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How to fix WordPress slow loading issues

Website visitors want fast loading websites. They don’t have much patience and will leave your website if it takes more than a few seconds to load. This could result in lost user engagement and reduced traffic to your website, which could negatively impact your website’s ranking position. To avoid this, it’s important to fix your slow loading WordPress issues.

If you’re wondering why your WordPress site is slow, the answer is simple. Like any website, WordPress can be slow if not optimized and maintained properly.

Later in this article, I will explain how to identify and fix the issues that cause slow loading WordPress websites.

Table of Contents

Slow website troubleshooting

visitors when your website is slow
visitors when your website is slow

There are some common issues that slow down websites, some are common to all websites and some are specific to WordPress.

Let’s take a look at each issue and later in the article I’ll explain how to fix them.

Server issues


Your website’s slowness may be caused by your web hosting service.

This could include one or more of the following:

  • a slow web server (due to hardware limitations or limited network bandwidth)
  • a shared hosting plan (many other websites are hosted on the same physical server)
  • a slow database
  • insufficient memory
  • quotas on CPU execution, database queries, network traffic

Your hosting plan could be the problem. Some hosting providers cut corners by putting large numbers of websites on the same physical server. This makes the plan cheap but your website will be slow to load (because the server is handling 100’s of other requests at the same time).

As the traffic to your website increases, your web server will require more resources. If necessary, consider upgrading to a higher-spec hosting plan.

Ensure your hosting plan is appropriate for the expected traffic to your website

Images loading slowly


Images are a major cause of slowness for websites. The more images, and specifically, the more high quality images you use the slower the web page will be to load.

Of course, images are good to use, they make your website visually appealing and can be useful for readers.

Fortunately there are many ways of improving the loading times of images which I will explain later.

Too many plugins or slow loading plugins

Plugins add files to each web page loaded, typically these files will be:

  • javascript
  • CSS (files that affect the styling and visual layout of the page)
  • HTML (content of the page, e.g. header, footer, sidebar etc)
  • images
  • fonts
  • API calls (calls to other websites, e.g. social media networks, ad servers)
  • loading files from a third-party site

In addition each plugin will likely make database queries and change information in the database.

The more you rely on third-party websites the slower your website will be. In the worst case, when a third-party site is down it will break your website too.

One or two plugins won’t make a big difference but many website owners add large numbers of plugins to their website which will significantly slow down each page.

Store images and files locally rather than loading from third-party sites

Outdated software


Keep all of your software up to date. Don’t provide weak links for hackers to exploit your system.

The following software will need to be updated frequently:

  • Programming language on the web server – PHP for WordPress websites
  • Blogging software – WordPress
  • All plugins and themes installed on your blog – even “inactive” themes or plugins

The fewer plugins you have installed the smaller the attack surface hackers have to attack you.

Poorly coded theme

Not all themes are coded to the highest standards. Some may even be malicious, deliberately written to have backdoors that hackers can exploit.

Only use themes from high quality sources. Check the ratings and comments from users before installing a theme.

You get what you pay for so expect free themes to not be of the highest quality or get updated as quickly as you would like.

If a website is important to you it’s worth investing in a high quality paid theme.

How to Improve WordPress Performance

boost performance

Choosing a fast, lightweight theme

It is crucial to choose a fast and lightweight theme for your WordPress website. The theme you use can significantly affect your website’s speed, even if you optimize your server, images, and plugins.

Many popular themes offer numerous features like “60+ features – our theme does everything!” However, this can cause a bloated theme that will slow down your website’s performance. In reality, you may only use a few of these features, and paying for all of them can cause poor website performance.

Every feature supported by a theme adds bloat to your website. Typically:

  • extra code that needs to execute
  • more database requests
  • images
  • CSS files
  • Javascript files
  • third-party website requests
  • API calls

Don’t use a theme with lots of built in features.

In addition to all of the code bloat your website will be at higher risk from hackers. Every new feature potentially has poorly written code that will leave your exposed to getting hacked.

