WordPress Slow Loading – #1 way to speed up your site without painful headaches

“It takes 10 seconds for my WordPress site to load!” a frantic business owner says on our initial phone call.

It’s a common complaint.

How to Tell if You have WordPress Slow Loading

Is your WordPress site taking forever to load? Slow page load times frustrate visitors and drive them away. Plus, site speed impacts your search engine rankings. So how can you tell if your WordPress site is suffering from sluggish load times? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Look at Real Page Load Time
    Use a tool like Pingdom or WebPageTest to accurately measure your real-world page load time. Test multiple pages on your site. If your homepage takes more than 2 seconds to fully load, that’s a red flag. Inner pages should load within 3 seconds. Consistently longer times indicate speed issues.
  • Monitor Time to First Byte
    This measures how long your server takes just to send the first byte of code when a page is requested. Optimally this should happen within 200 milliseconds. If your TTFB is consistently over 500ms, your server response time needs work.
  • Check Google PageSpeed Insights
    Google analyzes your site and gives speed recommendations. Focus on your mobile score—anything under 90 is concerning. Review Google’s suggestions like enabling compression, shrinking images, and using browser caching.
  • Look at Visitor Behavior Metrics
    In Google Analytics, check your bounce rate and pages per session. High bounce rates and low page views per visit can be symptoms of a slow site. Also look at your average session duration. Short visits signal visitors are leaving due to slow page loads.
  • Examine Resource Loading
    Use Chrome DevTools to see how long each page resource takes to load. Resources that take a very long time to load like JavaScript files, CSS, and images need to be optimized.
  • Test on Budget Devices
    Just because your high-end laptop loads pages quickly doesn’t mean everyone experiences the same speed. Test on lower-end mobile devices and computers. If it’s slow for you, it’ll be even slower for average users.
  • Ask Your Users About Speed
    You can deploy surveys and polls to directly ask visitors about their experience with your site speed. This feedback can confirm or deny perceived speed issues.
  • Implement Speed Testing
    For ongoing monitoring, implement performance testing tools like Lighthouse CI or WebPageTest API. These run automated speed tests from multiple locations and alert you to performance regressions.

By regularly checking these metrics and signals, you’ll get a sense of your true site speed and performance. Don’t ignore the signs of a slow site—take action to optimize page load times before it damages your business results further. Fast WordPress sites are achievable with the right hosting, plugins, caching, and optimization techniques.

wordpress slow loading
WordPress Slow Loading - #1 way to speed up your site without painful headaches 5

Is your WordPress slow loading site costing you sales?

This might seem obvious, but if you don’t know definitively that your slow website is costing you sales, then you have no business assuming that it is costing you sales.

I’ve seen slow websites generate loads of revenue, and I’ve seen blazing fast, completely worthless websites.

Each second of slowed-down load time costs Amazon $1.6 billion!

But forcing a potential visitor wait an extra second on your WordPress site might cost you zilch!

People Will Wait For Valuable Services

How Valuable Is Your Service?

The more niche your service, the more valuable your service, the more time people will wait for it.

I’ve seen people wait 15 minutes for coffee at Angry Catfish and be happy with the long wait times.  (Not me, though – I don’t value the coffee that much!)

If you have something unique & valuable to offer, people will wait.

You’ll wait in the emergency room, in the doctor’s office, at the airport, in lines at cash registers, etc. etc. etc.

You’ll wait, because the cost of waiting is less than the cost of the thing you are buying.

Same with websites.

Slow WordPress Site?  Don’t Freak Out.

I’ve seen people throw whole days down the drain troubleshooting Google Pagespeed recommendations for things like loading scripts in the footer, CSS minification, file concatenation, caching, and more.

I’m not saying those things don’t impact load times – they do.

But what I’m saying is that page speeds rarely matter for your business.

Business Depends on Sales, Not Page Speeds

I work with a large media company in town on optimizing their business’ digital assets.  Their WordPress page speeds are not great.

But their salespeople never report customer complaints about page load times.  Nope.

