Why is WordPress Slow – How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site

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Why is WordPress slow - a tortoise operating a computer - featured image

There’s no clear-cut answer to why WordPress is slow. In each situation, it is always a challenging task to identify the cause and fix a slow website. 

There are many moving parts to a functional WordPress site. Too many things to analyze, from web hosting, plugins, content, themes, and external scripts to WordPress configuration.

If you’re convinced your WordPress sites are running slow and want to discover and fix the problem, this article is for you.

You’ll learn why WordPress is slow. The potential causes for a slow WordPress blog. How to test if your WordPress website is slow. And what to do to improve page speed, boost performance, and increase search ranking. 

Let’s dive in…

Why is WordPress Slow?

First, before you can fix a slow WordPress site, you need to know the causes of the problem.

Knowing the root cause of it will point you to the right solution. Once you understand why and resolve the issue, your readers will enjoy a faster page loading time and optimized site performance

Here are some of the potential causes of a slow WordPress website. 

Bad Web Hosting

A low-quality web host is one of the major factors responsible for underperforming WordPress sites. No amount of optimization done to improve page speed can have a significant effect on a low-quality server. 

If your web host does not utilize high-speed technology or an optimized server, it’s time to switch.

Unoptimized Images

Images are another significant factor responsible for slow web pages. 

If your WordPress images are not correctly optimized for size, display, and weight, they could take ages to load on the user’s browser.

Poorly Coded Plugins

Poorly coded plugins are bad for performance and could lead to a security breach.

Unoptimized WordPress Themes

Another major factor that can cause your WordPress blog to load slowly is your theme.

WordPress themes include files, codes, images, and other design elements. If a theme is poorly coded, not lightweight, or not updated regularly, it could have a severe negative effect on page speed and site performance.

Unused CSS and JavaScript

Extensive unused CSS and JavaScript files on the page can cause poor website performance.

If a script is not required on a page, you don’t have to load it up. I will discuss how to ensure only the script needed on the page is loaded down in this post. 

Too Many HTTPS Redirects

If you’re not following WordPress URL structure best practices, you can have improper URL redirects. 

And in some cases, this could be an infinite chain of redirect loops. It will increase page load time, cause poor user experience, and a negative search ranking. 

How to Check If WordPress Website is Slow

Now that you know some of the causes of slow WordPress sites let’s find out if your blog is running slow. 

The average benchmark loading time for most industries is 0 – 4 seconds, and E-commerce sites that load in 3 seconds or less see an increase in sales and conversion. According to a Google research study in 2017, as page loading time increases from 1 to 10 seconds, the bounce rate increases by 123%.

Google page speed data 2017 survey

Here are three ways to test your site page speed. 

Speed Test

How fast do you load your web pages in the real world for its users?

Webpages that take more than 3 seconds to load risk losing users to competitors. So, the first thing is to measure how fast your website pages load on mobile and desktop traffic.

There are many website speed testing tools; Gtmetrix, Google page speed, Web Page Test, and Pingdom are the most popular and well-used. 

For this tutorial, I’ll use Gtmetrix to demonstrate how to test a web page.

For more server locations, sign up for the Gtmetrix free account. Next, choose a server location closest to your audience for better real-world page speed results.

You might need to test your blog homepage first, but remember, Google treats page speed at the page level and not a sitewide metric. This means even if your blog home page passes all the page speed metrics, your inner page might not. 

So, testing all the essential pages on your blog for speed and performance is always important. 

Head over to Gtmetrix and enter your blog URL.

Once the test is complete, you’ll see a breakdown of your test result, like in the image below.

Gtmetrix page speed result for wprblogger

Gtmetrix uses grades for its test result. And a breakdown analysis timeline of how the page renders during the test can be seen just below the grade column. 

You need to pay attention to a few page speed data: 

  • TTFB (Time to First Byte)
  • Fully Loaded Time
  • First Contentful Paint
  • Time to Interactive
  • Largest Contentful Paint

You must scroll down a bit to understand and drill down into the data.

Gtmetrix page speed result summary tab

The Summary tab shows all the essential page speed issues affecting the URL. You can click on the dropdown icon on the right of the page to learn more about the data.

In the image above, the test URL has one high-priority issue – Reduce Initial Response Time. This is mainly resolved by moving to a better web host or upgrading the server to a more optimized performance. 

The Performance tab gives you a more detailed report from the web browser and Google Lighthouse. Here you can see a more detailed analysis of the page speed metrics. If you hover over the “question mark” beside each metric, it reveals more info about the data and a link to help documents on the Gtmetrix blog.  

Why is WordPress Slow - How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site

You may want to view other tabs, like the structure tab, which groups speed and performance metrics based on relevancy and all metrics.

  • FCP – First Contentful Paint
  • LCP – Largest Contentful Paint
  • TBT – Time to First Bytes
  • CLS – Cumulative Layout Shift

You can view metrics related to specific loading time issues on the Structure tab. For example, you can analyze only resources causing render-blocking or identify tasks on the main thread contributing to input delay. 

