Is Your WordPress Website Running Slow? Here’s How to Fix It
Is your WordPress website as fast as you want it to be? Has anyone ever told you it was slow? Are you challenged to make your blog look amazing while still making it functional?
When it comes to attracting readers to your blog, faster websites get more readers. Giving your visitors flashbacks to dial-up internet is not a good way to make new friends, get more subscribers, or do more business online.
In the middle of 2014, I started having issues with my WordPress website. I'd just changed my domain to ellorywells.com, and I was pretty upset with how things were going.
My web host at the time, Bluehost, was throttling me. And it was hurting my business. Close friends were complaining and new visitors were simply leaving. I now use GreenGeeks for my hosting.
Throttling is a term that means slowing down.
In technical terms, it means that instead of two processors powering my site, there was only one. Instead of a bunch of memory serving up my posts to readers, there was only a little bit.
Throttling isn't a good thing. It generally means your visitors are getting a poor experience whenever they come to your site. While your website's speed isn't completely within your control, like when you're using shared hosting, there are some steps we can take to get a boost.
What Causes Website Throttling?
Several things can cause your website's host to throttle your account. You can read the technical bits that Bluehost provides here, but, let me explain it in a simpler way.
Here are possible reasons why your WordPress website is being throttled:
- Poorly coded WordPress themes. Free WordPress themes and ones written by sketchy coders can slow your site down. If you're looking for great code and a fast site, I recommend you use StudioPress themes.
- Poorly coded or conflicting plugins. Plugins can add a lot of features to your WordPress Website. In fact, I've written about all the plugins I recommend here. That said, I try to keep the number of plugins I have installed (and activated) to a minimum. That's why I recommend these social sharing buttons – because they're 100% fast.
- Unoptimized images. Though your host probably won't throttle you for having un-optimized images, your visitors will get frustrated by your slow load times. Optimizing images is what I want to focus on today.
- Hackers blasting your login page. It's rare, but unfortunately, hacking attempts happen. The default login page for any WordPress website is “URLofwebsite.com/wp-admin” and every hacker knows it. Reduce the likelihood of hackers taking down your site with a “brute force” hack by changing your username from the default “admin” to something else.
- “Too many simultaneous connections like Downloads, FTP, IMAP, or PHP.”
- Downloads – Caused by too much traffic. Or, your visitors downloading or streaming large files.
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol) issues are caused by too many downloads of files.
- IMAP throttling is the result of your email apps checking for new email too frequently, from too many devices, or for too many accounts.
- PHP throttling is pretty technical. Essentially, your database software may need an upgrade/update to a newer version.
Why Speed Matters
If your website is slow, people will leave. Period. No reader wants to stare at their phone while the little circle spins, just to read your latest post.
It sucks, but the quality of your content will be weighed against how long it takes for your blog to load.
Desktop computer internet speeds are typically faster than cell phone speeds, but that's changing. The faster your WordPress website, the more readers you'll have, the more sales you'll make, and the better the experience for your readers.
How to Test the Speed of Your WordPress Website
To test your site's speed, click the following link to go to GTmetrix. The link below will open in a new browser tab. Go there now, type in your homepage, and run the test. I'll wait.
Paste your Page Speed and YSlow Grades in the comments below if you're bold! Here's what I got:
When looking at your results, here's what you should aim for.
Now that we've tested our site's speed, what do we do now?
How to Make Your WordPress Website Faster
While there are many things you cannot control that affect your site's speed, there are five things you can do to see improvement.
1: Themes – As I mentioned above, start with a high-quality, well-written WordPress theme. In the beginning, to save money, I used several free themes before switching to StudioPress. When I did make the switch to a premium theme, my page load speeds were reduced 30-40%.
A premium theme is worth the investment if you're serious about building a brand online.
2: Plugins – Next, eliminate all unnecessary plugins and use only ones from reputable sources. Since WordPress is open-source, anyone can create a plugin. However, not all plugins are created equal. Use the P3 Plugin to test each one's speed. Use HTML code in place of a plugin if you can and use my awesome social buttons!
