How To Reduce CPU Usage In WordPress (And Avoid Getting Bandwidth Limit + CPU Errors Where Your Site Gets Shut Down)

I had serious issues with CPU overages on my WordPress site.

All this means is we need to reduce the amount of resources consumed by high CPU plugins, images, wp-cron, databases, external requests (usually generated by plugins), comment spam, and prevent spammy bots from crawling your website using the Blackhole For Bad Bots plugin.

We will also utilize Cloudflare’s CDN, remove bloat from the WordPress admin using Clearfy and Hide SEO Bloat, then test common settings in cache plugins that often consume high CPU.

When you’re done, hopefully your CPU graph looks like this:

Reduce-CPU-Usage-WordPress

By reducing CPU usage, you will be putting less stress on your server, making your site faster. Hosting companies want you to upgrade your plan which does work since you will be getting more server resources, but you should try these alternatives before reaching into your pocket.

If you’re using slow hosting like EIG or GoDaddy, I would seriously reconsider. I use SiteGround who is also used by Yoast, recommended by WordPress, and was #1 in 20+ Facebook polls. I’m on their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan and  not only are my server response times well under 200ms, but my GTmetrix report is pretty much unbeatable. They will also migrate you for free.

How To Reduce CPU Usage In WordPress

  1. Check CPU Usage In AWStats
  2. Eliminate High CPU Plugins
  3. Remove Bloat With Clearfy
  4. Disable WP-Cron
  5. Clean Your Database
  6. Upgrade To PHP 7+
  7. Offload Resources To CDNs
  8. Enable Hotlink Protection
  9. Block Bad Bots
  10. Optimize Images
  11. Common Fixes In WP Rocket
  12. Common Fixes In W3 Total Cache
  13. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings
  14. Delete Unused Plugins + Themes
  15. Disable Unused Settings In Plugins
  16. Block Comment Spam
  17. Protect Your WP-Admin
  18. Minimize External Requests
  19. Limit Google + Bing Crawl Rate
  20. Avoid Resource-Hungry Themes
  21. Disable Resource-Hungry WooCommerce Features
  22. Host Download Files On External Websites
  23. Disable AWStats + cPanel Statistics
  24. Turn Off SiteGround’s Site Scanner
  25. Use A Hosting Plan With Sufficient Server Resources
  26. Upgrade CPU/RAM

 

1. Check CPU Usage In AWStats

AWStats
AWStats is built-in to most cPanels (SiteGround, Bluehost, GoDaddy) in their “statistics” section and can help identify the source of high CPU. It tells you how much bandwidth specific elements are consuming including unknown bots, images, pages, files, downloaded files, etc.

AWStats helps you find:

  • Total bandwidth usage
  • High bandwidth crawlers
  • High bandwidth IP addresses
  • High bandwidth download files
  • High bandwidth files (eg. images)

Monthly-Bandwidth

If unknown bots are consuming CPU, try blocking spam bots with Blackhole For Bad Bots.

Robots-Spiders-Bandwidth

If images are consuming high CPU, use GTmetrix to find which images need to be optimized. Serve scaled images, compress them with ShortPixel, and use Cloudflare’s hotlink protection.

File-Type-Bandwidth

Server Response Time
High CPU can also lead to slow response times, which you can test in Bitcatcha or PageSpeed Insights. Google says it should be under 200ms. Of course, this is mostly controlled by hosting.

Bitcatcha Server Speed Report

 

2. Eliminate High CPU Plugins

These resource-hungry plugins are CPU killers.

High CPU plugins usually include social share, statistic, chat, calendar, page builders, backup, and plugins that run ongoing scans/processes or show multiple times in your GTmetrix report.

  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

Find Slow Loading Plugins
If the same plugin appears multiple times in your GTmetrix Waterfall report, you may want to find an alternative plugin that is more lightweight. External requests can also destroy your report (eg. from Google Fonts, Gravatars, AdSense, and the high CPU plugins I mentioned).

Slow WordPress Plugin

Query Monitor
Query Monitor shows your slowest plugins, scripts, styles, queries, hooks, PHP errors, and a wealth of information to pinpoint speed issues. This may require some technical knowledge, but it’s worth hiring a developer who can make optimizations with the help of Query Monitor.

Queries-By-Component

Don’t forget to minimize plugins, delete the ones you’re not using (not just deactivate them), and use lightweight plugins that consume minimal resources. For slider plugins I recommend Meta Slider or Soliloquy, for galleries I recommend Envira Gallery or FooGallery, and for social sharing use Sassy Social Share or Social Sharing (by Danny).

 

3. Remove Bloat With Clearfy

By “bloat” I am referring to the heartbeat API, autosaves, post revisions, pingbacks, and all the “miscellaneous” things that consume resources and should be disabled for most sites. The top 3 plugins to disable these are Clearfy (recommended), perfmatters by Kinsta, and WP Disable.

Option 1: Clearfy

Clearfy Performance Settings

Clearfy Defence Settings

Clearfy Advanced Settings

Option 2: Perfmatters By Kinsta ($25/Year)

perfmatters settings

Option 3: WP Disable

WP-Disable-Requests

WP-Disable-Tags-Settings

WP-Disable-Admin

WP-Disable-Others

 

4. Disable WP-Cron

The wp-cron is loaded on every page load and schedules automated tasks like publishing scheduled posts, checking for theme and plugin updates, and sending email notifications. Instead of running it on every page load, you can schedule it to run every 90 minutes or so.

Step 1: Disable WP Cron Jobs

Add the code to wp-config.php, before where it says “That’s all, step editing! Happy blogging.”

define('DISABLE_WP_CRON', true);

Step 2: Replace With A Real Cron Job
You still need wp-cron (eg. checking for theme/plugin updates), just not on every page load. Each host has their own instructions for this, here is SiteGround’s tutorial. You can set the cron job to run every 90 minutes, or increase it even more if you don’t have lots of scheduled tasks.

 

5. Clean Your Database

Deletes post revisions, spam, trash, transients, and database tables that accumulate overtime are often left behind when you uninstall plugins… making your site slower with higher CPU.

You should clean these at LEAST once a month using WP Rocket or WP-Optimize. They have similar settings with an automatic cleanup option (I highly recommend enabling this) but I like WP Rocket since it was rated the #1 cache plugin in this Facebook poll and has options for database cleanup + lazy loading images/videos/iframes. Most other cache plugins don’t have these extra options which means you also need to install WP-Optimize and a lazy load plugin.

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

 

6. Upgrade To PHP 7+

About 50% of WordPress users run PHP 5.6 or lower:

WordPress-PHP-Version-Stats

When upgrading to PHP 7+ can process requests almost 3x faster:

WordPress PHP Benchmarks

SiteGround (and most hosts) have an option to upgrade in their cPanel:

PHP-Version-Manager

I recommend PHP 7.2:

PHP-Upgrade

The last step is to check your website for errors. If you see any, run the PHP Compatibility Checker to make sure your plugins are compatible. Poorly-maintained plugins may not be.

 

7. Offload Resources To CDNs

CDNs reduce the load on your server by offloading resources to their data centers. Each CDN has their own set of data centers, and more data centers = more offloading (and faster delivery of your content). I use both Cloudflare (free) and StackPath ($10/month with free 30-day trial).

Cloudflare offloads resources to their 200+ data centers:

Cloudflare Data Centers

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Sign up for Cloudflare, add your site, and run the scan. You’ll come to a page where Cloudflare assigns you 2 nameservers. Then in your hosting account, change nameservers to Cloudflare’s.

Cloudflare Nameservers

StackPath offloads resources to 31 additional data centers:

StackPath-Data-Centers

Step 1: Sign up for StackPath (they have a 30-day trial).

Step 2: In the dashboard, click the CDN tab, then create a StackPath CDN Site:

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

CDN-URL-StackPath

Step 3: Copy your CDN URL and paste into your cache plugin (you can also use CDN Enabler).

WP-Rocket-CDN-Settings

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click Purge Everything

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

Hotlink protection can be enabled in Cloudflare (or sometimes your hosting account). This prevents people from copying/pasting your images onto their own website, which sucks up bandwidth. This usually happens if you have high quality images on your site (eg. photography).

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

 

9. Block Bad Bots

In AWStats, you might see bots + spiders consuming a lot of bandwidth. Obviously we don’t want to block Googlebot and other legitimate crawlers, but we do want to block spammy ones.

Robots-Spiders-Bandwidth

Step 1: Install Wordfence.

Step 2: View Your Live Traffic Report (in Wordfence’s Tools settings) which shows you all bots hitting your site in real-time. Googlebot is obviously OK, but when I observed mine, I saw compute.amazonaws.com was making a ridiculous amount of requests every couple seconds. I Googled it and sure enough, this was a bot known for sucking up bandwidth. View your report for a minute or two and see if bots with sketchy names are constantly hitting your site. If you have doubts, Google their hostnames and see if other people are having issues with that bot.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Block Bad Bots (3 Options): Wordfence, Blackhole For Bad Bots, or Cloudflare Firewall Rules. Wordfence itself can cause high CPU (I recommend one of the other options).

Wordfence – Go to the Blocking settings and add the spam bots you wish to block. Asterisks serve as wildcards, so if I block *amazonaws.com* it means any hostnames containing amazonaws.com (whether it has characters before or after it), that bot will be blocked. I have saved thousands of requests/bandwidth just by blocking these two spammy hostnames:

  • *amazonaws.com
  • *linode.com

Wordfence-Blocking-Rule

Blackhole For Bad Bots – adds a hidden link to your pages that forbids all bots from following the link. If a bot disobeys it, they are blocked. Googlebot and other good bots are whitelisted.

Blackhole for Bad Bots

Cloudflare Firewall Rules – Cloudflare lets you create up to 5 firewall rules for free. Copy the hostnames of the most common bad bots (found in your live traffic report) and add them here.

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

Step 4: Go to your Blocking log and enjoy watching those spam bots get blocked.

Wordfence-Firewall-Blocking

Step 5: If you do decide to use Wordfence, configure rating limiting settings. This limits/blocks crawlers (and humans) from making excessive requests, blocks fake Google crawlers, and improves security on 404 pages. These are the same settings recommended by Wordfence:

Wordfence-Rate-Limiting

Be sure to tweak the Wordfence “options” tab to limit bandwidth consumed by this plugin:

  • Do not “enable automatic scheduled scans”
  • Do not “enable email summary”
  • Enable “use low resource scanning”
  • Decrease “limit the number of issues sent in the scan results email” to 500
  • Do not enable “updates needed (plugin, theme, or core)”
  • Increase “update interval in seconds (2 is default)” to 10-15 seconds
  • Decrease “how much memory should Wordfence request when scanning” to 100MB
  • Enable “delete Wordfence tables and data on deactivation”
  • View Wordfence’s options page for more recommendations

 

10. Optimize Images

Images can consume lots of bandwidth, as shown in AWStats:

File-Type-Bandwidth

There are 3 ways to optimize images in GTmetrix.

Image-Optimization

  • Serve scaled images – resize larges images to be smaller
  • Specify image dimensions – specify a width/height in the HTML or CSS (screenshot)
  • Optimize images – losslessly compress images (I recommend ShortPixel or Imagify)

Start by optimizing images that appear on multiple pages (logo, sidebar, footer images). Then run your most important pages through GTmetrix and optimize individual images on those. The first item you should work on is “serve scaled images” since this requires you to scale (resize) an image to the correction dimensions, upload the new version to WP, and replace it.

 

11. Common Fixes In WP Rocket

WP Rocket says:

Occasionally some of the options on the File Optimization tab, such as Remove Query Strings, or Minify/Combine can cause high CPU usage in cases where your site has a lot of CSS or JS files. Try disabling these options and then monitor your CPU usage.

There have also been reports that critical path CSS and preloading can increase CPU. You can use a plugin to increase the preload crawl interval from 500ms (the default) to 1.5s or higher.

 

12. Common Fixes In W3 Total Cache

Common CPU solutions for W3 Total Cache:

  • Test object cache
  • Delete and reinstall the plugin

 

13. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings

These 3 are all very important:

  • If you’re using a cache plugin
  • Which cache plugin you’re using (I recommend WP Rocket)
  • Whether the settings are configured optimally (some can cause high CPU)

Why WP Rocket?
It has more features than most cache plugins, which means you don’t need to install extra plugins for these, while giving you better results. Otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugins comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them:

WP-Rocket-Features

If you can drop $49 on WP Rocket, buy it then see my WP Rocket tutorial. It’s easy to setup, updated frequently with new features, includes documentation, and support. If not, I have tutorials for Swift, WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and Autoptimize. For free plugins, I recommend Swift or WP Fastest Cache (Swift is a tricky to setup but has great reviews in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group and comes with most features as WP Rocket, while WP Fastest Cache is easy to setup but lacks features included with WP Rocket).

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

 

Some hosts like GoDaddy and WP Engine blacklist cache plugins because they have their own built-in caching system. In this case, use Autoptimize to optimize HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It also has a CDN option. See my Autoptimize tutorial, otherwise if your host doesn’t blacklist cache plugins, I recommend either WP Rocket or Swift.

You can also try disabling your cache plugin and checking CPU usage. If your cache plugin is indeed causing issues, reach out to the plugin developer (or switch plugins).

 

14. Delete Unused Plugins + Themes

Unused themes store preconfigured settings in your WordPress database (similar to plugins). Go to Appearance > Themes then delete all the WordPress themes you’re not currently using.

Delete-Unused-WordPress-Themes

 

15. Disable Unused Settings In Plugins

Just like we tweaked Wordfence’s settings to reduce CPU usage created by the plugin, go through each one of your plugin settings and decide whether you need individual features. For example, in Yoast under Settings > General > Features I disabled all of the following…

Yoast-Feature-Settings

Disable plugin settings that:

  • Provide statistics
  • Run ongoing scans
  • Send admin or email notifications
  • Pull resources from external websites

Examples:

  • WP Rocket’s preload bot
  • Wordfence’s live traffic reports
  • Broken Link Checker’s ongoing scans
  • Yoast’s settings under Dashboard > Features
  • Chat and calendar plugins that run constantly
  • Statistical plugins that constantly collect data
  • Related post and popular post plugins that store tons of data

 

16. Block Comment Spam

An ongoing accumulation of spam comments isn’t good for your CPU usage. The Anti-Spam plugin has always work well for me (I tested plenty of others) and it doesn’t use CAPTCHA.

 

17. Protect Your WP-Admin

Attacks are commonly targeted at the WordPress admin, which is not only a security threat, but will consume high amounts of CPU especially since these pages aren’t usually not cached.

WordPress-Admin-Page-Rule

 

18. Minimize External Requests

External requests are hard on the server.

  • Gravatars
  • Google Fonts
  • Google Maps
  • Google AdSense
  • Some Social Sharing Plugins
  • Many others from my list of high CPU plugins

Often times, these will be very noticeable in your GTmetrix report:

GTmetrix-Advertisements

Cache-Gravatar-Images

Step 1: Eliminate Them If Possible

Step 2: Optimize Them

Step 3: Prefetching DNS Requests
Some cache plugins like WP Rocket let you prefetch DNS requests (as well as perfmatters and WP Disable). This helps browsers anticipate external resources so they can load them faster. Luke created a nice list of common domains to prefetch which you can then add to WP Rocket:

Prefetch-DNS-Requests-WP-Rocket

Prefetch-DNS-Requests

 

19. Limit Crawl Rate By Google + Bing

Google is usually the most resource-hungry crawl bot (by far) and you can limit their crawl rate in the “site settings” section of Google Search Console. This lowers the requests made by Googlebot and does NOT affect your rankings or penalize you in any way. Unless you run a news website or publish time-sensitive content (and you have a hosting plan with sufficient resources), you don’t need Google crawling your site quickly and consuming tons of resources. Websites struggling with CPU usage should lower this – keep in mind it resets every month.

Crawl-Rate-Google-Search-Console

Google says this on their crawl rate page

“If Google is making too many requests per second to your site and slowing down your server, you can limit the crawl rate… we recommend against limiting the crawl rate unless you are seeing server load problems that are definitely caused by Googlebot hitting your server too hard… you canot change the crawl rate for sites that are not at the root level.”

You can do the same thing with Bing Webmaster Tools in the crawl control settings

Bing-Crawl-Control

 

20. Avoid Resource-Hungry Themes

Bloated, poorly coded, and non-maintained themes are a recipe for disaster.

