How to Fix Slow WordPress Hosting on HostGator

The SUPER SIMPLE Guide to Fixing a Slow Website on Hostgator hosting

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT HOSTGATOR:

We started optimizing customer websites for speed as part of our web agency work and ultimately created an entirely new business focussed on WordPress Speed Optimization – WPSpeedFix.com. Through WP Speed Fix we’ve seen and optimized 100s of Hostgator sites over the last 2 years. The process below works for most Hostgator sites.

That said, let me be blunt before we kick-off here, Hostgator (HG) isn’t a great quality host – they’re a low to mid tier host. Their parent company EIG (Endurance International Group) is well known for cheaply priced but poor quality hosting – effectively the 2 dollar store version of web hosting.

That said, you *can* get a Hostgator hosted site running quite fast if you have a relatively simple website if you follow the steps below BUT if you’re looking to get your site running as fast as physically possible, it’s not going to happen with Hostgator – you’ll need to move hosts. 

Often moving to a better quality WordPress host will cost you only a tiny bit more (like Siteground from $4.95/month or a dedicated Cloudways server from $10/month) AND the site will loading lightning fast.

Check out our article on the FASTEST WordPress Hosting for the full list of high quality, high performance WordPress hosts. (most of these hosts will migrate you for FREE too)


What Hostgator will tell you about site speed….

A heads up – there’s a fairly common process Hostgator run through if you contact their support for help about your website speed or website being slow.

You’ll most likely get upsold to a dedicated server being told your site requires more server resources etc etc. That may be partially true but the problem is you’re still hosted on Hostgator – their business model is to stack as many sites on a server as possible and run their servers as hard as possible, NOT to be the fastest host.

The problem with being upsold to a better plan or dedicated Hostgator server is that you’re still hosted with HG, it’s like getting the premium option at the 2 dollar store, no matter how fancy they tell you the premium option is, you’re still in the $2 store!

1. Testing Speed – How To Test Your Site Speed & What is Fast? 

Ok so before we get started it’s probably a good idea to do some speed testing so we have a benchmark to measure against to ensure our changes are actually improvements.

Our speed test tool of choice is Pingdom – tools.pingdom.com

In an ideal world we want to see the site loading in under 1 second in Pingdom in the country the site is hosted in. 1 second is a magical tipping point where the page load begins to feel instant.

Now, depending on what you’re running on the site that may not be possible – on a FAST host, we can easily get the core of the site loading in 600-800ms BUT if you have a ton of marketing tools installed like a Facebook Pixel, Hubspot or some other CRM tracking software, Hotjar or Luckyorange or basically any third party tools you’re probably going to struggle to get under 1 second.

Generally speaking, around 1.5 seconds should be fairly achievable and is what we’d say is acceptable in terms of speed.

Other speed test tools:

There are a number of speedtest tools on the market. Two other popular tools are GTMetrix.com and Google Pagespeed Insights.

We like Pingdom because it’s the closest to real world speed and it measures speed whereas Google Pagespeed Insights measures your site against a technical checklist and gives you a score vs actually measuring the speed.

It’s worth doing a few speed tests to get an average and saving screenshots so you have something to refer to later.

Pingdom Speed Test Explained

Below is a screenshot of a Pingdom test for our WP Speed Fix website. 

The important elements to pay attention to:

URL – Your web address….MAKE SURE you use the primary web address of your site. (often people drop the WWW off the front which then adds 1-2 seconds extra delay to the speed test because the site loads by default WITH a WWW in the front of the address)

“Test From” – this is the country the speed test is run from. We want to use the country where the bulk of your visitors are. Expect the site to run 0.5-1 seconds slower outside the country it’s hosted in. This site is hosted in the US so typically we’d see somehwere around 1 second load times running this test from Australia

Load Time – this is the most important metric. Under 1 second is our goal and where the page load begins to feel instant

Page Size – this is the total size of the page. Smaller is always better – typically a site with lots of images will sit somewhere between 1-2mb. In this case our page size is 502kb (half a megabyte). It’s common to see 5, 10 or even 15mb page sizes which means the site will be SLOWWW on a standard internet connection.

Requests – lower is better. Most fast sites will sit between 50-100 requests. Once you’re over 200 requests the site will really start feeling slow especially on mobile devices where there is less CPU power to process all the requests.

How to read a Pingdom Speed Test

Pingdom Site Speed Explained – Click to Enlarge


 

2. You MUST Use Caching!

You’re never going to squeeze a lot of juice out of WordPress without Caching.

Caching prebuilds each page on your website so it’s ready to go when a visitor hits your site. Without caching in place, every time a visitor hits the website the server needs to execute PHP code, do MySQL database lookups, execute more PHP code and then generate a HTML file to send to the visitor.

With a good caching plugin, that HTML file is already prebuilt and ready to send to the visitor.

There’s really one of two options here:

WP Rocket is the caching plugin of choice for the DIY-er or if you’re less tech savvy. It’s easy to use and will give you an excellent boost in performance. It’s a paid plugin (dirt cheap) BUT probably the easiest caching plugin to use on the market. If you don’t have caching right now and are seeing 5+ second load times, you’ll see an immediate drop of a few seconds getting a caching plugin installed.

