Sedated Servers

WordPress Mobile Speed

Updated


There are no affiliate links on PagePipe.

People love to argue about which hosting is the best in the world. All hosts are pretty lame at some time. They’re for-profit companies run by fallible humans.

We apologize in advance for speaking ill of a host you may care a lot about. Can you tolerate trash-talk about your special-preferred hosting company? If not, you’re gonna be resentful. It’s a loyalty and pride issue for some team-type people. Hosting is a commodity product. We don’t get emotional about web hosts. But at the same time, we ‘hate” slow web pages. That sounds pretty emotional.

 

Servers at a hosting facility.

SLOW web hosting SUCKS

Let’s be upfront about our topic. We’re discussing common ordinary cheap shared commodity hosting. Not expensive specialty hosting like VPNs. And huge cloud-based services charging by the minute – or by byte volume.

A frequent question we’re asked is,

“What host do you recommend for speed?”

Uh.

People are often surprised at our response, “We don’t recommend hosting.” Of course, you need a web host to build a website. But we don’t recommend hosts? Why? They’re cyclical from mediocre to bad to worse. That’s been the history.

If site owners asked, “What host should I avoid?”

Many diseased hosts — they’d sell their grandmother for $100.

It’s much easier to answer. We could give a long list. There are so many hosting problems people don’t know about. But there are easy ways to find out how good-is-good-enough.

A speed evaluation we do is measuring Time To First Byte (TTFB). There are three ways to determine TTFB. Two are using online tests and another is by uploading an HTML file into your media library.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/find-out-what-your-server-ttfb-really-is/

We’ve talked on PagePipe about why TTFB is important. But we’ll review it here.

Consider TTFB the server overhead. It’s a delay in milliseconds. It’s how long it takes for the server to respond to a request for web assets. Then the browser can begin to construct your WordPress page in the device viewport. A good TTFB is 100 to 300 milliseconds. Ordinary is around 500 milliseconds, and poor is 750 milliseconds. Dismal is 1 second. And anything after 1.5 seconds is horrific.

How bad does TTFB delay get?

Worst case we’ve seen TTFB as long as minutes. This slowdown is often caused by plugins hammering on the server database. Or a plugin and theme conflict confusing the server. So it isn’t always the server’s fault. Plugins with heavy zip downloads are the most notorious for causing TTFB delays. They’re complicated plugins with lots of code – and lots of repeated calls to the server. That is bad for speed.

Hosts with impeccable service and wonderful uptime become bandits about their speed benefits. They brag about the quality of their magnificent servers. Boasting about superior SSD (solid-state drives) instead of mechanical spinner magnetic drives. As if these specifications matter for site owners. We’ve never seen the type of drive technology make any difference. Yes. SSD drives are faster. But in the end with all the other hosting variables, it isn’t significant. It’s not a measurable difference. The gain gets lost in the noise.

Who benefits most from SSD drives is the host company. SSD drives are quiet, smaller, cooler, and reduce energy consumption. They are good at reducing the server-facility overhead in floor-space and energy bills. But that has nothing to do with actual speed – or website load time. That is specsmanship hosts boast about. But the boasting never proves anything. Like bragging that your car can go zero to 60 in 3 seconds – but you use it for shopping at Walmart or driving in school zones. A waste of machine.

Because a host claims its servers are fast doesn’t mean you get fast. They exaggerate and omit details. They show perfect samples.

There are simple tests to find out if they’re deceptive. Here’s how:

Get the URL of the hosting company homepage. Plug that into ByteCheck.com. You will never get a faster TTFB on their servers than they present on their homepage. That is simple. Compare them. Take 6 consecutive tests in a row. Are you surprised to find your favorite host gets 200-millisecond TTFB — but only once per hour? The rest of the time it’s fluctuating around 1.7-seconds TTFB. That is terrible. What host would be that bad? Er. SiteGround. Yeah. They suck for speed and there are reasons. Popular hosts don’t guarantee good speed. Neither do expense hosts Like WP Engine, $100 per month: $1,150 per year. Ouch.

So what about places like BlueHost ($71.40 annual rent)? We wanted to prove a point once. Even on super-cheap hosting like BlueHost we could load an eCommerce store in under 2 seconds. What kind of TTFB did our store get on BlueHost? Typically there was a 1.7 second delay.

