We get asked about how to optimize WordPress speed without plugins more often than you’d expect. And there are valid reasons why some site admins want to do WordPress speed optimization without plugins – some sites are on a complex multisite installation, or have extremely high traffic and more plugins mean more complexity.
Below you’ll find our key recommendations for speeding up a WordPress website, or any other site for that matter, without using plugins. Using these steps, you’ll be able to get your WordPress website to load extremely fast BUT probably not as fast as it could if you were using plugins to do things like page caching and image optimization, so please keep that in mind.
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From what we see daily, there’s a frequent misconception that more plugins are ALWAYS worse when it comes to speed. However, that’s not the case, so if you’re avoiding plugins simply because of this, we urge you to rethink your position as there are some fantastic site speed plugins like WP Rocket out there that will make a world of difference to how fast your site runs.
Identify The Root Cause So You Don’t Waste Time
One very common mistake we see people make when working on their site speed is randomly testing tools and tactics without identifying the root cause for the slow loading speed of their site. Before doing anything, we’d strongly suggest you run a site speed test beforehand to identify the low-hanging fruit.
Our speed test tool SiteSpeedBot is 100% FREE and will give you detailed recommendations on what to do in under 60 seconds!
How to Optimize WordPress Speed Without Plugins
Some recommendations below are a bit technical, so if you have questions or need anything clarified, please leave a comment below.
Use a Good Host
Web hosting is of huge importance for everything you do online, whether for your SEO, Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, or the inquiries, calls, and emails your website generates. Better hosting means better user experience, and a better user experience will increase your conversion rate.
This being said, it’s clear that having reliable, fast hosting will shortly pay off. A quality host is one of the key factors in WordPress speed optimization without plugins. A good hosting provider uses a solid state drive (SSD) that operates way faster than the standard hard drive (HDD), and so allows shorter page load times and better overall performance. Some hosts also offer the newer NVME disks which are even faster again than standard SSD drives. Good providers come with larger bandwidth and RAM, which also implies better speed and more power to your website.
Another important factor to consider are server locations. In most cases, websites will perform 1+ second slower outside of the country where the server is located. That’s why it’s important to use a server located in the country or continent where most of your visitors come from.
Surprisingly, in 2021, the price difference between high-quality hosts and garbage hosts is almost insignificant, so here’s a list of hosts we usually recommend:
Cloudways offers cheap hosting packages starting at $10/month. These guys use VPS servers on a speed-optimized server stack to provide high speed while offering 60+ locations around the globe.
Siteground stands out as one of the most affordable options, and still provides satisfactory site speed, which makes it a way better choice than other cheap hosts.
WPX Hosting is a dedicated WordPress host that does edge caching with its WPX cloud, and offers an amazing cost/speed ratio, with its data centers being located in the US and UK.
Kinsta is pricier, but it’s one of the best choices for websites that have a lot of traffic. These guys do page caching at the server level without a plugin and so does WPengine.
Running a site in HTTPS mode allows the browser to use the newer HTTP2 protocol, which speeds up how quickly the browser can download the site versus the older HTTP 1.1 protocol. Keep in mind that many cheap providers don’t support HTTP2 so if your host is lacking this support it’s an indication that their infrastructure is old or not upto scratch.
Use the Highest Version of PHP the Site Supports
PHP is the programming language or framework that WordPress is built on. Overall load speed typically increases 10-20% with each new version of PHP. In March of 2021, the newest 8.0.3. version of PHP was released. Most themes and plugins won’t support this version yet BUT it’s worth checking the version of PHP that you site can support and switching to that – version 7.4 is the version prior to v8 and most sites should support it.
WPEngine has a free plugin that can test your site for PHP compatibility on any host. Often you’ll have a couple of plugins that fail their automated testing but more often than not if you check with the plugin vendor and confirm what is the version of PHP their plugin can support.
Even with the worst hosting providers, Cloudflare can shorten your load times drastically. Even if you go for a free plan, it will make a huge difference in load speed. Here are the services Cloudflare offers to boost your site’s performance:
DNS hosting is a service that brings your website to the user who typed its address into the URL bar. Cheap providers often have slow DNS hosting which results in failed or slow hookups, further causing a load time increase. Cloudflare is amongst the 10 fastest DNS hosts in the world (see https://dnsperf.com for rankings). In most cases, Cloudflare’s DNS hosting will speed up your site significantly
Cloudflare also provides firewall and security features giving better protection for your site, reduces the load on the hosting as it filters some of the garbage crawlers and scrapers hitting the site which helps increase the site’s speed. This article details some of the rules we use to boost security and performance using Cloudflare.
The $5/month APO service effectively does page caching at the edge. Edge caching essentially means entire pages are cached on Cloudflare’s server reducing the load on your hosting and putting the entire site closer to the visitor.
The $20/month plan offers some additional features like a full web application firewall (WAF), better image optimization and a handful more website acceleration features.
If you can’t use Cloudflare, at least use a CDN service (one that has image optimization built-in, like Bunny CDN).
Turn on-Site Speed Optimizations in Your Theme
A large number of themes also have more up-to-date optimizations, like just in time preloading, which preloads the page just before a user clicks on it (see https://instant.page for an example).
Compress Images Before You Upload Them
Compressing images before uploading them to your website can decrease the loading time of your page for precious 1-2 seconds, and so boost the site’s performance.
It’s important that you use lossless compression, which can cut image size by 20-50%, and leave the image quality unchanged.
Lossy compression can squeeze more from your images but does reduce the quality slightly so use it with caution. Imageoptim is a great tool for image compression. If you still want to use a plugin, check out our post on how to compress and insert web images in WordPress.
Make Sure Your Database Is Using the Innodb Storage Engine for All Tables
MySQL uses two storage engines for it’s database tables InnoDB and MyISAM. Innodb is faster for WordPress sites but many older sites will be using MyISAM. Converting these tables to Innodb will improve speed substantially for database heavy sites like Woocommerce.
You can do this conversion in PHPMyAdmin at the database level but we generally use a plugin called Servebolt Optimizer which allows you to do this with a few clicks in the WP backend.
**Make sure you backup your database before messing with this.
Disable Any Plugins and Tools You’re Not Using
This tip is especially important for older websites. Check the list of plugins and tools your site uses, and make sure you delete or disable the ones that are no longer in use. From a speed point of view, fewer plugins mean better performance. Pay attention to plugins that load elements from other sites, because they might bring your site’s speed down. Other plugins that can heavily decrease a site’s speed are ones that implement tracking, live chat, or remarketing codes.
Moving these tracking codes to Google Tag Manager and using the Window Loaded trigger OR pausing them with the Delay JS function in WP Rocket can speed these up substantially.
Use Google Tag Manager
You’re probably already familiar with Google Tag Manager. Moving code like Google Analytics and Google Adwords tracking code to GTM and firing this code with a Window Loaded Trigger can significantly reduce their impact on load times.
With this trigger the tag is fired once the entire content of the page has been fully loaded, including any embedded resources (images, scripts, etc.). You can find this trigger by going to Triggers (in GTM interface) > New > Window Loaded. GTM allows managing when the tag fires – the later the tag gets fired, the lesser impact it has on page loading speed.
Move Code to the Footer
Moving as much JS code to the footer of the site as possible (for code in the <head> section, move it as close to the closing </head> as possible) loads the code later in the render process allowing the device to do more of the HTML processing up front. Often code is inserted at the very start of the <head> tag which can immediately slow down the render process and a simple change of moving this to the end of the </head> section can make a huge difference.
Fix 404 Errors! 404 Errors Are Terrible for Speed!
Frustrated customers are not the only result of broken links. Site’s speed and overall performance also suffer. The problem is that the page may be listed in search results, making search engines continue trying to crawl that non-existent URL instead of spending time and resources crawling real pages, which is why you should focus on fixing this.
You know it yourself, a slow website experience sucks!
Site speed is crucial for a good user experience. Given that slow site speeds can frustrate and deter potential return visitors, as well as negatively affect your Google ranking score, site speed is something you shouldn’t overlook.
Regardless of the otherwise top-notch services or products that you might be offering, the most important factor for any website’s success is always going to be the overall request, processing, and loading speeds.
The easiest way to ensure that your site runs at the optimal level is to use a few WordPress speed optimization plugins that can easily be added to your site, and significantly improve your site’s performance.
Caching is the process of storing data on a separate layer on the site, otherwise known as cache. This process ensures that the necessary information from a page is sent to the visitor much more quickly when they send the same request again.
The caching plugins themselves are very different and offer some pretty unique features that can each help improve your site speeds in one way or another. The plugins that we’ve selected are some of the best that WordPress has to offer, so let’s briefly review each.
Most WordPress plugins offer web and browser caching options, which are simple but effective methods of reducing data size and improving site speeds. Unfortunately, these methods are usually too crude for product-focused sites and can commonly lead to item data being lost or personal information being revealed.
W3TC can provide you with access to more advanced methods like object and database caching. These methods are very important for high-traffic eCommerce sites because they can cache information on a page-by-page basis, ensuring that all of the product and customer data is secure.
WP Rocket is the most user-friendly caching plugin on our list. This means that all of the caching parameters are easy to learn and set up. This allows you to select from multiple pre-programmed options that will handle the entire process for you.
This accessibility allows even the less experienced administrators to decide which caching method they might like to choose, without having to worry about messing something up on their site. However, due to the less technical nature of this plugin, it’s limited to being used for simpler sites that only require page caching. This means that while it can be used on multiple sites, it’ll have limited flexibility in terms of the data that can be effectively cached.
While W3 is a more WooCommerce focused plugin, and WP Rocket is more geared towards less tech-savvy users, Swift would fall somewhere in the middle between the two since a lot of the features this plugin comes with allow for more versatility.
Swift comes with a few advanced caching options such as HTTP2 push and certain image optimization functionalities. The plugin also comes with Whitelabel capabilities, as well as functionalities that ensure your site gets better Lighthouse and Google Pagespeed insights scores.
As we mentioned before, object caching is considered to be a more advanced method of data caching. As such, Redis comes with a lot of developer-level options that a more knowledgeable user can make the most of and really fine-tune the site speeds to their utmost levels.
The caching also works well in tandem with the latest versions of PHP and supports the use of replication, sharding, and even clustering. It also provides you access to cache prefetching and analytics options, on top of being WordPress API compliant.
2. Uptime Monitoring
Site data needs to be carefully analyzed in order for you to be able to get an accurate reading of the current situation and where improvements can be made. Enter UptimeRobot.
UptimeRobot is our tool of choice when it comes to providing users with accurate statistics on their sites. The software itself is remarkably easy to use and can help monitor the lags, drops, and downtime that you experience on a daily basis. All of this data is at your disposal and you can use it for reference when you speak to your hosting service about any issues that you might be having.
