How To Find Out Which WordPress Plugins Are Making Your Site Slow

February 27, 2012 · 54 comments

in WordPress

How To Find Out Which WordPress Plugins Are Making Your Site Slow

wordpress logoHigh Loading Times =
Bad SEO!

Google, with their emphasis on Site Speed and loading times, has made it clear to website owners that slow sites will not be tolerated!

While it’s very challenging for a WordPress blog to hit (or be under) the preferred 2 second mark, unless it’s only running a theme and no plugins… by the time we layer on some fancy-dancy plugins these sites can get downright slow!

While Google’s own Matt Cutts reminds us not to neglect user experience by skipping on essentials, we’re also reminded by the WordPress Core (development) team that a site with 12 plugins is rapidly approaching “overload”.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve often heard me refer to some plugins as “heavy” although I’ve not really clarified that. (But it’s important so keep reading!)

Recently, Dev4Press (author of the GD series of plugins) published a set of charts showing the load times of some common plugins, which pointed out some eye openers for many people! I suggest you at least skim that post.

thumbs downAmong the worst offenders of those evaluated?

Plugins with worst loading stats and worst optimization from this test are: bbPress, GD Star Rating, Subscribe2, The Google+ Plugin, WooCommerce and YOURLS WordPress to Twitter.

(A) few plugins are a bit better than this, and they have lighter red color: BackupWP, Events Manager, gdHeadSpace4, GD Products Center Pro, GD Unit Converter, GravityForms.

It’s worth noting however that many plugins that might interest you or I were not in his tests.

thumbs upWhat fared well?

Contact Form 7 and WP e-Commerce could benefit from some minor changes, but they are good as far as optimization goes. Light green and good optimization is done with: Antispam Bee and BackupBuddy.

Best optimized plugins, considering plugin size and features are: GD Affiliate Center Pro, GD Press Tools Pro, GD Custom Posts And Taxonomies Tools Pro, W3 Total Cache, WordPress Download Monitor, WordPress SEO.

So What About Our Sites & Plugins?

The one thing this doesn’t answer is how we can easily test our own unique combinations!

Up till very recently there has been no good way to accomplish that and certainly not easily!

Fortunately, my friend DiTesco from over at iBlogZone spotted a newcomer to the arena! WPMU.org wrote about a new plugin called P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) which rocks!

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) For WordPress

P3 is a performance scanner for WP.org blogs and only works in the most current version of most browsers (will not work in IE8). You must leave the scan tab/window open while it is scanning.

Install P3 from the Plugin Search area of your WordPress.org blog. Then go to Tools -> P3 Plugin Profiler to access it.

Once there, click the “Start Scan” button and then “Auto Scan”. Once it finishes, click the “View Results” button to be taken to the results page in your dashboard.

click to zoom in

 

What P3 Showed Me

Plugins that I KNEW were heavy definitely surfaced: WPSubscribers, PrettyLink Pro, Social & Blubrry PowerPress.

Saw much smaller delays from Premium Slider 

I’ve adapted my site around these heavyweights as they bring me money-making features I need and thus these results do not surprise me. My MySQL Queries are higher than you might expect (also causes slowdown!) because I have a LOT going on in my theme’s custom functions file.

Notice that none of the well optimized plugins we mentioned earlier (that I run) showed up… a good (consistent) sign for this test.

Also useful is plugins that did NOT show up (or only marginally after deactivating almost everything else): Antispam Bee, Configurable Tag Cloud, Genki Youtube Comments, Google XML Sitemaps, ReplyMe, TinyMCE Advanced, WordPress Editorial Calendar, Zemanta

What Others Saw

DiTesco has different results than I do (as his plugins are different) and saw SEO Smart Links, Pretty Link Lite, WP popular Post, Yet Another Related Post, JetPack and to a smaller degree Thesis OpenHook show up.

It should be noted that I am doing related posts at the code level and so not using a plugin for that but that it is one of many things raising my number of queries.

On my testing site I saw Subscribe2, Thumbnail For Excerpts & WordBooker all come up. (But Commentluv Premium, FeedWordPress & Google+Blog did not)

Generally speaking you will find that backup plugins (usually needed) and analytics plugins (not needed, use Google Analytics and/or Clicky) are going to both test very high as will any plugin that loads dynamically (like many share buttons or social widgets)

Is That Enough?

Not a chance! (Sorry!)