That meant we had to load our store pages in 300 milliseconds. We made it work but we had no room for error. Those tight tolerances made us uncomfortable. The load time would push out beyond 2 seconds to 2.2 to 2.5 seconds. We wanted to maintain our reputation as speed freaks. So we moved the store to Rochen later ($227.40 annual rent fee). We proved our point, but we didn’t want to stay there any longer than necessary.

So is BlueHost so bad? it all depends upon what your goals are. To run a simple blog, it’s fine. All hosts are bad and good at different times. What we like is hosts with rock-stable servers. We prefer a predictable 500-millisecond TTFB at GoDaddy. Rather than a fluctuating TTFB at SiteGround ($300 annual rent). When we work with speed clients, do we move them off SiteGround? Always. Do the clients whine about that? Yes. They do. They think SiteGround gives them good service. When we call their service desk, we get a correct answer half the time. The IRS 800 helpline gives wrong tax advice answers half the time, too. Is that good enough? Heck, no.

But what we despise most is hosting companies with speed claims that are flat out lies. They give no proof. They start throwing around technobabble jargon. It’s a smokescreen that they out spec the competition.

We do not appreciate these tactics. We aren’t ignorant.

When you find a good host, will they stay good forever? Not for long. For example, we used to love Pressidium managed WordPress hosting ($1,798.8 annual rent). But they had some policy changes and now TTFB speed – that used to be spectacular – isn’t so good. And they locked us away from writing code to the server htaccess file with plugins.

The htaccess file is important if you do selective activation of plugins. A cool speed trick. That ruins speed Karma for us. Most managed hosting tries to keep the client as far away from server access as possible. Why? They say “security issues.” We know the real reason. Services costs rise as they get more clientele and they can’t keep up with the ensuing chaos. So they start locking people out to reduce the service calls.

What about Kinsta ($2,400 annual rent)? Aren’t they good? Their mantra is “Built for Speed.” Yeah, except they give out bad advice for speed. They don’t speak of cheaper alternatives. They perpetuate myths to their advantage making their specsmanship appear dandy. Propaganda machines. We criticize their claims and advice more than we do their actual performance. We feel it’s deceptive and shallow.

We’ve written quite a bit about Kinsta policies and advice. So we won’t repeat the potential insinuations and insults here.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/how-kinsta-pretends-its-the-fastest-wordpress-experience/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/kinsta-speed-bias/

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-illusory-superiority-of-kinsta-web-speed-propaganda/

We want a host with integrity. It’s often fine until a hosting company changes ownership – or gets popular. That’s right. Popularity ruins hosts. For example, HostGator, we were checking why a New York seller of woman’s perfume had such a slow site. We used a tool called YouGetSignal. That online tool told us it could only show the first 1,000 domains. Our client was sharing the server with at least 1,000 more domains. That was the problem. The server was crammed to the gills with over 2,000 domains. What is normal? Well under 100 domains – and more like a dozen.

REFERENCE: https://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/

Mystified speed clients ask why their host server is so extraordinarily slow. We check with YouGetSignal, and bingo, there’s an adult porn site lurking unknown on their server. Kiss speed goodbye if that’s the case. You don’t need an advanced degree to use these online tools. It’s a simple copy-and-paste of your URL. The tool then identifies in RED the offending adult site. Sharing a server isn’t bad – if you have the right neighbors.

Generally, you get better speed by throwing money at the problem. Or renting more expensive servers. We see this on sites so corrupted we can’t update to a current version of WordPress. Instead of rebuilding the site and fixing it, the lazy owners buy more expensive hosting to solve it. The site is a hand-grenade with the pin pulled out. But they don’t want to fix it.

Craziness.

Where do site owners go to host a damaged site? Usually Kinsta. Got a lousy site. Go to Kinsta. It fixes speed with money. Shortsighted. That site is ticking like a time bomb.

30 seconds or even 1 minute load times, inevitably it’s a huge plugin fighting to get control of the server database. Usually a security plugin, a caching plugin, or metric-gathering plugin. These plugins usually weigh more than WordPress itself. But – hey – they are popular. Did anyone ever think to look at the size of the popular plugin? And wonder if that monstrosity is detrimental? Obviously not. It’s installed because everyone (The Herd) is installing it. It must be good. Right?