3. High Quality, High-Performance Hosting
Speaking of hosting. You can run all of the best WordPress speed optimization plugins, tools, and resources that you can find, but it’ll all be for nothing if your hosting service is lack-luster. If you aren’t provided with enough bandwidth, if your allowed daily visitor number is too low, or if you’re experiencing constant drops in site speed, then it might be time to consider switching services.
Some of the better services that you can choose to use are:
SiteGround is probably the most well-known name in the realm of hosting services, and for good reason. The service comes with a multitude of useful features that would prove beneficial for just about any sort of site.
Among the more notable features that SiteGround comes with, the three that spring immediately to mind are the unrestricted bandwidth that comes with each plan, the WordPress auto-updates, and the free migration.
You also gain access to free email, SSL, and CDN services, as well as daily backups, and automatic updates to all of your WordPress features and plugins.
Servebolt puts a lot of emphasis on the simplicity of their offer. The service promises to provide the users with fast and reliable internet speeds. The plans also list the maximum number of sites that can be hosted as 3 and the maximum storage as 4 GB.
Servebolt provides WooCommerce functionality, however, the limited storage capacity isn’t really well suited for any site that has a lot of assets such as product descriptions and an abundance of image files or videos.
In essence, this is a hosting service for anyone that draws a particular emphasis on speed, with very little need for anything else.
WPX comes with 3 different plans for you to choose from. The plans offer at least 5 and at most 35 sites that you can host, between 10 and 40 GB of storage, and either 100 GB, 200 GB, or unlimited bandwidth.
You also get an option for unlimited site migrations, access to staging areas, a daily malware scanning and removal feature, and even DDoS protection.
WPX is surprisingly affordable for the speeds that it provides to its users. While the main servers are located in the US and UK, the service also provides access to a Cloud CDN service with each plan, allowing you to host your site on different servers throughout the world.
While we’re on the subject of CDN services, Cloudflare might be a service that you want to avail yourself of. Cloudflare is to the CDN market what SiteGround is to the hosting market – one of the most rightfully well-renowned players in the field.
A CDN can help you improve your site speeds by allowing you to host part of your site on servers that are located at the nearest distance to the visitor that sends in a request on your site. This allows you to circumvent slow page loading times that come as a result of the physical server locations of your host.
Cloudflare in particular has a wide net of proxy server locations throughout the globe, all of which can help you reach new potential markets by providing your visitors with good connection speeds, regardless of their location.
Backup plugins are some of the most important WordPress speed optimization plugins. While initially, you might not see the correlation between speed optimization plugins and data storage plugins, we have an explanation.
Your site can break down as a result of caching issues, whether due to hacking attempts, or just because you made a mistake in the most recent update that you tried to perform. Any one of these issues can result in potentially catastrophic damage to your site and cause it to be shut down for the duration of the repair period.
You might now see why we think that a backup plugin can potentially save you a lot of time, and if you see eye-to-eye with us on that, you might also trust us when we recommend the use of BlogVault as that backup plugin of choice.
Blogvault is our plugin of choice for two reasons. Firstly, the real-time backup capability means that any changes that occur on your website are being backed up as they happen. Secondly – the plugin outlines which files could and could not be backed up, thereby ensuring that you don’t get any nasty surprises if certain data was skipped.
Both of these reasons are already pretty impressive, especially considering that most backup plugins don’t really offer them. However, include the general reliability of the service and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to why it’s our plugin of choice.
5. Image Compression & Optimization
Image files are the bane of product-focused sites. The images themselves take up an unimaginable amount of space, and unless you have an overabundance of free disc-space, they’ll dramatically reduce your loading times by forcing your site to load these massive files. The biggest victims of large image files are eCommerce sites that need to add a picture (or several) to each item description.
The easiest solution to this issue is using a plugin like Shortpixel and its image compression functions in order to dramatically reduce the size of the files. Shortpixel is quick and reliable, which is really all you need from a compression tool.
The plugin also comes with the option to compress the images as webp files. Webp files are different from both jpeg and png files.
Png files are lossless, meaning that their size doesn’t get reduced drastically in the compression process, but they retain their visual quality upon decompression.
Jpeg files are lossy, so their size will be significantly affected in the compression process, but they’ll lose most of their data and have their image quality reduced as a result.
Webp files are quite simply a middle ground. They allow for greater size reduction while keeping the image quality intact.
6. Site Speed Testing Tools
Before getting any WordPress speed optimization plugins, it’s highly recommended that you find out the baseline of your site. Testing your page speeds with some available tools is a good way to recognize which aspects of your site are lacking and where you should focus your efforts.
We should, however, mention that a lot of testing tools aren’t that accurate, and while they can provide some useful info on your site, the findings shouldn’t be taken as gospel.
Some of the best speed testing tools that we can recommend are:
This tool has been around for quite a long time now, which means that it’s tried and tested and can really provide you with accurate information on the exact status of your site. It allows you to track the performance of your site and measure its pulse as it were, and it even notifies you if you start to lose speed for whatever reason.
The issue that this tool has is that a few of the parameters that it tests are outdated and no longer relevant to the way the site ranking system works today.
We used to use this particular tool for WPSpeedFix.com in the past, so while we don’t believe that we’re unbiased on this matter, we should be upfront with the fact that we have quite a bit of experience with Pingdom.
Having said that, because of our history with this tool, we can safely say that it can provide some pretty spot-on results when it comes to gauging your site performance. This comes as a result of the large number of different factors that are tested in order to get an accurate reading.
However, due to the lack of any recent updates, the accuracy of the findings from this tool have slipped quite a bit since the time we used it.
This is probably the most frequently consulted speed testing tool that you can find online. The site itself is reasonably accurate when it comes to accessing the basic standing of your website. The end result of the findings will also give you a somewhat solid picture of how your site can be ranked based on a few different factors.
The most notable issues with this tool are the fact that it doesn’t factor in certain limitations of the site’s coding and design, and it almost completely ignores the geographic location of the site.
This particular site speed testing tool is the one that we prefer out of all. The initial input is easy to use, containing nothing more than a URL address bar and a drop down menu that contains the location that you would like to run the test from.
The diagnostic will take somewhere between a minute or two, and you’ll receive a full rundown on every aspect of the site that you’re testing. Some of the parameters that this tool tests are the number of received requests, the fully loaded time, the cumulative layout shift, the total blocking time, and more.
The biggest drawback of this site is the same that’s present on every other speed testing tool – the results are reliable up to a point, but they shouldn’t be taken as gospel.
Again, we should stress that these tools can all provide you with decently accurate info that can help you improve your site in a few ways. However, don’t trust the accuracy of the findings from just one tool, and make sure to get a second or third reading in order to make sure that there actually is an issue that you need to fix.
7. Database Optimization
WP-Optimize is a WordPress speed optimization plugin that can help reduce the bloat that naturally collects in your site database. This bloat comes as a result of the overall size of the database expanding over time, even though the disc space isn’t actually being used for anything.
This plugin allows you to run a SQL data optimization procedure inside the WordPress backend console that can help reduce the collected bloat and return the storage space capacity to its proper value.
The protection of the general site data is definitely going to be on the top of every site administrator’s priority list. More importantly, if your site has a login or payment feature that contains personal details from your site visitors, you need to make sure that you’re running the Fort Knox of internet firewalls.
While complete protection against hacker attacks or malware is virtually impossible, there are measures that can be undertaken in order to ensure that the most common routes of attack are as secure as possible.
WordPress isn’t as well optimized as a lot of people would like to believe it to be. A major issue that gets brought up constantly is the presence of a lot of outdated features that are still within the code, which have very little use nowadays. The only use that these archaic features actually have is to serve as potential weak points that hackers can exploit in order to gain backdoor access to your site.
Protection against these attacks wastes a lot of CPU power that can otherwise be used to improve the page loading times. Therefore, the purpose of Permatters.io isn’t to protect these old features, but rather to disable them. This is the easiest way to ensure that the site stays safe and the CPU power is used more efficiently.
Wordfence is a much more common sort of protection software. It includes a powerful firewall and malware scanners that can help reduce the risk to your site by running daily checks for any potential threats.
You also gain access to some very useful features like the country blocking option that allows you to have your site be unreachable for certain countries. The two-factor authentication feature is also useful thanks to the fact that it prevents brute force attacks by adding an extra layer of security to the login information.
9. Lazy Loading
Lazy loading is the process of loading an image or video, but only once the site visitor has scrolled down far enough for the majority of the asset to be visible. The lazy loading process essentially consists of setting the limit as to how large of a portion of the item that needs to be displayed should be present on screen before it needs to be fully loaded.
Lazy loading makes the initial page load go much more smoothly by minimizing the number of assets that need to be displayed all at once. As the visitor scrolls down the page, certain items will load in as others load out. This allows the CPU usage to remain consistent and improve the overall loading times for each page that uses lazy loading.
Lazy Load is most people’s go-to plugin when it comes to using the lazy loading function on their website.
The plugin itself is free, but the largest advantage that it has over other similar plugins is the simplicity in design. Lazy load is designed to lazy load images, videos, or other assets on a page, and nothing else.
The plugin does exactly what it needs to do without any issues and it’s updated on a regular basis in order to ensure that it works well with the current version of the WordPress functions.
The final group of plugins that we’d like to include on our best WordPress speed optimization plugins list is a sort of a weird lineup. These plugins don’t really have a unifying feature but are too useful to not be included on a best features rundown.
Instant.page increases the page loading speeds by using a method that they call “just-in-time-preloading”. As the name suggests, the process involves the page being preloaded right before a site visitor clicks on the link.
The way that this works is that the page will preload any asset that the page visitor was hovering over for a certain amount of time without them having to actually press anything. This also works on mobile when the visitor presses a link and the preloading process has already started before they even take their finger off of the screen.
We realize that it might be a bit strange to group three plugins into one section, but these are really a bit too similar in function to be able to separate them in any significant manner. These three are pretty much the jack-of-all-trades when it comes to WordPress plugins. They can all be used for lazy loading images, caching functionalities, code minification, image compression, and pretty much every other task that was previously mentioned on our list.
Because of this diversity in function, the plugins themselves don’t have as many available options as the other more focused plugins that we mentioned. This means that they can be a very useful tool if you want to accomplish the bare minimum and not have to install a lot of different tools. However, you’re going to get a lot more versatility out of any of the other more focused plugins and the more advanced features that they can provide.
You don’t need to use all of the plugins that we mentioned on our list. In fact, certain plugins don’t work that well together. For example, both WP Rocket and Swift have a built-in database optimization tool, meaning that if you already have one of them installed, there’s no reason to use the other one.
