Why an optimization plugin won’t fix a slow WordPress site

We love WordPress around here. A LOT.

I won’t lie to you about it, though. The leanest WordPress site can’t load as quickly as a well-coded, made-from-scratch site.

You needed to know that (I’ll explain in a sec). Right now, though, you should be like:

Nobody has time to code a website from scratch. WordPress is so much better.

And I’d agree.

People who live in the real world and have better things to do than learn code (e.g., running a tiny business, building a profitable blog) should use WordPress.

As long as you get a lot of other things right, WordPress will be fast enough.

Problem is, it’s hard to get speed-related things right when you don’t have a background in website development.

Not judging, though – we want to help you. Not shame you. We struggle with plenty of things.

WordPress optimization is not one of those things.

Why we can boss people around about optimizing WordPress

I (Teresa) have built websites since before WordPress was around.

Brian’s been in the tech trenches for quite a while, too – managing projects for finicky corporate website clients.

Sites we build load quickly and help our clients hit marketing, sales or blogging goals.

We’ve optimized other slow WordPress websites built by people who’ve DIYed…or worse…much worse: They hired someone who had no clue about WordPress optimization.

>_<

(We applaud DIYers & think it’s better to save your money than pay someone who might be only slightly less clueless than you feel.)

Read on for suggestions about optimizing WordPress that’ll help you way more than a band-aid disguised as a plugin.

3 reasons you can’t just install a WordPress optimization plugin and call it good

The reason a WordPress website is a little slower than a stripped-down, made-from-scratch site is because it comes with a lot of code already built in. Code that does helpful things, and that someone else wrote so you didn’t have to.

It takes being mindful of that fact – plus being super deliberate about your other website choices – to keep WordPress optimized for speed.

It’s hard to be mindful about something when it’s not even on your radar screen. So here are the three WordPress optimization biggies to know:

1: WordPress plugins slow page load

Even the most well-coded plugins out there usually add to load time.

Some add A LOT.

That’s because in order to do the cool things that plugins do, they need scripts and other files. Sometimes many. Often, these files are outside your site, so they take even longer to load.

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Your visitors’ browsers have to load up these extra files, in addition to loading the code that makes up the page.

The more plugins you have, the likelier you are to have site speed issues – especially if you’re using plugins known for slowing websites.

No optimization plugin can eliminate problems caused by too many or too-bloated plugins.

2: WordPress optimization plugins are usually a complicated pain in the ass

The most popular optimization plugins could do your site a world of good – if they weren’t so damn difficult to configure.

When you’re just a little dude/dudette on the internet, trying to speed up a site on the cheap, it seems pretty awesome that you can get a WordPress optimization plugin for free.

Except when you bork your site trying to set it up.

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You need someone to be honest with you about this, so here it comes:

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. You’ve either got to dig in and get nerdy learning, get pro help or buy and correctly use premium plugins.

3: Optimization plugins can’t fix all the reasons your WordPress site is slow

Among the things slowing your WordPress site that an optimization plugin cannot fix:

  • Inadequate website hosting
  • Not having your https URLs set up correctly
  • Poorly-coded plugins
  • Plugins that need a lot of extra files to work
  • Plugins that have to fetch files from another site to work
  • You’ve monetized your site using an ad network
  • Using a poorly-coded WordPress theme
  • Using a lot of images
  • Using large images
  • Using the wrong image file format
  • Your site is large/older and its WordPress database is full of junk

If you care about making your WordPress site as optimized for speed as possible, you have to do more than install a plugin.

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Also, you should know this:

If you want the most bang for your buck, there are way better things to start with than a WordPress optimization plugin.

Surprised?

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(We’ll cover that further down the page.)

Why website speed is even a thing for small sites

If you have Google Analytics on your site (and you should), Google knows what visitors do there. For better or worse.

WordPress optimization helps reduce load time *and* bounce rate, increasing page views.

But it’s more involved than just Google.

When the site your visitor just came from loaded up in only a second but their browser is still chugging away on yours, I promise you those visitors aren’t understanding.

Few of them know or care about the technical differences between your WordPress site and a site that took $50K and an entire team to build.

The good news is that visitors’ cluelessness means you get the same shot as a big-money website.

Bad news: It also creates the expectation that you’ll deliver just like a fancier site.

Every extra second beyond the first one or two costs you a chunk of your potential audience. If visitors don’t hit the back button on that first slow-loading page, they visit fewer pages overall.

Optimize your WordPress site. Because even your mom won't wait this long.

So whether people are bailing right away or after only a couple of clicks, a slower site means fewer page views.

The bottom line, when it comes to speed, is this:

If your site is more than just a fun little hobby, you can’t let site speed stand in the way.

How to optimize WordPress when you’re time crunched, tech challenged or both

If a slow site is costing you visitors and revenue or time is a bigger factor for you than money, our WordPress Website Optimization Service is for you.

Hire us and we’ll dig in to your site, find the specific causes, and help you right what’s wrong. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a technical problem, a workflow issue or what – we’ll get to the heart of it.

Tech challenged but on a budget?

This walks you through 100+ high-impact but totally DIY-able optimization tips that’ll help you speed up your site.

How much will WordPress optimization help your site speed?

It depends. The more you’re willing to do (or allow us to do), the more we can help you speed up your page load time.

If getting a new web host, WordPress theme or some other expensive or more-complicated thing is holding our customer back, we’re honest about it.

Ultimately, though, we don’t insist on changing anything. We know optimization is sometimes easier to deal with a step at a time.

The charts below show results from our done-for-you WordPress optimization service. These are real people and real websites – not cherrypicked to show only the most stellar results.

On average, we’ve reduced page load time by 50%.

Help visitors stick around your site

Struggling with a slow website is frustrating and expensive. Our blog is full of posts about things you can do to improve site speed.

Tired of reading and ready to DO something about WordPress optimization? Done wasting time outside your genius zone? We can help.

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