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Is Your WordPress Site Fast Enough? Here’s How to Tell

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A lot goes into building a good WordPress site. For starters, you need a good theme. Then, you need good content – content that you need to update regularly to keep your audience interested. Of course, none of this will matter if your site is so slow it won’t even load properly.

Site speed is a large determinant of a visitor’s positive on-site experience. A slow site fills the user with frustration rather than enjoyment. And when it does finally load, it’s unlikely he’ll care to engage with your content as a result. Never, ever leave your site visitors and/or potential customers waiting. Instead, learn how to determine if your site is slow and what you can do to speed it up. That’s what I’m going to help you with today, by outlining three key reasons why your WordPress site might be slow and giving you some helpful tools for measuring site speed.

1. Your Hosting is Mega Cheap

Managed WordPress Hosting

It’s not that I don’t like getting a bargain – who doesn’t? But there are certain cases in life where you get what you pay for. Like web hosting, for instance. That super-cheap plan might have been fine to get your site launched, but once you start seeing measurable traffic and have a good amount of content, slow load times can be a real conversion killer.

Don’t let potential customers or clients slip between your fingers just because your hosting is subpar. Now, I’m not saying you have to shell out an arm and a leg for good hosting, but I am saying you should consider self hosting or a VPS. Managed hosting is another option well worth checking out if you’re serious about boosting your WordPress site’s speed. There are several hosts out there that specialize in WordPress including:

  • WPEngine. They’ve been in the business of dedicated WordPress hosting for a while. And it shows; WPEngine has a long-standing track record of happy customers (including WPExplorer). Plans range from $29 to $249+ a month and include a CDN, daily backups, security and more.
  • Other hosts, such as SiteGround, Media Temple and BlueHost all offer managed WordPress hosting plans that will fit in various budgets, with prices from

2. Your Images Are Huge


Every good website features images to appeal to visitors. However, tossing any old image on your site without optimizing it first is a huge mistake. Image files can be massive and if you don’t pay attention, you could wind up uploading images that are a massive 2-3MB each.

Just one image of that size can significantly slow down a page’s load time. Imagine if most of your images were that big. It would make every page take far too long to load and no one’s going to stick around past your homepage. As you can imagine, this won’t do you any favors in gaining new fans or customers.

To optimize your images, you should first resize them. Just because the image is available at the highest resolution, doesn’t mean it needs to be displayed that way. This is the Internet; 72 dpi is fine. And make sure the dimensions are the same size as you want the image to appear. Once you’ve done this, you can compress the image further by using third-party tools. The following all work well:

  • TinyPNG. I really like the interface on this site. You simply drag and drop your images (up to 20 at a time) onto the designated spot and they’re uploaded and compressed lightning fast. You can then download the compressed images to your desktop, primed and ready for your site.
  • Smush. Developed by WPMU Dev, this plugin-based solution compresses images after they’ve been uploaded to WordPress. It works automatically and seamlessly, making it an optimal way to get your image sizes under control.
  • EWWW Image Optimizer. This is another plugin that makes compressing images on your WordPress site a snap. It works on the images you’ve already uploaded including those in galleries like NextGEN, GRAND FlaGallery and more.

I highly recommend checking out at least one of these tools to make image compression a more intuitive process. And if you’re serious about image optimization, checkout our image optimization guide for WordPress to give you more helpful tips and tricks.

3. You’re a Tad Plugin Happy

WordPress Plugins

Plugins are great for adding functionality to a WordPress site that isn’t included in Core. However, you can have too much of a good thing. Checkout our recent article to find out if you’re a plugin hoarder and what you can do to cleanup your site.

Every site is different, with a different set of needs, so there’s no standard rule of thumb for the best number of plugins to have. However, it’s a good idea to only use the plugins you absolutely need. Also, some plugins are more bloated than others (for example an e-commerce plugin is going to be huge compared to a simple social widget plugin), so you need to do your research before you install a plugin. This is your site we’re talking about here; it’s imperative you know what the effect will be on performance.

