Plugin myths and WordPress fantasy.

What matters and what doesn’t about plugins in the WordPress world? Frequent questions are often web myths. But don’t worry if you believe, too. The majority of people accept these ideas as truth. False or obsolete ideas regurgitate over and over on blogs without any fact-checking.

We do plugin research and report about it. That is our “thing.”

So here goes a short-course “consumer reports” for WordPress myths:

Q: I don’t see a Child theme set up? Is there one? If not how do we make updates to this theme?”

Child themes are obsolete. This happened when the Customizer was added to WP Core v4.7 released in 2016. The Customizer is where you go to take your site’s Theme to the next level. From this section, you can:

  • change your Site Title and Tagline
  • add Widgets to a Sidebar or Footer
  • create Custom Menus
  • change your Homepage Settings
  • and more.

To prevent any custom CSS from being overwritten, we use Simple CSS plugin in your Customizer. To add features to the functions.php file, we use Code Snippets plugin.

It’s good practice to leave breadcrumbs for future site workers. Plugins are obvious breadcrumbs. Hidden custom code in core and theme files are not obvious.


Child themes create extra requests. So not using one speeds up your site. There is no big harm in using a child theme. But they are old school now.

Q: You recommend installing a lot of plugins. Are these all necessary?

It’s quality – not quantity – that counts for speed.

Q: Some of your recommended plugins are not compatible with the current version of WP (some as old as 4 and 5 years). Here are the ones of concern – are there newer alternatives?

  • Media Files Tools
  • Asset Queue Manager
  • BlueT Favicon
  • Change Table Prefix
  • Peanut Butter Bar
  • Plugin Logic

Compatible? The warning didn’t say “incompatible.” Check again. Most likely it said, “untested.” That’s WordPress verbiage – a bureaucratic arbitrary staleness set by a committee. These plugins still work.

Want to make your site go faster for mobile users? These are the plugins required for that trickery. We use these vintage plugins often on many sites including our own. They’re not broken – and so they aren’t updated. They are esoteric, simple, and fast plugins. Please read the PDF (link below) about this plugin topic of “How old is too old?” and “How many is too many?”

Disclaimer-readme.pdf FREE download

Pepsi and Coke publish “best if used by” expiration dates. It increases product inventory turnover. It’s not mandated by law. The products have a super-long shelf-life. It’s not a safety issue.

Implied expiration is good marketing. It protects the distributor from legal “noise” and improves profits. With plugins, the warning protects WordPress from legal disputes.

Also, we’re pros. We don’t poison sites. We don’t fluff things up to make it look like we did something cool or mysterious.

Q: We were using a plugin to hide the WP login URL. Is that not recommended?

We’re unconventional thinkers. Hiding login is unconventional. So clever. But … not using the conventional login screws with future conventional developers heads. No indicators for changes and repairs. Is the site broken or did they change the login page? There are no fail-safe breadcrumbs for troubleshooting in this situation. We don’t like it. Do what you like. It’s your site after all.

Q: Some plugins need updates – can you take care of this round of updates?

We update existing plugins when we do plugin surgery. Keeping plugins and themes and WP core fresh is best practice. But good hosts – like Pressidium (not an affiliate) – don’t push out updates immediately for you. They wait a couple of days to see if the Internet breaks first. Wise. GoDaddy (no affiliate either) pushes them out immediately. Painful when a big plugin like Yoast SEO with over 5-million installs stubs it’s toe (like in March 2015). It happened before and it’ll happen again.

Even WordPress makes blunders that they can’t fix. Their team broke the “auto-update function” with an update (February 2017). The irony. Google began to sweat that the bug might take down the Internet. They sent unsolicited and unwanted email warnings. Isn’t that called SPAM? Too weird.

So. The best practice is: update plugins when updates happen. If new ones break something, revert to your latest backup. You do frequent backups. Right?

Generally, we prefer hosts who make updates to themes, core, and plugins on autopilot. But not for our own PagePipe site, why? Because we’re posing as plugin experts. We have 70 plugins active at any given time. We want to know about changes so we can tell clients about potential problems.

Problems occur with WordPress and big popular plugins, too. No one is exempt from open-source screw-ups. That’s the price we pay for *FREE* and even paid plugins, etc.

We use our recommended plugins on our sites – and on most client sites.

NOTE: There is no such thing as a risk-free WordPress website.

Cheat speed tests using stripped-down Twenty-seventeen theme.

Slow plugins? It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages.

All plugins recommended are free downloads from directory.

Our first speed trick, of course, is using thematic graphic elements tying fast-loading visuals together. Color usage in branding elements is good speed strategy. Limiting the site palette to just a few colors makes super, fast-to-load GIF or 8-bit PNG graphics.

Second, we use free plugins that help page speed. It’s a myth that using many plugins will slowdown your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add only single-digit millisecond delays. Almost no page weight at all – weightlessness!

Here’s speed plugins we use on Twenty-seventeen theme:

Optimizes your website, concatenating the CSS and JavaScript code, and compressing it.

2Remove Google Fonts References
Disable enqueuing of Twenty-seventeen’s Libre Franklin and Helvetica Neue and other fonts used from Google. Twenty-seventeen then uses browser and system default fonts. This speeds up load time. This plugin is a very lightweight. It has no settings, just activate it and it works immediately. The trade off for typographic branding isn’t worth it. The default or fallback body text is generic and ubiquitous thus perceived as an utility font. The common fall-back fonts in the stack aren’t special except for being fast loading. The family font stack is: “Libre Franklin”, “Helvetica Neue”, helvetica, arial, sans-serif. The font being rendered usually is Helvetica.

3Disable Emojis
This plugin disables the emoji functionality (since WordPress 4.2). WordPress does not need emoji. Emoji functions add 5.6k to 14.7k page weight and 2 or 3 HTTP requests to a site. Waste. Emoji are the 12-pixel-square-grid ideograms, emoticons, or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and web pages.

4Lazy Load for Videos
Speeds up your site by replacing embedded Youtube and Vimeo videos with a clickable preview image. Visitors simply click on the image to play the video. This isn’t needed for the Twenty-seventeen header video. That’s already using deferred loading. But if you have any other video, like we do on our posts, it helps speed things up.

5Far Future Expiration Header
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance. This is a best practice advocated by the Yahoo Extreme Performance Team. It keeps files and images cached longer. There is also a radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition.. The changes are made in your .htaccess file on your server. You don’t have to do any coding. Nice.

  1. Far Future SETTINGS
  2. Set the expiration to 365 days (yes, 1 year).
  3. Select all the file types you are using.
  4. Select Gzip compression.
  5. Save.

6Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
Optimizes the WordPress database after cleaning it out. This flushes the deadwood from the MySQL database that WordPress uses. MySQL is provided by your hosting company.

7Query Strings Remover
Removes query strings from your static resources like CSS and JavaScript files. It will improve your cache performance and overall score in Pingdom and GTmetrix. No configuration needed. It’s only for fanatics.

8Rocket Lazy Load
A tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without using jQuery or others libraries. Lazy load is a method of delaying presentation of non-critical images that are “below the fold.” This technique buys seconds of faster perceived load time. Rocket Lazy Load automates everything.

This tiny script (less than 2k!) displays all images in a post or widget, thumbnails, avatars and emoticons as users scroll down your site. It doesn’t come with any options or customization, just install and activate this plugin and let it do it’s thing.

9WP Super Simple Speed
No configuration needed. Uses GZIP compression, leverages browser caching, includes automatic hot-link protection and more. There is some redundancy with Autoptimize and Far-Futures plugin features. But there is no conflict and it finishes off a few hard to remove speed bumps.


thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?
Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!

6 freebies about PagePipe’s latest mobile speed strategies – and open-source plugin discoveries.


If you enjoy our caustic speed articles, you’ll love our pithy bi-monthly newsletter. Discover what matters most for mobile WordPress page speed. Fast load times require more than just installing a caching plugin – or CDN.

We’ll share with you our latest speed experiments and discoveries. Stay up-to-date with what matters for mobile WordPress page speed.


9 WooCommerce Speed Tips

1. Remove global SSL bloat.

2. Disable AJAX cart fragments.

3. Defeat minimum password strength.

4. Disable Auto-Embed script.

5. Avoid these cache problems.

6. Effective trust signaling.

7. Improve your call to action.

8. Relevant custom product photography.

9. Selective deactivation.

WooCommerce is a slow, lumbering beast. Discover 9 ways you can speed it up today.

Learn more and get your free WooComa download.


Our controversial free report challenges a commonly-held web belief. That’s the falsehood you need an SEO plugin (like Yoast) to succeed online. Discover why SEO plugins won’t save your business and what you can do instead.
And speed up your site!

Learn more and get your free Search.Me download.


PagePipe discusses fallacies and fantasies about low-cost shared hosting. Choosing a web host. Perils and pitfalls to avoid for speed.


PagePipe tells how to setup LiteSpeed Cache plugin.

Click to download free 16-page PDF ebook. No signup required.

Want to read the report recommended by our friendly-competitor, WPJohnny?

The one explaining why to not use webP image format?

Too reluctant to spend your hard-earned cash for our affordable ebook speed bundle?

Then here you go!

Join our mob of web-speed freaks — and you’ll get WEBP.NOT report for free. Yeah. Signup now. Gratis. No obligation to pay or stay.


Speed technology downloads.
With no-nonsense.


WooCommerce hurts mobile speed – here are 9 unusual tips to fix it.

WooCommerce plugin is one of the worst for slowing down pages. Slow sites come across as poor quality. Most of your potential customers are intolerant of pages slower than 2 seconds. They leave.

47 percent of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. An additional delay of one-second results in a 7 percent reduction in conversions.

WooCommerce powers 22 percent of the top e-stores in the world. It’s the most popular shopping cart software – especially if you have a smaller or mid-sized website. Can your WooCommerce website convert first-time visitors? 84 percent of website conversions occur on the first visit.

Smartphones convert at one-third to one-quarter of the rate of traditional desktop or tablet devices. … Roughly 44 percent of mobile users expect a site to load as fast as a desktop experience or faster. – source

Your website’s first impression makes you or breaks you.

The first impression is the only impression that matters. Speed affects your visitor’s impression.

WooCommerce is a clunky plugin. It’s one of the slower loading plugins we’ve tested. It was designed under duress because of fast growth and constant change. That causes plugin code ballooning.

WooCommerce plugin became even more bloated after WordPress acquired the plugin. Adding plugin security features slowed it down, especially adding the password strength meter. Corporate lawyers saw a legal risk and liability. It’s addition protects WordPress – not you or your customer!

PagePipe does not have any affiliation to WooCommerce plugin or
There are no affiliate links in this article.

Speeding up WooCommerce improves your customer’s online shopping transactions while reducing shopping cart abandonment.

Your host server is the most important thing for speeding up WooCommerce. But there are other speed tricks that help compensate for shared-hosting slowness. Yes. You can use WooCommerce on cheap hosting – and still, be fast. But it takes special handling. Here are 9 ways to improve WooCommerce speed.

9 Tips and Tests for
Speeding up WooCommerce websites:

1Remove global 500ms SSL-bloat.

Online payment systems such as PayPal requires SSL/HTTPS hosting to work. That slows down your site on every page and post. It’s not cache-able overhead. SSL is not about compliance with Google mandates, security, customer trust, or SEO fiddling. It’s necessary to get paid and deliver products. SSL is the equivalent of adding 500 discrete free plugins to your site. Think about that.

Our goal is achieving Google’s browser security shield on WooCommerce transaction pages only. Then all remaining pages and posts will load 400 to 500 milliseconds faster. This is most important for mobile e-commerce user experience. We aren’t concerned about hardening security.

SSL mythology created a faddish consumer and site owner panic. SSL is false safety. There are SSL workarounds for nefarious purposes by hackers. There’s no stopping a determined and deliberate hacker attack. Minimal SSL compliance is a marketing communication strategy. You only need SSL on pages with WooCommerce functions.

Our favorite alternative is splitting the site. PagePipe’s main domain is running with no SSL/HTTPS site drag. The store is on a different domain with free SSL/HTTPS activated. This is most beneficial if you’re doing content marketing. Keep those entry pages fast! Once visitors engage with fast-loading posts, they tolerate slower loads on store pages.


2No selective deactivation possible.

[pullquote]The White Screen of Death (WSoD) or simply “White Death” refers to an error or issue with an operating system that causes the computer or device to stop working and display only a white screen. [/pullquote]

WooCommerce plugin cannot be selectively deactivated. That will white screen the site. Selective deactivation of plugins is a beautiful speed strategy. We can’t use it with this plugin. Sadness.

Nor can any associated WooCommerce add-on plugin be selectively deactivated. It will break all e-commerce pages. For example, these plugins will break the shopping cart if any of them is deactivated anywhere:

  • Woo Discount Rules

  • Aero: Custom WooCommerce Checkout Pages

  • WooCommerce Square

  • WooCommerce – ShipStation Integration


The WC Speed Drain Repair plugin successfully dequeues 4 requests. But the measurable speed difference is negligible. In theory, it speeds up all other site pages that are NOT Woo related.

3Disabling AJAX cart fragments for speed.

AJAX JavaScript requests delay pages by 500 to 1000 milliseconds on all pages and posts. That’s a long wait. This is because it is not localized loading from your server. Ajax is called from a remote server. Normally, Ajax requests are made many times on an e-commerce page as the cart is updated or verified by repeated code interrogation. A watchdog for changes causes delays.

Ajax coded poorly can be worse than not using Ajax at all. We think WooCommerce needs to be modified to get rid of this inherent speed problem. So how do you do fix that? Keep reading.

[pullquote]The Disable Cart Fragments by Littlebizzy plugin closed in December 2018. It’s no longer available for download from the WordPress plugin directory. Reason: Author Request.[/pullquote]

Why would the author remove a plugin from the directory? Our guess is it required too much service time. Yep. Pain in the butt to maintain and service. It needed explaining how selective activation worked. Most site owners couldn’t figure it out. The plugin then became a liability to the author. It was consuming his time with no payback. It’s a plugin tool for experts. In the hands of a novice, it’s a site killer. You can’t activate this plugin and walk away. It requires thinking.

The Disable Cart Fragments plugin is helpful to deactivate global Ajax loading. Selectively activate it on cart and checkout pages and any other WooCommerce-related pages. This requires expert usage of Plugin Logic plugin. This technique completely disables the AJAX cart fragments feature in WooCommerce. This boosts loading speed (redirect to cart page recommended). Plugin Logic is our secret speed enhancer.

Bootleg-copy plugin still available from PagePipe:
14k download zip file

We’re supplying the “black market.” Use the plugin at your own risk. We use this plugin all the time. But if you don’t understand the plugin – or selective activation, avoid it. We don’t service this plugin.

AJAX cart fragments update shopping cart totals without refreshing the whole page.

This non-feature slows down WooCommerce stores. You can remove the feature with Disable Cart Fragments plugin. Remember to enable the “redirect to cart” option in WooCommerce settings.

The admin-ajax loading improved with recent versions of WooCommerce. Still ?wc-ajax=get_refreshed_fragments AJAX causes delays on most sites. Disabling shopping cart queries (i.e. # items in cart) helps.

ALERT: If you use this plugin, disable it on special WooCommerce pages or make sure you enable the “redirect to cart” option in WooCommerce’s settings. Then when a customer adds a product to their cart, they’re redirected to the cart page. Otherwise, they may get confused about why their chosen product isn’t added to the cart.

Disable Cart Fragments by Optimocha


This plugin has come to our attention. A plug-and-play (no settings!) plugin unlike the LittleBizzy plugin — which requires selective activation.

“You keep using the caching plugin and you still get to update the cart totals when the cart is not empty. This check is made via WooCommerce cart cookies, so it still employs JavaScript but doesn’t rely on slow AJAX requests. The check is made instantly, whether you’re using a caching plugin or not.”


4Change WooCommerce minimum password strength for creating a user account.

We disable WooCommerce’s “password strength” settings for 2 reasons:

1. UX: User frustration increases Woo cart abandonment. The annoyance of creating secure-enough passwords is too difficult.

2. PERFORMANCE: Password-strength-meter adds 803k page weight and 776 milliseconds to page load time. That’s 3/4 of a second. Terrible.