Instead of using a theme with tons of built-in features, use a lightweight (minimal) theme and rely on plugins to only add functionality you absolutely need. I always recommend StudioPress along with their Genesis Plugins which is what I use on my own site. Yoast also uses Genesis.

studiopress-themes

 

21. Disable Resource-Hungry WooCommerce Features

WooCommerce sites naturally require more CPU. This is something to keep in mind when choosing your hosting plan, and you should ideally not be using shared hosting.

Optimizing Woocommerce

  • Disable WooCommerce cart fragments
  • Disable WooCommerce scripts and styles
  • Disable WooCommerce widgets
  • Disable WooCommerce status metabox
  • Disable automatic product feed plugins

Most of these can be done using the perfmatters plugin.

perfmatters woocommerce optimization

 

22. Host Download Files On External Websites

I barely have any files to download on my website so the bandwidth is low enough where I don’t worry about this. But if you have tons of large files that suck up bandwidth when people download them, consider uploading them to Dropbox or another file sharing website and pointing people there. That way dropbox.com will be handling the bandwidth and not you.

Download-Bandwidth

 

23. Disable AWStats + cPanel Statistics

AWStats, Webalizer, and other statistical programs in the cPanel are good for identifying the source of high CPU usage, but these actually increase CPU just like any WordPress plugin that collects statistics. All I’m saying is that when you’re done using these, you should delete them.

 

24. Turn Off SiteGround’s Site Scanner

If you’re getting CPU overages on SiteGround and you paid for their SG Site Scanner, try contacting their support team to turn this off. The ongoing scans may be causing high CPU.

SiteGround-SG-Site-Scanner

As nice as these emails are, you should try turning this off…

SiteGround-SG-Site-Scanner-Emails

 

25. Use A Hosting Plan With Sufficient Server Resources

Generally, the higher the plan the more server resources you get (and yes, upgrading should cure CPU overages/bandwidth limitations). For example on SiteGround’s features page you can see how many server resources come with their StartUp vs. GrowBig vs. GoGeek plan. Just scroll down to the “we allocate the resources you need” and look under the server tab…

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

 

26. Upgrade CPU/RAM

Make sure you have enough RAM so you’re not always on the edge of your limit. If it’s almost always maxed out, this puts stress on your CPU. You want to have enough resources so your server is relaxed. In this case, the 2GB of RAM was almost always maxed out, so upgrading to 4GB was a smart move. Most shared plans don’t let you add RAM (you’ll need to upgrade to a plan that includes more resources) but you can usually add them on most cloud hosting plans.

Cloud-Memory-Increase

 

SiteGround (#1 Host In Facebook Polls)

SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.

DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends it should be <200ms. Anything above 1 second is not good. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix’s Timings tab or bytecheck.com.

Reduce Server Response Time

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

SiteGround is recommended by WordPress:

SiteGround-Recommended-WordPress-Host

And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.

WordPress-Speed-Up Recommended Tools

A few threads:

Godaddy To SiteGround Migration

EIG-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Migration

SiteGround has 3 plans:

SiteGround-Plans

Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.

You can see this on their features page:

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

I use SiteGround because:

  1. My GTmetrixPingdom reports speak for themselves
  2. My pages load instantly (click through them if you want)
  3. Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
  4. Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
  5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
  6. WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
  7. GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
  8. GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
  9. Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
  10. Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
  11. Tons of praise on Facebook: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7#8, #9, #10#11
  12. Many people already migrated and posted results on Twitter: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

OMM-On-SiteGround

People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

 

Hire My Developer To Reduce Your CPU Usage

I’ve been working with the same guy since 2011 – he is amazing at speed optimization and helped me optimize my site to load in <1 second with great GTmetrix and Pingdom reports.

His name is Pronaya and he should be able to solve your CPU overages (if you still need help) and help you improve scores/load times in GTmetrix and Pingdom. You can hire him by creating a profile on freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol. Here is his full WordPress speed portfolio. He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and you can email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. He also has a perfect 5 star review on his profile.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

You can also consider posting your problem in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group if you want feedback from people who have already been through the problem of high CPU, but I have covered the most common solutions throughout this tutorial.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ What is the easiest way to reduce CPU in WordPress?

Find and eliminate high CPU plugins, update to PHP 7.4, configure a good cache plugin with optimal settings, using a CDN, and disable unneeded WordPress functions like the Heartbeat API. Upgrading to faster hosting will obviously help.

✅ Which plugins consume the most CPU?

Social sharing, statistic (analytic) plugins, sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. These can be found using Query Monitor or GTmetrix Waterfall.

✅ Does all shared hosting have CPU limits?

Yes. Even though some shared hosting companies claim to have unlimited bandwidth, they still enforce CPU limits. This is usually found in their terms are conditions.

✅ Does WooCommerce cause high CPU?

WooCommerce sites generally require more plugins, and often times, more CPU. If these are not selected carefully, the extra resources consumed by those plugins can put stress on your server. WooCommerce sites also load extra scripts, styles, and cart fragments which don't help either. WooCommerce sites are better off on cloud hosting.

✅ How can I check my website's CPU consumption?

Your hosting account should tell you how much CPU you're consuming. Some hosts have tools like AWStats which show specific images, bots, and other resources that consume lots of resources.

Let me know if this tutorial worked in the comments!

See Also: How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In <1s (38+ Tips)

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal WP Rocket Settings With Cloudflare + CDN Instructions Which Got Me 1.2s GTmetrix Load Times (2020, Latest Version 3.6.1)

These are the same WP Rocket settings I used to get this GTmetrix report.

WP Rocket was rated #1 in numerous Facebook polls because it comes with more speed optimization features than any other cache plugin. That’s why it usually yields better results in GTmetrix, Pingdom, and PageSpeed Insights. It also means you don’t need to install a bunch of extra plugins (Heartbeat Control, plugins for hosting Google Fonts and Analytics locally, etc).

I will show you how to optimize fonts, the difference between CDNs (Cloudflare, RocketCDN, StackPath), configure Cloudflare settings and page rules, optimize third party requests using preload and prefetch, image optimization plugins, WebP images, and how to delete old plugin tables in your database which you can’t do with WP Rocket (we will use WP-Optimize for this).

I tried to make this tutorial as robust (and simple) as possible. But if you still need help configuring the WP Rocket settings, drop a comment with your questions or GTmetrix report.

  1. Dashboard
  2. Cache
  3. File Optimization
  4. Media
  5. Preload
  6. Advanced Rules
  7. Database
  8. CDN
  9. Heartbeat
  10. Add-Ons
  11. Cloudflare
  12. Image Optimization
  13. Tools

If you haven’t bought WP Rocket yet, I would appreciate you using my affiliate link. I also donate a good chunk of my affiliate income to charity. You can get 10% off by going to their Coupons Page, sign up for their email list, and they will send you a code.

 

1. Dashboard

Leave both options off unless you want to be a beta tester or let WP Rocket collect your data anonymously which results in a (very small) performance decrease. RocketCDN is covered in the CDN section, but you don’t need it if you’re using Cloudflare. You can clear the cache or regenerate critical CSS if you make design/plugin changes but they don’t appear on your site.

WP-Rocket-Dashboard-Settings

 

2. Cache

These are good cache settings as long as you don’t use a plugin for your mobile website and don’t allow multiple users to login to your site (eg. bbPress). I increased cache lifespan from 10 to 24 so the cache doesn’t have to refresh as often, which saves a little bit on server resources.

WP-Rocket-Cache-Settings

Mobile Cache – enables caching for mobile devices. Only enable “separate cache files for mobile devices” if you use a plugin for your mobile website (like the free version of WP Touch).

User Cache – leave disabled unless you have multiple users logging into your website (bbPress for example) where there is user-specific content. It gives each user their own cached version.

Cache Lifespan – a lower number means the cache will refresh more frequently, but it consumes more resources. A cache lifespan with a lower number means it won’t refresh as frequently, but saves resources. Do you care more about your cache building frequently or saving server resources? Since I only publish a couple posts a week, I increased it to 24 hours.

 

3. File Optimization

All HTML, CSS, and JavaScript settings should be enabled individually while testing your site for visible errors. These are the file optimization settings I use which gave me the best results in GTmetrix, but you should be testing your GTmetrix report to check the impact of each setting.

WP-Rocket-File-Optimization-Settings

Minify Files – enables minification of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Check your site for visible minification errors after enabling each one. If you see any, view your source code, find the problematic CSS or JavaScript files, and exclude them from being minified. That way, you still get the benefits on minification (just not for that file). Otherwise, they should all be enabled.

Combine Files – just like minify, enable and check your site for errors.

Optimize Google Fonts – this compresses fonts into 1 single file, ensures text remains visible while loading fonts, and preconnects fonts (tells browsers you intend to load Google Fonts). Remember to prefetch/preload fonts in the Preload tab and be minimal with fonts/weights.

Exclude CSS – if for some reason a minification option messes up your site layout, locate the problematic file and add it here. See WP Rocket’s article on resolving issues with minification.

Optimize CSS Delivery – your page will start loading without CSS styles which is a depreciated item in PageSpeed Insights. WP Rocket automatically generates this for you. WP Rocket says:

“By enabling these options you may see an improvement in your performance grade on GTmetrix, Pingdom Tools, and Google PageSpeed Insights. Results will vary from site to site. Always remember to test the effect on the speed of your site. “

JavaScript Files – same concept as CSS only with JavaScript files.

 

4. Media

Most sites should enable everything especially in the lazyload settings. If you use embedded YouTube videos on your site, replacing the YouTube iframe with a preview image can cut load times in half since videos are very heavy. You’ll also still need a plugin to create WebP images.

WP-Rocket-Media-Settings

Lazy Load – delays loading of images, iframes, and videos until you scroll down the page and they become visible. This significantly reduces initial load times and HTTP requests, but constantly loading images as you scroll can be annoying (test it out for yourself). Always lazy load videos and replace iframes with a preview image since embedded videos are very heavy.

Disable Emojis – emojis slow down your site. You can also disable them under Settings → Writing → Formatting, then do not convert emoticons.

Disable WordPress Embeds – similar to Cloudflare’s hotlink prevention, it prevents other sites from embedding your content on their site which sucks up bandwidth and stresses your server.

WebP Caching – enable if you’re using WebP images. If you’re not using WebP images already, you should since they load faster and look nicer than JPEG + PNG. Using WebP also fixes the serve images in next-gen format item in PageSpeed Insights. You will still need a plugin that converts images to WebP. I use WebP Converter For Media plugin but Imagify, ShortPixel, and most image optimization plugins have an option to convert images to WebP (TingPNG does not unfortunately). Finally, check your image files in the source code to make sure they use .webp.

 

5. Preload

Preloading is done automatically by WP Rocket when you activate it with your XML sitemap. Prefetching and preloading fonts are especially important for optimizing fonts and third party scripts which you can find in the Reduce DNS Lookups section of your GTmetrix YSlow report.

WP-Rocket-Preload-Settings

Prefetch DNS Requests – run your site through GTmetrix and look at the Reduce DNS Lookups section in your YSlow report. You will see all third party scripts loading on your site which can be anything from Google Fonts to Google Analytics, Maps, ASense, Tag Manager, YouTube, or even social media platforms if you embed social posts or use social share buttons on your blog.

WordPress External Scripts

Grab all those URLs from your report and paste them into the Prefetch DNS Requests section of WP Rocket. This will help browsers anticipate those external requests and load them faster.

Or use this list of common domains to prefetch as a reference:


//maps.googleapis.com
//maps.gstatic.com
//fonts.googleapis.com
//fonts.gstatic.com
//use.fontawesome.com
//ajax.googleapis.com
//apis.google.com
//google-analytics.com
//www.google-analytics.com
//ssl.google-analytics.com
//www.googletagmanager.com
//www.googletagservices.com
//googleads.g.doubleclick.net
//adservice.google.com
//pagead2.googlesyndication.com
//tpc.googlesyndication.com
//youtube.com
//i.ytimg.com
//player.vimeo.com
//api.pinterest.com
//assets.pinterest.com
//connect.facebook.net
//platform.twitter.com
//syndication.twitter.com
//platform.instagram.com
//referrer.disqus.com
//c.disquscdn.com
//cdnjs.cloudflare.com
//cdn.ampproject.org
//pixel.wp.com
//disqus.com
//s.gravatar.com
//0.gravatar.com
//2.gravatar.com
//1.gravatar.com
//sitename.disqus.com
//s7.addthis.com
//platform.linkedin.com
//w.sharethis.com
//s0.wp.com
//s1.wp.com
//s2.wp.com
//stats.wp.com
//ajax.microsoft.com
//ajax.aspnetcdn.com
//s3.amazonaws.com
//code.jquery.com
//stackpath.bootstrapcdn.com
//github.githubassets.com
//ad.doubleclick.net
//stats.g.doubleclick.net
//cm.g.doubleclick.net
//stats.buysellads.com
//s3.buysellads.com

Preload Fonts – copy your font files from GTmetrix Waterfall (they have a tab for font files) and paste them in WP Rocket’s preload fonts field. Retest your website and they should load faster.

Google-Fonts-Waterfall

 

6. Advanced Rules

Advanced Rules are mainly for eCommerce sites, however WP Rocket is already compatible with most solutions like WooCommerce and BigCommerce. But if you’re having issues with cart widgets, caching, or something related to eCommerce, they have documentation for that.

Otherwise, leave this blank.

WP-Rocket-Advanced-Rules

Never Cache URLs – if you’re using an eCommerce shopping cart that is not supported by WP Rocket, add your cart and checkout pages here which will exclude these pages from the cache.

Never Cache Cookies – same principle as previous option only based on cookies.

Never Cache User Agents – prevents Googlebot or other user agents from caching pages.

Always Purge URLs – let’s say you have a blogroll on your homepage. If you create a new post, you want that homepage blogroll updated immediately by emptying the homepage cache. That’s what this setting does, however WP Rocket automatically clears the cache for your homepage, categories and tags once new content is created… so there is usually no need for this. But if there are other page’s cache you want cleared when new content is posted, add it.

Cache Query Strings – mainly used to cache search result pages + price filters on eCommerce.

 

7. Database

Scheduling database cleanups keeps your site and admin fast, just know what you’re deleting!

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

  • Revisions – old versions of your posts which are saved when you hit “Publish.”
  • Auto Drafts – automatically saved versions of your post if you don’t hit “Publish.”
  • Trashed Posts – posts and drafts you deleted.
  • Spam Comments – comments marked as spam.
  • Trashed Comments – comments marked as trash.
  • Expired Transients – transients that have expired and are still in your database.
  • All Transients – stores data that takes a long time to retrieve (eg. social counts on blogs).
  • Optimize Tables – optimizes database tables to run more efficiently.
  • Automatic Cleanup – how often you want WP Rocket to clean your database.

Delete Unused Plugin Tables (Not With WP Rocket) – one thing WP Rocket doesn’t do is let you go through your individual database tables and delete tables left behind by old plugins that aren’t installed anymore. I recommend installing WP-Optimize and going through your tables every so often, especially if you deleted plugins (plus it shows you the actual size of the tables). The tables that say “not installed” are the ones that were left behind by old, uninstalled plugins.

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

8. CDN

You should really just use Cloudflare’s free CDN, in which case you would change nameservers and don’t need to do anything in this tab (see the Cloudflare tab instead).

WP Rocket says you shouldn’t use RocketCDN on top of Cloudflare. And since WP Rocket uses StackPath’s data centers for RocketCDN (who only has around 32 data centers), you’re better off on Cloudflare who has 200 data centers and counting. More data centers = faster website.

WP Rocket’s CDN tab is only for setting up CDNs who use CDN URLs (StackPath, KeyCDN, BunnyCDN), it is not for Cloudflare (which requires changing nameservers and using the Cloudflare tab) or RocketCDN (requires signing up through WP Rocket).

That means there is nothing to do in WP Rocket’s CDN settings since CDN URLs don’t work with Cloudflare or RocketCDN (they’re specifically for StackPath, BunnyCDN, KeyCDN, etc).

Here’s the catch.

