Updated: March 2018

We turn conventional speed wisdom on its head. Fifty-three active plugins – on our site – load in under a second. Amazing. What’s our secret sauce?

When we do a speed audit – whether for PagePipe or for a client – we dial back PHP 7.1 to version PHP 5.6. Then we can run P3 plugin. The goal is getting some feedback of where 80 percent of plugin speed goes – and reduce that load. It’s Pareto’s principle in action: the 80/20 rule.

P3 Plugin Performance Profiler and mobile WordPress speed.

We use selective activation or deactivation of plugins on URLs. That’s the real-top-secret sauce. Most people don’t know plugins can add weight globally to websites. Not just to the page where they’re used. For example, Contact Form 7 adds about 43 milliseconds to every page and post on a site. It’s global loading and we call it “site drag.” It’s best to activate that plugin only on the contact page.

Next, we remove plugins whose features don’t add much value. You’ll see in this audit we removed 8 test plugins for a gain of 194 milliseconds. “Good work, Steve!” [breaks arm patting himself on back].

But it’s theoretical. P3 isn’t that accurate. You have to check real gains in milliseconds with Pingdom.com or WebPagetest.org.

We labeled all deactivated plugins used during maintenance as “offline” in the table below. Deactivated, mothballed plugins don’t slow down a website. That’s a common myth. No harm.

So the total estimated plugin load time is 435 milliseconds (±30 percent). But that’s never loaded at the same time on all pages and post. Because  selective activation saves the day again! More tweaking is always possible – but go for the low hanging fruit first. We even use selective activation to rid us of nasty plugin conflicts.

A selective activation example.

Easy Digital Downloads is a heavy 158-millisecond ecommerce plugin.  It’s not activated on our high traffic pages. This accomplishes our main goals for now. We’ll tweak more later on that one. We repeat: selective plugin activation is the secret. It keeps the Home page fast on shared magnetic hosting with no CDN.

The plugins causing the most trouble to configure are Watu Quiz, Easy Digital Downloads, and  UpDraft Plus. They required serious thinking and a learning curve. What made the effort worth the trouble? These are complex functions and important site features. It’d be a nightmare and tedious to achieve any other way. We prefer plug-and-play plugins with no settings. But for these three that’s impossible. They need customizing and making many settings. Once you’re done, it feels great. Like when you stop pounding your head against a brick wall.

“Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” – Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride.

Our original intent was writing about each of our 53+ plugins. That’s too much work. So we decided to summarize PagePipe’s speed strategy.


PagePipe uses the default Twenty-seventeen theme. We’ve studied it, tested it, experimented, torture-tested, and written a lot about it. It’s fast.

Deciding what not to do on your site is just as important for speed as what you do.

What you won’t see on PagePipe:

1. Social Links (especially *like* counters).


3. Third-party ads or affiliate links.

4. Google Maps.

5. Contact form plugins.

6. Google Fonts.

7. Font Awesome.

8. CDN (like CloudFlare). We don’t use CDN. Period.

9. Special hosting (instead: common shared cheap).

10. Hundreds of JPEG featured images on blog posts (rotation instead).

11. HTTPS/SSL certification.

12. Popular TOP100 plugins.

13. Paid premium plugins or themes.

14. Alteration to PHP code or server side programming.

15. Google AMP.

16. SEO plugins.

17. Minification.

18. Emojis.

19. Slider on the Home page.

20. Google noCaptcha Captcha.

Things you will see on PagePipe:

1. Add Search to Menu – necessary for this theme. No sidebars on pages.

2. Add Widget After Content and Simple Content Adder (for top of content). These two plugins allow two random rotators for images and testimonials on all posts. They are selectively deactivated on pages.

3. A bunch of magic security plugins.

4. Optimization plugins

5. Evergreen content enhancers

  • Current Year and Copyright Shortcodes
  • Shortcode For Current Date
  • WP Author, Date and Meta Remover

6. Every resource we use is free! WordPress, the theme, and the plugins.


Our PagePipe plugins below are ranked slowest to fastest. We then examine the 80/20 ratio and focus the cumulative cutoff at 80 percent. Offenders are shown in “red.” Their value must be justified. Notice we deleted some heavy and redundant ones.

