Are Your WordPress Plugins Slowing Down Your Page Load Speed?

When building a site in WordPress, one of the huge abilities is the vast library of plugins that are available (mostly FREE!) that you can use to create different functions, forms, front-end updates, back-end customizations, and on-site and off-site integrations. The possibilities are nearly endless. This is an enormous reason WordPress, as an open-source platform, has become popular in multiple languages and regions as the “go-to” platform for building a site.

On one of the eCommerce sites I work on, through the past couple of years, there have been quite a few updates including a redesign, various WooCommerce integrations for notifications, ease of product updates, to quicken fulfillment, and to speed up the site for SEO.

One item I neglected to recognize is that this site had taken on 52 different plugins over this time. Gimme a break, I use this site to test plugin features for other projects. This is all too common though. A WP developer builds a site, throws in a bunch of plugins, and weeks later when launching the site forgets to go back and cleanup some that were used specifically for the build.

Today, I decided to do some cleanup. But what’s the point of making major changes without knowing their effect on SEO, right?

This website, bassplayertees.com, has 2 different plugins for the following features as I was testing them against each other:

  • Custom Login Page
  • Mailchimp Forms
  • Site Backups
  • Image Optimization
  • Caching
  • Conversion Code Implementation
  • Contact Forms
  • Sliders
  • SSL Integration
  • Comment Moderation Features
  • Security/Firewall

Anyway, I started thinking (yes, I think in bold italics.):

  1. ‘If all of these plugins are running at once, how is that affecting my page load speed?’
  2. ‘What effect will it have on site/page speed if I vastly reduce the amount of plugins that are active on the site.’
  3. ‘And even better, if I do a mass delete of as many plugins as possible that I don’t need, will I increase load time?’

The WordPress Plugin Speed Test

To start, I turned EVERY plugin on. I then updated all plugins to the most recent versions. Here’s some site stats to show how the back-end is working:

  • WordPress Version: 4.4.2
  • WooCommerce Version: 2.5.5
  • Theme: X Theme Version 4.4.1
  • Hosting: Bluehost Shared Hosting
  • Server: Apache
  • PHP Version: 5.6.17
  • MySQL Version: 5.5.42

And here is the list of plugins. You can skip past this if you want. This is not a list of suggested plugins since some came bundled with the theme, some were tested and never used or removed, and some are not worth using.

  1. ABG Rich Pins
  2. AdRoll Retargeting
  3. BackUpWordPress
  4. Bitpay Woocommerce
  5. Broken Link Checker
  6. Cornerstone
  7. Custom Login
  8. Disable Comments
  9. EWWW Image Optimizer
  10. Facebook Conversion Pixel
  11. Google Analytics by Yoast
  12. Google Analytics by Yoast eCommerce tracking addon
  13. JCH Optimize
  14. MailChimp for WordPress
  15. Ninja Forms
  16. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
  17. Redirection
  18. Slider Revolution
  19. Soliloquy
  20. UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
  21. WooCommerce
  22. WooCommerce – Facebook Tab
  23. WooCommerce – Store Exporter
  24. WooCommerce Bulk Edit Product Variations
  25. WooCommerce Customer/Order CSV Export
  26. WooCommerce Google Product Feed
  27. WooCommerce Grid / List toggle
  28. WooCommerce PayPal Payments Advanced Gateway
  29. WooCommerce Product Rich Pins
  30. WooCommerce Shipment Tracking
  31. WooDojo
  32. WooSidebars
  33. WooThemes Helper
  34. WooZone – WooCommerce Amazon Affiliates
  35. Wordfence Security
  36. WordPress HTTPS
  37. WordPress SSL
  38. WP PHP widget
  39. X – Content Dock
  40. X – Custom 404
  41. X – Disqus Comments
  42. X – Email Forms (MailChimp)
  43. X – Facebook Comments
  44. X – Olark Integration
  45. X – Shortcodes
  46. X – Smooth Scroll
  47. X – Terms of Use
  48. X – Under Construction
  49. X – Video Lock
  50. X – White Label
  51. Yoast SEO
  52. Yoast WooCommerce SEO

As mentioned, at first some were live, some dormant, some outdated. I started this test by updating all plugins to the most recent version and activating them all.

The Plugin Testing Tool

We chose the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) for a couple of reasons. It gives extremely close results in comparison to the Pingdom Site Speed test when checking page load speed. It also gives excellent metrics on plugin load time, the distribution of which plugins are loading slow, and other great metrics. If you haven’t, add it to your WordPress backend and run a scan. You’ll find some cool information.

The Plugin Performance Test

We took this test in three steps to measure the effect that plugins have on a live WordPress site. These three phases are:

  • Phase 1: All Plugins (52 total) Uploaded and Active on the Website
  • Phase 2: All Plugins (52 total) Uploaded and 25 Paused / 27 Activated on the Website
  • Phase 3: 25 Paused Plugins from Phase 2 Deleted / 27 Plugins Loaded and Activated on the Website

Lets’ begin…

Phase 1: All Plugins (52 total) Uploaded and Active on the Website

All 52 plugins are uploaded, active and updated to the most recent available versions. After running the P3 scan, these are our base results.

The plugin impact of page load speed is 86.60%, or a total of 3.104 seconds. Here’s the juicy data details.

  • Total Load Time: 5.5138 seconds avg.
  • Site Load Time: 3.5850 seconds avg.
  • Profile Overhead: 1.9288 seconds avg.
  • Plugin Load Time: 3.1036 seconds avg.
  • Theme Load Time: 0.1790 seconds avg.
  • Core Load Time: 0.2410 seconds avg.
  • Margin of Error: 0.0613 seconds avg. (5.5138 observed, 5.4524 expected)
  • Visits: 17
  • Number of PHP ticks: 57,062 calls avg.
  • Memory Usage: 47.46 MB avg.
  • MySQL Queries: 128 queries avg.

