We want fast websites. Period.
We love web experiences that do not make us wait for the page to load.
In the ever-evolving world of web development, WordPress site owners are constantly striving for ways to improve their site’s performance and user experience. Speed optimization has become a hot topic, as it plays a crucial role in visitor satisfaction, user engagement, and search engine rankings. However, with so many misconceptions and outdated practices circulating, it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction.
In this article, we will debunk the top 10 myths about WordPress speed performance and provide practical tips for optimizing your WordPress website’s speed. We’ll explore each myth in detail and provide you with accurate, up-to-date information to help you make informed decisions about your website’s optimization strategies.
Myth #1 – Website Speed Doesn’t Influence Your SEO
This is a very common myth in the WordPress community. In reality, website speed is a very important ranking factor for Google search results ranking page (SERP). Google has stated that faster-loading pages have a chance of ranking higher in desktop and mobile searches. This means that the pages that load faster on desktops and mobile handsets have a better ranking chance.
Bounce rate and engagement are two strong aspects that signal to Google how relevant a page’s content is. Relevant content, when loaded slowly, can make impatient users leave the website and browse elsewhere. Websites that load slowly can frustrate users and cause them to leave the site, resulting in a higher bounce rate and lower engagement. This can negatively impact SEO, as bounce rate and engagement are also factors that Google considers when ranking pages.
Landing pages are mostly accessed by users coming from referral traffic from social media. The majority of this traffic comes from mobile users as well. Therefore, website owners should prioritize website speed as part of their ongoing continuous SEO strategy to provide their users with a superior user experience in terms of both content and speed of loading.
So does that mean that your site will rank higher if your Pagespeed Score is higher? Well, that brings us to the next myth.
Myth #2 – A Faster Webhost Can Solve All the Performance Issues
Now, this is a big one. It’s not true that a faster web host will solve all performance issues for a website. While a faster web host can help deliver resources quickly, it’s not the only factor affecting website speed. Even if a web host delivers resources rapidly, the user’s browser must still parse, execute, and process them. This means that the speed of the user’s device, browser, and internet connection can also be bottlenecks for website performance.
It’s important to note that browsers have their own limitations. For instance, they are generally single-threaded, meaning they can download multiple files in parallel, but they cannot execute scripts simultaneously. This inherent constraint can impact the website speed, regardless of the web host’s performance.
Additionally, several other factors can affect website performance, such as the size of resources (such as images and videos), the number of HTTP requests, and the efficiency of website code. These factors can impact website speed irrespective of the quality of the web host.
Myth #3 – Server-Side Caching Is Better Than Plugin Cache
Server-side caching is often touted as the superior solution for WordPress site performance, but this is not always the case. While server-side caching can provide some benefits, it has several limitations that make plugin-based caching a more versatile and efficient option for many websites. Let’s explore the drawbacks of server-side caching and why it may not be the ideal solution for optimizing your site’s performance.
Firstly, server-side caching has a limited cache lifespan, meaning that cached content remains in the server’s memory for a set period before expiring. When this happens, the server must regenerate the content, consuming valuable resources. Furthermore, editing or publishing changes on your site can result in the entire cache being purged, which can lead to a lower cache hit ratio and reduced performance. In contrast, plugin-based caching often includes features like cache preloading and more intelligent cache management, minimizing the impact of cache expiration and ensuring a higher cache hit ratio.
Secondly, server-side caching lacks the optimizations provided by plugin-based solutions. While server-side caching primarily focuses on storing HTML content, plugin-based caching allows for page-level optimizations such as rearranging the order of resources, eliminating render-blocking resources, and optimizing third-party scripts. These optimizations play a crucial role in improving website speed and core web vitals. Additionally, server-side caching typically falls short in handling dynamic pages, as it often struggles to manage query strings and cookies effectively. On the other hand, plugin-based caching can apply logic and intelligence to cache dynamic content, delivering the right content to the right users at the right time.
