Optimize WordPress Site Performance

Jul 13, 2022

43% of all websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, making it the world’s most popular and widely used website content management tool. With so many users across the globe, it’s no surprise that issues are sometimes encountered when using WordPress to build and power websites. One very common type of problem relates to having a slow site and/or admin dashboard when using WordPress. Both are vital locations that make sure your site runs smoothly, so any issues that affect your productivity and ability to manage content should always be addressed. This can best be done by considering different solutions to help optimize your experience and improve overall performance.

1. Test WordPress Site and Dashboard Performance

Before changing anything about your site or admin dashboard page, the first thing you should do is measure your WordPress site and admin dashboard’s speed as they currently are. This is so you can compare and identify any future improvements to your site’s performance after you follow some of the changes I suggest here. This is done relatively easily and conveniently thanks to desktop browsers having built-in tools that check site performance.

For example, if you’re using Google Chrome, you can simply right-click anywhere on the page you’re on to open the Inspect tool on your site. From here, find the “Lighthouse” tab in the new interface that appears, and click the “Generate Report” button below the Lighthouse image. This lets you generate a report that lets you see what your WordPress site and admin dashboard is being slowed down by. You can then use this information to guide your next steps in improving performance based on the unique factors you might identify.

wordpress dashboard performance stats

2. Install WordPress Updates

The first method I’ll talk about is to simply update your site’s WordPress version. 49.07% of WordPress sites aren’t running the latest version of WordPress, and 33.58% of WordPress sites are at least 2 updates behind the latest version. While many people may not keep their WordPress sites up to date with the newest version, there are clear benefits to their site’s performance that they’re missing out on. WordPress updates can include optimization updates to WordPress’s features and coding, speed and security improvements, bug fixes, and more. This means you can improve your site’s overall performance simply through keeping its WordPress version updated to the newest available version.

Installing WordPress updates is much simpler than you might assume. To install updates, simply enter the “Updates” page under the “Dashboard” tab in your WordPress dashboard menu, then install any updates you see. The same process is used for WordPress plugin and theme updates.

3. Delete Inactive Plugins

It’s common for WordPress sites to have a lot of plugins installed on them. While many may be installed, a good portion of these plugins might be inactivated, meaning they’re turned off while still being installed on the site. It’s best practice to delete these unused plugins to improve your site’s performance. Even if plugins are inactive and disabled, they still take up resources and memory on your site, which can slow down your site’s performance. The solution to this is to simply delete your unused plugins to maximize more available resources going to other parts of your site that matter.

Deleting inactive plugins is very straightforward. Enter the “Installed Plugins” page under the “Plugins” tab in your WordPress admin dashboard menu. You can only delete inactivated plugins, so under any active plugins you’d like to delete, click the “Deactivate” option to do so. Then, under any inactivated plugins, simply click the “Delete” option below the plugin’s name. WordPress will ask you for confirmation for this deletion, so click the “OK” option to proceed, and the plugin will be safely removed and uninstalled from your site.

Another reason to delete inactive plugins is because unused but not-deleted plugins could become potential security liabilities for you to deal with in the near or far future. Loopholes and weaknesses in their code could mean danger against the safety of your site. Be sure to delete unused plugins, not just to improve site performance, but also to ensure safer site security bot for you and your visitors.

4. Update Your Site’s PHP Version

WordPress runs on a programming language known as PHP. When PHP is updated, its functions and performance improve, and as a result WordPress sites also benefit from these alterations once their version of PHP is updated. Using the latest version of PHP means your site receives significantly improved performance, and not updating your PHP version means you’re missing out on performance improvements.

If you’d like to check your current PHP version, click “Site Health” under the “Tools” tab in your admin dashboard menu. Click into the “Info” tab, and look for “PHP version” in the “Server” section. If you need to update your version, it’s relatively straightforward to update your PHP version. The specific steps vary depending on your web hosting provider, but in general, you may enter your hosting control panel, which could be something like cPanel, and look for an option indicating itself to be something like a PHP Manager or PHP Management System. From here, you’ll be able to select the PHP version you’d like your site to run on.

WordPress multiphp manager
WordPress multiphp manager set php version
One important thing to note is that some WordPress themes or plugins with longer histories of operation might not be compatible with newer PHP versions. This is because their creators have not updated these themes/plugins to be compatible with newer PHP versions yet. Incompatibility between updated PHP versions and themes or plugins can be worked around by lowering your site’s PHP version, which will make both the PHP version and the themes or plugins in question are compatible.

5. Check Your PHP Memory Limit

All sites need memory to smoothly operate itself and all its associated plugins and features simultaneously. If you don’t have enough memory available for PHP and WordPress to operate with, it might slow down and even crash your entire site. Often, more data-heavy sites like those with long pieces of writing, many images, active forms, or process-heavy plugins, all of which use lots of data, have a need for more memory compared to typical sites without these features.

The good news is that there’s typically more than enough memory allocated to sites’ functioning. To see your PHP memory limit for yourself with WordPress, start by finding the “Tools” tab in your admin dashboard menu and clicking on “Site Health”. From there, enter the “Info” tab and look for “PHP memory limit” under the “Server” section. For a typical site, a memory limit of 128MB is more than sufficient and will support the site’s functions with little to no issue.

With my web hosting provider, my PHP memory options can be found by entering my cPanel interface once you’ve logged in. Find and click into the “MultiPHP INI Editor” page. From here, choose the domain that you want to edit the PHP configuration for. You’ll then be able to directly tweak your memory limit based on your site’s needs.

