If you expect your website to drive significant traffic, you need to be sure it won’t slow to a crawl when visitors start pouring in.
And if you’ve ever encountered a slow WordPress site, you’re probably wondering: can WordPress handle heavy traffic?
Yes, WordPress can handle heavy traffic. WordPress itself has no limits in terms of the amount of traffic it can support. However, your choice of web hosting and on-site performance optimizations can make or break your site’s ability to withstand heavy traffic.
WordPress powers more than a third of all sites on the web, so it’s not hard to find high-traffic examples:
- Blogs like TechCrunch and Mashable
- Publications like Vogue and Variety
- Companies like Mercedes-Benz and Microsoft
- Celebrities like Katy Perry and Usain Bolt
All of these sites are powered by WordPress.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the most important considerations for using WordPress for a popular website, and what you can do to ensure your site is ready to handle heavy traffic.
Choose The Right WordPress Hosting For Heavy Traffic
Your site is only as fast as the server it lives on. Without the right web host, nothing else you do will truly prepare your site for heavy traffic.
With that in mind, how do you choose a web host that can handle heavy traffic?
Types Of Hosting
As you shop around, you’re going to encounter several common types of web hosting:
- Shared hosting is a great low-cost starting point for new websites, but it generally won’t offer the performance you need for a high-traffic site.
- Managed WordPress hosting is not always inherently different from shared hosting at the server level, but it offers a number of WordPress-specific features and optimizations that can help you support higher levels of traffic. These plans are usually rated for an estimated level of monthly traffic.
- Virtual private servers (VPS) offer dedicated server resources without the expense of owning an entire server. These plans can usually support substantially more traffic than shared plans, but they come with strict resource limits.
- Dedicated server packages allow you to rent an entire server that you manage exclusively. With the right specs, a dedicated server can offer solid performance for a high-traffic site, but you’re still bound by the physical limitations of the server itself.
- Cloud hosting uses distributed resources across multiple servers and locations to deliver unparalleled performance and scalability. If you need to keep a high-traffic site running at peak performance through even the biggest traffic spikes, cloud hosting is a great option.
|Type of hosting||Good for heavy traffic?|
|Managed WordPress Hosting||Yes (if your plan supports your traffic)|
|Virtual Private Servers (VPS)||Yes (with enough server resources)|
|Dedicated Servers||Yes (with enough server resources)|
|Cloud Hosting||Yes (scalable to any traffic level)|
The Best WordPress Hosting Plans For Heavy Traffic
The specific hosting plan you need depends largely on how much traffic you need to support. Let’s take a look at some specific recommendations.
For 25,000 to 100,000 Monthly Visitors
In general, I’m a big fan of SiteGround, and I use it myself.
If your web traffic falls anywhere in the range of 25,000 to 100,000 monthly visitors, you’ll want to check out SiteGround’s GoGeek plan here.
It also includes all of the performance features SiteGround is known for, such as fast SSD drives, NGINX servers, high-speed PHP execution via PHP7+, Cloudflare CDN integration, and HTTP/2.
For 100,000 to 3M+ Monthly Visitors (WordPress Only)
If your site is getting serious traffic upward of 100,000 monthly visitors, you’re going to want a more robust hosting solution.
At this level, you can’t go wrong with Kinsta, which offers managed WordPress hosting plans that are scalable up to 3 million monthly visitors, or even higher with a custom plan.
Kinsta’s hosting plans are optimized for top-notch speed and performance, even with heavy traffic.
Kinsta offers free migrations, free SSL, daily backups, 24/7 support, staging, NGINX servers, high-speed PHP execution via PHP 7+, HTTP/2, WordPress caching, and a free CDN with every plan.
One potential drawback of Kinsta is that it only supports WordPress—so if you need to host other applications, you won’t be able to do it there.
But if WordPress is all you need, Kinsta is the definitive solution for high-traffic sites.
Kinsta’s plans are priced according to your estimated traffic level. You can find out which plan best suits your site here.
(Kinsta also has plans for lower levels of traffic, but SiteGround is a better deal if you’re getting less than 100k monthly visitors.)
For 100,000 to 3M+ Monthly Visitors (WordPress + Other Applications)
If you need to host any non-WordPress applications with substantial traffic, you’ll want to look into dedicated servers or cloud hosting.
SiteGround offers three managed dedicated server plans, all of which offer the same great performance features we covered above. If you’re looking for a dedicated hosting plan, definitely check out SiteGround.