I’m using both Cloudflare and StackPath. Yeah, I’m going against advice not to use multiple CDNs, but it’s been working great and I’m offloading a ton of bandwidth to StackPath. While I don’t advise this and it’s not recommended by WP Rocket, it works for me. If you want to try this, sign up for StackPath, create a CDN site, then copy/paste your CDN URL into WP Rocket.

StackPath-Bandwidth-Savings

Grab your StackPath CDN URL:

StackPath-CDN-URL-WP-Rocket

Paste the CDN URL into WP Rocket:

WP-Rocket-CDN-Settings

Testing CDNs – since Cloudflare is set up differently and requires changing nameservers, the “content delivery network” in GTmetrix YSlow will be red (but will be green for other CDNs).  That doesn’t mean Cloudflare isn’t working; use the Claire Chrome Extension to make sure it is.

Exclude Files From CDN – lets you serve files locally instead of the CDN. Usually, these files come from plugins designed to disregard cross domain load. In most cases, there is no need.

Example:

  • {uploads_dir}/wpcf7_captcha/*
  • {uploads_dir}/imagerotator.swf
  • {plugins_dir}/wp-fb-autoconnect/facebook-platform/channel.html

 

9. Heartbeat

Instead of using the Heartbeat Control plugin, WP Rocket has it built-in.

The WordPress Heartbeat API tells you when other users are editing a page/post and shows you real-time plugin notifications. You usually want to disable Heartbeat completely, or at least reduce it, since it consumes resources and contributes to CPU overages (eg. on SiteGround).

WP-Rocket-Heartbeat-Settings

 

10. Add-Ons

If you’re using any of these services, activate it’s add-on.

WP-Rocket-Add-Ons

Google Tracking – fixes the “leverage browser caching” issue for Google Analytics in your GTmetrix report by hosting Google Analytics locally. If it’s still not 100%, use the Flying Analytics plugin. If you’re using Google Analytics, remember to optimize it in the Preload tab.

Facebook Pixel  – enable if using Facebook Pixel to host it locally. If you’re using Facebook Pixel, remember to optimize it in the Preload tab.

Cloudflare – enable if using Cloudflare.

Synchronize Sucuri Cache – enable if using Sucuri. This automatically clears Sucuri’s cache whenever you clear WP Rocket’s cache which helps keep your content synchronized. For the Sucuri Firewall API Key (For Plugin), login to Sucuri here, select your website, go to the API tab, then copy your API Key (For Plugin) and paste in WP Rocket when you expand the Sucuri field.

 

11. Cloudflare

As mentioned earlier, Cloudflare is the only CDN you need which offloads a ton of bandwidth.

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Sign up for Cloudflare and you will come to a page where they assign you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-GoDaddy-Nameservers

Change nameservers in your domain registrar to the one’s Cloudflare gave you.

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Add your Cloudflare information to WP Rocket.

WP-Rocket-Cloudflare-Add-On

Global API Key and Zone ID are found in your Cloudflare dashboard.

Cloudflare Global API Key

  • Global API Key – found in your Cloudflare dashboard.
  • Account Email – same email you used to sign up for Cloudflare.
  • Zone ID – found in your Cloudflare dashboard.
  • Domain – your website’s domain name.
  • Development Mode – use when making a lot of code changes to your site.
  • Optimal Settings – activates optimal Cloudflare settings: minification, aggressive caching, and deactivates Rocket Loader for better compatibility. Most common issue is Rocket Loader, but I also noticed it turns on email decoding which made my GTmetrix report worse, so I don’t use this (and instead configured Cloudflare in their dashboard).
  • Relative Protocol – sometimes if people download files from your site, there are no contents in them. Leaving this option OFF will prevent this from happening.
  • Clear All Cloudflare Cache Files – do this after you’re done configuring WP Rocket.

Configure Cloudflare Settings In The Dashboard – a lot of people have been asking about Cloudflare’s dashboard and how to configure it. Here are the things I recommend you do.

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

As I mentioned, Cloudflare won’t fix “content delivery network” in GTmetrix YSlow because of the way it’s set up. Instead, use the Claire Chrome Extension to ensure Cloudflare is working.

 

12. Image Optimization

WP Rocket recommends Imagify because it’s their plugin.

But even when you select lossless compression, it’s definitely not lossless and neither is ShortPixel. I used both for many months and switched to TinyPNG which I’m very happy with. The only thing about TinyPNG is that it doesn’t support WebP in which case you will need a plugin like WebP Converter For Media. But I find the quality is much better than with Imagify.

WP-Rocket-Image-Optimization

 

13. Tools

Import and export your WP Rocket settings, or rollback to the previous version of WP Rocket.

WP-Rocket-Tools-Settings

Export Settings – export your settings to use on multiple sites.

Import Settings – import your pre-configured settings here.

Rollback – if you update to a new version of WP Rocket and it causes issues, this will fall back on the previous version.

 

WP Rocket = #1 Rated Cache Plugin

WP Rocket comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (see below). That means if you were to use other cache plugins, you would need to install about 6 extra plugins to get those features when WP Rocket already has them built-in (more features, yet less plugins on your site). That’s also why WP Rocket yields better results in GTmetrix/Pingdom and is what I use.

WP Rocket incorporates:

  • Database cleanup (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP-Optimize)
  • Heartbeat control (built-in to WP Rocket, or use Heartbeat Control)
  • Lazy load images/videos (built-in to WP Rocket, or use WP YouTube Lyte)
  • Host Google Analytics locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Analytics)
  • Host Google Fonts locally (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

I tested WP Rocket against 3 top free cache plugins and while they all do a great job, WP Rocket gave me the best results in Pingdom (.4s load times). Your cache plugin and hosting are 2 main speed factors so it’s definitely worth the $49. Configuring the right WP Rocket settings with Cloudflare + StackPath can fix over 20 items in Pingdom and GTmetrix. So let’s do that :)

The WP Rocket settings are WAY easier to configure than W3 Total Cache and they update the changelog regularly so you’ll actually get ongoing updates. If you have questions (or want to share your new load time), drop me a comment. WP Rocket also has documentation which I reference throughout the guide. Good luck – remember to benchmark those Pingdom scores!

Here are the Facebook polls:

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

I tested WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache, and W3 Total Cache… making sure all cache plugin settings were configured optimally. WP Rocket won BUT this with the lazy load feature turned ON. The other cache plugins do not have a lazy load option and when I turned lazy load off in WP Rocket, I got a .5s load time… the exact same as WP Fastest Cache. I didn’t see a huge difference when clicking through my pages – both loaded super quickly. I know Pingdom can show different load times during different tests, but I just wanted to share my own experience.

WP Rocket (.406)
Pingdom Page Speed Test

WP Fastest Cache (.527)
WP Fastest Cache Load Times

W3 Total Cache (.619)
W3 Total Cache Load Times

 

Recommended Host: Cloudways

In case you were wondering what hosting I use, it’s Cloudways DigitalOcean.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

Join the WordPress Hosting FB Group to see what real, unbiased people are saying. Look at Facebook polls and tweets of people who migrated and posted their server response times.

I signed up for 15+ different hosting plans and tested them with the identical website:

DigitalOcean On Cloudwayscwdoserver.com had the fastest load times, is who I use, and are very popular in Facebook Groups (especially as a SiteGround alternative). Cloudways does monthly pricing starting at $10/month with no high renewal prices or strict CPU limits like SiteGround. Their stack is very fast: PHP 7.4, Maria DB 10.3, Memcached, Varnish, Nginx, and Redis. Only complaint is their email hosting costs $1/month (you will need a Rackspace account). Their community manager is helpful and they do free migrations. Get 25% off your first 2 months with the code OMM25.

Kinstaknstaserver.com has similar speeds as DigitalOcean on Cloudways only they are more expensive starting at $30/month. Known for being capable of handling many concurrent visitors. People consistently recommend Kinsta in Facebook Groups, Twitter, and in migration results. Even though they’re not always #1 in Facebook polls (likely because not everyone can pay $30+/month), they are great for high traffic sites.

WPX Hostingwpxserver.com is also very quick, but Cloudways and Kinsta are slightly faster. Starts at $20-$25/month and is who Matthew Woodward recommends.

A2 Hostingatwoserver.com usually outperforms other shared hosting, but it’s not nearly as fast as cloud hosting (just cheaper). I use them for my girlfriend’s restaurant website and it’s decently fast with good uptimes. A2 (and all shared hosting) is only sufficient for smaller sites with lower traffic and plugins. Check this Facebook poll.

SiteGround – have gone downhill in my opinion and are no longer my recommended host. Load times and TTFB on stgrndserver.com were usually above 1s. Many complaints about their renewal prices, price hikes, CPU limits, and support isn’t as good as it used to be. SiteGround shifted to Google Cloud hosting (instead of shared) which is supposed to be faster, but they didn’t perform well. Their SG Optimizer plugin will help, but I still wouldn’t use them. You will be much better off on CW DigitalOcean.

Affiliate Disclaimer – I would seriously appreciate you using my affiliate links which means I earn a commission at no expense to you. This would help me make GoFundMe donations ($6,000 so far)! I try to base my recommendations on tests, Facebook polls, and conversations I see on a daily basis in the 30+ WP Facebook Groups I’m active on.

I would personally skip shared hosting since cloud hosting is exponentially faster. This is especially true if you’re on GoDaddy or EIG brands (eg. Bluehost and HostGator) and for resource-intensive websites running WooCommerce, WPML, page builders, or slow plugins.

There are plenty of migration results if you check Twitter and Facebook Groups. Avoid the bloggers promoting Bluehost and WP Engine because they have the highest commissions and do your research. Hosting is the #1 factor in WordPress’ optimization guide – very important!

Cloudways Response Times

Godaddy to DigitalOcean Migration

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

2018 Hosting Recommendations

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

Untitled

Vultr Migration

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

 

View My Full WordPress Speed Guide

Here’s my full WordPress speed guide, or watch my video. It’s a 42 minute video but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you will learn lots of good stuff.

 

FAQs / Documentation

I spent many hours digging through their documentation to make sure this tutorial uses the best WP Rocket settings, but they are still extremely helpful if you haven’t checked them out.

wp rocket documentation

There are also video tutorials in the Tutorials tab to help configure your WP Rocket settings.

wp rocket video tutorials

Tutorials I found the most helpful:

🚀 What's the best way to configure WP Rocket?

The most important steps are to enable everything you can in the file optimization tab, set up CDNs like Cloudflare + StackPath, disable WordPress heartbeat, and activate any services you're using in the Add-Ons tab.

🚀 How do I add a CDN with WP Rocket?

If using Cloudflare, you will simply change nameservers. If using an external CDN like StackPath or KeyCDN, you will copy/paste your CDN URL into WP Rocket. If using RocketCDN (powered by StackPath), sign up through the prompt in WP Rocket.

🚀 Why was WP Rocket rated #1 in most Facebook polls?

It comes with many features other cache plugins don't have: database cleanup, heartbeat control, option for multiple CDNs, lazy loading, local Analytics, Facebook Pixel browser caching, and more. That's why WP Rocket usually yields the best results in GTmetrix.

🚀 Which image optimization plugin works best with WP Rocket?

Even though they recommend Imagify which is owned by WP Rocket, I use ShortPixel because I see virtually no quality loss and still get 100% for Optimize Images in GTmetrix.

🚀 What other speed optimization plugins do you need besides WP Rocket?

You still need an image optimization plugin like ShortPixel, font optimization (eg. OMGF), and I also recommend using Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters to selectively disable plugins.

 

Get Help From My WordPress Speed Optimizer

Still need help with your GTmetrix report?

I’ve been working with Pronaya for 7 years (he’s the one who optimized my GTmetrix report). You can hire him by signing up for freelancer.com and searching for username bdkamol. Here is his full WordPress speed portfolio. He’s $40/hour from Bangladesh (so there is a time change) and you can email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. He also has a perfect 5 star review on his Freelancer profile. Serious inquiries only, and please don’t expect 100% scores if you’re using slow hosting, a bloated theme, and tons of heavy plugins. Please follow my speed guides first.

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

Here are some reviews on his profile:

BDkamol-WordPress-Speed-Reviews

So… how are those GTmetrix scores looking? Let me know in the comments!

See Also: How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix

If you found this tutorial helpful, a share is always appreciated :)

Cheers,
Tom

How To Optimize Images In WordPress (For Both Speed + SEO)

When it comes to image optimization, you’ve probably heard enough about alt text.

There are actually 20 different ways to optimize images (if you include both SEO and speed optimization). These will give you better scores in GTmetrix/Pingdom, potentially rank you higher in search, and make your content load much faster. I’ve managed to get a 100% GTmetrix report with .5s load times… optimizing my images in WordPress was a big part of it.

Optimize images BEFORE uploading – using a program like Photoshop to optimize images before uploading them can save lots of work. You can resize, compress, strip EXIF data, save in correct format (eg. PNG/JPEG), and write a descriptive file name (which will automatically be used as the alt text if using the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin). That’s 6 optimizations!

If you require high resolution images (eg. a photography website), you may not want to resize and compress them (step 3 and 8) since these can reduce quality, even if it’s by a small amount.

Main tools I use – I use GIMP to resize/compress images (my image editor of choice), WP Rocket for my cache plugin, Imagify for further lossless compression + removing EXIF data, both Cloudflare and StackPath CDN, Automatic Image ALT Attributes plugin to automatically use the image file name as alt text, and Optimum Gravatar Cache to cache Gravatars in comments. I use WP Review Pro as my rich snippets plugin, Better Search Replace to bulk update images (very handy), and GTmetrix as my speed testing tool. See the full list of tools.

Table Of Contents

  1. Find Unoptimized Images
  2. Serve Scaled Images
  3. Specify Image Dimensions
  4. Losslessly Compress Images
  5. Combine Images Into CSS Sprites
  6. Avoid Image URL Redirects
  7. Serve Images From A CDN
  8. Cache Images
  9. Make Favicon Small And Cacheable
  10. Remove EXIF data
  11. Cloudflare Image Optimization
  12. Lazy Load Images
  13. Save As Correct Format
  14. Image File Names
  15. Alt Text
  16. Open Graph (Facebook + Twitter)
  17. Images In Featured Snippets
  18. Structured Data
  19. Style Images
  20. Resize GIFs
  21. Cache Gravatars
  22. Avoid Embedding Images From External Websites
  23. Image Optimization Tools

 

1. Find Unoptimized Images

Run your site through GTmetrix and you’ll see these items in the Page Speed/YSlow tabs. The first five are usually page-specific, meaning GTmetrix will only show the unoptimized images for the single page you test. The last 3 usually occur on your entire site. Of course, these are only 7 ways to optimize images, but some of the most important, so we’ll be doing these first.

  • Serve scaled images: resize large images to correct dimensions (step 2)
  • Specify image dimensions: specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS (step 3)
  • Optimize images – losslessly compress images (step 4)
  • Combing images using CSS sprites – combine multiple images into 1 image (step 5)
  • Avoid URL redirects – don’t serve images from wrong www or http(s) version (step 6)
  • Use a content delivery network – serve images/files from a CDN (step 7)
  • Leverage browser caching –  cache images/files using your cache plugin (step 8)
  • Make favicon small and cacheable – use a 16x16px favicon and cache it (step 9)

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

Start by fixing images that appear on multiple pages: logo, sidebar/footer images, etc. Also start with serve scaled images as you may have to resize/reupload them with new dimensions.

 

2. Serve Scaled Images

If you see serve scaled images errors in GTmetrix, it means you have oversized images and need to resize them to the correct dimensions (which GTmetrix provides you with). As long as you follow your image dimensions cheat sheet (see below), you shouldn’t see these errors. But if you already uploaded oversized images, you’ll need to resize them manually, or use a plugin.

Serve-Scaled-Images

Bulk Resize Images Using A Plugin – the problem with this, is that different images call for different dimensions (widgets, sliders, fullwidth images). While most image optimization plugins have an option to resize images to one single specific set of dimensions, you should really crop/resize them before uploading. If you do resize images using a plugin, keeps backups of the original images (and only test a few out) in case you’re not happy with the results.

Resize Large Images

Resize Images Manually – get the correct dimensions from GTmetrix and resize/reupload them. Remember, GTmetrix only shows unoptimized images for the single page you test.