Less is better. Prefer minimal, lightweight themes.

I use GeneratePress theme for this website, it has a free version and a premium version. If you are looking for a WordPress theme I can recommend it.

GeneratePress theme

Optimizing Images to load faster

I’ve written about optimizing images before: Is Imagify the best compressor plugin for websites?

I recommend reading that article for a more in-depth discussion but here is the summary:

1. Choosing the right image format

Choosing the right format for your image can greatly reduce the file size. Newer formats like WEBP offer the best compression without any loss of quality.

2. Compressing images

compress image

Image compression is a must since images can be large, especially high-quality photos, and not compressing them will result in slow website performance.

It’s easy to start using image compression. You can do this for free by using an image compression service like Imagify. Once you sign up, you can drag and drop image files onto the website to have them compressed for you.

For WordPress websites, there is an even better solution: Imagify has a plugin that automatically compresses your images for you. Check it out below:

Imagify – free image compression service

3. Reducing image size

To reduce the time it takes for your web page to load, you can also consider reducing the dimensions of your images. By dimensions, I mean the width and height of the image.

Since most of your visitors are likely to access your website through their mobile devices, it is recommended to keep the maximum width of an image for smartphones to 400-500 pixels. Having an image with a width greater than that results in wasted bandwidth, as the browser has to resize the image before displaying it.

4. Lazy load images

This technique only loads images when they scroll into view in the browser. The web page will load faster, and more traffic can be handled by your web server.

I use the free SiteGround Optimizer plugin, which has a lazy load option. Simply turn on the lazy load option, and all your images will be lazily loaded. If your account is hosted on SiteGround, it also supports image compression and the WEBP format.

Get SiteGround Optimizer Plugin

Cleaning Up Your Database

database, sql

WordPress websites rely on a database to store all content, including articles, revisions, comments, and attachment information.

If you neglect database maintenance, your website will slowly degrade over time, causing it to slow down.

1. Deleting unnecessary data

Certain plugins can store a lot of information in the database. Especially security plugins that log all visits and requests to your website.

It’s a good idea to check the settings for these plugins to regularly clean and remove old data frequently. You will need to check the settings for each plugin you have installed.

This is another reason why you should minimize the number of plugins you use, as each one is likely to store and retrieve data from the database, contributing to slow website performance.

2. Removing old post revisions

WordPress stores each draft of your content in the database, which can slow down your website considerably, especially if you spend a lot of time revising and editing.

Handling database maintenance with a plugin is recommended. The SiteGround Optimizer plugin can perform this task for you.

Scheduled automatic database maintenance - SiteGround Optimizer plugin
Scheduled automatic database maintenance – SiteGround Optimizer plugin

Reducing the Number of Plugins

Do you really need that plugin? It can be tempting to add a plugin to your website, especially if it’s free.

But it isn’t really free, not if you take into account how much it will slow down your website and the extra files added to each web page.

Free plugins can be very expensive.

Try to use only the minimum number of plugins necessary for your website.

Identifying and removing unnecessary plugins

Look at all your plugins, do you use them all? One quick way is to disable a plugin and check your website still works – does it look any different? If not you probably don’t need that plugin.

Essential plugins types for a WordPress website:

  • Performance / optimizer plugin
  • Security plugin
  • SEO plugin

Other plugins require careful consideration.

Finding lightweight plugins

Some plugins can be expensive in terms of server resources such as:

  • CPU (the server processor)
  • network bandwidth
  • disk space
  • database access (requests or writing to the database)

Plugins that make API calls to third-party websites can be expensive, such as plugins that access share counts for your social media sharing buttons.

Some plugins, like related posts plugins, may extensively use your database and CPU to generate related posts. This can slow down each article on your website.

Loading resources, like CSS/Javascript/images, from third-party websites can significantly affect your website’s loading speed. If these third-party websites are slow, your webpage will also load or work slowly. Additionally, if any of these sites go down, it could break your website.

