This post will cover the basics of troubleshooting a slow WordPress site. This can become a rabbit hole if one so desires. However, the entrance to Wonderland still starts here no matter how far your heart desires to take you.
A slow website will is the first impression people will get simply because even if you you are dressed in an expensive suit and looking your best, if you cant get in the door for everyone to see you it simply won’t matter. In fact, most users on the internet have such short attention spans that if your site does not load within a few seconds, they are likely to not visit it again. Furthermore, Google and most other search engines also take website speed as a crucial factor when determining pagerank of a given website. Naturally, you need to fix things if you are seeing a slow WordPress website at your end.
Thankfully, WordPress in itself is fairly nimble out of the box. It does not operate slow of its own accord, and if optimized properly, “slow WordPress website” should be something that you’d never have to deal with.
With that said, what should be done to troubleshoot a slow WordPress website? We will attempt to answer this question in this article.
What Can be the Reasons Behind a Slow WordPress Website?
Before going any further, we first need to understand what causes a slow WordPress website. The reasons can be varied, and often, more than one reason might be responsible. However, we can broadly identify the causes of a slow WordPress website as:
- Sub-par hosting (read: slow web server)
- Faulty theme
- Faulty plugins
- Database issues
As you can see, in order to troubleshoot a slow WordPress website, we need to get to the root cause of the problem.
Nonetheless, if you are hosting with VeeroTech, slow servers will definitely not be the case. We ensure all our hosting plans come with adequate allocation resources, and we never indulge in overselling or overcrowding our servers. In fact, we’ve recently rolled out new NVMe servers. NVMe (PCIe) storage is significantly faster than SSD (SATA) storage.
Now, on to other causes behind a slow WordPress website.
Wait, is it Really the WordPress Website That is Slow, or Something Else?
Before you actually start troubleshooting, conduct a small test — is your WP site loading slow, or is cPanel slow as well?
If only the website is slow to load and cPanel is loading fine, then yes, you are dealing with a slow WordPress website that needs to be cured. But if both cPanel and the WP site are slow to load, there are good chances it is a network or latency issue at your end and your website visitors are not likely to experience any slow performance when loading your site’s pages.
In such cases, you should consider performing a traceroute, and then contacting our Support Team for additional guidance.
If cPanel is loading fine and only the WP site is slow to load, read on!
Slow WordPress Website — Fixing a Faulty Theme
It used to be generally rare for a WordPress theme to slow down the entire website. However, with the ever-increasing number of poor quality WP themes out there, it is not uncommon to find a slow WordPress website caused by a faulty theme.
For the most part, if you have obtained your theme from the WP.org repository, you can bypass this section. All themes in the official repo are quality-tested across various parameters, and it is highly unlikely for a repository-originated WordPress theme to slow down the entire site.
But, on the other hand, if you have purchased your WP theme from a theme shop, say, Envato Marketplace, you definitely should consider testing your theme to see if it is causing a slow WordPress website. Often, in order to add more and more features and upsell their WP theme, publishers tend to overlook coding standards and add innumerable bloatware to their themes. This is more of a marketing gimmick — just like “unlimited hosting”, a WP theme with “unlimited features” is easier to sell.
Such bloated WordPress themes, despite all their bells and whistles, do the sole job of causing database overheads and slowing down the entire website.
To be sure that your WP theme is not causing the slow WordPress website, you should test it using the Theme Check plugin. This particular plugin verifies the integrity and quality of the theme’s code, and, if anything amiss is found, it reports the same.
Install the Theme Check plugin just like any other WP plugin. Once you have installed and activated it, head to Appearance → Theme Check.
Select the theme that you are using, and click the Check button.
Now, if there are warnings or informational messages, you can ignore them. These do not generally slow down a website per se. However, any errors that are reported need your strict attention.
Essentially, errors can be of three types. Firstly, Theme Check reports hard-coded links in the theme’s code. These are a poor coding practice (and often spammers conceal their links within the code), but do not slow down the website. Secondly, Theme Check also checks for recursive and poorly-coded function calls. These issues can lead to a slow WordPress website by calling functions in an incorrect manner. Poorly-coded function calls result in database overheads as well as excessive server load.
