Slow WooCommerce Site?

Slow WooCommerce Site

UPDATE (Feb 2019): Through our WPSpeedFix.com service we’ve worked with thousands of sites and close to half the sites we work with are Woocommerce sites – it’s clear that Woocommerce speed and performance issues are extremely common.

How to Fix and Speed up Your WooCommerce Site

Woocommerce can have huge performance requirements, especially larger Woo sites that are getting a lot of orders so it’s critical you’re on high quality hosting – $2/month cheap shared hosting won’t cut it! If you scroll down we’ll share with you the hosts we use and recommend and the types of sites or businesses they’re best suited to.

I’ve written this article from most important to least important action items but each action item is still important. If you’re starting from scratch you’ll get the best result going top to bottom, if you’ve already done some optimization, skip ahead using the table of contents below.

1. Testing Speed

Before you start making changes to your site it’s probably a good idea to get a benchmark of how it’s performing now. 

Our speed testing tool of choice is tools.pingdom.com

Load times that are over 5 seconds in Pingdom are going to hurt your Google rankings and sales so at a minimum we want to be under that. The 1 second mark is where the page loads begin to feel instant and is ideally where we want to be.

How To Read & Interpret Pingdom Speed Tests

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. Use A Quality Web Hosting Provider

WooCommerce speed issues are, most often, the result of an insufficient or poor quality web host. So, the best way to fix and speed up your WooCommerce site is to be sure your web host is up to snuff.

Your Hosting Provider Is The Foundation Of Everything You Do Online

The quality of your web host is directly tied to the overall effectiveness of your websites search engine rankings and SEO, advertisements on Google and Facebook, and your website’s conversion rate.

Woocommerce sites are a little different to regular WordPress sites in that the backend of your site is also a key line of business application so you or your staff are likely to spend a lot of time in there managing customers and orders. It’s not only the frontend speed that’s important, the backend speed is too and it’s simply just not going to perform well on a cheap host where the available CPU power is limited.

Good Quality Hosting vs Bad Hosting

The difference between a good host and a bad host has to do with the about of CPU performance allowance to an individual hosting account on the server AND the configuration of that server. 

A good host provides plenty of processing capacity for your website so that an influx of site traffic or media posts will not slow down the operation of the site. A high quality host will also make use of advanced caching applications such as Memcached – this allows you to use Database and Object caching which can significantly speed up both the backend and heavy frontend operations such as the Woocommerce checkout.

Poor quality hosts stack 1000s of websites on the same server and resource limit each one so they only get a tiny slice of CPU power and can only handle a handful of visitors on the site at once.

Generally the quality of a host is related to the price.

If you run a WooCommerce site, and you are paying $3 to $5 a month for hosting, there’s a good chance you’re not on a great quality host. Hosts that charge $3 to $5 a month can only afford to do this because their servers are so over-subscribed.

It doesn’t cost a fortune to get your site on a decent host – we’re taking maybe the cost of a nice lunch versus the cost of a cup of coffee – a dedicated server on Cloudways starts at $10/month and will run significantly faster than most other standard shared hosting. 

Here’s the list of hosts we use and recommend to our clients and customers at WP Speed Fix.

GOOD WooCommerce Hosts

Fast WordPress Hosts we recommend are:

WPX Hosting – fantastic balance of speed vs price with data centers in the US and UK

Cloudways – a new-ish provider offering dedicated VPS servers on a speed optimized server stack which means lightning fast speeds (see our Fastest WordPress Hosting article for more detail)
**If you sign up to Cloudways, use the coupon code FASTHOSTING for $25 off your first invoice

WPEngine – more expensive BUT better if you’re not a DIY-er and have a site that’s making plenty of $$$ (also has a bunch of other awesome features over and above WPX like staging areas, snapshot backups and a handful of other features)

Siteground – the absolute minimum entry point, it’s cheap, passable from a speed perspective and a much better option that Bluehost, Hostgator, Godaddy and other 

 

BAD WooCommerce Hosts

Bad WooCommerce Hosts are those that stack 1000s on the same server and none of them really load fast.

If you Google “cheapest WordPress hosts,” you will see names like Godaddy, Bluehost, and Hostgator. If you’re on one of these sites that’ll likely be why things are going so slow.

The following are web hosts we have first hand experience with and can confirm that they will negatively impact the speed of a WooCommerce site. DO NOT USE…

  • Bluehost
  • Godaddy
  • Site5
  • Hostgator
  • 1and1
  • Crazydomains
  • Netregistry
  • Dollar2Host
  • eHost
  • EntryHost
  • And any other subsidiary of EIG Hosting

Another reason for investing in a high-quality web host is the amount of downtime on your website for updates and maintenance from the host.