In conclusion, the ideal caching approach for your WordPress site combines server-side and plugin-based caching. FlyingPress, a versatile cache plugin, can effectively act as a server-side cache by serving cached pages directly, bypassing PHP entirely. This ensures seamless compatibility with web servers like Apache, LiteSpeed, and OpenLiteSpeed, while also providing optional configuration for Nginx.
Myth #4 – All Page Builders Are Slow, Gutenberg Is The Saviour
The belief that all page builders are slow is a common myth.
While some page builders may be slower than others, several page builders available for WordPress are optimized for speed and performance.
Here is a graph of some popular page builders and the size of CSS and JS injected by them:
There are some great page builders like Bricks, Breakdance, and Oxygen that come with performance and ease of use.
In contrast to these page builders, the default Gutenberg editor can be slower and more resource-intensive, mainly when designing complex layouts or pages with lots of media. While Gutenberg has improved in speed and performance in recent updates, it’s still slower than some dedicated page builders we mentioned before.
Myth #5 – Optimization Plugins Solve All the Performance Issues
While optimization plugins can be a useful tool for improving website performance, they cannot solve all performance issues.
Optimization plugins can enhance performance by caching pages, prioritizing resources, delaying third-party scripts, implementing lazy loading, and more. However, several factors still influence performance, including:
Hosting Performance: Even though optimization plugins can generate cached pages to improve TTFB, it is ultimately the web server’s responsibility to serve that cached page, making hosting performance crucial.
Server Location: The server’s location can impact loading times, as greater distances between the server and users can result in delays.
Poorly Written Code: Optimization plugins may be unable to optimize poorly written code, leading to slow loading times or other performance issues. Code optimization might require manual adjustments by a developer or the use of an automated tool.
Myth #6 – Combining CSS & JS improves speed
At FlyingPress, we frequently receive feature requests for combining CSS and JS files as a means of improving website speed. However, we have made a conscious decision not to implement this practice and, most likely, never will.
Here is why:
1. HTTP/2 Makes Combining CSS & JS Redundant
2. Combining CSS & JS Reduces Cache Hit Ratio
When CSS and JS files are combined, any small change in a single file requires the entire combined file to be downloaded again by browsers and CDNs. This results in a lower cache hit ratio, as even minor updates to a single plugin will force the whole file to be re-downloaded. In contrast, when files are kept separate, only the updated file needs to be downloaded, leading to more efficient caching and better overall performance.
3. Dynamic File Injection Increases Cache Size
Many plugin developers inject CSS and JS files only on the necessary pages, meaning the total number of files on each page can vary. When these files are combined, the number of possible combinations of combined files increases, leading to a larger cache size and a reduced cache hit ratio. By keeping files separate, the cache can be more efficiently managed, and the cache hit ratio remains higher, ultimately improving website performance.
If you would like to read more about it, WPJohnny has an excellent article about it.
Myth #7 – Higher Lighthouse/PageSpeed Score Means Higher Ranking
While page speed is a ranking factor, it is just one of many factors that Google considers when ranking websites. Other important factors like Core Web Vitals include the relevance and quality of the content on the page, the website’s mobile-friendliness, the website’s security, and the website’s overall user experience. In fact, the real-time data collected by Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) is used to indicate how the real user experiences your page in real-time.
The CrUX is a public dataset that is based on real user performance data collected by Google from Chrome browser users. It collects various performance metrics such as First Contentful Paint (FCP), Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) from users who have opted-in to provide usage statistics and crash reports to Google. Once you connect the CrUX with your website, the PageSpeed score will also display this data set of real-time users from the past 30 days.
Having a high Lighthouse/PageSpeed score can indicate that a website is fast and well-optimized, which can positively impact its search engine ranking. However, a website with poor-quality content and a high Lighthouse/PageSpeed score may still not rank well in search results because content quality is also a key factor in ranking.
