User experience has always been an essential part of building an engaging website. From next year, it will play an even more significant role. In 2021, Google’s Core Web Vitals will determine your ranking in search engine results.
Could this pose a problem for WordPress users? Yes, according to a phenomenal analysis of 18.5 million domains published by Sistrix! Naturally, we’re interested in why WordPress and WordPress-powered WooCommerce sites ranked among the slowest CMS and e-commerce platforms.
In this article, we’ll present the case that WordPress — and by virtue of association, WooCommerce — isn’t the problem; it’s poor web hosting that’s letting them down.
The Backstory: Page Experience and the Core Web Vitals
The Sistrix survey in question analyzed websites according to the Core Web Vitals. As page experience becomes an official ranking factor, Google chose three key metrics — the Core Web Vitals to comprehensively measure how user-friendly and fast a page loads. Each represents a distinct facet of the user experience:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is the loading page speed of the largest section of content. A good time is less than 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures the time from when someone first interacts with your site to the time the browser responds to the interaction. A good speed is less than 0.1 seconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) indicates how much the content of the page jumps while loading content. A good speed is less than 0.1 seconds.
While a great page experience score won’t push you to the top of Google’s search results, it’s one of several factors that are used to rank where your site features in search. Not optimizing for the Core Vitals is likely to result in a lower ranking and a decline in site traffic. What’s more, your visitors will be discouraged from a slow and unsatisfactory user experience.
You can find your site’s Core Web Vitals using SISTRIX’s Optimizer Module. But, don’t all rush there at once, you’ll have until next year to improve your site’s score.
The Sistrix Analysis
Let’s get back to the Sistrix study.
Sistrix measured domain loading times to learn more about page speed. Their analysis is based on the rate for LCP since this is the elementary value for measuring page load speed. If you’re not familiar with the study, here are the main takeaways regarding Content Management Systems (CMS) and e-commerce.
Open-Source CMS and Cloud-based Hosting Top the Chart
Coming out on top was Jimdo, the website builder and all-in-one business solution. Unlike other website builders featured here, they’ve taken efforts to optimize their cloud servers on their user’s behalf.
“Jimdo shows that cloud-based CMS can deliver very good Core Web Vitals values. But open source can also do this too – Typo3 is only a little slower.”
Sistrix, Core Web Vitals Survey
For an outfit so far behind WordPress in terms of market share, Typo3 achieved the second-fastest performance. How could that be? We’ll come back to this point, but it’s a significant one; Typo3 typically has a higher barrier to entry than WordPress.
It’s highly likely that these people are more clued up on matters of site speed and website optimization than your average WordPress user. WordPress attracts many amateur users — and by the looks of things, almost half the users (surveyed) don’t know how to get the best out of it.
Don’t Back the Wrong Horse
“No CMS is slower than Wix. It’s the wooden spoon holder in the CMS category. In the last place behind WordPress, it shows that cloud-based solutions aren’t always fast.”
Sistrix, Core Web Vitals Survey
Interestingly here, the winner (lightspeed) and loser (Wix) offer the same conditions out of the box; both are cloud-based solutions providers that control and optimize the hosting environment on their user’s behalf. One more than the other.
These metrics to determine relative page speed among website builders and content management systems is cumbersome. For WordPress, the results don’t reflect the hosting used and optimization taken. With a bit of attention, WordPress pages are fast, for example, if they run with a cache and a CDN, but not all of these methods are known to the layman.
These user side optimization failings don’t exist with Jimdo, and for Wix, it appears as though they made no effort to make page speed a priority. WordPress users must use what’s available to them. Squarespace and Wix users have no control over their web hosts, so there’s nothing that they can do. Instead relying on default optimization and whether a CDN is part of that.
With website builders, it’s not easy to transfer your site over to an open-source CMS like WordPress, where you can take back control over how your site is hosted and optimized. If you build in a website builder, it is incredibly hard to migrate out of it – and you may have to rebuild the entire site.
A Disappointing Result for WooCommerce
Loading times affect sales. We’ve heard this one before, and anyone in e-commerce should understand the importance of fast pages to profits. How did the most popular e-commerce systems perform? There were some interesting results.
“Lightspeed delivers an extremely fast shop system. Shopify is only in the bottom half of the list. The WordPress add-on WooCommerce is the slowest shop system.”
Sistrix, Core Web Vitals Survey
As you can see from the chart, WooCommerce performed miserably. Just over half of WooCommerce sites met Google’s new specifications, and 26% are deemed ‘Poor.’ Given that ‘Woo’ is a WordPress add-on, and how WordPress performed above, it’s clear why these sites are slow.
Is WordPress Really That Slow…?
For some people, these results might be alarming. There’s not a lot to unpack here. Indeed, neither WordPress nor Woocommerce fared well. WordPress developers are constantly working to make the core software faster, so what’s slowing these websites down?
The results of the Sistrix survey have been hotly discussed among SEOs. Many are quick to call out slow WordPress sites being the consequence of user side actions. That excessive bloat from large images, plugins, and poor template choices can make web pages slow to load. While there is an element of truth to this, we’d suggest the choice of hosting has more impact.
WordPress scores poorly because it happens to be the go-to solution for amateurs that don’t know how or don’t think to optimize for performance. It’s no secret that many of these basic sites are hosted on an entry-level shared hosting server with little to no optimization.
Why is My Website Slow?