The bad hosts (listed above) are likely to have multiple short outages every day. Good web hosts will cater service maintenance times and site outages at the times of the day when your site traffic is minimal.

We don’t recommend using a standalone VPS host unless you are a server specialist. VPS hosts grant more server power—if you know how to utilize it—but the configuration of your host server is far more important hence why we recommend Cloudways as they take care of that for us. 


3. Use a Caching Plugin

Besides the quality of your web host, caching is a key component of how to speed up and fix your WooCommerce site.

A “cache” prebuilds the pages on your site so they’re ready to go when a visitor requests them. Without a caching plugin, your site’s pages must be constructed from scratch by your host server, every time a site request comes in from a visitor.

With a caching plugin, site pages are constructed in advance so that your site shows up immediately after a request comes in.

Caching plugins significantly reduce the strain on your CPUs resource requirements and serves up content to viewers immediately.

The plugins we use and recommend:

If you are an experienced programmer or are committed to the learning curve, check out W3 Total Cache. It is the best caching plugin for WordPress in terms of speed and quality; however, it is very complicated to set up. But, if you are up for the challenge, W3 Total Cache is free to download and use.

If you want an easy-to-use caching plugin for WordPress and WooCommerce, then check out WP Rocket. It is easy to use, great for DIYers and operates nearly as fast as W3 Total Cache. However, unlike W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket is a premium paid plugin. 

Important notes on caching plugins

When you setup caching plugins for Woocommerce you MUST exclude the /myaccount, /cart, /checkout and /wishlist pages and all their child pages from caching. If you fail to do this you’ll end up breaking your checkout functionality or shopping carts will jump between users.

Also note that the caching plugins typically don’t show the cached version of pages when you’re logged into the backend of the site. Always do testing in a different browser that is logged out of the site when you’re messing with caching plugins.

If your site is fast after installing a caching plugin BUT the WordPress or Woocommerce backend or the Woocommerce checkout is slow, this is usually an issue with the performance of your web host or a plugin conflict. The plugin Query Monitor can help uncover plugin conflicts.

If your host supports Memcached, configuring W3 Total Cache to use Memcached for database and object caching will significantly speed up the Woocommerce and WordPress backend.

DO NOT use disk caching for database and object caching as it will actually slow things down – dbase and object caching must use a memory based cache.

 

 


4. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Cloudflare for website speed

A CDN will substantially improve the loading performance of your website for visitors all over the world.

With a CDN in place, a large portion of your website is delivered from the CDN server closest to you thus reducing the load on your hosting and speeding up the load time for visitors.

We use and recommend Cloudflare. They have more than 100 server locations worldwide, have a free plan that is fine for most sites and offer security features that eliminate some of the risky traffic and spammers reaching your site.

Click play on the video above to learn more or signup at Cloudflare.com


5. Compress & Optimize Your Images To Reduce Their File Size

You can reduce the size of your site (the amount of data users need to download) by compressing your images and in some cases shave several seconds off your load time because the pages on your site will be significantly smaller in terms of file size.

Compressing images reduces the overall size of the image file without impacting the quality (so long as you use lossless compression)

ShortPixel is the image compression and optimization plugin we use and recommend – most image compression plugins do a good job of compressing images and are generally perform fairly equally with somewhere around a 5% difference between image file sizes.

There’s three reasons why we LOVE Shortpixel vs other plugins:

  1. Speed – Woocommerce sites in particular have a ton of images so the time it takes to optimize images is a consideration. We’ve found Shortpixel is fast compared to other plugins especially when you’re bulk optimizing images.
  2. PNG to JPG conversion – many people save their product images in PNG format but aren’t using transparency in those images. The problem with this is that JPG format would be much more appropriate as the file size will be smaller at the same image quality.Shortpixel can automatically detect which of your PNG files are not using transparency (JPG doesn’t support image transparency), then converts them to JPG files, compresses them and updates the page to point to the new image.
  3. WEBP file format support, this is the winning feature by a long way! As per the previous point, you’re probably familiar with PNG, JPG and GIF image file formats.Most people are not aware of a newer file format, .webp. 

