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How to optimize WordPress for Speed!

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9 Tips to create a fast and responsive instance of WordPress

Optimize WordPress Speed by following these nine steps from simple optimization techniques to theme and hosting choices. Make WordPress as fast as it can be and make the web a better place.

Simple WordPress speed optimization techniques

Tip #1: Delete or uninstall anything you do not need

Delete plugins and themes if you are not using them. Deactivating can be helpful especially if it has background functions. However, deleting is best if you are not using a theme or plugin.

Tip #2: Optimize your images

Use tools like Smush It. Smush It will automatically optimize pictures as you add them to your site. Smush It can also "bulk smush" reducing any files that currently exist in the media folder.

Tip #3: Use caching plugins

I personally like WP Super Cache and Autoptimize used together. With WP Super Cache, if you do not make frequent updates to your site, turn off the "frequent checks to homepage" and bump up the garbage collection to 7200 seconds or more (you can always manually flush the cache if needed). Autoptimize allows you to minify javascript, css, html etc.

Tip #4: Optimize the database

Use WP-Optimize to clean up the database. It has some options to do it automatically as well if you so choose.

Moderate involvement WordPress speed optimization techniques

Tip #5: Use Google's PageSpeed Insights to guide your optimizations

Use Google's PageSpeed Insights as a checklist to optimize your site. Also, note that at the bottom of the page it says: "Download optimized image, JavaScript, and CSS resources for this page. You can use these provided resources to speed up your site and get a better score. The PageSpeed Insights images feature is very useful if you are using the free version of Smush It and need the files outside of the media folder to be optimized.

Tip #6: Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)

CloudFlare is a CDN that has a free option to act as a proxy to your website and also does additional optimizations to your assets as well as provide another layer of security to your site. This can reduce the load on your server, provide better uptime and faster response time for cached content. If you are hosting more than one site, this effect can be amplified if you apply across all of your sites. This is actually very easy to setup. The only reason I've labeled it as moderate is that you need to login to the hosting provider and change the Nameservers. If you want a top of the line CDN you could go with someone like Akamai.

Tip #7: Lazy load and avoid render blocking

Use lazy loading to help render something on the screen as fast as possible and try not to have render blocking resources. Put as much javascript and CSS in the footer as possible. A couple of good lazy load plugins are Lazy Load which is pretty much a set and forget setup and a more customizable Lazy Loader BJ Lazy Load. I also like WP YouTube Lyte, which lazy loads YouTube videos.

More involved WordPress speed optimization techniques

Tip #8: Pick a fast theme

One of my favorite themes to start with for speed is from My Theme Shop called Schema. Overall, it is well built and easy to optimize further.

Tip #9: Upgrade your host

If you are using hosts like GoDaddy, see what your upgrade options are and see if it makes sense to you fiscally. GoDaddy for example has a separate WordPress hosting option that can provide greater performance than their standard hosting setup however that is still a long shot from the performance you will get from other hosting solutions like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Pantheon.

9 tips to optimize WordPress for Speed!

  1. Delete or uninstall anything you do not need (plugins and themes)
  2. Optimize your images
  3. Use caching plugins
  4. Optimize the database
  5. Use Google PageSpeed Insights
  6. Use a CDN like CloudFlare
  7. Lazy load and don't resource block your content
  8. Pick a faster/more optimized theme
  9. Pick a new host or hosting option

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5 Key Attributes to Successful Visual Campaign Strategies

Visual campaign strategies can be boiled down to five key attributes which can be used to have the greatest impact on viewers. I will be exploring these attributes and sharing some examples of videos exhibiting each attribute.

I recently attended a conference where my favorite brand campaign video of 2016 was used among other examples of successful brand campaigns on YouTube. At the session, YouTube’s global expert of branded content strategy discussed some of the top videos and the best approaches to video campaign strategies. There were four major attributes to these successful campaign strategies with one bonus attribute.

#1 – Videos that evoke emotion

Some of the most successful visual campaign strategies are those that are engineered to tug on your emotions a bit. This can be inspiring, empathizing and ultimately memorable. Things that make you “feel” have the highest “memorable potential” as memories attached to strong emotions (especially those that compel you to the point of tears or chills etc.) are most likely to be stored in your long-term memory. Therefore, having the greatest influence on the viewer.

