If you are using Bluehost as your host, you should know that you can get your site to load faster, even on shared hosting. We have been using the Bluehost Shared hosting for just over a year now and what I like about it is that we have the freedom on our plan to use as much SSD storage as we need and our traffic is unmetered, unlimited additional domains and websites.
Speed Optimizations for Slower Hosts
If you are hosting on Bluehost or another host that does not provide decent speed optimization plugins and tools and want to have your site load faster. Here are my recommendations.
Bluehost DOES NOT always do backups for you. See this post for installing and using Updraft Plus Free for your backups.
Run 2-3 speed tests on each of these websites, selecting mobile speed option if available, you can also run the tests again using the desktop speed option:
GTMetrix.com (Only the Vancouver location offers mobile speed test).
developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ This one is a simulation test, and not an actual speed test, but offers great suggestions on areas you can improve.
Make note of your results to compare after the following the steps.
Note: Faster hosts, like Siteground which offers the SG Optimizer plugin is a great solution for fast loading times. It will take care of almost every option listed below. Since we switched to Siteground, I use their SG Optimizer features and ShortPixel for image optimization.
Reminder – if you have not done your backup yet – do that first!
These options below will speed up your site for free. However, if you want to save time the following paid options are highly recommended and affordable to speed up your site:
Otherwise let’s get started:
1. Host Cache
Turn off Endurance cache, under Settings > General, set to ‘0’. This is the “host cache” and I had this disabled on all my sites that were running on Bluehost, several other known slower hosts also use the Endurance cache plugin.
2. Image Lazy Loading
WordPress newer versions have added an image lazy loader. So this step is no longer necessary.
I have seen the stats NameCheap’s EasyWP hosting is secure and fast and very affordable. A great choice for non-techie bloggers who want something that is ready to go for WordPress hosting.
Again if you are using a plugin that currently handles this task for you; such as WP Fastest Cache, Autoptimize, Page Speed Ninja etc. Disable the caching, clear the cache and then deactivate the plugin.
WP Total Cache – you will need to disable each of the options first, then clear the cache, then deactivate the plugin. This one can be difficult to disable and remove, I don’t see value in using this plugin if you are on a shared hosting plan.
Once you are ready to proceed, install the plugin Fast Velocity Minify
Here is the configuration settings that I recommend to change from the defaults.
On the Settings Tab, under HTML Options:
Save you changes, then click on the “Pro” Tab along the top.
Add the following to the ignore list.
Save your settings again.
Once everything looks good, you are ready for the next step.
4. Website Caching.
Install the plugin WP Super Cache
Note – the option “304 Not modified browser cache” may break your site on Bluehost now, when I originally set it up for our blogs it worked without issue, so please only enable this option with caution.
Configure the following settings under the Advanced tab.
Then click Update Status button at the bottom of the page.
Click on the Preload tab and set the following settings.
Click the Save Settings button, then click the Preload Now button at the bottom of the screen.
5. Browser Caching.
Install the free version of JCH Optimize. For this plugin we just want to set the Browser Caching. It is also mentioned in the next section for an option setting from the paid version.
Configure these settings to disable all other features so it will not conflict with our other plugins:
On the Basic Options tab, expand the “automatic settings group” and set all options “no”
On the Exclude Options tab under exclude these urls add your domain example.com.
Next, back on the Basic Options tab, click the “Optimize .htaccess” button on the middle of the screen.
If you don’t plan to purchase JCH Optimize, you can now deactivate the plugin. Your browser cache settings will still be set. However, do not delete the plugin as this WILL delete the browser cache settings.
If you are comfortable to edit your .htaccess file, you can copy the changes that JCH Optimize applied, delete the plugin and then add the changes back to your htaccess file. But, use caution, modifying the htaccess file incorrectly can break your website and can break access to you logging in to your site.
6. Image Optimization.
After performing several tests, I have found that the Shortpixel plugin compresses images the smallest while still maintaining great image quality. They offer a free option to optimize 100 images per month, but this will be used up fast. It is best to order one of the one time or subscription options which is quite affordable so you can optimize all images, otherwise you will not see much difference with this plugin installed.