On the whole, though, all of these plugins can prove to be very useful for optimizing your WordPress site, as long as you know what you need and choose the right tools for the job.
You know it yourself, a slow website experience sucks!
You already know yourself that site speed and page load times are a key component of a good website experience and critical to the success of a WordPress site.
It doesn’t matter what sort of service or product you have or how well-designed your site is – if your visitors get frustrated by a slow website they’re not likely to be back.
We’ve speed optimized 4000+ WordPress sites and in this post we’ll explain why your WordPress site is slow AND how to fix it.
We’re specialists in WordPress Speed Optimization and we can handle all these steps for you. A good starting point if you’re interested in our services is our free site speed audit – submit your site with some details on your speed goals and target country and one of the team members will get back to you.
Why Is Your WordPress Site So Slow?
Contrary to a lot of what you read online, site speed is not magic, it’s simply the result of good technical best practices. We’ve worked on thousands of websites through our speed optimization services and there’s literally only a handful of reasons why a WordPress site is slow, we’ve summarized below. We’ll also explain how to fix each one in this post
Your hosting is cheap, poor quality, in a completely different country to the one you’re targeting
Your hosting is badly configured or the plan is a mismatch for your needs
Your WordPress site doesn’t have page caching in place
You have no content delivery network (CDN)
Your page sizes (aka page weight) are too big
No image compression in place – this is usually the cause of big pages
You’re not using HTTPS (secure mode) which means you’re not getting the benefit of the faster HTTP2 protocol, this protocol speeds up how quickly the site downloads often by 2-3x or more
You’re using an old, slower version of PHP, the programming language WordPress runs on.
You have too many plugins, plugin conflicts or errors
You’ve got 404 file not found errors on your page or a sitewide 404
How To Speed Up WordPress in Detail:
Here’s a quick action step before we dig into the points in detail: Our site speed test tool, SiteSpeedBot will probe your site for most of these site speed issues and give you a detailed audit in approximately 60 seconds and will give you a good idea of where to start on this list. The tool is completely FREE, no opt-ins or other sneaky-ness and you can use it as many times as you like – try it at SiteSpeedBot.com
Use High Quality Web Hosting & Host In The Same Country As Your Customers
Without a doubt, the easiest way to speed up WordPress is to switch to a hosting service that can guarantee fast loading times. If the service you currently use limits the number of visitors on your site at any one time, the CPU power that the servers can dedicate to your site, and the bandwidth, it’s time that you get a better hosting.
In particular, the bandwidth is the most vital component that any hosting service can provide to its customers. The speed at which the site visitor sends in a request and receives the data will have a significant effect on their loading times and the subsequent experience they have when clicking on your site.
The data speed is also affected by the compression rate and the locations of the hosting servers, but we’ll get into that a bit further on. For now, we’ll stick to the main entity that’s responsible for the amount of bandwidth that each visitor receives, which is the web hosting service itself and the resources that it has available.
There really is no reason why anyone should stick with a web host that can’t keep up with the needs of the company. While you might not have any particular problem with the hosting service you’re currently using, you still might want to ask yourself if you’re getting everything that you need from it, especially if you’re growing your business.
If they aren’t capable of maintaining your growing site and the influx of a larger number of visitors, then you’re better off choosing another service rather than having your site and company suffer.
Additionally, most of the best hosting services available come with ridiculous price tags. They’re obviously more costly plans out there, but the initial plans that most services usually come with will cost you about as much as a sandwich.
Our recommendations for the best Web hosting services that you might want to consider are the following:
The unmetered traffic is one of the most appealing aspects of this particular hosting service, with the free SSL, email, and migration options coming in as the cherries on the cake. You also gain access to daily backups, an unlimited number of databases, and even a 30-day money-back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with the service.
The prices for this service start at $7.28 a month for the “StartUp” plan, go to $12.15 a month for the “GrowBig” plan and finish at $17 a month for the “GoGeek” plan. These plans come with 10 GB of web space with 10,000 monthly visitors, 20 GB of web space with 25,000 monthly visitors, and 40 GB of web space and 100,000 monthly visitors respectively. The second and third plans also come with unlimited websites.
This only serves to prove that the service has a plan that would be ideal for just about any company, regardless of size or geographic location. CloudWays can provide you with some really useful features, like the CDN add-on, the SSH and SFTP access, the auto-healing servers, and even the staging environments. Additionally, you also get automated backups and regular security patching.
CloudWays is a bit more tricky to price. The service comes with a staggering 30 plans that you can choose from (60 if you count the ones that are priced per hour). Depending on the data centers that you choose, as well as the storage capacity and processing power that you think you might need, the price can range from between $10 and $700 a month.
Kinsta can provide a few very useful benefits with its plans, including the staging areas for development, effective security protocols, more than 24 available data centers, and more. Kinsta also allows you to upgrade or downgrade to the version that you choose, ensuring that you’re working with what suits you the most. Not to mention that you also gain access to DDoS detection software, uptime monitoring features, and even SSL support.
Kinsta has 4 pricing plans on offer – The “Starter” at $30 a month, the “Pro” at $60 a month, the “Business 1” at $100 a month, and the “Business 2” at $200 a month. These plans will provide you with anywhere between 25,000 and 3 million-plus visitors, from 10 to 200 plus GB of disc space, as well as free SSL and automatic daily backups.
Why Is VPS Hosting Better?
At the end of this section on the importance of good hosting services, we’d also like to mention VPS hosting and the benefits that it carries with it.
A virtual private server simply by the name implies that it’s going to more directly cater to the needs of each customer that chooses this particular hosting option. The truth is that yes, you do get more CPU power dedicated to your site in choosing this hosting method, but that still doesn’t provide you with as significant of a boost as some believe.
If you want to receive a noticeable increase in your site performance, then you’re also going to need to properly configure your server with optimal speeds in mind. Regardless of how much more processors you have working for you, the end result will be negligible if they aren’t set to do their job properly.
Take for example the more lower-tier hosting services like Bluehost, Hostinggator, or GoDaddy. You can choose to pick up a VPS hosting option from any of these services, but the end result will still be disappointing. The biggest reason for this is the fact that despite the additional CPU power that you’re getting, you’re still on a relatively slow and badly optimized network with a lot of users that need to share the processing power.
On the other hand, services like Cloudways can provide you with the additional CPU power that you need to push your site speeds into overdrive, along with the proper configurations that you’ll need in order to use that extra power correctly.
This is a pretty simple one – disable or delete any of the plugins that you aren’t using. The fewer apps and features that you have running at once, the less CPU power is dedicated to unnecessary background processes.
Naturally, we aren’t saying that you should turn off all of the plugins that you have in order to help speed up WordPress, but evaluate which plugins are essential and worth keeping and which are just clutter that’s taking up precious space.
Hold on to the essential tools that you might have installed. These include items like caching features (which we’ll also cover a bit later on), any and all WooCommerce functionality boosters that you might have, and any plugins that load data from third-party sites.
Feel free to consider all of the plugins that don’t fall in any of these categories as disposable. Again, the decision is yours, and getting rid of even slightly useful plugins in order to speed up your site isn’t usually worth it. However, it is a smart move to look through your plugins every once in a while and really analyze which are essential to your site and which are just a waste of space.
Use the Latest Version of PHP
PHP is the skeleton that all WordPress sites are built on. As the default programming language for all WordPress sites, it’s pretty important to keep up with any changes that alter PHP. These changes come in the form of some minor or major updates to the language itself.
The easiest way to keep up with all of these changes is simply to update your PHP to the latest version. At the time of writing, that latest version is PHP 8, which came out on the 26th of November 2020.
The latest version of PHP comes with certain type changes and additions, syntax changes, the addition of the match expression, improvements to the overall load speeds, and much more.
Each update comes with a plethora of different alterations to the language, but the one thing that they all have in common is the additional speed boost that comes with each improvement to the code.
Make sure to keep up to date on the latest version of PHP that’s coming out and update it as soon as possible.
Upgrade to HTTPS
On the surface level, the main difference between HTTP and HTTPS is the fact that the latter has additional encryptions that ensure each site that uses HTTPS has that little bit of extra protection against data leaks or cyber-attacks.
This is great news for WooCommerce sites since they need to pay special attention to the security of their customer information. However, while it is a welcome upgrade, the benefits that it provides don’t seem to be worth the hassle of the alteration, especially since a lot of hosting services aren’t compatible with HTTPS.
That’s what a lot of people believe, at least. The truth is that converting to HTTPS will allow you to use the HTTP2 protocol, which provides an enormous boost to site speed when compared to the HTTP 1.1 protocol.
As for the compatibility issue, If you aren’t sure that your host can support HTTPS, then simply go to Sitespeedbot and enter your site URL in order to check for HTTP2 support, along with reading on your loading times, uploads, site size, and so on.
If your host can support the migration, then don’t wait any longer than you have to and make the change immediately. If your host doesn’t support the migration, then that’s one more reason as to why you might want to reconsider switching to any of the three hosting services we mentioned earlier.
Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A content delivery network is exactly what it sounds like – a web of servers from around the world that can help you speed up WordPress by delivering your site data to your visitors more quickly and efficiently.
The physical location of the server has a massive impact on the speed of the data transfer. For example, when a site visitor sends in a request, that request is then sent to and processed by a server, after which the requested data is sent back to the site visitor. The time it takes for this to be completed is dependent on the distance between the visitor and the closest servers. The closer the server is to the visitor, the faster the data will be transferred
If a hosting service doesn’t have a lot of server locations around the globe, then the CDN is the best solution to the particular problem that arises with the geographic distance.
Most high-end hosting services, like the ones we recommended previously, have built-in CDN features. However, if you aren’t subscribed to the services we mentioned or any service that has the CDN option available, then Cloudflare is your next best option.
As you might have guessed, Cloudflare is a CDN and a particularly good one at that. Touted as one of the fastest hosting providers in the world, the service can provide you with anything from an easy way to transfer your data globally with as little latency as possible, to a more all-encompassing service that includes heightened security and better support options.
Image files generally take up the most space on the disc. This is particularly troubling for WooCommerce or more product-oriented sites in general since they usually have an image next to each item that they have on offer.
This usually results in hundreds or thousands of images clogging up your site and causing the pages to load more slowly due to the necessary CPU power required to read all of the data on display.
An image compression tool like ShortPixel is a good way to reduce wasted space and CPU power. In essence, ShortPixel simply compresses the image in order to maintain only the absolutely necessary data so that it can still load in properly on the site while reducing the size in storage.
Regardless of which compression tool you use, just remember to use lossless compression rather than lossy. Lossless maintains all of the image data even while it’s compressed, while lossy removes a large chunk of it.
