no cost

Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.

Updated: October 2017

4 minute read

From our experience with WordPress search, we get better results without the search enhancement plugin Relevanssi. It shuts down or bypasses normal search functions. There is no failsafe or fallback when Relevanssi malfunctions.

We tested the Relevanssi plugin free version some time ago. Many reviewers were sold on it. But real-world testing by us didn’t reveal much value from it. It was theoretically better. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it if you want but we see no reason to recommend it to clients.

Relevanssi is available as free and paid versions. It doesn’t appear to slow down a website with any HTTP requests. P3 Profiler plugin (authored by GoDaddy) reports it adds only 19 milliseconds to load time. Big deal. It’s just another benign plugin taking up space.

We’ve never had a circumstance where WordPress search wasn’t sufficient – and even sometimes impressive. We use it all of the time to relocate obscure content on PagePipe. We suspect WordPress “search” has improved over time.

Summary: The WordPress search is much maligned but it’s probably not justified and the importance of a search function is often overstated.

Quote from that posts comments:

“As the developer of Relevanssi, I have to agree with your premise: for most users, the WP default search is good enough, now that it can sort results by relevancy and not just date (that search was awful, and something that had to be replaced in most cases).

I wrote Relevanssi, because I own two sites that are basically information warehouses. When you have 4000 book reviews, you need a good full-text search. But not every site is like that.” September 30, 2014, 2:33 am – Mikko Saari

To Engineer is Human by Henry Petroski is a book about engineering failures – mainly of buildings and bridge structures and airplanes during the 1980s and before. The main takeaway from the book is still applicable – and maybe even more so today: When technology or ideas are changing rapidly, there is never the opportunity to build a history or library of experience. This increases errors. Experience is what prevents accidents and disasters.

New upgraded versions of WordPress come out multiple times each year. And new plugins are being introduced at a breakneck pace. In 2013, 15,000+ plugins were in the WordPress plugin repository. In 2014, there were 29,000+ plugins in the repository. By 2015, the number was 35,000+. There are now (Sep. 2016) over 46,000+ free plugins in the repository. It’s difficult to stay on top of that rapid rate of change. It’s staggering – an annual growth rate of over 50 percent.

To make a fast decision, it’s plainly easier to select from the Top100 most popular plugins – and consider that good enough. Even this chart with a recent copyright of 2016 is outdated. It wrongly states there are over 35,000 plugins in the repository (it’s over 46,000). And this doesn’t count any of the plugins available on GitHub where authors refused to go through the WordPress red-tape of acceptance.

You can choose any plugin from the TOP100 and from our experience it will be the slowest and most bloated plugin in its class. For example: #1 Akismet: 52M installs, #2 Contact Form 7: 42M installs, #3 Yoast SEO: 33M installs, #5 Jetpack: 28M installs. These are all heavy plugins and either directly or indirectly affect load time. We see these plugins installed on most slow sites.

Jetpack plugin alone weighs almost as much as WordPress in it’s entirety! Jetpack is a 5.4M compressed download. WordPress is 8.2M.

Plugin popularity is rarely an indicator of good value. People assume they must be good. It makes for a faster decision. At one time, they were either the-only-game-in-town or repaired or compensated for WordPress deficiencies that later became solved with new WordPress versions. So even though the need for “repair” was gone or obsolete, the herd kept installing out of habit and myth. It became de-facto standard best practice.

As an example, WP Smush Image Optimization plugin (500,000+ installs) is an extremely popular plugin. But best case, it only reduces JPEG image file sizes by 10%. That’s insignificant for speed improvement. That’s because it uses lossless optimization. To get the real improvement from lossy compression (up to 70% reduction), you have to buy the premium/paid version. But WP Smush still doesn’t address the biggest issue. That is actual image dimensions. It will attempt to “smush” a monstrously-sized camera image – which of course still remains the same huge dimensions and a slow load.

The most preposterous marketing claim made by WP Smush plugin authors is that it will improve your SEO. Ridiculous!

That is why we recommend using Imsanity free plugin instead. It resizes and does lossy compression to whatever values we set. In our case, we set Imsanity to crop uploaded images to a maximum blog column width (750 pixels) and compress to a quality of 70. It doesn’t compress PNG images by default which we don’t care about in our case.

There are many free, good, lossy image optimization plugins but they are less popular with less than 100k installs. People just don’t test. They assume popular must be the best. To the contrary, it usually means they contribute to site drag and slow page speed.


Steve Teare
performance engineer

Mobile WordPress Speed – without coding!

What others think of us:

"Thank you so much for the thorough speed review and fast response. We truly appreciate your honesty and taking the time to direct us in the right direction." Anaheim, CA, USA

by - Charles Equiarta