So you’ve been through the motions optimizing your WordPress site for speed. Caching plugins, optimizing images, the works. But you’re not seeing any real gains running your site through the Google Speed test.
The primary factor that influences the speed of a website is hosting. Most people start out on shared hosting, and this might seem like a good idea at first. With offers of unlimited disk space, bandwidth, domains — the whole shebang, who could resist?
Managed Hosting loads WordPress sites faster because every configuration is specifically set up to be optimized for WordPress. Whereas, the architecture of shared hosting will struggle to deliver comparable loading times on peak traffic hours. That’s because server resources are shared over countless other websites. There’s just no way of knowing how much resources your neighbors are using, or how well the servers are optimized for WordPress websites.
Cloud servers, on the other hand, are much better suited to hosting WordPress websites. Cloud-hosted sites are always live and can scale up to take more resources when necessary. There’s no-one else in the picture to slow a cloud-hosted website down.
Fortunately, web hosting has evolved with the latest technology and the cost of cloud hosting has become far more competitive. It’s now possible to buy a dedicated cloud server. The snag? You’re tasked with setting your servers up, from scratch. Cloud hosts like Namecheap take away this daunting task, offering an easy way to launch your site with servers optimized for WordPress, in one click, for a fraction of the price.
Hosting to Speed Up WordPress
Unless you’re technically advanced, the easiest way to increase speed on your site is through quality hosting, with a set-and-forget experience like this. Besides cloud servers, there are several ways hosting providers can deliver faster WordPress websites. Let’s take a look.
- Hosting Optimized for WordPress For WordPress websites, managed WordPress hosting is always going to be faster than regular budget shared hosting. Servers are optimized for WordPress and include some level of server-side caching to deliver sites extremely quickly. The best bit? The hard work is taken out of your hands.
- SSD hard drives faster than HDDs When you experience many people accessing your site at any one time, cheaper hard disk drives (HDD) deliver your page slower than the faster and more expensive solid-state drives (SSD). This makes SSD the ideal turbo boost for WordPress projects.
- CDN server location – the closer, the better! The server location also influences the loading page speed. A content delivery network of servers across multiple geographic locations caches your website and minimizes the distance between your visitors and the website’s server. Even if the server location is not the issue for WordPress users, especially for local sites, it can have a decisive influence on page performance.
- Not all hosts are created equal
There are countless options for Managed WordPress hosting — the type optimized to deliver serious results for WordPress users. Even with such a service, you might not be getting enough bang for your buck. Not all managed hosts are equally cost-effective when it comes to performance.
Kernl, a service that provides plugin and theme updates for WordPress developed an extreme WordPress performance test named the Crucible Challenge. The test was designed to check how well sites handle a surge in significant traffic coming from Super Bowl ads. The same extreme conditions are being applied to so-called scalable WordPress hosting solutions, and most recently, Kernel put EasyWP through its paces.
Naturally, a huge increase of users often sees a decrease in performance, this wasn’t the experience for the EasyWP test. 2000 users per second were handled very similarly to 200. The test concluded ~1400 requests per second with very few errors, which works out at 120M requests per day!
In general, the performance of EasyWP was solid, especially considering how cost-effective it is. And that “in the top 2-3 for managed hosts in the performance per dollar category”. If you’re looking for a low-cost solution that delivers as and when traffic suddenly spikes (we’re talking Black Friday, if you are featured in the news, go viral, anything), look no further.
Considering WooCommerce Websites
Study upon study tells us that the longer it takes for a page to load, the worse the bounce rate. According to research by Akamai, even a 100-millisecond delay can impact customer engagement and online revenue which makes a slow Woo site a deal-breaker.
Woo performed so badly in this survey, that it begs the question of whether it’s an inherently slow plugin. I dug around to check out the fastest speeds from Woo compatible themes and found them all delivering pages well within 2.5 seconds. For example, GeneratePress loaded in just 1.450 seconds and the well-loved Astra theme in 1.522 seconds (for a full list of results, visit this page).
That leaves just one conclusion to draw. Even with a fast theme, the key component of a fast WooCommerce site is a foundation of great WordPress hosting. Cloud hosting handles resources of heavy WooCommerce sites better than shared hosting and delivers these pages faster. It’s unlikely that a basic shared hosting has enough server resources, especially if you’re receiving high traffic, with high-resolution product images and running Google AdSense.
WordPress load time can be radically improved with hosting optimized for WordPress and features like a CDN and at least 99% uptime. WordPress load time can be radically improved; the same goes for a WordPress site running WooCommerce.
Give Your WordPress Site a Boost
Sistrix has certainly given WordPress users some food for thought. To meet the demands of Google’s next big update, you can’t overlook hosting. Does your current plan do your website justice?
EasyWP Managed WordPress run’s on Namecheap’s cloud platform, as opposed to shared hosting. It’s around three times faster than a standard WordPress setup with a traditional shared hosting system, for a fraction of the cost. Most significantly here, EasyWP is the fastest managed WordPress hosting available today.
The good news? The Starter plan costs just $3.88 a month. All plans feature super-fast SSD Storage, while the Turbo and Supersonic plans also come with a free speed-boosting CDN network, and free SSL certificate. . Try EasyWP today for just $1 for your first month, and see the difference it makes to your core web vitals!
Have you begun optimizing your site for Google’s next update? What kind of changes have you made? Let us know in the comments below.