WooCommerce added the “password strength meter” using Javascript. It adds almost 800k of page weight to the cart and checkout pages. While this is atrocious for mobile data, the worst part is that store owners saw increased abandonment of carts at checkout. People got frustrated trying to invent strong enough passwords. Bad user experience. Fewer sales.

Independent plugins were then created to dumb down the “password strength.” But nothing to remove or dequeue the Javascript completely. There is a way to remove it using a functions.php edit. The best way to add this code is with:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Code Snippets
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

Code Snippets is a way to run small pieces of PHP code on your site. It removes the need to add custom snippets to your theme’s functions.php file.

The snippets are kept in the plugin database. Thus independent of the theme and unaffected by WordPress upgrades.


// Add this PHP snippet to your themes functions.php
function wc_ninja_remove_password_strength() {
if ( wp_script_is( 'wc-password-strength-meter', 'enqueued' ) ) {
wp_dequeue_script( 'wc-password-strength-meter' );

add_action( 'wp_print_scripts', 'wc_ninja_remove_password_strength', 100 );

add_filter('woocommerce_ajax_get_endpoint', 'rsssl_redirect_ajax');

function rsssl_redirect_ajax($url){

$url = str_replace( 'http://', 'https://', $url );

return $url;

Code Snippets plugin dashboard example.

Disable strong passwords at your own discretion.




Password strength a nightmare.

“I started receiving emails from “would be’ customers saying they could not register using WooCommerce on my site.

On inspection, the password strength meter required people to create complex passwords. But it wasn’t giving users the details on what the requirements were:  1 uppercase, 1 lower case, 1 special character, etc. The passwords needed to be well over 10 characters.

New customers got frustrated and gave up trying to check out. I understand security is important – but the password strength is just ridiculous and drives customers a way.” – Testimonial

5Should I disable Auto Embed Script for WordPress if I’m using WooCommerce?

You shouldn’t disable it. We usually kill WordPress oEmbed on many sites. But with WooCommerce, disabling is a detriment. Not worth the grief.


6Caching problems to avoid.

Make sure you exclude these pages from the cache:

  • Cart

  • My Account

  • Checkout

These pages should remain dynamic. They display information specific to the current customer. Keep these pages as light as possible by avoiding unnecessary web assets.

Use selective plugin activation. Disable your caching plugin on the cart, my account, and checkout pages.

7Trust badges increase cart conversion rate.

Trust symbols matter.

Customers abandon your site during checkout if they don’t feel the information is secure. It’s easy to put them at ease by adding a few trust symbols throughout your site. This includes:

  • Clear contact information (phone and email) in the header and footer.

  • Extended contact information like a physical address on a “contact us” page.

  • SSL/security certificate badges.

  • Secure checkout badges, like PayPal and These won’t slow down you site if you optimize them properly.

  • Authentic testimonials.

  • Logos for vendor partners and affiliates.

So what do trust symbols have to do with speed? Optimize those images. Keep them light. Use 8-bit PNG format whenever possible. Keep them small in dimensions and weight. Don’t use interactive badges with third-party counters. Don’t activate Font Awesome if you can avoid it.


8Improve your Call to Action.

Make sure any “add to cart” or other call-to-action button is prominent. It should stand out from the page. Use a color scheme different from the content around it to create a strong contrast. We suggest a complementary color. This creates high perceived contrast to your most dominant theme color.

Use action verbs focusing on the user taking action.

For speed: Try to not use plugins that create buttons with shortcodes. Either make 8-bit PNG image buttons or other coding methods. This avoids extra page weight and requests.


9Relevant custom product photography.

For speed: Make photographs compressed JPEG images. Not PNG.

  • Avoid rotating header carousels. Time and time again, studies show that rotating carousels — especially self-launching ones — are conversion killers.

  • Display images consistently. While images themselves can be creative, displaying them consistently makes web pages predictable and therefore comfortable to users. The top of the page and the top right area of the page are always good spots for images.



Lazy load videos for 500 milliseconds per video improvement on a page.

Compress video with online or offline MP4 compressors.  Host your video on YouTube and use a lazy load plugin for speed.


Speeding Up the WordPress Twenty-sixteen Theme

It’s a myth that using many plugins will slowdown your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add no page weight at all – weightlessness!

Better WordPress Minify
Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors. Not all minifier plugins work – in fact – they frequently break your site. This plugin really works. It combines (concatenates) all possible files to reduce the number of HTTP requests and removes code “white space” and comments. In our case, that was the combination of several calls. All the little things add up.

Cache Buddy
Minimizes the situations in which logged-in users appear logged-in to WordPress, which increases the cacheability of your site. Improves page load time.

Remove Google Fonts References
Disable enqueuing of fonts used by WordPress from Google. This speeds up load time. Note: Open Sans is rarely a speed problem because it is cached on so many browsers. But other Google Fonts can drag a site down by a second in speed.

Google fonts can add up to one second to your page load time. For example: requesting Noto Sans and Noto Serif from the Google cloud was adding about 1 to 2 seconds to PagePipe’s website load time. The trade off for branding wasn’t worth it.

Get rid of calling Google Fonts from their remote server and load local websafe fonts instead. We confess Google fonts have more class but there’s nothing wrong with using “Georgia” and “Helvetica Neue” – the fall back fonts in the theme stack. We used “Disable Google Fonts” plugin first. But it failed to remove all offending instances. We then installed “Remove Google Fonts References” plugin instead. It worked great. All font calls were removed.

Remove Google Fonts References is very lightweight. It has no settings, just activate it and it works immediately.

Disable Emojis
This plugin disables the new emoji functionality in WordPress 4.2. WP does not need emoji. Probably, the worst decision ever by WordPress Core is enabling emojis by default, and providing no way to disable them. WordPress core developers should have a disable setting instead of us installing another removal plugin. Emoji functions add 5.6k to 14.7k page weight and 2 or 3 HTTP requests to a site. Waste.

Emoji are the 12-pixel-square-grid ideograms, emoticons, or smileys used in Japanese electronic messages and Web pages, the use of which is spreading outside Japan. Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji literally means “picture” + “character”.

Beyond the standard emoticon-type “smileys”, there are hundreds of emoji, ranging from plants and animals to people, objects, vehicles, food, the Sun and Moon, and more.

Far Future Expiration Header
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance. This is a best practice advocated by the Yahoo Extreme Performance Team. It keeps files and images cached longer. There is also a radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition.

Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
Optimizes the WordPress database after cleaning it out. This flushes the deadwood from the MySQL database that WordPress uses. MySQL is provided by your hosting company.

Rocket Lazy Load
A tiny Lazy Load script for WordPress without using jQuery or others libraries. Lazy load is a method of delaying loading non-critical images that are “below the fold.” This technique buys about 1 to 2 seconds of faster perceived load time. Rocket Lazy Load automates everything.

This tiny script (less than 2k!) displays all images in a post or widget, thumbnails, avatars and emoticons as users scroll down your site. It doesn’t come with any options or customizations, just install and activate this plugin and let it do it’s thing.

ShortPixel Image Optimiser
ShortPixel is an image compression tool that helps improve our website performance. The plugin optimises images automatically using either lossy or lossless compression. Resulting, smaller, images are no different in visual quality from the original. The plugin can do this as images are loaded or can retrofit your image library. Retrofits can take about 20 minutes of computer time. So go make a sandwich. The savings results are shown in your media library for each image.

Visitor Mailer
Receive an email update of the number of visitors to your site. We hate using Google Analytics because it’s slow. It requires calls and wait time and adds page weight. We only need reassurance that people are coming to our site. We may get more sophisticated someday and start measuring bounce rate and clickthru. But not yet. We aren’t selling pet supplies or trendy clothes.

WP jQuery Plus
Loads jQuery from Google and is nicely compressed and minified. Plus there’s a failsafe. If it doesn’t respond, it just loads the onboard WordPress version. jQuery is usually one of the biggest chunks of code in WordPress. It needs special attention. Loading WordPress javascript files from Google’s Libraries rather than serving directly from your WordPress install, will – in theory – reduce latency, increase parallelism, and improve caching.

Is removing the default version of jQuery in WordPress irresponsible? No. The fastest jQuery is the one you never have to load.

WP Super Cache
Caching plugin for WordPress. We find this plugin doesn’t always help with speed. But in this case, it did. So we used it. The benefit at best case was 500 milliseconds gain. We’ll take it.

All plugins listed are free downloads from

We frequently remove Genericons by WordPress. They are baked into the WordPress theme installation in the functions.php file. We removed all “genericons” words from the file. This reduced page weight by an additional 75k. It eliminated two [tipso tip=”Whenever your web browser fetches a file – a page, a picture, etc – from a web server, it does so using HTTP – that’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol.”]HTTP calls[/tipso] and bought us another second of reduced load time.

Comment out Genericons in function.php.

Genricons are a special font symbol. They aren’t really used by this theme. Genericons are a bloated bane we have written about before. Commenting out a single line of code in the functions.php file is the solution. Find the file using the Editor. Use the symbols /** in front and **/ on the other end of the single line that has the three words “genericons” in it. That gets rid of almost 40k of deadwood page weight.

Turnoff the silly default avatar.

Twentysixteen theme comes with the avatar switched on and all it calls is the gray silhouette image of a human form. That adds 1 second to the page load time. When your target performance budget is under 2 second load time, one second wastes half the budget. The solution is simple: Deselect (off) Avatar in Dashboard > Settings > Discussion. Done deal. No plugin or code rewriting necessary.



thumbnail of THEME-ME-10-v1.compressed
THEME.ME: What is the fastest free theme? There are 5,100 free themes in the WordPress theme directory. Of those, only 1,602 are responsive. All the rest are fixed-width junk. How did we sort the remaining 1,602 free responsive themes to find the fastest loading?


Twenty-seventeen Default Theme Tips Read our torture-test results of this popular free theme. Don’t get locked in for recurring *annual renewal* theme memberships. Save your money. The Twenty-seventeen Torture-tested Themes ebook contains honest and common-sense reporting and tips about mobile WordPress speed!

Related Post plugins: the best strategy for mobile speed.

Related-posts plugins are a functional category. And there are a bunch – 38 plugins at the time of this writing. Perhaps more before you finish reading this post!

Suggested related content improves the user experience. Plus improves your bounce rate, page views, and time-on-website statistics, too. Selected “related posts” vary from an automatic, complicated algorithm to mere identical WordPress categories.

The factor determining if a reader will come back to your site is whether they read more than one post. If they do, they are likely to return. If they don’t, they won’t. How much does “related posts” increase internal traffic: a mere 10 percent. We’ll take it.

The most popular plugin is Yet-Another-Related-Posts plugin or YARPP. But is it the fastest? This plugin is a bit complicated. We don’t appreciate having to watch a video to understand a plugin. But sometimes it’s necessary.

WordPress hosting providers block or blacklist YARPP (like GoDaddy and WPEngine). “Heavy database usage” or database search incompatibility is their reason. This may be true. Web hosts claim related posts plugins overuse your database. They propose it’ll crash your site if you get a lot of traffic. We doubt it. Theoretical bluster as an excuse to protect the host – not you.

The next most popular related-post plugin is JetPack. We don’t even include it on this list. Because it’s a Swiss-army-knife, multi-function plugin.

Plugin popularity varies depending upon what review you’re reading. We have specific speed goals in mind first.

38 free related-posts plugin candidates from the WordPress Plugin Directory

We immediately eliminated any plugins with floating popups, API keys, animation, and grid formats. Also, we wanted automatic selection features and not a manual selection of related posts. Thirteen plugins claim speed benefits. 8 had shortcode functions and 4 said they were responsive.

This left three categories: widgets, end of post, and both places. We wanted a text-based plugin for a sidebar widget. And a responsive one with end-of-post thumbnails using featured images. Some plugins actually made speed claims as a differentiation. We also looked at creation dates. (We find this in the file release notes.)

We considered the number of installs and when the plugin was last updated. We used unzipped file size to rank all 38 of the download plugins.

The oldest 2 released in 2012. Two more in 2013. Eight in 2014. Ten in 2015. And 16 in 2016. An upward trend.

Top 7 most-installed and their weight:

  1. yet-another-related-posts-plugin: 2M, 300,000+ installs
  2. wordpress-23-related-posts-plugin: 2.5M, 100,000+ installs
  3. contextual-related-posts: 1.2M, 60,000+ installs
  4. related-posts: 1.5M, 40,000+ installs
  5. related-posts-thumbnails: 219k, 30,000+ installs
  6. related-posts-by-zemanta: 1.4M, 20,000+ installs
  7. yuzo-related-post: 5.6M, 20,000+ installs

Notice how popular plugins are the heaviest – in the megabyte range. Typical. The rest were between 44k to 500k weights.


WordPress Related Posts plugin
100,000+ active installs.
unzipped: 2.5M !!! Incredibly heavy.

This plugin has been retired because of a security issue in 2021.

WordPress Related Posts plugin inserts related posts after your content. It’s lightweight because it has few “activated” features. It supports different styles, thumbnails, caching, and other customization options. Why it weighs 2.5M? Well, 1.5M of the files are styling options that once selected aren’t used. They are static or inert. Not active.

It’s a simple yet fast plugin. It doesn’t damage your site and adds related posts at the end of your content. We aren’t looking for advanced features. WordPress Related Posts plugin – amazingly – won’t slow down a site. Excellent performance.

Like many plugins, it loads globally. This adds 203 milliseconds site drag for every page and post. Our home page is a post directory with no related posts links shown. So we disabled the plugin on that URL with Plugin Logic plugin. The related-posts plugin only works on posts. Not pages. But we’re most concerned about optimizing the Home page (post directory) for now. We’ll catch the rest when we’re bored.

The plugin authors encourage using a feature called “linking out” to other blogs. We don’t recommend it. We’re suspicious. It slows things down or takes traffic elsewhere. We don’t need it. They claim it grows community and traffic. Self-promotional hype.


Pro Related Post Widget plugin
unzipped 28k
100+ active installs

This plugin adds undetectable page weight and no HTTP requests. No site drag. The plugin author no longer supports the plugin – but it works great. It only has 200 installs and no updates for over 1 year. We can live with that. P3 Performance Profiler plugin testing says the widget adds 4 millisecond load time. Invisible in speed tests.

The plugin above stopped working with PHP 7 update. We now recommend instead:

Similar Posts plugin
zipped 70k
20,000+ active installs

Settings in Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets > Sidebar

We made this plugin choice by testing lightest weight plugins first (all introduced in 2016!) and worked our way up the list. The first 5 broke the site – or didn’t work. We finally came to #6 Pro Related Post Widget. It worked great. No need to look further.


plugin name,unzip,,thumbs,speed,creation,installs
addthis-related-posts,2800,float popup,y,y,07/05/16,300
contextly-related-links,3500,API key,,y,08/13/15,1000
related-posts-list-grid-and-slider-all-in-one,5200,grid or list,y,,08/08/15,1000


A blog is nothing without great content. You can spend all the time you like configuring social media, adding advertising, and sharing your content. But if that content isn’t great, you won’t get an audience. Author: Rachel McCollin

If you’re using the fast-loading GeneratePress theme, check out this related posts plugin here.

Ajax slows down WordPress Popular Posts plugin and many others.

This request – admin-ajax.php – can cause a 436-millisecond parallel delay. Many try to eliminate the delay. It’s a popular topic on blogs. “How do I get rid of – or speed up – the Ajax request?”

The WordPress Heartbeat API allows WordPress 3.6 and all newer version to:

  • communicate between the web browser and the server

  • improve user session management

  • revision tracking

  • auto-saving

The WordPress Heartbeat API uses /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php to run AJAX requests from the web-browser. Which in theory sounds awesome, as WordPress can keep track of what’s going on in the dashboard.

However this can also start sending excessive requests to admin-ajax.php and leads to high CPU usage. Anytime you leave a web-browser open on a page the Heartbeat API could be an issue.

Are you having an excessive amount of admin-ajax.php requests? You can disable the WordPress Heartbeat API to prevent this from happening.