If you really don’t want to spend money, you can install the EWWW Image Optimization plugin, but after comparisons this one does not compare to Shortpixel file size on optimize images. But will help to optimize images for free and can generate the .webp image files that Google recommends, Shortpixel also creates the .webp files.
JCH Optimize Pro has the option to optimize images as well, but it also does not compress to the same degree as Shortpixel and I do not believe that it creates the webp files either.
Images do play a major role in your site loading speed. Make sure to resize your images before uploading to your website. Do not use CSS to set the width and height – even if you know CSS well – this will slow down your website as it will load the images twice, once for the full file size and again to re-draw the size based on the CSS.
If you are adding text to images (like on the feature image on this post or creating Pinterest Pins), then you are likely using a site like Canva.com or PicMonkey or Crello.com. You can set the size of the image you want to use here, then download the image.
Speaking of Pinterest – don’t forget to check out this post on adding hidden full size pins to your post without slowing down your site.
7. Database Maintenance.
Install the plugin WP-Sweep to clean up your database. Since you have already taken your backup, you can choose to backup again or just run through the options to clean up the database, it is very easy to use.
8. SEO Plugins.
Yoast SEO is a great plugin and highly recommended by many, definitely recommended for beginners – but it will slow down your website to a degree and getting all those checkmarks green often over-optimizes your website which ends up hurting your SEO. On all of our sites we saw a noticeable difference in site loading speed just by removing Yoast SEO and switching to SEO Framework.
Deactivate Yoast SEO Plugin and replace with SEO Framework Plugin. The nice thing with SEO Framework is it includes the Schema.org bread crumbs for google search and this plugin is free.
To transfer settings from the previous SEO Plugin, see this link https://theseoframework.com/docs/seo-data-migration/
SEO Framework has added a paid option, so it is no longer completely free, another option I have not yet tested myself is the SEO Plugin Rank Math which I have seen recommended as also having all options and being completely free.
10. Social Sharing Plugins.
Honestly I disable share counts as that causes your website to run a dns to call out to each of the websites to grab your share count on each page load and each dns call out you add, slows down your site loading speed. The default settings of Sassy Social Share, in my opinion adds too many sharing buttons and to the top and bottom of pages etc. So make sure to go through the settings and configure as you prefer.
Since the writing of this post I now I use an advanced coding technique for SEO meta descriptions and Social Sharing, which allowed me to remove these plugins too for even faster loading time. This also allowed me to move the sharing icons and affiliate disclosure below the initial paragraph at the top of the page.
I may do an advanced tutorial on this method at a later date if there is interest.
Go through your plugins and remove any that are not adding value to your website. Often when we first start using WordPress we will add all kinds of fun or useful plugins we want to try, now is the time to do a clean up and declutter your plugins. But site-speed is not the only reason to slim down. Having too many plugins will slow down your page loading time, but they may also contain bugs and security risks.
For future of testing plugins, where possible use a staging or development copy of your website so you don’t bulk up your live site and database.
Are you using a plugin for related or recent posts? Most are “resource hogs”. It is better for SEO to add the related links to your posts manually. I did find that the Recent Posts with Thumbnails plugin worked nicely and did not appear to effect our site loading time. I am considering adding it back to our site.
Another common plugin that is a quite the resource hog is Jetpack – check which options you have enabled and look for lightweight alternatives if you need the functionality that Jetpack is offering you.
Getting back to security, make sure to install a Security plugin. Such as Wordfence Security Plugin, their free version is great, but the premium is even better. Check out my post on ways to use Wordfence to block scrapers from stealing your blog posts here.
If you are still starting out and aren’t generating as much traffic as you would like, it is best to not add Google Adsense or other low quality ad networks that pay pennies – literally pennies per month and slow down your website. Once you get up around 10,000 pageviews per month you will start to qualify to apply for some premium ad networks.
Embedding your Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter feed will also slow down your site – so if your users are not engaging with these feeds, it is best to remove them too.
Finally Run Speed tests now that you are done
I say “done” but honestly this will be a bit of an ongoing thing, you may feel like you want all your plugins now, but next time you look through you may find there are some you are ready to let go of. That said, its time to run the speed tests again and compare your original results with your new results.
Leave a comment – did your site speed and grade improve after making these changes?