The way Gtmetrix organizes its speed and performance test results makes it easy to follow through and identify high-priority issues.

The Waterfall tab gives a request-by-request detail of each URL, Script, image, page size, etc. However, reading the Waterfall data could be intimidating and overwhelming for beginners and even professionals; here is an introduction to reading the Gtmetrix waterfall data.

So, the first thing you need to do is to confirm if your WordPress pages are slow or not. It would be best if you also compared the average page speed in your industry.

This will give you an idea of the page speed limit or loading time you should aim to achieve. 

Check WordPress Themes and Plugins

Sometimes, the problem isn’t server related but within installed WordPress themes and plugins.

Now, you need to create a staging site where you can test everything on your site without affecting its live version. A Staging hosting environment allows you to clone an exact copy of your live website for debugging and troubleshooting purposes.

If you’re on a cheap shared hosting plan, you may not be able to create a staging site, as the feature is not available by default. However, web hosts such as Cloudways offer a 1-click staging feature.

If your host has the feature enabled on your account, create a copy of your site and disable plugins one after the other. As you disable a plugin, run the speed test to compare performance and speed differences after and before.

Do this also for the currently active theme. Consider switching to another theme to test if there could be any significant improvement. 

If you can spot the culprit slowing down your WordPress site from this exercise, you may safely ignore the rest of this article and focus on finding a better alternative plugin or theme. 

But if you can still find the cause, let’s continue…

How to Fix a Slow WordPress Site

Now that you’re sure your WordPress site is running slower than your competitors or the industry average, it’s time to fix the issue.

You can take several steps to fix a slow WordPress website; let’s explore some of the most effective.

Migrate to a Faster Webs Host

One of the most effective ways to improve page speed and site performance is to migrate to a better web host. 

If you’ve tried everything listed in the book to improve WordPress blog page speed, nothing seems to work; it may be time to migrate to a better and faster web host.

A better option is to subscribe to a managed WordPress web host. 

Most managed WordPress hosts provide tools and features that allow your sites to run more efficiently, improve performance, and enhance security. So you can focus on running your business without dealing with server-side management. 

If your current web host is not delivering the quality of services you expect, here are some options to consider:

Update WordPress Regularly

Updating to the latest WordPress version will bring optimized performance, security, and new features to your blog. As with each latest core release, WordPress is made to better its previous version.

If you’re not running the latest version of WordPress, you could also be vulnerable to DDoS and brute force attacks. 

Since WordPress 3.7, automatic updates are possible for both WordPress minor and core updates. You can enable it in your WordPress admin. 

Go to dashboard >> Updates; if you have it turned on, you should see the message on this page. If it’s not turned on, you can turn on the automatic updates from this page.

WordPress Core updates feature

You can allow automatic updates for maintenance and security patches only, or you can enable automatic updates for all WordPress-related updates. 

If you’re on a managed WordPress web host like EasyWP, WordPress is automatically kept up-to-date for security releases, performance, and the latest features.

Use a Cache Plugin

One of the things you can do to improve loading time significantly is cache. 

The process of requesting and retrieving data from the WordPress database takes a lot of steps to complete. And if these steps have to be repeated every time a request is made to the server, it puts a lot of load on the server and impacts its performance significantly.

If you implement a server-side cache, you can skip many of the processes it takes to deliver content to the client’s browser. While caching is a very complex technology, you don’t have to be a tech guru to implement cache on your blog.

WP Rocket is a WordPress plugin that enables cache on your blog in one click. There is no complex configuration required. The default setting works for most WordPress blogs. 

If you want a one-click cache enabler solution, I recommend the WP Rocket plugin

Managed WordPress hosts like EasyWP enable in-built three layers cache on the server level. So you don’t have to worry about doing this on your own. EasyWP comes with a three layers built-in cache system that optimizes WordPress and significantly speeds up content delivery. 

Use a Lightweight, Fast WordPress Theme

WordPress themes are an integral part of overall site performance and usability. A lightweight and faster WordPress theme will improve the user experience and website performance. 

The first things your site users will see are the brand colors, fonts, images, site layout, etc…if all these design elements are not optimized for speed and best performance, you may have a prolonged website page speed.

When choosing WordPress themes, a trusted developer is one of the first things to consider. Go for themes that are regularly updated, have excellent customer support, and have good user ratings.

To make it easier for you to decide, WP Astra is one of the best WordPress themes that thick all the boxes. With over 1 million active downloads, you can never find a better theme for your next WordPress project. 

WP Astra is a very lightweight (less than 50kb) WordPress theme, is woocommerce-ready, regularly updated, and has a great support community. The starter templates make it easy and quick for anyone to build incredible website design in minutes, irrespective of their design knowledge.

You can check out the WP Astra theme here

Minimize The Use of Plugins

Plugins bring more functionalities and extend the power of WordPress, but you should be cautious of their usage. 