Analysis: This site is slow. We have the technology. We can make it better.

Phase 2: All Plugins (52 total) Uploaded and 25 Paused / 27 Activated on the Website

For this piece of the test, I paused all plugins that aren’t being used and will be deleted in part 3 of the test. I paused the following 25 of 52 plugins, leaving 27 active. All of the plugins deactivated are because I’m not using them or if I want to use them, I can upload them at a later time. I also ensured that deactivating any of these wouldn’t break any live integrations I have running on the site. You need to remember, your live hosting environment isn’t for storage, but for speed.

Here’s the list of plugins that was paused:

  1. BackupWordPress
  2. Custom Login
  3. EWWW Image Optimizer
  4. Facebook Conversion Pixel
  5. Ninja Forms (this is an awesome plugin, but I’m using “MailChimp for WordPress” instead on this site)
  6. Slider Revolution
  7. WooCommerce – Facebook Tab
  8. WooCommerce – Store Exporter
  9. WooCommerce – Customer/Order CSV Export
  10. WooCommerce Google Product Feed
  11. WooDojo
  12. WooSidebars
  13. WooThemes Helper
  14. WooZone – WooCommerce Amazon Affiliates
  15. WordPress HTTPS
  16. X – Content Dock
  17. X – Custom 404
  18. X – Discus Comments
  19. X – Email Forms (MailChimp)
  20. X – Facebook Comments
  21. X – Olark Integration
  22. X – Smooth Scroll
  23. X – Terms of Use
  24. X – Under Construction
  25. X – Video Lock

So, now that all of these are paused, let’s see the plugin and page load times.

The plugin impact of page load speed is 75.50%, or a total of 1.393 seconds; a reduction in page load time of 1.7107 seconds.

Once again, the sweet, juicy details:

  • Total Load Time: 3.1908 seconds avg.
  • Site Load Time: 1.8452 seconds avg.
  • Profile Overhead: 1.3456 seconds avg.
  • Plugin Load Time: 1.3929 seconds avg.
  • Theme Load Time: 0.1805 seconds avg.
  • Core Load Time: 0.2458 seconds avg.
  • Margin of Error: 0.0259 seconds avg. (3.1908 observed, 3.1648 expected)
  • Visits: 17
  • Number of PHP ticks: 36,529 calls avg.
  • Memory Usage: 32.16 MB avg.
  • MySQL Queries: 88 queries avg.

Analysis:Now, this wasn’t really a surprise. Common sense would say the less active plugins, making less PHP ticks and MySql queries, the faster the site. This may not seem like a huge amount of time, but when a person is searching, microseconds and the page loading quickly means the difference between them clicking away and going to the next result or not completing a conversion on your site because it’s taking too long to load. Let’s see what happens when we delete all of these plugins.

Phase 3: 25 Paused Plugins from Phase 2 Deleted / 27 Plugins Loaded and Activated on the Website

First off, nothing broke when deleting 25 plugins at once. I did take an hour to ensure that each of these wouldn’t affect the site’s functions, products, theme, integrations, and cart. Taking the hour to do this probably saved me 8-10 hours in fixing whatever would have broken if I didn’t. Score 1 for due diligence. Okay, test results…

The plugin impact of page load speed is 70.90%, or a total of 1.100 seconds.

  • Total Load Time: 2.8509 seconds avg.
  • Site Load Time: 1.5501 seconds avg.
  • Profile Overhead: 1.3007 seconds avg.
  • Plugin Load Time: 1.0995 seconds avg.
  • Theme Load Time: 0.2043 seconds avg.
  • Core Load Time: 0.2117 seconds avg.
  • Margin of Error: 0.0346 seconds avg. (2.8509 observed, 2.8163 expected)
  • Visits: 17
  • Number of PHP ticks: 36,275 calls avg.
  • Memory Usage: 32.00 MB avg.
  • MySQL Queries: 84 queries avg.


The technical data analysis basics shows us we increased the site page load speed by over 2 full seconds. We gained almost 0.3 seconds between having the plugins paused and deleting them from the site.

What Actions Should You Take with Your WP Plugins?

The short answer is – Clean up your plugins. Don’t just pause them, remove them if you don’t need them. Also, don’t just choose a random plugin while building or integrating something into your site. Do a search and test multiple plugins for the same usage. Just because a plugin may have a ton of cool features and options, are you going to use them all? I choose plugins based on the following criteria and it’s working so far for me:

  1. Is the plugin widely used & trusted?
  2. Does the plugin work with the most recent version of WordPress?
  3. Is there active fast plugin support?
  4. Is the plugin updated frequently to sure up any security issues?
  5. Is the plugin light?

Just last month while auditing a WordPress site’s plugins, we found that the social sharing plugin was slowing load time by 2 seconds. We replaced it with a new plugin that was much lighter, had the exact same functionality and front end look and increased page load time by 1.5 seconds. In the following weeks, there was an uptick in organic traffic. Was this directly due to the site loading faster? It’s highly possible. What we do know is the site is faster, users don’t bounce away from the site as often, and conversions have increased from organic traffic sources.

This is a task that can take 1-3 hours or less if you’re familiar with the website. The benefits can be enormous and increase your bottom line with increased organic rankings, less bounce rate, and increased traffic – all items that help with SEO.

Also, what’s data without spreadsheets and math? Click below for super exciting numbers!

wordpress plugin seo test general data

wordpress plugin site speed test detailed data

wordpress plugin seo test server data