W3 Total Cache is free and by far the fastest caching plugin BUT is very technical to configure so probably not ideal for the DIYer (**IF you do go this route, ONLY use the Browser and Page Caching – the database and object caching are not for use on Hostgator)

 

Some hosts like WPEngineSiteground and Cloudways have caching built-in or their own caching plugin which is part of the reason why they run so fast.

NEVER install two caching plugins, they’ll conflict. If you don’t have deep technical skills or much WordPress experience WP Rocket is the way to go here.

 

WPRocket WordPress Caching


 

3. Use Cloudflare and/or a CDN

Cloudflare.com is a content delivery network (CDN) and will immediately speed up your website ESPECIALLY for international visitors.

A CDN is a network of servers that deliver the static assets from your website (image files, javascript and CSS files) to your visitors instead of your hosting server having to do it.

Cloudflare has a network of over 150 locations worldwide which makes it one of the biggest CDNs and also one of the fastests.

With a CDN in place, visitors further away from your hosting (say a visitor from Australia hitting your hosting in the US) will get a faster experience because many of the files are loading from the local Cloudflare servers in Australia versus the US.

The free plan on Cloudflare is all you need in most cases however the $20/month paid plan does do more advanced image optimization and firewalling but if you’re looking at this option you should probably move to a better host first!

If you’re looking for a more comprehensive CDN solution, KeyCDN is also worth a look.

 


 

4. Compress Your Images

Most images on your website can be compressed to a degree without any loss of quality. In many cases they end up 20-50% smaller which can make a huge difference to load speeds especially on a slow connection.

Shortpixel is our image optimization plugin of choice as they have some advanced image optimization features most other plugins don’t have.

They have a FREE plan available and also a tool on their website that will analyze your site and tell you how compress-able your images are and how much space you’ll save.

Wordpress Image Optimization Compression Test Tool


5. Switch to HTTPS for HTTP2 Protocol support

Switch your site to HTTPS (encrypted mode). The entire web is moving to HTTPS encryption and Google have publicly stated that encrypted sites will rank higher than HTTP non-encrypted sites.

The other benefit of using HTTPS is that it enables web browser software to use a newer, faster protocol to download assets from your website, the HTTP2 protocol.

Check out short video below that compares HTTP 1.1 to HTTP v2

The server you’re on at Hostgator needs to support the newer protocol though (older plans may not) however enabling Cloudflare will enable this support (as Cloudflare is HTTP2 compatible).

 

 

 

If you are a business owner whose income is generated through a WordPress website of self-hosted WordPress blog, site speed problems can result in serious ramifications to your bottom line. At WPspeedfix.com, we have helped over 2000 businesses fix their slow WordPress website and our information comes from experience and expertise in the field. Of the factors that contribute to a WordPress site’s slow loading speed and navigation lag, the most important consideration is which web hosting company and the hosting plans you choose.

Follow the instructions in this hosting service guide and your HostGator website will experience quicker load time and operate more smoothly. The steps on how to fix slow WordPress web hosting on HostGator are the same for any WordPress site—regardless of the host. However, in order to fix your speed problem, you must first understand what factors make HostGator websites particularly prone to experiencing slow speeds.

 


6. Use PHP7 instead of PHP 5.6 or older (30%+ speed increase!)

PHP is the underlying programming language that WordPress runs on and comes in several versions. Typically you’ll see version 5.6 (or lower) and versions 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2

Version 7.0 is approximately 30% faster than v5.6 and most sites built in the last 2 years easily support it.

Version 7.1 and 7.2 are another 10%+ faster on top of 7.0 so if your site is compatible with the newest v7.2 you should definitely be switching to that.

NOTE it’s important you test compatibility first before making the switch. There’s a free plugin provided by WPEngine that works on any web host that will test all your plugins and theme to confirm whether your site is PHP 7 or 7.1/7.2 compatible.

The video below is a good walk through of where to find the PHP settings in Hostgator:


7. Disable Plugins You Aren’t Using

Disable plugins you aren’t using – a pretty simple one. Most sites have plugins installed that are no longer in use. Each enabled plugin slows down the site to a degree so it’s important you run as few plugins as possible.

Go through each plugin you have installed and make sure it’s still in use – if not, disable it!


8. More Advanced Troubleshooting

Here’s a few more advanced troubleshooting ideas for you:

  • Update all plugins up to the latest version – this is a fairly common issue we see, sites running plugins that are several years old that are no longer compatible with the version of WordPress the site is running. Updating all plugins to the latest version can often fix bugs that are slowing down the site.
  • Query Monitor plugin – https://wordpress.org/plugins/query-monitor/ this is a plugin that will give you a look into each page load and tell you what’s happening. It’ll often help uncover broken plugins or code that are slowing down your site.
  • WP Optimize – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-optimize/ use this plugin to optimize your database speeding up database queries.

Other Resources:


 

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