Change the WordPress heartbeat API behavior. To use fewer server resources, try one of these plugins:


A “waterfall” speed test often indicates the heaviest asset on pages is jQuery Ajax.

Ajax adds:

  • 2 requests

  • 39k page weight

  • 200 milliseconds load time

But you can get a double load of another 33k from Google CDN. So WordPress core and a plugin may request different versions of Ajax. This is inefficient but not critical.

Ajax is a heavy web asset. AJAX is an acronym short for “Asynchronous JavaScript And XML”. It’s a library of backend code. It allows websites to load content onto the screen without refreshing the entire page (dynamic content). It isn’t needed by core – nor a theme. So activation is usually a plugin or script.

From online references, Ajax activation happens with add-on services. For example, ConvertKit tracks form submissions. We see it  activated on WooCommerce sites with dynamic Cart Fragments. And the WordPress Popular Posts plugin.

“Starting version 4.2.0, WordPress Popular Posts can cache views data in-memory (Redis, Memcached, etcetera) and batch update the views count of your posts and pages when more than 180 seconds have passed since the last batch update, which greatly reduces the number of database writes. This of course also means better overall performance.”


WordPress Popular Post plugin adds 400 milliseconds to global page loading (Boo!) and only 4k to page weight.

Ajax is often used by WordPress developers to create dynamic and interactive plugins and themes. Some popular examples include adding features such as live search, product filters, infinite scroll, dynamic shopping cart, and chat box. Just because a plugin uses Ajax doesn’t mean that it’ll slow down your site.

How to Diagnose High Admin-Ajax Usage on Your WordPress Site

There is no easy fix today when it comes to reducing Ajax page weight. Maybe in the future?

When is a plugin too old to trust?

Today, PagePipe uses 63 plugins. About 30 not updated for over 1 year. Some for many years. We’re not embarrassed about that. It’s not a mistake.

Plugins listed in our ebooks are currently used on PagePipe. And also on client sites – except for Guerilla sticky bar plugin. The plugin author removed it from the directory in recent times. Why? Because he became bored with it.

So the question is “Outdated? By what definition?”

What does outdated mean? Some think a warning like:

“This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.”

Being orphaned or abandoned doesn’t mean “bad or rotten.”

These lonely plugins still work. And often for over a decade without complaints. That isn’t brokenness.


But also in the article, we explain:

“Does 8 months since an update concern us? Not in the least. There are plugins that are 8-years old in the directory that work fine. Those “best if used by” freshness dates are silly. They throw people off with their arbitrary “expiration-date” warnings.”

WordPress places warnings when a plugin isn’t tested with recent versions. Does that mean it won’t work any more with new versions of WordPress? Nope.

WordPress’ motive is covering their legal behinds against liability and lawsuits. If a plugin didn’t work any more or presented security hazards, it’s removed fast. And some are. In particular, malicious plugins. They call those “take downs.” Plugin authors remove some because they didn’t get the market results they wanted. But generally plugins stay as long as there isn’t any noise about them. Retired or dead author’s plugins stay in the WordPress free directory.

No plugin is safe. Not paid (premium) plugins. Not obsolete plugins. And not recently updated plugins. A common plugin problem is automatic updates loading onto managed WordPress sites. Bugs in the new version mangle the site or causes conflicts.

It happens.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free plugin or theme. Even reckless WordPress messes up with their own Automattic-authored plugins.

[pullquote]We use Peanut Butter Bar plugin on various sites in place of the now-absent Guerrilla sticky bar.[/pullquote]

We use “Remove Google Fonts References” plugin on PagePipe instead of “Remove Google fonts” plugin. Both work without problems. Both are several years old and work fine.

Good-old “Plugin Logic” is our secret, speed-weapon plugin. It’s used on every site we touch. SELECT.ME issue #11 talks about it. It’s an amazing plugin.

Want to keep a specific plugin from updating? We recommend “Block Specific Plugin Updates” plugin. There are times this is handy.

A plugin we use to track plugin age is “More Plugin Info” plugin

There’s plugin churning in the 55,000+ plugin database. Don’t let silly warnings discourage you. They aren’t for your protection. They’re protecting WordPress.

Don’t fear old plugins.

Use faster-and-simpler Koko Analytics for speed — instead of slow-and-complicated Google Analytics?

“If you care more about user experience than data mining, use the Koko Analytics plugin.”

We don’t want more gobbledygook big data. We want fewer data. We only want the metrics we need. Not what Google thinks is cool. We’re sold on the Koko Analytics plugin. It’s got just the right stuff. Not too much noise and buttons like Google Analytics. And not too little like a visitor-counter plugin. And not too complicated like AwStat c-panel tool.

Words of praise for the Koko Analytics plugin:

  • Faster.
  • More respectful of privacy.
  • Perfect Google Analytics alternative.
  • Pleasantly to the point and visible straight away.
  • GDPR compliant.
  • Works out of the box.
  • Beautiful design and minimalist analytics plugin.
  • No need to sign up or send data to a third party.
  • Easy to use self-hosted analytics plugin.

Go ahead. Google-search the phrase “Google Analytics Sucks.

How many hits?
4.6 million.

Remember Google told you that number.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Koko Analytics

1.3M zip download file size
53 to 60 millisecond load time

Is 60-milliseconds acceptable? Well, let’s compare it to Google Analytics: up to 500 milliseconds!

Koko Analytics is a privacy-friendly analytics plugin for WordPress. It does not use any external services. Data about your visitors is never shared with any third-party company.

Koko dashboard statistics.

No visitor-specific data is collected. Site visitors can opt out of tracking by enabling “Do Not Track” in their browser settings.

Stop sharing with data thieves making money off your visitor’s data. Stop slowing down your website. Koko Analytics lets you focus on what is important. It gives you the essential metrics while respecting privacy.

Koko dashboard widget.
Plug and play
After installing and activating the plugin, stats will automatically be collected.

No personal information or anything visitor-specific is tracked.

Compliant by design with European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Data ownership
No external services are used. Data about visits to your website is yours and yours alone.

Handles sudden bursts of traffic without breaking a sweat.

All the essentials: visitors, pageviews, and referrers.

There is an option to not use any cookies.

Referrer spam
Built-in blacklist to filter out referrer spam.

Fully compatible with pages served from any cache.
Koko settings page.

Does the Koko Analytics plugin respect my visitor’s privacy?

It records nothing that could lead back to the visitor. If the visitor has “Do Not Track” enabled in their browser settings, the visitor won’t be tracked at all.

Does this use any external services?

No, the data never leaves your website. That’s (part of) what makes Koko Analytics such a great choice if you value true privacy.

Does this set any cookies?
By default, yes. But you can disable this in the plugin’s settings. Without cookies, the plugin still detects unique pageviews, but not returning visitors.

Will this slow down my website?
No, the plugin is built in such a way that it never slows down your website for your visitors. If there is any heavy lifting to be done, it is done in a background process.

The plugin doesn’t depend on any external services. It’s much faster than third-party analytics tools.

What is the definition of a “pageview”?
A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site. If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an extra pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.

What is the definition of a “visitor”?
A visitor represents the number of sessions during which your website or a specific page was viewed one or more times.

Koko makes an Ajax request to send the statistics to your server. This call can’t be cached. If it was served from cache, that visit wouldn’t be counted. It uses little server resources. The admin-ajax calls are a fallback. The Ajax call is not about updating the totals. It’s the actual counting of the visit itself. It does so on each page view.

There will always be a call to the Koko script to collect analytics one way or another on each pageload.

Koko writes statistics to that file and then collects them later in the background. Koko will automatically use the best/fastest way available for your site setup.

Koko Analytics performs an HTTP request to /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php for each pageview. It stores the information from that pageview in a file in your uploads directory.

There is no avoiding this request, but there is a way to speed up the resource cost. For standard WordPress installations, your WordPress root directory is writable. Then Koko Analytics switches to this optimized endpoint automatically. There is no need for you to do anything.

Tracking requests cached by the host, add a cache-busting query parameter to the tracking URL.

Koko Waterfall test
Exhibit A

Two requests from Koko. One is lazy loaded.

Google Analytics Waterfall test
Exhibit B

Google Analytics – nothing is lazy loaded and load time is pushed out 400 milliseconds.

The last two screengrabs tell the true story. Look at the vertical blue line. Google Analytics is 400 milliseconds slower than Koko on this simple test site. Even with a slight server TTFB advantage on the Google Analytics test.

Both tests were done on the same page and server using

BONUS Feature – you can add a section to your posts showing related posts. Like this:

The Koko plugin can create a popular post widget. Bonus. This extra feature doesn’t add page weight like most popular post plugins. Sweet. We use this with the That allows us to place widgets in pages with a shortcode.

Google reCaptcha adds half-second global site drag.

Why does Google repeatedly mess up web speed? We don’t know. The harder they try – the worse it gets. Here’s another unrecognized offense against mobile speed.

What’s the cost of placing Google’s “NoCaptcha reCaptcha” on your precious website? Most site owners don’t realize the heavy speed impact of adding this Google-sponsored freebie. It’s speed-destroying bad news. NoCaptcha reCaptcha negates your hard work tweaking away milliseconds.

So what is NoCaptcha reCaptcha – and how did it get such a goofy name? This is what it looks like today (see image below). We’re sure you’ve seen it before. It appears on many sites – big and small. All you need to use it is signing up for a Google API.

NoCaptcha reCaptcha is an automated robot sniffer. It’s supposed to be intelligent. It monitors the user-approach path toward the button. Its original form was a sort-of-simple reCaptcha to catch spambots.

“A significant number of your users can now attest they are human without having to solve a CAPTCHA. Instead with just a single click, they’ll confirm they are not a robot. We’re calling it the No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA experience.” – Google

API means “application programming interface.” It’s a set of protocols and tools for building application software. APIs are always several calls or requests to remote servers. This takes time and causes delays. The scripts used aren’t cached as part of your website. There’s no escaping the speed burden APIs cause. Does Google gather site data from its APIs and fonts? Of course. Why do you think it’s free?

Above is the old-style reCaptcha. You had to read either numbers or letters from a photograph – or fuzzy squiggly words. Then enter those into a field. This annoyed people for obvious reasons. Can you read those dim numbers? Squint!

reCAPTCHA was acquired by Google in September 2009. It historically was difficult. Google used warped pictures that were hard for bots and humans to fill out. Blurred, jiggled, or fuzzy backgrounds were an ugly mess. Now it’s condensed into a Javascript widget (API), known as the new noCAPTCHA reCAPTCHA. No more letters and numbers that are hard to read, simply click the widget to proceed. Sounds great.

Does it always work flawlessly? Nope. We attest to that from personal experience. If you fail the human test, it presents pictures to recognize. These include things such as “click on all the road signs” or “click on all the storefronts.” It can present never-ending pictures – even if you’re careful. Usability nightmare.

Google introduced reCAPTCHA v3 in November 2018, which promises a new “frictionless user experience.” Earlier versions of the API stopped bots but also drew the ire of internet users across the globe. Users were regularly inconvenienced with distorted text challenges, street sign puzzles, click requirements, and other actions to prove their humanity. Annoying!

The WordPress Plugin Directory has dozens of standalone plugins and contact forms that make use of reCAPTCHA in some way. Sites that are already set up to use v2 or the Invisible CAPTCHA, will not automatically update to use v3. There’s a different signup and implementation process that the site owner has to perform before having it integrated on the site.

Before reCaptcha existed, “captcha” was used on comments, forms, and logins. Preventing and blocking spammers and hackers was the goal. A captcha was real simple. It had no API. It usually asked you to answer a question, describe a picture, or solve a math challenge.

Here’s a typical math-challenge example:

OK. We’re joking.

A math challenge was something more like: “What is 1 + 1?” Or a text challenge might ask, “What color is the sky?” But some people answer azure or cyan – instead of blue. Does simple captcha still work? Yes. Do they add to page weight? No. Do they thwart SPAMbots? Yes. So why use a slow, heavier, sophisticated noCaptcha reCaptcha? Is Google spying on your site? We don’t know. It makes no sense whatsoever. So you’ll feel faddish and hip?

Captcha and reCaptcha are used to protect comment forms, login forms, register forms, rest password forms, and block spam comments.

There are over 50 captcha and recaptcha plugins in the free WordPress plugin directory. We downloaded them all to check them over. We aren’t making any recommendations. Why? Because captcha or reCaptcha – and especially noCaptcha reCaptcha – aren’t necessary in the least. Other plugins can take care of security and SPAM blocking without UX hassle for you or users.

So how bad is the noCaptcha reCaptcha speed damage? From our limited tests, here are the results:

Google NoCaptcha reCaptcha adds 350 to 550 milliseconds globally to your website.

When we say, globally we mean site drag. That is where a plugin or script slows down every single page and post of your website. Not only the page where a shortcode or appearance is located. Everywhere.

How many HTTP requests or calls are added? Between 11 and 20. It depends on variables. It’s not always the same. Again, don’t ask us why. It’s a Google thing.

The real kicker is sometimes server connections don’t happen smoothly. Then load times are unpredictable. Users complain of delays of up to 30 seconds. That’s correct. Not 30 milliseconds. Seconds!

We just don’t think noCaptcha reCaptcha is worth it – especially for mobile devices.


“Embedding any CAPTCHA service essentially forces your users to accept the CAPTCHA provider’s privacy policy before they can use your application. The CAPTCHA provider doesn’t need to disclose how information is gathered by the service or how it is used.” – offsite source:


“One of the most popular alternatives to the dreaded CAPTCHAs is the Honeypot technique. … Sure, this technology is not perfect, but it is a smart way to enhance your submission form UX and pleasantly surprise your users with no need to fill in those annoying CAPTCHAs anymore while staying safe from bots.” – offsite source:

“CAPTCHA has a huge effect on UX. A number of sites have experimented with this, and most have reported an increase in conversions of 3 – 33 percent when removing CAPTCHA.” – offsite source:

“Honeypots are extra bits of code used to catch bots without users knowing that they exist. The most common example of this is the hidden form field. … Bots, however, will still recognize the field as legitimate and fill it out. If the field is filled out, the form is automatically rejected. The benefit of the hidden form field is that it doesn’t impact the user experience.” – offsite source:

“Embedding any CAPTCHA service essentially forces your users to accept the CAPTCHA provider’s privacy policy before they can use your application. The CAPTCHA provider doesn’t need to disclose how information is gathered by the service or how it is used.”

“Web developer Casey Henry discovered that CAPTCHAs were driving down the conversion rate of visitors to registered users by 3.2 percent in the 50 sites he manages. After he disabled the CAPTCHAs, there was a 4.2 percent increase in automated registrations, but he got the 3.2 percent of real users back. He decided that it made more sense just to build tools to sort out the spam rather than keep the CAPTCHAs. Video slideshow creator Animoto made a similar decision after it saw its conversion rate go up by a third when it eliminated CAPTCHAs.”

“The simplest solution is a honeypot. It’s an extra field with information you don’t need, but automated processes will dutifully fill it in anyway. Hide it from normal users via the CSS property visibility:hidden and reject any submissions that fill in this field. They are obviously from a bot.” – offsite source:

“The Honeypot method tries to completely do away with interrupting the user workflow, something all other CAPTCHAs unfortunately do. The Honeypot method screens out bots by fooling them into auto-filling forms. These hidden-field forms are invisible to human users, so there is little risk of confusion. Problems arise with browsers that auto-fill without prompting the user (lookin’ at you, Safari), and for advanced bots that circumvent this.” – offsite source:

“The first thing you should consider is to just not have a captcha.”

“Developers, web designers, user experience professionals.
You’re smart, creative, empathetic people.
Google “captcha alternatives”. Start questioning them.
You can do better than a captcha.”

“Everyone struggle with captchas, not just people with disabilities. Many have conducted A/B tests and shown how they hurt conversion rates.” – offsite source:

Webnographer conducted an online usability test where only 62 percent of users completed Captcha on their first try. 23 percent gamely struggled through multiple attempts before succeeding, but 15 percent gave up entirely.

Speeding up aggregator WordPress websites.

Aggregator websites getting 1 to 2 million visitors per month is pretty nice – and profitable!