After pulling these fat plugins, the server miraculously calms down to a fast load time. What good is a lame plugin like that? Your bounce rate goes through the roof. These kinds of sites are the easiest tune-ups for us to fix and create the most dramatic results. We’re heroes. When you go from a 30-second load time to under 1 second, it impresses the client. They think you performed an exorcism when all you did was disconnect a power hog plugin.

WP ENGINE is not a preferred host for speed. Their server overhead (TTFB) is often about 800 milliseconds. A good TTFB (time to first byte) is 100 to 200 milliseconds. The average is 500 milliseconds. Poor is 750 milliseconds and bad is over 1 second. Hosts like SiteGround have erratic TTFB. It sometimes is 200 milliseconds – but most often is 1.7 seconds. So they claim the cherry-picked specification and ignore the real speed errors.

WP ENGINE’s homepage TTFB is 107 milliseconds tested with ByteCheck. Impressive. That would fool our usual rule of checking the host’s homepage as an indicator.

But 6 consecutive test of a client site on WP ENGINE shows:

ByteCheck 831 milliseconds, 927 milliseconds, 878 milliseconds, 924 milliseconds, 866 milliseconds, 846 milliseconds.

WP Engine is using a sweet server for their homepage hosting – but not yours. You aren’t sharing your server with anyone. It should be fast.

Their speed secret: they are using Fastly CDN and Cloudflare CDNs on their page but not yours. Fastly services charge based on traffic and bandwidth usage. And Cloudflare is $200 per month estimated.

In other words, they throw money at their homepage speed but not yours. A deception.

WordPress.org Official Recommended Web Hosting
GLOWING ENDORSEMENTS

There are hundreds of thousands of web hosts on the internet. WordPress recommends only three hosts: Bluehost, DreamHost, and SiteGround. Those companies “donate” a part of your hosting fee back to WordPress. That’s called an affiliate link anywhere else. Not a donation.

Listing is completely arbitrary but includes: “contributions” to WordPress.org – as their first criteria.

How much do those 3 companies pay WordPress?

They won’t tell you. But you can’t get listed unless you “contribute.” The WordPress endorsement is worth millions of dollars to these three companies. Uh? That’s more blackmail or hostage payments.

The recommended webhosting page on WordPress.org is incredibly lucrative. Based on conversations I’ve had with employees of hosts listed, it can generate millions of dollars in revenue.”

https://wptavern.com/the-wordpress-org-recommended-hosting-page-is-revamped-features-flywheel-for-the-first-time

Are they good services?

Why are the top-recommended hosts in a Google search the worst hosts in the eyes of real users? Why can’t you trust WordPress hosting recommendations?

Most hosting recommendations are unreliable for a simple reason: money. Like many other things, money corrupts hosting conversations. Recommending bad hosting leads to large amounts of money for the recommender. How does that happen? It’s the reality of the affiliate marketing model that dominates the hosting space.”

citation: https://wpshout.com/why-most-recommended-wordpress-hosting-lists-suck/

Here are some facts about WordPress.org recommended hosts:

Bluehost

We’ve mentioned BlueHost to prove we could make a store work even on poor-quality hosting. The TTFB for our site was 1.7 seconds. We loaded pages in under 300 milliseconds. Then things got worse and we moved.

REFERENCE: https://sitecare.com/blog/why-wordpress-org-should-stop-endorsing-bluehost/

Bluehost received a wooden spoon award for being the bottom feeder in a review of web hosts. Winning a wooden spoon doesn’t sound like a very awesome prize for a high-tech company.

BlueHost is owned by Endurance International Group who owns the 20 largest web hosts. They have venture-capital ownership in Automattic, the mothership of WordPress. EIG is owned by Clearlake Capital Group L.P. a diversified investment firm.

DreamHost

We’ve never used DreamHost ($203.40 annual rent for one domain). We never were tempted. But here’s the scoop on their homepage: TTFB: 195 milliseconds. Hey! That’s pretty good. Load time: 5.541 seconds. Hey! That’s pretty bad with such a good TTFB.

So why are they so slow? Maybe it’s because they’re sharing their server. That would be walking the talk. Nope? They share their server with no one. So why so slow?

Here’s why: remote third-party services located on distant servers.