This successful media company’s customers need other stuff, so that’s what they focus on.

And their buyers (you and me), need something else entirely…still not fast page speeds.

Things like beautiful images, catchy leads, great editing, unique content – that’s what keeps readers around.  Not page speeds.

Page Speed Is a False Metric

Your website’s page speed or page load times are website metrics, not business metrics.

You might be losing customers due to slow load times, but probably not.

Business people, except in large B2C cases, rarely complain about website load times.

Because business people know that there are diminishing returns in focusing on load times.

They know that messaging, the right product at the right time, and relationships are far more important.

Page Speed Can Matter

Before you get your undies in a bunch, know that page speed can matter. (I’ve said as much above.  See B2C companies like Amazon, Target, etc.)

But for you…probably not.

Once you reach “fast-enough”, that’s all you need.

How fast is “fast-enough”?  You’ll need to sell something to find out.

Actively-selling is the only way to find out.

How To Test If Page Speed Matters for You

  1. Set up 2 sites: WordPress and Shopify.  (Shopify will always be faster than your WordPress site, but it comes with lots of downsides).
  2. Have an identical product on both sites.
  3. a/b test the “add-to-cart”/”checkout” links.

Now you will know whether or not your page speed is a blocker for sales:

  • If you didn’t sell products either way, then your issue is definitely not page speed.
  • If Shopify sold way more than WordPress, then you probably have a page speed issue.  Consider switching to Shopify or speed up your WordPress site.

How to Use Cloudflare to Speed Up your slow-loading WordPress site

Your WordPress site is slow.

I get it, and I can help.  :)

There are lots of places to start troubleshooting this sort of WordPress slowness.

One thing I often do to combat website slowdown headaches is utilize Cloudflare.

About Cloudflare

Cloudflare is basically a way to load your website off your server.  (FYI, your server is 9-times-out-of-10 the slowdown bottleneck).

With the basic Cloudflare configuration I share below, this very site your are looking at went from almost 2 seconds to load down to less than a second.  See screengrabs below.

tmm before cloudflare 1
WordPress Site Slow Before Cloudflare
tmm after cloudflare 1
WordPress Site Fast After Cloudflare

And if that isn’t enough, I took some further actions to reduce the load time of my homepage further (removed a big image and activated Cloudflare’s Rocket Loader). Now the site loads in its entirety in about half a second!

themightymo.com 500ms

How To Speed Up Your WordPress Site using the Cloudflare plugin

Here’s the basics of using Cloudflare to speed up your WordPress site:

  1. Install the Cloudflare plugin.  NOTE: If you skip this step, you’ll hate yourself in the morning.  ;)
  2. Follow this Cloudflare WordPress how-to guide to speed up your site using Cloudflare.
  3. Enable HTTP/2 on your server via wp-config.php.
  4. Create a page rule to cache your site in Cloudflare to speed it up.
  5. Upgrade to paid plan on Cloudflare to enable WAF.
  6. If you have a shopping cart or membership site or a site that requires users to login, upgrade to a paid plan and enable the “Bypass Cache on Cookie” page rule.
  7. Activate Rocket Loader in Cloudflare.  NOTE: This option is experimental and can break things (test well and be cautious if your site takes payments).

That’s it!  Your site is no longer so darn slow!

There’s lots more that can be done to improve site-speed.

Cloudflare Security Improvements

Optional security improvements can speed up your site as well if you are on a VPS.  Here we go:

  1. Enable Cloudflare Rate Limiting to protect against brute force attacks.
  2. Enable Cloudflare WAF (paid plan).
  3. Increase security level to “High”.
  4. Install Blackhole for Bad Bots WordPress plugin.

WooCommerce Checkout Slow?

Buying/selling products on any website poses unique page speed problems.

The first step is to figure out if page speed is actually an issue for your business.