Create A Cheat Sheet Of Your Website’s Image Dimensions
Your sliders, blog sidebar, featured images, and blog content body all call for specific dimensions which images should be resized to. Create a cheat sheet so you can resize them before uploading them to WordPress. This is especially helpful if you have many areas of your website requiring different images sizes, and if you have multiple designers/editors.

Example:

  • Slider images: 1900(w) x 400(h)
  • Carousel images: 115(h)
  • Widget images: 414(w)
  • Fullwidth blog post images: 680(w)
  • Featured images: 250(w) x 250(h)
  • Yoast Facebook OG image: 1200(w) x 628(h) – step 11
  • Yoast Twitter OG image 1024(w) x 512(h) – step 11

680 Pixel Width Rectangle

 

3. Specify Image Dimensions

This means adding a width/height to the image’s HTML or CSS. The Visual Editor does this for you (but widgets, some page builders, and custom HTML do not). Test a few pages in GTmetrix.

GTmetrix tells you the image’s dimensions…

Speciy Image Dimensions GTmetrix

Add the width/height to the image’s HTML…

Specify Image Dimensions

 

4. Losslessly Compress Images

These are “optimize images” items in GTmetrix. Many programs (eg. Photoshop and Gimp) have the option to compress when exported. While this is a great start, image compression plugins usually get even better results. I prefer Imagify, Kraken, ShortPixel, or Smush. Other plugins are known to visually reduce image quality and may cause errors with your images.

Compressing Images With Imagify

  1. Sign up for Imagify
  2. Install the Imagify Plugin
  3. You will be prompted with the instructions below:
  4. Enter your API key from your Imagify account
  5. Set your compression level (normal, aggressive, ultra)
  6. Imagif’em all (photo below) with bulk optimizes all images on your site
  7. Once you’ve reached your limit, pay $4.99 or wait next month to reset your limit

imagify

Test how images look with different levels of compression…

Imagify Compression Comparison

Once signed up, bulk optimize all images on your site…

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

Set the option to optimize images on upload…

Imagify Optimize Images On Upload

 

5. Combine Images Into CSS Sprites

On my homepage, you may think you see 21 icons, but they’re actually 1 single image. This is a CSS sprite, where you combine multiple images into 1 single image. This reduces the number of images (and requests) which is why my homepage only has 10 requests. Instead of loading 21 images, it loads 1. You will need CSS knowledge to do this, or use a CSS sprite generator.

CSS Sprites

GTmetrix CSS Sprites

Only Use CSS Sprites For Decorative Images – you lose a lot of image alt tags when you combine 21 images into 1. Do NOT combine important images into CSS sprites if they describe your content. As for me, the speed of my homepage is more important than it’s SEO… I use my homepage’s GTmetrix report in a lot of places (so I have to keep it clean) and my homepage, believe it or not, doesn’t target a keyword. It’s purpose is to outline my tutorials… and load fast.

 

6. Avoid Image URL Redirects

If you changed to HTTPS, www versions, or started serving images from a CDN, you should bulk update all your images (and links) using Better Search Replace so they are serving the correct version. Otherwise you may see minimize redirects or use cookie-free domains errors.

Minimize Redirects

Cookie Free Domains

Use the Better Search Replace plugin to bulk update image URLs…

Better Search Replace WWW Versions

Better Search Replace HTTP vs. HTTPS

 

7. Serve Images From A CDN

This requires changing image URLs to include your CDN URL

  • Old Image URL (Without CDN)https://onlinemediamasters.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Tom-Dupuis-Widget.png
  • New Image URL (With CDN)https://t9w8m8j8.stackpathcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Tom-Dupuis-Widget.png

Cloudflare vs. StackPath – I use both Cloudflare and StackPath since more data centers = faster content delivery. Cloudflare has 200+ data centers, StackPath has 34+ data centers which are heavily located in the United States (which is where most my visitors are from). Cloudflare does not assign you a CDN URL so we’ll use StackPath’s CDN to serve images.

StackPath-Data-Centers

Step 1: Choose a CDN. I use StackPath (they have a 30-day trial).

Step 2: In the dashboard, click the CDN tab, then create a StackPath CDN Site

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

CDN-URL-StackPath

Step 3: Copy your CDN URL and paste it into your cache plugin (below is for WP Rocket)…

WP-Rocket-CDN

Step 4: Replace image URLs to include your CDN URL (using Better Search Replace).

Better Search Replace CDN URL

Step 5: Check for old image URLs using Chrome DevTools. Sometimes, your cache plugin or CDN Enabler takes care of this, except links in CSS and JavaScript which are hard-coded. For the links which are left behind, they are normally in files (such as CSS or Javascript) that need manual checking and replacing. Chrome DevTools shows you all domains currently being used.

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow. You shouldn’t have any errors in “minimize redirects” or “use cookie-free domains” either.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

8. Cache Images

Most cache plugins have an option for browser caching, which caches images. I use WP Rocket which was rated the #1 cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls, and I have tutorial for that. Swift Performance is generally ranked the #1 free cache plugin (I have a tutorial for that too).

Browser Caching

 

9. Make Favicon Small And Cacheable

Ensure your favicon is 16x16px, is favicon.ico format, and is cached using your cache plugin.

 

10. Remove EXIF data

Exif data contains information such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, camera model, date the photo was taken, and more. You don’t need this for images on your website. The VA Removing Exif plugin removes Exif data automatically once images are uploaded.

Most image optimization plugins (including Imagify, ShortPixel, Kraken, EWWW, and Smush) have an option to remove EXIF data automatically. Here is the settings for Imagify…

Imagify Remove EXIF Data

 

11. Cloudflare Image Optimization

Cloudflare also has a few ways to optimize images. Mirage and Polish are found in your Cloudflare speed settings while Hotlink Protection is found in your Scrape Shield settings.

Cloudflare Mirage (Pro Feature) – reduces image requests, lazy loads images, and improves image load times on mobile devices with slow network connections. Here are more details…

  • Resizes images based on a visitor’s device/connection. A visitor on a poor connection will get a smaller version (lower resolution) until they are back on a higher bandwidth.
  • Reduces amount of requests – instead of sending multiple requests for all images on the website, Mirage pulls this into one request so visitors can see images immediately.
  • Lazy loads images (only loads them once users scroll down and actually see the image).

Cloudflare Image Mirage

Cloudflare Polish (Pro Feature) – strips EXIF data and compresses images.

Cloudflare Image Polish

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection – prevents people from copying your images and pasting them on their own website, which (since you’re still hosting that image) will suck up your bandwidth.

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

 

12. Lazy Load Images

This delays the loading of images until users scroll down the page and visibly see the image. While it improves initial load times, constantly loading images as you scroll can be very annoying. I personally only lazy load videos, since those take much long to load than images.

You can use the Lazy Load plugin, Lazy Load For Videos plugin, or use WP Rocket…

WP-Rocket-Lazy-Load

 

13. Save As Correct Format

PNG vs. JPEG – PNG is uncompressed (larger file size) and should be used in simple images without lots of colors. JPEG is a compressed (smaller file size) which slightly reduces image quality but is smaller in size, and is used in images with lots of colors. GIMP and other image editing programs should use the correct format automatically, but this is still good to know.

jpg_vs_png

Illustration by Labnol
 

14. Image File Names

Search engines use both alt text and image file names, so name your files before uploading them to WordPress. If you’re using a plugin that adds alt text automatically based on the file name, naming your files is all you need to do! Do not stuff keywords, just describe the image.

Label Image File Names

 

15. Alt Text

These should be the same as your image file name. You can use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin to automatically use the file name as the alt text. As long as you’re using relevant images, some of them should naturally include (bits) of your keyword… there is absolutely no reason to stuff keywords in images, which risks a keyword stuffing penalty.

Add Alt Text To Images Automatically – use the Automatic Image Alt Attributes plugin. Now whenever you add an image, the plugin will add alt text which is the same as the file name…

<img src="https://website.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/WP-Fastest-Cache-Plugin.jpg" alt="WP-Fastest-Cache-Plugin" width="577" height="247" />

Find Missing Alt Text – Screaming Frog is a free tool that shows you all images missing alt text.

  • Download Screaming Frog SEO Spider
  • Enter your website and click “Start” to crawl the website
  • Click the images tab
  • Go to Overview → Missing Alt Text (see below)
  • Locate those images on your site and add alt text

Missing Image Alt Text – Screaming Frog

 

16. Open Graph (Facebook + Twitter)

This makes your content format properly when shared on Facebook/Twitter, specifically your image since both networks use custom dimensions to display it, otherwise it will look funny.

facebook-share

If using Yoast, go to the “Social” settings and enable Open Graph for both Facebook/Twitter…

Yoast-Social-Meta-Data

Now edit a page/post, then click the “share” link in Yoast and you will see options to upload custom images for Facebook (1200 width x 628 height) and Twitter (1024 width x 512 height).

yoast-social-media-optimization

 

Featured snippets are when Google shows bits of your content at the top of search results and can (but are not guaranteed) to include an image. Google will pull these from any 1st page result, however it’s up to them whether they will even display a featured snippet or image. These also make your snippet show up twice and are an incredible way to get lots of traffic.

3 Types Of Featured Snippets

  • Answers
  • Tables
  • Lists

Featured-Image-Snippets

How To Get Featured Snippets In Google

  • Target a keyword where people want a concise answer
  • Use Moz Keyword Explorer to identify question keywords
  • Use Answer The Public to find even more question keywords
  • Choose whether the answer should be a paragraph, list, or table
  • Design a nice graphic (or take a photo) describing the keyword
  • Use optimal character length (see photo below taken from Moz)
  • Create fact-based content with quality references (links, graphics, etc)
  • Target keywords that already have an featured snippet but do a poor job
  • If you’re aiming for the answer box, target your keyword using an exact match
  • Make sure you’re on the 1st page for the keyword, if not, improve the content

Optimial Featured Snippets Length

 

18. Structured Data

Images can be used in structured data (and badges) for the following content types:

Video Rich Snippet

Recipe-Rich-Snippets

Product Rich Snippet

What Rich Snippets Plugin Should I Use?
I use MyThemeShop’s WP Review Pro (here’s a page I use it on) which supports 14 data types including recipes and product reviews. I used to use WP Rich Snippets but the developer abandoned the plugin and it hasn’t been updated for 2+ years, and the All In One Schema plugin is just boring (it has a lack of options and styling). WP Review Pro is very easy to use.

 

19. Style Images

Don’t forget to style your images! I use borders on most of mine.

  • Image Titles
  • Image Links
  • Image Borders
  • Image Captions

 

20. Resize GIFs

Just like you resize images to the correct dimensions, GIFs should be resized too (use GIF GIF).

Resize the GIF…

Resizing GIFs

Then compress it…

Compress GIFs

The result :-)

Optimize Dog GIF

 

21. Cache Gravatars

If you have posts with lots of comments, Gravatars can completely ruin your report. You can disable them, break comments to only show a certain number of comments, or try a Gravatar cache plugin. You may need to do a bit of testing as some plugins don’t work on some websites.

  • Cache Gravatars (Optimum, Harry’s, or FV Gravatar Cache)
  • Disable Gravatars completely
  • Set your default Gravatar to blank
  • Delete comments that don’t add value
  • Set your default Gravatar to a custom image on your server
  • Restrict your Gravatar images to smaller dimensions (e.g. 32px)
  • Paginate comments in WP Disable to only show 20 comments at a time
  • If none of these work, check out WP Rocket’s caching Gravatars tutorial

Cache-Gravatar-Images

 

22. Avoid Embedding Images From External Websites

Always upload images to your website, never copy/paste them. Otherwise you end up with extra requests as the image isn’t hosted on your server so it has to pull it from somewhere else.

 

23. Image Optimization Tools

Avoid using plugins with duplicate functionality – Imagify, ShortPixel, Kraken, EWWW, and Smush all basically do the same thing (lossless compression, EXIF data removal, resize images). WP Rocket has options for lazy load, caching, and CDN (and database cleanup + hosting Google Analytics locally) which most cache plugins do not, saving you from using extra plugins.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ How do you fix Optimize Image errors in GTmetrix?

By losslessly compressing them using a plugin like ShortPixel, Imagify, or Smush. I use ShortPixel because it always fixes this error in GTmetrix.

✅ How do you fix Serve Scaled Image errors in GTmetrix?

This means you need to crop/resize images to the correct dimensions. If images are too large, GTmetrix will show serve scaled image errors and tell you the correct dimensions they should be resized to.

✅ How do you fix Specify Image Dimension errors in GTmetrix?

View the image's HTML and check to make sure it has a specified width and height, as shown in this tutorial.

✅ Any other ways to make images load faster?

Removing EXIF data and using a CDN to serve your images will make the most difference outside the recommendations in GTmetrix.

✅ Which image optimization is best?

I use ShortPixel because there is virtually zero loss in quality and it fixes the Optimize Images item in GTmetrix.

 

What Do You Think?
Does your GTmetrix report look a little better? Let me know in the comments! And if you want more tips that will get you even better scores/load times, see my full WordPress speed guide.

New-GTmetrix-Report

See Also: How I Got 100% GTmetrix Scores

Cheers,
Tom

The Ideal Swift Performance Settings With Cloudflare + StackPath CDN Setup Instructions (With Facebook Polls) – 2019, Version 2.0.5

Swift Performance is the new cache plugin on the block, which has been getting raving reviews in the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group.

I’ve been using WP Rocket and already had 100% GTmetrix scores with a 1s load time (hard to beat), but Swift gave me near identical results. I stuck with WP Rocket, but I would rate Swift Performance Lite the #1 free cache plugin ahead of WP Fastest Cache, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, and the others. The Swift Performance settings are relatively easy to setup (I’ll walk you through everything). The Pro Version includes an image optimizer (for lossless compression + automatic image resizing), critical fonts, compute API, and support for their plugin. Cool part is, they have an option to pay monthly so you can try it for only $3.99/month.

Swift vs. WP Rocket – these are usually the top cache plugins in recent Facebook polls…

Swift-Performance-vs.-WP-Rocket-Poll

Swift-Performance-vs.-WP-Rocket

2018-WordPress-Cache-Plugin-Poll

Swift

  • Free (lite) version = amazing results
  • Mediocre documentation
  • Free version includes plugin organizer
  • Pro version includes critical fonts
  • Pro version includes image optimizer
  • Free

WP Rocket

  • Easier to configure
  • Better documentation
  • Facebook Pixel + Sucuri add-ons
  • No plugin organizer
  • No image optimizer
  • $49/year

Both Swift and WP Rocket support Cloudflare, CDN, heartbeat control, preloading, lazy loading photos/iframes, hosting Google Analytics locally, minification, script merging, gzip compression, and other features. They are actually very similar as far as their features go.

 

1. Wizard

The Wizard analyzes your site and helps configure basic Swift Performance settings. The out-of-the-box settings work great, but there are still more ways to optimize when you’re done…

Things You Still Need To Do

  • Tweaks → Cache Gravatars
  • Hearbeat → Disable All
  • Google Analytics → Bypass Google Analytics
  • Styles → Generate Critical CSS
  • Caching → General → Separate Mobile Device Cache (if using AMP or mobile theme)
  • Varnish → Custom Host
  • CDN → StackPath CDN
  • CDN → Sign up for Cloudflare and change name servers
  • Optimize Images (using Swift Pro or Imagify/Imsanity)
  • Database Optimizer → clean database
  • Plugin Organizer → enable/disable plugins on specific content

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Analyze-Your-Site

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Caching-Method

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Optimization

Swift-Performance-Lite-Setup-Wizard-Medi

Swift-Performance-Setup-Wizard-Finish

 

2. Dashboard

The dashboard shows stats, like how many known pages Swift detected vs. how many are actually cached. Swift also assigns each URL a prebuild priority and the date eache page was last cached. In the Warmup table, you can also manually add URLs if Swift didn’t detected it.

Swift-Performance-Dashboard

 

3. Settings

The general, media, optimization, caching, and CDN tabs are broken down into sections:

 

3.1. General

General

  • Disable Cookies – for GDPR when asking users to agree to cookies.
  • Hide Footprints – hide swift comments in the source code.
  • Use Compute API – speeds up merge settings and decreases CPU usage.
  • Enable Remote Cron – Swift’s API server will call wp-cron.php and run WP cronjobs as real cronjobs.
  • Debug Log – see warnings/errors shown in the log path (eg. public HTML folder).

