Is Your Personal Finance Blog Using Too Many Resources?

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In the past 13 years I ran an ever growing web site network and also have done admin work for many of my web design clients. While not all of these sites are personal finance blogs, most have a blog attached to them and some of my clients (and myself, when being less experienced) complained they needed expensive hosting plans to handle the ‘load’.

Back in the day, when I was also providing web hosting services, most clients would come to me to get a big plan at a reasonable price. Since I like to be frugal even when it comes to hosting, I’d ask them to allow me to take a look. Almost every time the blogs had puny traffic (under 1000 visitors/day) and yet they used up some huge resources.

A proper set-up and some careful admin routines can help you keep your blog on a VERY affordable plan, while also earning money from various advertising deals and enjoying an increased traffic. This is what I’d usually give my clients before a web hosting offer: a list of what we can do to cut down on the resource consumption and only after few weeks we could decide if we need to move up on the hosting plans or not. 100% times their hosting plan was perfect, no need to pay extra.

So, here are the settings that allow me to keep my personal finance blog on a small hosting plan and might also help you:

1. Personal finance theme design – SIMPLE!

Right now, as I am writing this, PFToday runs on a premium theme I have adapted. It’s bad, just as many premium themes are today. With lots of useless junk that looks ‘cool’ and eats up resources. No, I haven’t yet dared look at my speed ranking, it would just make me sick. A custom theme is in the works, but it will take a while to finish. Something very simple, very professional and modern and SUPER-fast loading.

That’s what you need.

If you have too many carousels, sliders, moving stuff on your theme, huge backgrounds etc … you’re slowing down your blog and also loading up the server with useless javascripts or god knows what other junk. Look for a very simple theme, that loads fast or get someone to create a proper design for you.

This is the no.1 one place you can make a huge change. A fast and still elegant theme can save a lot of resources, which saves you money.

2. Your money blog can really do without 500 active plugins.

There are a gazillion of plugins in the WordPress repository, this doesn’t mean our personal finance blogs should have all of them installed. Again, the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle works wonders: have the bare minimum and let your blog ‘breathe’.

All my blogs have few plugins that I can’t live without (Akismet, Redirections, a cache plugin, Yoast SEO etc.). I don’t think there are more than 10 and all of them do something very important for my blog: they keep spam away, they help minimize the resource consumption, they allow me to redirect broken links etc.

If you fear you have too many plugins, drop me a line and I can take a look. I can make a list with the plugins I’d ditch and you can then decide on what to do. Most my clients took my advice and were able to save lots of money by not having their small blog use up dedicated server resources.

3. Don’t upload big images

Most of the times my clients are almost on the brink of getting their account suspended (and asked to pay more for a bigger hosting plan) because of the HUGE images they upload. When you take a pic, resize it first and then upload it.

I had to do some ‘cleaning’ on my clients’ blogs and was appalled to see 6MB pictures (or close to this). You don’t need to upload a 4000 pixels wide pic, nobody can view it in full res, it takes more time to load and, as you guessed, it uses up resources (disk space and bandwidth).

As a personal rule, I try to not upload anything bigger than 800-1000 pixels wide, which roughly translates to about 100-200Kb. This means that I can upload thousands of photos like this instead of few huge ones.

If the damage was already done (you uploaded big photos), you can download the image resizer tool and resize the images.

Short tutorial on how to resize your uploaded images:

Connect via FTP to your blog. Go to wp-content. Then open the uploads directory. You’ll see there a list of directories. Download everything on your computer and then navigate to each directory.

List your files descending – based on size, this will list the biggest ones first. Select the big ones, right click and run the image resizer. Select a custom size (or a pre-set size), let the tool do the job. Upload the new files.

By doing this resizing for my clients I was able to save them a lot of space and also the bandwidth stayed low. If I could keep a pretty active blog on a tiny hosting account, theirs should have never needed more resources than it.

