The Need For Magento Speed – A How-To Guide

Andrew Birkitt

Lead Technical Engineer
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Site speed is so important and these days, there is just no excuse for a slow website no matter how big or small your site is or what hardware you are running it on. Yes there are different levels of web server and some configurations are far superior to others. However you often find that the fundamentals of making a website quick are overlooked.

Here at SEO Traffic Lab we always push the site speed issue and make sure website owners are aware of what they can do to get the most out of their site. It has been shown in many studies that a delay in page load impacts conversions rates. The bottom line is that everyone has a quick connection to the internet and we are inherently impatient. As a follow up to the original guide to site speed this post is going to look at specific ways you can optimise Magento, one of the most popular platforms for e-commerce stores and one we often find basic mistakes when we begin working with a client.

1). Enable flat catalog

The way that Magneto stores data for customers and products means it can be very extensive and this can cause larger SQL queries and more reads from the database. By implementing a flat catalog for categories and products this merges them into one table, which makes your database more efficient.

In your admin area go to System > configuration > catalog > frontend change “Use flat catalogue category” to Yes, also change “Use Flat Catalog Product” to Yes.

Enable Flat Catalog Magento

2). Although Magento is a great e-commerce platform it isn’t the most efficient at database management and it’s database can easily become bulky and cumbersome. This excessive bloat can noticeably impact your sites performance. We often see the logs on Magneto sites with no log cleaning in place or with logs being kept for an excessive amount of time.

Again go to Admin > System > Config > Advanced System > Log Cleaning (Tab)

Set “Enable Log Cleaning” to Yes

Set “Save Log, Days” to 14 days (2 weeks should be sufficient if you need to look at logs for anything)


3). Consider combining your CSS and Javascript Files, so that you reduce the number of http requests that are having to be made between the visitors browser and your web server. Remember the less requests the quicker your site will load.

Simply go to System > Configuration > Advanced > Developer

Set the following:

Javascript Settings > Merge JavaScript Files – “Yes”

CSS Settings > Merge CSS Files – “Yes”

Merge javascript and CSS Magento

4). Configure your system for use with a CDN (Content Delivery Network) which reduces the load on your server and means elements load in parallel from your web server and the CDN. Setting this up is relatively simple and I would recommend having a look at this simple walk through from MaxCDN here

5). Consider installing the GTMetrix Speed extension. I have previously recommended running your site through GTMetrix in order to gauge how fast your site is and what you can improve. Here is a guide to installing the extension for GTMetrix.

These changes are relatively simple to make and will make a difference to the speed of your site, however before you make any of these changes always take a backup of your site and if you are unsure talk to your developer. The great thing about many of these changes is that they are relatively quick to implement and if you need to use development time or budget it shouldn’t cost excessively. Another important point to take on board is to make changes such as these at quieter times on your website, which hopefully you will already know. If you don’t you can easily find out using Google Analytics.

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