A slow loading website can hurt your small business by turning away visitors who expect fast load times and smooth online experiences, and harming your reputation.
If your site runs slow and you’re running WordPress, there are plenty of things that could be slowing you down. Below are common reasons for sluggish performance on WordPress platforms, and how you can fix them.
1. Rule Out Slow Internet Connection
This might sound lame, but I always advise non-technical website owners to first checkout the speed of their internet connection before starting troubleshooting their sites.
How do you know whether your wordpress site is running slow or it is an issue with internet connection? There are number of ways you can test your website speed these include: GT Metrix and Pingdom Speed Test.
These are the two most important tools used in WordPress perfomance tuning. You can use both GT Metrix and Pingdom but work with each at a time. On each site, all you have to do is to enter the URL of your website to do the analysis.
Each will provide you with the improvements needed for your website.
2. Too Many Unnecessary Plugins Installed
WordPress plugins are great for extending the features of your website or blog, but if too many plugins are installed on your site, they can really slow the loading time of your website.
You need to be sure that you have only installed the plugins that you need. Once you have uninstalled all the plugins that you don’t need, it is time you checkout the effect of each active plugin on your website load time.
So how do you know what plugins are slowing down your WordPress website?
You need to try deactivating each plugin at a time and then perfom a speed test again. It might sound like alot of work, but this is what you need to diagnose why your website is so slow.
Once you identify the culprit, find an alternative plugin – you should find one with similar features but less resource intensive.
3. A Poorly Coded / Designed WordPress Theme
Using a poorly designed or coded wordpress theme is at times a great contributor to slow wordpress site speed.
Statistically over 10% of wordpress sites running slow on the internet today is due to the use or unoptimized or poorly coded theme. I know this can come as a shocker knowing how people love the ‘free themes’.
Most free and low priced themes available are slow and are not good for your website conversions. If your website is running slow, you should consider switching to a more updated theme or an online business optimized theme.
A good theme will cost you somewhere between $60 to $120. It wouldn’t hurt to invest in one. Furthermore, you are building a business online.. Right?
Avoid themes with no developer support: One thing you should consider while getting a new theme for your website is whether the theme developer provides support or not.
Avoid themes packed with custom features: From experience custom feature themes are troublesome. Find a simple theme but optimized theme and find a plugin that fits the functionality you are looking for.
What is minification? This is the process of removing unnecessary lines of code, white spaces on your CSS and JS files. Google has provided an insight on the tools you can use to fix this on your own. Check out Google recommendations here.
Ps: In some case, by minifying CSS files alone, we have seen an increase in website speeds upto 2.5 times. But again, every case is different.
5. A Bloated WordPress Site Database
How long have you been running your site? How many posts, pages, and comments do you have in there?
Well, if you have been running your website for sometime you might have: Switched themes, installed and unistalled a number of plugins, gotten a number of comments, and or created pages and posts for your site.
These are some of the actions that create database records and over time, your database might become bloated (particularly if you are still using shared hosting). You need to optimize your website’s database to remove the bloat.
This can be done manually but might be overwhelming for a non-technical website owner. Luckily for you, WP Optimize is a free wordpress plugin that allows you optimize your website in a simple step.
You might also look at WP-DB Manager plugin. This allows you to schedule database optimization.
Note that database optimization is not a one time procedure, you need to keep doing it now and then.
6. Poorly Optimized Images
Have a number of images on your WordPress website? Of course you do! Visuals are critical to increasing site conversion and SEO.
Well if the images you are using on your site are not optimized, they are increasing the website load times. I am ussually surprised when I get emails from our visitors complaining about slow WordPress websites when they are running a site with over 50 articles (pages and posts) each with an image with over 100KB.
I have seen cases where website owners are using 1.5MB images on their websites. This is super-resource intensive.
You need to optimize your images for faster loading times. How do I do this? WP-SmushIt is a free WordPress plugin that will take the pain of image optimization from you.
Lazy Load Images: Have you ever heard about lazy loading images? If you have not, you can impliment this on your wordpress website to only load the resources the user requires.
To impliment lazy loading on a wordress website, you will need to use a free plugin: jQuery Image Lazy Load available in the WordPress plugin repository.
7. Unnecessary Redirects, Pingbacks and Trackbacks
You need to impliment appropriate redirects to deleted pages and articles which you have edited their urls. This is because in as much it affects your site speed, visitors landing on deleted or undesired pages on your website is bad for your image.
When it comes to redirects, each issue is treated differently. For example, you might have noticed that you have edited urls of a page that has been linked a number of times by other websites. These might be causing 404 page errors or 301 redirects. If redirects are not configured properly, you will use more resources to fetch a page that doesn’t exist. This can affect your site speeds considerably.
Pingbacks and Trackbacks: This is a system of notification that works on all WordPress websites unless they have been turned off.
8. Use caching (a must-do for WordPress)
A key component of getting WordPress to run fast is to use caching. Caching prebuilds each page on your site so all the thinking and processing required to serve the page to the visitor is done before they request the page from your web server.
WP Rocket is the caching plugin of choice for the DIY-er or if you’re less tech savvy. It’s easy to use and will give you an excellent boost in performance. It’s a paid plugin (dirt cheap) BUT probably the easiest caching plugin to use on the market.
W3 Total Cache is free and by far the fastest caching plugin BUT is very technical to configure so probably not ideal for the DIYer – unless you know what you’re doing there’s a reasonable chance you’ll break your site. If you do use it only enable the Browser and Page Caching options. If you’re a developer reading this, one huge win is to get Memcached installed/enabled on your server and enable Database and Object caching in W3TC and you’ll see a huge performance boost on database heavy operations, especially in the backend (also a must-do for Woocommerce speed optimization)
Some hosts like WPEngine, Siteground and Cloudways have caching built-in or their own caching plugin which is part of the reason why they run so fast.
NEVER install two caching plugins as that’s just asking for trouble (a very common issue we see) AND make sure before messing with caching you have a backup (we only use Blogvault, it’s by far the best) and you have Cpanel and/or FTP access to the site as maybe in 1 in 100 sites the caching plugin will be incompatible with something and take down the site (again use WP Rocket if you’re not tech savvy). CPanel/FTP access will allow you to revert the changes in case you do break something.
9. Outdated PHP Version or WordPress Installation
If you are not using PHP 7 and above, you are missing out. Using previous and unsupported versions of php can cause incompatibilies in your server making your website load slow.
You need to talk to your hosting provider to have the latest php installed on your website.
In the case of outdated WordPress core, all you need to do is to access your admin panel and update the wordpress installation. Be careful to backup your website performing an update.
10. Website Hosted On a Slow Server
Have you tried all the above fixed to improve your website load time to no avail? Then you definitely need to perform a hardware upgrade. If you are on a VPS or a dedicated server, this will be easy for you.
If you are running your site on a shared hosting, then the slow website speed is signal that you need to upgrade to a better hosting service. Alternatively, talk to your current hosting provider to see if you can get more server resources allocated to your website.