Is This Killing Your WordPress Site?

Another one from the “What Not To Do” Archive….

I learned a valuable lesson a couple days ago.

Should have known better. Sure not the first time I’ve messed up.

Not the first website I broke and probably won’t not the last.

What happened?

I just about killed one of my wordpress blogs.

Well, it’s on a domain by itself, so I really killed an entire site.


I broke it so much that it probably turned off any search engine traffic and most likely lost some visitors.

Reason I bring this up, is because some other people might be making the same mistakes.

I can’t be the only one, right?

So, how did I break it so bad?

Wasn’t TOTALLY my fault.

Not this time.

Let me tell you about it…

I have a website I have finally been putting some effort into, to finally get it up to par, get it in shape so I can finally promote it.


This site runs on wordpress.

That should be a easy. Hard to break wordpress, right?

Wrong… least not the way I do it.

Hope you’re not rolling like me.

I’ve gone through a number of theme’s for this site. Each one I thought was the one, only to find out I couldn’t do what I needed. Or there was something missing or wrong with the theme.

Probably been though 10 themes.

You do that too? Glad I am not the only one.

Okay, I picked one that I really liked and I thought I was getting somewhere.

It was modern looking, had all the features I wanted and it even came with Visual Composer. Awesome.

I could layout it out exactly as I wanted. This was going to be so cool.

I’ve spent the last week or so, quite a few hours tweaking the theme, adding plug-ins so I could get it how I wanted and function how I wanted.

The site was looking great.

It was all coming together.

But I made a BIG mistake…

The mistake was, that I did not do a speed test on the theme before spending all that time fixing it up.

I am talking about PageSpeed Insights from Google.

Yes, I know there are others, but they all do about the same.

But, here’s the interesting part.

Promise you won’t laugh at me?

Promise? Pinky Swear?

I ran the speed test on my site and it scored a whopping…



Sure it’s not the lowest but I do know, that is REAL BAD.

If you’re not familiar with the speed test service provided by Google, the score is out of 100, and 100 is the very best.

I was the proud owner of a site that scored a 22.

So proud indeed.

What does this mean?

If you believe that search engines take website speed in to consideration when the calculate where your pages will rank, this means my site would be lucky to see page 10 of any search results.

I sure wouldn’t be getting any SE traffic. And if it’s running that slow, it might also turn off visitors, they might leave quick or not come back. Can you say increased bounce rate?

We’d all like to think we have the best websites packed with the best content.

But let’s be real, we are not the only game in town. That means, we need to do everything we can to make our sites as fast as possible. Sure don’t want visitors leaving, or losing search engine traffic  because of something that is fixable, like speed. Something we could control.

One of my other blogs gets a speed score of like 93. Where all my sites need to be.

Why was my score so low?

Couple things. And that is the point of this post.

(bought time you got to the point Ron)

I know…

Not going to blame the theme for all of the low score, but I should have ran a speed test on the demo before I spent too much time on it.

That was part of the problem.

Main culprit was all the plug-ins I added.

But come on, plug-ins can be so cool, do so many cool things. it’s SO easy to get hooked. Easy to get addicted.

You too?

If someone had held a wordpress plugin intervention I might not have made such a mess of my site.

I also used the excuse that I needed the site to do this and do that.

Here’s the deal…

Many people don’t realize that plug-ins can not only be system resources hogs, but worst yet, they can, and often do, add a ton of extra code to your pages.

Don’t believe me? Check your own pages.

Not only does this extra code make your pages bigger, which takes longer to download by your visitors, it is also triggers those, “You need to fix this”, alerts from most speed test programs.

Plus the same extra code could account for more than just one alert.

It’s kind of like the teacher taking the red pen to your book report. Could be lots of red ink for that matter.

Also, one SEO concept I learned a long time ago, and I think it still holds true to this day, is that the search engines want content more than they want code.

Only makes sense, right?

Internet surfers are looking for content, they don’t know about and could care less about the code behind the web page.

So how do you fix it?

I mean, how am I going to fix it?

First off I am going to go with a theme that I know will be speedy. I will test it before doing anything to it.

Probably Genesis or a Genesis child theme.

Next I am going to eliminate every single pug-in that I do not absolutely need. Everything is going that is not required.

As I think about it, some of what I need to do, I can probably do with the functions built into WordPress, like serving video’s.