WordPress multiphp ini editor
WordPress multiphp ini editor configure
WordPress multiphp ini editor memory limit

6. Install Caching Plugins

When the caching of a site’s pages is improved, it means the files for those pages are temporarily stored locally on devices accessing the site, making them accessible more quickly to those viewing your site. WordPress caching plugins help you optimize page load speed, CSS and JavaScript delivery, your WordPress database, and more. They’re vital to improving website speed, and can also help you fix slow-loading admin dashboard pages. These processes help free up resources on your WordPress hosting server, so your site and admin dashboard page can utilize them for improved performance. For a plugin that improves your site’s caching, I recommend WP-Optimize, an all-in-one plugin that caches and optimizes your site’s content. To use WP-Optimize once it’s been installed, first find the “WP-Optimize” tab in your admin dashboard menu. Enter it, then click “Run all selected optimizations” to optimize your WordPress database.

7. Reduce WordPress Dashboard Widgets

When you open your WordPress admin dashboard page, both WordPress itself and many of your installed plugins might automatically load widgets onto your dashboard. While they may be informative or helpful to you, they can also greatly slow down your site and admin page due to the resources it takes to load and display them for you. The solution to this is to reduce the widgets that run on your dashboard page. You can do this manually by finding and clicking on the “Screen Options” button on your “Dashboard” page, then uncheck any ticked boxes next to widgets you don’t want appearing anymore. This simple solution will resolve an issue that potentially has a very large impact on your site’s performance and accessibility.

8. Fix Slow WooCommerce Dashboard

WooCommerce is an extremely popular WordPress plugin used for ecommerce and online shop publications, powering over 28.19% of all online stores. Its powerful features, however, mean that some features might end up slowing down your admin dashboard page’s performance when you access it. The solution to this is to simply manually disable its resource-reliant admin dashboard widgets. When you’re customizing the widgets in your WordPress admin dashboard, click on the “Screen Options” button in your “Dashboard” page, then uncheck any ticked boxes next to widgets that you don’t want appearing anymore. Also, WooCommerce supporting a store on your site might add unneeded data to your site’s database over time that can slow down your site. This is a problem you can solve simply with a plugin. Using the WP-Optimize plugin, you can enter its tab in your admin dashboard menu, where you can optimize your WordPress database however you wish to. Simply press the “Run all selected optimizations” button afterwards to optimize your site’s database.

9. Lock WordPress Admin and Login Pages

DDoS attacks and hacking attempts are common problems faced by WordPress sites and their owners. Particularly, brute force attacks are the most common form of malicious attempt against WordPress sites. In brute force attacks, attackers submit hundreds of passwords at once in hopes of eventually guessing the password correctly and gaining access to the attacked site. Brute force attacks may not take down your site, but are very likely to slow down and limit access to your website. This is why I recommend installing Loginizer. This is a plugin that helps you tackle problems from brute force attacks by limiting login attempts to only 3 tries before blocking the IP address of the attempts. It’s also able to blacklist and/or whitelist IPs that try to log in, so you have more control over who can or can’t try to log in to your site.

Because of how vital plugins like Loginizer are in defending against security threats, some web hosting providers give users the option to install this plugin alongside their initial WordPress installation. A web host that I used, Doteasy, is one of these hosting providers. I’ve gone through several different web hosting providers, and while they all offer similar features at similar price points, what’s stood out to be about Doteasy specifically is their quality client support. Whenever I’d run into a problem and contact them for help, I was always greeted with friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive service, which sets them apart from other web hosts’ client support resources who are often lacking in knowledge, or aren’t real people at all. They even offer a vast resource of WordPress site and plugin knowledge for anyone to refer to, which has helped me out a lot in the past. Alongside their clear concern for users’ site security and pleasant experience, I’ve had great experiences with their quality yet affordable hosting plans and consistent server uptime. If you’re looking for a reliable and value-packed hosting experience, why not give Doteasy a try?

Alongside protecting yourself against malicious login attempts to your site, it’s important to rename the default “wp-admin” login URL that’s used to access the login page to begin with. This URL is the default login URL used across all WordPress websites, making it widely known to casual WordPress users and seasoned cybercriminals alike, so keeping this login URL unchanged means your site is more at risk of being brute force attacked. I’d recommend installing a lightweight plugin called Lockdown WP Admin, which lets you hide the “wp-admin” URL, and lets you customize your own unique login URL as well. This means that instead of having the typical login URL of yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ that anybody could easily find and use to maliciously attack your site, you need to access yourdomain.com/thisiswhereilogin, yourdomain.com/pineappleonpizza, or any other URL you can think of that only you would know of, in order to try to log in. This enhances your site security and makes it harder for malicious attackers to find and attack your site’s login page.

10. Upgrade Your Hosting Plan

As websites grow in size, such as receiving more traffic, hosting more content, and needing more resources, you might notice slow or subpar site performance becoming an issue. This indicates that you’ve likely outgrown your current hosting plan, which you’d bought before the growth of your site. While this is a problem for your site’s performance, it also demonstrates desirable growth of your site’s reach and audience, which is something that you should be happy about but also prepare yourself to accommodate for with your future hosting plans. The solution to this uniquely desirable issue is to consider upgrading your site to a better hosting plan, so that your site benefits from faster and more powerful hosting infrastructure. Your site will receive the increased power and support it needs to accommodate what you and site visitors expect from it. When looking for a new hosting provider, don’t be afraid to browse around and find a new plan or web hosting provider that you think will suit your needs.

There are a wide range of ways to improve your website’s performance, with different methods bound to fit your individual situations and unique circumstances. With the solutions we’ve discussed today, the improvements you see should be noticeable, and your site should be able to run faster and smoother.