Why is My WordPress Site So Slow & How Can I Fix it?

Business

“Why is my WordPress site slow?” is something that I hear often. But are you sure that the problem is with the website?

By Ahmed khalifa
Guy with mobile phone waiting at a train station

**Note: Please note that this website does not run on WordPress anymore. But since I've been involved with the WordPress community for many years, I didn't want to delete any of the WordPress-related content on this site as I believe that they will still help you with your own WordPress site, hence why they are still available for you to view. Enjoy!**

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I’ve heard this comment from many clients and those who have a WordPress site:

“Why is my WordPress site slow?”

But before we dig deeper into the possible reasons on why that could be, I would like to ask one question: are you sure it’s the site that is slow?

Too many times we point the finger directly at the website when it could be because of other factors.

Let’s check a few things before we jump to conclusions.

1. Rule out slow internet connection - do you live in an area where the internet speed is good? Is your broadband provider genuinely giving you the promised speed? There’s no point in me giving you advice on how to do this as it requires a dedicated post, but there are so many tips out there that can help you and it’s worth checking them out.

And you never know, you might be able to make savings and get faster internet, if you find that you are not getting your money’s worth with your current internet provider.

2. You are using a relatively modern and up-to-date computer - let’s face it, if your computer was built around 10 years ago, it will struggle with today’s websites. You do not need to have the latest £1k+ Macbook to access websites. But you do need to make sure that your computer/laptop is able to carry out simple tasks like browsing the internet.

3. Check what’s running in the background - let’s assume you don’t have too many programmes and browser tabs running in the background. Because if you do, you are making your computer work extra hard and it will require extra time to load… anything. And if your computer is not that powerful, the slow loading can be painful.

4. Test and measure your site’s speed - there a number of free tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insight, Pingdom and GTMetrix that can measure your site’s speed, show whether it can be improved and what can be done to improve it.

If you have completely ruled out the above, then we can look into your site deeper.

Why is My WordPress Site Slow?

1. You Are Using Cheap, Unreliable Hosting

It’s so tempting to go with the cheap $10 a year hosting options that are available everywhere.

Why bother with more than that? What’s the worst that can happen?

Well, a lot actually, as cheap hosting can be dangerous for your site, especially if you are dependent on it for the running of your business.

Which is why I always recommend that you use a solid and reputable managed WordPress hosting for your website. Not only will it provide you with a live site and security, but they are also more compatible to run with WordPress sites, which can then speed up your website.

There is no doubt that managed WordPress hosting is amongst the most important costs that your business can have.

2. Too Many Unnecessary Plugins Are Installed

The huge benefit of using WordPress.org (as opposed to the paid WordPress.com package) is that you have access to tens of thousands of plugins.

So whenever you feel that you need a specific feature added to your site, chances are that there is a plugin for it.

But, then it becomes tempting to keep adding new features all the time, and that’s when things can get bloated, as you are technically adding more and more weight to the site.

As a general rule of thumb, there are a number of steps that you should undertake before installing a WordPress plugin, not just for site speed reasons, but for security too.

So if you find that you can make do without some plugins, deactivate and delete them. Solely deactivating them will not be enough as the plugin is still technically on your site’s code, but you can’t see it.

3. Theme is Poorly Coded & Designed

If you want your site to look good, you’ll need a theme.

But just like plugins, there are tens of thousands of themes available to choose from, both free and paid, and so many WordPress web designers and theme providers out there.

So how do you pick which theme to go for?

The easiest option is to go to the official WordPress.org theme repository, where there are many respectable and well-designed themes. Make sure you check whether it’s maintained and updated frequently by the developers.

Since I’ve started using WordPress many years ago, I’ve always focused on the themes provided by StudioPress.

I suggest you learn the benefits of StudioPress if you want to understand why it’s my personal recommendation and why I use it when I pick a new theme and framework.

A big reason for that is because it is very well optimised to keep it running fast.

4. The WordPress, Themes and/or Plugins Versions are Outdated

Many developers look for ways to reduce the “weight” of their software by making it run fast. So when you see updates are available within your WordPress dashboard, this is not just to add new features and fix security loopholes, it’s also to make it run faster.

Which in turn will make your site run faster too.

Keeping your WordPress site updated is a big part of your role as a site owner. If you don’t do that, not only will you have a slow site, but you will miss out on useful new features and also leave yourself exposed to potentially get hacked.

