WooCommerce Speed Optimization: 24 Ways To Make Your Slow Website, Store, And Product Pages Load Fast (2020 Updated Guide)

Have a slow WooCommerce site?

You can speed up a slow WooCommerce site by clearing customer sessions, deleting transients, and optimizing WooCommerce scripts, styles, cart fragments, and product images. Increasing memory limit to 256MB and using good cache plugin with a CDN are recommend. Cloud hosting is also much faster at loading heavy WooCommerce resources than shared hosting.

Is my site WooCommerce? No. But my developer and I have made multiple WooCommerce sites to typically load 3x faster. And if you need help, you can hire him on freelancer.com for $40/hour. He has a perfect 5 star review, an extensive portfolio of websites he’s optimized. I’ve been working with him since 2011 (his name is Pronaya) and can’t recommend him enough.

Otherwise, follow this guide and feel free to post questions (or your results) in the comments.

Slow-WooCommerce-Site

 

1. Disable Cart Fragments

The easiest way to disable WooCommerce cart fragments, scripts, and styles, is with Kinsta’s perfmatters plugin. It also lets you disable unused widgets (including WooCommerce widgets) to make the admin load faster and has other features like disabling the WooCommerce status metabox, disabling scripts on a page/post basis, limiting post revisions, autosaves, heartbeat control, and other things that can reduce CPU and make your WooCommerce site load faster. If you don’t want to pay $25/year, I listed alternative methods below (using code from Github).

perfmatters woocommerce optimization

By default, WooCommerce uses cart fragments which is used to update the shopping cart without refreshing the page. But this isn’t needed on your homepage (or other pages) and can be disabled for better performance. Otherwise, cart fragments will load on every single page.

What cart fragments will usually do to your GTmetrix/Pingdom report:

WooCommerce Cart Fragments

To disable cart fragments, add the code to your funtions.php file:

 

2. Disable WooCommerce Styles

WooCommerce loads 3 stylesheets on every page of your website. Since you probably don’t want these loading on every single page, you should disable them on non-eCommerce content.

  • woocommerce-layout.css
  • woocommerce-smallscreen.css
  • woocommerce.css

WooCommerce styles in query monitor

Disable all WooCommerce stylesheets:

Disable specific stylesheets:

If you disabled specific stylesheets, you will need to add your own:

Another alternative is to only load the CSS styles and Javascripts on WooCommerce product and shop pages, by dequeuing them on all of your other pages. Here is the code from Github:

 

3. Disable WooCommerce Scripts

WooCommerce also causes lots of scripts:

WooCommerce Scripts

The solution below only loads WooCommerce scripts on the shop, checkout, and cart pages.

Add this to your functions.php:

If that doesn’t work, there are a few alternative solutions on Github people had success with.

perfmatters also lets you disable scripts on specific pages. For example, I don’t need my rich snippet or Thirsty Affiliates plugin loading on my homepage, so I disabled it. Selectively disabling scripts/plugins to load on specific pages can reduce load times.

perfmatters script manager

 

4. Clear Customer Sessions

In your WooCommerce Status settings, clear customer sessions:

Clear Customer Sessions

 

5. Clear WooCommerce Transients

In your WooCommerce Status settings, delete all transients:

Delete WooCommerce Transients

 

6. Disable The WordPress Heartbeat API

The WordPress heartbeat API shows you real-time plugin notifications, and when other users are editing a post. This generates a request every 15-60 seconds and will drain CPU, so it’s best to use a plugin like Heartbeat Control plugin to disable it, or at least limit it to 60 seconds.

Heartbeat-Control-Plugin

If using WP Rocket, they also have an option for this:

WP-Rocket-Heartbeat-Control

 

7. Use A Lightweight WooCommerce Theme

I always recommend StudioPress themes which are also recommended by Matt Cutts and even Matt Mullenweg. Many themes, including Avada, are bloated with unnecessary features, and some themes may not be coded or maintained well. StudioPress is supported by a reliable team (recently acquired by WP Engine) with documentation, frequent updates, support, and coded with speed, SEO, and security in mind. I use their Outreach Pro theme and am loving it.

StudioPress eCommerce themes

Themes I recommend from ThemeForest:

Slow WooCommerce theme

 

8. Resize Product Images To Smaller Dimensions

This is what serve scaled images means in GTmetrix.