The lossy method can compress the image into smaller files, but at the cost of reducing the image quality after the decompression. The lossless method, on the other hand, can’t compress images to such a high degree, but the quality is retained regardless of the number of times the files are compressed and decompressed.
The basis behind caching is that you use a plugin in order to pre-built each individual page on your site by storing a specific subset of information in a different layer on your site. In essence, this simply means that a certain amount of data will automatically be served to the site visitor as soon as they send in the request.
Caching is one of the most reliable ways to speed up WordPress sites, so obtaining a reliable plugin can really make all of the difference when it comes to loading times. For this reason, we’d recommend going for WP Rocket or W3 Total Cache as your caching plugins of choice.
WP Rocket is simple to set up and easy to use. This makes it an ideal choice for less experienced users that aren’t really all that knowledgeable when it comes to caching procedures or using any such caching plugins. The choices you’re provided with are pretty clear cut and the plugin essentially handless the entire procedure for you.
W3 is a bit more technical, so a bit more in-depth knowledge is recommended before subscribing to this particular plugin. it’s very likely that you’ll be able to get the hang of it pretty easily after a few attempts, however, if you really don’t know what you’re doing then you can do some serious damage to your site.
To recap – these are the following changes that you can make in order to help speed up WordPress:
If the web hosting service that you’re using can’t keep up with your site growth and the larger amount of visitors that you’re getting, then it might be time for a change;
Turn off or remove any plugins that aren’t doing anything;
Make sure that the PHP that you’re using is the latest version and keep an eye on any new updates;
Switch to the more efficient HTTP2 protocol;
Subscribe to Cloudflare or make sure that your web host of choice can provide you with a CDN option;
Use lossless compression on your images and keep your data storage as empty as possible;
Use a caching plugin in order to ensure that your visitors will receive the data more efficiently.
Well, we just had to include Shopify’s best seller for 2019! Yes, Fastor is the one. It’s a great, cutting edge Shopify theme that’s super fast and offers plenty of features that’ll make your head spin!
Debutify is a Shopify theme optimized for all niches and designed to boost the conversions and overall performance of your website or online store. It’s, in fact, considered the highest converting Shopify theme that you can get for free and that’s also suitable for all types of products and industries.
Faster themes have a handful of characteristics that give them an advantage over slower ones:
They contain less code, which means they get processed faster on the server.
Their file size is smaller, which makes them easier to download.
They have cleaner CSS and inline CSS so the site can render faster.
All of these characteristics enable the server to download and render the site faster from the server, also taking the load off the browser so it can assemble the page easily and in less time.
When setting up your Shopify store, one of the first decisions you need to make is choosing your theme. Of course, the theme of your choice should be customizable, have a beautiful and responsive design, and simple navigation, among other things, but one feature that’s often overlooked is theme speed.
Did you know that a site’s bounce rate worsens with each second the page takes to load?
The average bounce rate of pages that take 2 seconds to load is 9%, whereas the average bounce rate of pages that take 5 seconds to load is 38%. Let’s give you some more eye-opening statistics related to page speed. 79% of online consumers won’t return to a slow-loading site, 46% of mobile users say that slow load time is what they dislike the most when browsing the web, and even a 100-millisecond delay in load time lowers conversion rates by 7%!
Given that page-speed is a crucial part of user experience and an important ranking factor, you need a fast and reliable theme for your online store. This is why we chose and reviewed the 8 fastest Shopify themes that can give you a better spot in search results but also bring you more conversions and revenue.
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Shopify Theme?
Before we go over the themes one by one, let’s see the key features that the best and fastest Shopify themes should include.
As we already mentioned, site speed influences your Google rankings, and with that, your visibility, conversation rates, and user experience. The faster your site is, the better ranking it will have and the more customers it will bring.
This is why in this article we included only the fastest Shopify themes available in 2021, while also paying attention to design and flexibility.
Design and Flexibility
Speed is not the only precondition for a successful online store, as the store’s design is another important factor. That is why in our quest for the fastest Shopify themes, we were looking for those with appealing designs that online consumers will appreciate. And not only that, but we also ensured that the themes are flexible and customizable so you can show your creativity and create the online store just as you’ve envisioned it.
What Makes a Theme Fast?
A fast theme essentially has a fast rendering speed. Shopify, as one of the fastest e-commerce platforms, also offers hosting services with good infrastructure that contributes to the speed of your online store. That is why the fastest Shopify themes are quick to download and render very fast.
We can’t mention Flex without mentioning Turbo, its more affordable counterpart. Turbo is another super popular theme choice created by the award-winning team of developers called Out of the Sandbox.
Why is it so popular, you might ask? Well, the name of the theme says it all! Turbo offers amazing speed and performance power for your Shopify online store. As feature-packed as it is, this theme is perfect for online stores of all sizes. If you have a shop with a huge inventory, you will feel the benefits of the super-fast loading speed and caching functionality that will dramatically improve your user experience.
Sport and Ludicrous Speed Modes
How about a Shopify theme that comes in two-speed modes? Well, Turbo is built and optimized for speed, but when it comes to the performance setting, it enables you to choose between two options: Sport and Ludicrous.
In Ludicrous mode, the page preloading uses advanced methods to attempt to predict the next page the user visits and starts loading that page in the background. However, certain third-party apps might crash with this mode, which is why you can also choose Sport. This mode offers all the performance capabilities of the Turbo Shopify theme, without the preloading page technology but with seamless integration with third-party apps.
Turbo comes in six urban and beautiful designs named by some extraordinary cities like Portland, Florence, Dubai, Seoul, Tennessee, and Chicago. These designs are packed with useful features that can be operated with intuition and simplicity, leaving you to showcase your creative and selling capabilities.
How can you not enjoy something that’s created by the award-winning team at Out of the Sandbox? When it comes to fast and reliable Shopify themes for your online shop, this team knows their craft. Turbo loads pages very fast and is the perfect theme for a shop that has a lot of products to sell. It comes in two speeds, its functionalities are excellent, and the features are top of the class. We say YEY to Turbo! Go ahead, try it and see for yourself!
Flex is a game-changing theme for Shopify that’s beautifully designed and gives you ultimate control with its many features. You can configure it in several ways given that Flex has multiple layouts, excellent control of settings, and easy addition of custom CSS, which enables you to configure this theme in several ways. How about that for theme flexibility! No wonder that this fast Shopify theme is called Flex!
Flex helps digital agencies and developers showcase their creativity and realize their ability to create something that their clients will appreciate. It also helps those with no coding experience to create the online store of their dreams. Flex is suitable even for merchants with small businesses who want to display their products online and continue to grow their brand.
Flex offers 13 template styles suitable for every industry. You can showcase the beauty of your products no matter the industry you’re in – fashion, food, cosmetics, technology, oils, plants, etc.
Flex is packed with features that give you more control over your online store.
Multiple Layout Options.
You can customize this theme to your heart’s content and let your creativity shine.
With Flex, you will be able to add CSS to sections directly within the theme editor. You can also apply styles to elements within a section without even having to go on another page.
Icons + Elements.
How about adding visuals throughout your website with the beautifully designed varieties of icons? You can add these icons to different elements including the announcement bar, featured promotions, texts, and columns.
Flex offers additional features for extra flexibility and control. Here are just some of them.
Four header and footer styles
Three product page layouts
Mega Menus and dropdowns
Control over margins
Sticky bottom bar
If what you’re looking for in a Shopify theme is flexibility and design options in addition to speed, Flex is the theme for you. As you can see, it’s packed with multiple features that offer great functionality and it’s made by Turbo’s creative developer team who takes into account their users’ suggestions. On top of everything, this top-notch e-commerce theme offers excellent 24/7 customer support, which is why we highly recommend it!
How about a theme that focuses on optimizing conversion rates and engagement?
Shoptimized embraces the well-known marketing principles of influence and persuasion by allowing you to provide social proof for your products by showcasing your best customer reviews and positive customer experiences.
You can also create urgency by showcasing scarcity of the stock and including a countdown timer for your discounts. Moreover, you can showcase your achievements like awards, certificates, number of Facebook followers, likes, and more.
The Shoptimized theme uses the best practices for optimizing conversion rates. This theme has extraordinary checkout, homepage, search, and product lists, and is optimized for mobile devices, making it user-friendly and extremely functional. Anybody, no matter the industry they’re a part of or the size of their company can switch to Shoptimized and enjoy the benefits this theme offers.
Most of the features that Shoptimized offers are intended to boost your conversation rates.
Create urgency with countdown timer
Display scarcity of remaining stock
GEO-IP recognition, recognize which country the customer is visiting from
Get-it-By timer, providing estimation delivery to customers
Marketing integration with third-party apps
Conversion-optimized header area
If you have an online store and you want to boost your conversation rates, this fairly priced theme is the right option for you. Shoptimized uses advanced marketing techniques, so it’s great if you want an increase in your conversion engagement and some extra help with your marketing.
Booster is yet another lightning-fast and conversion-boosting theme. Even though it’s newer and not as popular as the previous three, it has a lot to offer. Booster has a clean design and user-friendly tools that will help you not only increase sales and boost the speed of your store, but also save money on purchasing apps or investing in more expensive Spotify themes.
This theme is translated into 10 languages, so if you want to sell in Spanish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, etc, they got you covered. The excellent 24/7 customer support is another one of Booster’s perks.
This theme is easy to set up, you don’t need any coding experience, and you can install it in a matter of minutes. When you purchase a license for Booster, you will get all the necessary updates and support for a year. After that year expires, you can keep on using Booster forever, however, you will not have the privilege to get the newest updates and enjoy their functionality unless you extend your license.
Social proof sales
Upsell and cross-sell functions
Once you buy a license the theme is yours
GEO IP currency converter
Available in 10 languages
Conversion-optimized card and checkout
Related products function for CRO
This theme has excellent functionalities and saves you money on purchasing third-party ecommerce CRO apps. You can find several available demo sites on their homepage that will allow you to feel the opportunities that Booster provides.
Being fast is not their only attribute. Booster offers conversion optimization functionalities that are crucial for every online store, which makes it a winner in our eyes.
How about a multipurpose Shopify theme that’s fast, fresh, dynamically developed, and has a solid price? We introduce Shella!
Even though this is another theme that’s suitable for various industries, because of its elegant and minimal design, it’s usually more popular in the fashion industry, which is why it’s used by online stores that sell shoes, accessories, cosmetics, and clothes. Shella is a flexible theme that offers 11 skins and 5 styles for your product page. It’s translated into 6 languages and has a variety of features that’ll help you optimize your site and increase your sales.
Shella offers more features than your average ecommerce theme. All these features are essential for boosting your sales and improving your customer experience.