5. Images Are Not Optimised

Yes, it’s useful to break up your texts with some images and videos.

But it’s not so useful if you download large, high-quality images from the likes of Unsplash and Pixabay, and then upload them to your page without even optimising.

I have seen so many clients using large images across their sites unnecessarily. Because of the added “weight” of having these large file size images, the site is naturally going to run slow.

Not only that, but it is also not accessible and you will miss out on attracting image-based search traffic via Google Images.

So before you even think about downloading and uploading images to your site, make sure you learn how to optimise those images first.

6. Not Taking Advantage of CDN (Content Delivery Network)

To put it simply, CDN is a network of servers in different locations that are working together to help load content faster by serving that content from the nearest server to the visitor’s computer.

Not only can help to speed up the site, but it can also reduce the amount of internet bandwidth you are using, adds a layer of security and enhance your site’s uptime.

For this site, I use Cloudflare which is available via my host 34SP (if you order hosting from 34SP and mention this site in the referral, you can get one month hosting for free).

You could sign up with a CDN provider and there are so many out there like MaxCDN and Sucuri. But make sure you check hosting providers first, as they may already provide that service.

7. Site Database is Bloated

As you use your site more and more, in the background, the database will collate more and more information that you will most likely not need anymore, such as:

  • Trashed posts
  • Post revisions
  • Unused tags
  • Unused categories
  • Unapproved/deleted/spammed comments
  • Unused attachments
  • And many other technical cleanups

The easiest way to clean them up is to use a database cleaner/optimiser plugins such as Optimize Database and WP Optimize.

Likewise, using a caching plugin will also help to clean up and optimise your database.

8. Not Using Reputable Caching Plugin

Without getting too technical, caching can help to speed up the site by sending static HTML file to the browser so that your page is available to view quickly rather than waiting for it to load.

My favourite caching plugin provider is WP Rocket, who are also well-known within the WordPress community for their high-quality support. They also have provided more information about caching in plain English.

But again, just like the CDN option above, make sure that your hosting provider does not do the caching themselves.

In some cases, they may already do the caching for you (but you just didn’t know it) and it’s already doing the job in the background. But it’s worth asking whether you require any more configurations that a plugin can do, or could the hosting provider do it for you?

Like I said before, having multiple plugins is not a good idea, especially if you already have the option of fixing a problem without the need to install a plugin or paying for a service.

And contrary to popular belief, having multiple caching options is also not a good idea as it can actually slow down your site too.

9. You are Using Pingbacks & Trackbacks Unnecessarily

I can never work out why the option of using pingbacks and trackbacks are still available in WordPress (and on the internet in general).

Many years ago, it was used to notify other sites when you have linked to them but then it got abused by SEO spammers to the point where it now provides very little value to anyone.

Nowadays, one of the first things I do when checking over a client’s WordPress site is to make sure that this is turned off.

Trackbacks and pingbacks can also increase the load on the database unnecessarily, so deleting them and then preventing them from occurring again will help to clean up the database.

10. Too Many Redirects are Used

Redirects are useful.

It can help to clean up old pages by pointing them to a new page and makes sure that your visitors are taken to the right place. They are also very useful in SEO and help to maintain your ranking when used correctly.

But it’s so easy to go overboard with it by continuously creating new redirects all the time.

There isn’t a magic number on what’s the most number of redirects that a website should have. Use it when you need to use it, e.g. an old page that is not required anymore, duplicate pages, broken pages, etc.

But where possible, avoid creating them if you don’t have a good reason for it as it will help to reduce the burden on the browsers which are forced to move from an old page to a new page continuously.

And one more thing: avoid creating redirect chains.

A typical redirect should go from ‘Page 1 > Page 2’. But redirect chains can go from ‘Page 1 > Page 2 > Page 3’ and so on.

This will, again, make the browser work harder and may take longer to load your site.

We’re talking seconds, but every second counts.

What Are the Consequences of a Slow Site?

Maybe you think that it’s not that big a deal to have a fast website.

Maybe you feel that “it will do” and “customers should be fine with it”.

So you go about your business as normal, none the wiser.

But there are major consequences to having a slow site that you may or may not be aware of:

  • Customers are abandoning your site
  • Google frowns upon slow websites
  • Lose money

Research has shown that slow websites can harm your ranking, your ability to retain customers and ultimately your business.

Can you really afford to ignore fixing your slow site?

Let me know in the comments below if you have taken any of the actions above and how it has helped you.