GTmetrix tells you which images are too large, and the correct dimensions they should be resized to. Save the image from GTmetrix, resize it to the correct dimensions, and replace the old image with the new one. Do this with all oversized images on your WooCommerce site.

I suggest starting with images that appear on multiple pages (eg. logo + sidebar images) then working your way through individual pages, since GTmetrix only shows image errors for the single page you test. I also recommend creating an “image cheat sheet” as I’ll explain below.

Serve Scaled Images

Create a cheat sheet for your most commonly used images:

  • Slider images: 1903(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)

 

9. Don’t Use Too Many Extensions

Just like plugins, too many WooCommerce extensions will make your website slow:

WooCommerce Extensions

 

10. Use A Better Cache Plugin

There are 3 factors when it comes to cache plugins:

  • If you’re using a cache plugin
  • Which cache plugin you’re using
  • Whether you’ve configured the optimal settings

For free, I recommend either Swift Performance or WP Fastest Cache. But if you’re willing to drop $49, WP Rocket was rated #1 in most Facebook polls. That’s because it comes with a ton of features most cache plugins don’t, in which case you would need about 6 additional plugins:

  • 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)
  • Optimize Google Fonts (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts, or SHGF)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

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

Cache Plugin Tutorials:

 

11. Avoid Resource-Hungry Plugins

These are the most common plugins that drain CPU, but there’s a full list of them.

High CPU plugins usually include social share, statistic, calendar, page builders, chat, and plugins that run ongoing scans/processes or appear multiple times 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
  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. Elementor
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

You can also find slow loading plugins in your GTmetrix Waterfall chart. If they appear multiple times, take a long time to load, or generate multiples requests, you will know something’s up.

Slow WordPress Plugin

Or use Query Monitor (check the “queries by components” tab):

Query Monitor Slow Plugins

You don’t need that many plugins!

Too many WooCommerce plugins

 

12. Delete Unused Themes + Deactivated Plugins

All themes and plugins you don’t used should be deleted. Deactivated plugins and unused themes store settings in your database and are unnecessary. If you’re not using it, delete it!

Delete-Unused-WordPress-Themes

 

13. Compress Images With ShortPixel

This is what optimize images means in GTmetrix.

I use ShortPixel which is what one of the most popular image optimization plugins, with Imagify, Kraken, and Smush also being popular. All these plugins do the same thing – compress images, strip EXIF data, and optionally resize images that are too large. Once you’ve configured the settings, compress a few images in the Media section. If you’re happy with the quality, bulk compress all images on your site. Though, I would still take a backup just in case.

ShortPixel Settings

Check out my full guide to optimizing images in WordPress for more tips.

Image Optimizations In GTmetrix

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

 

14. Clean Your WooCommerce Database

You can use WP-Optimize or WP Rocket to schedule a database cleanup every 1-2 weeks. This deletes garbage files like expired transients, spam comments, pingbacks, trackbacks, database tables, drafts, and the potentially thousands of post revisions that accumulate over time (that is, if you don’t use plugin like permatters to limit them). Always take a backup before doing it!

WP-Optimize plugin

WP-Optimize Clean Database

 

15. Clean Your WordPress Backend With Clearfy

There’s a lot of stuff built-in to WordPress you probably don’t need. Clearfy can help you clear it up. You can usually disable jQuery Migrate, RSD links, wlwmanifest link, shortlinks, post revisions, autosaves, heartbeat, dashicons, and many other options. Perfmatters is good too.

Clearfy Performance Settings

Kinsta’s permatters plugin is similar, but comes with even more features:

perfmatters features

 

16. Block Bad Bots

Are bad bots crawling your site and consuming CPU? They were for me, a lot of them actually.

Step 1: Install Wordfence.

Wordfence Security Plugin

Step 2: View your live traffic report.

Live-Traffic-Report-Wordfence

Step 3: Find spam bots in your live traffic report (if the same bot is constantly hitting your site and looks suspicious, Google it’s hostname and see if other people reported it as spam).

Step 4: Block the spam bots.

