About 50% of your visitors will abandon your website after 10 seconds or less. Yes, that’s the reality we’re faced with. The good news, however, is that there are many performance-boosting tips you can draw on to help you avoid becoming just another unfortunate statistic.
At this point, I should let you know that since everyone’s website is different, it’s near impossible to troubleshoot every tiny little performance issue in order to compile a complete list of resource leeches – believe me, I tried! It’s much easier – and lazier – to put together a few quick, hard and fast rules for increasing your site’s page speed. The only problem is, that means many valuable tips are left out.
That’s why in this post, I’m going to show you how to troubleshoot your site’s loading time to pinpoint 14 commonly-forgotten page speed and performance issues, as well as give you 27 solutions to fix them.
If you’re a seasoned web developer, you may see some familiar tips, but there are many below that are superb reminders. So without further ado, let’s get started!
- 1 Troubleshooting Your Slooow WordPress Website
- 2 Forgotten Problem #1: Using Older PHP Versions
- 3 Forgotten Problem #2: Too Many (Uncompressed) Images
- 4 Forgotten Problem #3: Too Little Resources and DNS or Hosting Issues
- 5 Forgotten Problem #4: Haven’t Updated from HTTP/1
- 6 Forgotten Problem #5: Poorly Coded or Too Many Plugins, Themes or Scripts
- 7 Forgotten Problem #6: Scripts that Aren’t Minimized and No Caching
- 8 Forgotten Problem #7: Too Many API Calls
- 9 Forgotten Problem #8: You’re Using the Default Search
- 10 Forgotten Problem #9: Messy Database and Un-Optimized Site
- 11 Forgotten Problem #10: Render-Blocking Issues
- 12 Forgotten Problem #11: Hot Linking and Resource Leeches
- 13 Forgotten Problem #12: Hackers and Spammers
- 14 Forgotten Problem #13: Queries Flooding the Database
- 15 Forgotten Problem #14: Too Many Posts, Pages and Redirects
- 16 All of Your Forgotten Speed Problems Fixed!
Troubleshooting Your Slooow WordPress Website
When you’re trying to get an overview of your site’s speed and performance, one of the best things you can do is to start troubleshooting. In this case, that means collecting data from different parts of your site where performance issues could be originating.
Once you have collected the data, you can analyze it to see where your site is having issues so you can begin resolving them.
It’s a great idea to start with figuring out your average page speed. Once you have a good idea of the average load time for your site, you can look over your resources and site’s usage statistics to get a more in-depth picture of how your site is performing.
Here’s a list of the best points of interest to collect your data for troubleshooting speed problems:
- Ping your site from different locations around the world – You can use services such as Pingdom to check load times from different locations.
- Find your PageSpeed Insights score – Use the Google PageSpeed Insights tool to get a score for how fast your site is as well as insights on where improvements could be made.
- Validate your code – You can validate the code used on your site with the W3C Markup Validation Service. Also, check out How to Effectively Validate a WordPress Website.
- Manually check plugin and theme code – Have a look at the code used in the plugins and themes you have installed to make sure they’re top-notch.
- Note how many images are on your site – Go to your Media Library in your admin dashboard and take a note of how many images and files you have as well as their size.
- Mark down the plugins you have installed – Make a note of how many plugins you have installed and activated on the Plugins > All Plugins page.
- Search for unnatural traffic – Take a look at your usage and traffic statistics to see if you have huge traffic spikes due to hackers. Also, check out The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Spam.
- Check your hosting resources – Take a look at how much storage space, bandwidth and transfer data you have on your hosting plan and how much you use on a regular basis.
- Stress test your server – Perform a load test on your server to see how much traffic your server can actually handle. For details, check out Stress Testing Your WordPress Site So You’re Ready for Traffic Spikes.
Once you have collected information from all these areas, take note of your resources and how much you have used them compared to how much you have available to you. Also, make an extra note of any issues the Google PageSpeed Insights score gave you.
Then, keep reading for some of the most commonly forgotten page speed and performance issues and their solutions. That way, you can start improving your site right now.
For example, if you noticed you’re using up a lot of your storage space and you have a ton of images or plugins installed, make a note of it because there are solutions for this below.
Feel free to click one of the links below to skip down to that section:
- Using Older PHP Versions
- Too Many (Uncompressed) Images
- Too Little Resources and DNS or Hosting Issues
- Haven’t Updated from HTTP/1
- Poorly Coded or Too Many Plugins, Themes or Scripts
- Scripts that Aren’t Minimized
- Too Many API Calls
- You’re Using the Default Search
- Messy Database and Un-Optimized Site
- Render-Blocking Issues
- Hotlinking and Resource Leeches
- Hackers and Spammers
- Queries Flooding the Database
- Too Many Posts, Pages and Redirects
Forgotten Problem #1: Using Older PHP Versions
As PHP gets updated, the scripts and plugins you use on your site may become out of date as a result. Many newer versions of PHP include performance improvements that could speed up your site as well.