Amazon CloudFront
fonts.googleapis.com : Google
widget.trustpilot.com : Amazon CloudFront
www.google-analytics.com : Google
connect.facebook.net : Facebook
googleads.g.doubleclick.net : Google

HotJar, a user experience metric service, adds 500 milliseconds.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/hotjar-adds-500-milliseconds-to-mobile-speed/

YouTube video: DreamHost isn’t lazy loading the video – a simple speed trick. This adds 500 milliseconds. Are they speed experts? Uh. No.

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/lazy-load-youtube-video-for-mobile-speed/

Drift is a $500 per month chat feature. Chat adds 1 second to load time. Do they really need chat on their homepage? Other places, sure. But why add that slow down to the homepage?

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/dumping-livechat-for-speed/

Font Awesome

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/should-i-disable-font-awesome-and-google-fonts-for-improved-speed/

You get the idea. These guys need to do their speed homework.

SiteGround

We’ve already mentioned SiteGround as having fluctuating TTFB. Every client we work with moves if they are on this host. Do we make them move? No. They choose to after they see the speed reports. Do we tell them where to host? No. They choose. We don’t care where they go as long as they move away from this host. Then we can achieve our speed goals. The clients always say, “But everyone says they are fast.” Who is everyone?

Everyone” is bloggers with affiliate links to SiteGround. Of course [forehead smack].

But … But … what about all the impartial reviews on internet blogs?

Check those referral links again in the “impartial” reviews. They’re affiliate links.

When an affiliate recommends a product to you and you buy it, the affiliate gets a payment. Someone paid for an opinion isn’t a great judge of truth.

$50 for 1 to 5 referrals per month, $75 for 6 to 10, $100 for 11 to 10, and $125 for 21+ sales. (This is the affiliate structure of SiteGround, one of our least favorite hosts.)

So, most WordPress hosting advice is dishonest. How do you find honest, real information?

You can’t. You have to test.

Do some of the simple tests we recommend in this ebook. Check their homepage and gimmicks by running a speed test on WebPageTest.org. Check their TTFB on ByteCheck.com. See who shares their server with them YouGetSignal.com. Look them up on Wikipedia and see who owns the host company.

Can we trust PagePipe?

We won’t answer that. Do testing for yourself. Do not trust any reviews or testimonials. Even ours.

Ask yourself, “How good is good enough?” Don’t waste money.

Here’s a full and clear disclaimer: There’s one affiliate link in our hosting report. It’s not on this page – or in our blog. We recommend a host and we collect an affiliate payment if you buy from them. Not if you click the link. Only if you decide to buy.

Who is that host?

GreenGeeks

You go there and buy and we get a kickback. The link is in our 1.5MB downloadable PDF. Do we deserve it? Or will you punish us for being blatant and honest? They don’t charge you. You pay the same price either way. It’s your way of saying “thank you” and giving us some applause. Do we need applause? Absolutely.

If you abhor GreenGeeks, feel free to write and tell us why. Email us.

After all these years of restraint, why endorse a hosting company now?

Ironically: The reason is integrity.

GreenGeeks doesn’t brag so much about speed. They could.

We moved from GoDaddy to them last year. We still use GoDaddy servers for testing and have an account with them. We moved because readers were asking if we’d like to have our SSL fixed. You know that little shield in the corner of your browser address field that promises you’re “secure.” They thought we missed that. They didn’t realize it was a deliberate choice for speed. SSL is used to slow sites by 500 milliseconds. But hosts have found ways to speed that extra burden up.

For example:

PagePipe blog now has a Time To First Byte of 167 milliseconds using ByteCheck test. GoDaddy was typically 500-milliseconds TTFB or worse. Our blog loaded in under two seconds. But GoDaddy charged $70 per year per domain for SSL/HTTPS certification. Other hosts as GreenGeeks offer that for free.

Our load time on PagePipe’s homepage is demonstrated in this test:

https://webpagetest.org/result/210204_DiKV_8e08087b1b542aa023269840fb288a2e/

PagePipe homepage on GreenGeeks. TTFB: 231 milliseconds, load time: 1.116 seconds.

How much does it cost for shared hosting on GreekGeeks versus GoDaddy?

We chose the Pro plan at $4.95 per month for the first year and $15.95 per month after that. Their features include:

Unlimited Websites

Unlimited Web Space
Unmetered Data Transfer
Free SSL Certificate
Free Domain Name for 1st Year
Free Nightly Backup
Free CDN
Unlimited E-mail Accounts
WordPress Installer/Updates
Unlimited Databases
2x Performance
LSCache Included
300% Green Energy Match
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

LSCache is LiteSpeed server caching. 