Wordfence-Blocking-Rule

Wordfence itself can cause high CPU (but is good for seeing IF you have spam bots). I recommend blocking them using the Blackhole For Bad Bots plugin, or with Cloudflare firewall rules. Wordfence and Cloudflare have a log so you can see whether the bots are actually being blocked. If successful, you can uninstall Wordfence and use Cloudflare or the Blackhole plugin.

Blackhole for Bad Bots

Cloudflare Firewall Rule To Block Bad Bots

 

17. Upgrade To PHP 7.4

WooCommerce sites should always be running a fast PHP version (eg. PHP 7.4) which you can upgrade in your hosting account. Higher PHP versions make your site run much faster, even though most WordPress users run outdated PHP versions (since they don’t know how to do it).

WooCommerce PHP Benchmarks

WordPress PHP Stats

Check which PHP version you’re currently running in the Status section of WooCommerce:

WooCommerce PHP Version

Then upgrade to PHP 7+ in your hosting account:

PHP-7.4

Some plugins are not always compatible with higher PHP versions (another reason you should be careful which plugins you use). Run the PHP Compatibility Checker to make sure your plugins are compatible. If they are, you can safely upgrade, but check your website for errors.

 

18. Combine Google Fonts

Google Fonts are external resources and will show up in your GTmetrix/Pingdom report:

Google Fonts Pingdom

Option 1: Install Autoptimize and use “Combine and link in head” option:

Autoptimize Combine Google Fonts

Option 2: Try the CAOS for WebFonts plugin:

CAOS-Fonts

Option 3: Download your fonts directly from Google Fonts (be selective with fonts and font weights), convert them to web fonts using Transfonter, then add them to your CSS manually.

Transfonter-Google-Font-Conversion

 

19. Setup Cloudflare’s Free CDN

There’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be using Cloudflare’s CDN.

It hosts your website on 200+ data centers across the world. This reduces the distance between your server and visitor, while offloading resources to their data centers (putting less stress on your origin server). Cloudflare is easy to setup – sign up for a free plan, run the scan, and they will assign you 2 namesevers which you will change in your hosting account. You can do other things with Cloudflare like enable hotlink protection, Rocket Loader, and utilize page rules to make your WooCommerce site even faster – all done in your Cloudflare dashboard.

Cloudflare-Data-Centers

Multiple CDNs = more data centers = faster delivery of your content. If you want to go the extra mile, use both Cloudflare and a CDN like StackPath (I use both). StackPath has 31 additional data centers. While Cloudflare requires you to change nameservers, StackPath (and other CDNs) will ask you for your website, then generate a CDN URL which you will paste into your cache plugin (most have an option for this), or you can also use the CDN Enabler plugin.

StackPath-Data-Centers

 

20. Pinpoint The Problem With Query Monitor

Query Monitor has a ton of information that can help you debug why your WooCommerce site is slow. It shows you slow loading queries, PHP errors, hooks and actions, block editor blocks, enqueued scripts and stylesheets, HTTP API calls, and more. Fixing items in Query Monitor may require some technical knowledge, but is worth hiring a developer who can fix the issues.

You can also use AWStats (commonly found in the “statistics” section of your hosting count which tells you which bots, images, files, and other elements that are consuming the most CPU.

 

21. Ignore Google PageSpeed Insights (Use GTmetrix)

If you join the WordPress Speed Up Facebook Group, or look at WP Rocket’s article, you’ll learn that Google PageSpeed Insights is not a great tool for measuring (or optimizing) your site – it doesn’t even measure load times! Pingdom is one of the most accurate tools for measuring load times, but for actual performance recommendations I (and most people) prefer GTmetrix.

When testing your WooCommerce site, always check your GTmetrix Waterfall chart to see which requests take longest to load (eg. WooCommerce cart fragments, specific plugins, etc).

The only thing Google PageSpeed Insights is good for is measuring server response times:

Reduce Server Response Time

 

22. Avoid EIG Hosting

The same company (EIG) owns over 60 different hosting companies. It is well-known in Facebook Groups that they pack too many people on the same server, use outdated PHP versions and speed technology, and don’t care about clients. Cheap hosting = cheap results.

  • Are you using an EIG brand (Bluehost, HostGator, Site5, iPage, HostMonster)?
  • Are you running your WooCommerce site on a $4/month hosting plan (eg. GoDaddy)?

