This article was originally published on Sitehip.com, a site that I have since taken down. I created Sitehip as an experiment. The idea was to have a blog dedicated to WordPress tutorials etc. However there are only so many hours on the day, so I have decided to close up Sitehip and focus on this site.
Do you need to speed up a WordPress site on Bluehost? You can learn from my experience. I’ve been spending a lot of time testing to figure out the best configuration on my basic hosting plan.
Originally this site was just an experiment. I wanted to test out EasyWP, a simple managed WordPress hosting plan from Namecheap, which is still in beta.
Since then I’ve decided that I want to take this site seriously, so I dumped EasyWP and moved the site to a Bluehost.
Bluehost is very popular, and no wonder. With extremely affordable plans, excellent customer support, and one of the best uptime rates in the industry, Bluehost seemed like a perfect choice for Sitehip. I was able to get 36 months of hosting for a total of $95.40. Awesome deal!
After paying for the new hosting account I set my sights on transferring the domain from Namecheap, which turned out to be a bit tricky.
I am not the original owner of the Sitehip.com domain. It was an expired domain when I bought it. Evidently this domain was on Bluehost in the past. It was still in the system and would not let me transfer the domain.
I contacted customer support through chat and they were fast, and they helped me sort things out and set the transfer in motion.
It takes a few days to transfer a domain. While I was waiting for the the transfer I decided this is a great opportunity to do some testing and share the results on the site.
Bluehost auto generated a temporary domain and I uploaded a working copy of Sitehip.com to start perfomance optimization.
WordPress Site Speed
I am obsessed with web page speed. There is all kinds of research about about how every second of load time increases bounce rate and reduces conversions.
More people are using mobile devices to access the web all the time, and for the first time there is actually a reduction in searches done on desktop. Google has started rolling out the mobile first index.
In this environment page load times are critical. So I want to see just how fast I can make things load with a new Bluehost Basic hosting plan.
Web Page Size
A critical factor in page load times is the size of the page to be loaded. I try to keep my page size down, less than 1.5M at the most. But I wondered, what is the average page load size?
According to http://httparchive.org, in November 2017 the average web page size is a whopping 3378kb, around 3M. And most of that is images.
So many people don’t understand that images need to be optimized for the web, let alone how to go about doing it, so it makes sense to me both that the average size is large and that most of it is images.
Designers love to create pages with huge images. And I’ve worked with very talented developers who create beautiful pages, but pay absolutely no attention to optimization.
The fact is I would try very hard not publish a page that big. But in the interest of my little experiment, I created a page that turned out to be 3.8M, loaded with oversized, unoptimized images and a few paragraphs of dummy text.
Enable Compression in cPanel
The first thing I do with a new hosting account is enable compression for all files in the cPanel. It’s easy and only takes a minute.
From your Bluehost account click “Advanced” in the sidebar to get to your cPanel.
Scroll down to Software and click Optimize Website. Click “Compress All Content” and then update settings.
Bluehost Endurance Page Cache
When Bluehost creates a new WordPress installation it includes a couple plugins, including WordPress Jetpack, MOJO Marketplace, and the Endurance Page Cache.
You can find the Endurance cache is in the Must Use tab of your plugin section in your dashboard. This is a good thing! Don’t remove it. I would suggest that if it is causing any problemyou contact Bluehost support before you do anything. They might be able to help.
You can control the Endurance Cache settings from either the MOJO Marketplace plugin, or go to Settings > General on your Dashboard. You will find the settings at the bottom of the page, which range from Off (Level 0) to Aggressive (Level 5). Default is Normal (Level 2). I have kept this at the default setting. I may change that later in the experiment.
I delete the MOJO Marketplace and WordPress Jetpack Plugins on my sites. I have done that before starting this test.
Benchmarking The Test Page
There are many great page load testing tools out there. For those not familiar with testing page load times, 3 of the most popular are Pingdom Tools, GTMetrix, and Webpagetest.org The fact is that you can get different results from each of these. There are many factors when determining page load times, such as location, network specifics, and device.
Page Load Time is ALL THAT MATTERS
In theory these might make your site load faster, but in reality they often do not. When optimizing a website for speed the only thing that matters is the load time. This is a very important point to understand.
I don’t care at all about the score. Only the time it takes for the page to load.
For this test I am using Pingdom Tools.
My initial test:
To be honest this turned out better than I had expected.
The first step is to optimize those huge images. I installed my favorite image optimizer, Shortpixel and optimized them all.
Take a look at the results:
Shortpixel allows you to set a maximum optimized image size, and I set the height to be 1024px. That is why they are all 1024px high. If I wanted to take the time I could make these even better.
And yes, they look awesome after optimization. Shortpixel rocks.
Test result after optimizing images:
Note the page size is now only 697.8kb. Yes, Shortpixel rocks.
Time for Some Caching
Optimizing images did improve things a lot, and 1.23s is a respectable page load time. But it can be better – much better.
It’s time to bring out the big guns, the caching plugin. To start I am going to test the very popular W3 Total Cache plugin.
I have a pretty good amount of experience with W3 Total Cache. While it can be very effective, it is not simple.
In Part 2 of this series I cover the configuration of W3 Total cache on Bluehost, and provide an export of the settings that you can use on your site on Bluehost.
For an affordable, reliable, and as I am going to show you, fast loading hosting account for your WordPress website, please click here.
Yes that is an affiliate link. That’s what keeps the lights on at Sitehip.com.