How To Fix Slow Server Response Times On Bluehost – A Common Problem Caused By Their Overcrowded Servers And CPU Throttling

Bluehost is infamous for slow server response times (check this Facebook thread).

You can measure this in PageSpeed Insights as well as other tools. Google flags your server response time (TTFB) if it’s over 600ms which also impacts several parts of core web vitals. Server response times are directly related to your server (no surprise) which Bluehost controls.

The easiest way fix slow server response time on Bluehost is to use Cloudflare’s DNS, CDN, APO, and Argo feature. Using Bluehost’s server caching and PHP 8.0 can also help. But the more obvious solution would be to leave Bluehost and use a faster host like Cloudways Vultr HF. Several people have already made this exact switch and posted their migration results. I also use Vultr HF and you can check my GTmetrix report. Regardless if you use Cloudways or someone else, I definitely suggest moving your site to a different host and retesting your TTFB.

Bluehost-slow-server-response-times-ttfb

 

1. Test Your Server Response Time (TTFB)

The easiest way to test server response times is in PageSpeed Insights.

Short server response time

KeyCDN’s performance test also tests TTFB in 10 global locations.

Keycdn ttfb

 

2. Use A Data Center Close To Visitors

You’ll notice in KeyCDN’s performance test that the further away the testing location is from the server, the slower the TTFB. That’s why it’s so important to choose a data center close to your visitors. Unfortunately, Bluehost only has 6 data centers which can be an issue if they’re not close to your visitors. You can use hostingchecker.com to check where your data center is.

 

3. Use Bluehost’s Server Caching

Bluehost’s server caching should help reduce TTFB.

It uses page caching and can be activated in your Bluehost control panel or Bluehost’s plugin. They have a setting for blog, eCommerce, and portfolio websites which use different settings.

Bluehost server caching

 

4. Move Your DNS To Cloudflare

Cloudflare has several features which can reduce server response times on Bluehost, or any host for that matter. Cloudflare’s DNS is also faster than most providers shown on dnsperf.com.

Dns performance

You’ll want to set up Cloudflare manually so you have access to their full dashboard (instead of only the basic settings in Bluehost). Since Bluehost activates Cloudflare on websites by default, the first step is to disable Cloudflare. Login to your Bluehost control panel, then find Cloudflare.

Bluehost cloudflare

Disable it.

Disable cloudflare bluehost

Once Cloudflare is disabled in Bluehost, you can set up Cloudflare manually. Sign up through their website, add your website to Cloudflare, and select the free plan. They will scan records, assign you two nameservers, and tell you to replace Bluehost’s nameservers with Cloudflare’s.

Change bluehost nameservers cloudflare

Go to your Bluehost DNS settings and change your nameservers to Cloudflare’s.

Bluehost change nameservers

After you change nameservers, you will automatically be using Cloudflare as your DNS.

 

5. Activate Cloudflare’s CDN

Cloudflare’s CDN is free and helps with offloading resources to their 250 data centers while reducing the geographical distance between your server and visitors. To activate the CDN, go to your Cloudflare DNS settings, find your website, then change it from DNS Only to Proxied.

Activate cloudflare cdn
Activate Cloudflare’s CDN by changing your website to “Proxied”

 

6. Use Cloudflare’s APO

Cloudflare’s APO (automatic platform optimizations) can improve both your TTFB and overall load times. However, only certain cache plugins are compatible, so check their documentation. I’m using APO with FlyingPress and noticed a big improvement even when clicking through my posts. It’s $5/mo but definitely well worth trying and enables full page caching on your website. If your site is WooCommerce/eCommerce, you can try using WP Cloudflare Super Page Cache.

Cloudflare automatic platform optimization for wordpress

APO can improve TTFB by 72%.

Cloudflare apo ttfb fcp si

 

7. Use Cloudflare Argo

Cloudflare Argo is a paid service which routes traffic using the fastest network paths. Many people have had good results in Facebook Groups, but it also costs $5.00/month + $0.10 per additional gigabyte. You can activate this in Cloudflare’s Traffic settings and test it yourself.

Cloudflare argo

 

8. Create Page Rules

There are several page rules you can add in Cloudflare that can improve caching and TTFB while protecting your WordPress admin. A popular one is the cache everything page rule, but you’ll want to make sure this is not conflicting with other caching mechanisms you have set up.

Cache everything page rule

 

9. Invest In A Better Cache Plugin

Free cache plugins don’t do a good job of addressing core web vitals.

W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and most other free plugins lack many features that can improve PageSpeed scores and reduce TTFB. In which case you would need to install extra plugins for database cleanup, lazy load, delaying JavaScript, hosting third-party code locally, etc.

The 3 cache plugins I recommend are FlyingPress (what I use), WP Rocket (what I was using before switching to FlyingPress), and LiteSpeed Cache (the fastest cache plugin with server-side caching, but can only be used on WordPress hosts using LiteSpeed, and Bluehost doesn’t). Either use FlyingPress or WP Rocket, or switch to a LiteSpeed host (I like NameHero) and use LSC. I have configuration guides for WP Rocket + LiteSpeed Cache if you choose one of these.

