Q+A: Why is my site load time slow?

One of the questions we’re asked most often is: “Why is my blog site load time so slow?” After all, the longer it takes to load your site, the more likely a new reader will lose patience and click away, without reading anything. Plus, search engines love to recommend sites that load quickly — a site that loads too slow can definitely be penalized in search engine results. So today we’re sharing a few issues that can contribute to a slow-loading site. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Too many plugins

We’ve said it before: there really isn’t a magic number for plugins on your website. What’s key to know about plugins is that any code you add to your site can impact site performance in some way. In many cases, the impact is hardly noticeable, if at all. And in some cases, the slight hit in load time is worth the benefit added. For example, an affiliate widget may take a little longer to load, since it has to pull resources from another server. But this additional load time usually isn’t too noticeable for your readers, and it not only provides an easier shopping experience for them, but also increases your revenue. Definitely worth a little extra load time!

The problem we see most often is slow sites will have a ton of plugins installed, many of which perform the same task or aren’t even in use. And we totally get it — you want to find just the right plugin for your needs, so you install several that perform the same task to test out which one works best for you. Then you move on to the next task on your to-do list — and leave the unused plugins on your site. It happens to everyone!

However, those unused plugins are still taking up precious server space — server space that could otherwise be used to load necessary site assets. Furthermore, installing multiple plugins that perform the same task can open your site up to compatibility issues in the future, as the plugins could make conflicting updates. For these reasons, we always recommend staying on top of your plugins list, and delete — not just deactivate — plugins that aren’t contributing to your site.

Too many themes

Similarly, we’ve seen bloggers with a huge number of themes installed. Same story — you probably tested out a number of themes and forgot to delete the extras. Like unused plugins, unused themes are still taking up precious server space. The only theme that needs to be installed on your site is the one currently in use. If you’re using a child theme, you’ll need to keep the parent theme installed as well — and that’s totally fine. If you prefer, you can also leave one of the default WordPress themes installed for troubleshooting purposes, as it can help you determine if an issue is coming from your theme. Anything that you aren’t using, and don’t see yourself using in the near future, should be deleted.

Not optimizing images

Images are one of the biggest culprits slowing down your site. Naturally, they’re pretty essential for most bloggers, so you can’t eliminate them entirely. What you can do is optimize your images, both before uploading to your site, and with a compression plugin. When preparing images for your blog, make sure you’re exporting for web — many of those settings are already optimized for you. Also resize your images so that they are no larger than 2x the pixel width of your content column (<em>press customers can find our image sizing here). You can find out all about sizing your images for your blog in our post. While you can resize photos directly within WordPress, we recommend resizing images before upload, to save server space.

Additionally, you can install a plugin to further compress your images on upload. It does take a little longer for uploads to complete, but it can save you loading time in the long run. Though we haven’t personally tested it, EWWW Image Optimizer comes highly recommended. However, it’s typically not allowed on managed WordPress hosting. For that we recommend the TinyPNG plugin, or WP Smush. Most image optimization plugins can process previously uploaded images for an additional fee and usually have a cap on the amount of images you can optimize per month for free. However, if it’s not in your budget to pay for additional processing, even the amount done for free can help.

Hosting issues

Other than plugins, the most common culprit of slow load time is hosting. Shared hosting is great when you’re just starting out, since it’s so affordable, but it can also be notorious for site loading issues.

The problem with shared hosting is that you share server space with other websites, and you have no control over those websites, so your site performance can really vary. Furthermore, shared hosting is usually not capable of handling spikes in traffic. That’s not to say shared hosting is bad — you just get what you pay for. Unfortunately, we find that most shared hosting support is trained to upsell you on a new plan — they aren’t going to tell you when your site has simply outgrown their services.

If your site experiences only occasional loading issues, you can weigh if saving money on hosting is a worthwhile tradeoff — depending on your blogging goals, it may be! But if you are consistently experiencing issues, it’s probably time to upgrade your hosting and move to a managed WordPress host.


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