Many agregator sites are somewhat “responsive” for mobile – but frequently don’t have good UX on small screens like an iPhone. It’s very cluttered and confusing. Aggregator sites have about a 70 percent bounce rate typically. Top aggregator sites are getting as low as 25 precent bounce rates with 2 million monthly visits.

Strategic monetization attempts forcing users to look at ads. It’s bad UX – but perhaps it pays out for your company. User’s generally have a low tolerance of anything that gets in the way of content. Perceived obstacles are bad.

Most aggregator home-page loads are between 8 and 10 seconds in the USA. Mobile speeds will be twice that. Our goal (performance budget) is a 2-second page-load time (4-seconds for mobile).

No matter how much you try third-party Javascript is always the speed killer on aggregator sites. Third-party widgets include Facebook, Google GA, ad services, gravatars, Twitter, YouTube, Icegram, Doubleclick, popups, FontAwesome, etc.

“Ads are always the worst code on the Internet, and once you include them you can’t really be accountable for performance any more.”
—Matt Mullenweg: WordPress founder

Aggregator sites use many third-party widgets.

There’s esoteric talk and proposals in the “website-performance” community to solve third-party integration problems – but few actually provide real-world solutions. They talk about the web future – but not today’s resources. Third-parties are often apathetic about speed. This is a killer for mobile (and desktops, too).

How to manage and control third-party content is the critical factor for speeding up your website. What this means with present “tools” is using better strategy to decide what third-party provider content can be synchronously loaded, deferred (or lazy loaded) – or disabled on critical pages. And things like not updating user-facing Facebook stats in real time.

Landing pages, product pages, and pages on the “money path” are of most interest.

Doing value analysis (cost-benefit) especially on Javascript and defining “how good is good enough” is determined by user engagement – and your whim. What is the conversion rate with and without the third-party scripts?

Most offsite (third-party) assets have mechanisms (alternatives) for better browser behavior. But each has to be examined based on your goals.

How can you see the impact ads have on your site? Log into your free GTmetrix account and under the URL field there will be an “Analysis Options” button. Check the “Adblock Plus” option. Your URL will be scanned with the ads blocked. You can also enable this option in the “Page Settings” button on the Report page sidebar.

Blocking ads is helpful if you want to see the impact the ads are having on your page load times.

Is all of this investigation worth the grief? Common sense says, “Absolutely.” People hate slow-loading pages. Bloat is frustrating and annoying. But there’s also experiments (data) by large companies that prove speed affects profitability.

Speed helps you stay ahead of your competitors by differentiating your mobile UX. Optimization is best when it’s built-in with advance strategy – instead of after-the-build fixes. Measuring the impact of third-party content on a site’s usability is often an afterthought – if it even gets thought about at all.

Suggested links:

We reviewed an aggregator theme called “Bimber.” This PagePipe article might interest you >

Is Jetpack bloated – and slowing things down?

“Jetpack adds powerful features previously only available to users including customization, traffic, mobile, content, and performance tools.”

—Plugin description from

Developers, designers, end users, and even the founder of WordPress himself, rave about the importance of Jetpack, and want everyone to think that using Jetpack is necessary not only to get the most out of WordPress, but necessary if WordPress is to continue its dominance in the field of website design.

According to these people, Jetpack is the fix-all, the be-all, and the essential plugin that brings in important features missing in the naked WordPress installation. In other words, if we don’t use Jetpack we’re putting the entire WordPress universe in jeopardy.

We disagree. We think they’re wrong. We think Jetpack is bloated, and slows things down. We think you will get more speed and more value by taking a “naked” theme, and adding the “just right” individual plugins as needed – without Jetpack. We call those open-source discreet plugins. They are purpose-built for usually one function and have no or few settings. Jetpack is a multifunction plugin. Multifunction plugins are usually bloated with code overkill.

We’ve done some research and some testing, and here’s what we’ve found out:

Weight matters
Size of WordPress decompressed: 28.MB
Size of Jetpack decompressed: 14.8MB
Jetpack file size is 50 percent the size of WordPress.

Jetpack has a retention rate of 6.5 percent. That’s terrible. For comparison, good is around 30 percent retention and bad is 10 percent.

People like to say that WordPress is bloated, and maybe it is. But look at this comparison: Jetpack, which is just a plugin, an add-on to WordPress, has a file size 50 percent the size of WordPress itself. Talk about bloat!

Does this bloat make a difference? You bet it does.

Speed test with Jetpack activated but no modules activated
We wanted to test page speed on a simple WordPress site two different ways: Naked (no plugins) vs. Jetpack installed and activated with no modules activated. Here’s what we found:

Naked (No Jetpack)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 802 milliseconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 608 milliseconds

Loaded (Jetpack installed and activated)
First-visit speed (empty cache) 3.13 seconds
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 995 milliseconds

Test conducted on
Theme: Omega, a fast and free theme.
Page weight: 7k.

What a difference. Initial page load with JetPack installed was totally non-jet-like – a full 3 seconds – while the naked theme loaded up in under 1 second. That’s a huge difference.

Do you think your site visitors would prefer a page that loads in less than 1 second, or would they rather sit there drumming their fingers on their desk while waiting a full 3 seconds for the page to load?

More Speed Results

We further benchmarked Jetpack page speed on a simple, Gzip-enabled, WordPress site:
Setup 1: Five Jetpack modules activated.
Setup 2: Three “equivalent” third-party plugins activated plus favicon.ico image file FTP upload.

Modules used: Contact Form (Akismet Anti-Spam plugin required), Widgeted Tiled Gallery, Carousel, Site Icon, Extra Sidebar Widgets.
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.633 seconds, 19 components, 309k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 1.1 seconds, 5 components, 169k weight.

Lookalike third-party plugins
Plugins used: Simple Basic Contact Form, Image Widget, Tiled Gallery Carousel without Jetpack, Favicon.ico upload via FTP
First-visit speed (empty cache) 1.45 seconds, 17 components, 152k weight.
Subsequent-visit speed (primed cache) 673 milliseconds, 1 components, 5k weight.

About Extra Sidebar Widgets module – I searched across the web and did not find a WordPress plugin that provided a similar group of widgets. To mimic the functionality of this module, you’ll need to install anywhere between 3 – 4 separate plugins with widgets.
–Jeff Chandler, contributing writer for WPTavern blog 2013.

As Jeff Chandler said, you can’t mimic the Extra Sidebar Widgets module even with many plugins – yet. With it, we could place our carousel in the sidebar. That was the only thing that impressed us about Jetpack. On the benchmark, we placed the carousel in the body. The image weights were the same for both tests.

The speed difference on the first load isn’t that impressive: 183 milliseconds. But on the second load or cached load, the difference was significant: 427 milliseconds – almost half the page speed.

Test conducted on
Theme: Omega, a fast and free theme.
Page weight: 7k.

Another alternative: Unplug Jetpack plugin

Calling cloud-based web functions slow down page load time. In theory, the more HTTP requests the slower your site runs. Do you want a feature from Jetpack but don’t want to connect to’s cloud? Just use “Unplug Jetpack” plugin combined with the regular Jetpack plugin. It allows only the modules that don’t make offsite calls accessible.

“Unplug Jetpack” plugin contains only two files. One is the file and the other is a Javascript file that weighs only 1.2k decompressed. It requires installing Jetpack first. By default, “Unplug” switches off all cloud-based functions and leaves the remaining modules activated. You then go through the list and deselect the remaining functions that aren’t needed.

Asterisked below * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated. Ghosted, control-panel modules show the auto-disabled cloud features.

So what wonderful features do you get with JetPack?

Jetpack lists 36 features. Are they useful? Perhaps for bloggers but not website creators. How many of Jetpack’s modules will you actually use? Read below for our further assessment of each feature:

  • Custom CSS*
    Customize the look of your site, without modifying your theme.
    — Essentially create a child theme. One-button child theme plugin is a weightless alternative – among others.
  • Single Sign On
    Let users log in through with one click.
    — Big deal.
  • Stats
    Simple, concise site stats with no additional load on your server.
    — An alternative to Google Analytics. But many small sites could care less about stats.
  • Site Icon*
    Add a site icon to your site.
    — Favicon. There are various ways to solve loading a favicon. Many themes allow upload via the WordPress administration panel. The way the “Site Icon” feature does it guarantees a heavier favicon – around 2k. Most of our favicons weigh around 300B or less. This isn’t a big issue. All modern browsers know how to recognize and handle lazy loading of a favicon simply by placing the image in your website root folder. You don’t need any page coding any more. So this feature is odd. For novices, it may be a godsend.
  • Site Verification*
    Verify your site or domain with Google Webmaster Tools, Pinterest, and others.
    — Say what? Who cares!?
  • Related Posts
    Display links to your related content under posts and pages.
    — There are plugins that do this. We don’t know their impact on speed. We would never use one because it’s a blogging feature.
  • Markdown*
    Write posts or pages in plain-text Markdown syntax.
    — Oh, boy. You can code. Yuck.
  • Monitor
    — Uh. We suppose some would like this but we don’t care.
  • Jetpack Single Sign On
    Allow your users to log in using their accounts.
    — Again, we wouldn’t use this.
  • VideoPressPaid
    Upload and embed videos right on your site. (Subscription required.)
    — Say what? Paid feature!?
  • Widget Visibility*
    Specify which widgets appear on which pages of your site.
    — There are free plugins for this such as Dynamic Widgets plugin.
  • Omnisearch*
    Search your entire database from a single field in your Dashboard.
    — We’d never use it. Not on a small website.
  • Likes
    Give visitors an easy way to show their appreciation for your content.
    — Do we really need our ego stroked that bad?
  • Tiled Galleries*
    Display your image galleries in a variety of sleek, graphic arrangements.
    — Plugins exist for tiled or masonry style image presentation. But, we found this feature had potential not advertised. For more comparisons of discrete free plugins versus using comparable Jetpack features, Go to this page >
  • Publicize
    Share new posts on social media networks automatically.
    — We wouldn’t use this because we don’t believe social links help B2B websites. Social links slow a site way down.
  • Post by Email
    Publish posts by email, using any device and email client.
    — Not for us.
  • Photon
    Accelerate your site by loading images from the CDN.

    — They offer a CDN for images. CloudFlare offers free services for every file with security and a WordPress CloudFlare plugin helper for free, too.
  • Infinite Scroll*
    Add support for infinite scroll to your theme.
    — Other free plugins can do this.
  • Notifications
    Receive notification of site activity via the admin toolbar and your Mobile devices.
    — Like we’re going to sit and watch for this? There are plugins that do this.
    Allow applications to securely access your content through the cloud.
    — Whoopee.
  • Mobile Theme*
    Optimize your site with a mobile-friendly theme for smartphones.
    — Responsive themes are free. This feature implies the module converts your theme to responsive design. What they are really doing is offering apps to make themes work on specific devices and operating systems. It’s unclear if these are paid or not. To us, it appears to be a band-aid.
  • Carousel*
    Transform standard image galleries into full-screen slideshows.
    — Many plugins available for this stuff. But even better –don’t use a slider or carousel.
  • Jetpack Comments
    Let readers comment with, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts.
    — No thanks.
  • Contact Form*
    Insert a contact form anywhere on your site.
    –There are perfectly good plugins for this that are lightweight.
  • Extra Sidebar Widgets*
    Add images, Twitter streams, your site’s RSS links, and more to your sidebar.
    — Again, these can be solved with discreet plugins.
  • Enhanced Distribution
    Share your public posts and comments to search engines and other services.<
    — No thanks. We’re not bloggers.
  • Subscriptions
    Allow users to subscribe to your posts and comments and receive notifications via email.
    — Already have plugins with this feature.
  • VaultPressPaid
    Protect your site with automatic backups and security scans. (Subscription required.)
    — PAID!? Free alternative plugins exist that don’t cause any page load.
  • Stats
    Monitor your stats with clear, concise reports and no additional load on your server.
    — Reiteration of the Google Analytics alternative.
  • Shortcode Embeds*
    Embed content from YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare, and more, no coding necessary.
    — Again if you want these features plugins exist already.
  • Spelling and Grammar
    Check your spelling, style, and grammar with the After the Deadline proofreading service.
    — This can be added as an addon or extension to your favorite browser and not load down WordPress.
  • Sharing*
    Allow visitors to share your content on Facebook, Twitter, and more with a click.
    — No social for us.
  • Shortlinks
    Enable shortlinks for all posts and pages.
    — Nice. But again plugins already exist for this.
  • Gravatar Hovercards*
    Enable pop-up business cards over commenter’s’ Gravatars.
    — No thank you. No comments allowed on our sites.
  • Beautiful Math*
    Use LaTeX markup language in posts and pages for complex equations and other geekery.
    — Nice if you have a scientific client. But other solutions probably exist.

Asterisked above * are the 17 features the tiny “Unplug Jetpack” plugin leaves activated.

While we don’t agree with everything on this offsite blog post, it’s a good overview of Jetpack. It’s biased in favor of Jetpack and it’s bloat.

TOP 4 Hello-Bar knockoff plugins for page speed.

Notification bars run across the top of a website. They display valued information. Such as a link to a newsletter, latest blog post, or promotion.

This bar is unobtrusive compared to a pop over or pop under. It’s up at the page top or bottom drawing eyeballs without ruining content. We hate popups for email signups. Awful UX. Static and sticky notification bars are gentler on user’s anxious nervous systems. And better for anger management, too. Plus, popups are heavy in the Javascript code department. That slows down your site.

Notification bar strategies include downloads for an ebook or webinar. Or link to a landing page. Setting a link to PayPal to sell case-study reports was our original goal.


Widget or plugin overload: In this category you’ll find common household names like a comment plugin or Hello Bar — notorious for killing page speed. – Author: Demian Farnworth

Testing profit improvement inspired our experiment with a notification bar. We heard claims of 11-percent revenue gains using a bar. And another user claiming around 20-percent extra revenue by using a bar, too. That sounded pretty good to our greedy ears. We wanted to find out what plugin might add these features – but not affect page speed.

When you search for speed plugins, you’ll find the best ones with unusual or odd-geeky names. Usually with few active installations, and residing in obscurity. They are misunderstood. Plugin authors aren’t always good communicators about benefits. Below we explain how to find these lost “speed” treasures.

The most classic notification bar is “Hello Bar.” It’s the granddaddy plugin of this type. Hello Bar, the plugin, is free. But the SaaS cloud-based service is not. They charge by the click. If you receive 7,500 clicks per month, HelloBar may costs you $50 per month. Ouch! So we went shopping for free plugin alternatives.

Pricing for the Hello Bar free version is no longer publicly available on their website. Suspicious behavior.

[pullquote]Most notification bars we tried had ugly, distracting author’s logos. Egotists! Our solution was to color a logo placeholder the same as the background. Then upload it via FTP overwriting the original image file. A lightweight 0.8k PNG image substitute is invisible to the eye.[/pullquote]

If you use Hello Bar’s free version, it includes their own advertising. You’ll be showing slow-loading ads on your site that aren’t earning you any money. And, worse, they use premium real estate you’re trying to use for your own Call-To-Action. It’s designed to get you to sucker for their pro plans. Bait and switch.

Hello Bar uses a freemium version with unpublished monthly limitations. But charges are still based on clicks per month. And a $12 per month *pro* version allows 250,000 visits per month ($5/mo for each additional 25,000 visits). We still don’t like it. Slick-marketing stink is all over the company’s home-page signup. We trust our intuition. Run.

The plugin that “smells-like” a good substitute is “Attention Grabber (Hello Bar Alternative)” free plugin. After installation during testing, the plugin added 500k to the page weight – appalling us. At the time, we were working on a test page well under 100k. It instantly bloated to 600k. So that plugin went into the trash bin.

Other notification bars are lighter for speed. One that fit the bill was Notification Bar by WPFruits. This plugin is no longer free ($20). It’s only 2.5k installed with compression. There are 53 free notification bars in the WordPress plugin directory. When you finish this article, there may be another one!

How do you figure out which notification bars are worth testing? Fortunately, this isn’t our first plugin rodeo.

First, define your goals.