There remain lots of other factors that go into getting your site speed well optimized. These include a highly optimized fast loading theme… reducing your dynamic widgets, reducing your number of database queries… optimizing each and every one of your graphics… and good use of caching and CDN/Cloudflare options.

For me, when tested using http://tools.pingdom.com the difference between not using caching/cdn/cloudflare (8-12 seconds loading time) and using caching (~4 seconds loading time, which is still somewhat high) is HUGE.

All of these elements are just one piece in the puzzle… but now you have one more bullet in your arsenal to help you know how to attack the problem!

Summary

Now, we not only have a quick and easy way to figure out which plugins are using the most resources… but we also can make more informed choices!

For example, if your picking between two particular twitter button plugins you can now have a look at whether either is showing up as a performance issue… this is important! It also lets us see if a full-featured plugin saves us resources compared to a handful of individual plugins to get the same result, above and beyond its ease of use.

Plus, you can do it in a very non-techy sort of way. Want to see the lesser-impacting plugins? Just temporarily disable (not delete) the heavy hitters and they will often then turn up on the graph.

If you are comparing plugins on different sites, just hover over the pie graph to get the actual speed number rather than the percentage.

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) is an awesome addition to your toolkit. Simply install it, run it and delete it when you’re done!

~ Kim ~
Simple Tech Tips For Marketing

PS: Need a star rating? Lets go with 4/5. It’s a great plugin but it’s not needed 24/7 by everyone. Also there is some additional data (or ways of looking at the data) that it could build on. Still a great plugin. (I very rarely give a 5/5)

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin February 27, 2012 at 7:08 am

Wow.. never knew that there is a plugin to get rid off this head ache task to simpler. :P You are so great by providing this awesome plugin forward to help many bloggers. Cheers.

Robin

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DiTesco February 27, 2012 at 7:29 am

Absolutely a great write up Kim. Interesting how results could differ from one site to the other. P3 is good tool and I have been using it across all my sites. I have been “finding” replacements to the heaviest ones and in some cases whenever possible, I have coded them directly into the theme. Not doing a good job I have to admit :) Thanks for the mention btw..

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Justin Germino February 27, 2012 at 7:50 am

I wound up doing this the old fashioned way, I used Google Pagespeed tool to get a baseline of my blog. Then disable all plugins and test again, re-enable each plugin and re-test until I find which ones hurt performance the worst. I managed to get my blog up to a 92/100 Pagespeed score from Google since weeding down what I needed, but I still have about 45+ plugins active on DragonBlogger.com. I haven’t tried P3 but will look into it when I get back into town later in the week.

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Pete Zafra February 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

Wow! Great informative post. Site speed is definitely important. We wouldn’t want to wait too long just to read a post. I’ve been wondering how I can check this out before. Thanks for sharing this informative post! :)

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Julie February 27, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Such a nice and useful article! I haven’t known that plugins could also make the blog slower. I thought it depended always on the content, for example, to much media embed could make the downloading time to long. Now I think I’m going to download the P3 plugin and run a scan on my blog.

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Julieanne van Zyl February 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Hi Kim, thanks so much for laying this out in great detail. I’ve been mindful over the last few years, of what plugins I use, to the extent that I’ve kept my plugins to a minimum. Like you, I use Thesis, which makes it easier to use code instead of certain plugins. However, it’s much easier to just install a plug in.

Now, with this method of checking them all, it’s a much better way to control the upload speed of our sites, because each of our blogs are different.

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David Merrill February 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Well this was really helpful, Kim.
I never thought about “speed” in terms of the SE’s (ie. Google), but I always tried to keep my blog pared down because… well, common sense.
I hate waiting for slow loading sites (I usually just click off), so I don’t want to torture my readers with the same.
I have a really simple blog and don’t even use popup ads to promote my optin offers. I know I should but, again, I hate them so I figure my readers do. (I think the statisticians would prove me wrong though).
Seems like, as usual, what big bad Google is doing… again… is twisting our arm to have a more user-friendly site experience.
You’d think we’d want that too.

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shyam jos February 28, 2012 at 12:02 am

another killer post kim ,cant wait to check out ,which sucks!

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Andrea Hypno February 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

Very interesting. I didn’t know about P3 but I’ll surely install it. Thanks for the great advice. Now I just hope someone will make a plugin to test themes and plugins interaction before breaking a site. It happened to me twice. :)

Have a great day!