Mega menu builder
Builder section for homepage
Dynamic checkout buttons
Headers and footers
Infinite scroll on collection page
AJAX shop, AJAX search
Size guide pop-up and page
Popups for newsletters, coupons, promo, cookies policy, and purchase notification
Option for subscription
Custom product tabs
Quick view and wishlist
Layouts and Product Display
The extraordinary features for layouts and product display are where this theme goes the extra mile. Shella gives you the option for full-screen sliders and video players where you can showcase your products. The varieties of templates that Shella offers will enable you to display and customize the individual product pages but also the product category pages.
When it comes to language support, Shella supports Arabic, Hebrew Persian, and Urdu, enabling you to sell worldwide.
Shella is a great Shopify theme that will leave your customers satisfied and coming back for more. Maybe it’s not the fastest theme on the list, but what Shella lacks in speed, it makes up for in extra features, functionality, and optimization. Using Shella will not just increase your customer satisfaction, but it will also improve your search engine optimization, which is a big plus for us.
Another feature-packed theme that’s considered one of the fastest Shopify themes with excellent functionality is PLAK.
This Shopify theme offers three premium functionalities that make it stand out among their competitors – SEO-friendliness, site speed, and sales booster. PLAK claims that with their 3-in-1 package, you don’t have to spend extra on advertising since the theme is optimized to bring you organic traffic.
Like most of the premium Shopify themes, PLAK is optimized for mobile devices. The navigation and transition from one page to another are flawless and leave a great impression on the people visiting your website via smartphone or a tablet. The team that developed PLAK is aware that site speed is the new competitive battleground, so they have created a theme that loads pages super-fast, leading to improved user experience.
Plak offers several exclusive features that will make your online store better than ever.
Blurry coupon code
Dynamic free shipping bar
Availability in four languages
Free lifetime support and updates
2 slideshows (2 sections, 3 sections)
Product labels with animation
Related products on product page
At first, PLAK might seem like a Shopify theme that offers nothing more than its competitors, but even if that’s true (which it isn’t), it doesn’t reduce the value that this Shopify theme can bring to your online business.
PLAK is a super-fast, SEO-friendly theme, period. What is there not to like?
It’s always a pleasure to recommend the best selling Shopify theme for 2019! Fastor is still a cutting edge theme with super fast loading times and features that will satisfy even the most demanding entrepreneurs.
It’s suitable for every industry, which is why it’s used by plenty of different businesses. This theme has 86 pre-made demos for you to use, 11 product page layouts, a growing number of available skins, and a supporting team that’s always ready to answer your questions.
Whether you choose some of the general or more specific features Fastor offers, we promise that you will have the most wonderful experience.
Unlimited colors, fonts, pre-made skins, hover effect, etc.
Spacing between columns, custom layout width, responsiveness, layout type on each element
Sale, new badges, product number per row, product images, quick view, display elements on hover, default view.
Quick search auto-suggest, various header types, advanced headers, vertical Mega menu.
Contact, about us, Facebook, Instagram, custom tab.
Contact page, product page.
Full Oberlo Compatibility
With Fastor, you can import hundreds of products to your store in minutes. Oberlo will help you find products, add them to your store, or ship them directly to your customers. This dropshipping option gives you extra options for increased revenue.
Best Marketing Automation Platform for E-commerce Business
Fastor enables the user to display countdown cards to increase the number of orders, display a cookie notification bar, integrate Google translate, add a favicon with the number of card items in realtime, and much more.
Clean Design and Speed Optimized Code
Fastor has a compressed code that’s specifically designed to make your site load in seconds. That is why Fastor is considered one of the fastest Shopify themes on the market nowadays.
What can you say about a versatile theme, that has a super-fast loading speed and features that make your head spin? We say yes! Go ahead and try it! This compact Shopify theme will give your customers great user experience, so get ready for a boost in sales and conversation rates.
Debutify is one of the best Shopify themes that you can get for free. The free version comes with several basic features that are enough for a beginner to set up an online store and enter the online market. You get an easy-to-use dashboard, default layout design that’s easy to navigate and edit, and the possibility to change colors and make your online store aligned with the colors of your brand.
This Shopify theme is suitable for all industries and optimized for mobile devices. You’ll get a clean design that’ll give you the opportunity to showcase your products to their best advantage.
The Premium plan of Debutify comes with the following features and add-ons.
Collection add to cart
Are you a newbie in the e-commerce world? Then this theme is definitely for you! Debutify will show you how it’s like to run an online store, and if you are willing to continue, it will provide you with the premium features that come with the premium plans. But Debutify is not only suitable for beginners. This theme is powerful enough to satisfy everyone’s needs, especially with its premium plans.
Debutify is optimized for dropshipping, print on demand, and brand stores. It’s easy to install and only requires your Shopify URL. If you are in the market for something free, easy to use, and functional, we recommend you try Debutify.
Choosing the fastest Shopify theme can get a bit confusing, but hopefully, we managed to make it easier for you and shorten your searching time.
All the Shopify themes that we have reviewed are super-fast and provide valuable features, functionalities, and the optimization options essential for setting up and managing a successful online store. The most suitable theme for you will, of course, depend on your unique needs, but no matter which one you decide to go for, you won’t be disappointed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What else is important when it comes to site speed?
Theme speed is pretty important when it comes to improving the overall site speed, but of course, it’s not the only factor. Other important factors in this equation are:
Hosting provider (hosting quality);
The use of CDN (Content Delivery Network);
The overall size of the page – page weight in MB.
How do I test my site speed?
You can try our free speed testing tool SiteSpeedBot.com. Once you put your site in there, it will give you a more detailed overview of what you need to improve and provide you with advice on how to make your site load faster.
Does theme speed impact SEO?
The answer is a definitive yes. Site speed is considered a ranking factor for SEO and the theme speed has a big impact on the site speed.
In our years of experience optimizing sites for speed, we’ve come to the conclusion that the size of each page in megabytes (or the page weight) is a key factor here. So, a site that has a lot of pages, especially ones that go over the 3-5mb limit, will most likely not rank well.
Some of the techniques you can implement for making your pages weigh less are:
We’re massive fans of Cloudflare and deploy it as part of our speed optimization services.
Cloudflare has an amazing range of features and options and a lot of the features go unused or under leveraged. In this post we’ll share three Cloudflare that will both help improve the security or your WordPress site and at the same time also reduce the load on your site and help speed it up.
These are really easy to setup and if you’re moderately tech savvy will take you maybe 10-15 minutes. Click the images to enlarge.
How to add Cloudflare Firewall rules
Firewall rules can be added under the Firewall menu->Firewall Rules tab in Cloudflare. The free plan gives you up to 5 rules so these can be added at no cost.
Once you add a rule it takes effect almost immediately.
1. Block access to XMLRPC.php
This is an older WordPress API interface that is very rarely used but is a vector for many attacks.
Hammering this file with requests can very quickly chew up a lot of CPU cycles and on a shared host or host with low CPU or resources available it may start throwing 502 and 504 errors.
2. Block SEO Bots & Crawlers
With this rule we block traffic from Ahrefs, Semrush and Opensite explorer (SEO Moz bot) SEO bots.
These are extremely aggressive crawlers and particularly on Woocommerce they’ll rapidly add and remove things from the cart multiple times per second again chewing a lot of CPU resources.
In addition, allowing them to crawl the site will also divulge some SEO information that competitors using these SEO tools may find useful.
3. Show a captcha message on the WordPress logon page
The typical WordPress site we see can get anywhere from 1000-10000 brute force logon attempts a day.
Adding a rule to show a captcha message to visitors hitting this page OR visitors hitting this page outside the home country of the site can dramatically reduce brute force password attempts and reduce a lot of load on the hosting.
We get emails every day from website owners telling us their site is fast but slow on mobile. Nine time out of ten they’ve tested their site on Google PageSpeed Insights (PSI) and the mobile score is low.
Long story short, a low PageSpeed Score in mobile does not mean your site is slow on a mobile device. Pagespeed Insights is not real speed test – it’s a technical checklist test. There are some important things to understand and keep in mind when it comes to Mobile Pagespeed Score we’ve explained below.
If you’re working on your site speed make sure you give our speed test tool a try at https://app.wpspeedfix.com – we’ve built it specifically to address important optimization opportunities such as DNS hosting speed, HTTP2 protocol, HTTP2 push support and hosting provider quality that other site speed tests completely ignore.
1. They’re testing your site on a speed limited, CPU limited connection
Mobile PageSpeed simulates at 1.6mb/second connection – that is REALLY slow in modern internet speed terms. A moderately sized page of say 1.5-2mb is going to score low on this test simply because of the amount of time that data takes to download.
They of course don’t tell you this anywhere on the report itself, it’s hidden deep in the technical documents.
This video walks you through how to emulate a mid tier mobile device in Google Chrome to give you a better feel for how PSI is seeing your site:
2. Pagespeed Insights Isn’t a Speed Test, It’s a Technical Checklist
Pagespeed Insights is more concerned with measuring your site against a technical checklist that correlates with speed rather that the raw speed of the site itself.
The latest version of Pagespeed Insights does take into account some speed elements but it’s still largely concerned with checking boxes.
3. Geography & Location Is Ignored
PSI completely ignores geography and doesn’t take into account where your visitors are located and where your hosting is. This means it’s speed test is not necessarily true to real world. If your hosting is in Australia and your customers are in Australia but the speed test elements of PSI are performed from the US then it’s not a true to life test.
4. Website Speed Is Not Just Your Homepage
This is something 99.9% of webmasters running speed tests completely miss – website speed is not just your homepage. Every page on your site is important when it comes to speed and testing the homepage is useful but is a bit of a 1 dimensional approach, you should probably be looking at all pages.
5. High PageSpeed Score Will Likely Not Improve Your SEO
There’s a misconception that a high PageSpeed Score means that the Google Gods will gift magical SEO rankings. This is not the case – for starters, see the previous point.
We’ve seen SEO consultants and webmasters spend days obsessing over Pagespeed score in the hope it will boost SEO. Your time would be better spend on other SEO tasks like optimizing your meta descriptions for CTR or optimizing your open graph tags to boost social CTR.
6. The Score Varies Wildly From Test to Test
Run multiple tests and you’ll see the score varies wildly often by 20-30 points. That’s partly a function of geography but these inconsistencies make it difficult to trust the tool.
Before we started, a few important points to note about Bluehost:
Let’s be honest – they’re not a great quality web host (just like the other hosts owned by the EIG company that Bluehost is part of). They’re actually a low to mid-range host. EIG, their parent company, is actually quite known for its cheap but poor quality, slow hosting.
Now, yes you can get a Bluehost site running at fairly good speed by following the steps below if your website is relatively simple and doesn’t get that much traffic. If however, you’re trying to get your site running as fast as possible then Bluehost is not the provider that will make that happen, you really need to be on a better quality host.