Swift-Performance-General-Settings

Tweaks

  • Normalize Static Resources – attempts to remove query strings, however these are usually generated by slow plugins. The main way to get rid of them is to deactivate high CPU plugins (found in GTmetrix Waterfall) and replace them with lightweight plugins.
  • Prefetch DNS – anticipates external resources (eg. Google Fonts + YouTube videos).
  • Collect domains from scripts – helps with prefetching DNS.
  • Exclude DNS Prefetch – exclude domains you don’t want to be prefetched.
  • Gravatar Cache – caching Gravatars usually isn’t enough, you also want to offload them to a CDN and load Gravatars locally as explained in WP Rocket’s Gravatar tutorial. This improves load times for posts with lots of comments, as some of my posts have 300+ comments where Gravatars have suck up over 50% of load times.
  • Gravatar Cache Expiry – time Gravatar cache will expire (3600 is fine for most sites) but you can increase this if you notice it’s consuming too much CPU. If too high, users will never see the cached version. If too low, it can consume too much CPU.
  • Custom Htaccess – setup redirects or use it for other things.

Swift-Performance-Tweaks-Settings

Heartbeat
Speeds up WordPress admin and reduces CPU by disabling the Heartbeat API. This notifies users when content is being edited and allows plugins to send real-time notifications (adding requests). Disabling it saves CPU (WP Disable + Heartbeat Control plugin do the same thing).

Swift-Performance-Heartbeat-Settings

Google Analytics
Bypassing Google Analytics can fix items in GTmetrix/Pingdom related to Google Analytics. CAOS, WP Disable, and WP Rocket’s Google Tracking add-on also help fix items related to GA.

Leverage-Brower-Caching-Google-Analytics

Swift-Performance-Google-Analytics-Settings

 

3.2. Media

Images

  • Optimize Images on Upload – losslessly compress images which fixes “optimize images” in GTmetrix (only for the page you test). Imagify does this too and is what I use.
  • JPEG quality – keep at 100% to avoid lossy compression.
  • PNG quality – keep at 100% to avoid lossy compression.
  • Resize Large Images – resizes large imager to correct dimensions (many people upload oversized images). This fixes “serve scaled images” in GTmetrix. Imsanity does this too.
  • Keep Original Images – when Swift resizes large images, it will keep the original in case the new image isn’t the size you want it, so at least you have a backup of each image.
  • Inline Small Images – small external images are written directly into the HTML document, so the browser does not request those image files independently.
  • Lazyload – only loads images once you scroll down the page and actually see them. While this improves initial load times, it also means users constantly see images loading as they scroll down, which can be annoying. That’s why I only lazy load videos + iframes.
  • Force Responsive Images – uses the srcset attribute to provide several image sources for browsers so they can pick the right one.

Swift-Performance-Images-Settings

Embeds

  • Lazy Load Iframes – only loads iframes once you scroll down and see them.
  • Exclude Iframes – exclude certain iframes from being lazy loaded.
  • Load Iframes on User Interaction – only loads iframes when users interact with it (using the mouse move, roll, or touchstart).

Swift-Performance-Embeds-Settings

 

3.3. Optimization

General

  • Merge Assets for Logged in Users – disable, as it doesn’t improve load times and will likely do more harm than good, plus most optimizations should be on front-end.
  • Optimize Prebuild Only – disable unless you want to control when cache is built.
  • Optimize in Background – Swift will optimize pages in the background.
  • Fix Invalid HTML – some plugins/themes use invalid HTML, Swift will try to fix this.
  • Minify HTML – fixes multiple items in GTmetrix/Pingdom. Cloudflare takes care of this too, so you should only have 1 enabled (Swift or Cloudflare).
  • Disable Emojis – emojis add requests and hurt load times.
  • Limit Simultaneous Threads – speed of cache rebuild (lower if having CPU issues).
  • Maximum Threads – lower numbers = less CPU usage (2 is good).
  • DOM Parser Max Buffer – Swift developer set this numbers for a reason.

Swift-Performance-General-Optimization-Settings

Scripts
Merging/minifying JavaScript is notorious for causing errors, but I would test these and check your load times. If you see errors, find the problematic files and add them to ‘Exclude Scripts.’

  • Merge Scripts – many people say disable it, but I would test it.
  • Async Execute – JavaScript will theoretically load as 1 request and will be executed while the script is still loading, but it can also break things, so test option carefully.
  • Exclude 3rd Party Scripts – enable if using Merge Scripts, disable if you’re not.
  • Exclude Scripts – exclude problematic files if minifying JavaScript results in errors.
  • Exclude Inline Scripts – exclude problematic files if Merge Scripts results in errors.
  • Exclude Script Localizations – Swift developer recommends enabling it, otherwise you may have separate JavaScript files for all your pages.
  • Minify Javascripts – enable and check your site. If you see errors, exclude problematic files under Exclude Scripts (Cloudflare also does this, so only enable one).
  • Minify with API – enable only if default Minify JavaScripts option results in errors.
  • Proxy 3rd Party Assets – Swift says it can fix browser cache issues in GTmetrix related to GA, but can break scripts. Bypassing Google Analytics is a better option. Test it out.
  • Separate Scripts – saves merged JS files for pages separately. Generally this consume more CPU than it does good.
  • Print merged scripts inline – only enable if using memcached and WordPress can’t write your files.
  • Lazy Load Scripts – lazy loads external resources which can improve load times.
  • Include Scripts – include certain scripts not detected by Swift.

Swift-Performance-Scripts-Settings

Styles
CSS optimization can also cause errors, but can greatly improve scores/load times. Play with the settings and check a few pages to make sure everything is OK. If merging stylesheets and minifying CSS cause errors, locate/exclude problematic files (same things with JavaScript).

  • Merge Styles – recommended by Swift developer and fixes items in GTmetrix/Pingdom.
  • Generate Critical CSS – CSS will be loaded asynchronously, however the developer says this can increase CPU.
  • Print full CSS inline – developer says you shouldn’t need this.
  • Separate Styles – disable unless you have pages with different content types (eg. some use Visual Editor, some use Page Builders, etc) and need Swift to generate a different merged CSS for each page. May improve scores, but can increase CPU. Test carefully.
  • Minify CSS – enable, but this can cause issues so test your site (Cloudflare also does this, so only use one). If you see errors, exclude problematic files under Exclude Files.
  • Bypass CSS Import – enable (this merges imported CSS files as well).
  • Exclude 3rd Party CSS – if Merge Scripts is giving you problems, try this.
  • Exclude Styles – exclude problematic files if minifying CSS results in errors.
  • Include Styles – manually include styles if you’re not using Merge Scripts.

Swift-Performance-Styles-Settings

 

3.4. Caching

General

  • Enable Caching – enable.
  • Caching Mode – disk cache with rewrites is generally fastest for most sites. If you can’t edit the .htaccess file or Nginx config, use Disk cache with PHP. If memcached is installed, select memcached with PHP, but always try to use disk cache with rewrites.
  • Early Loader – enable unless it’s causing PHP issues.
  • Cache Path – specify directory for the cache path.
  • Cache Expiry Mode – time-based is best for nearly every website.
  • Cache Expiry Time – time cache will be regenerated. Too often and it will consume CPU, too little and users won’t see the cached version. 12 hours is good for most sites, but you can decrease this if you have time sensitive content (or clear cache manually).
  • Garbage Collection Interval – how often Swift checks for expired cache pages. 30 minutes is good, too high and it will consume CPU.
  • Clear Cache on Update Post by Page – add pages/posts where you want the cache to be cleared once it is updated, so users can see the new content.
  • Clear Cache on Update Post by URL – same concept as previous settings, only by URL.
  • Enable Caching for logged in users – enable if multiple users are logging into your site (eg. bbPress). This gives each user their own cached version, otherwise keep it disabled.
  • Separate Mobile Device Cache – enable if using AMP or a mobile theme.
  • Case Insensitive URLs – shouldn’t make a difference.
  • Enable Browser Cache – enable.
  • Enable Gzip – fixes gzip items in GTmetrix/Pingdom.
  • Send 304 Header – disable.
  • Cache 404 pages – enable, since spiders may be crawling invalid URLs and consume CPU. Caching 404 pages and serving them from a CDN cuts down on server resources.
  • Ignore Query String – doesn’t cache pages that are different for each user (unique sales pages if you run FB/Google ads, membership profiles, conditional logic on forms).
  • Enable Dynamic Caching – lets you specify cacheable $_GET and $_POST requests.
  • Cacheable AJAX Actions – cache resource-intensive AJAX requests by specifying their names here.
  • AJAX Cache Expiry Time – leave as 1440.

Exceptions
Depending on what assets your site uses, you may not want to cache certain static files (some common ones are eCommerce cart/checkout pages, admin, XML sitemap, and search pages.

  • Exclude URLs – exclude specific URLs from cache.
  • Exclude Content Parts – exclude specific content parts from cache.
  • Exclude User Agents – exclude specific user agents from  cache.
  • Exclude Crawlers – exclude specific crawlers from cache.
  • Exclude Author Pages – exclude specific author pages from cache.
  • Exclude Archive – exclude specific archives pages from cache.
  • Exclude REST URLs – exclude specific REST URLs from cache.
  • Exclude Feed – exclude specific feeds from cache.

Warmup
Warmup stores URLs in for the next cache prebuild. Each URL has a priority number (shown in the dashboard settings) where they can be adjusted manually. Lower number = higher priority.

  • Enable Remote Prebuild Cache – Swift will no longer use an external bot for prebuilding and will use the background process instead.
  • Prebuild Cache Automatically – prebuilds cache after it’s cleared. If using this, also enable “Optimize Prebuild Only.”
  • Discover New Pages – if Swift can’t find all your pages, this will help.
  • Prebuild Author Pages – prebuilds author pages.
  • Prebuild Archive – prebuilds archive pages.
  • Prebuild REST URLs – prebuilds REST URLs.
  • Prebuild Feed – prebuilds RSS feed pages.

Varnish
Enable Auto Purge – enable if using varnish cache – it will automatically purge it when Swift clears the plugin cache so you don’t have to do it manually.

Appcache
Appcache downloads your site (or specific pages) into the user’s browser on their first visit, making your website available even when they’re offline. Sounds great, but this significantly slows down your prebuild and is not worth it. I highly recommend leaving these disabled.

  • Enable Appcache for Desktop – disable.
  • Enable Appcache for Mobile – disable.

 

3.5. CDN

I use StackPath ($10/month with 30-day trial) in conjunction with Cloudflare. StackPath has 31 data centers, Cloudflare has 150+. More data centers = faster content delivery, and StackPath’s are heavily located in the US which is where, at least, most of my visitors are.

StackPath-Data-Centers

General

Step 1: Enable CDN.

Step 2: In the StackPath dashboard, click the CDN tab, and create a StackPath CDN Site

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

StackPath-Server-IP-Address

*Copy your server IP address as it is needed in step 4 of this section.

StackPath-CDN-URL-Swift-Performance

Step 3: Paste your StackPath CDN URL into the CDN Hostname field of Swift Performance.

Swift-Performance-StackPath-CDN-Settings

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click “Purge Everything”…

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Whitelist your server IP address in StackPath (WAF → Firewall).

StackPath-Whitelist-IP

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

Enable CDN on SSL – enable if using SSL.

SSL CDN Hostname – leave blank since hostnames are the same even if it’s SSL.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare adds even more data centers to your content delivery network…

Cloudflare Data Centers

Step 1. Sign up for Cloudflare and you will be prompted to add your site and begin a scan.

cloudflare-begin-scan

Step 2. Once the scan is done, select the free plan, then Cloudflare will take you through a set of pages. You will eventually be taken to a page where Cloudflare assign you 2 name servers.

Cloudflare-Dashboard-Swift-Performance

Step 3. Do a Google search for “how to change name servers on SiteGround” (only search for your host), then follow their instructions. You will be copying the 2 name servers provided by Cloudflare and pasting them into a custom name servers option in your hosting cPanel…

SiteGround-DNS-Records

Step 4. Grab your Cloudflare Global API Key (found in your Cloudflare profile) and enter it into Swift’s Cloudflare tab. Use the same email as your Cloudflare account, and enable auto purge which purges Cloudflare’s cache when Swift’s cache is cleared (so you don’t have to manually).

Swift-Performance-Cloudflare-Settings

MaxCDN / StackPath
You can ignore these options. StackPath bought MaxCDN and they no longer use an Alias, Consumer Key, or Secret. Simply create a StackPath CDN URL and enter it in the CDN tab.

  • MAXCDN Alias – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).
  • MAXCDN Consumer Key – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).
  • MAXCDN Consumer Secret – outdated (use StackPath CDN URL).

Swift-Performance-MaxCDN-Settings

 

4. Image Optimizer

Swift Performance’s image optimizer is good, but you don’t need to upgrade for this (you can use free image optimization tools/plugins): Shortpixel, Imagify, and Imsanity all do a great job.

 

5. Database Optimizer

The database optimizer deletes unused database tables (often left by plugins you uninstalled), transients, autosaves, trashed posts, spam comments, and potentially thousands of post revisions which are automatically stored each time you republish content. For the most part, it’s junk. Take a backup especially if you haven’t done this for awhile, as it cannot be undone.

Swift-Performance-Database-Optimizer

 

6. Critical Font

Critical fonts let you select icons from Font Awesome and efficiently load only the ones you choose, as oppose to the entire Font Awesome library, making these icons load much faster.

Swift-Performance-Critical-Fonts

 

7. Plugin Organizer

In your GTmetrix Waterfall tab, you may notice certain plugins are running on pages/posts where it’s not even being used. Contact Form 7 might be used on your contact page, but usually nowhere else (so it shouldn’t run anywhere else). My WP Review rich snippets plugin do this too. You can disable/enable plugins using Swift’s filters while adding multiple rules.

Swift-Performance-Plugin-Organizer

Examples

  • Enable URL Match /contact/ to only show Contact Form on that page
  • Disable certain plugins in your WordPress Admin to prevent CPU consumption
  • Enable URL Match with regex expression to only show rich snippets on ‘review’ posts

 

8. Upgrade PRO

Swift Pro lets you use their compute API, image optimizer, and critical fonts. Frankly I think they give away too much in their free (lite) plugin, and that these aren’t worth upgrading for.

Swift-Performance-Pro

9. Test Results In GTmetrix

With Swift Performance…
Swift-Performance-GTmetrix-Report

With WP Rocket…
2019-GTmetrix-Report

 

Conclusion

Swift Performance Lite blows other free cache plugins out of the water, even if you configure just basic settings using the Wizard. If you’re still have issues, see my full WordPress speed optimization guide which includes a list of high CPU plugins to avoid, lightweight plugin alternatives, AMP instructions, how to upgrade to PHP 7+, image optimization, and a link if you want to hire my developer on freelancer.com who helped me get a 100% GTmetrix score.

 

Why I Use SiteGround

SiteGround is used by Yoast, myself, and recommended by WordPress. They are #1 in nearly every Facebook poll and give most people significant load time improvements especially if they were using mediocre hosts: GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion, Dreamhost, EIG.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

I use their semi-dedicated GoGeek plan which comes with 4x more server resources than shared hosting. Click through my pages to see how fast they load, check out my GTmetrix report, or see people who migrated and posted new load times. They also do free migrations.

DigitalOcean on Cloudways and Kinsta are also good and start at $10/month and $30/month. Cloudways is more for developers who don’t need cPanel, email hosting, or the support you get with SiteGround. Kinsta is basically what WP Engine used to be (pricey, but awesome). My entire blog is basically dedicated to helping people make their website load faster. I refuse to recommend $2/month hosting since it’s most people’s biggest regret when running a website.

How To Check If Your Hosting Is Slow
Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends it should be <200ms. Anything above 1 second is not good. You can also check your TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix’s Timings tab or bytecheck.com.

Reduce Server Response Time

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

SiteGround is recommended by WordPress:

SiteGround-Recommended-WordPress-Host

And by Ivica who runs the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group with 16,000+ members.

WordPress-Speed-Up Recommended Tools

A few threads:

Godaddy To SiteGround Migration

EIG-To-SiteGround

SiteGround-Migration

SiteGround has 3 plans:

SiteGround-Plans

Higher plans include more server resources (#1 factor in the WordPress optimization guide). Here’s the full comparison chart, but GrowBig gives you about 2x more server resources than StartUp, and GoGeek is semi-dedicated hosting which gives you even more. GrowBig and up comes with a free migration, staging, advanced caching, and ability to host multiple websites. GoGeek comes with priority support. Their cloud hosting is quite the price jump at $80/month.