3: Security – Then, make sure your WordPress login username is something other than “admin” to prevent hacking attempts. A “brute force” attack is when a program is created to target WordPress websites and attempt to log in hundreds of thousands of times, typically using the “admin” username. These attempts bring down whole servers.
By securing your site, you reduce the chance of having problems.
4: Connections – Like your internet at home, your website uses data and bandwidth. If there are too many people trying to connect at once, the system slows down. If the connections were just visitor traffic, that would be a good problem to have. However, if you have 10 people downloading a 3 MB PDF of your ebook (FTP), that's 30 MB worth of bandwidth your visitors are using.
When a blog post is measured in kilobytes, 30 megabytes (30,000 kilobytes) is a lot.
FTP throttling is why you shouldn't host your podcast episodes on your WordPress website. FTP throttling is also why I won't send you a link to PDFs that are stored on my site when you subscribe to my email list. You can find out what I do here.
5: Images – Lastly, and this is the big one, optimize your images. The eye is drawn to pictures, and they make a blog feel alive. However, images are of the biggest reasons why your site is slow. Since you and I can directly affect our page load speed by optimizing the images we upload, I've got a quick tutorial below.
How to Optimize Your Blog's Images
Back when I was getting throttled 23 out of 24 hours every day, I started doing some serious research. I spent hours reading performance reports for plugins and learning how image compression optimization worked
I even spent about four hours in a chat with Bluehost trying to find the cause of the throttling they were doing.
Spend $50 to have their techs look at my site, the database, and all the back-end things.
So, after all my research, I want to share what I've learned with you. I don't want you to have the headaches I've had. And, as your site grows, if you continue to do what I'm suggesting, you can save yourself some trouble and create a better experience for your visitors.
Before you upload any image to your site, re-size it. Paste that sucker into an image editing tool, I use MS PowerPoint and Paint, and shrink your picture down to size.
NOTE: I HIGHLY recommend you try a WordPress theme from ThriveThemes. All of their themes INCLUDE automatic optimization from Kraken.
If you're going to upload an image for your blog posts, re-size the image to the exact dimensions it will be displayed with on your site. Almost every image I've uploaded in the past year is 795 pixels wide and 447 pixels tall – the exact size you see at the top of this post.
Images in your sidebar should be around 300 pixels wide. That's a pretty standard width for sidebars and sidebar-based ads.
There's no point in upload a 16-megapixel image from your phone if it's only going to be your headshot for your about page.
Images uploaded at the wrong size slow your site down. Not only will cell phones have to download the whole image anyway, but browsers have to work overtime to re-size the image every time someone sees it.
It get's more technical than that, but trust me, re-sizing your images will do amazing things when it comes to making your site faster.
There's one more thing you need to do to your perfect image before uploading it to your WordPress website and adding it to your next post.
Instead of installing an image-optimizing plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer or WP Smush.it, upload your images to Kraken.io's web interface. While plugins work just fine, they can potentially slow your site down. The upload and compression process takes longer when you use plugins, and these plugins make your host's server work harder.
Also, plugins often create a duplicate image that takes up space on your site because they don't always delete the original image after optimizing it.
Every image on my site has been optimized by Kraken and it's made a huge difference. By optimizing each image BEFORE uploading it to WordPress, you're giving your site the fastest-loading image possible to work with.
If you have FTP access to your site, check out this video where I show you how to optimize your images in bulk in seconds.
I hope this helps! Nobody wants a slow browsing experience and I hope this guide helps you make your WordPress website faster, keep visitors engaged longer, and, ultimately, have more sales.
Finally, after making all of those tweaks and changes, if you still aren't satisfied with the speed of your website, it might be time to upgrade your hosting package to something like WPEngine's managed hosting plan. You can read about why I switched to WPEngine here.