How To Fix Slow WordPress Hosting On SiteGround (Using SG Optimizer, PHP 7.4, Cloudflare’s CDN, And Avoiding CPU Limits)

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Have a slow WordPress site on SiteGround?

The easiest way to fix a slow WordPress site on SiteGround is to configure SG Optimzer, upgrade to PHP 7.4 in your SiteGround account, activate Cloudflare, and make sure your plugins, images, and database are optimized. This should speed up your website significantly.

I have a confession though.

I used to be a SiteGround fanboy. But as they continue to increase prices, fail to fix their CPU issues, and their time to first byte doesn’t improve, I migrated to DigitalOcean on Cloudways and this happened. You can still get “OK” load times on SiteGround – but they’re not the fastest.

I even set up an identical Astra website on stgrndserver.com and cwdoserver.com. One is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig, one is hosted on Cloudways DigitalOcean. Visit the websites, click through their pages, and perform your own tests – one is definitely faster than the other.

My suggestion – go through this tutorial which may give you the GTmetrix results you’re looking for. But if you still have a slow TTFB, server response time, or CPU issues, look elsewhere. I’m paying 1/2 of what I was on SiteGround and load times are about 2x faster.

 

1. Upgrade To PHP 7.4

SiteGround released PHP 7.4 which you can upgrade to in your dashboard.

It’s considerably faster especially if you’re currently running an older PHP version, and it’s one of the easiest ways to speed up your site. It’s a good idea to take a backup, and to make sure your plugins and theme are compatible, though PHP Compatibility Checker is kind of useless.

SiteGround PHP 7.4 Announcement

How To Upgrade To PHP 7.4 On SiteGround

  • Login to your account
  • Click Devs form the left menu
  • Click PHP Manager
  • Click the edit icon
  • Change PHP version and click CONFIRM (screenshot below)

SiteGround Update PHP Version

 

2. Configure SG Optimizer

These are the SG Optimizer settings I recommend (basically, enable everything).

SG-Optimizer-SuperCacher-Settings

SG-Optimizer-Environment-Optimization-Settings

SG-Optimizer-Frontend-Optimization-Settings

SG-Optimizer-Media-Settings

 

3. Activate Cloudflare In SiteGround

Cloudflare’s free CDN can be activated it in SiteGround’s dashboard.

Cloudflare SiteGround cPanel

You should still configure the settings in your Cloudflare dashboard. Here are a few tips:

  • Speed: enable Brotli and Rocket Loader
  • Scrape Shield: enable hotlink protection
  • Firewall: block bad bots from Wordfence’s live traffic report
  • Page Rules: set up page rules (below are 3 I recommend)

Page Rule 1: Cache Everything And Force HTTPS – cache your website aggressively.

http://*yourwebsite.com/*

Always-Use-HTTPS-Page-Rule

Page Rule 2: Secure The WordPress Admin And Bypass Cache – sets security level of the admin to high and bypasses Cloudflare’s cache in the admin, since you don’t want CDNs (or apps + performance features like Rocket Loader) running inside the admin.

yourwebsite.com/wp-admin*

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

Page Rule 3: Decrease Bandwidth Of WP Uploads – since the content in your WP Uploads folder does not change frequently, increasing Edge Cache TTL to a month can save on bandwidth, since the WP Uploads folder cache won’t be refreshed as often.

yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads*

WP-Uploads-Page-Rule

 

4. Avoid Hitting SiteGround’s CPU Limits

Your SiteGround plan needs to have enough server resources to accomodate your website’s resource consumption. If it doesn’t, you will you receive CPU notifications from SiteGround threatening to shut down your website, but it’s also a good reason your WordPress site will be slow on SiteGround. That’s because your server is probably overloaded and “stressed out.”

Head to SiteGround’s Features page and scroll down to the “we allocate the resources you need” section. Hover over the Server row and see how many resources come with your plan:

SiteGround Server Resources Comparison

Next, compare this with your CPU consumption (this is a screenshot of their cloud hosting):

Reduce-CPU-Usage-WordPress

If you exceed CPU limits, you will get this email:

SiteGround CPU Limits

Are you close to exceeding CPU limits?

