at WPEngine, I could have up to 10 WordPress installs running on my account. It would be foolish to not move my best performing sites over. A few of my sites have had consistent traffic and earnings for well over a year, despite being on the slow Hostgator shared hosting account. These were the sites that I wanted to move over.
Moving a Site from HostGator to WPEngine
Moving a site from one hosting account to another is not for the faint of heart (or for beginners). Even a year ago, when I moved this blog from Hostgator to WPEngine – I had a very difficult time and almost gave up. At the time, WPEngine had what they called their migration checklist. It was basically a blog post with step-by-step instructions on exactly how to move a site and get up and running on WPEngine. Despite the detailed instructions, I still had a difficult time.
Now – it is easier than ever. What used to be a static step-by-step list of instructions on WPEngine has now become an interactive step-by-step checklist of tasks to perform in order to move a site from any hosting account over to WPEngine. And each checklist is specific to each site you move. It was really quite simple to move my sites over this time. It still took a little bit of technical know-how – but the instructions were very clear and much easier to understand than they were a year ago.
Also – WPEngine support is amazing! I took advantage of actually calling them on the phone when I got stuck with something and they were extremely helpful and fixed my issue right away. In fact, I’ve had to contact support several times throughout the process of moving several sites over – and my experience has been the same every single time – phenomenal!The stellar service and support that WPEngine provides totally justifies the price that they charge for web hosting.Click To Tweet
Speed Test Results for Niche Sites Now on WPEngine
I took before and after screenshots for 2 of my best niche sites. Again, they were previously hosted on Hostgator shared hosting with no CDN. They are now on WPEngine with CDN’s activated. These screenshots pretty much speak for themselves.
Check out these speed test results from simply moving sites from crappy shared hosting over to WPEngine - Amazing!Click To Tweet
Why is This Blog Faster than My Niche Sites?
You may have noticed in my screenshots above that this blog actually loads a little bit faster than the niche sites that I featured. There are several factors that determine page load times and I have a few things set up a little differently on this blog than I do on my niche sites. Page load times under 1 second, like I average with this blog, are extraordinary. But anything under 2 seconds for my niche sites is considered acceptable and good enough.
If you run your own site through the free speed test tool on pingdom – http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ – below the speed results you’ll see a list of every single item that is loading on your page on how long each takes. This is really helpful in seeing which factors are slowing your site down the most.
Factors that Affect Site Speed
Listed below are a few factors that I’ve noticed have had a big effect on site speed and page load times. I’m sure there are many more factors. Even some that I’m not aware of. But these are the ones that have made a difference for me
- Social sharing buttons – SumoMe is a nice platform of mostly free tools and includes some really nice sharing buttons. I had it loaded on Dumb Passive Income for a few weeks and was using those sharing buttons, but noticed that it was slowing my site down quite a bit. Since I am obsessed with site speed (especially for this blog), I did some research and asked around. I found Social Warfare, which offers sharing buttons that I like even better. These are not free, but they are completely customizeable and as far as I can tell – they don’t slow my site down at all! I purchased a license to run Social Warfare on this blog only and left SumoMe on several of my niche sites.
- Google Adsense – both of my niche sites featured in the screenshots above have Adsense running on them. This blog does not. This seems to be the biggest factor that makes a difference for my sites. Adsense doesn’t exactly load super fast. If you have Adsense running on a site and you aren’t earning any money from it – I would strongly recommend removing it just to improve page load times. But if Adsense is performing and you are making money – it would be foolish to remove.
- Image File Sizes – bigger file sizes take longer to load – no doubt. Smaller file sizes are faster. Until very recently, there was a free WordPress plugin that reduced image file sizes and it worked great for a really long time. It was called WPSmush.it. But their free version just went away and now you have to pay if you want to stay with them and use their premium service. This led me to search for alternatives and I share a couple of them in the free guide that I am about to give you.
Simple Site Speed Tips for WordPress
I created a FREE 2-page PDF document, which is basically an extension of this blog post, that shows you a few simple steps and plugins that you can use to speed up your WordPress websites. Click the button below and enter your email address and I’ll send it right over.
I did not mention caching plugins in the free guide. I probably should have. But most people know that installing and activating a caching plugin is pretty standard and helps speed up your site. There are several good ones to choose from that are free. Here are a few…
- WP Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
- WP Rocket
- WP File Cache
Note: Caching plugins are disallowed by WPEngine and are unnecessary anyway. Here’s what they have to say about it
Most caching plugins do not cooperate with our custom caching environment. As a result, we can’t have them running in parallel with our solution. In fact, whenever our maintenance scripts see these on the filesystem, they are automatically removed from your install. It’s okay though, honest! We’ve already got you covered. Besides, you shouldn’t have to worry about the speed of your site… that’s our job. And our speed is hopefully one of the main reasons why you’ve chosen us as your provider!
Although there are many things you can do to speed up your site, the #1 things I’ve found that works is to upgrade to better and faster hosting. Specifically, some sort of managed WordPress hosting seems to be the best option for WordPress users. And WPEngine is the service provider that I use and trust. I can’t say enough good things about WPEngine. My experience has been superb and I don’t hesitate to recommend them at all to anybody who is serious about their WordPress site(s).
Note: all links and banners in this post that lead to WPEngine or Bluehost are affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you choose to purchase hosting after clicking through via one of these links. I thank you in advance if you choose to do so. I really appreciate your support!