Getting 503 service unavailable errors on Bluehost? This means your server is overloaded.
The easiest way to fix 503 errors on Bluehost is with their server caching, PHP 8.0, and Cloudflare. Avoid plugins causing high CPU usage like statistic, backup, and security plugins.
However, Bluehost is notorious for slow servers and CPU limits. If you exceed resources on your hosting plan, they throttle your bandwidth to make sure other websites on your server aren’t affected. All shared hosting has some kind of CPU limits, but some are worse than others.
If your website is still slow and getting 503 service unavailable errors after reading this, look into better hosting. Cloudways Vultr High Frequency and NameHero’s Turbo Cloud plan are both popular in Facebook Groups and use cloud or LiteSpeed hosting. I use Vultr HF which instantly fixed CPU issues (on SiteGround) and you can also check my GTmetrix report. Many people have also reported similar results when they moved away from Bluehost to Cloudways.
- Use PHP 8.0
- Activate Bluehost’s server caching
- Use Cloudflare to reduce CPU usage
- Avoid reporting and external comment plugins
- Schedule backups wisely
- Deactivate plugins and test them 1 by 1
- Move your email away from Bluehost
- Invest in a top-rated caching plugin
- Disable WordPress heartbeat
- Replace WordPress cron with a real cron job
- Update WordPress
- Check error logs in Bluehost
- Move to faster cloud or LiteSpeed hosting
1. Use PHP 8.0
The easiest way to fix 503 errors is to use the latest PHP version.
Bluehost supports PHP 8.1 but 8.0 is more stable. Login to your Bluehost cPanel, go to PHP Config, and upgrade to PHP 8.0. You’ll want to check your website for errors and if you see any, it’s most likely due to an incompatible plugin. You can always revert back to the earlier version.
2. Activate Bluehost’s Server Caching
Server caching can be activated in your Bluehost account under My Sites → Performance. You can also use the Bluehost plugin. You will see different options for blogs, eCommerce, and portfolio websites, so choose the one that best fits your website. Caching at a server level is faster than the file-based caching done by most cache plugins which is great for speed + CPU.
3. Use Cloudflare To Reduce CPU Usage
Cloudflare is activated in Bluehost by default, but this only has basic Cloudflare settings.
If you want access to Cloudflare’s full dashboard which has extra settings to reduce CPU and speed up your website, you’ll need to deactivate Cloudflare in your Bluehost account then set up Cloudflare manually. You would do this by signing up through the Cloudflare website, adding your website, then changing your Bluehost nameservers to Cloudflare’s. Once that’s done, you can access the full dashboard through Cloudflare’s website and configure the settings. Below are a few tweaks I would make to optimize your site while reducing CPU and risk for 503 errors.
Finally, activate Cloudflare’s CDN in the DNS settings by changing your website to “Proxied.”
Here are a few more things I recommend doing in Cloudflare:
- Enable bot fight mode to block bad bots from hitting your server.
- Enable hotlink protection to prevent sites from using image bandwidth.
- Enable HTTP/3, Brotli, and early hints, and consider using Cloudflare’s APO.
- Minify HTML/CSS/JS from Cloudflare and disable these in your cache plugin.
4. Avoid Reporting And External Comment Plugins
There’s a reason some hosts like GoDaddy and Kinsta blacklist these types of plugins (even many security plugins).
Reporting/statistics plugins have to collect stats which increase CPU in the background. External comment plugins like Disqus can also increase CPU (I was using an external comment plugin but have since hired WP Johnny to code my comments in CSS so they don’t use a plugin).
5. Schedule Backups Wisely
Backup plugins can also increase CPU and cause 503 service unavailable errors.
Make sure you’re using a lightweight plugin like UpdraftPlus, then schedule it to only take backups during non-peak hours. If possible, only take backups once every few days or so – but this can also depend on personal preference and how often you update things on your website.
6. Deactivate Plugins And Test Them 1 By 1
If your website is barely accessible with constant 503 errors, when you do have the chance to login, try deactivating all your plugins then reactivating them 1 by 1.
If you activate a plugin and it starts to slow down your website and admin panel, it’s probably the issue. And if you’re using plugins Query Monitor to diagnose the issue (or even Wordfence), delete those plugins when you’re done since those can actually cause high CPU by themselves.
7. Move Your Email Away From Bluehost
Email consumes resources, storage, and takes up files (inodes).
While this is obviously an extra cost since you would have to use something like Google Workspace, there’s a reason hosts like Kinsta and Cloudways don’t even offer email hosting. By keeping it separate, you’re able to dedicate more resources to your website as opposed to email. Plus, if you ever decide to switch hosting companies, you don’t have to switch your email.
8. Invest In A Top-Rated Caching Plugin
The great cache plugin debate (TLDR; FlyingPress or WP Rocket are both solid).
Most free cache plugins do an awful job at fixing Google’s core web vitals. They also lack many features that can not only improve PageSpeed scores, but reduce CPU and prevent 503 errors. Even the next step (disabling heartbeat) can be done by most cache plugins by not the free ones.
WP Rocket is always a great choice, but I recently switched from WP Rocket to FlyingPress and noticed a huge improvement (not in scores, but the actual load time when clicking through my posts). Those are the two cache plugins I recommend. NitroPack is blackhat and improves scores (by cheating testing tools), but not load times. I would personally avoid using that plugin.