If so, you need a hosting plan that comes with more server resources (CPU limits have been labeled as SiteGround’s biggest downfall). You can upgrade with SiteGround, but if you’re already on their GoGeek plan or cloud hosting, I would definitely not upgrade to anything more. As I’ve said, SiteGround is great to a certain point, but once you outgrow GoGeek or are spending $35/month because of renewal prices, do yourself and favor and move to Cloudways.

 

5. Selectively Disable Plugins On Specific Pages

Let’s talk about Asset CleanUp and Perfmatters.

Both let you selectively disable plugins, scripts, and styles from loading on certain pages. This results in fewer HTTP requests and faster load times since some plugins are infamously slow.

Examples:

  • Disable WooCommerce features on non-eCommerce pages
  • Disable slider plugin on content without sliders
  • Disable rich snippets plugin on content without rich snippets
  • Disable contact form plugin on content without a contact form
  • Disable AdSense or affiliate links where they aren’t being shown
  • Disable social sharing plugin on all pages (since it’s usually for blog posts)
  • Disable WooCommerce scripts, styles, cart fragments on non-eCommerce pages

Step 1: Install the Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters plugin.

Asset CleanUp plugin

Step 2: Edit a page or post and selectively disable unused elements from loading on the page:

Disable WordPress External Scripts

 

6. Optimize Images

Large, unoptimized images can also cause a slow website on SiteGround.

If you see serve scaled image errors in GTmetrix, it means you’re uploading images that are too large and they need to be cropped and/or resized to the correct dimensions (which GTmetrix provides you). You may also see specify image dimension errors which means you need to add a width + height to the image’s HTML. Lastly, if you see optimize images error, you need to losslessly compress them, and the only plugin I found that gets 100% every time is ShortPixel.

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

 

7. Optimize Google Fonts

If you’re using Google Fonts, check your GTmetrix report for issues:

Google Fonts GTmetrix

There are a number of plugin that can help optimize fonts: OMGF, WP Rocket, Self-Hosted Google Fonts, Autoptimize, even Asset CleanUp. But the ideal method is to host fonts locally.

To do this, download your fonts directly from the Google Fonts website while being minimal with the number of fonts and font weights (since more fonts can also mean more requests).

Next, convert the files to web font files using a tool like Transfonter. Once converted, upload them to your wp-content/uploads folder, and add the fonts to your CSS. Test the font, set a default font with fallbacks, and you’re golden. See my local fonts guide (above) for more info.

 

8. Optimize Third Party Requests

Third party requests are anything that pull requests from outside websites.

This can be Google Fonts, Analytics, AdSense, Tag Manager, Maps, embedded YouTube videos, Gravatars, social share counts, Facebook Pixel, or even plugins that create external requests.

Some third party requests are easy to optimize:

WP Rocket’s Add-on settings let you host Google Analytics locally and enable browser caching for Facebook Pixel. Their Media settings let you lazy load YouTube videos and replace the iframe with a preview image. Disqus has a conditional load plugin for that, and Google Maps + embedded social posts can be taken as a screenshot and used as an image instead of an embed.

Some third party request aren’t so easy:

Google AdSense, Google Tag Manager, and Gravatars are a bit more difficult to optimize. You can load AdSense asyncrounously and trying lazy loading it, but that’s about it. Google Tag Manager should only be used for large, unoptimized websites. And I haven’t found a good solution for Gravatars (I’ve tried nearly every Gravatar cache plugin) and have them disabled.

External Scripts

 

9. Avoid Resource-Hungry Plugins

Are you running infamously slow plugins?

These plugins are usually portfolios, sliders, live chat, backup, statistics, related posts, social sharing, calendar, or even WooCommerce and WPML. Of course it depends on which plugins you’re using and how well they’re developed with speed in mind. Here are common culprits:

  1. AddThis
  2. AdSense Click Fraud Monitoring
  3. All-In-One Event Calendar
  4. Backup Buddy
  5. Beaver Builder
  6. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
  7. Broken Link checker (use Dr. Link Check)
  8. Constant Contact for WordPress
  9. Contact Form 7
  10. Contextual Related Posts
  11. Digi Auto Links
  12. Disqus Comment System
  13. Divi Builder
  14. Essential Grid
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

 

10. Finish The Last 10% With Perfmatters

There’s a lot of “miscellaneous optimizations” that don’t really fall under the main categories of speed optimization. I’m talking about disabling autosaves, pingbacks, trackbacks, limiting post revisions, DNS prefetching and preconnecting, and essentially removing bloat from your site.