  • We want a simple notification bar. No coding!
  • We want to customize the colors to match our theme.
  • We want either a text link or button for call-to-action responses. If there is no “click-thru”, we’re not interested.
  • It would be nice to have a plugin updated or introduced recently. Our collection of plugin candidates vary in staleness from super-fresh (less than 1 month) to over 60 months (crusty 5 years!).
  • Is popularity important in this culling? We think so. There are many with less than 10 installation. Those  count if they’re fresh baked. 5 years and 10 installation is a loser.

So what plugins did we cull from the list of possibilities?

  1. Three notification bars didn’t have “click-thru.” That got rid of Sitewide Message, InfoBar Top Notification, and WP Sticky Header. And a few more penalized were mystery meat. Their fuzzy descriptions and confusing screens shots weren’t obvious: WP Notification Bar (singular), Notification MSG Interface Benaceur, and Bonjour Bar.
  2. Four plugins that use third-party slow-loading APIs hit the trash. Those include: Sticky Ecommerce Targeted Offer / Discount Widget, The NotiBar, Powr Notification, and Notification Bar.
  3. We axed three plugins having less than 10 installs and being heavier than 100k – and being over 1 year since update: WP AdPunch LITE, SocialTVs, Ciusan Notification Bar. We kept any that were lightweight. We wanted to look closer at those. Stale doesn’t always mean bad. It may mean the plugin author’s on a a deserted-island vacationing for 2 or 3 years. Nice lifestyle.
  4. We know sorting by package weight kills most popular plugins. But we don’t have a lifetime to figure out a “good-enough” plugin. We’re not searching for perfection. We eliminated 13 already. We’ll use an arbitrary cutoff of the top-9, lightest, zip packages. These all weigh less than 50k. To give you an idea of the range, the heavier plugins were 1.5M to 3.5M in size. Huge! We pity the poor sap who unknowingly chooses a plugin boat anchor.

Top-9 sorted by weight


TOP-9 Hello-Bar Knockoff Plugins for Speed, ZIP k, ACTIVE
Notification bar by DJJMZ,3,10
WP Header Notification,25,100
Top Bar,27,6000
Responsive Notification Bar,29,70
WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar,39,200
Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version),40,500
Quick Notice Bar,44,500


We’ll test all nine candidates on Twenty-seventeen default theme. Two are looking pretty good just from weight, installs, and freshness: Top Bar with 6,000 installs and updated 9 months ago. The other: WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar with 200 installs and updated 6 months ago. But we’ll check them all anyway to be certain.

6 Failed Plugins

  • Notification bar by DJJMZ – no workee.
  • NotifySnack used an embedded Javascript snippet for API access. Slow.
    This plugin was closed on November 25, 2018 and is no longer available for download. Reason: Guideline Violation.
  • Notifications – didn’t show.
  • WP Header Notification – didn’t show.
  • Responsive Notification Bar – ugly green and yellow colors and not selectable. Load time changed from 1 second to 4 seconds. It was repeatably bad but it’s unclear why.
  • Quick Notice – Too much Facebook and button overhead: up.png: 2.5k, down.png: 2.5k, and (11.7k), (126k), (1.6k). We hate Facebook!

3 Working & Lightweight Plugins

  • Guerrilla’s Sticky Bar (1 request: 1.0k) dismissal with day-delay timer, customizable colors. (This plugin was closed on November 25, 2018 and is no longer available for download.)
  • Top Bar (1 request: 1.1k) no dismissal, limited-selection colors.
  • WordPress Easy Sticky Notification Bar (1 request: 1.2k) no dismissal, custom fonts (slow), fixed colors.
  • Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version), (1 request: 1.9k) works nice. no dismissal, default fonts, color customizable.

We thought Top Bar would be the winner because it had 6,000 installs. But it wasn’t as “feature-rich.” Really, it’s not that customizable. We’re using Peanut Butter Bar.

Peanut Butter Bar (smooth version)
Load Time: 20 milliseconds

Block plugins ranked by load time – slowest to fastest


73 block plugins total tested*

no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj


baseline block editor default









responsive block editor addons






editor blocks






essential blocks














no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj


nova blocks






di blocks












PublishPress Blocks






snow monkey blocks






ht blocks






superb blocks












Easy Blocks- gutenberg






advance block extend






blocks builder






gtg advanced blocks






absolutte blocks






premium blocks for gutenberg






wp block pack






blocks kit






magical blocks














no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj








ninja gutenberg blocks






blocks collection






creative blocks






duogeek blocks












hero banner slider






bokez awesome gutenberg blocks








no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj


block style guides


















hot blocks












ultra blocks free by fest






advanced blocks






Gutenberg blocks and page layouts






snow monkey forms






variable column block






wp blog post layouts






rise blocks






advanced rich text tools








no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj


cloud blocks












awesome blocks






power blocks












aino blocks






Advanced Editor Tools








no. blocks

pg wt kb

Ms load time**

 rqst adj


easy blocks






pillar press content blocks






stackable ultimate gutenberg blocks












guten editor blocks






redux framework






kadence blocks






block gallery












multipurpose block






snow monkey editor






double image






Postx – Gutenberg post grid






ever blocks






wp essential blocks












block extras






ultimate blocks












ultimate addons for gutenberg






wpdm gutenberg blocks






Superblocksb – Best collection











*rejected plugins are not listed. Sorry.

**load time is after subtracting the baseline.


Block library plugins were activated one at a time. No caching or CDN.

No blocks were used on the blank test page.

No Gutenbergs were harmed during the making of this test.

Block plugins ranked by load time – slowest to fastest

Does installing more plugins speed up your site? Maybe.

Client request:
“It would be excellent if one lightweight plugin provided all our basic security needs. And could replace Askimet, Wordfence, and ReCaptcha.”

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

It would be a marvelous futuristic multi-function plugin.

Multi-function plugins are heavy slugs. Also, weirdly – more popular plugins directly correlate to how slow they are. Why? The phenomenon falls into the realm of marketing psychology and overkill. And speed apathy  … and calf-path theory.

But our strategy is replacing one heavy plugin like Yoast SEO or Word Fence Security. Then we can install over 100 small discrete plugins — and still be faster loading. You scoff. Sounds too incredible but it’s true. A discrete plugin has one function and no settings (the ideal). They load in under 1 millisecond instead of 100s of milliseconds.

Bigger plugins must be better. Right?

[pullquote]Poem Excerpt:

“They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.”

OFFSITE LINK:[/pullquote]

Yoast SEO plugin started out with under a 1MB file download. It’s now is a 3.3MB download. Why so much heavier? Advertising and animated popups galore. Marketing bloat. Multi-function plugin. (XML site maps are now built into WordPress core – you don’t need Yoast’s map or any ones plugin for that any more).


We’ve proven you can (usually) half the load time by doubling the number of plugins. It’s quality, not quantity that’s the speed issue.

Do you have to remove heavy Yoast SEO? No. We rollover on that battle fast. We have bigger fish to fry. We try to convince SEO plugin elimination is goodness – but site owners are invested in it. Addicts. Old ideas die slow. 5 million active installations can’t be wrong. Can they?

What SEO plugin do we use on PagePipe?

None. Ever. How did you ever find us?

Rank Math plugin & speed

Rank Math adds 77.3 milliseconds of load time to all pages. The main concern is the database activity. It’s a heavy plugin meaning it talks to the database a lot. It’s a dynamic plugin. This would affect TTFB. But so far, we’ve not encountered any reason in the real world of website repair to remove it. It is benign.

Over 1 million people use it. They couldn’t be wrong. Could they?

Leave it activated. It’s of minor concern.

Rank Math claims it’s optimized for maximum performance. Uh. 77.3 milliseconds is the equivalent of adding 77 discrete plugins. Is it better than Yoast SEO for speed? Absolutely. That plugin is 200 to 300 milliseconds. But being faster that Yoast is nothing to brag about.

How to remove query strings from static resources with a WordPress plugin.

WordPress by default adds query strings – “?” or “&” – to the static CSS and Javascript resources files used in your site. Gtmetrix, Pingdom, or Google’s PageSpeed Insights online speed tests urge removing these.

But, doesn’t. Why? Maybe feels like we do: Better scores aren’t equal to speed changes.

Removing Query Strings makes a significant improvement in page speed. That’s the claim anyway. We’ve never seen “significant” speed improvement. That word “significant” gets used a lot with speed test braggadocio. The word should shoot up a suspicious red flag. The removal-suggestion always changes your speed test score. Big deal. Scores aren’t the same as load time gains.

A lot of speed technical stuff is hot air. Nerds puffing their chests out to prove who’s the biggest and best nerd. Removing query strings is one of those technical things that doesn’t make much difference in the world. But speed tests insist it’s important for a good score.

Usually “query strings removal” improves load times by milliseconds – and not seconds.

IMO it is recommended to ignore 50% of the Google PageSpeed recommendations, this is one of them:

‘Resources with a “?” in the URL are not cached by some proxy caching servers. Remove the query string and encode the parameters into the URL for the following resources…’

… the chances of any page of any small or medium site being cached – and reused from the cache is minimal. … removing static resources is not worth the zero speed improvement your site will gain. Author – Mark Kaplun

So, what the heck are Query Strings?

Query strings are the URLs containing special characters such as “&” and “?”. Scripts and stylesheets often contain a modified URL to identify versions.

Query strings can help track users like HTTP cookies. Query strings are often used in association with web beacons. Google Analytics uses web beacons (a 1-pixel, square, transparent, GIF image). A web beacon is an object embedded in a web page or email. It allows checking that a user accessed the content.

What’s cache busting?

[pullquote]Speed improvements do not improve SEO. They improve UX. Google doesn’t use PageSpeed test scores in it’s ranking algorithm. They use TTFB (time to first byte). TTFB is host-server access-time – a speed overhead measured in milliseconds. [/pullquote]

Browsers store a cached static file until an expiration date. The file version in your visitors’ browser may prevent seeing new changes.

Cache busting solves the problem with a unique file version identifier. This tells the browser a new file version is available. Then the browser doesn’t retrieve the old file from cache. Instead, it makes a request to the original server for the new file.

The query string is a method for plugins and themes to pass version details about new updates. This trick is a plugin author’s workaround or “cheat.” It’s not best-practice. And may have a theoretical impact on website loading speed. Removing the query string from the file name “fixes” this without harm. But in reality, it only improves your speed score – and not the milliseconds of extra load time we yearn for.

You can remove query strings from files – without touching a single line of code.

Below, is a free, lightweight plugins that’ll do the job for you.
This plugins need no configuration. It’s plug and play. Install and you’re good to go. Make sure to clear your cache after installing to see changes. You can download the plugin from the WordPress repository. Or by searching within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins.

This plugin searches all static files loaded from plugins or themes for “?” or “&”. Then removes them. This won’t damage website functionality. It helps your website get better page speed scores. It may even help make your site faster. But better speed is rare.

Our choice:

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
WP Remove Query Strings From Static Resources

Load Time: 10 milliseconds

These plugins are super lightweight and usually benign. You may see millisecond improvements. There’s no reason not to install one for speed.

The bottomline is: removing query strings does no harm – but the only benefit most likely is an improved test score – not speed. Of course, the question is, “Why do speed tests insist it be done?” It’s ivory tower idealism.

We consider it a vanity metric.

The best lightweight plugin for deactivating XML-RPC to improve WordPress security.

We snoop on WPMU DEV often. Some may call this snooping industrial espionage. Maybe? It makes us feel 007ish. WPMU DEV is owned by Incsub, LLC. Who? Never heard of them. They’re one of our rival competitors. We’re small. They’re big. You’ll recognize their product names. More on those in a moment. They produce: “Your WordPress Toolkit.”

Incsub, LLC left off the word expensive. “Your Expensive WordPress Toolkit.” We duplicate their cool stuff with free plugins from the WordPress directory. Sadly, it makes them look greedy. It makes us smile.

Incsub, LLC are good at marketing and selling WordPress people premium plugins and themes. For the uninitiated, premium means paid. There are free alternatives they neglect telling you about. They don’t want us telling you about these plugin secrets either. That’s right. Free plugins exist duplicating their “premium” wizardry.

Incsub, LLC (aka WPMU DEV) have the art of producing customer fear down to a science. For example, you can take their WP-Checkup for free, once in a 24-hour period. (Sorry. Clearing browser cookies won’t get you a second shot. We tried). The checkup will frighten you. It frightened us anyway. OK. Not much.

Their claim:

Get a WordPress Checkup
Quick, Free & Easy
Get a professional performance, security and SEO scan

The goals is scaring the bejeezus out of you by convincing you your site is riddled full of holes and faults. The alarms encourage you to purchase their expensive membership as a solid solution. In this case, they include:

Make your site fly, save bandwidth and watch Google love you in return. (Put your wallet away and look at cost-saving FLY.ME Speed Knockoff first.)

Stay safe! Defender will harden, protect and scan your site daily.
(Once again, you can save dollars with POLICE.ME alternatives to save speed and money).

Boost your rankings with in-depth tech and some awesome tweaks. (Check out SEARCH.ME Speed Knockoffs before you buy Smart Crawl).

Their test produces a technospeak assessment about speed, security, and SEO. All regurgitated scary Google edicts from Google PageSpeed Insights. Most will not make any difference. But thinking you’ve violated Google’s code of conduct causes great fear in some less-web-savvy site owners. They have visions of blacklists or serious snubbing by search engines. Calm yourself. The Emperor has no clothes.

There are 10 performance parameters they test and report with a score of 100 being best and zero the worst. More in depth about the speed list here.

There are 25 SEO parameters tested and reported. Please don’t believe any of this SEO drivel and myths. What produces good SEO is relevant content and interesting titles. That’s it. All other details listed don’t move the needle for SEO. Complete waste of time and money. Write for humans – not machines.

Security assessment has 12 parameters. PagePipe had some errors reported we knew were false. For example: it said our user name was “admin.” It’s not. We’re using our POLICE.ME free security plugins. Good reports on everything.

But the test did draw our attention to a minor bugaboo we overlooked. It said a file named XML-RPC.php interface was available. So what? It’s part of WordPress core. We were curious about this and wanted to learn more. Was it bad? Was Defender plugin the only way to block this “security hole”? And how serious was the risk?

We discovered there was a legitimate concern to disable this file. Hackers can use it to gain access to your site. Could we do the repair for free? The answer is: yes.

We appreciate free, non-coding plugin solutions. But they shouldn’t add any page weight or load time to our website. We found a good plugin to add to our mix for security. It’s “Deactivate XML-RPC Service.” Why add it?

XML-RPC is used for remote posting/publishing and pingbacks. XML-RPC on WordPress is an API. If you disable the XML-RPC service, you lose the ability for applications to use this API to talk to WordPress. It’s used by phone Apps  interfacing with WordPress sites. It also presents an opportunity for malicious site attacks by hackers.

The code authors attest the programming of XML-RPC is as secure as the rest of the core files of WordPress. But some feel safer by disabling this file. If you don’t need it and it won’t slow down the site, why not disable it?

Have WordPress sites been compromised because of XML-RPC? Yes.

Disabling WordPress XML-RPC is a precautionary measure against brute force attacks. There are at least 14 Disable XML-RPC plugins in the WordPress plugin directory. That tells you something about community anxiety level. That’s a fair number of plugins. Many are pretty old (3 years) and some appear heavy. Not all work. We rejected three before we found one that really did the job.

Deactivate XML-RPC Service is the newest, freshest, and lightest (358 bytes is all and no HTTP requests or APIs). You install it and it’s a done deal. No settings.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Deactivate XML-RPC Service

Load Time: 50 milliseconds

Because Jetpack or remote mobile access need XML-RPC.php, then the only game in town is:

Stop XML-RPC Attack is the heaviest package (usually meaning potentially slow). But it adds no weight or requests. And it works, too. We tested it – but aren’t using it. We don’t use Jetpack.

There’s a free online test of WordPress XML-RPC:

You don’t want to pass the test. You want the test to say: “Failed to check your site because of the following error: 405 error XML-RPC services are disabled on this site.”

We’re adding Deactivate XML-RPC Service as a recommendation in the POLICE.ME Speeder Knockoffs.

One more security plugin trick to consider is WPS Hide Login plugin. It’s a very lightweight plugin. It really only has one, active, 15k file. Ironically, almost all of the talk on their forum is about XML-RPC vulnerabilities. Which we’ve previously addressed above.

