How WordPress Plugins Could Be Killing Your Website

WordPress is one of the most popular sites for creating websites, and one of the tools includes being able to install various plugins. How many plugins do you currently have on your WordPress website? Whether you have just a few, or a few dozen – it’s important that you ask yourself another question. How many do you really need? In this guide, we will cover a number of common WordPress plugins that you probably don’t need and in fact, could actually be harming your website.

Page Builder Plugins

There are many WordPress developers out there and a very wide range of skillsets. At the bottom end, it is extremely common to see a website that is built using a page builder plugin.

Page builders, such as Elementor, Divi, WP Bakery, Beaver Builder and many others, are tools allowing non-coders to build relatively professional looking websites using templates and drag and drop tools.

The upside is that almost anyone can build a website without too much of a learning curve. This is absolutely fine for personal projects and enthusiast sites etc. However problems arise if you have any intention of growing your site and increasing your search visibility. The reality is that page builders are bloated and slow. Very slow.

Each time a visitor (or Google) loads your website, there are a number of necessary resources that need to be downloaded. This includes the content, the CSS file, images and any javascript that the page needs to function. When you use a page builder, there is a huge drain on your server caused by loading unnecessary files and features that are baked into the plugin. This can vastly increase the loading time of your site leading to issues with Google’s Core Web Vitals metrics. Bad news for SEO.

Page builders were designed with enthusiastic amateurs in mind, but increasingly some agencies are using the tools to deliver quick, templated business websites at the expense of core SEO fundamentals. If your site was built using a page builder plugin, you won’t be able to remove it overnight. However if your website is more than just a personal blog or a fansite, you will see a measurable benefit from rebuilding it properly.

Image Compressors

Another set of tools used by a large number of WordPress developers are image compressor plugins, such as Smush or Imagify. These are used to reduce the filesize of images in order to reduce the amount of data required to load a page and therefore to increase page speed.

While optimising images is absolutely the correct goal, plugins are rarely the best way to approach the problem. This is for two distinct reasons. Firstly, optimising images is so easy to do that there is really no need to put the unnecessary strain on the server – images should simply be optimised before they are ever uploaded to WordPress. Secondly, the plugins do a worse job of optimising and compressing images than we are able to do ourselves.

Unfortunately there is a tendency for some SEOs to switch on a compression plugin and to think “Job done!”. This leads to a bonus third reason why you shouldn’t use image compressors: they teach us to be lazy with our SEO. This always leads to suboptimal results.

Pretty much any ‘single job’ plugin

OK, so this one’s a little broad. It’s probably important here to say that plugins aren’t inherently bad for your website. There are many well built plugins that are continuously developed and that efficiently do what they are supposed to do. Very often a plugin genuinely is the best way to accomplish a task in WordPress. The problem is that the opposite is also true.

Many plugins have no real reason to exist. That is to say that the problem they solve is already achievable within WordPress with often no, or very minimal technical knowledge required. Moreover, all plugins are essentially third parties with access to our websites, and therefore they come with an inherent security risk.

So you’re trading a very small amount of time saved, for an increased security risk and increased bloat. This could lead to slower website response speeds as well as longer loading times in the WordPress admin area.

The worst offenders here are plugins that do simple tasks like installing Google Analytics code, such as MonsterInsights among others. The problem the plugin solves is almost trivially easy to achieve for any website owner, without relying on a plugin that could stop working with any future update. This isn’t just a theoretical issue. We’ve seen a number of real-world examples where businesses have lost valuable analytics data because a plugin stopped working as it should, or a licence ran out.

Whether you look after your website yourself, or you use a developer, ask the question “Do I really need this plugin?”. Removing unnecessary plugins will lower your security risk and could seriously speed up your WordPress site, improving your visibility in search engines as a result. Not to mention removing those annoying nags to upgrade to the pro version!

WordPress Plugin FAQs

Do plugins slow down WordPress sites?

Plugins can impact WordPress site performance, particularly if they are poorly coded, overly complex, or redundant. Each plugin adds additional PHP code that the server must execute, potentially leading to longer loading times. However, the effect varies widely based on the plugin’s quality and functionality. Prioritise essential plugins and regularly review and optimise your plugin list to maintain site performance.

How can I identify plugins that are slowing down my website?

To identify slow plugins, use performance testing tools like Pagespeed Insights or Pingdom. These tools can help pinpoint plugins that significantly impact your site’s load time by analysing page speed and resource loading times. Additionally, the Query Monitor plugin for WordPress can help identify plugins with heavy database queries, which is a common performance bottleneck.

What are the best practices for managing WordPress plugins to avoid slowing down my site?

Best practices include only installing necessary plugins, regularly updating plugins, testing plugins on a staging site before going live, using caching plugins to optimise site performance, and periodically reviewing and removing unused or underperforming plugins. Opt for well-coded plugins from reputable developers and always consider their impact on site speed.

Can too many plugins break my WordPress site?

While WordPress can technically handle many plugins, having too many can lead to performance issues, conflicts between plugins, and security vulnerabilities. It’s not always the quantity (although there’s almost never a reason to have more than about 10!) but the quality of plugins and how they interact that matters most. Focus on keeping your plugin list lean and relevant to your site’s needs.

Are there any lightweight plugin options that won’t slow down my site?

Yes, there are many lightweight plugins designed with performance in mind. Look for plugins that serve specific functions without adding unnecessary bloat. Always research and test plugins for performance impact.

How does plugin quality affect website performance?

Plugin quality significantly affects website performance. High-quality plugins are optimised for speed, coded efficiently, and regularly updated to ensure compatibility and security. Poorly coded plugins can lead to slow page loading, crashes, and security vulnerabilities. It’s crucial to choose plugins from reputable sources and read reviews for performance insights.

Can updating WordPress plugins improve site speed?

Updating plugins can improve site speed if the updates include performance optimisations, bug fixes, or compatibility improvements. Regular updates ensure plugins function efficiently with the current version of WordPress and other plugins, potentially enhancing site speed. However you should always backup your site before updating to avoid issues.

Should I deactivate and delete unused WordPress plugins?

Yes, deactivating and deleting unused plugins is definitely good practice. Inactive plugins can still pose security risks and may unnecessarily clutter your site’s backend. Deleting them helps reduce potential vulnerabilities and ensures your site remains streamlined and easier to manage.

How can I optimise WordPress plugins for better performance?

To optimise plugins, consider minimising their number by using multifunctional plugins when possible, choosing high-quality plugins, updating them regularly, and using caching plugins. Additionally, review plugin settings to ensure they’re configured for optimal performance, and consider a content delivery network (CDN) for resource-heavy plugins.

What impact do page builder plugins have on WordPress site speed?

Page builder plugins can significantly impact site speed by adding extra code and scripts that need to load. While they offer extensive customisation options, it’s important to understand that they have serious performance issues. Optimise for speed by limiting the use of complex elements and leveraging caching solutions to mitigate potential slowdowns.

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About the Author


Head of SEO

Meet Jonjo, our Head of SEO. With over a decade of experience in the digital marketing industry, Jonjo brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team. He is passionate about all things SEO and is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and best practices.

Jonjo is a strategic thinker and uses data-driven insights to develop and execute effective SEO campaigns that drive measurable results. He has a proven track record of improving website rankings and increasing organic traffic for a range of clients across various industries. When he’s not busy optimising websites, you can find Jonjo exploring the great outdoors or catching up on the latest SEO blogs and podcasts.