Quick Tip: Speed Up Your WordPress Blog by Identifying Slow Plugins

on July 22, 2014 in Blogging

I constantly run speed tests on my websites and blogs. I tweak settings, monitor changes after updates, and look for ways to keep making improvements. There is always room for improvement, and I find that my biggest speed issues tend to surface after running updates.

If you're having speed issues with your WordPress blog, chances are good the problem stems from your theme or one of your plugins. If that's the case, there's a simple tool you can use to pinpoint the culprit, and it happens to be one of my favorite plugins:

P3 Plugin Performance Profiler.

This plugin evaluates the load time of all of your other plugins, your theme, and the WP core. That lets you see if any particular item is causing your slow loading times. Here's an example from this site:

P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

As you can see, the plugin taking the most time to load here is currently WordPress SEO by Yoast. But remember that this information is relative to the other plugins you're currently using.

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You can get more detailed info on each plugin (and your theme's load time) by exploring the other tabs in your report. For example, WP SEO is taking .8 seconds to load. While it's not as fast as I'd like it to be, it's not nearly slow enough for me to want to replace it. The pie chart simply shows that my other plugins load much faster than that.

Last year, I noticed a slowdown on several of my blogs, including those using caching plugins. I installed the P3 plugin and found out the problem was a recently-updated social media / sharing plugin. I was able to choose another option and replace it on all of my blogs. Their load speed improved right away.

What's slowing your blog down? Install the Plugin Performance Profiler to find out if your issue is as simple as replacing a plugin. This is far from the only thing you can do to increase your WordPress blog speed, but it's a simple step in the right direction.

After using the tool, did you come across any surprises? How slow would a plugin have to load for you to consider replacing it?

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. Through her company, 3 Beat Media, she operates All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, BizAmmo.com, and numerous other blogs.

Jenn has over 15 years experience writing for others, over 11 years experience in blogging, and 9 years experience in indie e-book publishing. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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  1. Cathy Miller July 23, 2014 Reply

    Great stuff, Jenn. 🙂 What would you say is a target speed?

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 23, 2014 Reply

      This varies a lot based on who you ask and what studies they’re citing. But my own general rule is that they need to load in 4 seconds or less when I’m running speed tests. Or at least that’s the rule for my more complex sites. Ideally I like to see them load in under 2. And for my much smaller sites, I want to see their speed tests resulting in less than a second for load time. That’s after caching and any other optimizations I do.

      This site is my biggest problem child. It takes nearly 40 plugins to get everything working as it should (and that was after a deep clean a couple of months back). That’s one of the reasons I like to scan regularly, especially after plugin updates. I’ve had plugin updates that seem harmless enough double the load time here. Right now, tests are showing a 3-4 second load time here, which is much slower than I like it to be. I had it down to 1.5 seconds just a few months ago. But a few plugin updates slowed things down (including an update to my caching plugin, which was surprising). There’s also a slow-loading issue with one particular custom css file tied to the theme which I haven’t been able to figure out yet (and neither have the developers — others have asked about that issue too). And there are still a few other optimization tweaks on my never ending to-do list. My goal is to get it back down below 2 seconds within a couple of months (for those seeing the cached version at least).

      I’d play around with some site speed tools like tools.pingdom.com or Google PageSpeed. Test a few sites in your niche and see what the average speed seems to be. I’d at least set a goal somewhere in that range, if not better.

      • Author
        Jennifer Mattern July 28, 2014 Reply

        Just a quick follow-up, but after running a few more upgrades and optimizations, I have the tests down to 2.2 – 2.5 seconds (they were averaging about a second slower than that when I wrote this). Still slower than I’d like it to be, but it’s getting better. So I’ll take it. 🙂

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall July 23, 2014 Reply

    Love that plugin. I run a check every so often to make sure updated plugins aren’t slow and bloated.

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 23, 2014 Reply

      That’s my strategy too Sharon. I like to delete it when I’m finished and re-install when I want to re-run them, just to minimize any inactive plugins sitting on the site (same with the backlink checker plugin).

      I know you also use WordPress SEO. Have you noticed any slowdowns there with the near-constant updates over the past few months? I don’t remember it being one of my slowest plugins, so while I wouldn’t swap it out, it was a bit of a surprise especially given some of the bigger ones I use here.

      • Sharon Hurley Hall July 23, 2014 Reply

        Truth to tell, I’ve been having so many other problems with my site in the last 2 weeks that I haven’t noticed, Jenn. However, my latest scan shows that it’s taking up a bigger share of site load resources than before. It’s so useful that I’ll probably put up with it and see if there’s something else I can trim.

        • Author
          Jennifer Mattern July 23, 2014 Reply

          I wish I knew exactly where the problems started with WP SEO. But unfortunately there was such a rush of bug fix releases around the time WP 3.9 came out that I couldn’t even begin to pinpoint it. Replacing two Woo plugins helped so much that I haven’t worried too much about the SEO plugin yet. WooCommerce was devastatingly slow on this site. A lot of other people were posting about similar speed issues. The devs didn’t deal with it over the course of several months. So I dropped them. That was enough to get me into my base range at least. I still need to play with some new features in my caching plugin that were released recently. With any luck maybe those will speed things up enough that I can leave Yoast’s plugin alone for a while. I prefer to replace a slow plugin rather than having to fix them myself. But that one is so integral to all of my sites that it would be painful to lose it.

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