How to Fix Your Slow WordPress Website without Plugin (5 Proven Methods)

Last updated on
Mar 22, 2024

A slow website is not good from many perspectives. From SEO, user experience (UX), to business. WordPress is a good CMS in terms of performance. But it depends on the stack you use (hosting, theme, and plugins). If you are in a struggle of fixing your slow WordPress website, I will share four proven methods you can apply. Without involving a plugin.

Before we continue, you can take a look at the following screenshots which show the performance score of my website (the one you are currently reading) on Google PageSpeed Insights.

For your information, this website is built with the Divi theme. Most pages on this website (including the homepage) are created with the built-in page builder of Divi (Divi Builder). I also use its theme builder feature to create custom templates for single post, footer, and archive pages (categorys and tags).

In other words, this website is created with Divi.

I don’t use too many plugins on this website. There are only two major plugins I use: Yoast and ThirstyAffiliates.

As the title suggests, I will show you how to fix your slow WordPress website without using any performance plugin.

👎🏻 Why I Don’t Recommend a Performance Plugin?

Commonly, performance plugins like WP Rocket and FlyingPress work by adding caching functionality on your website. They usually create a dedicated folder on your WordPress installation to store the static files from the caching process. WP Rocket, for instance, creates a new folder called cache (/wp-content/cache/) to store the static files.

The static file types a performance plugin usually stores are HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Caching is great to boost your site performance. Unfortunately, it won’t help much if you don’t use a solid hosting service as well.

Also, there is one thing about caching that is rarely mentioned. Caching contributes to draining your hosting storage if you create posts on a regular basis. The more content you upload on your website, the more static files will be stored to the caching folder. Which also means reduce the storage capacity on your hosting plan.

So, instead of adding caching, I strongly recommend using a CDN.

🌐 What is CDN?

CDN (Content Delivery Network) is technically caching. But unlike conventional caching, CDN stores your static files in different server locations, which usually spread globally. Visitors who access your website will be served by the server nearest to their location.

For instance, if someone is accessing your website from Singapore, it will be served by a CDN server located in Singapore or the nearest one geographically. With this concept, CDN can help to reduce network latency and round-trip times.

The following image illustrates how a CDN works.

In addition to reducing network latency and road-trip times, using a CDN can also ease the burden of your hosting server since it doesn’t need to perform a new query to serve every request. Instead, the request will be served from CDN servers when the static files are already available.

Here are four key benefits of using a CDN:

  • Faster page load: CDN can reduce network latency and well as the round-trip times.
  • Better user experience (UX): Users will love it if your site is fast to load
  • Reduce your hosting’s bandwidth usage
  • Better up uptime: CDN uses load balancing to backup other servers

🚀 Boosting Your WordPress Site Performance without a Plugin

After reading the above section, you should already know how to improve your site performance without using a performance plugin.

Correct. You can add CDN.

But I have to let you know in advance that merely adding CDN won’t help much if you don’t use the right hosting service.

So, the first step you can do to improve your slow site the no-plugin way is by using the right hosting service.

1. Switch to a Faster Hosting Service (for a 51% Speed Improvement)

Every WordPress hosting service can claim itself to have a faster performance than others, but the real users’ experience can’t be cheated.

I have tried numerous web hosting services since day one of getting into professional blogging world. Here is the list of some web hosting services I have tried:

  • Bluehost ❌
  • HostGator ❌
  • SiteGround ❌
  • Flywheel ❌
  • Pressidium ❌
  • Kinsta ✅
  • Rocket.net ✅
  • WP Engine ✅
  • Pressable ✅
  • Cloudways ✅

All hosting services on the list above come with a CDN feature, but not all of them deliver a satisfying site performance even when the CDN is enabled.

To make sure you get the benefits of CDN, make sure to choose a hosting service that:

  • Uses cloud infrastructure
  • Offers isolated resources per website
  • Offers CDN as a built-in feature instead of add-on

From the list above, I have four narrowed recommendations below. All the hosting services below have all the three required criteria.

Rocket.netKinstaWP EnginePressable
PriceFrom $30/monthFrom $35/monthFrom $30/monthFrom $25/month
CDN Capacity50GBFrom 100GBFrom 50GBUnmetered
CDN ProviderCloudflareCloudflareCloudflareIn-house
Learn MoreLearn MoreLearn MoreLearn More

Does Hosting Service Really Affect the Site Performance?

Absolutely, yes.

To prove this, I tested the performance of a page on both SiteGround and Rocket.net (one of my recommendations). The page has exactly the same specs as follows:

  • Page size: 770KB (checked using GTmetric)
  • Page builder used: Divi
  • Number of modules (design elements): 27

Here is the screenshot of the page.