In other words, page speed is an important factor for ranking, but it is not the only factor. Ultimately, websites that provide high-quality, relevant, and engaging content to users are more likely to rank well in search results, even if their page speed is not the fastest.
Myth #8 – More Plugins Make The Site Slow
It is not true that having more plugins installed on a WordPress site slows down the website. However, poorly coded or outdated plugins or plugins that conflict with each other can slow down a website. Codeable talks about the issues with low-quality WordPress plugins and how to identify high-quality ones.
Choosing lean & lightweight plugins can certainly help minimize the impact on website performance. Lean plugins are typically well-coded and designed to be lightweight, meaning they don’t add a lot of additional code or functionality to the website.
By using the right plugins, you can avoid the bloat and potential conflicts that can come with larger, more complex plugins. Here is a review of 75 WordPress plugins that impact the memory & page load speed of a website.
When evaluating which plugins to install, it’s important to choose ones that are well-coded, regularly updated, and offer the specific functionality that you need for your website. Avoid installing plugins that duplicate functionality or that are not essential to the core functionality of the website.
Ultimately, the key to maintaining a fast and efficient website is to carefully manage the plugins you install, regularly monitor your website’s performance, and make adjustments as needed to ensure optimal performance.
Myth #9 – Speed Optimization is a One-Time Task
Speed optimization is an ongoing process and should be regularly monitored and maintained to ensure that a website continues to load quickly and efficiently.
As you grow your customer base, the traffic to your website will eventually grow too. This means you will have to upgrade your server or make necessary changes in terms of add-ons or delete a non-performing functionality.
Failing to regularly optimize your website for speed can have a number of negative consequences for your website’s user experience, search engine rankings, and overall traffic and engagement. By regularly monitoring and optimizing website performance, you can help ensure that your website loads quickly and efficiently, providing a better experience for users and helping to improve your website’s visibility and engagement.
There are several factors that can affect website performance over time, such as changes in traffic volume, updates to WordPress or plugins, changes to website content, and modifications to the website’s design or functionality. As a result, a website that is optimized for speed today may not necessarily continue to perform at the same level in the future.
To maintain optimal website performance, it’s important to regularly review and optimize key factors that can impact the website speed, such as image and file sizes, caching settings, plugin usage, and website design and functionality. Regularly monitoring website performance metrics, such as page load times, server response times, and time to first byte (TTFB), can also help identify areas where improvements can be made.
Additionally, it’s important to regularly update WordPress and installed plugins to ensure that any security vulnerabilities or performance issues are addressed. Outdated or insecure software can impact website performance, as well as leave the website vulnerable to hacking or other security threats.
In short, speed optimization is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure that a website continues to load quickly and efficiently. By regularly reviewing and optimizing key performance factors and staying up-to-date with software updates and security patches, website owners can help ensure that their websites perform at their best over the long term.
Myth #10 – More Server Resources Always Improve Speed
This is a widespread myth. Having more server resources, such as CPU, memory, and bandwidth, can certainly help improve website performance and speed to a certain extent. It’s not always the case that simply adding more resources will lead to faster load times.
Poor server resources can cause several problems that negatively impact the website’s performance and user experience. For example, it can cause slow loading of web pages, downtimes, crashes (stops working with increased traffic), security vulnerabilities (hacking or malware attack), and ultimately lead to poor user experience.
Several factors can impact the website speed, such as the quality and efficiency of the website’s code, the complexity and size of the website’s files and media, the server’s location and configuration, and the quality of the hosting provider’s infrastructure and network.
In some cases, adding more server resources may help alleviate performance issues caused by high traffic volumes or resource-intensive applications. Still, in other cases, the root cause of performance issues may lie elsewhere, such as poorly optimized code or inefficient database queries.
Additionally, while more resources can certainly help improve website speed, it’s important to ensure that the resources are being used effectively and efficiently. This means that server configuration, caching, and other optimization techniques must be carefully implemented to ensure that resources are being used to their fullest potential.