Don’t expect a WooCommerce site to be fast on a cheap hosting plan, let alone have a decent server response, time to first byte, and enough CPU to compensate for lots of extra plugins. Generally, WooCommerce sites need a better hosting plan to compensate for more plugins, scripts, and CPU usage. And EIG, GoDaddy, and other low quality plans aren’t going to cut it.

List-Of-EIG-Brands

Bluehost-EIG-Feedback

 

23. Check CPU Usage And Server Response Times

Is your server slow? Run your site through Bitcatcha or PageSpeed Insights to see if it is. If you have high server response times or time to first byte, it has something to do with your hosting.

Bitcatcha Server Speed Report

Reduce-CPU-Usage-WordPress

GTmetrix-Time-To-First-Byte

 

24. Use Fast Hosting That Can Support WooCommerce

Shared hosting may not have enough server resources especially if you’re running high CPU plugins, page builders, Google AdSense, or get a decent amount of traffic. And it’s especially not a good idea to run WooCommerce or WPML on shared hosting since they are resource-hungry.

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week. That post has 70+ images, 480 comments (showing Gravatars), Font Awesome, and Elementor.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 
This was a simple Pingdom test to measure load times of 16 WordPress hosts. I signed up for popular hosting companies then installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them while measuring load times in Pingdom for 1 week at 30 minute check intervals. Some domains are still live (cwdoserver.com is hosted on a $10/month Cloudways DO plan and stgrndserver.com is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig). I cancelled most of them because it was getting expensive. Even when browsing through their pages or running your own tests, you can see the difference.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

Hosting Companies You Should Avoid

  • SiteGround – they have gone completely downhill in recent years.
  • Bluehost – slow servers, owned by EIG, bad support, rated poorly in FB Groups.
  • HostGator – also owned by EIG with slow servers, bad support, CPU limit issues.
  • GoDaddy – top malware hosting network worldwide, rated poorly in FB groups.
  • Hostinger – they write fake reviews and vote for themselves in Facebook polls.
  • WP Engine – also not what it used to be, expensive and not even fast anymore.
  • *A2 Hosting – if you can’t afford Cloudways, A2 is still fast and uses LiteSpeed.

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

🚀 Why are WooCommerce sites slow?

WooCommerce are naturally slower because they have extra WooCommerce scripts, styles, and cart fragments. They also usually requires more plugins. That's why most WooCommerce sites have poor load times and scores in GTmetrix.

🚀 How do you optimize cart fragments?

You can use the Perfmatters plugins to optimize WooCommerce cart fragments, scripts, and styles.

🚀 What are the 5 most important speed factors?

Skip shared hosting all together and go with cloud hosting, upgrade to the latest PHP version, reduce and consolidate plugins, and optimize images + external fonts using plugins like ShortPixel and OMGF. Using a CDN and cleaning the database helps too.

🚀 How do you optimize product pages?

Optimizing images is the most important part of making individual product pages load faster. There are 3 main ways to optimize images in GTmetrix: serve scale images (resizing them to correct dimensions), compress images using a plugin like ShortPixel, and specify image dimensions in the HTML. Remove EXIF data and serve images from a CDN as well.

🚀 What if you're running lots of plugins?

If you are running lots of plugins, especially if they are not lightweight (see my list of slow plugins), you will need to make sure all other elements of your site are completely optimized and that you're using faster hosting to support the website's resource needs.

I hope this helped! Comment if you have questions.

Cheers,
Tom

How To Fix Bluehost’s Slow WordPress Hosting (13 Ways)

Have a slow website on Bluehost?

To speed up a slow Bluehost website, activate Cloudflare’s CDN and PHP 7.3 in your cPanel. Install a cache plugin, avoid high CPU plugins, and optimize your images, database, and fonts.

However, Bluehost is notoriously slow and overcrowds servers.

There’s an easy way to tell if Bluehost is slow: run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report (Google recommends under 200ms). If you have a high server response time or TTFB in GTmetrix, then your server is slow.

