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All In One Actionable Guide To Speed Up Your Sluggish WordPress Site

Website speed is an important SEO ranking factor. And it’s more than crucial for a better user experience because no one likes a slow website. As a study says, 40% of web users quickly exit out of your website when they can’t land on your site within 3 seconds. It’s a serious problem when it comes to SEO and your user experience if you are the case. The poor bounce rate kills your website and popularity on the search engine. And it’s very time to get onto your computer and speed up your sluggish WordPress site if you want to roll in with your web business or blog.

If the page loading is slow, you will suffer with-

  • Lower search engine rankings
  • Higher bounce rates
  • Lower page views
  • Lower conversion rates

Slow sites can really hurt your business’ bottom line so it’s important to be proactive and make your website blazing fast. Faster is better! This article will explain what’s contributing to your slow website and most importantly, how to speed up your WordPress site, using a variety of both free and paid plugins and services.

Why is my WordPress so slow?

There are so many factors that contribute to a slow WordPress website including:

  • Slow shared web hosting
  • Too many plugins
  • No caching plugin
  • Theme poorly built and with messed code.
  • Not using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
  • Overly complex pages
  • Poorly optimized media (large images and locally hosted videos)
  • Poorly optimized database

The article below will walk you through the tips and techniques to properly diagnose and improve your WordPress theme.

How fast is my website?

There is a number of website speed checkers that will measure your WordPress site speed free of charge.

The top 3 best ones are as generally considered:

  • Pingdom Tools
  • GTmetrix
  • Google Pagespeed Insights

GTmetrix, Pingdom & Google Pagespeed Insights

Image Source: GTmetrix

You may have heard some of the three at least once: GTmetrix, Pingdom, or PageSpeed Insights (run by Google) that are loved by millions of users on the web.

They, the most renowned top 3 speed checking tools, are things that you can’t improve your page speed without. Their very detail oriented insights are awesome and the clues the tools offer you is very actionable;

You will be clued of these things simply using the handy tools:

  • How your site performs, measured in a score by their accurate speed check metrics
  • Exactly what elements cause the sluggishness of your website
  • The solutions you can solve the errors or improve the site speed with

Plus, you will be able to see/diagnose:

  • The total data size of your website
  • Fully loaded time
  • Your host server speed.
  • How fast your images and web elements are loaded.
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT): How your webpages are responsive to user input
  • Bad CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)
  • CSS and JS minifying and optimization.
  • And more of the technical issues and the solutions you can take to improve your overall site speed.

Not to mention, they are quite handy tools and offer meticulous navigation on how to solve or fine-tune your site speed with the good benchmarks provided to make it work out.

Image Compression to speed up on WordPress

Image size optimization is also a crucial factor to keep your site fast.

Optimizing your heavy sized images is very important because large images drastically slow down your website. They take a massive amount of space, increasing your Total Page Size that eventually causes your website sluggishness.

Best Avoid large images at all costs! GTMetrix does a particularly great job of showing you which images are too large and need to be compressed and optimized.

Image Compression Tools (TinyPNG, Smush, Imagify, etc)

You can benefit from a few of many image compression tools on the internet, either a free or paid version. Compressing image files isn’t super difficult just like everything is drag & drop or simply selecting files you want to compress into smaller sizes.

There are easy tools like TinyPNG or CompressJPEG.com. Or if you are a WordPress user, your options to choose are a lot huger since there are a ton of easy-to-use WP plugins for image compression, or WEBP converting.

Free versions normally have a limit for the number of image compression able to be conducted at a time, such as up to around 20 – 50 image files at a time. In fact, you wouldn’t have to use a premium version which you have to pay monthly if you run a site with just a small database.

WordPress Web Hosting

Just under which web host you are running your site can drastically affect your website speed. It’s just very similar that you are struggling with the endless loading on data processing and numerous crashes that bother you if you had got an old computer with pretty poor hardware.

When it comes to web hosting, the situation goes pretty similar; low web loading speed of your website if your host has poor hardware (CPU/RAM/Hard Drive) to host the web properties, or on the other hand, hosting a lot of websites of the crowd under one server (shared hosting)

Not to mention, using a ‘shared’ hosting service can definitely slow down your site speed, compared to using a VPS, or Dedicated. However, if your focus is on affordability and the maximum effectiveness out of a budget friendly shared hosting, there is still a huge difference that can be made by just which shared hosting service you may opt for. Because every host has got different conditions on their shared servers like how many clients they allocate into a server, what hardware the host uses for their shared hosting plan, or how optimized their servers are for the WordPress environment if you are a WP user.

Which web hosting is best for WordPress?

Which web hosting is best for WordPress?