Solution: Upgrade to the latest version of PHP or use a version that’s compatible with your site. For more details, check out Changing or Updating Your Version of PHP for WordPress.
Forgotten Problem #2: Too Many (Uncompressed) Images
If you find you have a ton of images on your site and they’re using a lot of your storage space, there are a few ways you can help scale down their weight and improve the speed of your site at the same time.
Solution #2: Optimize and compress your images. You can do this automatically with the Smush.
Solution #3: Use lazy loading for your images. You can check out Lazy-Loading Images: How Not to Really Annoy Your Users and Lazy Loading Images for details.
Forgotten Problem #3: Too Little Resources and DNS or Hosting Issues
If you have reached 40% of any one of your resources, it’s a good time to start thinking of an action plan to keep up with your site’s growth in the future. This is especially true if you have used up these resources in a short amount of time and expect to keep going at the same pace.
If you’re using more than 40% (and especially over 60%) of any of your resources, it’s recommended that you try to take action as soon as you can to try and reduce this number.
Solution #4: Quickly reaching your hosting caps? Try the other tips here to reduce the resources you’re using.
Solution #5: If these tips don’t work, it may be time to upgrade your hosting plan.
Solution #6: You can also use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to alleviate a lot of the stress on your hosting and server if you’re finding you’re getting too much traffic than your site can handle. You can check out CDN’s such as CloudFlare and Amazon S3 or other similar services.
Also, check out these other posts for more details:
Forgotten Problem #4: Haven’t Updated from HTTP/1
Out with the old and in with the new, well, in this case, protocol. Unless you’re from a dystopian future where computers and the internet no longer exist and you’re reading this off of a printout, you’re probably seeing http at the beginning of your browser’s address bar (or more accurately https since an SSL certificate is installed).
This indicates the HTTP protocol and there’s been an update to HTTP/2 that makes your site load faster when you implement it.
Solution #7: Upgrade to HTTP/2. You can find the details you need in the post WordPress and HTTP2: All Your Questions Answered.
While you’re at it, also consider installing a free SSL certificate from a trusted and open source Certificate Authority called Let’s Encrypt. It’s going to help make your site more secure and takes a few minutes to install completely.
Forgotten Problem #5: Poorly Coded or Too Many Plugins, Themes or Scripts
It’s one of the more common problems on this list, but it’s still often ignored (even by me sometimes) since it’s easier on the brain to believe that the plugins, themes and scripts that you’re using are all coded perfectly and that we can use as many as we want.
The reality is, no matter how well-coded any of these are, there’s still bound to be bugs. It’s like trying to write an essay without any mistakes whatsoever. It’s technically possible, but the likelihood of that happening is practically zero.
Plus, many plugins, themes and scripts out there aren’t coded as well as you would hope. They could be bloated and weigh down your site which leads to slower page load times. Also, if your hosting plan doesn’t have enough resources to cover your needs, your site’s performance is going to suffer.
Solution #8: Review and test any plugins, themes or scripts you intend to use and be sure they perform well before using them on a live site. Fix them or contact the developer if necessary, or find an alternative.
Solution #9: Remove all plugins, themes and scripts you’re not going to use.
Solution #10: Try reducing the overall amount of plugins you use by finding solutions that are multi-purpose.
Forgotten Problem #6: Scripts that Aren’t Minimized and No Caching
WordPress sites inherently have dynamic content included in them and chances are, you have added much more with plugins and themes. Since your site isn’t static, with only a color background and some text, it’s important to do what you can to optimize your content so it loads faster.
Solution #11: Implement object caching. Take a look at Persistent Object Caching and Do-It-Yourself Caching Methods With WordPress for more details.
Solution #12: Also, go ahead and start server-side caching including page and database caching. You can check out The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Caching for more details.
Solution #13: Minify your scripts. For details, check out Making Your WordPress Website Fly: A Performance Optimization Tutorial.
You can use performance optimization plugins such as Hummingbird to increase page speed with built-in options such as minification and caching. For more details on other caching plugins, check out The Top 3 WordPress Caching Plugins Compared and Choosing the Best One for Your Site.
Forgotten Problem #7: Too Many API Calls
Using a lot of plugins that each make third-party API calls can weigh down your site and make your site sluggish. Plugins that make calls to third-party API’s include Twitter and other social media plugins, managed backup plugins, and many others.
Solution #14: While these plugins aren’t all bad, if you have some installed that you know you don’t really need, it’s a good idea to uninstall them or find a better alternative.
Solution #15: Cache your API’s since this can be done safely in most cases. You can use the WordPress Transients API for this and you can also check out The Complete Guide to the WordPress Transients API and The Deal with WordPress Transients for more details.
