I spend a considerable amount of time in varying business oriented, social media groups, and it hasn’t escaped my notice that WordPress website speed comes up often.
This is not particularly surprising. With the introduction of Google’s mobile-first indexing and the battle to rank well organically in the search engines; having a site that loads slowly can be both frustrating and detrimental to the success of an online business.
However when I see these threads pop up, I have to say I am concerned that many people seem to believe a slow site is down to a rubbish host. Undoubtedly poor website hosting can cause your site to load slowly, but so can many other things.
I saw a post recently where a lady was asking for hosting recommendations because her site was loading slowly and had a range of other issues. The comments reached well into the double-figures, with everyone sharing their opinions on which provider she should switch to. My comment gave my recommendation, which is Siteground, but I also asked her if she was sure the hosting was the problem.
The response was quite adamant, she said she’d done everything else that needed to be done and the hosting was the issue. Yet a quick site speed test demonstrated to me that there were definitely other problems at play and there is no doubt in mind that when she moves host, she will still have a slow site.
So here’s a list of some of the things you may want to consider before blaming your host.
1. Huge images that have not been optimised
Pretty much 100% of the time, when I take on a new Website Care client, the images on their site have not been sized correctly. When you couple this with 100s of image files (many not in use) – you soon find that the content in the media library is single-handedly contributing seconds to the site load speed.
A simple site speed test on a site such as GTMetrix, can help you identify specific images to resize/compress/delete.
2. Unnecessary plugin and theme files
Not only do unnecessary plugin and theme files pose a security risk to your WordPress site – they can also slow down your site by giving the browser more code to load. Now I’m not saying to go on a massive cull, but as a rule of thumb the fewer theme and plugin files the better.
Deleting these files is generally a quick and easy and process – so if a plugin/theme is inactive delete it.
3. Outdated plugins, themes and core files
Again, if you aren’t staying on top of key updates, not only are you opening your site up to security vulnerabilities, you may also be causing your site to slow down.
Good developers work hard to ensure their plugins, themes and indeed the WordPress core are maintained, robust, innovative and secure. So when you login to your WordPress dashboard, don’t ignore those little number indicators. They are informing you of updates that you should be performing in order to keep you site optimised.
Now, please be aware that you shouldn’t push any updates without ensuring you have a back-up of your site! Though the updates have been made for a reason, there is always the possibility of a conflict or other issue – so airing on the side of caution is always best.
4. PHP Version
This is one that can sometimes seem really technical when in reality the update can be performed in the click of a button via your host/CPanel.
For anyone who isn’t aware, PHP is the server-side programming language WordPress is built on. Though you may never have to pay attention to a line of PHP, you still need to keep it up to date for the benefit of your site speed and performance.
At the time of writing this, the current recommended PHP version for WordPress is 7.3, yet so many sites are still operating on versions as old as 5.6 (now deprecated and unsupported).
Check out this article on WordPress.org, to get a better understanding of how big an impact updating your PHP version can have.
Without getting too technical, caching is the process of serving static versions of your content to your site visitors.
This is a great performance optimising method because it means browsers can render your site pages more quickly – yet it is underutilised and in my experience it can be a balancing act to create the most suitable setup on your site. A plugin that may perform excellently on your site, won’t necessarily perform so well on another site.
Testing the options, of which there are many, and monitoring their impact is definitely the best way to go with this one. However you can yield great results.
Some of the most popular caching plugins, in no particular order, are:
Of course, the above 5 pointers are not an exhaustive list and undoubtedly you may need to add poor hosting to make the list 6. Ultimately though, poor website hosting will likely not be the sole cause of a site that loads slowly.
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