LiteSpeed helps performance. We’ve written a snarky article about our experience here:

REFERENCE: https://pagepipe.com/the-downside-of-litespeed-cache-plugin/

The downside is disabling your eCommerce WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads cart. There are special settings to disallow those pages. But we lost sales messing with the setting figuring things out. We got over it. Today, we are fans of LiteSpeed.

So how much is GoDaddy hosting?

For unlimited websites (Deluxe plan), it’s $4.99 per month the first year, and $8.99 after.

So after pricing settles in the second year, the annual difference is GoDaddy $107.88 US dollars. And GreenGeeks, $191.40.

But if we added the cheapest SSL fee +$69.99 per year, GoDaddy would be $177.87. And if we were registering a new domain that would add $17.99. Or $195.86.

The difference: $5.54 less for GreenGeeks. Does price tip the scale in GreenGeeks favor? Not really. It’s sixes. About the same cost.

So what does tip the scale to GreenGeeks favor:

GoDaddy doesn’t offer LiteSpeed server caching. That makes a big difference in performance for even our origin optimized websites. These speed sites don’t benefit from caching plugins because they’re so dang fast loading. LiteSpeed Web Server (LSWS) is a high-performance Apache drop-in replacement. GoDaddy uses Apache servers. Is this another useless non-reality-based engineering specmanship? No. LiteSpeed makes a real difference. A web page that loads in 2-seconds now load in subseconds with LiteSpeed.

Big deal who cares? Faster than fast? So what?

Mobile users care. Some site owners get 80-percent mobile traffic, it’s a big deal.

LiteSpeed incorporates selectable speed features we desire. We add free discreet plugins to strip WordPress non-features and make things faster. You don’t need those extra plugins. It’s unnecessary. The functions now reside on the LiteSpeed server. Much faster and efficient.

Adding LiteSpeed plugin is required. It causes 53 milliseconds of global site drag. But the loss is worth it – because it accelerates everything else.

But there’s another reason to use GreenGeeks. We admire their idealistic integrity. Even if it’s only a marketing differentiation ploy, we like it.

GREEN ENERGY HOSTING SERVICE

    • GreenGeeks started in 2008. They committed to being the most Eco-friendly green web hosting company in the World.
    • GreenGeeks is recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency since 2009 as a Green Power Partner.
    • GreenGeeks work with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) in Portland, Oregon. “BEF” is a Green-e Partner.
    • GreenGeeks tell BEF how many servers, personnel, etc. they have. They calculate the yearly energy consumption and carbon footprint. BEF purchases 3 times what GreenGeeks consumes. They put that energy back into the grid.
    • They match the energy they consume as well as payback for 2 other companies their size. This is their commitment to the environment since the beginning.
    • GreenGeeks has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

They walk the talk.

We admire their idealistic values. We are idealists, too. We call it honest responsibility.

Endorsing GreenGeeks is mutually beneficial for our credibility.

People binge-read our entire blog. We are the “consumer report” of speed.

GreenGeeks is our only affiliate link. We don’t publishing that link here in our blog. It’s not on our website. You have to download our report, “SLOW web hosting SUCKS” to get it.

We’ve written about GreenGeeks competitors. But those bandits get zero links – only GreenGeeks get a link. It would be normal on an affiliate link farm to have links to even the hosting losers. Desperation to snag extra income. We’re not sending you there.

We move our clientele over to your GreenGeek servers as long as the TTFB stays fast. Our reputation as speed experts depends upon us recommending good solutions.

GreenGeeks is “the best shared-hosting deal.” GreenGeeks is our only hosting recommendation. We’re finished dating hosts. We want a long-term relationship with these guys. We’re engaged and hope to marry.

That’s our story. Thanks for listening.

Godspeed-

Steve Teare
performance engineer
July 2021

 

PagePipe Site Tuning Services for Speed

Instead of band-aid approaches, we drill down to the root cause of your slow site. This is origin optimization. Also known as site tuning. To do this, we analyze site components:

  • Hosting
  • Theme
  • Plugins
  • Scripts and third-party services.
  • Images and media library.
  • We minimize globally loading plugin effects.

Find out more details about Site TuningGet Speed!