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

slow Bluehost

Maybe we can get your site faster than this post which has lots of images and comments:

Bluehost GTmetrix

This video should also help (timestamps are in the video description):

Easy Ways To Fix A Slow Website On Bluehost

  • Use Bluehost’s latest PHP version (PHP 7.3)
  • Active Cloudflare’s CDN inside Bluehost
  • Install and set up a top-rated caching plugin
  • Remove junk from your database using WP-Optimize
  • Avoid common slow loading plugins and page builders
  • Find large images in GTmetrix and make them smaller
  • Losslessly compress images using a plugin like TinyPNG
  • Be minimal with fonts + weights and using the OMGF plugin
  • Optimize external scripts using plugins like WP Rocket’s Add-Ons

A warning about Bluehost: Bluehost is not fast and mainly promoted by bloggers who want affiliate commissions. I set up an identical Astra website on blhstserver.com and cwdoserver.com. One is hosted on Bluehost, one is hosted on Cloudways DigitalOcean who was rated the #1 host in Facebook polls, conversations, or see migration results. Visit the websites and click through their pages – you will see the difference in speed.

 

1. Measure Your Server Response Time

Run your site through Google PageSpeed Insights to see if reduce server response time is in your report. If yes, this means your server (on Bluehost) is slow. A high number of websites on Bluehost have a slow server especially since Google recommends it should be under 200ms.

The only way to fix this is by lowering the amount of CPU consumed by your website (eg. deleting high resource plugins in GTmetrix’s Waterfall tab). Or upgrade your hosting to include more server resources (either with Bluehost or someone else) – but this is the #1 speed factor.

Reduce Server Response Time

Indicators Bluehost Is Slow

  • High server response time in PageSpeed Insights
  • High TTFB (time to first byte) in GTmetrix Timings tab
  • High PageSpeed and YSlow scores in GTmetrix, but a slow load time
  • 503 service unavailable errors which means the server is being overloaded

You may also want to read Bluehost’s resource usage section on their user agreement page. It says “Accounts with a large number of files (inode count in excess of 200,000) can have an adverse effect on server performance.” This means if your site is consuming lots of resources (from more traffic, slow plugins, etc), they throttle your bandwidth and slow down your site. Bluehost customers constantly complain about slow servers on Twitter and Bluehost forums.

Join Facebook Groups and do your research.

Bluehost-Managed-WordPress-Hosting

 

2. Identify Bottlenecks In GTmetrix

Rerun your site through GTmetrix and you should see a significant improvement in scores/load time. If not, this probably means you’re on Bluehost’s cheapest $6.99/month plan and you’re getting what you pay for. Any serious website should not be on such a cheap plan especially if it’s a business website and you rely on it to make a living. Let me know your new page load time in the comments! Or send me your GTmetrix + Pingdom report and I’ll send a few suggestions.

Other Optimizations:

  • For WooCommerce, optimize scripts, styles, and cart fragments in Perfmatters
  • Minimize redirects by using the correct HTTP(S) and WWW version of your site

1s-2020-GTmetrix-Report

 

3. Upgrade To PHP 7.3 In Bluehost’s cPanel

Most WordPress users are running outdated PHP versions when upgrading can easily make your site 2-3x faster. Bluehost will not upgrade you automatically (because they don’t want to risk breaking your site) so you need to do this yourself as Bluehost releases new PHP versions.

How To Update PHP Version On Bluehost

  • Login to your Bluehost cPanel
  • Select the PHP Config option
  • Select PHP 7.3 and save changes

Bluehost PHP 7.3 1

 

4. Activate Cloudflare’s CDN

To add Cloudflare, login to Bluehost and go to Domains → Cloudflare → Activate.

Bluehost-Cloudflare

Bluehost Cloudflare

This activates Cloudflare’s CDN (content delivery network) which hosts your website on 200+ data centers around the world, reducing the distance between your server and visitors. It also helps offload resources to their data centers (lightening the load on your server) while improving security. Registering your site on the actual Cloudflare website, logging into your Cloudflare dashboard, and configuring the speed tab and page rules can further improve speed.

 

5. Configure A Solid Cache Plugin

WP Rocket was the #1 rated cache plugin, costs $49 and is what I use on my site. WP Fastest Cache was the top rated free cache plugin and is super easy to set up. Both can shave multiple seconds off your load time and I wrote tutorials for both, plus W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Only use 1 caching plugin on your site – I recommend WP Rocket or WP Fastest Cache.