The good news is that moving to a WP host with a better quality won’t actually cost you much more than what you’re already paying (Siteground, for example, starts from $4.95/month, while a dedicated Cloudways server starts from $10/month), both are lightning fast and will make an immediate difference to your overall load times.
What’s a Typical Bluehost Reaction When You Complain About Slow Site Speed?
One other thing before we begin with the steps on how to fix slow Bluehost: we want you to know that there’s a pretty standard process that Bluehost is going to run you through once you log a ticket asking for help or complaining about your site’s speed.
Most of the time they’ll tell you that your site is experiencing too much traffic, is too busy or needs a bigger server. This will also most likely bring you to an offer for a higher plan or a dedicated server.
And while, yes, it may be at least partially true that the site is lacking resources, most cheap hosts such as this one should, nevertheless, be able to handle between a minimum of 1000-2000 visits a day without much effort. And when it comes to getting a higher plan, being on Bluehost will still remain a big problem.
This is because the business model they rely on is built around scale – stacking up as many sites on a server as they can, and consequently running the servers to their limit. This just means that their goal is not really to be the fastest host there is, and getting a higher plan doesn’t actually mean that much – look at it as a “premium” product in a thrift shop.
1. Testing Your Site’s Speed
This is probably the number one thing you need to do before we get started with the actual steps – doing some speed testing on your website will give us a proper benchmark to use as a starting point for the improvements we’re trying to make, as well as to make sure we’re going in the right direction.
Our speed test tool of our choice used to be Pingdom but it does have a lot of gaps so we built our own! If you head to apps.wpspeedfix.com you’ll be able to access our own speed test tool that will give detailed recommendations of where your site is slow and how you can speed it up.
Now, the perfect loading time of your site would ideally be under 1 second, in the country where your site is being hosted. This mark is the tipping point for that instant feel that you want the website loading to produce.
Whether you not you can achieve this really depends on how the site is built as well as the host itself. On a good quality host, we can easily get the site’s core loading in 600-800ms – if, however, you happen to have lots of third party tools installed, like Facebook Ad Pixel, Activecampaign or some other CRM tracking software, Hotjar or Visual Web Optimizer, getting under that 1 second mark will be a lot harder.
Generally, 1.5 seconds is considered as fairly achievable and we do consider this an acceptable speed.
Remember to always do at least a couple of speed tests so you can get an average, and also save them as screenshots so you can refer to them later.
2. Caching is a Must!
You won’t be able to get much from WordPress without caching.
Caching prebuilds each page on your website, making it ready for the next visitor that hits your site. Without caching, with each new visitor the server is going to have to execute PHP code, then do MySQL database lookups, and execute some more PHP code, as well as generate an HTML file to send to the visitor.
But if you have a good caching plugin, that HTML file is already prebuilt and ready to be sent to the visitor.
On the subject of plugins, there are only one or two options for caching:
WP Rocket – this is a good plugin for the less tech-savvy WordPress users or the ones that are more DIY oriented. It’s an easy to use plugin and it will definitely give you a superb performance boost. And even though it’s a paid plugin, it’s really cheap, and the easiest one to use that’s currently on the market. So if you don’t have caching now and are experiencing 5+ second website loading times, getting this plugin will immediately cut back on your loading time by at least a couple of seconds.
W3 Total Cache – this one is a free plugin and the fastest one out there. But, it’s definitely more technical and not as easy to configure, so and not ideal for DIY-ers. If you, however, opt for this one, use only the Browser and Page Caching – the database and object caching are not for use on Bluehost.
Hosts like Siteground, Cloudways, and WPEngine have their own caching built-in – and that’s part of the reason why they’re such fast hosts.
IMPORTANT: Make sure never to install two caching plugins at the same time, because they’ll conflict. If your tech skills and WordPress experience are simply not there yet, opt for the WP Rocket plugin.
3. Use Cloudflare and/or a CDN
Cloudflare.com is a CDN, aka a content delivery network, and it’s something that will instantly speed up your website, especially when it comes to international visitors.
Cloudflare has a network of more than 150 worldwide locations, making it one of the biggest and fastest CDNs.
Having a CDN in place will allow the visitors that are not from your hosting country (like a visitor from Australia, for example, visiting a site hosted in the US) to have a faster loading experience, because a large number of the files are actually loading from the Australian local Cloudflare servers, rather than the ones in the US.
In most cases the free Cloudflare plan will be enough; but, the $20/month plan allows more advanced image optimization and firewalling. However, if you’re considering this option, we recommend that you move to a better hosting provider first!
If you’re looking for a CDN solution that’s more comprehensive, you can check out KeyCDN, it’s worth a look.
4. Do Image Compression
Most of your website images can be compressed enough so that they don’t lose quality. A lot of the time they end up 20-50% smaller and this definitely makes a big difference when it comes to loading speed, especially for slow connections.
One plugin that you can use for this is Shortpixel – they’ve got some advanced image optimization features that most plugins out there don’t have.
They also have a FREE plan available, and a tool that will analyze your website and tell you how many images you can compress, as well as how much space you’ll save in the process.
5. Switch to HTTPS for HTTP2 Protocol support
Since the entire web is moving to HTTPS type encryption (also, Google has publicly stated that encrypted sites will rank higher than HTTP non-encrypted ones), it would be a good idea to switch your site to HTTPS (encrypted mode).
HTTPS also enables the web browser software to use faster and newer protocol (this is the HTTP2 protocol), in order to download assets from your website.
You can check out the short video below comparing HTTP 1.1 to HTTP v2:
The server that you’re on at Bluehost will need to support the newer protocol (and older plans sometimes can’t). But, if you enable Cloudflare, it will, in turn, enable this kind of support, because it’s HTTP2 compatible.
6. Use PHP7 Instead of PHP 5.6 or Older (and Notice a 30%+ Increase in Speed!)
PHP is the underlying programming language of WordPress and it comes in several versions. Usually, you’ll see version 5.6 (or lower) and versions 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2
Version 7.0 is around 30% faster than v5.6, and most sites that were built in the last 2 years will easily support it.
Version 7.1 and 7.2 will be another 10%+ faster, on top of the 7.0 version; so, if your site is compatible with the newest v7.2, we recommend that you most certainly switch to that one.
NOTE: Before making the actual switch, make sure you do a compatibility test. A free plugin by WPEngine (works on all web hosts) will test all your plugins and also your theme to confirm whether your site is compatible with PHP 7 or 7.1/7.2.
The video you see below is a good guide through on where to find the PHP settings in Bluehost:
This is a pretty straightforward one. A lot of sites contain plugins that they don’t use anymore, and this actually contributes to the slow loading times of the site. That’s why it’s so important to run as few plugins as possible.
Just go through each of the installed plugins and disable each one of them you’re not using.
8. More Advanced Troubleshooting
This audio will talk you through some of the finer points of the article you’re reading in more detail – click play to listen:
A couple of more advanced troubleshooting ideas to consider:
Make sure you update all plugins to the latest version – we often see sites running plugins several years old and no longer compatible with the WordPress version that the site is running. By updating all plugins to the latest version often fixes bugs that are making the site go slower.
Query Monitor plugin –https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ – a plugin that will allow you a glance into each page load and tell you what’s going on. It’ll often help with uncovering broken plugins or code which can be responsible for slowing down your site.
Before we begin with this step-to-step guide on how to fix slow Godaddy, we’d like to say a few words about this host provider.
Godaddy is pretty much everywhere and a very popular choice for website novices BUT Godaddy is actually not that good of a web hosting provider in terms of quality. When it comes to its position on the market, you could say it’s somewhere between a low and a mid-range quality provider.
This being said, it’s still possible to get a Godaddy website running relatively fast using the steps below so long as you don’t have huge traffic or processing requirements.
If your goal is to get the site running as fast as humanly possible you probably want to look at a different provider.
Often a better quality web host will cost you just a little bit more than what you’re already paying with Godaddy (hosting providers such as Sitegroundstart from $4.95/month, and ones as devoted as Cloudwaysstart from $10/month) – and you get to see an immediate difference. You’ll see how your website’s loading speed improves in a flash.
We already have a separate article on the fastest WordPress hosting services – you can check it out here; it also has a complete list of the highest performing WordPress hosts.
(BONUS: most of the hosts on the list will also allow you to move to their hosting service for FREE)
What to Expect When You Complain about Speed to Godaddy
A few more things you should know before we begin with the actual steps on how to fix slow
When you reach Godaddy customer support and complain about slow website speed, you can expect they’ll tell you how the problem lies in your website traffic and that it requires more resources. Next thing you know, you’re told to sign up for a higher plan or a dedicated server.
The thing with Godaddy and similar web hosts is that they have a business model that relies on scale – their value proposition is based on low-price versus high performance. What this means is that they cram too many sites (as many as they can, in fact) on a server and then run the servers to a breaking point (this goes even for the ones on the higher tiers). Being one of the fastest hosts is definitely not their top priority. And that’s why upgrading to a higher (and more expensive) plan is also problematic; because you’re still on a host that doesn’t prioritize speed or performance – it’s like the premium option at the 2 dollar store, it’s premium but it’s still the 2 dollar store!
1. Start by Speed Testing Your Site
It’s very important that you start by doing a speed test so you can determine the reference point by which you’ll guide yourself through to your site improvements. For this, we used to recommend tools.pingdom.com but we’ve recently built our own speed test tool that will provide much more detailed and specific recommendations – take a look at app.wpspeedfix.com
Now, when it comes to loading speed, ideally you should aim for under 1 second in the country that’s hosting your site – under 1 second is this magical cutoff where the site load begins to feel instant.
But, this depends on several factors – one of them is what you have running on your site and the quality of the hosting provider, as well as what number of third-party tools you’ve installed.
With higher quality, faster host, we could easily get the site’s core to load in 600-800ms. If, however, you’ve installed, the Facebook Ad Pixel, Hubspot, Activecampaign or other kinds of CRM tracking software like Visual Web Optimizer, Luckyorange or Hotjar, it’s going to get much tougher to make the site load in under 1 second.
A realistic speed is somewhere around 1.5 seconds – most sites with a good quality hosting, even ones that have tons of tracking code and marketing, should be able to reach that mark in the country that’s hosting them.
Our recommendation is that you do several speed tests on your site – this way you can get an average time because very often speed varies from test to test. Don’t forget to save screenshots for future reference.
2. Caching is a MUST DO!
Without caching you won’t get much out of WordPress.
Caching prebuilds each page on your website, making it ready for a new visitor hit. Without it, each time a visitor hits the site, the server will have to be bothered to execute PHP code, do MySQL database lookups, and then execute some more PHP code, so in the end it can generate an HTML file and send it to the visitor of the site.