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Jon Loomer February 28, 2012 at 12:42 am

YES! I love this plugin. I first found it a few weeks back and realized I had a handful of plugins that I either didn’t need or for which I could find replacements. A good example is JetPack. I really don’t use it, other than for the quick stats. Well, there’s a solution: JetPack Lite.

Anyway, count me as another satisfied P3 customer.

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Victor February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

That was a great piece of information! I never considered plugins to be speed eaters. I must sirely download it to analyze my blog. Thank you for posting this, Kim.

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marquita herald February 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm

What great information Kim! I am definitely going to look closer at this plugin – and I just as a browser myself that if a site loads slow I tend to move on – so point well taken!

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Nathalie Villeneuve February 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Great review Kim. I think I have enough info to keep me busy for a week! ….LOL.. I have members2 on one of my blogs and I have not seen a slower pace but on my hughandnathalie blog …I have noticed a much slower pace then usual…I’ll have to look at the possibilities you talk about on here! I’ll be back! ~ Nathalie

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Preston February 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Super cool plug-in Kim

I was not aware of how dramatic plug-ins can slow your site down. I have way more than 12 on my site. Time to get rid of the unneeded heavy hitters from my blog.

Thanks for this awesome breakdown of Wordpress plug-ins.

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Perry Davis February 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Hello Kim

You have definitely provided information that will make a difference in my blogging experience. I was somewhat familiar with plugins slowing a blog. After reading the well presented information and loading the P3 plugin,hopefully can stay ahead of the game.

Thanks

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City

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Sadie-Michaela Harris February 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Ooooh la la Kim a wealth of information you’ve shared here, thanks very much! Just did a quick test on our site and it scored 71/100 and load time was 4.08 seconds. Apparently the site loads faster than 40% of other sites tested…. #SO in fact it loads slower than 60% of other tested sites too on that basis :)

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Kevin Martineau February 28, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Hi Kim:

Thanks for the very informative post. Site speed is something that I am continually trying to improve on. You have give me a lot of good info to do that.

Kevin

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Willena Flewelling February 29, 2012 at 12:58 am

Kim, I am always amazed when I come to your blog, to find out how much I don’t know about blogging!! Thanks for another post, full of helpful info. You never disappoint!

Willena Flewelling

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Hans Schoff February 29, 2012 at 1:30 am

Hey Kim, I’ve got many more than 12 plugins going. I’m waiting for them to figure out a way to still make a site run well and fast and still have 50 active plugins. Lol…
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Kim Castleberry March 1, 2012 at 1:51 am

LOL! Hans I’m so with you on that. I’m a certified plugin addict myself and so far I seem beyond cure. I actually do have my site at a “lean for me” 30 at the moment but I’ve been as high as 60. Boy do I remember the look on some devs faces when they saw I had 60 plugins. Oh boy!…
Kim

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Edyta February 29, 2012 at 4:29 am

Hi Kim,

I installed this plugin and I also noticed that Comment Luv plugin loads very slowly. What is the solution? I don’t want to remove this plugin. Thanks!

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Kim Castleberry March 1, 2012 at 1:48 am

Edyta, if CLP is showing up as slow, unless there is a problem with your feed (unusual) it most likely means you don’t have many other slow plugins. What the graph shows us is the “highest load time creators” it doesn’t necessarily tell us fast from slow. If you hover over it you can probably get a “seconds required” option that will tell you if this is true or not. (Feel free to reply with your value if you’re uncertain). So far I’ve not seen CLP come up high except on relatively lean sites so I speculate that’s your issue (though I could be wrong and you could have something we should investigate!) Generally, CLP is considered well optimized.
Kim

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SteveBorgman February 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

Kim, thanks so very much for this writeup. I listened recently to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast: 21 little things you can do for your readers. One of them was to increase the speed of your site. I have to admit, I’m a bit intimidated by the process of figuring out which plugins to eliminate, and so I procrastinate. But I’m going to add this article to my to do list, and it should help me to overcome my procrastination.

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Daniel Rose March 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Very handy list of results, at that P3 plugin should be useful. Best plugin for speed/cost saving is by far W3Total Cache

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Sarah Arrow March 3, 2012 at 6:28 am

Thanks Kim, I had heard of the P3 plugin but I didn’t recall what it was called (a complete plugin mental block, Doh >.<) I need to run it on a site and then start removing the problems and start coding in the functionality that's needed instead of using a plugin.