WP Rocket is better because it has more speed optimization features than other cache plugins, otherwise you would need to install the following plugins to get these (different cache plugins have different features, so only install them if your cache plugin doesn’t have a built-in feature).

  • 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)
  • Optimize Google Fonts (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CAOS For Fonts, or SHGF)
  • Integration with Cloudflare + other CDNs (built-in to WP Rocket, or use CDN Enabler)

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

A glimpse of the WP Rocket settings (file optimization are the most important settings):

WP-Rocket-File-Optimization-Settings

Here’s a glimpse of the WP Fastest Cache settings:

WP-Fastest-Cache-Settings

 

6. Make Images Load Faster

There are a few primary ways to optimize your images; some are found in GTmetrix, others are found in Google PageSpeed Insights. All of them will contribute to better scores and load times.

Serve Scaled Images – means images are too large and need to be resized. When expanded, GTmetrix tells you which images have errors and their correct dimensions. Your logo, sliders, blog, and any image on your website usually calls for specific dimensions which you should be resizing them too. Start with images that appear on multiple pages (eg. logo + sidebar images). It’s a good idea to create a cheat sheet of your image dimensions so you can resize images accordingly (content body width, widget width, sliders, featured images, carousel images, etc). This way you or your designer can crop/resize images before uploading them to WordPress.

image-optimization

serve-scaled-images

Specify Image Dimensions – means you need to specify a width and height in the image’s HTML or CSS. The WordPress visual editor should take care of this automatically, however you usually need to do this manually with images that are hand-coded in HTML or CSS. Expand the “specify image dimensions” item in your GTmetrix PageSpeed report and they tell you the width/height.

specify-image-dimensions

Specifying Image Dimensions In HTML:
<img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/example-image.jpg” alt=”Example Image” width=”360″ height=”180″ />

Specifying Image Dimensions In CSS:
logo width: 180px (retina: 360px;)
logo height: 110px max (retina: 220px;)

Losslessly Compress Images – this is the “optimize images” item in GTmetrix. It means you need to compress images using a plugin like ShortPixel (what I use), Imagify, or Smush. Set your compression level in the plugin settings and test a few images before bulk optimizing them, since you may see a slight reduction in quality. Most are free until you reach the monthly quota.

Imagify-Optimize-Images-On-Upload

Lazy Load Images – can be done using WP Rocket and most image optimization plugins. This delays the loading of images until users scroll down the page and visibly see images. Can also be done for videos, including replacing YouTube iframes with preview images (seen in WP Rocket).

Serve Images In Next-Gen Format – this is an item in PageSpeed Insights. It means you need to use image formats like WebP instead of JPEG and PNG. Most image optimization plugins will convert images to WebP format for you, or if you’re using SVGs, use the SVG Support plugin.

 

7. Find And Fix Slow Loading Plugins

Find Your Slowest Plugins – look through your GTmetrix report (especially the Waterfall tab) to find which plugins are causing issues with your load times. Delete or replace them if possible.

Slow WordPress Plugin

Avoid Slow Plugins – avoid these 65+ infamously slow plugins.

  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
  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. Elementor
  15. View Full List Of 65 Slow Plugins

Minimize Plugins – deactivate and delete any plugins you don’t absolutely need.

Consolidate Plugins – use 1 plugin for multiple features, for example, use WP Rocket for nearly all speed optimizations instead of individual plugins like WP-Optimize or Heartbeat Control.

Selectively Disable Plugins From Specific Pages – use Perfmatters or Asset CleanUp to disable plugins from running on specific pages/posts. If you only use your contact form plugin on the contact page, disable everywhere else. Or if you have social sharing buttons on your blog, disable them on pages. Seeing which scripts/plugins are loading on your pages is an eye opener.

perfmatters-script-manager

 

8. Remove Junk From Your WordPress Database

If you’re using WP Rocket for your cache plugin, you can skip this step since there’s an option to do this in the WP Rocket “database” settings. Otherwise WP-Optimize does the same thing… it cleans your database like your spam and trash folder, pingbacks, trackbacks, and potentially thousands of post revisions. Schedule a database cleanup every 2 weeks or so to keep it clean.