WPS Hide Login has 100,000 installs. A lot of people like “Hide Login” and are keeping it. A better indicator of value than popularity.

If you use WPS Hide login you need to watch out if you do a migration. Probably best to disable the plugin before that occurs.

You could get locked out really easily if you forget your assigned URL. Proceed with caution.

The downside of paid, *premium* plugins.

PagePipe’s goal was adding various full-width images to our catalog page near the top. Not only the column width like with many sliders. We were testing how to put a slider in the featured-image slot. A paid slider plugin didn’t work as promised. After an update – the plugin author couldn’t upload the plugin via WordPress. They wanted either FTP or Cpanel access. We told them, “No way!”

The plugin company then issued us an expiring store credit. We told them that wasn’t good enough. We requested a reimbursement. We told the number of annual visitors we get on PagePipe. We said we’d be reporting our experience. We then got same-day reimbursement. We figured if they could rob us – we could blackmail them. Fair is fair.

Using heavy sliders (and light ones, too) on the home page are a disadvantage. They hog bandwidth and distract precious visitor attention. Appropriate slider usability is not a loss when applied on subpages. You must use selective activation to prevent site drag. If full of irrelevant stock images, you’ve done your site a disservice.

[pullquote]Web assets must add value or have purpose. Adding frivolous assets causing site drag (global loading) is nonsensical.[/pullquote]

What’s appropriate slider usage? One good use is displaying a portfolio or a range of product images without links. Or a short, three-panel story is another. And then only if it *feels* right for UX. No links. No hover stops. Fades are best. Nothing whizzing, exploding, rotating, or hurried.

The goal is subtle implication there’s more than one product offering. You need a cue at the page top when the catalog content is much further down. It’s not a solo product page. It’s a catalog page. The slider is for page differentiation and visual cuing. The slider should not contain all product images. Only a representative sample to keep things light.

Usually it’s best not to use sliders for navigation. They aren’t effective (read reference). But we’ve put sliders on many sites for presentation. Even home pages. Why? For the same reason most do it: the client demanded it – and they write the checks. But we also insist the owner dump something to compensate for the extra slider weight. Something heavy like Facebook real-time counters – or a YouTube video – or Google Maps. It’s a negotiated speed deal.

Sliders are NOT dumb and evil. It’s how they’re used in design and communication methods. Site owners are often unaware of the global speed infraction.

Large images are dramatic and people like to look at pictures. Adding large images is deliberate for better UX. But where and when they should appear is the important question and how much they weigh. Is the home page sacred ground? Yes. Don’t bloat it. Build for for fastest page loads. But not always. Some sites get more traffic through other landing pages than the home page. If that’s the case, avoid sliders on those pages.

The inclination is putting the slider on your gateway page. Bad form!

Readable interesting text is always most important – not images. People want to read good text that solves a problem for them. Even if the problem is boredom. With a good picture, they still want something to read to understand why the picture is there. They want words. Even with art: a caption or title does wonders.

We made a moronic and impulsive $25-dollar slider-plugin buy. We got duped and had major buyers remorse. We got a refund only because we’re a technology publisher. We’ll never buy another plugin or theme again (maybe?). We learned a valuable lesson about paid-and-premium offers. Later, we found a free slider plugin (Master Slider).

Is Master Slider a *special* slider? No. (How they can advertise a slider as being SEO-friendly is beyond our understanding!) It’s what it doesn’t do that we like most. It doesn’t cause unnecessary page bloat. It adds 6 calls to the page.  We can live with that. Lots of slider plugins do that. We wanted to test drive this one.

The real kicker for speed is optimizing and limiting the number of images. For example, we intentionally compromised on slider image quality. Four images used (out of a dozen). They’re reduced to half the size – 991×595 pixels. The other large solo header images are 2000×1200 pixels (retina) recommended default size. The smaller slider images then dynamically-resize to fill the full-page width. There’s deliberate visual loss. The low-tech versions weigh around 40k to 80k. The large featured images on individual product pages vary from 150k to 250k.

Face it. Quality on moving images is a low-priority.

The final catalog page weight is 420k with 45 requests. Time to Europe on Pingdom, 1.84 seconds. to Australia, 1.7 seconds. We aren’t using minification on this page because it breaks the ecommerce features. That happens even with paid Woo-commerce. We’re using free Easy Digital Downloads plugin.

We’ll never succumb to purchase temptations again. Lesson learned. Until next time, anyway.

During these experiments, we realized the dangers of Twenty-seventeen Home featured image. It’s added via the customizer. This causes image loading on every single page and post. Even if it’s not visible (suppressed by CSS code). It’s still loaded on the backend. The original image was around 200k. So we tried coding solutions to defeat loading on any page but Home – to no avail. We then decided to junk the featured image. We added CSS code to color the background and added back our rocket logo. That workaround proved simpler and faster for speed.

We recommend using discrete free plugins to build site features.

What removes plugin global site drag?

When website owners do site speed testing, they eventually observe plugins get loaded on every page, adding to code bloat and slower load times everywhere. They hopelessly think, “I don’t need these activated on all pages, but I have no way of controlling this.” This isn’t true.

What if a plugin could load on-demand? Even just parts of it, only when it was needed, instead of on every page load? These solutions exist and we have written about them.

REFERENCE: Selective activation of plugins for improved speed.

It’s true. Most plugins load virtually all their code, every single time, on every single WordPress page and post. The plugin author is at fault for not correctly coding their plugin to properly load things only when they’re needed.

Sites get bogged down from slow (or too many) database queries or too many CSS/JS files loading. It really isn’t WordPress’ job to control these things. It’s the plugin author’s job.

Plugins authors should be better educated on how to properly write their plugins so they do not load needlessly. Yes. It’s an education problem. It’s not super technical or even a flaw really.

It isn’t the responsibility of WordPress to control third-party plugins. Changes to any particular plugin requires talking to the individual plugin authors. There are more than 50,000 plugins. Big education job. We don’t have the resources to do it. Do you?

How can we say this without disturbing the natives?  Plugin authors frequently ignore being empathetic to user’s speed needs. The fault lies in being in too big of a hurry to do it right – or not being creative. They erroneously don’t think milliseconds are a problem. This is speed apathy.

Things will get better. Mobile has changed users need and perception for faster, speedier plugins.

We quote ourselves. (That’s pretty arrogant and pretentious. We know.)

Why does the silly form load everywhere – instead of only on the page with the shortcode like it should?

“Contact Form 7 isn’t the only form plugin that loads its Javascript and CSS files on every page. This is not uncommon for most slider plugins, too. We call this global loading – or site drag. It’s a bad way to do things for speed. While it’s common, it’s not a universal practice. We’ve found sliders and forms that only load code on pages containing their shortcodes. How can you tell? Only by testing. There is nothing in the plugin documentation telling if this will happen. It’s a negative thing – so why would they publish it? Honesty perhaps?

You’d think those plugins that have better behavior would advertise speed benefits – but they don’t. Not yet anyway.”

PagePipe: Contact Form 7 plugin causes global site drag

Site drag isn’t inherent in every plugin. Some plugins are created with speed in mind. These plugins allow plugin activation of features on groups of pages for example, post only. But these are uncommon plugins built by conscientious authors who recognize speed is a desirable bonus and differentiator.

PageSpeed Ninja plugin easily manipulates vanity metrics.

We’re intrigued.

PageSpeed Ninja plugin claims:

“PageSpeed Ninja is the ultimate WordPress performance plugin. You can make your site load faster on desktop and mobile, fixing Google PageSpeed Insights issues with one click.”

So we did some simple tests on an origin-optimized site. We disabled all the usual discrete plugins for speed. We ran and online performance tests. This page under test loads in under 1 second (on a cheap shared-server with no CDN).

We could care less about bogus Google PageSpeed Insights testing. And we don’t even care about test scores or ratings using any speed test. It’s milliseconds of load time and page weight that we care about. Everything else is esoteric fluff.


Green, A+, 100-percent indicators are abstractions. Ephemeral vapor. Vanity metrics.


Did the homepage load faster with PageSpeed Ninja?


The plugin setting of Ultra broke the site. Images disappeared and CSS lost it’s styling. Typical problems we regularly see from concatenation of files. So we stepped down to the Optimal setting. Pages returned and appeared OK then.


PageSpeed Ninja plugin loaded pages milliseconds slower with both tests. Did test scores improve? A tiny wiggle. Not much.

But? You’re about to say, “Unfair. You didn’t test on Google PageSpeed Insights!”

That’s because this self-proclaimed touchstone is a waste of time. It seems the golden test’s purpose is terrifying WordPress site owners. Showing their sites are inferior garbage. WordPress can’t get good scores on that test. The biased test hates any CMS using jQuery, Ajax, or JavaScript. Pure anxiety producer. Relax. User experience is not about scores.

Results: You can get a passing score on Google PageSpeed Insights. A cool new plugin – but you’ll slow down your site. Is that smart? Really?

Why is a plugin that professes speed improvement so wrong for speed? Well, for starters it weighs 496.4 kilobytes as a zipped folder and – wait for it – 1.5 megabytes decompressed. That’s one chunky speed plugin. Why so fat?

Because it’s a multipurpose plugin. It can’t compete with discrete purpose-built plugins (under 1-millisecond load time for each one). It does everything – and more – recommended by Google. Gobs of features. Do you need to do all that crazy stuff? Of course not. It’s dogmatic decision making. Ludicrous kowtowing to Google’s ivory-tower whims. Google doesn’t even consider these technical parameters in its ranking algorithm.

Speed affects page ranking less than a half percent. That’s right. 0.5 percent potential ranking improvement. You’d do better titling your pages better for SEO. Or rewriting headlines for humans. You heard it here on PagePipe, the unconventional speed technology blog. We create speed and we recommend you quit chasing your tail.


Is speed ever important? What’s all the noise about? Well, certainly not speed scores. Speed is about decreasing user wait time, especially on mobile devices. We measure web time in milliseconds. That’s related to user experience or UX. User experience is how people *feel* when they use your website. If pages are slow, they won’t feel good at all. Instead, they feel frustrated and annoyed. Impatient visitors leave. They never see your beautiful web aesthetics – or wonderful product offer.


Google watches your site metrics over time. They care about what indicates positive user interaction. People hate slow loading pages. We do. Have you ever asked a site user how fast is fast enough? Or how slow is too slow? They don’t know. They do know how fast a paper-page turns on a book. That’s their expectation of how fast web pages should change. It doesn’t take 2 seconds to turn a page.

Cool techno-features sound impressive in the PageSpeed Ninja plugin. But they don’t do much good for real speed. Your 12-second site will pass with a green signal. That should make you feel better. But will it help visitors feel you care about quality – or positive first-impressions?

One thing impressed us. This is the first plugin we’ve seen change a PHP version inside the WordPress dashboard. You don’t have to access Cpanel or any other server settings. Does changing PHP from version 5.6 to 7.3 make a big improvement in speed? Sorry. It doesn’t. Another myth. You’ll feel more web compliant – but negligible speed gain for page load time.


Where did the PageSpeed Ninja plugin come from?

PageSpeed Ninja originates from Kuneri Ltd. That is a Finnish consulting agency owned by Ugar Kaner.

Ungar Kaner, CEO

Ugur Kaner is is also Founder and CEO of Hyke, an online platform helping freelancers start and run their businesses. It’s primarily about how to do accounting and taxes for remote workers. claims: “Instant tax savings for freelancers.” It’s estimated gets about 4,000 visitors daily. That’s 120,000 visits per month. Nice.

But PageSpeed Ninja offices are in San Francisco USA – not Finland. It appears they’re financed by venture capitalists. If you sign up at, they ask you marketing questions. Not much is available from them yet. They’re interested in discovering what speed problems face website owners. They offer a solution hunting for a problem.

Their plugin only resolves Google PageSpeed Insights test scoring. It is an all-in-one plugin that doesn’t necessarily fix speed measured in milliseconds.

(above) Our test results. No big deal. And no significant changes in scores. Do those scores actually affect Google SEO? Nope. They don’t use score criteria in their algorithmic calculations.

R.I.P. Elementor: why blocks are better.

WordPress Gutenberg Block Editor
Is it an easier way to build websites than the classic WordPress editor?

Is it faster than a pagebuilder plugin or theme?

But… there’s still a learning curve.

BlockClones help you discover block plugin features.
We help you create replicas of today’s popular themes – and webpage design looks.

Future-proof your website by mastering the block editor tool today.

is the process of anticipating new methods.
You can reduce the effects of shock and stress.
All the WordPress changes coming in the months – and years ahead.
The world changes faster than ever.
Stay on top.

Let’s clone the “look” you desire.

You can build entire DIY pages out of free blocks.

We’ll show you how to choose the best block plugins to get the job done.

We compare, test, and prove before-and-after block plugin conversion.

No heavy pagebuilder plugins like Elementor or BeaverBuilder – or fat paid themes.

Save money.

Be fast for mobile.

And look trustworthy, too.

In Gutenberg releases prior to 10.1, styles for blocks were enqueued in a single file causing extra page load. Today, only what’s necessary is loaded when content is viewed.


Elementor breaks lazy load plugins.

Learn the truth about Elementor mobile-speed rumors.

This article is based on our experiments. If lazy load and Elementor work together or fail for you, please let us know your experience. Tell us some details about what theme and plugins you’re using. We want more information. There is no noise on the Internet about this. Why? Email us at:

Using Elementor and lazy load plugins didn’t work under certain conditions. We want to figure out those parameters – and report the results. Prepare for a surprise. This also provided an opportunity to test the lazy load plugin introduced by WordPress. This is user preparation for adding lazy-load functions to WordPress core.

Temporary post under test:
10 fat images with some placeholder text to shove the images down the page.

Pingdom testing to San Francisco, USA.

3 conditions

1. Lazy Load benchmarks for baseline without Elementor page builder activated

  • No lazy load, no elementor
    pingdom 592ms, 477.8k, 19 requests 1.67s, 447k, 16 requests
  • lazy load – WP Rocket, no elementor
    pingdom 470ms, 477.8k, 19 requests 646ms, 29k, 4 requests
  • new WP lazy load, no elementor
    pingdom 470ms, 477.8k, 19 requests 1.48s, 266k, 12 requests

Lazy Loading Feature Plugin

This lazy load feature is to be added to WordPress core. The plugin is for user beta testing.

2. Does Elementor disable Lazy Load plugins if Elementor is not used on the page?

  • No lazy load, w/ elementor activated but not used
    pingdom 691ms, 473.6k, 18 requests 1.647s, 447k, 16 requests
  • lazy load – WP Rocket, w/ elementor activated but not used
    pingdom 816ms, 477.8k, 19 requests 699ms, 24k, 3 requests
  • new WP lazy load, w/ elementor activated but not used
    pingdom 1.85s, 473.6k, 18 requests 1.532s, 266k, 12 requests

3. Does any Lazy Load make a difference when Elementor is used?

  • No lazy load, w/ elementor activated and used
    pingdom 653ms, 675.4k, 35 requests 2.043s, 629k, 33 requests
  • lazy load – WP Rocket, w/ elementor activated and used
    pingdom 769ms, 679.6k, 36 requests 2.149s, 500k, 31 requests
  • new WP lazy load, w/ elementor activated and used
    pingdom 735ms, 675.4k, 35 requests 1.8s, 497k, 30 requests


If Elementor is used on a page, it defeats Lazy Load.

If Elementor is activated but unused, then there is benefit from WP Rockets lazy load plugin.

New WP Lazy Load is garbage (mostly).

Elementor generally increases load time by 200 milliseconds minimum with – and requests double (in this test setup).

Is lazy loading important? Yes. For mobile users.


For giggles, we activated Autoptimize plugin with only the lazy load feature selected – with Elementor activated – and used.

  • Autoptimize Lazy Load, w/ elementor activated and used
    pingdom 723ms, 680.7k, 36 requests 1.762s, 218k, 24 requests

Did it work with Elementor?
Doesn’t look like it? Turn off Elementor then:

  • Autoptimize Lazy Load, no elementor activated
    pingdom 520ms, 478.2, 19 requests 1.004s, 35k, 7 requests

Now Autoptimize lazy load works!