If, however, you get a good caching plugin, the HTML file will be already prebuilt and ready to be sent to the visitor, which means it will also save you lots of loading time.
Basically, there are either one or two options when considering caching:
WP Rocket – a caching plugin that’s more suitable for the DIY types, or people that aren’t that knowledgable about technical requirements. One of the easiest caching plugins, it will give your website a great performance boost – and, it’s super cheap! Just try it yourself and see the immediate difference – by installing it, you’ll notice a drop in loading time of at least a couple of seconds.
W3 Total Cache – this one is a free plugin, which is also the fastest one there is. But, unlike WP Rocket, it’s more on the technical side and rather demanding when it comes to configuration. (NOTE: If you choose this one, use only the Page and Browser Caching. The object and database caching are not for use on Godaddy.)
Some of the better quality hosts, like WPEngine, Siteground, and Cloudwayshave their own caching plugin or have one that’s built-in. This also makes up one of the reasons why they’re considered such good and fast hosting providers. These companies have strong engineering teams that are able to build out caching features that smoke their plugin equivalents.
NOTE: Never try to install two caching plugins, they will certainly conflict. For those who don’t have much WordPress experience or more developed technical skills, we recommend you get the WP Rocket plugin.
3. Use CDN and/or Cloudflare
Cloudflare.com is such a content delivery network (CDN) and will help your website become faster, particularly for visitors outside its hosting zone. Cloudflare’s network spreads over more than 150 locations throughout the world, making it one of the fastest and biggest CDN’s out there.
The CDN will allow site visitors from another country (like, for example, an Australian visitor hitting up a site hosted in the US) to experience a faster loading time because a lot of the files are being loaded from local Australian servers, rather than ones located in the US.
We recommend getting the free Cloudflare plan for most users. But, if you’d like more advanced image optimization, as well as firewalling, you can also get the 20$/month plan. Just remember, if you get this plan, also consider moving to a better hosting provider.
For a more comprehensive CDN option, check out KeyCDN.
4. Utilize Image Compression
Compressing the images on your website is also very helpful when it comes to improving website loading time. You’ll find that most of the images can be compressed without losing any of its quality. Often, they get 20-50% smaller, which has proved to make a great difference when it comes to loading speed, particularly for slower connections.
Shortpixelis a plugin we’d recommend for this – it has features for advanced image optimization that a lot of other plugins out there don’t. Plus, they have a FREE plan, and also a tool (which you can find on their website) that will analyze your site and let you know how many of your images are compressible, and also how much space you’ll manage to save in the process.
5. Switch to HTTPS for HTTP2 Protocol support
Another great trick you can use is switching your website to encrypted mode, aka HTTPS. The whole web is actually moving to HTTPS encryption, and Google has even publicly stated that encrypted sites will rank higher than ones that are not HTTP encrypted.
HTTPS also enables the web browser software to utilize newer and faster protocol (HTTP2 protocol), in order to download files from your hosting much faster.
Remember that the Godaddy server your website is being hosted on will have to support newer protocol (and often older plans aren’t able to do this). But, if you enable Cloudflare, it will also enable the support for newer protocol, because Cloudflare has a built-in http2 functionality.
For speed comparison between HTTP 1.1 and HTTP v2, you can check out the short video below.
6. Use PHP7 and You’ll See a 30% Speed Increase!
PHP is the programming language WordPress runs on, and it comes in several versions. Most likely you’ll see version 5.6 (or a lower one), and also versions 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2.
PHP 7.0 is about 30% faster than v5.6, so if your site is rather new, it shouldn’t be a problem for you to make the switch.
Version 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 are all cumulatively faster and will cause a 10-15% speed increase over version 7.0; ideally, you should opt for running the highest version your site is able to support.
NOTE: Before you make the switch, do a compatibility test. WPEngine provides a free plugin for this and it works on all web hosts. It will test your theme, as well as all your plugins so it can confirm that your site is compatible with PHP 7 or 7.1/7.2/7.3
The video below demonstrates how to change the PHP version in Godaddy:
7. Disable the Plugins You’re Not Using
A lot of sites (actually, most of them) contain lots of plugins that they don’t use anymore. The problem with this is that once the plugins are enabled, they make the site go slower. This is why you should make sure you run the plugins you really need, leaving as few as possible.
Go through the plugins you’ve got installed and check if each of them is still in use – the ones that aren’t, well, don’t think twice to disable them.
8. Advanced Troubleshooting
In the end, we’d like to share a few more advanced troubleshooting ideas:
Update plugins to latest version – we often see sites that run years-old plugins, which aren’t compatible anymore with the version of WordPress that the site is running. By updating you’ll also most likely fix bugs that are slowing down the site.
Query Monitor plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ – a plugin which will give you a glance into each page load and tell you what’s going on. Perfect for uncovering broken code or plugins that are making the site slower.
Before we kick it off with our step-to-step guide on how to fix slow Hostgator websites, we’d like to say a few words about this hosting provider. And we’re gonna be honest here – Hostgator is actually not that great of a hosting provider. Sure, they’re cheap but they’re a low tier hosting provider when it comes to speed, uptime and reliability.
This being said, you certainly can get a Hostgator site to run fast provided your website is simple and you follow the steps outlined below; but, if your goal is to make your site run as fast as it can, that’s not going to be possible with Hostgator, ideally if this is your goal you should look at a better hosting provider. A higher quality faster host won’t cost you much more than a cheap host like Hostgator – take Siteground for example, which starts from $4.95/month or a dedicated Cloudways server which starts from $10/month.
Typical Hostgator Response When Complaining About Slow Site Speed
Another thing that’s important to mention before we begin with our guide is what to expect when you call Hostgator customer support and complain about slow loading times.
Most likely they will try upselling you to a dedicated server, after being told that your site needs more server resources. Although this is in part, true, the problem here is that you’re still on Hostgator – their business model is built around being cheap not fast. Their fast option is still slow in comparison to a quality host. They’ve got a business model which requires them to stack up as many sites as possible on a single server and then running that server to its limits.
1. Speed Test Your Site – How to Do It and What is Considered Fast
Speed testing your site is a very important first step when it comes to improving its speed because it allows you to set a benchmark against which you can measure the changes and improvements you want to make to it.
You can access our own speed test tool here: apps.wpspeedfix.com. It will give you detailed information on where specifically your site is going slow and will also provide detailed, plain English recommendations on how you can improve it.
Ideally, we’re looking for a load time of under 1 second in the country your site is being hosted. This is a tipping point through which you begin to feel the page load as instant.
Speed can vary though, depending on what you’ve got running on the site it may not be possible. On a fast host, yes, we can get the site core to load in 600-800ms, but if you’ve got a large number of marketing tools installed, for example Facebook Ad Pixel, Activecampaign or some other CRM tracking software, Hotjar or Visual Web Optimizer, coming under the 1 second mark becomes increasingly harder.
Broadly speaking most sites even with a bunch of marketing tools installed, 1.5 seconds is achievable mark and is a very acceptable as speed as well.
When testing speed it’s worth doing several speed tests to get an average as results can vary from test to test.
2. Use Caching
Without caching WordPress won’t run super fast.
Caching prebuilds each page on your website in advance before the visitor arrives. Without caching, with each new visitor, the server has to execute PHP code, do database lookups, then execute some more PHP code which then generates an HTML file to send to the visitor.
But with a good caching plugin, the HTML file is already prebuilt and ready for sending to the visitor.
When it comes to plugins and caching, there are a ton of options but really two we recommend:
WP Rocket – good plugin if you’re not super tech savvy and DIYing. This easy to use plugin is really cheap and easy to configure and is pretty much the most popular caching plugin on the market.
W3 Total Cache – a free plugin and super fast BUT it’s very technical and not as easy to configure. If you decide for this plugin, use only the Browser and Page Caching – the database and object caching are not for use on Hostgator.
Hosts like Siteground, Cloudways, and WPEngine caching built-in or their own plugins – which also makes part of the reason why they’re such good and fast hosts.
IMPORTANT: Never install two caching plugins at the same time – they’ll conflict with each other. If your not as tech-savvy and don’t have as much WordPress experience, the best solution is to get the WP Rocket plugin.
3. Use Cloudflare and/or a CDN
Cloudflare.com is a CDN, a content delivery network, and it’s something that will immediately speed up your website, especially for international visitors.
Cloudflare has a network of more than 150 locations throughout the world, making it one of the biggest and fastest CDNs out there.
With a CDN in place, the visitors outside the country where the site is hosted (like someone from Australia visiting a site hosted in the US) will have a faster loading experience because a large portion of the files are actually being loaded from the Australian local Cloudflare servers versus the server located in the US.
Cloudflare has a free plan and in most cases, it will be enough. Their $20/month plan will give you more advanced image optimization and firewalling. If you’re considering this option, however, we recommend that you move to a better hosting provider first!
For a more comprehensive CDN solution can check out KeyCDN.
4. Compress the Website Images
Usually most website images can be compressed without any reduction in file quality. Often, they will end up 20-50% smaller and this is something that makes a huge difference to the site’s loading speed, especially for users on slow connections.
The plugin that we use for this is Shortpixel as it’s fast, lightweight and also does advanced Nextgen image optimization which many other plugins won’t
And, they also got a FREE plan available, as well as a tool that will analyze your website and tell you how many on the images there you can compress, as well as how much space you’ll save in the process.
5. Switch to HTTPS for HTTP2 Protocol support
The entire web is moving to HTTPS type encryption (Google has openly stated that site’s which are encrypted will rank higher than non-encrypted ones), which means its to switch your site to HTTPS (encrypted mode) if it’s not already.
HTTPS also enables the web browser software to use faster and newer protocol (the HTTP2 protocol) so it can download assets from your website much faster.
Check out the short video below for a comparison between HTTP 1.1 and HTTP v2:
Note that the server that you’re being hosted on at Hostgator will need to support the newer protocol (older plans sometimes can’t). Enabling Cloudflare, however, will also enable this kind of support, since it’s HTTP2 compatible.
6. Use PHP7 Instead of PHP 5.6 or Older (and You’ll See a 30%+ Speed Increase!)
PHP is the programming language that powers WordPress and it comes in several versions. Usually, you’ll see version 5.6 (or lower) and versions 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 and 7.3
Version 7.0 is around 30% faster than v5.6, and most sites that were built in the last 2 years will support it without any issues.
Version 7.1 and 7.2 and 7.3 will be another 10%+ faster, on top of the 7.0 version; so, if your site is compatible with the newest v7.3, we definitely recommend that you switch to that one.