WP-Optimize Clean Database

WP-Optimize lets you delete tables left behind by old plugins which aren’t installed anymore.

WP-Optimize-Tables

 

9. Avoid Using Slow Page Builders On Shared Hosting

Yes, even Elementor.

Elementor and other page builders load lots of scripts on your entire website which you can check using Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters. It also consumes more resources (when editing) than Gutenberg or alternative faster page builders. In general, I would not recommend using a page builder on shared hosting unless it’s Oxygen. The only thing I regret when designing my new website is not creating it in Oxygen. See how many times Elementor is in the source code?

Elementor Scripts

If you decide to keep Elementor, at least disable all addons, modules, and scripts you’re not using. Most Elementor plugins have an option to toggle modules on or off. Next, view your scripts in Asset CleanUp or Perfmatters and disable the ones you’re not using (I would do this on a staging website since toggling these can break things if they’re in use). It requires testing.

Disable-Addons

 

10. Combine Google Font Files

See font-related errors in your GTmetrix report?

Try installing and configuring the OMGF plugin. It automatically downloads your fonts and creates a stylesheet for them, so that they’re included in your site’s header which makes them easier to optimize. You can also try hosting fonts locally yourself. Elementor Pro also has custom font options for hosting them locally. Especially if you’re using an external font like Google Fonts or Font Awesome, make sure you are minimal with the number of fonts/weights.

Google-Fonts-GTmetrix

OMGF will automatically create the stylesheet for you:

OMGF-Generate-Stylesheet

 

11. Optimize Third Party Scripts

Third Party Scripts are anything “embedded” on your website from an external website.

This is anything from embedded videos to Google Fonts, Analytics, AdSense, Tag Manager, Maps, or even social sharing buttons on your blog. You can usually find these in the “reduce DNS lookups” section of your GTmetrix report. These all generate extra requests from outside websites and will slow down yours. While some can be optimized, others cannot.

  • Embedded Videos – Lazy load videos and replace the YouTube iframe with a preview image (in WP Rocket) or use the WP YouTube Lyte plugin by the Autoptimize team.
  • Embedded Social Media Posts – try taking a picture of the post and using that instead.
  • Google Analytics – try hosting your Google Analytics tracking code locally. This should fix the “leverage browser caching” issue for Google Analytics in your GTmetrix report, but don’t worry if you can’t fix this since it shouldn’t even impact your actual load times.
  • Google AdSense – a GTmetrix killer, I highly recommend just doing affiliate marketing.
  • Google Maps – only use a Google Map on the contact or pages optimized for local SEO.
  • Google Tag Manager – usually only benefits load times for large, unoptimized websites.

WordPress External Scripts

 

12. Remove Bloat From WordPress

By default, WordPress consumes resources with autosaves, post revisions, pingbacks, trackbacks, heartbeat API, jQuery migrate, and many other things you probably don’t need.

I use the Perfmatters plugin by Kinsta to disable these (I was using WP Disable but it has bad reviews and can cause errors on your site). Perfmatters is the only plugin that not only lets you disable the crap, but also has a script manager for selectively disabling plugins (the previous step) as well as hosting Google Analytics locally. It’s what I personally use on my own website.

perfmatters-settings

 

13. Consider Moving To Cloudways

Hosting recommendations are usually garbage.

Join the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group to get unbiased feedback. Most members (myself too) swear by Cloudways WordPress Hosting. Specifically DigitalOcean / Vultr High Frequency.

Yes, it’s a little more expensive at $10-$13/month, but we’re talking about speed here – not being cheap. With Cloudways, you have a choice of using DigitalOcean, Vultr High Frequency, Google Cloud, AWS, or Linode. These are worlds faster than shared hosting and can handle resource-intensive tasks much better (Elementor, Beaver, Divi, WooCommerce, AdSense, etc).

Cloudways makes it easy to test them out and see the difference in your load times: they do free migrations, monthly pricing, a Migrator plugin, and a promo code to save money: OMM25

Here’s what happened when I moved:

SiteGround vs Cloudways

GTmetrix tests are always different, but even posts with a huge page 2.70MB page size and 96 requests can often load in under 2s. I’ll also take a 148ms time to first byte any day of the week. That post has 70+ images, 480 comments (showing Gravatars), Font Awesome, and Elementor.