Elementor causes lazy load plugins to fail. Try it.

NOTE: This GoDaddy test site has Astra theme 2.3.5 installed, WordPress core v.5.4, and only two lightweight plugins: Limit Login Attempts Reloaded (for security) and Classic Editor (defeats Gutenberg).

Asset Queue Manager turns off unneeded script requests.

We admit there are times we find new plugins and think we know their function – only to find out later what they’re really good for. This is one of them.

It’s just that the plugin author didn’t know how to explain or market the plugin the way we were thinking. They had a clever solution without our real-world problem mentioned. We didn’t recognize the plugin’s potential to solve our problems until later – by accident.

That’s called poor market positioning strategy  from bad product naming. It happens all of the time with good plugins that are given geeky names. For example, a favorite for speed is Plugin Logic. It’s almost impossible to find in the plugin directory. Lost in the ocean of 55,000+ plugins. It’s so good but only has 100 active installs. So sad.

For ages we’ve wanted the ability to switch off FontAwesome icon font. We see it as unnecessary baggage many themes include as a feature. In fact, most themes include it now. Sometimes, this 70k+ file is added to page weight just to make a single icon – like the magnifying glass in the search field, or perhaps the hamburger icon for a mobile menu. What a waste!

We learned we could “dequeue” that icon-non-feature in the WordPress functions.php file. But this always proved tedious or broke things. We wanted a faster, safer way to test. We asked our local WordPress meetup if they knew of a plugin that would remove FontAwesome painlessly. No one had any clue.

We found the answer while testing for plugins to remove the annoying Google PageSpeed error message:

Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.

We found “Asset Queue Manager” plugin. It doesn’t really help much with solving that Google PageSpeed error message. But what a gem, once we understood what it could really do. Not only can we dequeue FontAwesome, we can get rid of Google fonts and other heavy assets like unused sliders that have universal page loads.

Asset Queue Manager
Load Time: 10 millise

Description: A tool for experienced frontend performance engineers to take control over the scripts and styles enqueued on their site.

Hey! We are front-end performance engineers! But that name threw us. It didn’t say, “Font Awesome Remover plugin.”

The word “experienced” in the description is scary. But the damage done by novices can be quickly undone with some safety features the authors built-in.

Once the plugin is activated, browse to any page on the front of your site. An Assets link will appear on the top right of the WordPress admin bar. Click that to view and manage all assets globally.

That’s it “Assets” on the front side of the page. Not the dashboard side. Up there in the top right corner of your screen. Click it to open up the control panel for the plugin.

The plugin author explains he put it on the front because the assets only get enqueued on the frontend, so the plugin doesn’t really know anything on the backend. That’s why he decided to only show the link on the frontend. But many people don’t understand this link location. It’s not in the admin dashboard. It dequeues assets globally – not per page.

What if I dequeued jQuery (or something I shouldn’t have done) and now my site is broken. Go to the list of plugins in your admin panel. Find the Asset Queue Manager and click the “Restore Dequeued Assets” link. Nice and easy.

What a beautiful misunderstood plugin with a lot of hidden speed potential.

Here’s another application example, we recently used Asset Queue Manager plugin to de-enqueue the lazy-load-images function of Speed Booster Pack plugin. That was a javascript file called sbp-lazy-load.min.js. It was being loaded globally and adding page weight. We wanted to test the nice other features of Speed Booster Pack plugin – but not the lazy load because it caused site drag. That function was loaded even if it wasn’t selected in the plugin control panel. Weird! Our preference was using Rocket Lazy Load which has no site drag at all – a weightless plugin. Piece of cake with Asset Queue Manager!

Oh, and it’s *virtually* weightless and completely free. Perfect.

Here’s another example: Navigate to a page where you’d like to disable some request that are superfluous. The unwanted request will show up in a speed test waterfall chart. In this case, the plugin Blog Manager Light loaded Twitter scripts. We don’t use twitter. And it loaded a stripped-down Font Awesome icon set that we didn’t need either.

We turned those unneeded requested scripts off with Asset Queue Manager.

Click to enlarge. 29 scripts removed from an Elementor site.

What’s included in PagePipe’s ComboPack deal?

PagePipe ComboPack includes:

issue #1 – Contact.Me – Contact Form 7 plugin alternatives. CONTACT.ME details

issue #2 – Fly.Me – Hummingbird plugin alternative. FLY.ME details

issue #3 – Search.Me – Yoast SEO plugin alternative. SEARCH.ME details

issue #4 – Police.Me – iThemes Security plugin alternatives. POLICE.ME details

issue #5 – Crush.Me – Image Compression and optimization suggestions. CRUSH.ME details

issue #6 – Block.Me – Akismet plugin alternatives.

issue #7 – Blast.Me – WP Rocket plugin alternative. BLAST.ME details

issue #8 – Sign.Me – OptinMonster plugin alternatives.

issue #9 – Greet.Me – HelloBar plugin substitutes

issue #10 – Theme.Me – Alternatives to premium themes. THEME.ME details

issue #11 – Select.Me – Gonzales speed plugin alternatives.

issue #12 – Obsolete. Removed.

issue #13 – Theme.2 – Torture-tested Twenty-seventeen theme for speed. THEME.2 details

And the “Toxic WordPress” 33-page ebook bonus.

When is a plugin too old to trust?

Today, PagePipe uses 70 plugins. About 30 of those not updated for over 1 year. Some for many years. We’re not embarrassed about that. It’s not a mistake.

Plugins listed in our ebooks are currently used on PagePipe. And also on client sites.

So the question is “Outdated? By what definition?”

Some think outdated plugins produce a warning like:

“This plugin hasn’t been tested with the latest 3 major releases of WordPress. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.”

Being orphaned or abandoned doesn’t mean “bad or rotten.”

These lonely plugins still work. And often for over a decade without complaints. That isn’t brokenness.


“Does 8 months since an update concern us? Not in the least. There are plugins that are 8-years old in the directory that work fine. Those “best if used by” freshness dates are silly. They throw people off with their arbitrary “expiration-date” warnings.”

WordPress places warnings when a plugin isn’t tested with recent versions. Does that mean it won’t work any more with new versions of WordPress? Nope.

WordPress’ motive is their legal protection against liability and lawsuits. C.Y.A. If a plugin doesn’t work any more or presents security hazards, it’s removed fast. And some are. In particular, malicious plugins. They call those “take downs.” Plugin authors remove some because they didn’t get the market results they wanted. But generally plugins stay as long as there isn’t any noise about them. Retired or dead author’s plugins stay in the WordPress free directory.

No plugin is safe. Not paid (premium) plugins. Not obsolete plugins. And not recently updated plugins. A common plugin problem is automatic updates loading onto managed WordPress sites. Bugs in the new version mangle the site or causes conflicts.

It happens.

There’s no such thing as a risk-free plugin or theme. Even reckless WordPress messes up with their own Automattic-authored plugins.

Good-old “Plugin Logic” is our secret, speed-weapon plugin. It’s used on every site we touch. SELECT.ME issue #11 talks about it. It’s an amazing plugin.

Want to keep a specific plugin from updating? We recommend “Block Specific Plugin Updates” plugin. There are times this is handy.

A plugin we use to track plugin age is “More Plugin Info” plugin

There’s plugin churning in the 55,000+ plugin database. Don’t let silly warnings discourage you. They aren’t for your protection. They’re protecting WordPress.

Don’t fear old plugins.

How many plugins is too many?

PagePipe is hosted on cheap GoDaddy magnetic servers with no CDN. GoDaddy hosting is the second most hated provider in the world. The first is BlueHost. We’re out to prove even “bad” hosting can get fast page speed. (We host our store on Bluehost! Our blog on GoDaddy!) is living proof these recommendations for speed actually work.

PagePipe now use 70 plugins on the blog (GoDaddy) and 24 plugins on the secure store (BlueHost). Even with this many plugins, load time is under 2 seconds on cheap, shared hosting. It’s not plugin quantity, it’s the quality that makes a difference. Web designers can’t be arbitrary in loading and activating plugins. The result is slow pages. And all our plugins are freebies from the plugin directory.

It’s a myth using many plugins slows down your website. Being sloppy in judging plugin quality or necessity is the culprit. That’s within a web designer’s control. It calls for wisdom and speed testing. The best plugins add no page weight at all – weightlessness! (In reality, about 1 millisecond – or less – per plugin to the initial page load.)

Get PagePipe’s ComboPack now

Free plugins duplicate the costly Hummingbird features.

Do we think the Hummingbird all-in-one speed plugin for WordPress websites is cool?

Nope. We know you can get the same website optimization functions for free with standalone plugins – and produce even better results.

Hummingbird Marketing Page

Wpmu Dev Hummingbird New Product Announcement

Hummingbird Features

  • Generate a performance report with recommended speed improvements
  • Browser caching
  • Minify and combine files
  • Defer script loading
  • GZIP configuration
  • Bonus: Uptime monitor and notification

Hummingbird is a performance and optimization plugin to improve site speed. Using cloud-based services, it analyzes (by Google Page Insight standards), minifies, can add Gzip compression, and caches pages.


All of this costs money. Hummingbird is a SAAS subscription service. The advertised prices are: $49.50 monthly, $103.50 quarterly, or $294 annually. Recurring payments are made via PayPal. Those are the reduced-by-half, discounted signup prices. Sticker shock!

You can easily add all Hummingbird features to your website with just six free, WordPress-archived plugins. That’s right. Free. And they’ll probably run even faster.

Here they are:

1Hummingbird Feature: Minification
Minifying shrinks files and combines them to lighten server load with fewer HTTP requests (calls).

Free plugin alternatives for minification.

Better WordPress Minify (662k zip download)
Allows you to minify your CSS and JS files for faster page loading for visitors. Not all minifier plugins work – in fact – they frequently break your site. This plugin really works. It combines (concatenates) all possible files to reduce the number of HTTP requests and removes code “white space” and comments.

Our other favorite is:

Autoptimize (186k zip download)
It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles, injects CSS in the page head by default and can move and defer scripts to the footer. It also minifies the HTML code itself, making your page really lightweight.


Minification is not an important optimization tactic for mobile speed.

There are 31 minification plugins in the WordPress directory. They vary from 3.8k to 6.6M Gzip-compressed archive size. The plugins may be fresh and updated – or as stale as 8 years. What good are minification plugins? Why are they common recommendations for speed? Do they make a difference? Why do they often break your website?

Claims are: Minification plugins lead to faster page render times. These plugins reduce bandwidth consumption. Unbeknown to site owners, minification plugins lump several functions together. One function is minification – another is concatenation.

NOTE: If code is offsite, like Facebook scripts, it won’t concatenate. It’s out of the control (reach) of the plugin. That code resides on a different protected server. No luck. Offsite third-party scripts – like WebFonts or GoogleAds – kill speed.

Minification by itself is harmless. It’s removes white space and comments from HTML, CSS and JS code. There was a time when minification (white space removal) was significant. This was before the days of standard Gzip compression on servers. All modern browsers have Gzip activated for decoding or decompressing. Before Gzip, white space made a difference of 10 percent to 30 percent reduction in file size. In the  days of slow dialup modems, programmers hand removed white space and comments. That was worthwhile. But not any more.

Mobile Speed

Gzip compression speeds up text based file transfers. It’s not applied to image files. But it does compress HTML, Javascript, PHP, CSS, and others by 50 to 70 percent. The load time improvement can be noticeable.

The option to enable gzip compression was removed in WordPress 2.5 because Apache servers could handle it much more efficiently than PHP. The Gzip function was never put back. It then became necessary to edit the server HTTP access file manually. However, many people don’t have root server access (as in many shared hosting accounts) so that denied them Gzip speed benefits.

Because of the WordPress 2.5 change, Gzip could only be enabled by editing the HTTP access file via FTP or Cpanel. This is not only cumbersome but also dangerous. Making a mistake breaks your WordPress site. We know from experience. It’s not a fun place to be.

Plugins were soon authored to compensate for the loss of functionality in WordPress. We don’t recommend any of these plugins. They are unnecessary. These useless plugins are:

Repeat: We don’t recommend any of the above Gzip plugins. WARNING: Several may actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. We speak from experience again. It depends upon your theme and other plugins.

Many, Gzip plugins run through PHP, which, although fast, is not as fast as running directly from the Apache server using mod_deflate. Running Gzip via PHP uses extra CPU cycles and memory.

Before installing any plugins for Gzip.

Your hosting may automatically enable Gzip. Then no plugin is needed. For example, today GoDaddy’s Linux Web Hosting accounts have mod_deflate enabled by default. Mod_deflate is an apache server module that compresses data using gzip compression before sending it to the user. This compresses all text type files requested from it (HTML, CSS, JS, PHP, etc). Your hosting may do the same. Check your site with this tool:

Or this one:

Example – Our PagePipe Gzip results using online tests:

  • Page size (uncompressed): 31,766 bytes
  • Download size (compressed): 6,728 bytes
  • Bandwidth saved by compression: 78.8%

If your host isn’t providing automatic Gzip compression, then use the following plugins. They’re proven safe methods:

Far Future Expiration Header
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance. This is a best practice advocated by the Yahoo Extreme Performance Team. It keeps files and images cached longer. There is also a radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition. Set Far Future expiration to 365 days. You’re done.

WP Super Simple Speed
WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or configs. Simple performance optimization without any hassle. Gzip is automatically added to your .htaccess file on your server by this plugin.


Where is the missing WP Super Simple Speed plugin?

It’s still available to download on GitHub.

The plugin author removed the plugin  because he was probably fed up with trying to help people with conflict problems from minification – actually concatenation of files. The plugin wasn’t removed by WordPress. The conflicts were mainly with fat, heavy plugins you shouldn’t use anyway – like Gravity Forms plugin.

If a plugin “breaks” anything. Simply don’t use it.

WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or settings. Simple performance optimization without any hassle.

Don’t be afraid of the three-year staleness on WP Super Simple Speed plugin. It works fine with newer PHP 7.1.

There is some redundancy with Autoptimize plugin and Far-Futures plugin features. But there’s no conflict and it finishes off a few hard to remove speed bumps.

WP Super Simple Speed writes new command code into your .htaccess file on your server. It does not overwrite any existing code.

Features include:

  • Automatic hotlink protection to prevent bandwidth stealing/leeching.
  • GZIP compression (speeds up page load time and saves bandwith).
  • Loads jquery from google CDN (decreases latency | increases parallelism | better caching).
  • Includes Vary: Accept-Encoding Header (increase performance and score on various performance tools).
  • Disables auto-save on posts (lowers overhead on the server that can impact performance).
  • Automatically sets UTF-8 encoding for files being served as text/html or text/plain.
  • Enables keepalive (allowing persistent connections) which saves on bandwidth.
  • Removes unnecessary clutter from wp head (rsd, version generator, and much more).
  • Dequeues extra fontAwesome stylesheets loaded to your theme by other plugins.
  • Removes query strings from all static resources.

The usefulness of this plugin varies with each site. There are alternative discrete plugins to achieve the same features. This plugin is just “handy” to cut down the plugin count.

The discrete plugins are:

Gzip is a software application used for file compression and decompression. Gzip is short for GNU zip; as the program was created as a free software replacement for the compression program used in early Unix systems.

Gzip replaces patent-encumbered data compression algorithms.
Most browsers and server platforms (including Apache and Microsoft IIS) support Gzip. It is often used in web applications and software such as PHP to improve speed. Hypertext PreProcessor (PHP) is a server-side HTML embedded scripting language. PHP is not always provided by a hosting server or may be a “paid” option. PHP is something that need to be “switched on” on the server. Check your ISP for how to do this. Or assume it’s on and just test. You can test to see whether PHP is activated with YSLOW or PageSpeed tools. Gzip can compress the HTML code by 50 percent to 70 percent. It does not compress images. Use an image processing program like GIMP or Photoshop.

Gzip compression: What’s the speed gain?
Gzip reduces redundancy in the HTML code. All modern servers and browsers can compress and decompress Gzip on-the-fly. It’s not the same as removing “white space.” White space removal eliminates spaces between words and code. That would buy a 10% reduction in the HTML and is meaningful on dialup. White space removal is now called “minification” or “minifying.” Removing white space AND using Gzip simultaneously are almost an insignificant compression gain—about 1%. Not worth the time usually since all “blanks” are redundant and compressed by Gzip anyway. The difference in speed is usually indistinguishable.