4. Your personal finance blog needs a good cache plugin

Fast-forward years ago (6, I think). I’d tell you to never bother with a cache plugin, since it will break your design. It did with few of mines back in the day, but these plugins have come a long way since. Right now I have been using them successfully on ALL of my WordPress installations. It’s one of the first plugins I also install on my clients’ projects.

The 2 I usually work with are WP Super Cache (we use it here) and also WP Total Cache (I recommend this to Godaddy hosting clients – in the past months I have noticed there were some issues with WP Super Cache at least for some of their clients I worked for).

Regardless, install a cache plugin: it will help a lot wit the loading time and it will also keep the resource consumption low.

5. Take a look at your errors files.

Sometimes things can go wrong with a theme or a plugin, so the server will create error files. They can be easily spotted via FTP. Look for error_log, usually it resides in the root and sometimes in other directories (the theme directory, plugins directories etc.)

In some cases, if you don’t apply a fix to said error, the log will grow every time someone views your blog. If we are talking a high traffic blog, you can waste a lot of space with such a file.

Ideally you should fix the problems (or get someone to do it). If the file is too huge already, you can delete it and in few minutes you should already have a log.

The error log view can also be done in cPanel, if you have a cPanel hosting account (which I recommend 1000%).

Here are my tips to keep your personal finance blog ‘slender’ and fast. It will allow you to save money on web hosting, have a fast site and provide an excellent experience to your visitors. Would you add anything to this list?

10 COMMENTS

  1. Most of what you wrote went right over my head, which goes to show that I’m a blog content guy and I have to depend for the technical stuff on someone else. At least, I know that I’ve had a good reason for each plug-in I have asked to have installed and that I always select the smallest “load” image size available to me. Now, if I could only get a better handle on SEO I’d be a happier guy. :O
    Retired To Win recently posted…How a Discretionary Fund Beats a Discretionary BudgetMy Profile

  2. Great advice. Website speed is something I enjoy looking at and tweaking. If only I knew a little more about programming I could probably make some bigger changes. I have tried my best to reduce load time and TTFB (apparently an SEO data point). There was a decent change in my bounce rates when I did this. So looking at your site speed has lots of benefits.
    Thomas @ i need money ASAP! recently posted…How To Become The Millionaire Next DoorMy Profile

  3. Just a quick note about images: although I’m not a big fan of huge images either, I think that somewhere around 1400-2000px is a perfectly acceptable image size (1200px wide should be a minimum). Then you could use these images to generate whatever sizes you need. Sure, you don’t need images larger than 1200 px today, but if you take a look at how technology evolves, you’ll notice that it’s just a matter of time until you will need larger images in order to have them look good on Hi-DPI screens.

    (considering that storage space is dirt cheap, I think you could also upload larger images as long you don’t serve them and just use them as a some kind of source)

    Hint: if you have extra large jpegs (like 6000px wide or so), you could try the following: scale them to whatever you need ✕ 2 (so if you need 900px scale them to 1800px) but with a very low quality (15-20% would do). Then, from CSS just scale them down. You will have a lower KB footprint (1800px@20% will usually be smaller in terms of KB compared to a 900px@70%) and a very sharp looking images (that also looks great on Hi-DPI screens)
    Ionuț Staicu recently posted…Senior Front End Dev @ R/GAMy Profile

  4. I, of course, assume this is valid advice for all kinds of blogs, so thank you for taking the time to write a detailed ‘how to make your blog load faster’ article 🙂 I always thought cache plugins were a waste time though, so I never bothered using one. My blog is fast-loading as it is, I kept is as simple as possible right from the beginning, but now I’m curious to see is a cache plugin will improve things or not. Thanks for suggesting it!

  5. Well if there were a common theme here I would say that it is simplicity is the key. For me that just immediately bring to mind Occam’s Razor and I could go on and on about that, but I will spare everyone the pain. I can certainly appreciate these tips though, and especially when you are just starting out, as I am, it is nice to see simplicity and sticking to content be the main priorities here, and I think I am in the right direction there. Thank you for sharing.

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