 

 

10. Avoid Hitting Bluehost’s CPU Limits

Bluehost has strict limits for CPU and inodes (files).

If you exceed them, Bluehost will throttle your bandwidth which can result in 503 errors (and your admin will probably be very slow). Many items in this guide help reduce CPU, but it’s very common with their shared hosting especially if you’re using Elementor, Divi, or WooCommerce.

All Bluehost Shared Hosting Plans
Inodes200,000
Database Tables5000
Database Size10GB
Database Usage5GB In Single Database

 

11. Upgrade To PHP 8.0

Upgrading to a higher PHP version in Bluehost’s control cPanel is an easy way to make your website faster which can improve server response times. Bluehost supports up to PHP 8.1, but PHP 8.0 is more compatible. Some plugins haven’t been updated for higher PHP compatibility, so check your website for errors after you upgrade (you can also revert to earlier PHP versions).

Bluehost php 8

 

12. Remove High CPU Plugins

Some plugins load slowly on the frontend (often because they add extra styles/scripts to your site) while other plugins run in the background and increase memory usage. Neither are good.

You can start by installing Query Monitor and using it to find your slowest loading plugins in the “Queries By Component” tab. You can also use the WP Hive Chrome Extension to browse the WordPress plugin repository and check whether a plugin impacts memory usage or PageSpeed. And finally, use my full list of slow plugins to avoid and find more lightweight plugin alternatives.

Query monitor slow plugins
Query Monitor shows your slowest loading plugins

Slow wordpress plugins list

 

13. Eliminate Background Tasks

When plugins and other tasks run in the background, it increases memory usage which can lead to a slower TTFB.

Statistic, backup, and security plugins are common culprits. Even Divi and Elementor’s editor can stress out a cheap shared server. Same thing with background tasks like the WordPress heartbeat which shows real-time plugin notifications and when other users are editing a post.

Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid statistic/reporting plugins.
  • Use a lightweight backup plugin like UpdraftPlus.
  • Schedule backup to run in non-peak hours (i.e. nighttime).
  • Disable WordPress heartbeat (in your cache plugin, manually, or with a plugin).
  • Use bloat removal plugins like Unbloater, Disable WooCommerce Bloat, or Perfmatters.

Disable wordpress heartbeat control

 

14. Remove Junk From Your Database

While most cache plugins have the option to clean up database junk (which you should do as well as schedule ongoing cleanups), you should do a thorough cleaning by using WP-Optimize.

This lets you go through your database tables and remove tables left behind by old plugins. You probably installed it, deleted it, and it left behind stored data in your database. If you don’t plan on using that plugin, remove the table. Look out for certain plugin features that increase your database size. Some plugins are module-based and let you disable certain features in the plugin.

Wp-optimize-tables
Use WP-Optimize to remove junk and tables left behind by old plugins

 

15. Switch To Cloud Hosting Or LiteSpeed

Is Bluehost the problem? Probably.

Speed-up-slow-bluehost

Bluehost is the issue

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:

Cloudways launch vultr hf server

Cloudways vs bluehost facebook feedback

Cloudways vs bluehost

 
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).

Favorite-cloudways-server

Moving away from siteground

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.

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 set up 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 plans resources
NameHero’s specs use 1-4 CPU cores, 1-4 GB RAM, LiteSpeed (all plans), NVMe (higher plans)

Hostinger only uses 1-2 CPU cores with less RAM and slower SATA SSDs. A2 uses less RAM on most plans (and only higher plans use LiteSpeed). SiteGround has strict CPU limits and limited resources with slower SSDs. Some hosts like Bluehost don’t even list the actual specs (red flag).

Web server poll

Web server poll oxygen

Bluehost vs namehero

Namehero +1

Namehero vs bluehost trustpilot review

Siteground vs cloudways vs namehero

Namehero vs siteground feedback

Siteground to namehero

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.

Cloudways trustpilot review

Namehero trustpilot review

Affiliate Disclaimer: I use aff links to Cloudways + NameHero and appreciate your support. These are top Bluehost alternatives based on my obviously biased opinion + FB group research.

Even if you don’t use my hosting recommendations, you should leave Bluehost.

Bluehost hostgator godaddy feedback

How do I fix slow server response times on Bluehost?

Bluehost's slow server response times are usually caused by their overcrowded servers, but you can also improve it using Cloudflare, Bluehost's server caching, and using a data center close to visitors. Reducing CPU usage can also improve TTFB.

I hope this was helpful. If you have questions, drop me a comment.

Cheers,
Tom

About Tom Dupuis

Tom Dupuis writes WordPress speed and SEO tutorials out of his apartment in Denver, Colorado. In his spare time, he plays Rocket League and watches murder documentaries. Read his bio to learn 50 random and disturbing things about him.

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