Why is my WordPress site running slow?
Posted in: CDN, Speed Up Tips   -   August 20, 2013

This guest post is by Sean O’Brien from Pagely®, the #1 rated managed WordPress hosting platform according to WPMU.org; Sean O’Brien is the director of marketing at Pagely® and a former search manager for WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising holding company by revenue.

Are your plugins to blame?

Plugins are a common cause of sluggishness on WordPress sites. In general, the more plugins you have running the slower your site will be. So the first step is to analyze your plugins and remove any that aren’t critical to your site’s objectives. Now that you’ve narrowed it down to just the plugins you need, you should definitely run a diagnostic on your remaining plugins to see how much each is affecting your site’s speed. One good example people seem to have success with is P3. Similarly, it’s worth noting that a poorly created theme can also be the culprit. Avoiding free themes unless you are 100% sure of the source is a good rule of thumb.

Is your hosting provider to blame?

If you’ve done your homework and troubleshooting on plugins, and your site is still crawling along, then it might be your host causing you all that frustration. If you are on a typical shared hosting account with “unlimited” everything for $5 to $20 per month, then you are probably sharing your server with so many others that it’s a miracle your site even loads! Most hosting companies lease their machines from a third-party datacenter (such as SoftLayer®) who charge them $XXX per month for each box, and of course that provider is putting a cap on bandwidth and storage. So when you see the “unlimited” pitch, be the savvy consumer and know that’s obviously a marketing gimmick and not something to get excited about.

If you want to improve your WordPress site’s speed in terms of hosting, then you have a couple of options. You can upgrade to a VPS with your current provider, which may or may not fix the problem, depending on whom you are currently with. However, you’ll still have to worry about technical headaches such as your site being hacked and speed tuning on your own. If your site does end up getting hacked or is still running slow, when you contact technical support you may or may not get someone who knows anything about WordPress. Using a host who specializes in WordPress is obviously a good idea for the above reasons. If you would like to save 10% with us, simply signup and use promo code 10NETPAGELY.

Do you need a CDN?

If you have ever visited a large ecommerce site or image heavy blog and wondered, “How are they serving that content so fast?” then you have likely experienced a CDN whether you knew it or not. Blogs like TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and others nearly always employ a CDN to help their peed. Ecommerce giants like Amazon®, eBay®, and Zappos do as well. So what is a CDN and how does it help with speed?

A CDN (content delivery network) takes all the static files you’ve got on your site (CSS, JavaScript, images etc.) and allows visitors to download them faster by serving them on servers as close to their physical location as possible. For example, if your site is hosted in Canada but someone visits from Australia, the load time for him or her will be nearly as fast as if they were around the corner, assuming your CDN has a presence there.

If you have a WordPress site you can either get a general CDN (such as NetDNA) or one geared specifically for WordPress (such as PressCDN™). The advantage of the latter is that it’s specifically tuned for WordPress and the support is geared toward that aspect as well. Either way, you’ll definitely see an uptick in speed and make those around the globe more likely to return.


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  • Chris Ferdinandi

    While those are all factors, I’ve found that the biggest culprit is often just that most of us use cheap, shared, commodity hosting, and the server-side compiling of WordPress runs a bit slow on that kind of setup.

    I’ve found that doing a few simple things has made a huge impact on my WordPress speed, even on commodity hosting:

    1. Concatenate. Combine all your JS into a single file, all of your CSS into a single file, use image sprites, etc.

    2. Minify. Remove all the white space from stylesheets, JS files, and HTML.

    3. Smush and compress images to reduce file size.

    4. Use an icon font instead of images where appropriate.

    5. Setup your server to gzip your site and set expires headers (sounds scary, but really easy with a few simple .htaccess modifications).

    6. And most important, pre-build your site using a cacheing plugin.

    This whole process takes me about a half an hour on any given project, and I’ve used it to routinely build sites that load in around 1 second on commodity hosting. Instructions on my process here: http://gomakethings.com/high-performance-websites/

  • http://www.blueprintmarketing.com/ Thomas Zickell

    I agree with Chris. People using Cheap hosting especially for hosting WordPress websites are going to pay either at the end When their site gets hacked or they just lose too many users for possible purchasers to slow hosting.
    It’s always wise to put your trust in a managed WordPress hosting company make any of the sponsors shown to the right over using a five dollars a month special. Well it may be tempting to save some money upfront unfortunately that is going to always cost you more in the end.

  • http://www.edward-designer.com/ Edward Chung

    Thanks for the tips. I found plugins are usually the culprit. Many free plugins are quite poorly written.

  • http://lightamatch.com/ lightamatch

    The last time I ran the P3 plugin, ironically it indicated the W3 Total Cache as the plugin with the longest loading time at 46% (1.7sec). Should I keep using it?

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    9 common problems due to which you face slow site experience.
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