With over 60,000 WordPress plugins, anyone can go over the roof with plugin installations. You want to have that plugin working on your blog and give that extra features. 

Do you really need it?

Ask yourself…if your business needs the features or function? If you can’t answer that question in one word, “yes,” you don’t need the plugin. That’s the truth…

However, the number of installed plugins isn’t the problem but having an unoptimized plugin is. You must ensure you’re only installing well-coded, optimized, and compatible plugins.

The plugins on your blog must be compatible with each other, the theme, and the WordPress core installation software. Before installing a plugin, go through the plugin installation page, user review, and documentation. This will allow you to learn more about the plugin’s compatibility and developer.

If a plugin hasn’t been updated for the past 6 -12 months, I advise you don’t activate such a plugin on your blog. It could be a sign of an abandoned project. 

Check out our top picks for a list of the best WordPress plugins. Whether for an SEO plugin, speed and performance plugin, payments plugin, image optimization, etc., you will find the top choice.

Optimized WordPress Images

Images are one of the biggest culprits for a slow WordPress blog. The more unoptimized images on your website, the heavier and slower it is. 

According to the HTTP Archive 2022 October report, images comprise the most significant page weight by content type. 

Web Archive Content distribution by type - chart

There are a few ways to optimize WordPress images, and a plugin like Imagify is one. An image optimization plugin like Imagify automatically optimizes existing and future WordPress images in one click.

The free plan is sufficient if you have a small blog with just a few images. But you need a paid account to optimize unlimited photos or more than 500MB per month. 

The plan starts at $4.99/month, considered affordable for anyone. 

Imagify lets you choose the image optimization level – the Lossless and Smart compression levels. 

Imagify image compression level

Lossless compression mode reduces the image file size but little image quality. The Smart compression mode gives the best balance between performance and image quality automatically. You don’t need to do anything other than upload, settings, and click.

You can check out Imagify on the website

Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A content delivery network will deliver your content faster to the user, irrespective of the origin server location. It takes the load off your web server and directly delivers content from the nearest server to the user.

Many web hosts have CDN built to work seamlessly with their web hosting plans. Namecheap has Supersonic, WPX has XDN, and Cloudflare is one of the most popular content delivery networks. 

Beyond speeding up content delivery, Cloudflare provides Enterprise level DDoS attack, optimization, and firewall protections. 

Cloudways global network

With data centers across North America, Africa, and Europe. Middle East, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, China Mainland, and Oceania, your readers will experience faster content delivery within 50 ms.

Cloudflare is free, but if you want more optimization and security features like Web Application Firewall, Accelerated Mobile Pages, Lossless image optimization, etc…you need to upgrade to a paid plan. 

Upgrade to the Latest PHP Version

WordPress is powered by a server-side programming language called PHP. Most WordPress themes and plugins are also written in the PHP programming language. 

Like any other programming language, PHP gets regular updates that fix bugs, bring more features, and improve performance. If your WordPress blog runs an outdated PHP version, it could affect its overall performance and even cause a security breach.

You can ask your web host if you’re unsure what PHP version your WordPress blog is running. They should be kind enough to let you know which version of PHP is running on your server. 

And if you’re still running PHP 7. X version, consider asking for an upgrade to PHP 8.0. Though PHP 8.1 is out, it’s not yet supported by most WordPress product developers – themes, plugins, scripts, etc.

If you’re on a managed WordPress host like EasyWP, they upgrade the PHP version, so you don’t have to worry about anything.

Gmail message from EasyWP - PHP Upgrade notice

Your WordPress is automatically updated to the latest supported version of PHP to protect against your website being hacked or another security attack.

Minify CSS and JavaScript Codes

Removing unnecessary codes and comments from the page will reduce the file size and lead to a lighter and faster web page. 

By minifying JavaScript, HTML files, and CSS stylesheets, web browsers can parse the code faster, your WordPress sites will load quickly and deliver the optimal user experience. 

There are many code minification WordPress plugins; one of the most popular is Autoptimize. It has an active installation of over 1 million blogs and more than 1,000 five stars user ratings. The plugin is easy to set up, with no complex configuration.

However, Autoptimize’s primary focus is code minification – for example, deferring render-blocking elements on the page, file minification, file concatenation, etc. By combining multiple JS/CSS files into one (file concatenation/aggregation), Autoptimize helps reduce the number of HTTP requests.

But the plugin does not provide a cache function. 

You may consider pairing Autoptimize with a cache plugin like WP Rocket for maximum page speed and performance boost.

Conclusion…Why is WordPress Slow?

There are several ways to fix a slow WordPress blog; I have given you some solid options. 

A slow WordPress site affects conversion, increases bounce rate, causes low search ranking, and decreases sales. But before you take on some options that require more resources and investment, try other free or fewer-commitment options. 

Moving to another web host or buying a WordPress optimization plugin should come after you’ve explored other tips on the list. 

If you have any questions or comments, leave your comments in the comments section below.

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