The other option is if you do plan on switching hosts, you can use a host like NameHero who uses LiteSpeed servers (the “new” thing and faster than Apache/Nginx on most shared hosts). Then use the free LiteSpeed Cache plugin which is even faster than the other 2 cache plugins I mentioned since it uses server-level caching, QUIC.cloud CDN with HTTP/3 and can use Redis.
I have tutorials for most of these plugins in my navigation menu.
9. Disable WordPress Heartbeat
This can be done in most cache plugins, with code, or with the Heartbeat Control plugin.
The WordPress Heartbeat API consumes server resources because it sends you real-time notifications for plugins, when other uses are editing a post, etc. It generates a request about every 15 seconds. Disabling it (or at least limiting it) can reduce CPU and prevent 503 errors.
These are 3 places where the heartbeat runs (dashboard, frontend, and post editor). You can usually disable it completely in the dashboard then limit the frontend + editor to 120 seconds.
10. Replace WordPress Cron With A Real Cron Job
The WordPress cron also increases CPU.
Bluehost’s cPanel lets you setup, remove, or edit cron jobs. Open your wp-config.php file in your main WP folder. Then add this code before the line: /* That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging. */
Now in the Bluehost cPanel, find the cron job section. Add a new cron job using the following code and replace https://yourwebsite.com with your site. Set the cron job to run 2x per hour.
wget -q -O - https://yourwebsite.com/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron >/dev/null 2>&1
11. Update WordPress
Make sure WordPress core, themes, plugins, and other software are updated.
12. Check Error Logs In Bluehost
Check your error logs in Bluehost.
Bluehost shows the last 300 Apache errors. Learn what kind of error it is and fix it. This goes beyond this tutorial since there are many types, but the errors can clue you in on the problem.
You can check AWstats in your Bluehost cPanel to see bandwidth used by each website.
13. Move To Faster Cloud Or LiteSpeed Hosting
Is Bluehost the problem? Probably. While it’s always good to reduce CPU by doing other things, their hosting is awfully slow and not recommended in Facebook Groups like WP Speed Matters.
I use Cloudways Vultr HF which is a popular choice in Facebook Groups. You can check my GTmetrix report, TTFB, core web vitals, or click through my site to see yourself. I moved from SiteGround (who is faster than Bluehost) to Cloudways which cut load times in half and fixed CPU issues (it’s also monthly pricing with no higher renewals and 44 data centers). They use Redis and NVMe storage which are faster than Bluehost’s slower SSDs. The main cons are no file manager or email hosting, and the Breeze plugin + CloudwaysCDN (StackPath) aren’t great. I suggest FlyingPress or WP Rocket, Cloudflare or BunnyCDN, and Google Workspace. They do 3-day trials, a free migration, and a promo code for 30% off 3 months. Some people say they’re techie since it requires an extra step to launch a server + connect your domain, but it’s not hard:
Spend 5 minutes looking at recent Facebook polls on “the best hosting,” migration results of people who switched, and unbiased feedback in Facebook groups (click thumbnails to enlarge).
Cloudways Vultr High Frequency starts at $13/mo and is cloud hosting with faster NVMe SSD storage (compared to Bluehost’s shared hosting with slower SATA SSDs).
NameHero is a solid choice for cheap shared hosting on LiteSpeed servers which are faster and more efficient than Nginx (what Bluehost uses).
They use LiteSpeed on all plans which have more CPU/RAM for a cheaper price compared to Hostinger, A2, SiteGround, and Bluehost. They also use NVMe on higher plans. This means you can use the LiteSpeed Cache plugin with QUIC.cloud, HTTP/3, Redis, and faster server-leveling caching. Since this setup is free on LiteSpeed, there’s no need to buy premium cache plugins. I recommend their Turbo Cloud plan with 3 cores, 3GB RAM, NVMe, and LiteSpeed for $8/mo.
Even though NameHero is known as a “simple, beginner-friendly host” with cPanel, they use faster technology behind the scenes. Their uptime status is usually clean with less “scheduled maintenance” and they’re one of the only cheap hosts that don’t sacrifice speed/support. The main con is the data centers are only in the US/Netherlands. NameHero does a free migration, has a 30-day refund time, and the CEO (Ryan) is a genuinely great guy if you watch his YouTube channel. You can use WP Johnny’s (who also uses LiteSpeed) or my own LiteSpeed Cache guide.
NameHero starts at $2.69/mo, is more beginner-friendly than Cloudways, and one of the fastest shared hosts with LiteSpeed and more CPU/RAM/NVMe than other hosts.
How do I fix Bluehost's 503 temporarily service unavailable error?
The most common ways to fix Bluehost’s 503 service unavailable error is to enable server caching, Cloudflare, and use latest PHP versions (i.e. PHP 8.0). Try deactivating all plugins 1 by 1 and using Query Monitor to find slow plugins. However, Bluehost stuffs too many websites on their servers, so 503 errors are somewhat common when using their hosting.
- Why I Use Cloudways Vultr HF (Getting Started + Optimizations)
- Why I Recommend NameHero For LiteSpeed (Getting Started + Optimizations)
- My Ultimate WordPress Speed Optimization Guide (25 Detailed Tips)
As always, drop me a comment if you have questions.