Forgotten Problem #8: You’re Using the Default Search
The WordPress search feature that comes straight out of the box relies on MySQL which means it’s slow and eats up your precious resources for an ultimately slower loading site.
Solution #16: Use a dedicated search index such as ElasticPress or Solr Search for WordPress.
Forgotten Problem #9: Messy Database and Un-Optimized Site
Speaking of caching, there are a lot of other ways to optimize your site and database. Every spam comment, post revision, lingering plugin data and more can put a strain on your resources and site speed.
Solution #17: Clean up your database. For details, check out 10 Tips for Keeping a Squeaky Clean WordPress (and Multisite!) Database.
Solution #18: Optimize your database and its tables. You can also check out MySQL and WordPress: Understanding How Databases Work for details.
Forgotten Problem #10: Render-Blocking Issues
Probably one of the most annoying messages to see in Google’s PageSpeed Insights score is that your site needs to have some render-blocking issues cleared. Does it go into detail on what this means? No. Can fixing it drastically jack up your page speed? Yes.
Solution #19: You can find details on what the dickens a render-blocking issue is and how to fix it with Hummingbird by checking out How to Eliminate Render-Blocking Issues With Hummingbird for WordPress.
Forgotten Problem #11: Hot Linking and Resource Leeches
I would love to think that things like hotlinking have died with the 90s, but unfortunately, it’s far from the truth. People out there are still linking images (and videos) directly on their site, but from external sources.
If it happens to you, it means that someone is stealing your resources. Every time a visitor loads their site with your images, they’re using your bandwidth to view it.
Solution #20: Make hotlinking history by disabling it through the .htaccess file. For details, check out the tenth tip in the post A Comprehensive Guide to Editing .htaccess for WordPress Security.
Image hot linking isn’t the only source for draining your resources. There are other resource leeches that hit closer to home, such as trackbacks, pingbacks, comments and site registrations.
On their own, they’re not bad at all, but many users, namely spammers, use them incorrectly or abuse them so they suck up your resources like a sponge.
Solution #21: If you don’t need them, disable features that are commonly used for spam such as trackbacks, pingbacks, comments and site registrations. You can also use a plugin to better manage them. For more details, check out The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Spam.
Forgotten Problem #12: Hackers and Spammers
Now that we’re on the subject of spam, there are a lot of ways that spam can be dangerous for your site including facilitating DDoS, XSS and brute force attacks, to only name a few.
Solution #22: You can block out bots that result in a DDoS attack by limiting access to your site by dynamic or static IP address. For details, check out Limit Access to the WordPress Login Page to Specific IP Addresses and How to Stop Spam Bots from Ruining Your Analytics Referral Data.
Solution #23: It’s also recommended that you install a security plugin such as Defender, which can be used in tandem with other security plugins such as WordFence, Sucuri or VaultPress.
Forgotten Problem #13: Queries Flooding the Database
When your site’s running too many queries with loops, it has been rightly dubbed the N+1 Queries problem and it can seriously put a damper on your page speed.
Solution #24: Optimize your queries and remember: even already optimized queries could cause problems so be vigilant. You can check out this video called The N+1 Problem as well as Troubleshooting WordPress Performance with New Relic for details.
Forgotten Problem #14: Too Many Posts, Pages and Redirects
When your site or blog has been around for quite some time, it’s likely to end up with a ton of out-of-date posts and pages. What’s worse than a visitor landing on one of these unhelpful pages is that it reduces your page speed because it clutters up your database.
The more clutter in your database, the slower your site loads.
Solution #25: You could delete them or if you don’t want to risk your search engine ranking, you can use 301 redirects to forward old posts and pages to new ones.
If you have redirects set up, but with three or more links instead of only one, it means your page is being redirected again and again, and again. This could not only lead to the Too Many Redirects Error, but best case scenario, your page doesn’t even load slowly, it barely loads at all.
Solution #26: Clean up old 301 redirects so there’s only one per post or page.
You can find details on 301 redirects by checking out Creating Redirects for WordPress (and the Best Plugins for the Job) and Creating 301 Redirects With WordPress (and How it Boosted Our Traffic!).
Also, check out 10 Tips for Keeping a Squeaky Clean WordPress (and Multisite!) Database for details on how to delete old posts from your database.
All of Your Forgotten Speed Problems Fixed!
Now that your site’s spruced up and your pages load with the speed of a cheetah at suppertime, it’s important you keep it that way.
Be sure to check your site regularly with tools and plugins Hummingbird and Defender to ensure you site continues to perform well.
Why 100 is NOT a Perfect Google PageSpeed Score (*5 Min Watch)
Learn how to use Google PageSpeed Insights to set realistic goals, improve site speed, and why aiming for a perfect 100 is the WRONG goal.