Successful Example #1:

Rule Yourself – Michael Phelps, Under Armor (11.4 million views as of 10/2016)

There is a perfect match up here. Michael Phelps closing out his career at the Rio Olympic Games and a well crafted video showing the physical sacrifices he made in his career. For me this video is inspiring and motivating. Whenever I watch this video, I feel ready to take on that next challenge or make some aggressive progress towards one of my personal goals. To me… that is effective motivation.

Although you will most likely not have Michael Phelps in your next campaign video, you can craft a video that captures the emotional impact this story strives to achieve.

Successful Example #2 (although more controversial):

The Scarecrow by Chipotle (16.8 million views as of 10/2016)

The Scarecrow was the launch of a campaign strategy supported by a mobile game that reinforced the concept presented in this original spot. My second favorite ad of all time. Controversy aside, this video hits all the marks of a successful campaign video. The challenge here was that Chipotle really woke the beast that is the food industry with this campaign. Before this campaign they had their “Meat Without Drugs” PSA style video which was slightly less controversial as it was focused on antibiotics in the meat industry. The new campaign also points to GMOs, which is an extremely delicate topic in the industry and was met with much criticism. Although, this was a successful campaign it was potentially problematic so it is critical to strike a delicate balance.

Successful Example #3:

Czego szukasz w Święta? | English for beginners (13.7 million views as of 10/2016)

English for beginners is my favorite ad of all time. Taking you on a journey of emotions and slowly unveils the story throughout. It will make you laugh and get the goosebumps. I teared up quite a bit, the first time I saw this video. Chances are, you will remember this advertisement for a long time after enjoying it. This is a video I use when teaching about public speaking about how important empathy and emotions play in influence and impact.

#2 – Encouraging Reactions with Reactions

Michael Phelps reaction to the Under Armor Clip (1.2 million views as of 10/2016)

Modeling reaction for the audience is a common technique in public speaking. The speaker models the behavior they want to see in the audience. In this case, the reaction of Micheal Phelps and his then fiancee Nicole stimulate reactions of the viewer. In a sense, it also solidifies the emotional impact and authenticity of the video. Also take note of the scarecrow in the Chipotle campaign modeling reaction for the viewer on multiple occasions. The scarecrow is encouraging reaction with reactions.

#3 – Different lengths for different appetites

The meal, the snack and the bite

Video strategies that work best are those that have been crafted from the “meal” backwards to smaller portions: the “snack” and then the “bite”. Meaning, the longer form video should be the seed of the campaign. Typically “the meal” is 60-90 sec or more. Then work on the “snack”, 10-30 sec and then lastly the bite, which is under 15 sec. An example of this is the Aussie (hair product) campaign (roughly 8 million views). The Aussie strategy was really focused on the concept of tackling the issues their users can relate to. They close the videos by presenting their product as a solution using engaging and creative methods.

#4 – Transcend the language barrier

The most successful “global” branded story telling videos are those that transcend language barriers. The Scarecrow from Chipotle and the Rule Yourself Under Armor campaigns would both fall under this category as well. These videos convey emotion and understanding without a single word. Transcending the language barrier is pretty much a bonafide requirement to go “viral” now. The alternative is providing translations. However, this can reduce your success if you have to produce multiple videos to achieve the translation, as you are dividing up your viewership with multiple videos. Having one video with many views is much more powerful than many videos with mediocre views. For me, when I am looking at analytics, I am looking for 3 primary signals:

  1. Velocity. How quickly has the viewership increased?
  2. Watch time. How engaged are the viewers?
  3. Total Viewership. Gives overall scale.

Another personal favorite

An explainer video that utilizes some visual campaign strategies

The REI’s Co-op membership video delivers the story of how REI was founded and explains how the Co-op works. It establishes the foundation of the company and its ethos while inviting the viewer to join as a member.

#5 – Be Authentic

Being authentic is such a crucial key to a successful campaign strategy that I felt it necessary to include here. If someone lacks authenticity, it is easy to identify. Avoid inauthenticity at all costs.

Key Attributes to a Successful Visual Campaign Strategy

  1. Evoke emotions
  2. Encourage and/or model reactions
  3. Craft different length videos for different appetites
  4. Transcend the language barrier
  5. Be Authentic

If you have other tried and true methods or attributes to visual campaign strategies post a comment.