There are a number of plugins that claim to invoke Gzip. Many actually break your site (white screen of death from plugin conflicts) or make your site slower. The goal usually is a simple code modification in a file located in your site’s root folder. This is called the “.htaccess” file. You can alter this code with a simple copy-and-paste in a text editor. But even easier than that is using the “

After adding Autoptimize plugin.

After adding concatenation, the number of requests is 11. Much less. Reduction in page weight is 116k (a 16k reduction) and speed is 137 milliseconds faster.

Is improving page speed from 363 milliseconds to 226 milliseconds significant? Does it matter?

As speed freaks, we’d like to think so. But most desktop site visitors can’t perceive those kinds of speed difference. They see 1-second page changes as almost instantaneous. No waiting. But a 100 millisecond change is transparent.

For mobile speed, 100 milliseconds is a big gain. But not if it breaks your site.

Offsite link: Performance implications of bundling and minification on web browsing. Microsoft.
Offsite Link: Minification – Explained in Plain English. WP Rocket. (We highly recommend this article).

Why not take advantage of the improvement? We’ll keep Autoptimize plugin installed. But if there is any sign of problems, forget it. It’s better to have a stable and usable site than a fast flaky one. Quality is important for credibility and usability.

Minification plugins are nice when they work. But more often than not, concatenation breaks your website in some odd way. Reducing the number of HTTP requests is nice. But parallel delivery makes a bigger difference in speed than minification and concatenation. You don’t control that. Browsers have changed and allow more parallel loading than ever before. The pipe is bigger.

Concatenation is a process that often doesn’t work “out of the box.” You need trial and error by switching on and off options. You may not eliminate all render-blocking resources without breaking the site. In fact, we gamble you’ll break your site before you’re done.

So what breaks most often:

  • Responsive navigation elements disappear.
  • Email or ecommerce signups malfunction.
  • Page resets (refreshes or loads) produce HTML unstylized pages.
  • Delayed pages rebuild like cold molasses before your eyes.
  • Disappearing page elements such as menus.

These are all signs of concatenation messing things up. You may get the white screen of death. It’s happened to us. And we thought we were careful.

How much speed from minification plugins when combined with gzip compression?

Minification/concatenation combined with Gzip give some improved speed results. Gzip is a general, generic algorithm. It’s required protocol in our book. Minification is aware about content and does improvements general compression algorithms can’t. When it completely eliminates comments and whitespaces – that’s 100% data compression. There is no harm. Concatenation is always the real problem.

We have used this tool to minify CSS child themes using copy and paste.

Minification is removing whitespace from site files. Often, minification can reduce file size by 20 to 50 percent. That doesn’t translate into 20 to 50 percent speed improvement. Sorry. Just paste the CSS contents into the CSS input area. Tweak the compression settings and options, and process it. Then, replace the processed contents. If you only get 5 – 10 percent improvements, be more aggressive with the compression settings. 99 percent of the time, the only thing removed from minified JavaScript files are the comments and whitespace.

Our Recommendation: Test minification plugins. If they break your site, forget about it. We do minification – if it doesn’t affect the theme functions. But often we invent workarounds. Any sign of trouble and we may try a couple more favorite minify plugins and then quit. Not worth the grief.

If there wasn’t some “measurable goodness,” we wouldn’t minify. Often, it’s only a psychological benefit. There’s therapeutic value for those afflicted with Speed OCD.

Feel guiltless if you drop minification.

What are our favorite Minification plugins?

Zip archive 186k
Active installs: 300,000+
updated: 1 week ago
downloads: 1,734,437
retention: 17.3%

Better WordPress Minify

Active installs: 90,000+
Zip archive: 655k
updated: 2 years
downloads: 553,585
retention: 16.3%

Speed Booster Pack
Active installs: 40,000+
Zip archive: 82k
updated: 3 weeks
downloads: 324,934
retention: 12.3%

We found Speed Booster Pack’s minification features succeed where other minification plugins caused conflicts or white screens. It’s not for everyone but worth noting here.

We recently used Asset Queue Manager plugin to dequeue the lazy-load-images function of the Speed Booster Pack plugin. That was a javascript file called sbp-lazy-load.min.js. It was being loaded globally and adding page weight. We wanted the nice other features of Speed Booster Pack plugin. But not the lazy load because it caused site drag. That function was loaded even if it wasn’t selected in the plugin control panel. Weird! Our preference was using Rocket Lazy Load plugin which has no site drag at all – a weightless plugin. Piece of cake with Asset Queue Manager! Read more about Asset Queue Manager.

2Hummingbird Feature: Caching
Store a snapshot of specific content in your user’s browser so they don’t need to reload the entire page every time they visit. Improves user experience and lessens the load on your server.

Free plugin alternative for caching.

Cache Enabler (17k zip download)
Caching plugin for WordPress. Caching doesn’t always help with speed. It depends upon how optimized your site is to begin with. If you’ve done a good job making images small (or not even using images) and Gzip compression is activated, caching doesn’t necessarily make much improvement.

3Hummingbird Feature: Remove Render Blocking Resources
The normal behavior of a website is to pause the HTML parsing while the scripts are executing. Render-blocking Javascript prevents above-the-fold content on your page from being rendered until the javascript has finished loading. This can impact your page speed and user experience.

Free plugin alternative for Javascript Rendering.


We don’t recommend using Google’s PageSpeed Insight tools for doing mobile website benchmarking – or even for desktop. We avoid this tool. We refer you to the following articles as to why:

Why the .@Google Mobile Test Tool Is Absolute Crap >
Why you Shouldn’t Care About Google PageSpeed Insights >
Why Trying to Get 95+ on Google PageSpeed Insights for Your WordPress Site Will Drive You Mad! >
The Truth about Google Pagespeed Insights >

Better tools for evaluation are and
Note: WebPagetest is an open-source project owned by Google.

Deferring Javascript breaks WordPress.

Google’s Bogus Error Message for Mobile Anxiety

Should Fix:
Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content.

Render-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message Google’s mobile test delivers. It pushes some perfectionists to the brink of frothing madness. We’ve decided it must be ignored completely if you use WordPress. Give yourself a break. It’s not you that’s bad. It’s Google.

“Everybody is talking about Render Blocking. Sounds like something Google planted so we’d spend more time learning code – instead of thinking of how to run a successful blog.”

When you’re using WordPress for website production, it’s an impossible situation. The most basic components of WordPress trigger the “render-blocking JS” error message. No other method of speed testing uses render-blocking JS as a parameter. It’s not worth reporting.

Many supposed solutions are created by plugin authors attempting to resolve this frustrating error message. We tested all of the 8 plugins below. They do not work as claimed. They are not “plug-and-play.” They don’t eliminate the “render-blocking” error message on PageSpeed Insights. Nor do they improve page load time in the least. Three plugins broke the page being tested. Those three are marked with a red asterisk.

These are not simple or easy plugins. In most cases, they are dangerous in the wrong, inexperienced hands. You can easily damage your site. We recommend you not use them. They are esoteric fluff. Their claims are presented below but don’t believe them without testing for confirmation on your site. We had no success. This is a warning.

above the fold optimization 103.4k
Description: Enables to pass the “Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”-rule from Google PageSpeed Insights

performance optimization order styles and javascript 5k
Description: Ordering StyleSheet and JavaScript (external and inline) for performance optimization. The plugin will also collect different inline scripts to one place.

wp deferred javascripts 14k
Description: Defer the loading of all JavaScripts added by the way of wp_enqueue_script(), using LABJS. The result is a significant optimization of loading time. It is compatible with all WordPress JavaScript functions (wp_localize_script(), js in header, in footer…) and works with all well coded plugins. If a plugin or a theme is not properly enqueuing scripts, your site may not work.

external files optimizer* 4.7k
Description: Automatically combine and compress css/js files generate with wp_head() and wp_footer()

head cleaner* 262k
Description: Cleaning tags from your WordPress header and footer. To speed up the loading of JavaScript and CSS. PHP5 required.

headjs loader* 15k
Description: Load your Javascript files via Head JS. Caution: this plugin can cause major issues with the javascript on your site if not implemented properly. Please be sure to test on a development server first.

wp asset clean up 34k
Description: Make your website load FASTER by preventing specific scripts (.JS) & styles (.CSS) from loading on pages/posts and home page. WP Asset Clean Up scans your page and detects all the assets that are loaded. When editing a page/post select the ones you DO NOT wish to load.

wp super simple speed 7k
Description: Super Simple Speed is a stable and powerful plugin that dramatically increases your WordPress page load speed and gives you a better performance score on the major speed testing services. Unlike most other similar plugins, WP Super Simple Speed is lightweight (less than 20kb in size), and has no clutter or unnecessary code or configs. Simple performance optimization without any hassle.

4Hummingbird Feature: Enable Gzip file compression.
Send smaller files over the web for quicker load times. Sending zipped files is faster and can save you money on hosting.

Free plugin alternative for Gzip compression.

Honestly? Gzip never saves money on hosting any more. Where did they come up with that old myth? But Gzip does make a difference in page load time. There are many free Gzip compression plugins. Gzip can also be done by hand-coding – tediousness! We’ve found that none of those methods work reliably or will break your pages. Our recommendation instead is:

Far Future Expiration Header (7.5k download)
This plugin will add a “far future expiration” date for various file types to improve site performance. This is a best practice advocated by the Yahoo Extreme Performance Team. It keeps files and images cached longer. There is also a simple, on-off radio button to enable Gzip – a nice addition. For best results, set the expiration to the maximum 365 days.

5Hummingbird Feature: Automated Image Compression
Save space and improve site speed with image compression.

Free plugin alternative for automated image compression.

Duh! The obvious free replacement plugin is the not-so-pro version, WP Smush, (which only compresses images by 10 percent – not good enough) maintained by the very same author.  Don’t use it.

We recommend instead two excellent image-optimizer alternatives:

ShortPixel Image Optimiser (64.3k zip download)
ShortPixel is an image compression tool that helps improve website performance. The plugin optimizes images automatically using either lossy or lossless compression. We suggest you use “lossy” settings. Resulting smaller images are no different in visual quality from the original. The plugin can do this as images are loaded or can retrofit your image library. Retrofits can take about 20 minutes of computer time. So go make a sandwich. The savings results are shown in your media library for each image. But if you convert too many images in a given period, it costs money.

So our other image optimizer plugin recommendation is:

Imsanity (152k zip download)
The plugin is configurable with a max width, height and quality. When an image is larger than the configured size, Imsanity automatically scales it down to the right dimensions and quality setting – and replaces the original image. It can optionally convert big PNGs to JPEGs for faster load times. We use a quality setting of 70. This plugin is completely free. This is our go-to image optimization plugin.

By default, WordPress always compressed images upon upload. In version 4.5, WordPress changed JPEG compression from 90Q to 82Q. This reduced image weight by an average of 25 percent.

Since version 2.5, WordPress used a default-quality setting of 90 to optimize images. A 90Q setting creates larger file sizes than recommended by modern web best practices. For example,  WebPagetest warns site owners if images aren’t compressed enough.

Images are 62 percent of page weight in 2017. The average page now weighs between 2M and 2.3M.

WebPagetest specification: Images compressed within 10% of a Photoshop-web-save quality of 50 will pass. Up to 50% larger will warn (we guess that would be around 70Q to 75Q). Anything larger than that will fail. The image score is the percentage of bytes saved by image re-compression.

Photoshop provides a handy “Save for Web” option that keeps file sizes low. But what about a large website with a lot of images? An online store might have thousands of images. Having to create different sizes of each of these is an enormous task.

WordPress uses ImageMagick, an open-source command-line graphics editor, to quickly resizes images. This technique maintains great visual quality and small file sizes. It automates resizing image compression with formats like Jpeg and PNG.

The Odd Number of 82Q.

Researchers compared ImageMagick’s various compression settings against Photoshop’s high quality (60Q) setting for JPEGs. An Imagick compression setting of 82Q was closest. They used an open source test to compare dissimilarity of input and output Jpeg images.

Changing the default image quality setting is a small change. Yet, it makes a big impact on file size without sacrificing perceived image quality. The new 82Q setting only applies to the intermediate size images. Not the original files uploaded by users.

To change original image size dimensions and quality settings, we recommend Imsanity plugin.

We repeat: original full-sized, uploaded images remain unaffected by WordPress core optimization. This change only affects images resized by WordPress, such as image thumbnails. For international users, on slower web connections, this is important for performance optimization.

We agree with these changes for improving WordPress speed.

6Hummingbird Feature: Uptime Monitoring
Monitor your sites uptime, downtime and average response time and receive alert email notifications if your site goes down.

Free plugin alternatives for monitoring uptime.

We don’t do monitoring of our website. But if we did, we’d use one of the free plugins listed below:

WP Really Simple Health (40.5k zip download)

tagBeep uptime monitor (30.9k zip download)

SensorPress (24.4k zip download)

Uptime Robot Plugin for WordPress (23.0k zip download)
requires free signup at


Practice what you preach.

As a demonstration of irony (and perhaps expose), we include some performance numbers for the Hummingbird product page. They obviously do NOT practice what they preach when it comes to performance optimization.

On Google PageSpeed Insights, the Hummingbird product page fails the usual :

“Eliminate render-blocking JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content”

But the plugin authors claim Hummingbird fixes that problem. Oops!

From WebPagetest Test Results
First View: 10.375 seconds, 121 requests
Repeat View: 7.675 seconds, 46 requests

The visitor-expected wait time for page loads is 2 seconds. This is accepted web best practice. This product page, with a 10-second load, doesn’t demonstrate the values they’re selling with the Hummingbird plugin. It’s another fail!

Both of the above tests say image optimization fails. What? Incredible.

So we then take a look at total page weight. It is 2.499M. Yes. Megabytes. Overall performance score 84 – a “B” rating. Again, unacceptable performance. (The performance score recently dropped even lower on Google PageSpeed Insights: mobile 67 and desktop 79).


Why LearnDash LMS is so slow.

StellarWP announced acquiring LearnDash, a learning management system (LMS) for WordPress. The product allows educators to create online courses, quizzes, and dynamic content. is a Canadian company. It does speed tuning for LearnDash websites but is not accepting new clients.

“To maintain high standards of service for our existing clients, we are not currently taking on any new projects.”

Problems with LearnDash

1. Caching the plugin pages is not possible. The dynamic content interacts with the database. Quizzes get stuck and results won’t finish. Uncached LearnDash content means tests spawn at least 1 backend PHP process. This slows things down as users increase.

2. Minification and concatenation speed tricks usually break LearnDash CSS and JavaScript files.

3. LearnDash quizzes are the most speed-intensive and reduce performance. The big problem is when many users are taking quizzes at the same time. So it’s traffic-dependent and fluctuates.

4. LearnDash is the ONLY LMS where you can design and style its pages with a page builder. But we don’t see this as helpful. Page builders add code and slow down pages. But using LearnDash with a page builder is like using a page builder to build a page builder. Overkill. It would be faster loading to select from their default options.

5. LearnDash is a leading LMS player, it is very resource-intensive. It renders dynamic content in personalized real-time. That is database-intensive interactions with the server.

6. LearnDash has tons of features. This bloats the site and slows things down.

7. Even a low -traffic e-learning site experiences technical problems with technical demands. This includes:

  • the number of registered users
  • the number of courses
  • number of simultaneous active users
  • any combination of these

These problems can range from:

  • full hardware usage
  • throttling
  • database write problems
  • severe slow-downs
  • interruptions during course time

Almost every action performed in LearnDash updates the database. This can lead to transaction conflicts. In high-traffic situations, these often result in database table locks. Or full database-lock which disallows write-access to everyone. This, of course, is disastrous.
Simple hosting plans that aren’t Enterprise handle only a few dozen LearnDash. When many users perform an action, your site hits a peak, and everything starts failing. It’s unknown how many users you have on your site at the same time.

There is no viable substitute for LearnDash LMS plugin to speed up your site.