Once I have a speedy theme in place and I purge my plug-ins, I will re-test my site and go from there.

So, if you have not done it yet, or have not done it lately, you need to speed test your site. You might be surprised.

I was. Very surprised.

Although I am sure you won’t beat my score.

If you do, let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

If your just building up your blog or wordpress site, start from the theme. Make sure it runs fast.

Then add plug-ins, one at a time and run a speed test after adding each one.

Yes it can be a little time consuming, but better than doing what I did, wasting so much time, only to start over from scratch.


I’ve been edumacated.

After some work my broken site is now running a steady 85. Even hit 91 on one test. 85 is still not the best, but it’s in the “green” which I assume is good with GI.

I’ll continue to tweak it over the next week or so, but for now it’s running much better and it’s good enough right now.

In case your wondering (I know you are), here is what I did to raise my score….

Installed a new theme. Got me to a score of 42.

The theme still needs some tweaks, but it’s usable and okay for now.

Dumped unnecessary plug-ins. Got me to 56.

Getting somewhere…

Installed W3 Total Cache. Got me a 79.

Even better. Not sure if that is the best performance plugin, but it’s what I see recommended most often. I’ll do some research to see if there is anything better.

If any one knows of a better performance type plug-in, please speak up.

Tweaked the cache plug-in settings. Got me to 85.

When I have time I’ll mess with the settings and see if there other ways I can tweak things. My goal is to get over 90.

Oddly, google insights speed test still shows things that should be fixed, but were suppose to be taken care of with the cache plug-in. So not sure if it’s a issue with the speed test or something else. I’ll try my best to update this when I get my score up a little higher.

So I am a happy camper right now. Just spent way TOO much time on this seemingly simple task. Gotta get back to work. Work that pays the bills.

Do you have anything to add? Comments? Feedback?

I’d like to hear from you, leave a comment below…

Ron Killian
Full time internet marketer since 1999, Digital product creator and sales, including private label rights. Enjoys helping others build their own successful online business.
Ron Killian


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Ron Killian
Ron Killian
  • Richard Martin

    Ron, I laughed when I read some of this.

    You could well be me in disguise! I have been through so many themes it’s untrue. I now stick to the genesis framework for most sites, and make sure I have a good old clear out of plugins I don’t need.

    When I changed my blog theme, I had nearly 50 plugins! I soon got that down to about 20, still too much but they are needed.

    Pagespeed is so important these days, we live in an instant gratification era where everyone wants everything yesterday. So I land on a page and I’m presented with a blank screen for a few seconds? Ron, I always hit the back button, like most will do. My feeling is that if a webmaster can’t make a page load in under 5 seconds, then they don’t really care about me.

    Great post, and something people don’t really think about!

    PS congrats on the 93 score, I think my blog is at 88 or something like that!

    • Ron Killian

      As always, good to see you Richard.

      Nice to know I am not the only one that does stuff like this. Wow, 50 plugin’s is quite a bit. I am only at 40, so guess I have some room to grow. Just amazes me how much code can be added to our pages by plug-in’s alone. Oddly I see so much CSS, which can and should be in a separate stylesheet. I looked at the source code of my 22 scored site and it was like, oh crap! No wonder!

      Ya, your right, speed is so important to these days. Not only to make the SE bots happy, but to get and keep our visitors as well. I’m with you, think I need to stick with genesis from now on. Just finding the time to learn how to modify the framework. Plus new theme’s can be so seductive, they can looks so nice, professional, cool.

      Actually I can’t be you in disguise, I don’t have the time, my night job of brown-noser keeps me too busy :)

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

  • David Hartshorne

    Hey Ron,

    Managed to get over to your place at last!

    Hehe…have you got a trophy for that score? I bet there is probably worse. Not sure what mine is at the moment, but I do have a Google day planned for tomorrow!

    I have read elsewhere that the ‘amount of plugins’ is not the issue. Its making sure that all the plugins work together. Ashley mentions another plugin called P3 Plugin Performance Profiler.

    Thanks for being honest about your mistakes and I hope you get your blog back better and quicker.
    – David

    • Ron Killian

      Thanks for stopping by David. You did bring some snacks, right?