The Perfmatters plugin (by Kinsta) takes care of this last 10% of speed optimization:

perfmatters features

 

11. Find Bottlenecks In GTmetrix

GTmetrix can be used for more than measuring scores and load times. It can also used to pinpoint why your website is slow on SiteGround, slow plugins, ttfb, etc. Here are examples:

Time To First Byte

Time To First Byte

Slow Plugins

Slow WordPress Plugin

 

12. Measure Server Response Times

It’s time to find out once and for all if SiteGround’s hosting is your problem.

Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights and check your server response time which should be under 200ms like Google recommends. If it’s not, you need a more powerful server.

Reduce Server Response Time

 

13. Get Cloud Hosting (Not From SiteGround)

Here’s what happened when I migrated from SiteGround to Cloudways DigitalOcean:

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways-Cloud-Hosting

Even posts with tons of requests load in <2s. Run this page through GTmetrix if you want.

GTmetrix-report-for-long-post

What I was paying with SiteGround:

SiteGround-Cloud-Hosting-Sales-Receipt

What I’m now paying with Cloudways:

Cloudways-Invoice

I don’t think I need to say much more. Just because SiteGround is good for shared hosting doesn’t mean their better or faster than other cloud hosting providers. Keep your options open and join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to see what real, unbiased people are saying.

Cloudways Response Times

WP Engine To Cloudways

DigitalOcean Pingdom Report

Cloudways Server Response Times

Cloudways Load Time Improvement

Cloudways vs WP Engine

Untitled

Cloudways Pingdom Load Times

Cloudways Pingdom Report

Namecheap To Cloudways Migration

Cloudways WooCommerce Migration

Cloudways AWS Migration

Cloudways Facebook Review

Bottom line: shared hosting is fine if you’re not running WooCommcerce, AdSense, high CPU plugins, or have decent traffic. But once you have one of those, look into cloud hosting. Yes, I’m an affiliate for Cloudways, but there are plenty of other people who migrated and posted their results. The code OMM25 will give you 25% off the first two months of hosting at Cloudways.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How can I speed up my SiteGround website?

Upgrade to the latest PHP version, setup and configure the SG Optimizer plugin, and activate Cloudflare's free CDN in your SiteGround account. Next, look at your GTmetrix report to see what's slowing it down, and make optimizations from this tutorial.

✅ Should I use SG Optimizer or WP Rocket?

If you have the budget, test both SG Optimizer and WP Rocket (individually) to see which one yields the best load times + scores in GTmetrix. WP Rocket has more features than SG Optimizer, but SG Optimizer uses server-side caching which is suppose to be faster than WP Rocket's file-based caching. Avoid overlapping functionality between the two plugins!

✅ How do I fix SiteGround's CPU limits?

If you are getting CPU limit messages from SiteGround, you need to lower the resources consumed by your site. The most common ways are to disable the WordPress Heartbeat API (eg. with the HeartBeat Control plugin), eliminate any resource-hungry plugins on your site, setup a CDN to offload resources, and configure your cache plugin correctly.

✅ Will upgrading plans fix my slow SiteGround site?

In theory, yes. Higher SiteGround plans include more server resources which make your site faster. But it's best to make sure your site is optimized as best as possible before upgrading. You may want to explore cloud hosting which is significantly faster than shared.

✅ What other speed optimizations can I do outside of SiteGround?

Clean your database using a plugin like WP Rocket or WP-Optimize, serve scaled images (don't use huge images), use Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters to selectively disable scripts and plugins from loading on certain pages, and avoid (or optimize) external scripts like Google Fonts, Analytics, Maps, AdSense, embedded videos, and social sharing plugins.

 

Is Your Website Still Slow On SiteGround?

Considering I covered nearly every major factor from the WordPress optimization guide, you should have a much faster site. And if you don’t, chances are you outgrew SiteGround’s StartUp or GrowBig plan, or your cache plugin isn’t configured properly. But if you still have questions, leave me a comment with your GTmetrix report URL and I’ll be glad to take a look.

Cheers,
Tom

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