WordPress.org officially recommends three web hosting companies for hosting a website in WordPress:

In general, SiteGround is best recommended by IT professionals and web developers. The rule of thumb is SiteGround is believed to deliver the fastest WordPress speed as the highest user rating suggests besides the fact that Siteground is used by Yoast and Matt Cutts, the former Googler and SEO master.

What are web hosting companies you need to avoid?

In general, it is best to avoid the EIG web hosting companies.  Endurance International Group, or EIG for short, is a web hosting conglomerate; essentially a parent company. They’re absolutely massive to the point where they’re probably the largest web hosting company in the world today.

They are notorious for cramming a lot of websites onto their shared servers which will make your website run slower. Many EIG introductory offers are cheap and appealing but be aware that this comes at the price – of speed!

WordPress Optimization – Caching Plugins & Plugin Management

WordPress Optimization - Caching Plugins & Plugin Management to speed up your sluggish WordPress site
Image Source: WordPress.org

What’s the best WordPress plugin to speed up your sluggish site?

Regularly deleting the caches remaining on the server helps speed up your sluggish WordPress site, just like your desktop computer that needs a regular clean-up.

Indeed, it’s more than necessary to have installed at least one caching plugin at your preference if you want a way to get your site faster without much work involved; it’s just as simple as installing and clicking the button ‘Delete Cache’.

Let’s see down below for the most recommended caching plugins to speed up your WordPress site.

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is widely considered the best WordPress optimization and caching plugin in the market.  If you have $49 to spare, it’s money well spent. SEO masters like Neil Patel and Brian Dean both use WP Rocket on their own websites so it’s used and endorsed by the biggest players in the digital marketing and SEO space.

Is WP Rocket worth it? Absolutely. WP Rocket is really six plugins in one. It offers caching and database cleanup, along with a host of other features such as lazy loading for images and video. Upon downloading WP Rocket and enabling the out-of-the-box settings, you should also see drastic speed improvements.

While their performance is promising, it has a clear downside; it doesn’t offer a free version for light users. Think twice, if you really need the advanced features of WP Rocket if you are just a casual user or if your site speed is already at a great level without using it. You still can benefit from a handful of other great ‘free’ tools to clean the cache and speed up your sluggish WordPress site.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is a powerful caching tool that IT professionals recommend. It claims it can leverage at least 10X faster site speed when fully configured. Just like their confidence in themselves, this caching plugin is widely praised by users who are using it or have used it before.

Outstandingly, they have a feature that makes them stand out among the other competitors; CDN integration that they offer for CDN websites. With the help of their CDN integration feature, it gives the best performance best optimized for the CDN environment. It’s worth a try out if you haven’t used this plugin yet.

WP Fastest Cache

Nothing is more convenient than this plugin to speed up your sluggish site on WordPress. All you need is just a single click away to see the result.

When you installed it, this plugin appears on the top navigation bar on WordPress — then simply click the button: ‘Delete Cache’. That’s just all.

It boasts the simplest user interface without complex which means it has a very beginner friendly interface that doesn’t go much but being kept in its simplicity to have run the plugin.

By appealing its simple-to-use interface, this is currently one of the top rated WordPress caching plugins many folks use to speed up their WordPress site.

Remove Unnecessary Plugins

Are you necessarily using all the mass of the plugins you’ve installed so far? Even the worse is pretty dozen of the installed plugins are just hanging activated without you even noticing it.

If so, deactivate and delete all of them. All the ones that you don’t use, or you don’t feel any necessity to have.

You may have once noticed that your WordPress site got slower at some point after a while of the initial WordPress installation. There might be many reasons why your site got slow, but one thing you need to look up is the thing: How aggressively did you install plugins regardless if it’s really necessary.

A lot of plugins installed definitely slow down your website. People frequently ask “how many plugins should you have?” There’s no concrete number. Some plugins are more resource-intensive than others while the others aren’t. But the best we can say is the fewer plugins you have, certainly the faster the site is.

If you’re serious about speed optimization, exercise the practice of limiting the number of plugins you install, keeping it to the core essentials. For example, Yoast SEO generates an XML sitemap for you so the Google XML Sitemaps plugin isn’t necessary, or another case, if you know how to insert header/footer HTML tags (as easy as navigating to Appearance -> Theme Editor -> Theme Header/Footer), you wouldn’t need anything like an HTML insertion plugin for sure.

Keep in mind regularly checking on your plugin list and get rid of them is a very easy and simple step to speeding up your sluggish WordPress website, but it’s a powerful way.

Which plugin is slowing down WordPress?

To figure out which plugin is slowing down WordPress, run your website URL in GTmetrix.com (Waterfall) or Newrelic.com. These speed optimization tools will break down the request times and you’ll be able to identify what plugins take the most load time, slowing down your website.

