How I Decreased My WordPress Page Load Time by 5 Seconds

Gravatar is a service which associates user-provided images with email addresses to allow an image to follow a person from site to site. Gravatar is enabled by default in WordPress; for each comment on a post calls are made to Gravatar’s database to retrieve images associated with the comment’s email. If no image is associated with the email a default image is used.

Gravatar's Logo.

Gravatar's Logo

The problem with Gravatars is they’re very inefficient. Every single image is requested from the server, even if the image repeats. The images are also only cacheable for 300 seconds. This is terrible for your site’s load time. They may look pretty but the inefficiency of the system is terrible.

Our review of Zagg’s Invisible Shield has over 60 comments on it. Pingdom Tools was reporting over 11 seconds to load. After we completely disabled Gravatar, the page load time jumped down to 6.2 seconds. This saved 60+ requests to Gravatar (just imagine that overhead). Decreasing a page’s load time by 5 seconds is amazing! What a way to decrease your bounce rate and improve your ranking in Google!

  1. John01-21-2011

    I didn't know Gravatar can affect your site's load time like that. Reducing a page's load time by 5 seconds is definitely something to be happy about. I can imagine that both your bounce rate and Google ranking has improved. Thanks for letting me know about this.

  2. Guest01-21-2011

    I had the exact same problem with my music blog and all I had to do was get rid of plugins that I didn't use. All you have to do is deactivate the plugins that you don't use, delete the associated javascript and css files. Pages will load much faster once you get rid of these plugins because most contain extra javascript and css files that hog up your site's bandwidth and thus slow down your page load.

  3. James01-25-2011

    I also think that gravatar is one of the major reasons of slow load time. You can use http://siteloadtest.com to test your site before and after you remove gravatar.

  4. Kenneth01-26-2011

    Thanks to this, I just new that gravatar will eat much time to load a website, decreasing your site load in 5 seconds is really something. I agree with John, it will help decrease the bounce rate.

  5. Steve02-01-2011

    Seems like Gravatar would correct the issue instead of slowing down everyone's site. Hopefully there's a fix or an additional plugin that can cache the images.

  6. Guest02-04-2011

    I certainly like your post because it is insightful at the same time thought-provoking. I didn't know that it could affect your site's loading time. This is quite alarming though Gravatar are useful in another way. With the use of Gravatar, your site could be easily distinguished and could get hooked visitors.

    • Techie02-06-2011

      But Gravatars are enabled by default, so it's not like you will have something unique even if you do enable them.

  7. David02-07-2011

    Yes, Gravatar was slowly, but its faster now

  8. Guest02-08-2011

    I didn't know that gravatars actually have this effect. I don't have a gravatar yet but I'm planning on putting up one because like you said, it's pretty and at least it can differentiate you from spammers but I am actually thinking twice right now, if I should go get one or not. Thanks anyway for the information.

  9. Angel02-26-2011

    I have been using gravatars for a while now, never realized it has that kind of impact. I actually tried it on my site too but for some reasons it doesn't have any affect yet, Maybe because I dont have enough to evaluate the affect properly.

  10. Ken03-03-2011

    That is an awesome observation! I don't think I ever in a million years would've expected Gravatar as being the culprit of slow page loads. I'm definitely going to make sure that all of my sites have Gravatar disabled now. I've never really seen the importance of it anyway other than the fact that you can see a picture of the person that's commenting but big deal. I can live without that. I always thought that was just a cool little feature that kind of spiced your site up with more pictures but not a necessity. Thanks a ton for sharing this cool little detail. It's extremely important to have a low bounce rate in Google's eyes because if your page is taking too long to load it can actually affect your search engine rankings.

  11. Guest03-04-2011

    Amazing, i did not know that gravatar can slow your page, however i tried it out, using generated icons instead of gravatar. I tested this on pingdom.com on one of my thesis wordpress blogs and sure enough it did too shave 2 seconds of a 7 second page load time, excellent review

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