.Webp images are typically 2-5x smaller that the equivalent PNG or JPG at the same image quality. That’s awesome for Woocommerce sites that are typically very image heavy BUT unfortunately not all browsers support .webp files yet.There’s two ways to use .webp image files safely – the first is to use a cloud based service that charges you a monthly fee. These services will detect whether the browser accessing the site supports webp files and if so serves up those instead of JPG or PNG.The second way is to use the HTML <picture> markup or tags. This tag tells the browser that there’s an alternative webp image file available to use and if the browser supports webp it’ll use those images instead.

Shortpixel is a paid plugin, it’s dirt cheap though AND you can try it for free, click this link and you’ll get 100 images optimized for free.

Configuring ShortPixel

The below screenshots detail the settings we use on Shortpixel to get the maximum performance from it.

GENERAL TAB

Woocommerce Image Optimization Settings Page 1

We want to compress thumbnails as well as they’re likely in use, we want to backup our original images just in case and we want to keep the EXIF tags on images – something the EXIF data or tags in the images contains information that gives us a minor SEO boost so we definitely don’t want to remove it!

***Make sure you use LOSSLESS compression and NOT lossy compression.
Lossless= smaller file size, same quality

Lossy= even smaller file size but reduced quality. We don’t want to hurt the quality of our marketing for a time boost in speed. Image quality is an extremely important part of generating sales in an ecommerce environment so we never want to sacrifice the quality of images for a marginal increase in speed.

ADVANCED TAB

Optimizing images on a Woocommerce site

Here we want to enable the PNG to JPG feature, we want to create the WEBP file alternatives and we want to convert to RGB format as these are much smaller than CMYK files.

In some cases our theme files will have images that are uncompressed so generally we add that into the Additional Media Folders field.

Once you’ve completed a bulk optimization you can then enable the WEBP <picture> tag markup

Click here to try Shortpixel and get 100 images optimized for free.


6. Switch from HTTP to HTTPS so you can use HTTP2

When your site is running in HTTPS mode (encrypted) your web browser software will use the newer HTTP2 protocol (so long as your host supports it) which is significantly faster than the older HTTP 1.1 protocol. Click play on the video below and you’ll see the speed difference between the two. Important note, your host needs to support HTTP2 and most cheap hosts don’t, use the link below to check your host for compatibility.

Contrary to a lot of things you’ll read around the web, HTTPS will not slow your site down if your host if HTTP2 compatible. Cloudflare also has a feature called 0RTT (zero round trip time) which speeds up the HTTPS encryption negotiation even further!

 


7. Upgrade from PHP 5.6 to PHP 7

PHP is the programming language that both WordPress and WooCommerce are built on. It is the framework language of your website, so it will affect all site processes and requests. PHP version 7 is two to three times as fast as the old PHP version 5.6. If your site is still running on 5.6, you will see around a 30% speed boost to your frontend and backend functions.

Not all sites are PHP7 compatibility though. Use this free plugin from WPengine to test your site (it can be used regardless of host) – PHP Compatibility Check 

Once you know that your plugins are PHP compatible, the PHP7 switch can be done directly from your CPanel or management console. 

PHP 7 comes in three versions right now, 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 – if you can, switch to v7.2 as it’s the newest and fastest.


8. Disable Unused Plugins

For sites that have been up and published for a few years, you might have leftover plugins taking up resources on your site.

Each plugin you have installed is chewing CPU power and impacting performance.

Simply go to your Plugin menu and look for plugins that are unused or not needed. If you find any such plugins, make sure to disable them permanently.

Also, instead of using plugins to insert analytics and marketing tracking codes, embed them directly in the theme or use Google Tag Manager instead.

 


9. 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 or Woocommerce 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. Quite often we find old Woocommerce plugins that aren’t fully compatible with the version of Woocommerce the site is running that are logging errors into the event log and adding delays into the page load but aren’t actually showing visible errors in the WordPress backend.
  • WP Optimize – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-optimize/ use this plugin to optimize your database speeding up database queries.

Other Resources:


10. Audio Version of This Article

Click the play button for an audio version of this article – it’s worth a listen and has some additional information on top of the notes in this post.

Prefer MP3 format? Click here to play or right-click and Save-As to download.


Still need help?

I hope this article has been helpful. You should see the needle move at least somewhat by implementing these changes. If you’re still stuck or want to get your site loading even faster check out WPSpeedFix.com, our site speed optimization service. We’ll fix your slow Woocommerce website or your money back! Typically on good quality hosting we’ll be able to have your site loading in 1-1.5 seconds depending on the hosting you’re on, just like the site below!

Woocommerce Speed Optimization Service

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