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Sire March 4, 2012 at 12:51 am

Hey Kim, I tried P3 and it pretty well broke Wassupblog once I activated it. I couldn’t even get it to work long enough to deactivate it. I used FileZilla to remove the plugin but it still wouldn’t work. It wasn’t until I discovered the plugin created a directory and I removed it that I got my blog back.

I must say it was an interesting experience. Reckon I’ll trial Justin’s method ;)
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Tom Burt March 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Thank you Kim! I will review my plug-ins and also check the load time of my blog to see if I’m slow or fast. Thank you for more great info to help us!

Tom Burt

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David Perdew March 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Kim – nice blog post. We’ve struggled with this a bunch at http://MyNAMS.com and finally had to really reduce the number of plugins, dump many and even look at our theme to see what the overhead was. We’re still chasing that elusive speed efficiency. Your post was very helpful.

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Michael March 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

Thank you Kim. I have been looking for a solution to this issue. i don’t have so many plugins as some other people, but I like my site to load fast. There are some sites which I don’t even visit anymore because it takes so long for the site to load. Like a minute to load or sometimes more, and 9 times out of 10, the “waiting for messages” I see whizzing by are for ad platforms or social sharing plugins. No worries there, it is everyone’s right to run their site as they see fit, I just think its interesting that so many times for me it is those plugins for which I am waiting.

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Kim Castleberry March 24, 2012 at 3:05 am

Social sites and ad platforms are actually (usually) the “dynamic widgets” I was mentioning. Because they have to pull information from another site and load dynamically for each visitor, they can be really sluggish!
Kim

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Regina Smola March 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Kim, great topic! Every WordPress user should read this post, How To Find Out Which WordPress Plugins Are Making Your Site Slow. Bells and Whistles are great, but not when they make our site load slow and Google leave.

I think I’ll write up a quickie post on my site about this and point my readers to check it out your post if that’s okay with you.

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Kim Castleberry March 24, 2012 at 4:27 am

Hey Regina thanks so much for your kind inclusion in your post. There is always such a challenging fine line between meeting the user needs vs making GoogleBot happy. Even Matt Cutts is just a tiny bit vague when clarifying http://just-ask-kim.com/what-comes-first-social-widgets-or-page-speed/
Kim
PS: Apologies for the slow reply… it was actually your tweet that a comment was hidden somewhere that set me off that I had (another) spam filtering issue that I’ve been chasing all week!

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Richard Goutal March 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Huh. I’m thinking about Pretty Link Pro. I have gotten away from using it primarily because I found it inconvenient. I bought a redirect script and set it up on a separate domain, RichardSays.com which is all I’m using the domain for. It is not the most ideal set up but def more convenient. Certainly better than budurl and the like. Anyways, even tho I paid good money, maybe I should just dump Pretty Link off my blog and save the space and increase the speed. I know those widgets showing your followers on FB and Networked Blogs etc are heavyweights on speed – I assume that’s what is meant by “dynamic widgets.” I wonder what the trade-off in effective results might be: keeping the “social proof” vs giving a faster experience.

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Kim Castleberry March 24, 2012 at 3:00 am

Hey Richard, I’m curious to know which webscript you’ve found that can do the automatic keyword imbedding into WordPress like PLP can. That would certainly interest me. Regarding the widgets question, Matt Cutts from Google has actually talked a little about that over here: http://just-ask-kim.com/what-comes-first-social-widgets-or-page-speed/
Kim

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Richard Goutal March 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

Just for clarity, the script I am using does not do anything about automatic keyword embedding- but then I wasn’t using that PLP feature. The main thing for me is redirects, masked redirects and a few similar tactics. It isn’t perfect because I don’t like the display/dashboard. And what I would most like to see in this product… well, maybe I should just get it made myself ;-)

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Kathy Pop March 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Thank you, Kim. I will definitely give P3 a try. I have several site which need a little plugin housekeeping, since some have been in use since I installed my blogs ( some go back to 2006)

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Regina Smola March 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

Thanks for this great post Kim! I have followed your advice and gone through several plugins and removed them to speed up my site.

One thing that drives me crazy about plugins is when they load script on every page/post on your site. For example WordPress Audio Player always show the script in the head section. Any idea how to change that? Also, do you have a post on how to set up W3 Total Cache for optimum performance? I have to say, I’m a techy and the settings can still get confusing.