You can see this on their features page:

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

I use SiteGround because:

  1. My GTmetrixPingdom reports speak for themselves
  2. My pages load instantly (click through them if you want)
  3. Fast speed technology (PHP 7.3, NGINX, SG Optimizer, Cloudflare)
  4. Recommended by Yoast, WordPress, Ivica from WordPress Speed Up
  5. Free Let’s Encrypt SSL, easy to use cPanel, and features for eCommerce
  6. WordPress support is unbeatable even without GoGeek’s priority support
  7. GrowBig comes with staging, more storage, and more server resources (scroll down to “we allocate the resources you need” and hover over the server tab)
  8. GoGeek comes with even more server resources, storage, priority support
  9. Free migrations, migrator plugin, and a 30-day money back guarantee
  10. Plenty of praise on Reddit, Facebook conversations, Twitter, TrustPilot
  11. Tons of praise on Facebook: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7#8, #9, #10#11
  12. Many people already migrated and posted results on Twitter: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6#7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for SiteGround with my affiliate link I will donate a good chunk at no expense to you. Each year I donate $3k to GoFundMe campaigns (2018 was to feed the hungry in Denver, 2017 was to Red Cross at Hurricane Harvey). Your support helps and I genuinely appreciate it. I try to make my reviews unbiased and backed by evidence in the form of Facebook polls, tweets, and real conversations. If you don’t want to use it, here’s a non-affiliate link to SiteGround. Either way I truly believe they are a stellar WordPress host and your site will run faster/smoother… do your research on Facebook groups + Twitter and you’ll find most people say the same.

OMM-On-SiteGround

People usually migrate because their speed technology can cut load times in half:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

SiteGround GTmetrix Report

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

Joomla GTmetrix On SiteGround

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New Pingdom Results On SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Is Swift better than WP Rocket?

WP Rocket was rated higher in most Facebook polls, is much easier to configure, and has documentation/support if you need help setting it up.

🚀 How do you setup Cloudflare with Swift?

Sign up for a free Cloudflare plan, copy the 2 nameservers provided by Cloudflare, and change nameservers to Cloudflare's in your domain registrar. Next, add your Cloudflare information (located in your Account tab) into Swift Performance's Cloudflare settings.

🚀 How do you use the plugin organizer?

Learn which pages/posts don't need certain plugins/scripts. This may require a bit of testing. Next, use the Plugin Organizer to disable those on pages/posts that don't need to load them. Only loading a Contact Form plugin on your contact page is a classic example.

🚀 What other speed plugins do I need?

Swift should take care of most speed optimizations. You need to look at your GTmetrix report (including the Waterfall tab) to see what exactly is slowing down your WordPress site. For images, I recommend ShortPixel. For fonts, you can try OMGF.

🚀 Is Swift Performance Pro worth it?

If you're going to pay for a premium cache plugin, you're better off paying for WP Rocket than Swift Performance Pro.

Thanks for reading – drop me a comment if you have any questions!
Tom

The Ideal Autoptimize Settings + Cloudflare/StackPath CDN (2020)

Autoptimize is a great plugin, but for caching, WP Rocket is usually #1 in Facebook polls.

So why would you use it?

Because some hosts like GoDaddy and WP Engine blacklist most cache plugins (since they have their own built-in caching system) but they don’t do things like optimize HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Google Fonts, or CDN (content delivery network). So while your host’s caching system might work well for caching, Autoptimize helps do the “rest” of the stuff (fixing items in GTmetrix + Pingdom). Avoid Google PageSpeed Insights as it doesn’t even measure load times.

Even the Autoptimize developer says on his plugin page that it works best when combined with a cache plugin. I recommend Swift if you’re going the free route, and WP Rocket if you can do $49/year as it’s easier to configure (it’s also what I use and I have 100% scores in GTmetrix) since it comes with many features most cache plugins don’t (database cleanup, hosting Google Analyitcs code locally, heartbeat control, and integration with both Cloudflare + other CDNs). I have tutorials for WP Rocket, Swift, WP Fastest Cache, W3TC, and even WP Super Cache.

So let’s configure the Autoptimize settings. I’ll also show you how to add a CDN (ideally both Cloudflare and StackPath) since each one has their own set of data centers, and more data centers = faster content delivery. CDNs are recommended in WordPress’ optimization guide.

autoptimize plugin

How To Setup The Autoptimize Settings

  1. JS, CSS & HTML
  2. CDN Options
  3. Misc Options
  4. Images
  5. Critical CSS
  6. Extra
  7. Optimize More
  8. Cloudflare

 

1. JS, CSS, & HTML

Enable all these to optimize JavaScript, CSS, and HTML files, then see instructions below.

Autoptimize JS CSS HTML Settings

Optimize JavaScript Code

  • Aggregate JS-files: enable, this combines JavaScript files as recommended by GTmetrix. If disabled, individual files will be loaded and they will not combined.
  • Also aggregate inline JS: enable, this combines JavaScript files that are located in HTML files. Autoptimize gives a warning which basically means if it breaks anything on your site, either exclude the JavaScript files or disable this.
  • Force JavaScript in <head>: disable, unless you have JavaScript errors. You’re better off trying to find problematic files and exclude them than select this option since this makes the JavaScript render-blocking (not optimal for speed).
  • Exclude scripts from Autoptimize: if you see errors after enabling certain JavaScript settings, find the problematic JavaScript and exclude files here.
  • Add try-catch wrapping: disable, unless you have JavaScript errors. This is another way to fix JS errors without having to enable force JavaScript in head.

Optimize CSS Code

  • Aggregate CSS-files: enable, same thing as aggregating JS-files only for CSS.
  • Also aggregate inline CSS: enable, same thing as aggregating inline JS-files only for CSS. Enable both to further improve load times + GTmetrix scores.
  • Generate data: URIs for images: disable if using a CDN. MaxCDN (StackPath) warns you that enabling this will forces images to be served from your origin serve instead of your CDN. Enabling this might initially results in fewer HTTP requests, but likely not after you setup a CDN and serve images through that.
  • Inline and Defer CSS: enable, you can only enable this option or “inline all CSS” which Autoptimize does not recommend in their FAQs. They say “although inlining all CSS will make the CSS non-render blocking, it will result in your base HTML-page getting significantly bigger thus requiring more “roundtrips”.
  • Inline all CSS: disable, Autoptimize does not recommend enabling this.
  • Exclude CSS from Autoptimize: if you see errors after enabling certain CSS settings, find the problematic CSS files and exclude them here. Note: the “minify excluded CSS and JS” option in the Misc Options needs to be disabled.

Optimize HTML Code

  • Keep HTML comments: enable, but if you see indent or spacing issues in your comments, leave disabled.

 

2. CDN Options

This is where your CDN URL goes (instructions below). Cloudflare does not provide you with a CDN URL (you will change nameservers instead). The CDN Base URL is specifically for StackPath, KeyCDN, and other CDNs – not Cloudflare. I suggest using both StackPath + Cloudflare as your CDNs will have more data centers, and more data centers = faster website.

Step 1: Sign up for a CDN. I use StackPath who has 45 data centers which are heavily located in the United States and is where most my visitors are. It’s $10/month with a free 30-day trial.

stackpath network

Step 2: In the StackPath dashboard, click the CDN tab, and create a StackPath CDN Site.

StackPath-CDN-Tab

StackPath-CDN-Domain

StackPath-Server-IP-Address

*Copy your server IP address as it is needed in step 5 of this section.

StackPath-CDN-URL-Autoptimize

Step 3: Paste your CDN URL into Autoptimize with http:// or https:// (whichever you use).

Autoptimize CDN URL

Step 4: In StackPath go to CDN → Cache Settings, then click “Purge Everything.”

StackPath-Purge-Cache

Step 5: Whitelist your server IP address in StackPath (WAF → Firewall).

StackPath-Whitelist-IP

Step 6: Run your site in GTmetrix and “content delivery network” should be green in YSlow.

CDN GTmetrix YSlow

 

3. Misc Settings

Here are the Misc settings:

autoptimize misc options

Save aggregated script/css as static files – if enabled, this means the CSS and JS files are saved to the cache and served through your server, so if your hosting doesn’t handle these, enable it.

Minify excluded CSS and JS files – if you’re excluding certain CSS and JavaScript files, it’s because there’s a problem when trying to optimize them, and you don’t want them minified.

Experimental: enable 404 fallbacks – disable, will redirect ‘missing’ files to help prevent or at least reduce site breakage. May require server level configuration (get help from your host if need be).

Also optimize for logged in editors/ administrators – disable, you usually want to disable performance features in the WordPress admin, including Cloudflare performance features.

 

4. Images Settings

Autoptimize can also help make images load faster.

Autoptimize Images Settings

Optimize Images – URLs on your website will be changed to point to ShortPixel’s CDN. This should not effect how they look as long as it’s lossless compression, but they will load faster.

Image Optimization Quality – find your own unique balance between compression and quality (I use Glossy). Here are the differences in each compression level from ShortPixel:

ShortPixel Image Compression Levels

  • Lossy: most compression, most quality loss.
  • Glossy: medium compression, little quality loss.
  • Lossless: low compression, lowest quality loss.

Load WebP in supported browsers – enabled if you use WebP images and lazy load images.

Lazy-load images – I personally do not lazy load my images because constantly loading images as you scroll down the page can be annoying for users. Yes, it results in fewer requests and is recommended by Google for faster load times, but I find it annoying. This is totally up to you.

 

5. Critical CSS

This refers to the Autoptimize criticalcss.com power-up plugin.

It requires a premium paid plan from criticalcss.com ($7/month).

The plugin creates critical CSS rules to make sure pages are rendered before the full CSS is loaded, improving the “start to render time.” All you need to do is install the plugin, sign up for a plan, the enter your Critical CSS API Key into the “Critical CSS” section of Autoptimize, and the plugin will do the rest. Check the plugin’s FAQ page for details on custom configurations.

I personally don’t use it and would rather use the extra $7/month on a more powerful server.

Autoptimize criticalcss com power-up

Autoptimize Critical CSS Settings

 

6. Extra Settings

autoptimize extra settings

Google Fonts – enable if using Google Fonts which slow down load times as they’re pulled from external resources (the Google Font library). I prefer the “combine and link in head” option since this improves load times without visibility seeing fonts load (which is what usually happens when loading asynchronously. Also test the last Google Font option “combine and load fonts asynchronously with webfont.js” and see which yields better results in GTmetrix.

Remove Emojis – enable (emojis are bad for load times).

Remove Query Strings From Static Resources – query strings are usually generated by plugins and cannot be fixed (in GTmetrix/Pingdom) simply be enabling this, but you can try. The better solution is to check your site for high CPU plugins and replace them with lightweight plugins. Most high CPU plugins include social sharing, gallery, page builders, related post, statistic, and live chat plugins. You should also delete all unnecessary plugins and clean the database (using a plugin like WP-Optimize) to clear tables left by uninstalled plugins.

Preconnect To 3rd Party Domains – helps browsers anticipate requests from external resources (Google Fonts, Analytics, Maps, Tag Manager, Amazon store, etc). These will usually appear as “reduce DNS lookups” in your GTmetrix report, but below are common examples.

  • https://fonts.googleapis.com
  • https://fonts.gstatic.com
  • https://www.google-analytics.com
  • https://ajax.googleapis.com
  • https://connect.facebook.net
  • https://www.googletagmanager.com
  • https://maps.google.com

Preload Specific Requests – you can find more about preload and browser resource hints from WP Rocket, but this basically makes it so certain files are downloaded as a high priority.

Async Javascript-Files – this means something is preventing above-the-fold content from loading fast. This tutorial on render blocking JavaScripts explains it well, but if you see JavaScript errors in GTmetrix and Pingdom, the Async JavaScipt plugin might do the trick.

Optimize YouTube Videos – if your site has videos, WP YouTube Lyte lazy loads them so they only load when users scroll down and click the play button, thus eliminating initial requests to YouTube’s servers. This can shave multiple seconds off loads times on content with videos, as they’re one of the heaviest elements on a page. WP Rocket and Swift Performance have this built-in to their settings, so you don’t need this if you use one of them as your cache plugin.

 

7. Optimize More

If you want to further optimize your site, here are the tools recommend:

WP Rocket – rated the #1 cache plugin in multiple Facebook polls and has many options not included with Autoptimize (database cleanup, heartbeat control, hosting Google Analytics locally, replacing YouTube iframe with a preview image, adding Browser Cache to Facebook Pixel, etc). WP Rocket also handles nearly everything Autoptimize does, so you only need 1 plugin for all those speed optimizations. That’s why it’s so great. You can also get 10% off here.

ShortPixel – popular image optimization plugin and the one I use.

StackPath – CDN with 45 data centers. Very easy to setup; just sign up for a plan ($10/month) then copy/paste your CDN URL into the Autoptimize CDN URL option.

SiteGround – usually rated the #1 host in Facebook polls and also used by Yoast.

Yoast-on-Twitter-We-just-switched-to-Siteground

2019 Hosting Poll

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

WordPress-Host-Poll-Aug-2018

Shared-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosting-Poll

Go-To-Hosting-Company

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

Managed-Hosting-Poll

WooCommerce-Hosting-FB-Poll

2016-Web-Hosting-Poll

Best-WordPress-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-2019-Poll

WP Friendly Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

2018 Hosting Recommendations

WordPress Hosting Poll Sept 2018.png

Managed-WordPress-Hosting-Poll-2017

2019-Hosts-Poll-1

Hosting-Poll-For-Speed

WordPress-Hosting-Poll-June-1

SiteGround-Recommendation

2014-Managed-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

Best-Web-Hosting-Provider-Poll

Hosting-Poll-Feb-2019

Hosting-Recommendations-Poll

Bluehost vs SiteGround

WordPress Web Host Poll

People usually migrate because their speed technology is much faster than EIG or GoDaddy:

Switching To SiteGround

SiteGround Load Time Migration

Bluehost to SiteGround GTmetrix

HostGator To SiteGround

SiteGround Google PageSpeed Insights

100 Perfect Score On SiteGround

SiteGround Genesis

Speed Delivered By SiteGround

Reduced Load Times With SiteGround

New SiteGround Response Times

HostGator To SiteGround Migration

SiteGround Response Times On Joomla

Switched To SiteGround Hosting

SiteGround Rocket Imagify Combo

SiteGround PageSpeed Insights

SiteGround On Joomla

SiteGround Reduced Load Times

SiteGround Speedy Hosting

New SiteGround Response Time

SiteGround Response Time Improvement

SiteGround also does free migrations with GrowBig+.

Cloudways – faster than SiteGround (it’s cloud hosting, not shared) and was also rated highly in Facebook polls. Starts at $10/month with their DigitalOcean plan. They offer 1 free migration (which I took them up on) and here’s what happened to my server response time:

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways-Cloud-Hosting

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

Cloudways Response Times

WP Engine To Cloudways

Untitled

Cloudways Pingdom Load Times

Cloudways-Facebook-Review

You can get 25% off your first 2 months of Cloudways with promo code OMM25.

Kinsta – $30/month premium hosting and while I haven’t tried them, I have heard nothing but great things about Kinsta’s speed, support, uptimes, and nearly everything about their hosting.

Perfmatters – plugin by Kinsta which takes care of what I like to call “miscellaneous optimizations” like selectively disabling plugins, limiting post revisions, disabling autosaves, hosting Google Analytics locally, and much more. It takes care of the final 10% of speed.

Some of these are recommended by Autoptimize, others are not:

Autoptimize Add Ons

 

8. Cloudflare

Autoptimize does not have settings to add Cloudflare’ CDN, but this is easy to setup. And you definitely should because this adds 200 more centers to your content delivery network (CDN).

cloudflare network

Step 1. Sign up for Cloudflare and you will be prompted to add your site and begin a scan.

cloudflare-begin-scan

Step 2. Once the scan is done, select the free plan, then Cloudflare will take you through a set of pages. You will eventually be taken to a page where Cloudflare assign you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-Name-Servers-Dashboard

Step 3. Login to your domain registrar (eg. Namecheap) and do a Google search for “how to change nameservers on Namecheap” (only search for your domain registar), then follow their instructions. You will be copying the 2 nameservers provided by Cloudflare and pasting them into a custom nameservers option in your domain registrar. Allow 72 hours for propagation.