NOTE: Before making the switch though, make sure you also do a compatibility test. A free plugin by WPEngine (works on all web hosts) will test all your plugins and your theme to confirm whether your site is compatible with PHP 7 or 7.1/7.2/7.3
The video below can guide you through finding the PHP settings in Hostgator:
7. Disable Any Unnecessary Plugins
Lots of sites have plugins installed that are no longer being used which also contribute to the site’s slow loading times. From a performance perspective, you want as few plugins as possible.
Make sure you go through the plugins you’ve got installed and disable/delete any not actively being used.
8. More Advanced Troubleshooting
A couple of more advanced troubleshooting ideas you can go through:
Update all plugins to the latest version – often sites run plugins which are several years old and thus no longer compatible with the WordPress version that the site itself is running. Updating all plugins to the latest version will fix bugs that are slowing down the site.
Query Monitor plugin –https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ – a plugin that will allow you to take a look into each page load and inform you of what’s going on. It’ll often help to uncover broken plugins or code which can also be responsible for slow loading times of your site.
When it comes to loading speed, we ideally want to be under the 1-second mark, a reference point at which the site load starts to feel instant. Loading times over 5 seconds will hurt both your rankings on Google and your sales, so we have to make sure your site always runs under at least 5 seconds.
Generally speaking, most sites can load at around 1.5 seconds without too much trouble and will still feel fast enough to the visitor.
2. Use Good Quality Hosting
Speed issues with WooCommerce often are because you’re using a lower quality hosting provider. Your hosting provider is the foundation of everything you do online.
Web host quality is directly connected to the overall effectiveness of your website’s SEO and search engine rankings, Google and Facebook advertisements and also your conversion rate.
WooCommerce sites are different from regular WordPress because the backend speed is also important.
Woo sites are not just a website, they’re also a key line of business application, which means that it’s very likely you and your employees are going to spend a significant amount of time in there, managing orders and customers. The backend is also as important as frontend speed, and on a cheap host, where the available CPU power is of limited capacity, it’s just not going to perform very well.
Good vs. Bad Quality Hosting
A key point of difference between a good and bad quality host is in the CPU allowance to an individual hosting account on the server and also the general configuration of that server.
A good hosting provider will give you lots of processing capacity for your site and will be able to maintain your website’s speed even in situations when there’s an influx of orders and site traffic.
A high-quality host will also make use of advanced caching applications such as Memcached which will allow the site to use Object and Database caching which considerably speeds up the backend and heavy front-end operations like users submitting carts and checkouts.
Bad quality hosts can have thousands of websites stacked on the same server, thus limiting their resources and each one gets only a small piece of the CPU power; this also means that they can only handle a small number of site visitors at once.
There’s not that much difference in price between a “cheap” host and a high-quality host.
For example, a dedicated Cloudways server starts at $10/month and will run considerably faster than a lot of other shared hosting services out there.
Here’s a list of hosts we use ourselves and recommend to clients:
GOOD WooCommerce Hosts
WPX Hosting – great balance of speed and price; also has data centers in the US and UK
Cloudways – a relatively new provider that offers dedicated VPS servers on a speed optimized server stack; this translates into lightning fast speeds (for more detail, see our Fastest WordPress Hosting article)
**If you sign up to Cloudways, you can use the coupon code FASTHOSTING and get $25 off your first invoice
WPEngine – this provider is one of the more expensive ones BUT they include a lot of additinoal features such as staging areas, backups and malware protection.
Siteground – a fast cPanel host and probably the minimum standard you need – it’s cheap, acceptable when it comes to speed and overall a much better option than Hostgator, Bluehost, Godaddy and other cheap cPanel hosts.
BAD WooCommerce Hosts
As we mentioned earlier, these are the hosts that cram thousands of sites on one server, making none of them load fast.
If you happen to Google “cheapest WordPress hosts,”, the names of Bluehost, Godaddy, Hostgator will immediately show up.
The following list is one of web host we personally have experience with we can confirm that they have a negative impact on the speed of a WooCommerce site.
Any other subsidiary of EIG Hosting
Another good reason for investing in a high-quality web host is uptime – you’ll see far less outages with a quality host versus a cheap host.
The hosts we’ve listed above will likely have several short outages every day. Good quality web hosts will make sure the service maintenance times and site outages are done at a time when your site traffic is at a minimum.
We wouldn’t recommend using a standalone VPS host unless you are a server specialist. VPS hosts grant more server power (if you know how to utilize it), but the configuration of your host server is far more important, which is why we recommend Cloudways – they take care of that for us.
3. Use a Caching Plugin
Besides a good quality web host, caching is another key element in speeding up and fixing your WooCommerce site.
A “cache” prebuilds your website’s pages and gets them ready to go when the next visitor makes a request. Without this caching plugin, your site’s pages will have to be compiled from scratch for every visitor who arrives at the site.
Caching plugins significantly speed up your site as all the processing done to generate a page is done in advance and one time per page versus every page load.
These are the plugins we use and recommend:
W3 Total Cache – W3TC is free and one of the fastest caching plugins on the market BUT can be quite complex so not ideal for the DIYer.
WP Rocket – this is an easy to use plugin, perfect for the DIYER but is a paid plugin (although still dirt cheap).
Important Note on Caching Plugins
When doing the setup of the caching plugins for Woocommerce, be mindful to exclude the /myaccount, /cart, /checkout and /wishlist pages and all their child pages from caching. If you don’t do this, you’ll also end up breaking the functionality of your checkout; also shopping carts will start jumping between users.
Note that the caching plugins don’t usually show the cached version of pages when you’re logged into the site’s backend. So, make sure to always do a test in a different browser, one that’s logged out of the site when you’re tinkering with caching plugins.
If your site has become fast after installing a caching plugin, BUT the WordPress or Woocommerce backend or the Woocommerce checkout is still slow, this usually indicates an issue with your web host performance or it might also be a plugin conflict. The plugin Query Monitor can help uncover plugin conflicts.
If your host supports Memcached, configuring W3 Total Cache to use Memcached for database and object caching will significantly speed up the Woocommerce and WordPress backend.
DO NOT use disk caching for database and object caching because it will actually slow things down – database and object caching must use a memory based cache.
4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A CDN will make a significant improvement in the loading times of your website, regardless of where the visitors come from.
A CDN or content delivery network is a network of servers around the world that serve up part of your website. This speeds up the site for international visitors and visitors geographically further away and also removes some of the load off your web host.
The one we use and recommend is Cloudflare. They have more than 150 server locations around the world, and have a free plan that works well for most sites out there. They also offer security features that can eliminate some of the risky traffic that may be hitting your site, as well as contact form spammers reaching your site.
5. Image Compression and Optimization
The size of your site (or the amount of data the users will need to download once they hit the site) can be reduced with image compression. In some cases, compressing your site images can show a dramatic increase in speed cutting several seconds of load times as the amount of data to download is significantly reduced.
Compressing the images won’t have an impact on their quality (as long as you use lossless compression) but will reduce their file size.
Most image compression plugins are more or less equal in performance, with about 3-5% difference in the performance of each.
Our plugin of choice is ShortPixel and here are three reasons why we love using it:
Speed – Woocommerce sites have a ton of images so bulk compressing images can take time. Shortpixel make it easy to compress images in bulk.
PNG to JPG conversion – many sites use images in PNG format where JPG would be smaller. Shortpixel can automatically convert PNG without transparency into JPG files thus reducing page sizes further.
WEBP file format support – Webp images are usually 2-5x smaller than their PNG or JPG counterparts at the same image quality. Some browsers don’t support .webp so you can’t just change all images at your site in bulk. There are two ways to use .webp image files safely: the first one would be to use a cloud-based service that charges you every month. These services can detect whether the browser that’s accessing the site is able to support webp files and if it does, than it can serve them up instead of JPG or PNG. The second way is to use the HTML <picture> markup or tags. This tag informs the browser that there’s an alternative webp image file that’s available for use and if the browser supports webp, it will use those images instead.
Although ShortPixelis not free, it is pretty cheap and you can have a free trial – just click this linkand you’ll be able to get free optimization for 100 images.
The screenshots below will give you a detailed view of the settings that we use on ShortPixelto get maximum performance.
We’d like to compress thumbnails (since they’re most likely in use), to use backup for the original images just in case, and also keep the EXIF tags on them. The EXIF data or tags is important because it sometimes contains information that will give us a small amount of SEO boost.
*** Please remember to use LOSSLESS compression and NOT lossy compression.
Lossless = same quality for a smaller file size
Lossy = even smaller file size, but comes with a reduction of quality. It’s recommended that you don’t sacrifice image quality over a boost in speed, since it’s rather important in e-commerce and generating sales.
In this section, we’d like to enable the PNG to JPG feature, to create the WEBP file alternatives and to convert to RGB format, since these are much smaller than CMYK files.
Sometimes our theme files will contain uncompressed, which is why we generally add that into the Additional Media Folders field.
Once you’re done with the bulk optimization, you can enable the WEBP <picture> tag markup.
By making your site run in HTTPS (encrypted) mode, you’ll make your web browser software to use the newer HTTP2 protocol (as long as your host supports it, that is). This protocol is considerably faster than the older HTTP 1.1 one. In the video below you can see the difference in speed between the two of them.
PHP is the programming language which WordPress and WooCommerce are built on. PHP version 7 is 2-3x as fast as the old PHP version 5.6. If your site is still running on 5.6, with the upgrade you’ll notice around a 30% speed boost to the frontend and backend functions of your site.
Note that not all sites are PHP7 compatible. You can use this free plugin from WPengine to test your site’s compatibility (and, it can be used regardless of the hosting provider).
You can do the PHP7 switch directly from your CPanel or management console.
Right now, PHP 7 comes in four versions: 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 and 7.3 – switch to the v7.3 if you can, as it’s the newest and fastest out there.
8. Disable Plugins You Don’t Use
Sites that have been running for several years often contain plugins that they don’t use anymore which can slow them down considerably.
It’s worth doing a review and audit of all the plugins in use on your site and disabling or deleting any that are no longer used or inactive.
9. More Advanced Troubleshooting
Here we’ve got a couple of more advanced troubleshooting ideas you can go through:
Update all plugins up to the latest version – something that we see pretty often, sites running plugins several years old and thus being incompatible with the newer versions of WordPress and WooCommerce the site is being run on. These updates can also fix bugs that might be slowing down the site.
Query Monitor plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ – a plugin that will let you have a look into each page load and tell you what’s going on. Often it will help in uncovering broken plugins or code that might be part of the reason behind slow loading times. A lot of the time we find Woocommerce plugins that are old and thus not fully compatible with the version of Woocommerce the site is running, logging errors into the event log which are adding delays into the page load but aren’t actually showing visible errors in the WordPress backend.