  • Testing Result on SiteGround (CDN enabled)
  • Testing Result on Rocket.net

Important to note that I didn’t make any optimization tweak to test the two hosting services. So, what you see above is purely the original performance of the respective hosting services.

While I use Rocket.net on this test, you will likely get the similar results on Kinsta, WP Engine, and Pressable.

Based on the testing results above, you will get about 27.3% (from 73 to 93) performance improvement on mobile and 51.5% on desktop (from 66 to 100) after switching to a faster I recommend.

Using a fast hosting can also save your expense if you calculate it correctly. You can read this Kinsta blog post to learn more.

2. Use Local Fonts

Most page builder plugins and design-focused themes are integrated with Google Fonts to give you more font options to choose from. While it sounds good, the reality is not that good. Especially when it comes to performance.

Directly using a font from Google Fonts adds an extra HTML request to the Google CDN server since the actual file of the font is hosted there. Extra HTML request also means that it takes more time for your page to be fully loaded.

Instead of using a Google Fonts font directly on your design, you can download the font first from the Google Fonts website and install it locally on your own server. Of course, you can also download a font you like from other sources like Adobe Fonts or Envato Elements.

Using a local can save page load by about 910 ms. Depending on how many font families you use.

Using a local can save about 910 ms of load time.

How to use a local font in WordPress? It depends on the page builder or theme you use. I have written two posts covering how to install and use local font in both Elementor and Divi:

3. Avoid Using a Plugin that Loads JavaScript on the Front-end

JavaScript is a programming language to add user interaction. Animation effects, popups. They all use JavaScript. JavaScript is also used by some security plugins to display user verification.

If you want to add reCAPTCHA to protect your form, consider using version 3 which doesn’t load checkbox for human verification. If your intention of adding reCAPTCHA is combat spam comments, I recommend using Akismet and similar services instead. This anti-spam service is way better at combating spam comments. More importantly, they don’t load JavaScript on the front-end.

4. Preload Large Images

Image is an element that often affects LCP due its higher file size than other file types. Preloading images can help to improve LCP. Preload itself is a HTML value of the rel attribute on the <link> tag to declare fetch requests in the of HTML.

The preload value specifies resources that your page will need very soon, which you want to start loading early in the page lifecycle, before browsers’ main rendering machinery kicks in. This mechanism can make sure the resources are available earlier, which eventually imrpoves performance.

To preload images in your WordPress website, you can use the following snippet:

function wpp_preloadimages() {
  echo '
  <link rel="preload" as="image" href="image-1-url" />
  <link rel="preload" as="image" href="image-2-url" />
  <link rel="preload" as="image" href="image-3-url" />
  ';
}
add_action( 'wp_head', 'wpp_preloadimages' );

You can replace the URLs on the href attribute with the URLs of the images you want to preload. Make sure to add the full path (e.g. https://utilizewp.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/my-image.jpg).

You can add the above snippet to the functions.php file of your theme. Read here to learn more.

5. Stop Using Google Analytics

Try to compare the performance of two pages. One with Google Analytics tracking code and another without Google Analytics tracking code.

You will find that the page that has no Google Analytics tracking code has a better performance score. That’s because when you add Google Analytics tracking code to your website, it will load external files in order to make Google Analytics work.

Can you guess what’s happen next?

You will find your website is getting slower due to external requests.

To replace Google Analytics, you can use a lighter analytics tool like Plausible and Fathom.

📝 Summary

Performance is definitely an important aspect of a website, from many perspectives. From SEO, user experience (US), to business. If you have just realized it and want to optimize your website to get a better performance, you can try the steps I have just elaborated above.

Most content about site performance — be it blog posts or YouTube videos — will likely mention things like adding caching or installing a performance plugin. But I can tell you that adding caching or installing a performance plugin won’t help much if you don’t have a solid, modern hosting service. Three main criteria of a solid, great hosting service are:

  • Uses cloud infrastructure
  • Offers isolated resources per website
  • Offers CDN as a built-in feature instead of add-on

As I have mentioned, I have tried a number of web hosting services since day one getting into the professional blogging. Four hosting services that I strongly recommend if you have a big concern about performance are:

Switching to a faster hosting is the top priority if you really want to boost your site performance. As I showed above, there will be about 27-53% performance improvement if you move to a fast hosting I recommend on the list. Try it yourself. All hosting services I recommend above offer money back guarantee to minimize the risk.

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Aliko Sunawang

Aliko is a professional blogger and web creator. He has been blogging with WordPress since 2012. In his spare time, he loves going out to take some photos.

Work smarter with the right stack.