OMM-TTFB

The evidence is there:

Cloudways Response TimesCloudways-Migration-Result
Cloudways Google PageSpeed
WP Engine To Cloudways
DigitalOcean Pingdom Report
Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
UntitledWPEngine-To-Cloudways
Godaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom Load Times
Cloudways Pingdom Report
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 
This was a simple Pingdom test to measure load times of 16 WordPress hosts. I signed up for popular hosting companies then installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them while measuring load times in Pingdom for 1 week at 30 minute check intervals. Some domains are still live (cwdoserver.com is hosted on a $10/month Cloudways DO plan and stgrndserver.com is hosted on SiteGround GrowBig). I cancelled most of them because it was getting expensive. Even when browsing through their pages or running your own tests, you can see the difference.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

Hosting Companies You Should Avoid

  • SiteGround – they have gone completely downhill in recent years.
  • Bluehost – slow servers, owned by EIG, bad support, rated poorly in FB Groups.
  • HostGator – also owned by EIG with slow servers, bad support, CPU limit issues.
  • GoDaddy – top malware hosting network worldwide, rated poorly in FB groups.
  • Hostinger – they write fake reviews and vote for themselves in Facebook polls.
  • WP Engine – also not what it used to be, expensive and not even fast anymore.
  • *A2 Hosting – if you can’t afford Cloudways, A2 is still fast and uses LiteSpeed.

I use Cloudways because:

  • Even posts with a 2.70MB page size can load in under 2s
  • DigitalOcean and Vultr HF are miles faster than shared hosting.
  • It’s $10-$13/month (no yearly contracts or high renewal prices).
  • Varnish, Redis, and memcached are all built-in for higher performance.
  • You get to pick from DigitalOcean, Vultr HF, Linode, AWS, Google Cloud.
  • 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating and highly recommended in Facebook Groups.
  • They have 25+ data centers between all their cloud hosting providers.
  • No CPU issues like on SiteGround, Bluehost, and other shared hosting.
  • SSL, staging, and backups are all very easy in the Cloudways dashboard.
  • Support used to be average, but is now really good as reflected on TrustPilot.
  • They offer a free migration but their Migrator plugin will also do the trick.
  • Adding a server, migrating your site, and the dashboard is actually very easy.
  • Mustasaam (their community manager) gave me peace of mind when moving.
  • Only complaint is they need to add LiteSpeed servers to their list of providers.

Affiliate Disclaimer – if you sign up for Cloudways using my affiliate link, I would seriously appreciate it. I don’t recommend bad hosting like many other affiliates. I also donate quite a bit to charity ($6,000 to GoFundMe so far) and your support would really help. I try to base my reviews not only from my experience, but real evidence from the overwhelming feedback in numerous Facebook Groups. It would mean a lot.

Just do your research and look at this Facebook thread.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my website slow on Bluehost?

Bluehost is shared hosting and lacks server resources. These are needed to accomodate high CPU tasks like WooCommerce, AdSense, and even Elementor. Configuring a cache plugin with a CDN is one of the most effective ways to fix a slow website on Bluehost.

How to fix a slow server response time on Bluehost?

You can fix a slow server response time on Bluehost by upgrading to the latest PHP version, configuring a cache plugin with a CDN, and cleaning up your database. If these don't work, consider moving away from shared hosting.

Will upgrading plans improve load times?

Yes, but you should optimize your website first and consider alternative hosts. Bluehost's Optimized WordPress Hosting or VPS plans aren't nearly as fast as semi-dedicated or cloud hosting from other providers. Join some Facebook Groups and do your research.

Which WordPress speed plugins should I use?

WP Rocket, TinyPNG, and Perfmatters are 3 key WordPress speed plugins. If you're not using WP Rocket, you will need to install additional plugins to take care of Heartbeat Control, database cleanup, lazy loading, and hosting Google Fonts and Analytics locally.

Did this tutorial work?
Let me know in the comments and feel free to share your new load time! If you still have a slow WordPress site on Bluehost let me know about that too… I will gladly look into your GTmetrix + Pingdom report and send you a few suggestions (just please do what you can from this guide).

See Also: Cloudways Review

Cheers,
Tom