A plugin could offer the coolest feature in the world, but if it doesn’t load quickly or ruins the overall user experience, it’s not worth it. No gadget or gizmo is worth wrecking your site over.

4. Run a Site Speed Test

Google PageSpeed Insights

When all else fails, you should run a site speed test to see where the problem areas are. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell. Maybe you don’t have the best Internet connection or you’re hearing mixed results from your visitors. A site test will give you concrete evidence of performance and will tell you exactly where it needs improvement, so you can then make proactive changes.

  • Google PageSpeed. Who doesn’t love Google? For a quick snapshot of how your site loads on mobile and desktop browsers try Google PageSpeed Insights. Just type in your web address and Google will give you a speed score based on 10 criterion, plus a user experience score to boot.
  • GTMetrix. This is a quick way to see how your site is doing by assessing how individual pages perform in different situations. For instance, you can see how quickly it loads from a mobile device or what access speeds are like in other countries. You can test pretty much any variable here.

Lots of things can affect site speed, especially when you have a WordPress site. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to find out if you have lag and fix any speed issues. From selecting the right hosting provider and compressing your images to keeping tabs on which plugins you’ve installed, you can speed up your site fairly easily.

Have you ever encountered a problem with your site’s speed? What turned out to be the culprit? How did you fix it? I’d love to hear (and learn from) your personal stories in the comments below!

Article by Tom Ewer author
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  1. Mark Gavalda (@MarkGavalda)

    Synthetic site speed benchmarks can go only so far! Make sure to check out real page load times via Pingdom and more importantly!

  2. PhillipPhillip


    Great article – on the image optimization i would also recommend:

    • AJ Clarke

      Kraken is also great, but if you have a Mac I really recommend “ImageOptim” it’s awesome.

      • Phillip

        hey again,

        Yea but i find kraken, to optimize the image a lot more then imageoptim…

  3. Ryan

    Nice article, will surely try image optimization plugin on my blog. I use and prefer GTMetrix to get suggestions about website speed improvement.

  4. AJ (@WpFASTER)

    Hi Tom. Nice article and thanks for bringing attention to an issue that more web site owners and web masters ought to be aware of: WordPress speed/performance.

    A few notes/additions:
    1.) Reduction of HTTP requests is absolutely key and always will be until and unless an entirely different protocol comes down the pike, especially for sites that get a lot of mobile traffic. In short: Combine those .js and CSS files into one (or as few as possible).
    2.) Lazy load anything non-essential to the rendering of ‘above-the-fold’ content: e.g. YouTube videos, iFrames, widgets, comments, images, etc.
    3.) If possible, defer the parsing of JavaScript.
    4.) Inline “critical”, above-the-fold CSS and defer the rest.
    5.) Make use of a CDN (content delivery network).
    6.) Pay attention to advances in Internet development/future Internet architectures and stay ahead of the curve to beat the competition.

    As far as web site speed tests, it is our opinion that the only online tool that serious, objective webmasters ought to be using to garner objective, motive-free data is Even then, WebPageTest cannot account for or calculate perceived load time, page-to-page navigation time or accurate time-to-interactivity; all of which, in the end, must by derived via different means.

    Again, thanks for the article and keep up the good work.


  5. Bhumi

    Is database optimization affect the speed of site?

    • AJ Clarke

      Only if you have a MASSIVE database, otherwise probably you would never notice a difference in speed. But it’s still a good habit to do 😉

  6. Nobin1211

    Thank You So Much @Tom Ewer ! My Website Score was 49(mobile) 64(Desktop) But Now its gone to 72(Mobile) & 90(Desktop) on #gtmetrix Score is 91%. But Now There is an issue with “Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content” If you Don’t mind please can you write an article for how can i fix this. I think it will help to all beginner just like me. Thanks 🙂

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