How To Fix Slow Server Response Times (TTFB) On Bluehost’s WordPress Hosting

Bluehost slow server response times ttfb

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.

 

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 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.

Cloudflare dns

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.

Cloudflare change namesevers

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.

Cloudflare proxy
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 plugin automatic platform optimization

APO can improve TTFB by 72%.

Cloudflare apo impact on 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
Inodes 200,000
Database Tables 5000
Database Size 10GB
Database Usage 5GB 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 upgrade php version

 

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.

Slow wordpress plugins query monitor
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.

Heartbeat control plugin settings

 

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 unused database 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.

Bluehost hosting review

Most hosting recommendations are garbage, but it’s the #1 speed factor and you can use KeyCDN to test your global TTFB (which is also 40% of LCP). I suggest joining the WP Speed Matters Facebook Group to get unbiased hosting feedback. The 3 hosts below are solid and either use LiteSpeed servers, Cloudflare Enterprise, cloud hosting, and all 3 use NVMe/Redis. These are much faster than “mainstream hosts” (Bluehost, SiteGround, Hostinger) who use slower SSDs, Apache/Nginx, and no Cloudflare Enterprise or Redis (and if they do, it costs $$$).

The aff links below are how I make a living and I appreciate you using them. Thanks :)

Namehero cloudways rocket. Net
These are the same hosts I recommend

  • NameHero – all plans use LiteSpeed which is not only faster than Apache/Nginx, but it can handle 2x the capacity of Apache. This also means you’ll use LiteSpeed Cache + QUIC.cloud CDN (arguably fastest setup on a budget). NameHero has more CPU/RAM than similar LiteSpeed hosts with cPanel + email hosting. I usually recommend the Turbo Cloud plan with 3 cores + 3GB RAM + NVMe for $7.58/mo. The main con is their data centers are only in the US + NL. If these aren’t close to your visitors, make sure to use QUIC.cloud (which has HTML caching) or look into ChemiCloud / Scala. All 3 use LiteSpeed and have at least a 4.7/5 TrustPilot rating.

Web server poll

Web server poll oxygen

Litespeed vs nginx vs apache
LiteSpeed servers are faster than Apache (what Bluehost uses)
Ram on litespeed hosting plans
NameHero has more CPU/RAM than similar hosts if you compare specs

Litespeed cache litespeed server

  • Cloudways Vultr High Frequency – while NameHero is shared, Vultr HF is cloud hosting with NVMe and 44 data centers. I moved from SiteGround and load times + hosting costs both cut in half while eliminating CPU issues. People are scared it’s “techie” but launching a server and connecting your domain can literally take 5 minutes (plus they offer a free migration). Redis Object Cache Pro is free and the Cloudflare Enterprise add-on is $5/mo which adds prioritized routing, more PoPs, image optimization, WAF, Argo, and load balancing. Cons are extra costs for email hosting (use Google Workspace), cache plugin (use FlyingPress), and Cloudflare Enterprise doesn’t have full page caching (coming soon). It’s monthly pricing with 3-day trials. Normally starts at $13/mo but here’s a coupon for 30% off 3 months.
Cloudways launch vultr high frequency server
Launching a server is easy and gives you more control
Siteground to cloudways shoutout
They were also ranked #1 in several Facebook polls

Bluehost to cloudways migration

Stay away from bluehost eig godaddy vs cloudways

Bluehost choice plus vs cloudways vultr

  • Rocket.net – a step up from Cloudways in terms of speed, support, and easy of use. Unlike Cloudways, their Cloudflare Enterprise is free with full page caching and no configuration needed (the CEO Ben Gabler was previously Chief Product Officer at StackPath, so won’t get a better Cloudflare Enterprise). You get 32 cores + 128GB RAM, NVMe, Redis, and Brotli. There are no PHP worker limits since only about 10% of traffic hits the origin server and they allow 10x more monthly visits than Kinsta. However, a con is the low bandwidth compared to Cloudways. Since hosting/CDNs are a big part of TTFB/LCP, you’re hitting 2 birds with 1 stone. While still small, they’re getting popular and start at $25/mo (yearly) or try them for $1. If you have a larger/WooCommerce site, I suggest having a conversation with Ben.
Keycdn global ttfb
Rocket.net averages a <100ms global TTFB (you can also search their TrustPilot reviews for “TTFB“)

Rocket. Net vs kinsta migration

Kinsta to rocket. Net ttfb redis

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

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