Godaddy Cloudflare nameservers

That’s it!

 

What’s Next?

Watch My Video – it’s a 42 minute video, but I cover pretty much everything (timestamps in video description) and you should learn a ton of great information on WordPress site speed:

Want To Know How I Got 100% Scores In GTmetrix?
See my full WordPress speed optimization guide which has over 38 tips in fixing GTmetrix/Pingdom items including upgrading to PHP 7, serve scaled images, specifying image dimensions, database cleanup, hosting Google Analytics locally, WP Disable, and others.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Do I need other speed plugins besides Autoptimize?

Yes, you usually want to also use a plugin for caching, image optimization, database cleanup, heartbeat control, and selectively disabling plugins. I recommend WP Rocket, ShortPixel, and Perfmatters for those.

🚀 How do you setup a CDN with Autoptimize?

Choose your CDN (I use StackPath), copy your CDN URL, and paste it into Autoptimize's CDN UR field.

🚀 How do you optimize Google Fonts with Autoptimize?

I recommend using the Combine And Link In Head option, and to preconnect your fonts using Autoptimize.

🚀 Does Autoptimize take care of caching?

No, you will need to use a separate plugin for caching. I recommend WP Rocket or SG Optimizer if using SiteGround.

🚀 How do you configure the Autoptimize settings?

Everything is listed in this tutorial - just keep an eye on your GTmetrix report and which specific items need to be fixed. If configuring the settings in Autoptimize doesn't fix it, consider using another plugin to fix items.

Questions? Drop me a line!
Tom

How To Reduce Server Response Times (Time To First Byte) In WordPress To Under 200ms: Item In Google PageSpeed Insights

Reduce Server Response Time

So you ran your WordPress site through Google PageSpeed Insights and need to reduce server response times.

Let’s get this out of the way.

Servers are controlled by your hosting. Shared hosting (GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator) has insufficient server resources to make sure your site fast, let alone run high CPU things like WooCommerce, Elementor, WPML, or AdSense. Even SiteGround has strict CPU limits. Moving from shared hosting to cloud hosting should immediately fix this. Otherwise, you will need to lighten the load on your server by doing things like removing high CPU plugins and using a CDN.

TLDR; move away from shared hosting and use cloud hosting. Cloudways is who most people recommend in Facebook Groups and #1 in numerous Facebook polls.

How To Reduce Server Response Times In WordPress

  1. Avoid EIG And Poor Hosting
  2. Upgrade To Cloud Hosting 
  3. Check Your CPU Usage
  4. Eliminate High CPU Plugins
  5. Upgrade To PHP 7.3
  6. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings
  7. Add Cloudflare
  8. Block Unwanted Bots
  9. Clean Your Database
  10. Optimize Images
  11. Optimize External Scripts
  12. Delete Unused Themes + Plugins
  13. Enable Hotlink Protection
  14. Update WordPress Software
  15. Frequently Asked Questions

Reduce-Server-Response-Time-Facebook

 

1. Avoid EIG And Poor Hosting

If you have slow server response times, I bet you are hosted with GoDaddy, EIG brands (Bluehost or HostGator), Namecheap, or another low quality host. Even SiteGround has many complaints about a slow TTFB especially on their cloud hosting. Do your research on EIG, SiteGround’s TTFB, and join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased opinions.

List-Of-EIG-Brands

Cloud hosting makes a huge difference.

Managed Hosting Poll

 

2. Upgrade To Cloud Hosting

Cloudways (cloud hosting) is much faster than shared hosting, including SiteGround.

Since they do free trials and free migrations, I suggest migrating to their DigitalOcean plan and retesting your server response time in PageSpeed Insights, as well as TTFB in GTmetrix and Google Search Console’s “time spent download a page”. Here’s what happened when I moved.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

Here’s what happened when other people moved:

Cloudways Response Times

WP Engine To Cloudways

DigitalOcean Pingdom Report

Godaddy to DigitalOcean Migration

Cloudways Server Response Times

Cloudways Load Time Improvement

Cloudways vs WP Engine

Untitled

Cloudways Pingdom Load Times

Cloudways Pingdom Report

Vultr Migration

Namecheap To Cloudways Migration

Cloudways WooCommerce Migration

Cloudways AWS Migration

I signed up for 15+ hosting accounts to test their speed. All domains in this video are live, which means you can visit them in real-time and click through their pages, use GTmetrix, etc.

Each website is identical except for it’s hosting (same Astra Starter Site, SSL, no caching, no CDN, and the same 6 plugins). I also used WP Hosting Performance Check and KeyCDN to measure the most popular options. The results align with what most people are saying in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group which I recommend joining to get real, unbiased opinions.

Hosting-Comparisons

 

3. Check Your CPU Usage

Check your hosting account to make sure you’re not maxing out your CPU limits. Try to never exceed 80% of your limits so your server stays relaxed. On cloud hosting, you can add more CPU + RAM which will help, and on shared hosting you will have to upgrade your plan. But before you do, follow this guide as it should also help you reduce CPU consumed by your site.

Reduce-CPU-Usage-WordPress

That’s why it’s so important to choose a plan with enough server resources. Host companies give you guidelines based on your monthly visitors, but they don’t take into account how many plugins you have, whether they consume lots of resources, and whether you’re using a CDN.

SiteGround-Server-Resources-Comparison

 

4. Eliminate High CPU Plugins

*Most slow WordPress plugins include social sharing, statistic (analytics), sliders, portfolios, page builders, calendars, chat, contact forms, related post, sitemap, Wordfence, WPML, WooCommerce, and any plugin that runs ongoing scans or processes. These can be identified using Query Monitor or Waterfall in GTmetrix.

  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

Use GTmetrix To Find Your Slowest Plugins
If you see a plugin showing multiple times in GTmetrix, or it takes a long time to load in the Waterfall tab, you should either delete it or replace it with a more lightweight, faster plugin.

Slow WordPress Plugin

Recommended Lightweight Plugins

Other Plugin Tips

  • Be minimal
  • Deactivate + delete all plugins you don’t use
  • Avoid plugins that have duplicate functionality
  • Turn of specific plugin settings that consume CPU (eg. Query Monitor and Broken Link Checker constantly scan your site and consume CPU, delete them when you’re done)

 

5. Upgrade To PHP 7.3

Many WordPress sites still run PHP 5 even though PHP 7.3 is much faster. That’s because hosting companies won’t automatically upgrade your PHP version (due to potential compatibility issues) which you can use the PHP Compatibility Checker plugin to check for.

WordPress PHP Benchmarks

Upgrade to PHP 7.3 in your hosting account, then check your site for errors:

PHP Update

 

6. Configure Optimal Cache Plugin Settings

Most people don’t configure their cache plugin to the optimal settings. I have written popular tutorials on configuring WP Rocket, WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache, and WP Super Cache.

With most other cache plugins, you would need to install about 6 extra plugins to get these features, when WP Rocket has them all built-in, reducing the number of plugins on your site. If you’re like me, you only want to use 1 plugin, otherwise you will need to research which features your cache plugins comes with, then install these plugins if it doesn’t support them.

WP-Rocket-Features

2016 best cache plugin poll

2019 cache plugin poll

Swift vs WP Rocket

2016 cache plugin poll

Best cache plugins 2018 poll

wp rocket vs w3 totla cache

 

7. Add Cloudflare

Cloudflare’s free CDN offloads bandwidth consumption to their data centers (putting less stress on your server) while reducing the geographical distance between your server/visitor.

Here’s what WordPress says:

CDN-WordPress-Recommendation

Here’s the bandwidth you can save with Cloudflare:

Cloudflare-Bandwidth-Savings

Most hosts have an option to enable Cloudflare in their cPanel:

SiteGround-Cloudflare-Activation

You can also setup Cloudflare using most cache plugins (below is for WP Rocket), but WP Fastest Cache and W3 Total Cache also have options for Cloudflare + CDN integration…

WP-Rocket-Cloudflare-Add-On

 

8. Block Unwanted Bots

Have you checked your Wordfence live traffic report lately?

I did, and I saw the same few bots were hitting my site constantly and putting stress on my server. Obviously Googlebot and other ones are good, there may also be spam bots hitting your site. Unless you check, you’ll never know. Here’s what I did, and what you should do too:

Step 1: Install Wordfence.

Step 2: View the live traffic report for a few minutes to see who is hitting your site in real-time.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Take note of sketchy-looking bots constantly hit your website. Google their hostnames to see if other people are reporting them as spam (Googlebot and Bingbot are obviously okay).

Step 4: Block all spam bots (you have a few options here). Wordfence has blocking settings as well as rate limiting rules. However, Wordfence consumes a lot of CPU itself. The alternatives are Blackhole For Bad Bots, Block Bad Queries, or Cloudflare Firewall Rules (this is what I use). You can create up to 5 free firewall rules which means you can block your top 5 spam bots. Just copy their hostname from Wordfence, then block it in Cloudflare. Be sure to use an asterisk* so any variations of that bot are also blocked: amazonaws.com linode.com are 2 common ones.

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

 

9. Clean Your Database

If you deleted a plugin, theme, have lots of post revisions, spam comments, or expired transients, clean your database. You should do this every week or so to keep your site fast.

If using WP Rocket, run this in the database settings:

WP-Rocket-Database-Settings

If not using WP Rocket, use the free WP-Optimize plugin:

WP-Optimize Clean Database

 

10. Optimize Images

We’ll use GTmetrix for this. Run your site through GTmetrix and in your report you’ll see images can be optimized 3 ways. GTmetrix only shows unoptimized images for a single page so start by optimizing images that appear on multiple pages (logo, sidebar and footer images), then run your most important pages through GTmetrix and fix individual images on those too.

There are 3 ways to optimize images in GTmetrix:

  • Serve scaled images – resize large images to be smaller
  • Specify image dimensions – specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS
  • Optimize Images – losslessly compress images using Imagify

image-optimization

Serve Scaled Images – GTmetrix tells you which images are too large and the dimensions they need to be resized to. Find the image, crop or resize it, upload it to WordPress, then replace the old image with the new one. Follow your “image containers” and create a cheat sheet (below). You can manually check for large images by right clicking an image → copy image address then go to that URL where you should see if it’s too large. Never use the drag to resize feature in the visual editor since this only resizes the displayed image (not the actual image).

Sample cheat sheet:

  • Logo: 150(w) x 37(h)
  • Sliders: 1950(w) x 550(h)
  • Sidebar Widgets: 319(w)
  • Blog content body: 600(w)
  • Featured images: 200(w) x 200(h)
  • Carousel images: 225(h)

Specify Image Dimensions – refer to your GTmetrix report and expand these items to see which images need this. Locate each one in WordPress, then specify the dimensions (width/height) which GTmetrix will tell you. The visual editor takes cares of this automatically so you usually have to do this with images that are in widgets, page builders, and other places.

specify-image-dimensions

Optimize Images – losslessly compress images using Imagify or Kraken (both are free until you reach the monthly limit). While there are other completely free plugins that offer unlimited compressions, do NOT use these since they have bugs, won’t work, or will break your images.

Imagify Instructions

  1. Install the Imagify Plugin
  2. You will be prompted with instructions
  3. Sign up for Imagify and enter your API key
  4. Set your compression level (normal, aggressive, ultra)… I use aggressive
  5. Imagif’em all (bulk compresses all images on your site)
  6. Once your limit is up, buy a plan or wait next month to reset your limit

imagify

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

When you’re done, run your pages through GTmetrix and make sure all 3 items are 100%.

 

11. Optimize External Scripts

If you’re using third party scripts, these cause extra requests and will show up in your GTmetrix report. Some scripts are difficult or even impossible to optimize (especially Google AdSense and social widgets which are best to avoid all together), but I listed quite a few optimizations below.

Third-Party-Usage

Tips For Optimizing External Scripts

 

12. Delete Unused Themes + Plugins

Head to Appearance → Themes and delete any themes you’re not using. You can keep one version (eg. Twenty Seventeen theme) in case something goes wrong with your active theme.

Delete Unused WordPress Themes

Delete WordPress Plugins

 

Cloudflare and some hosting companies let you enable hotlink protection which prevents people from copying/pasting your images on their website (which sucks up your bandwidth).

Cloudflare Hotlink Protection

 

14. Update WordPress Software

Keep WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated.

WordPress Updates

 

15. Frequently Asked Questions

✅ Why causes a slow server response time?

Servers are controlled by your hosting. If you're using a low quality host or are putting too much stress on your server (eg. too many plugins), this can cause slow response times.

✅ Which hosting has slow servers?

GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, and EIG brands are infamous for having slow servers. The top 2 rated hosts in Facebook polls are usually SiteGround (shared hosting) and Cloudways (cloud hosting). Migrating to a faster host is the easiest way to remedy a slow server.

✅ What is a good server response time?

Google recommends a server response time of <200ms. However, this is usually only possible if you are knowledgable about website optimization and are using fast hosting.

✅ What affects server response times?

Hosting, cache plugins, high CPU plugins, spam bots crawling your site, whether you're using a CDN, and optimizing images can all affect server response times.

✅ How do you measure server response times?

Google PageSpeed Insights is the best way to measure server response times.

Conclusion: join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get real, unbiased opinions. Look at the Facebook polls that were taken and people who migrated to different hosts and posted their results. Finally, stay clear of low quality hosting affiliates who only want the commissions.

Do your research is all I’m sayin’:

Bluehost-Managed-WordPress-Hosting

HostGator Feedback

Godaddy Managed WordPress Hosting Feedback

Cheers,
Tom

How To Fix GoDaddy’s Slow WordPress Hosting (With PHP 7.3, Autoptimize, CDNs, And Making Images + Plugins Load Faster)

Is your WordPress site running slow on GoDaddy?

If your WordPress site is slow on GoDaddy, you can speed it up by upgrading to PHP 7.3, configuring Autoptimize, setting up Cloudflare, and making images and plugins load faster.

But GoDaddy is infamously slow. iThemes called them out for overcrowding servers and they are slow to release new PHP versions. Forbes wrote an article titled “5 Reasons You Should Leave GoDaddy.” They also blacklist all cache plugins and force you to use their own built-in caching system which doesn’t hold a candle to top-rated caching plugins such as WP Rocket.

How do you check if GoDaddy’s the problem?

Run your WordPress site through Google PageSpeed Insights to check if reduce server response time is in your report. Google recommends a response time of <200ms. Anything over is considered slow, and you can identify GoDaddy’s slow servers as the main problem.

A warning about GoDaddy: GoDaddy is one of the slowest hosts. I even set up an identical Astra website on gdaddyserver.com and cwdoserver.com. One is hosted on GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting, one is hosted on Cloudways DigitalOcean who was rated the #1 host in Facebook polls, conversations, and migration results. Visit the websites and click through their pages – you will see a huge speed difference.

Benchmark your scores + load times in GTmetrix and post them in the comments! And if you need help, leave your GTmetrix report in the comments and I’ll provide you with suggestions.

How To Fix A Slow WordPress Site On GoDaddy

  1. Check Your Server Response Time
  2. Upgrade To PHP 7.3 In GoDaddy’s cPanel
  3. Configure The Autoptimize Plugin
  4. Remove Junk From Your WordPress Database
  5. Add Cloudflare’s CDN
  6. Optimize Images
  7. Avoid Slow Loading Plugins
  8. Avoid Google Maps And AdSense
  9. Remove Bloat
  10. Lazy Load Videos
  11. Optimize Third Party Scripts
  12. Host Google Analytics Locally
  13. Find Your Slowest Loading Pages
  14. Keep WordPress Software Updated
  15. Leave GoDaddy For Cloudways

When you’re done, hopefully your GTmetrix report looks more like this:

1s-2020-GTmetrix-Report

 

1. Check Your Server Response Time

Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. Your server is obviously controlled by your hosting. To reduce it, you either need to upgrade plans on GoDaddy (managed/VPS) or of course, switch to a faster hosting company.