Lastly, Theme Check might also inform you about obsolete or outdated functions being used in themes. Such functions may or may not slow down the entire site (generally, these only cause occasional issues with speed, but nothing consistent). In either case, obsolete functions and methods can lead to your pages not rendering properly in all web browsers.
To sum it up, if you get any error messages beyond the ordinary “hidden links” one, you need to change your WordPress theme. It is probably not worth the effort to attempt to fix that particular WP theme and as a result, picking a different theme is highly advisable.
Slow WordPress Website — Fixing Faulty Plugins
Unlike WP themes, a slow WordPress website caused by a faulty WP plugin is easier to detect. In fact, the majority of slow WordPress websites out there are caused by some plugin or the other.
Unfortunately, we cannot speak with guarantee that plugins from the official repository will not slow down your website. Even more so, just because a particular WP plugin is causing your site to load slower than usual, it does not imply that the given plugin is poorly coded or malware. Even the best and most popular WP plugins out there, for instance Jetpack, tend to slow down page load times a bit owing to additional CSS code, widgets and elements that these plugins add to pages.
Now, if you encounter an extremely slow WordPress website owing to a plugin, that is definitely a cause of concern! To troubleshoot, the process is simple.
Head to Tools → Site Health, enter Troubleshooting section, and then click Enable Troubleshooting Mode.
Now, all your active plugins should be temporarily disabled by WordPress. It is a good idea to open your site on a different device, such as your smartphone, and see if the pagespeed has improved. Alternatively, you might also open your site in a different web browser. Perchance you do not have a different browser, you can try the Privacy Mode (known as Incognito Mode in Chrome) to open your site.
If the pages are loading fine, then yes, the problem exists with a particular plugin. Come back to WP admin panel, and in the troubleshooting section, start enabling your plugins one by one. Keep checking your site’s load times after each plugin is enabled.
As and when you re-enable the faulty plugin, your website might go back to being slow. As such, you will be able to pinpoint the culprit in no time thereafter.
When done, be sure to disable the troubleshooting mode.
Slow WordPress Website – Database Issues
Of late, it is becoming rare to come across a slow WordPress website that is caused by the database itself. This is primarily because WordPress in itself has started paying great attention to its backend optimization in recent times. Thus, with each newer version of WP, database overheads are comparatively less of a problem.
However, it is not entirely impossible for a site to be slow owing to its database. It can especially be the case if yours is a huge website with thousands of posts and a lot of content.
Ideally speaking, you should consider installing a database optimization plugin, such as WP Optimize or WP Sweep, and perform a deep clean of your database. Once all overheads have been eliminated, your site speed should improve.
To get started, simply install WP Optimize just like any other WordPress plugin and then activate it. Next, head to WP Optimize → Database section in your WP admin panel, and select all the optimizations. Thereafter, click “Run Selected Optimizations”.
It might be a good idea to take a backup of your site prior to running database optimizations.
Once you have run all the optimizations, try loading your site from a new device or a new web browser. Your website should load comparatively faster than before if the slow WordPress website was caused by a database issue.
Beyond that, you might also want to check the database queries and calls on your website. At times, certain plugins tend to slow things down by causing too many DB calls at the same time. For this purpose, you should consider installing the Query Monitor WP plugin — read our detailed guide about the same here.
A slow WordPress website can be a cause of concern. However, if troubleshooted properly, it can be fixed in no time.
With that said, you should definitely consider setting up a caching solution and optimizing your WP site for better performance. At times, there is no cause of concern, and the site is slow simply because there is no caching mechanism in place, or the traffic is too high with thousands of concurrent users visiting a site hosted on a shared plan. In such cases, certain performance tweaks or a simple plan upgrade can fix the issue.
We do offer an in depth premium performance analysis service where we work directly with you to find root causes of poorly performance WordPress websites. Contact us for details via the message box at the bottom right on via our Contact Us form.
Need to further improve your WP site? Read our WordPress optimization series here.
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