plugin name ms percent cumulative activation/deactivation
Easy Digital Downloads 158.2 36.35% 36.35% Home & 2 conflicts
WP Experiments Free 0.00% 36.35% Deleted 109.9ms
Worth The Read 0.00% 36.35% Deleted 44.8ms
Simple Content Adder 40.3 9.26% 45.61% Home & 2 pages
WordPress Popular Posts 31.7 7.28% 52.90% Home & pages – posts only
Broken Link Checker 0.00% 52.90% Offline 28.3
WordPress 23 Related Posts Plugin 25.4 5.84% 58.73% Home & 4 pages
WP Image Refresh 23.4 5.38% 64.11% Home & 3 pages
WP Counter 0.00% 64.11% Deleted 19.8ms
Easy Forms for MailChimp 18.8 4.32% 68.43% one page
UpdraftPlus Backup/Restore 17.3 3.98% 72.40% run weekly
WP HTaccess Editor 0.00% 72.40% Offline 16.6ms
PDF Image Generator 0.00% 72.40% Deleted 15.3ms
Blog Manager Light 9.7 2.23% 74.63% blog listing directories
Redirection 9.4 2.16% 76.79%
Post Notif 9.4 2.16% 78.95%
WP Super Simple Speed 8.9 2.05% 81.00% ecommerce pages
Cache Enabler 8.6 1.98% 82.97% ecommerce pages
Limit Login Attempts Reloaded 7.7 1.77% 84.74%
Watu Quiz 6.1 1.40% 86.14% mailchimp conflict 1pg
WP Thor Heartbeat 6.0 1.38% 87.52% mailchimp conflict 1pg
Master Slider 4.9 1.13% 88.65% on catalog page
Block Bad Queries (BBQ) 4.7 1.08% 89.73%
Lazy Load by WP Rocket 4.7 1.08% 90.81% video lazy load conflict
Quotes 4.0 0.92% 91.73% two pages
Optimize Database Delete Revisions 0.00% 91.73% Offline 4.0ms
Simple Drop Cap 2.9 0.67% 92.39%
WP Editor Widget 2.8 0.64% 83.62%
Title Remover 2.7 0.62% 84.24%
Admin Post Navigation 2.4 0.55% 84.79%
Add Search To Menu 2.2 0.51% 85.29%
Disable Comments 2.2 0.51% 85.80%
Asset Queue Manager 0.00% 85.80% offline 2ms
Imsanity 0.00% 85.80% offline 2ms
WEN Responsive Columns 0.00% 85.80% delete redundant 1.9ms
Add Widget After Content 1.8 0.41% 86.21%
Beacon Plugin 0.00% 86.21% Offline 1.5ms
Disable Emojis 1.4 0.32% 86.53%
HW Image Widget 1.3 0.30% 86.83%
Plugin Logic Rules 1.2 0.28% 87.11%
Easy Table 1.2 0.28% 87.39% pages not posts
Perfect Pullquotes 1.1 0.25% 87.64% pages not posts
Pro Related Post Widget 1.1 0.25% 87.89% Home & 2 pages
Shortcode For Current Date 1.1 0.25% 88.14% Home & 2 pages
WP jQuery Plus 0.00% 88.14% Deleted redundant 1.1ms
Change Table Prefix 1.0 0.23% 88.37%
Email Address Encoder 1.0 0.23% 88.60%
Host Analytics js Local 1.0 0.23% 88.83%
Deactivate XML-RPC Service 0.9 0.21% 89.04%
Lazy Load XT 0.9 0.21% 89.25% Video & conflict pages
Tuxedo Big File Uploads 0.8 0.18% 89.43%
Query Strings Remover 0.00% 89.43% Deleted redundant 0.8ms
Remove Google Fonts References 0.8 0.18% 89.61%
Far Future Expiry Header 0.00% 89.61% Deleted redundant 0.6ms
Hide Featured Image 0.6 0.14% 89.75%
Simple WP Sitemap 0.5 0.11% 89.87%
WP Author Date and Meta Remover 0.5 0.11% 89.98%
Current Year & Copyright Shortcodes 0.4 0.09% 90.07%
Plugin Logic 0.4 0.09% 90.17%
Restore Image Title 0.4 0.09% 90.26% Home & 1 page
Enable Media Replace 0.3 0.07% 90.33%
One-Click Child Theme 0.3 0.07% 90.40% on two pages (2017 theme)
WENS Responsive Column Shortcodes 0.3 0.07% 90.46% where used
Restore Image Title 0.2 0.05% 90.51%
Server-Mail-Check 0.2 0.05% 90.56%
Simple back to top 0.1 0.02% 90.58% two conflict pages
CAOS Analytics 0.0 0.00% 90.58%
TOTAL milliseconds 435.2
active plugin count 53


Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:

"That's very helpful. What a thorough speed report. I already implemented some of these changes. Thank You Steve!" comelody.com, Tiberius, Israel

by - Shlomi Tsur