How fast your website loads can have a direct effect on whether you turn visitors into new customers and fans. When your site is delivered to visitors fast, you’ll give everybody the chance to engage with your content. Plus, page loading speed and server response time are significant factors in how Google ranks your website.
But if you don’t reduce the server response time and it takes two or more seconds to load (even your dashboard) you’ll be delivering a less-than-optimal experience to your visitors and many will leave before your website even finishes loading. So if it’s taking more than a few seconds for your website to load on your laptop, phone, or tablet, you may have some work to do to minimize the loading time.
The good news is you can do something about it. If you’re looking to improve the server response time on your WordPress website, you’ve come to the right place.
Our team at WP Buffs helps website owners, agency partners and freelancer partners troubleshoot slow response times. Whether you need us to manage 1 website or support 1000 client sites, we’ve got your back.
1. Test it Out First
Just by inputting your own URL into the site, you can get data on the 10 rules they will judge your website with. This includes server response time, page redirects, optimized images, and other rules with which only a coding or WordPress expert would be familiar.
2. Too Many WordPress Plugins Installed
One of the best things about WordPress is the plugins. They let you optimize and customize the site as you like. However, with all the free options, it’s easy to go a bit plugin-palooza by installing everything whether you use it or not. Remember that each of these plugins can add extra load time, and some can even double your load time.
Not sure if they do or not? Try deactivating each plugin one by one. Then test your page speed again. If you find an offending plugin or two, try replacing them with another lighter plugin or look for a coding option. Be wary of caching plugins that promise to do it all. They can slow response time and still might not even solve the issue. In many instances, what they do can be accomplished with some coding.
A good number of WordPress plugins for any site is 5-10. However, there are many plugins that serve as a sort of all-in-one. For example, Visual Composer is a great page builder. It also comes with a contact form option, slider options, and more – which eliminate the need for other WordPress plugins that are similar and can slow server response.
If you’ve noticed the screengrab of our own test on the website, this issue came up first. It occurs when your browser attempts to render a page and comes across a script it has to execute before it can continue loading. This causes added load time and can make for a slow website.
In the case of external scripts, the load time is affected for the resource to download. This may force the browser to attempt to load several times. These types of scripts include external widgets, such as for Twitter or Facebook, or something that is embedded. The best way to address this is with a few snippets of code, but each website is different.
CSS, or cascading style sheets, set the tone for your site and include instructions for the browser on what colors to load, font type and size, table code, header, footer, menu, etc. These types of files can be dozens of pages long and have hundreds of lines of code.
However, many of these files have extra spaces, line breaks, and other information that the site doesn’t need to load. Given how many times these sorts of extra bits can appear in a file, it can add a lot of load time to your site.
5. Images Are Not Compressed or Optimized
What is a good website without good images? However, size does matter. While a 5000px by 3000px image is great for framing, it is awful for your website. Keep in mind that most desktop screens are 1920px wide and mobile screens are usually no wider than 700px.
Depending on how you expect your visitors to access the site, there is no need to ever publish an image larger than this. And if you plan on using a picture for half the page, resize it to half before uploading it. You can do this on a Mac with Preview, on Windows with Picture Manager, or even online at Pixlr, Fotor, or another similar photo editing site.
Now that your picture is the right width and height, make sure it’s also the right file size. DPI stands for “dots per inch” and is a good way to get your image’s size down. While a DPI of 300 is fine for many pictures for print, it is excessive for most screens – especially mobile. A DPI of 72 is fairly standard for web publication and can optimize the load time of your images.
Finally, there is a plugin called WP Smush that can help you compress your images, even if they are already uploaded. It automatically compresses images you load after you install it. You can also use it to compress images already uploaded by hitting the “smush it” prompt it will give you.
6. Slow Server Response Time
Of course, one reason WordPress is so slow may not be your fault. Your web host (Bluehost, Hostgator, iPage, etc.) may be skimping on how much speed they are giving you, making it almost impossible to reduce WordPress server response time for your website. The two most common types of hosting are:
- Shared Hosting or Virtual Hosting – These kinds of servers are a sort of community property wherein it hosts multiple websites, including yours. This means that during peak times, your website is competing with all the others on the server to get to your visitors as fast as possible. This type of hosting also makes it easier for someone sharing your server to hack your site. There are some quality providers here like SiteGround, but you should always be wary when hosting on shared servers.
- Fully Managed WordPress Hosting – This type of server is exclusively dedicated to you and your website. Its processing power and resources are dedicated only to you, which can make it more expensive. However, it will be faster and more secure.
7. Unnecessary Page and Post Redirects
Has your site been around for a while? You may have deleted a few pages, used a different platform than WordPress, or made some other major changes in the past few years. However, other sites that have linked to you (and even search engines) may have your old URLs.
These URLs may point to a dead page or a red page called “301 Moved Permanently” or “302 Found.” Basically, this means your server must go to these pages before they go to the real one, a task which piles on the load time. There are many fixes to this type of issue including manually editing your external links, removing old pages, adding a better redirect code, or even bringing these pages back.
8. WordPress is Outdated
It can be annoying to have WordPress ask you to update several times a week. This often includes plugins, themes, or even the CMS itself. While it can be a pain and can even bring down the site when incompatible items are updated, it can be worth it.
A slow response time can be caused by outdated tools, and a simple click can resolve the issue. These types of upgrades often come with improvements, and many of them account for speed. If unsure, perform a speed test before and after updates.
9. Compression Not Utilized
All of today’s browsers support this type of gzip compression for all HTTP or HTTPS requests.
This one trick can be a “fits all sizes solution” to why WordPress is so slow, so it is important to do it and to make sure it is done right. Gzip compression can be done via plugin, coding, or other tool and we highly recommend it.