Reduce Server Response Time

TTFB

Indicators Your Hosting Is Slow

  • High server response time in PageSpeed Insights (over 200ms)
  • High TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix Timings tab (over 200ms)
  • High PageSpeed + YSlow scores in GTmetrix, but load time is still slow
  • 503 service unavailable errors which means the server is being overloaded
  • You’re using cheap, shared hosting with “unlimited bandwidth” but TOC says otherwise

What-is-the-reason-that-GoDaddy-is-loading-very-slowly-Quora

Slow Godaddy

Godaddy Server Response Time

Slow Server Response Times on Godaddy

 

2. Upgrade To PHP 7.3 In GoDaddy’s cPanel

Upgrading to PHP 7.3 can make your GoDaddy site 2-3x faster according to Kinsta. Most WordPress users run outdated PHP versions. That’s because most hosting companies won’t upgrade you automatically since it can break your site if you’re using incompatible plugins. That’s why whenever GoDaddy releases a newer version of PHP, you should upgrade ASAP.

How To Upgrade To PHP 7.3 On GoDaddy

  • Login to your GoDaddy account
  • Go to your Products Page → Manage → Settings
  • Upgrade to PHP 7.3
  • Check your website for errors
  • If you still see errors, revert to an earlier PHP version

GoDaddy Speed Optimization

 

3. Configure The Autoptimize Plugin

Your GTmetrix report may show errors for minify, Gzip, fonts, and other errors that can be fixed using the Autoptimize plugin. Below is a screenshot of my recommended Autoptimize settings.

Autoptimize JS CSS HTML Settings

If you’re using Google Fonts, these can also result in GTmetrix errors:

Google-Fonts-GTmetrix

Google Fonts can be optimized in the “Extra” settings, then select “combine and link in head”:

Autoptimize Combine Google Fonts

 

4. Remove Junk From Your WordPress Database

Install the WP-Optimize plugin then click ‘WP-Optimize’ (left in your dashboard). Running it deletes your trash, spam, post revisions, trackbacks, and garbage files. Since these are constantly accumulating, make sure you schedule WP-Optimize to run every 2 weeks or so.

WP-Optimize Clean Database

 

5. Add Cloudflare’s CDN

Cloudflare improves both your website speed and security. It improves speed by hosting your WordPress site on multiple data centers around the world (called a CDN or content delivery network) and reduces the geographic distance between your server and visitors. Sign up for a free plan, change nameservers to Cloudflare’s, then make tweaks in the Cloudflare dashboard.

Cloudflare Data Centers

1. Sign up for Cloudflare’s free plan, add your website, and run the scan. Cloudflare will walk you through a set of pages until you reach a page where Cloudflare assigns you 2 nameservers.

Cloudflare-GoDaddy-Nameservers

2. Login to your GoDaddy account and in your product list go to Domain → Manage DNS → Nameservers → Change. Click “custom nameservers” and add the ones Cloudflare gave you:

GoDaddy-Change-Nameservers

3. Go to Cloudflare’s speed settings (inside your Cloudflare dashboard) and copy these:

Cloudflare-Speed-Settings

4. In Cloudflare, go to the caching settingsPurge Everything.

Cloudflare Purge

This is all you need to do. It can take up to 72 hours for Cloudflare nameservers to propagate.

 

6. Optimize Images

We’ll use GTmetrix for this. Run your site through GTmetrix and in your report, you’ll see images can be optimized 3 ways. GTmetrix only shows unoptimized images for a single page so start by optimizing images that appear on multiple pages (logo, sidebar and footer images), then run your most important pages through GTmetrix and fix individual images on those too.

There are 3 ways to optimize images in GTmetrix:

  • Serve scaled images – resize large images to be smaller.
  • Specify image dimensions – specify a width/height in the image’s HTML or CSS.
  • Optimize Images – losslessly compress images.

image-optimization

Serve Scaled Images – GTmetrix tells you which images are too large and the dimensions they should be resized to. Find the image, crop or resize it, upload it to WordPress, then replace the old image with the new one. Follow your “image containers” and create a cheat sheet (below). You can manually check for large images by right clicking an image → copy image address then go to that URL where you should see if it’s too large. Never use the drag to resize feature in the visual editor since this only resizes the displayed image (not the actual image).

Sample cheat sheet:

  • Logo: 150(w) x 37(h)
  • Sliders: 1950(w) x 550(h)
  • Sidebar Widgets: 319(w)
  • Blog content body: 600(w)
  • Featured images: 200(w) x 200(h)
  • Carousel images: 225(h)

Specify Image Dimensions – refer to your GTmetrix report and expand these items to see which images need this. Locate each one in WordPress, then specify the dimensions (width/height) which GTmetrix will tell you. The visual editor takes care of this automatically so you usually have to do this with images that are in widgets, page builders, and other places.

specify-image-dimensions

Optimize Images – losslessly compress images using Imagify or Kraken (both are free until you reach the monthly limit). While there are other completely free plugins that offer unlimited compressions, do NOT use these since they have bugs, won’t work, or will break your images.

Imagify Instructions

  1. Install the Imagify Plugin
  2. You will be prompted with instructions
  3. Sign up for Imagify and enter your API key
  4. Set your compression level (normal, aggressive, ultra)… I use aggressive
  5. Imagif’em all (bulk compresses all images on your site)
  6. Once your limit is up, buy a plan or wait next month to reset your limit

imagify

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

When you’re done, run your pages through GTmetrix and make sure all 3 items are 100%.

 

7. Avoid Slow Loading Plugins

You can use the GTmetrix Waterfall tab to see your slowest plugins:

Slow WordPress Plugin

The following plugins can take a long time to load. Many of these are in GoDaddy’s list of blacklisted plugins because (especially stat and related post plugins) consume a lot of CPU.

  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

Lightweight Plugin Alternatives

  • Meta Slider – minimal slider plugin with great reviews.
  • Envira Gallery – $29 lightweight gallery plugin. There’s also a free version but it doesn’t come with albums, tags, social integration, gallery templates, deeplinking, pagination, etc.
  • FooGallery – lightweight gallery plugin with great reviews.
  • Soliloquy Slider – fast, lightweight slider plugin.
  • UpdraftPlus – most popular lightweight (1-click) backup plugin.
  • Grow by Mediavine – lightweight social sharing buttons (the ones I use).

Plugin Tips

  • Deactivate and delete ALL plugins you don’t use
  • Diagnose slow loading plugins using GTmetrix Waterfall
  • Replace slow plugins with faster, more lightweight plugins
  • Disable individual plugin settings/modules you’re not using

 

8. Avoid Google Maps And AdSense

These kill your load times. Try to only use Maps on the contact page, or take a screenshot of the map (since a photo is quicker to load than an embedded map) and use an “Open In Maps” link.

Just like Google Maps require your site to pull resources from external websites and requests to your GTmetrix/Pingdom report, advertisements (eg. Google AdSense) are pretty much the worst thing you can do to your load times. Forget about using Google AdSense and start using affiliate links (they’re not only more profitable but they will also keep your load times down).

GTmetrix-Advertisements

 

9. Remove Bloat

The Perfmatters plugin by Kinsta takes care of what I like to call miscellaneous optimizations: disabling trackbacks/pingbacks, limiting post revisions, disabling the WordPress heartbeat API, limiting the autosave interval, and things reduce the load of your server and speed up your site.

Tips On Configuring Perfmatters

  • Disable heartbeat API
  • Disable pingbacks and trackbacks
  • Increase the autosave interval (I have mine a 5 minutes)
  • Change the login URL to improve security and stop spam bots
  • Set post revisions to 3-5 so you have backups, but you don’t need hundreds
  • Disable options in WordPress core which you don’t need (usually all of them)
  • Host Google Analytics tracking code locally (found in the Google Analytics tab)
  • Prefetch/preconnect third party scripts like Google Fonts in the “Extra” tab

perfmatters-settings

Disable Plugins On Specific Pages/Posts – one of the most valuable things about Perfmatters (which can also be done by the free Asset CleanUp plugin), is the Script Manager. This lets you disable plugins on specific pages/posts. A common example is disabling contact forms on all pages but the Contact page. You can do this with other plugins/scripts too (eg. social sharing buttons on your blog). Use Perfmatters or Asset CleanUp to only load plugins when necessary.

perfmatters-script-manager

 

10. Lazy Load Videos

A single video usually adds 2-3 seconds to your page load time. The WP YouTube Lyte plugin makes it so videos are only loaded once readers scroll down the page and click the play button.

 

11. Optimize Third Party Scripts

Third Party Scripts are Google Fonts, AdSense, Tag Manager, embedded YouTube videos, or even social sharing buttons on your blog. You can find all third party scripts loading on your site in your PageSpeed Insights report (and the Reduce DNS Lookups section in GTmetrix YSlow).

Some third party scripts are easier to optimize than others; Google Fonts can be optimized using the OMGF plugin. Google Analytics can be optimized with Flying Analytics. The Flying Scripts plugin can delay loading of Gravatars and comments if you have a lot of those on your blog. AdSense and Tag Manager are GTmetrix killers, and embedded videos can be optimized with WP YouTube Lyte. Be careful with scripts since they can slow down your GoDaddy site.

 

12. Host Google Analytics Locally

Flying Scripts fixes the “leverage browser caching” issue you’ll often see in GTmetrix and other speed testing tools. Just install the plugin, enter your Tracking-ID and the plugin does the rest.

Leverage-Brower-Caching-Google-Analytics

 

13. Find Your Slowest Loading Pages

Login to Google Analytics and on the left, go to Behavior → Site Speed → Speed Suggestions. Click “Page Speed Suggestions” to see recommendations, however the ones in GTmetrix are usually better. Most WordPress speed issues are related to your infrastructure (hosting, theme, page builder, plugins, etc) and not so much related to individual content (eg. optimizing images).

Speed-Suggestions-Google-Analytics

 

14. Keep WordPress Software Updated

Keep your software updated! WordPress, theme, plugins, etc.

WordPress Updates

 

15. Leave GoDaddy For Cloudways

With Cloudways DigitalOcean, you would be leaving one of the slowest hosts for the fastest.

Elementor Hosting

I signed up for 15+ hosting accounts to test their speed. All domains in this video are live, which means you can visit them in real-time and click through the pages, test GTmetrix, etc. gdaddyserver.com is on GoDaddy, cwdoserver.com is on Cloudways who was #1 in the tests.

Each website is identical except for it’s hosting (same Astra Starter Site, SSL, no caching, no CDN, and the same 6 plugins). I also used WP Hosting Performance Check and KeyCDN to measure the most popular options. The results align with what most people are saying in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group which I recommend joining to get real, unbiased opinions.

I moved from SiteGround to DigitalOcean on Cloudways and the results speak for themselves. I’m also paying 1/2 of what I was. Cloudways also does free migrations which made it very easy.

SiteGround-vs-Cloudways

#1. DigitalOcean On Cloudwayscwdoserver.com was the fastest, is who I use, and are very popular in Facebook Groups (especially as an alternative to SiteGround). DigitalOcean is also the only host mentioned in the WordPress Optimization Guide. Cloudways was #1 in most recent Facebook polls and people who migrate usually see significant load time improvements. They use PHP 7.4, Maria DB 10.3, Memcached, Varnish, Nginx, and Redis. Pricing starts at $10/month with no strict CPU limits or renewal prices like on other hosts. The community manager is very helpful and they do free migrations. You can get 25% off your first 2 months with the promo code OMM25.

#2. Kinstaknstaserver.com had similar speeds as DigitalOcean on Cloudways only they are more expensive starting at $30/month. Known for being capable of handling many concurrent visitors. People consistently recommend Kinsta in Facebook Groups, Twitter, and in migration results. Even though they’re not always #1 in Facebook polls (likely because not everyone can pay $30+/month), they are great for high traffic sites.

#3. WPX Hostingwpxserver.com is also very quick, but Cloudways and Kinsta are slightly faster. Starts at $20-$25/month and is who Matthew Woodward recommends.

#4. A2 Hostingatwoserver.com usually outperformed other shared hosting but is not nearly as fast as cloud hosting (just cheaper). I use A2 for my girlfriend’s restaurant website and it’s decently fast with good uptimes. A2 (and all shared hosting) is only sufficient for smaller websites with low traffic/plugins. Otherwise, use cloud hosting.

#5. SiteGround – has gone downhill with many complaints about their renewal prices, price hikes, CPU limits, and support isn’t as good as it used to be. SiteGround shifted to Google Cloud hosting (instead of shared) which is supposed to be faster, but load times and TTFB on stgrndserver.com were usually above 1s. Their SG Optimizer plugin should help, but I still wouldn’t use them. You’re better off on Cloudways DigitalOcean.

Affiliate Disclaimer – I would seriously appreciate you using my affiliate links which means I earn a commission at no expense to you. This would help me make GoFundMe donations ($6,000 so far)! I try to base my recommendations on tests, Facebook polls, and conversations I see on a daily basis in the 30+ WP Facebook Groups I’m active on.

I would personally skip shared hosting since cloud hosting is exponentially faster. This is especially true if you’re on GoDaddy or EIG brands (eg. Bluehost and HostGator) and for resource-intensive websites running WooCommerce, WPML, page builders, or slow plugins.

There are plenty of migration results if you check Twitter and Facebook Groups. Avoid the bloggers promoting Bluehost and WP Engine because they have the highest commissions and do your research. Hosting is the #1 factor in WordPress’ optimization guide – very important!

Cloudways Response Times

Godaddy to DigitalOcean Migration

VPS Cloud Hosting WooCommerce Poll

Hosting Recommendations Facebook

2017-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

2018 Hosting Recommendations

Favorite Hosting For Elementor

Untitled

Vultr Migration

WordPress Hosting Suggestions

VPS Cloud Hosting Poll

2016-WordPress-Hosting-FB-Poll

July 2019 Hosting Recommendation

Elementor Hosting Recommendations

Cloudways Thread

Cloudways Facebook Review

25% Off Cloudways With Promo Code OMM25

 

Get Help From My WordPress Speed Optimizer

Pronaya is a WordPress developer I found on freelancer.com who lives in Bangladesh and specializes in WordPress speed (yes, he’s better than me). I have worked with him for over 5 years and he optimized my site including multiple client sites to load 500% faster. He’s $40/hour with a perfect 5 star review on his freelancer profile. I have worked with over 20 overseas freelancers and he’s the one I always turn to for WordPress speed and development.

How to hire Pronaya – sign up for a Freelancer account and search for user BDkamol. Make sure the “online users” option is turned off, or email him at bdkamol@gmail.com. Serious inquiries only, and please do not tell him you expect a 100% score when you’re using slow hosting, bloated WordPress themes, and tons of plugins. Please review my WordPress speed guide and make sure you’re on good hosting and minimize plugins at the least (thank you!!!).

Pronaya-Kumar-S-Reviews

 

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ Is GoDaddy slow?

GoDaddy overcrowds their servers which is why they are able to offer cheap hosting. Strictly in terms of speed, GoDaddy is one of the slowest of shared hosting providers based on numerous Facebook polls and performance tests.

✅ How do you check server response times?

Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to check your server response time. It should be less than 200ms.

✅ What is the easiest way to improve load times on GoDaddy?

Upgrade to PHP 7.3 in your GoDaddy account, install the Autoptimize plugin, add Cloudflare's free CDN, clean your database with WP-Optimize, and use an image optimization plugin like TinyPNG. Avoid plugins that consume lots of resources and show multiple times in your GTmetrix report.

✅ Can you use a cache plugin with GoDaddy?

No, GoDaddy uses their own built-in caching system and blacklists cache plugins. The problem with this, is that cache plugins do a lot more for your speed than just caching.

✅ Will upgrading to a higher plan help?

It is unlikely this will permanently fix speed issues. Even on GoDaddy's Managed WordPress Hosting, performance tests have shown that load times were still slow.

✅ Which speed testing tool should I use?

GTmetrix is great for finding specific images, plugins, and third party scripts that need to be optimized. Google PageSpeed Insights is mainly good for measuring server response times.

Godaddy Managed WordPress Hosting Feedback

So…. did it work?
Let me know your new Pingdom/GTmetrix scores in the comments! Or if you need help fixing GoDaddy’s slow WordPress hosting, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to help with whatever I can. If it’s related to a plugin/tool I mentioned, keep in mind they also have their own support :)

See Also: How I Optimized My WordPress Site To Load In <1s

Please share if you liked this tutorial – I’d appreciate it!

Cheers,
Tom