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Kim Castleberry March 24, 2012 at 4:34 am

Regina, this is an off-the-top-of-my-head-theory… If I were tackling that issue… and its a problem for a lot of scripts here’s what I’d do:

I’d go into the plugin code where it writes the head data and I’d “bracket” that data with a is_page() or is_cat() statement. (This is depending on how you use the plugin, audio players tend to be category but not always.)

You just got me thinking though and that might not be sufficient. Here’s a couple related posts I found that talk about needing to first deregister the call: http://www.position-relative.com/2010/01/wordpress-only-load-plugins-on-pages-that-need-them/ & http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/695/restricting-a-plugin-to-only-load-its-css-and-js-on-selected-pages

I’ve been really kicking W3TC around myself. Partially because this site sits on dedicated in an isolated virtual machine and most of my other sites sit on shared hosting – both of which have different requirements. I think I’ve about got a working solution for them though that I hope to publish soon. I stack W3TC with cloudflare which I really like. I have yet to get W3TC + Cloudflare ALSO working with MaxCDN but I’m still investigating that as its supposed to be possible though not easy. (Cloudflare has some similar behavior at places to MaxCDN so they tend to conflict on certain elements).
Kim

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raymond April 17, 2012 at 3:16 am

As a fellow blogger, i am thanking this post for informing me about the P3 plugin performance profiler, will be installing it immediately unto my blog to know and have a detailed performance evaluation tool for my plugins.

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Tobi April 30, 2012 at 7:30 am

Thanks
I’m a bit of a plugin addict myself, and have always been juggling between user experience and innovating ideas vs site speed. the p3 plugin is a wonderful addition to my site. I new GD Star rating was bad, never new how heavy it was and how it affects my site. Do you know of any lite alternatives that support user ratings.
Thanks
Tobi

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Turismo in July 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

GD Star Rating is slow? Recently my site is very very slow.. i want understand witch plugin is slow. I’ve tried your plugin P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) but my site results with a good plugin. I don’t know why mi site is so slow :(

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Jacob August 24, 2012 at 6:25 pm

YES, I knew GD Star Rating was slowing down my site significately, looking at their forum- they blamed it on themes… I don’t think Twenty Ten default theme would have issues. Ended up using WP-Postratings, not as robust, but perfect for my needs.

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Kim Castleberry August 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Hey Jacob, glad you were able to learn something about your site! Yeah, that’s a plugin that, while feature rich, really suffers from an optimization issue that one might not expect. I’m thrilled to hear you found an alternative that works well enough for your needs!
Kim

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Captain Photo September 9, 2012 at 11:03 am

Wow Kim, thanks for this article. My photo blog has been really slow. The photos I post a rather large so I expected a slower site.After running wp-Smushit to got those files down to size it helped just a little. What really cut my site load time in half was running P3 and finding TWO hugely heavy plugins, Theme my profile and Smugmug for Wro0dpress.Deactivating just those themes got me down to a tolerable load time.

Cheers!

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Jan September 29, 2012 at 9:54 am

w3tc is a very bad pluging. He makes my website very very slow.

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KSingh October 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I think speed is a common issue faced by many Wordpress blogs. This is probably the only bad thing about Wordpress. But then again to be fair to the plaform, I don’t think Wordpress is the real culprit here but the third-party plugins that cause this issue.

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Maarten November 28, 2012 at 8:20 am

Thanks… but i installed and used the plugin. Viewed the results (found Form2 and Support plugins getting my site slow) Now the server load is out of control, memory used on server almost 90% (i think it will crash). Don”t know if i have done all of that whit 1 plugin. I hope it is just the server or some other dude who is putting the server to a sleep :(

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marquita herald January 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Very interesting Kim. Of the plugins you mentioned the only one I’m using is Pretty Link Pro – almost installed WooCommerce the other day and had a change of heart. I’ve made note of the “heavy” ones you’ve listed for future reference. Thanks!
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Vin DiCarlo May 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Thanks For Share This Info. Now I will try to use this plugin.

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Deb Trotter November 6, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Thanks so much, Kim. The P3 Plugin saved the day for me. I had two plugins that were supposed to speed up my site but did the exact opposite. I’ve been gritting my teeth for weeks while trying to figure this out on my own. DiTesco, you rock. Kim, you double Rock!

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