5 Reasons Why Your WordPress Performance Is Slipping

By Elizabeth Clor

5 Reasons Why Your WordPress Performance Is Slipping
And what you can do to ensure a faster, more efficient user experience.

Nothing brings productivity to a halt, frustrations to a boil, and user experience to ruin more effectively than WordPress acting sluggish. The extra time it takes for images to upload or changes to be saved can mean potentially crippling lags in your site performance, something that’s a pressing concern when, according to a Google research study, 53% of mobile users will abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

Fortunately, most issues that plague WordPress performance and snarl your site traffic are easily identifiable and, more importantly, easily addressed. You just have to know where to look, and what to adjust. 

Here are five of the most common causes of WordPress slowdowns, and what you can do to alleviate the issues.

1. Is Your WordPress Hosting Strong (And Close) Enough?

Before you open your stalled car’s hood and start tinkering with the engine, you would check to see if there’s gas in the tank. Sometimes the cause of your problem is that basic. Similarly, auditing your WordPress configurations may not even be necessary if your hosting capabilities are woefully underpowered, or if your main server is stationed far away from where it’s needed most.

With web hosting, you get what you pay for—it’s probably not a surprise to learn that cheaper, “budget” hosting services are too underpowered to handle much more than a personal blog site. But the concept of a physical server location is perhaps not as top of mind. Not only can it affect your global reach—if your WordPress servers are located in North America, say, users in Japan may experience slower load times as data travels—but it will also affect your Google ranking. As WebSEO Analytics co-founder Vasilis Vryniotis explained in an August 2019 post, Google and other major search engines use the physical location of your server as a signal, and it can dramatically impact your results.

“At Web SEO Analytics, we know the importance of the server location from first hand, since our Datacenter and servers are located in Romania,” writes Vryniotis. “Even though our company has absolutely no other connection to Romania (other than the hosting), our websites achieve extremely high rankings for highly competitive keywords on Google Romania.” Google will also take load time into consideration, and will bury sites that are sluggish, making a full assessment of your speed paramount for maintaining or growing traffic and ensuring optimal audience reach and user experience.

2. Do You Have Too Many Plug-Ins?

If you’re confident in your host’s strength and you’ve kept your WordPress server close to where you most need it but are still seeing dealing with far too many endlessly spinning “load” icons, it’s time to dig into what else could be hampering your WordPress site.

Although WordPress is designed to work and play well with a variety of third-party plug-ins, overloading your management system on the backend could severely impact your speed and efficiency. WordPress makes managing plug-ins simple, but it requires understanding which ones are extraneous and which ones are strategic. Maybe your site really doesn’t encourage (or even allow) commenting—in that case, you don’t need to be running that Akismet plug-in. 

Perhaps you don’t need the redundant efforts of both Yoast and Google XML Sitemaps working to optimize your site visibility. 

Streamlining your WordPress with fewer but more focused tools will improve your overall site performance—something a managed service partner can help manage.

3. Are You Not Caching Pages?

Similar to the slowdown that happens when you have excess plug-ins running, if your site routinely has to pull content from a third party site—via a link out, for example—your browser has to do a number of calculations and lots of info gathering (downloading latest updates, widgets, headers, etc.). This happens every time you attempt to access those sites, and that puts a heavy time and energy drain on your WordPress. Caching frequently visited sites helps make those redundant calculations unnecessary.

This brings us back to plug-ins. Yes, too many extraneous plug-ins can slow you down, but there are some designed to speed you up. Caching programs like WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache not only store frequent site information, but also allow you to manually delete old, unneeded data and set expiration dates on certain data types for when they become obsolete. To put it in basic terms, giving your WordPress less to process every time you make a request speeds up response and delivery time.

4. Are Your Images Optimized?

Sites thrive on attractive, hi-res images, especially now that everyone has a 12-megapixel camera with 10x digital zoom in their back pocket. But you’ll want to be careful about loading big, heavy images into WordPress without optimizing first. Those dense files often require long load times and can further hamstring your WordPress performance speed. 

That’s right, first. There are ways to prepare your images before they are even uploaded into WordPress that guarantee quality without extra anchor weight. Using Photoshop, you can resize, compress, strip away unneeded exchangeable image file (EXIF) data, save your image in the correct format (JPEG or PNG, the latter of which can be compressed without loss of quality), and write a descriptive file name. These five changes optimize your image for uploading, which gives you a better chance at maintaining the speed of your site.

5. Are You Running External Scripts?

When considering whether or not to run external scripts such as social widgets, consider that this requires WordPress to pull in additional, external data from completely separate sites in addition to uploading and integrating the updates to your primary site. It’s a lot of extra work, and this means extra load times and slower overall performance.

As with plug-ins and third party sites, you need to be judicious in your use of external scripts. Consider not only the importance of that external data to your core user experience, but also the “heaviness” of the content. if you have multiple third-party external services running—advertising networks like Google Adsense or Amazon Associates, analytics tools like Hotjar, or A/B testing tools like Optimizely—you should routinely test your load speed times in order to identify consistent drains.

There is a temptation to try and utilize all that WordPress has to offer at once, but careful strategizing and consistent attention will reward you with faster response times, more efficient workflow, and a much more effective and successful site. 

Click here to learn more about Contegix WordPress services.