How Many Plug-ins Are TOO Many?
As you likely know.... one of the factors about SEO for your website is speed and how fast it loads for your website visitors.
Pingdom has a cool free speed load tester:
NOTE: When you first load your website in your browser is different than loading it again and again. Your Internet browser "caches" images and other things in your temporary internet files locations (on your computer). Clearing temp files gives you a better reading on what first-time visitors are seeing. But, there are other factors also.
Regardless, a faster "first page load" is better. I think we can all agree on that.
Longer load times have shown to decrease page visitors and increase "bounce rate".
Google doesn't like a high bounce rate. (people not staying on your website and clicking off and going somewhere else fast)
Now, you can reduce bounce rate by filtering out spam referrals. But, I'll save that for another post.
Here are some other ways to optimize load times:
- Enable compression
- Reduce redirects
- Leverage browser caching
- Use a content distribution network
- Optimize Images
So, let's talk about Plug-ins.....
Plugins for WordPress can turn an average website into a stellar professional fully-featured Web Experience for your website visitors. If there's some feature you want like a membership site, video rating website, automatic reviews with star-ratings, etc, there's a Plug-in out there for it. Some free, some "not so free"!
But, plug-ins like the Yoast SEO or All-in-One SEO can save huge amounts of time and enhance both search engine and human visitor experience.
But, every time we want to add a feature to our sites, it seems like we're installing another plug-in which can slow your website down. Thus, the age-old question about how many plug-ins are "too many".
Well, one thing we must understand is key to answering this question....
But, before enlightening you on this "key"..... I know a guy running over 60 plugins!
And, I thought my 20 was way too "heavy" for effective load times.
But, here's the key..... It's NOT really the number of plug-ins you're running....instead, what are they doing?
The Key Questions to determine plug-in feasibility:
- Does it load lots of scripts, styles, or other assets?
- Does it add extra database queries to each page?
- Does it perform complex operations?
- Does it perform remote requests, like to external APIs?
These are the questions you need to discover the answer for each plug-in you're running. The WordPress JetPack plugin - while full of cool features, makes several external API calls. It's horrendous about eating up time.
(API - automated program interface .... basically, fetching or sending data to another website, Wordpress.com in this instance)
Now, that being said.... note this.... each plugin is coded differently. Some are more efficient than others. As you're likely aware, if you're constantly checking https://wordpress.org/plugins/ repository like I am....there are typically more than one plug-in for the same purpose. While many overlap with features, perhaps one is faster and performs better than another.
I tend to spend a good bit of research on the BEST plug-in for the purpose I need. Test it, pull it out and test another. Just to keep my page load times down as short as possible.
So, now you're likely asking yourself, "Well, P.j., that's all well and good, but how do you determine which plug-ins are bogging me down?"
I'm glad you asked! ;-)
There's a plug-in for that! LOL!
Introducing the P3 Plugin Performance Profiler
This bad boy basically does what you're likely thinking at this point.... gives you an idea of which plug-ins are working the hardest, performing the more complex operations and taking the longest time to respond.
As you'll notice in the image above, this is one of my WA websites. It currently is running 20 plugins. My plugin load time is about 1.9 seconds with 107 MySQL Queries.
MySQL is the database where all your information about your website is kept - posts, pages, photos, theme stuff, so on. Yes, this database in kept on the WA server under your account.
The pie graph and associated Legend gives you a quick snapshot of what's eating your lunch on page load times.
The Detailed Breakdown tab gives you another perspective of the same. Now, of course, I'm only using the P3 Plugin Performance tool temporarily. I'll quickly unload it and delete the files after I'm satisfied that i have found a good plugin for the purpose I'm after - the new feature I want to add to my website.
The Advanced Metrics give us some more time information.
That Total Load Time is horrible. But, much of this is done in the background after the initial page load. So, as with many measurements taken on your websites (traffic analytics, etc.) use more than one tool to give you a better picture of what's going on before you make your final assessment - just my humble opinion as an engineer and SEO consultant.
Optimize those page load times. Research those major plug-ins to ensure as few complexities as possible. Compress those images and perhaps even reduce their size before upload. There's really no reason to upload a 2349x1700 pixel image. Cut that thing in half!
I'm sure many other members reading this will have some tips to add. Be sure to check comments that will follow! I could go on and on, but don't want to inundate you with too much at once.
Hope this helps!
Another discover I made recently. IF you installed a bunch of themes to test out and then settled on one, but have 5, 10 or 20 unused themes sitting there, REMOVE them all except the Twenty Twelve, Twenty Fifteen or simply ONE of the default ones. Those extra themes are hurting you also. I have my primary premium theme and one default WordPress theme as a backup to revert to if needed. So, only have two themes installed.