However, you may prefer the flexible cost and scalability of a cloud hosting package. SiteGround also offers cloud hosting, but you may be better off going with Cloudways, which offers more affordable, pay-as-you-go cloud hosting that’s easy to set up and scalable to any level of traffic. You can explore their pricing options here.
Choose The Right WordPress Theme For Heavy Traffic
Your WordPress theme is the backbone of your site. It determines not only what your site looks like, but how it performs.
Some themes look beautiful on the surface, but under the hood they’re a chaotic, poorly coded mess that’s slowing down your site with every page load.
Often this is the reason WordPress is perceived as a slow platform. It’s not that WordPress itself is slow—it’s that many site owners use slow themes that weigh down their sites with unnecessary features and bloat.
All of your theme’s “special features” add code to your site that executes on every page load—even if you’re not using them!
When it comes to WordPress themes, less is more. This is especially true when you’re dealing with heavy traffic.
Find a theme that looks good and does what you need, without all the bells and whistles. You can always add extra functionality with plugins, if you need to.
Here are a few of my favorite lightweight WordPress themes:
- Marketer’s Delight: This is the theme we use here at GigaPress. It’s a content-first, performance-driven theme for marketers that allows you to disable features that you don’t need. Note: you’ll get the most out of customizing this theme if you have some coding knowledge or access to a developer.
- GeneratePress: A popular, customizable freemium theme built to maximize speed without sacrificing design. Check out the demo sites here to see what it’s capable of.
- Astra: Another high-performance theme that’s easy to customize, even with no coding experience. Astra also has a variety of starter sites that you can use to get started.
Use A Caching Plugin
WordPress content is dynamic. Every time someone lands on your site, WordPress has to query the database for the required data, compile it together, and build your page on the fly before the user can see it.
Even on high-performance hardware, this process can be quite intensive—especially when many thousands of people are loading your site every day.
You can speed things up significantly with a caching plugin.
A caching plugin creates a static HTML copy of your pages and serves that to your users, instead of querying the database and rebuilding your pages on every single visit.
Every WordPress site should have a caching plugin, but it’s particularly important for high-traffic sites.
My caching plugin of choice is WP Rocket, which is actually an all-in-one solution for performance optimization.
WP Rocket handles caching, GZIP compression, database optimization, lazy loading, JS/CSS minification, Google font optimization, and more—which is pretty crazy because I previously had to use 5+ separate plugins for this stuff.
It’s also dead-simple to set up, which is a huge plus.
Note: Both SiteGround and Kinsta offer their own built-in caching solutions, so you don’t have to worry about installing or configuring extra plugins. But if you really want to go the extra mile, WP Rocket is compatible with SiteGround and Kinsta and will work in conjunction with their solutions to give your site an extra boost.
Optimize Your Images
Images are an important part of any website, but they can also destroy your site’s performance if they’re not properly optimized.
Every time someone visits a page on your site, their browser has to download all of the images on that page from your server. If your image files are massive, your pages will take longer to load, and every visitor will cost you substantially more server resources.
Multiply that by tens of thousands of visitors per day, and you’ve got a problem.
Luckily, it’s easy to optimize your images and reduce file sizes without sacrificing quality. I use a plugin called Imagify, which automatically optimizes my images by resizing and compressing them on-the-fly as I upload.
Imagify offers three levels of compression:
Here on GigaPress, we use the Aggressive setting, and I literally can’t perceive a difference in image quality. Even so, it has reduced the size of our images by 75 percent—an unbelievable difference.
If you know what you’re doing, you can certainly optimize your images manually, but I’d rather save my time and let it happen automatically.
Use A Content Delivery Network
Another great way to optimize your WordPress site for heavy traffic is by using a content delivery network, also known as a CDN.
A CDN stores static copies of your site’s files on many different servers around the globe. Then, when someone visits your site, they are served those static files from whatever server is geographically nearest them.
This can reduce the burden of heavy traffic on your server by offloading most of the work to your CDN.
The basic version of Cloudflare is completely free and offers a full suite of features to improve not only your site’s performance, but also its security. High-traffic sites run a particularly high risk of DDoS attacks, which Cloudflare can help to mitigate.
WordPress can absolutely handle heavy traffic, and in fact, many of the popular sites you frequent are likely powered by WordPress.
If you choose the right hosting solution and implement the steps outlined above, you should have no problem scaling your site to any level of traffic.
If you have any questions about optimizing WordPress for heavy traffic, please feel free to leave a comment below!