Internally, we conducted a test with GTmetrix on one of our websites that indicated the website was being severely slowed down by the chat widget and heat map plugin. With the culprits identified, we were able to address the concern by replacing the plugins and instantly improved the site speed.

Do deactivated plugins slow down WordPress?

No, it does not. every time a user requests a page from a WordPress site, WordPress starts a loading process. During this process, it only loads active plugins installed on your website. All inactive plugins are totally ignored and are not loaded or even looked at.

That being said, the best is to eliminate the inactive plugins anyhow as long as unused. It certainly gives it a more tidy and more organized feel.

Resource – Light Weight Plugins for each category

As our test on WP Rocket, these plugins are defined as the lightest weight for each category.

Social Sharing – Social Media FeatherMonarchSimple Shared Buttons Adder, MashShare 

Backup – UpdraftPlus.

Sliders – SoliloquyLayerSlider,  Meteor Sliders.

Comments – Disqus Conditional Load.

Portfolio – Envira GalleryFooGalleryThe Grid.

Analytics – Google Analytics and Search Console should be plenty. Just make sure you’re hosting Google Analytics locally (outside your WordPress)

Page Builders – WordPress Page Builder by MotoPress, but no page builder runs faster than the native WordPress Editor. Combine this with the Duplicator plugin and you shouldn’t need an additional page builder.

Avoid Bulky WordPress Themes

5 Ways to Cut Out Heavy Code on Your WordPress Site - Vendasta Blog
Image Source: https://www.vendasta.com/blog/cut-heavy-code-wordpress-site/

WordPress Themes have many bells and whistles but they’re likely slowing down your website. Choose a WordPress theme that gets the job done; light-weight, but not at the sacrifice of speed.

Critically, poorly written WordPress themes are one of the main reasons why your site is slow as hell.

Update Plugins and WordPress

To ensure your WordPress site is running as fast as possible, make sure everything is up-to-date. This includes your plugins, theme, and WordPress version; all the stuff on the latest versions. Plus, be sure to apply any theme patches to address defects.

Update PHP

To boost your WordPress speed further, make sure to update your web hosting PHP version to 8+. As of June 2021, the latest version of PHP is 8.0.7.

Web hosts do not automatically update the PHP Version so this is something you’ll need to remember to do manually. Why? Because changing the PHP version can break themes, WordPress plugins, and pages. After you update the PHP version, do a quick sanity check to ensure everything is working as expected. If you notice any issues, you can simply revert to the previous working PHP version.

How to check your current PHP version on your WordPress website?

To find out which PHP your WordPress site is running, you can log into your web hosting management portal. Another way to view the PHP version is to download a free light-weight WordPress plugin, called ‘Display PHP Version‘, that will display the PHP version in the admin dashboard.

Database Cleanup

To speed up your sluggish WordPress site, it’s important to delete your spam and trash folders, trackbacks, pingbacks, database tables, transients, and the potentially thousands of post revisions and post drafts that have accumulated over time.

These are old, garbage WordPress files that slow down your site. To clean up your database, I recommend scheduling WP Rocket (paid) or WP Optimize (free) to delete these every week or so. You should be fine, but take a backup of your site if this is your first time cleaning your database!

Identify the Slowest Pages with Google Analytics

Did you know that you can use Google Analytics to monitor website speed? It also allows you to easily identify which are your slowest and fastest pages.

Within the Google Analytics dashboard, navigate to

Behavior -> Site Speed -> Page Timings.

Additionally, the ‘Speed Suggestions’ page, located under the ‘Page Timings’ ties into Google PageSpeed Insights and offers specific instructions on ways to improve the site speed.

Add Expires Headers

Most caching plugins should take care of this automatically when you enable browser caching (like WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache). But if ‘add expires headers’ still appears in your Pingdom report under the YSlow tab, add the following code to the top of your .htaccess…


ExpiresActive on
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType image/ico "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType image/png "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType text/css "access plus 60 days"
ExpiresByType text/html "access plus 60 days"

Wrapping Up

To be honest, the best way to speed up your sluggish WordPress site is to have your host dedicated to your site. Anything in fact can’t bring a better impact than having a great host hardware and its dedication to solely hosting your website. Needless to say, having a dedicated hosting comes greater importance especially when your site is thriving more than 30k visitors a month or highly user engaging websites like social media. (with lots of user generated content produced)

We all may know your web hosting is important to speed up you sluggish WordPress site. That being said, here, in this article, we were more focused on users that have to opt for shared hosting because their business/website is still small or just has got started with the web journey, in which that is able to sort out ways to get their site faster with more software optimization approach.

This all-in-one guide looks after the most of troubleshooters that you can easily take on, without much hassle or technical advancement. Follow the guide and go though each one that we point out, then your WordPress site will be likely better, and faster as visible as you feel as well as the better scores you will likely get from web speed checkers.

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