Slow checkout times hurt conversion rates. Follow these tips to optimize your WooCommerce checkout for speed:

  • Reduce Unneeded Fields
    The more fields you have in checkout, the longer it takes. Remove any unnecessary billing and shipping fields to streamline the process. You can also mark fields like phone number as optional.
  • Limit Payment Gateways
    Each payment gateway you offer adds bloat. Disable any gateways you don’t need. Stick to just 1-2 popular options like Stripe and PayPal.
  • Minify Checkout Resources
    Minification removes whitespace and compresses CSS/JavaScript for smaller files sizes. Ensure all checkout-related resources like WooCommerce scripts are minified.
  • Lazy Load Non-Essential Assets
    Leverage lazy loading to defer offscreen images, fonts, and other assets in checkout until needed. This prevents resources from slowing initial page load.
  • Optimize Images
    Resize large images, enable compression, and convert formats to web-friendly versions like WebP. This significantly reduces image sizes while maintaining quality.
  • Use a CDN
    A content delivery network like Cloudflare distributes static resources globally. This allows faster loading of assets no matter the visitor’s location.
  • Enable Gzip Compression
    Gzip shrinks file sizes by removing redundant data. It’s easy to enable in Nginx and Apache. This makes transfer of stylesheets, scripts, and HTML much quicker.
  • Implement Caching
    Caching stores page data so repeat visits pull from cache instead of rendering from scratch. Effective page, object, and database caching speeds up checkout reloads.
  • Choose Lean Plugins
    Too many feature-heavy plugins can bloat checkout speed. Carefully choose only essential plugins and avoid resource-intensive options when possible.
  • Optimize Your Hosting
    Make sure your web host provides adequate resources for your traffic levels. Upgrade to more robust hosting plans or switch providers if necessary.

There are also many WooCommerce-specific plugins for improving checkout performance. Prioritize speed optimizations not just during development, but in ongoing monitoring too. Fast load times keep customers happy and increase conversion rates.

Next, take appropriate action to improve conversion rates, which might not include page speed improvements.

In fact, many small businesses don’t have a page speed problem…They have a sales problem.

Free WordPress Speed Audit

“My WordPress site is slow.” “Why is WordPress loading so slowly?” “How come it’s taking so long for WordPress to publish posts?”

Is your website as fast as it could be? Slow page load times can hurt your business. Research shows that even a 1-second delay in page load time can cause a 7% drop in conversions. Yikes!

That’s why we offer a free WordPress speed audit for small business owners. Our experts will thoroughly analyze your website and identify opportunities to make it load faster.

During the audit, we look at things like:

  • Site hosting – Is your hosting plan robust enough to support your site traffic? Are you on a shared server that is overloaded? We’ll recommend optimizing your hosting for speed.
  • Page size – Large page sizes with lots of images or scripts can slow things down. We’ll identify any “page bloat” issues.
  • Database performance – An unoptimized database can drag down site speed. We’ll check indices, table structure, and more.
  • Caching – Effective caching reduces server workload and speeds up repeat visits. We’ll ensure caching is properly implemented.
  • CDN usage – A content delivery network can distribute assets globally. We’ll advise if a CDN could help.
  • Image optimization – Large, unoptimized images are speed killers. We’ll make sure your images are properly sized, compressed, and lazy loaded.
  • Plugin load – Too many plugins or inefficient plugins can bog things down. We’ll analyze plugin load and suggest optimizations.
  • Theme efficiency – The right theme improves site performance. We’ll check if your current theme is up to speed.
  • JavaScript and CSS – Poorly written JavaScript and CSS code can cause lag time. Our audit identifies any issues here.

We use advanced tools to audit all of these elements and more. You’ll receive a detailed report showing exactly how to boost your site speed.

Faster sites enjoy higher visitor engagement, lower bounce rates, and increased conversions. They also rank better in search engines like Google and make better use of your Google crawl budget.

Don’t leave money on the table due to a slow site! Contact us today to claim your free WordPress speed audit. Our optimization advice will get your site humming along in no time.

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Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO, expert WordPress developer, and teacher.

He offers free advice to improve your freelance biz.

He also publishes small droppings every now and them to https://twitter.com/tobycryns and https://twitter.com/themightymo.com

Follow Toby's contributions on Github and WP.org.