      Yes, I might be deserving of a trophy. Sure don’t know how that ranks with other peoples sites. Maybe I am in like the lowest 5% or something. Thanks for the mention of the plug-in, I’ll check it out.

      Would be interesting to see what you score. Doubt you’d beat me, I am just that good at breaking things :)

      Thanks for the comment. Don’t be a stranger. Hope you see you again soon.

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Ron,

    I had to say whooaah. But you know what Ron? I’m no better when not checking the speed for my blog and I’m pretty sure there are many others that don’t do the same.

    So as you said this, I checked my speed and got a whopping 81. Not too bad, but not the greatest either. I would like to get at least a 90, so I will be checking the plugins I do need and don’t need to see if I can get it to that point.

    Thanks for this heads up Ron! Now it’s time to check out these plugins!

    • Ron Killian

      Welcome back Sherman.

      Guess I am not the only one who doesn’t check huh? Thinking many folks don’t.

      I think 81 is pretty good! That is in the “green”, as in okay, isn’t it? Thought it was anything above 80, so looks like your doing pretty good. You beat my score by alot.

      Sure you know there are plenty of ways to speed your site up.

      Hope to see you again soon.

  • Carol Amato

    Hi, Ron,

    “What not to do” is a great series, my interest is piqued.

    Your willingness to be transparent is admirable, and you are helping a lot of people by doing so. Thank you. :-)

    Actually, I’ve had my blog for four years and have only had three themes. Not too bad.

    Yep, sure thing – Speed is definitely important for rankings, and visitors will surely bounce off if the page doesn’t load within five seconds, or round about there.

    Social media sharing plug-ins are heavy, bulky and way down the server big time. I just reduced my plug-in numbers as well, and I’m glad to see you recommending the same practice.

    I have a Genesis theme but it’s customized. Boy, they are built for speed, that’s for sure. I’ve got someone working on improving my site speed as we speak, and I’m constantly wanting this improved. LOL I drive them nuts.

    Thanks for sharing – hope you had a great weekend.


    • Ron Killian

      Nice to see you back again Carol.

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words.

      I have to say you are on top of things. First for not going through a 100 themes, like some of us do. Your also smart to use Genesis. And nothing wrong with being concerned about your website speed. That’s a good thing if it drives you nuts. And yes, social sharing plug-ins can be a drain and some of them add a TON of extra code to your pages. Don’t think many people realize that.

      Decided I am going to go back to genesis. Just trying to figure out if I want to go with it straight up, or a pre-made child theme. I want to stay with the original with my own child theme, just not sure if I can modify it to what I need. Going through tutorials right now. I’m going to set up a dummy site and mess with it there, so I don’t break the current site. It’s broke enough.

      Just want to get it done so I can concentrate on writing and content.

      Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again. Hope Tampa is doing you well :)

  • Sunday

    Hi Ron,
    Having too many plu-ins on a wordpress blog is a sure banker for loading problem. I have experienced a couple of speed issues caused by too many (or bad) plugins.

    I only got relieved after managing these tools. It is also relieving that I got speedy theme from Genesis.
    I understand what you have experienced. I have been there and I hope many reading this post will find it helpful in building a better convertible blog!

    • Ron Killian

      Nice to see you again Sunday.

      I have been pretty lucky, have not had to many “bad” plugins. Just too many plugins that add too much code to the pages.

      Your on the right track using Genesis. Think I am going to go back to it. Actually, it’s kind of funny, I checked the official demo for Genesis last night, and it did not do well in a speed test. Just thought it was funny. But this blog runs on it and it scores pretty good. Could use improvement, but no 22 :)

      Thanks for the comment and don’t be a stranger :)

  • Leslie Denning

    Hi Ron. Hey, thanks for this post. I just keep plugging along and learning more things. This was on my list of ‘to-do’s” and here you post just fell into my lap. I ran my site, and it’s 32 – not good. It will a project for me work on this week.

    I know speed is important. I’ve got some plugins I can get rid of and other tweaks. I’ll look at what you did, and follow in your footsteps.

    All the best,

    • Ron Killian

      Nice to see you again Leslie.

      You came close, but looks like my score still stands as the worst. Not that I want any one to try and beat it.

      Sounds like you already have a plan in mind. If you come up with other idea’s, by all means let us know, sure I a not the only one that is still figuring out how to boost the speed :)

      Hope to see you again soon.