Minimise use of plugins that make API calls or load files from third-party websites

Use Caching

Caching content can greatly speed up your website. The idea is that content that doesn’t change, or changes slowly, can be “cached” by the server for an hour, or day. This saves the web server having to generate the content each time greatly reducing the amount of resources needed to serve each visitor.

Caching can occur in one or more locations, from the user’s browser to the web server to intermediary locations like a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

Browser caching

The browser on the user’s machine can cache a version of files from your website, this is the quickest method of caching. Browsers can cache:

  • images
  • javascript files
  • CSS files
  • fonts

Browsers don’t cache content, i..e the text of a website. Since images, javascript and CSS files can account for a large percentage of the content needed to show a page it’s well worth browser caching.

Server caching

Your hosting provider determines the server caching options that are available. Below are the caching options offered by SiteGround, which I’m familiar with. You can easily access these caching options by installing the SiteGround Optimizer plugin

SiteGround Optimizer Caching Options

SiteGround has crafted these caching solutions to boost the speed of WordPress websites.

File-based caching

Every visit to your site will be faster with the SiteGround Optimizer plugin option for file-based caching. Our plugin will generate a static HTML version of your website and store it in the browser memory, significantly boosting your loading speed.

Dynamic Caching


Store your content in the server’s memory for a faster access with full-page caching solution powered by NGINX. Having Dynamic Cache is essential for speeding up your website.



Powerful object caching for your site. Memcached stores frequently executed queries to your databases and then reuses them for better performance.

Content delivery network (CDN)

Content Delivery Network

Visitors from anywhere in the world can access your website. Ideally, you should provide them with content that is as close to their location as possible. That’s the function of a Content Delivery Network.

The CDN service caches your content, such as images, javascript, CSS, and font files, on its servers. Your web pages are not typically cached, only static content, especially images.

You can use a third-party CDN service with your website, or your hosting provider may also provide a CDN service. The easiest method is to use the CDN provided by your hosting provider, which may even be free with your hosting plans.

Activating a CDN network for your website is simple, and no changes to the website are necessary. See the screenshot below:

SiteGround CDN

Check your hosting plans to determine if you can use a CDN. The screenshot above is from the site tools area on SiteGround, which offers a free CDN service with a premium option also available.

A CDN reduces the strain on your web server, enabling you to serve more visitors without slowing down your website.

To speed up page loading, use a CDN to offload most of your static content to CDN servers. This results in increased user engagement and has the potential to boost your site’s ranking in search engines.

High traffic sites, image heavy sites and websites for a global audience benefit the most from using a CDN

Choose a Fast Hosting Service

The hosting service provider owns the physical machine that runs your website. You pay for the service that allows you to install your blogging software on one of those machines.

The hosting provider is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the hardware and software to keep your website running, including performing backups and checking for viruses.

You have two main options when deciding what kind of hosting you want.

Shared vs. dedicated hosting

Shared hosting

Multiple websites are hosted on a single server.

Each website shares server resources:

  • CPU
  • memory
  • disk space
  • network bandwidth

The advantages of shared hosting

Shared hosting is less expensive than dedicated hosting and is suitable for smaller websites that do not require a lot of resources.

Dedicated hosting

The website has the server to itself.

The website owner has complete control over all the server’s resources.

The advantages of dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting suits larger websites that require a lot of resources and need more control over the server environment.

Dedicated hosting is also more secure. Any unsecure website on a shared host could potential expose that server to hackers and spammers. Hacked websites drain resources from all websites hosted on that server.

Choosing the right hosting service

Shared hosting is a cost-effective option for smaller websites that do not require a lot of resources, while dedicated hosting is more expensive but provides more control and better performance for larger websites with high resource demands.

Opt for the shared hosting plan if you’re not sure. Your website and traffic will be small at the beginning. You can upgrade to dedicated hosting later once your website has expanded.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to find and fix and performance issues on your website to boost user engagement and search engine ranking positions.

Here is a quick summary of recommendations for WordPress websites to fix performance problems:

If you are looking for a WordPress hosting service I recommend SiteGround:

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