Your WordPress site is slow, and you’ve run multiple performance tests to only end up with a long list of improvement suggestions.
But before you open 50 new tabs with plugin listicles, you might want to check the number of HTTP requests your website generates.
Easily missed, excessive HTTP requests have a huge impact on site speed, performance, SERP rankings, and conversion rates.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What HTTP requests are
- The importance of reducing HTTP requests on WordPress
- How to check and analyze your HTTP requests
- The most common causes for a large number of HTTP requests
- 6 WordPress plugins to reduce HTTP requests with
- HTTP requests best practices
Let’s dive right in!
What are HTTP requests?
Whenever a user opens a website, their web browser sends a signal for loading content such as text, images, videos, and other resources to the server. The server then responds by sending back the requested resources.
This signal is also known as an HTTP request, and the number of HTTP requests directly corresponds to the number of resources a website needs to serve content and become interactive.
The higher the number of HTTP requests, the longer it takes for your website to load properly. That’s why reducing them is one of the most effective ways to fix slow speed for your WordPress website.
Why is reducing HTTP requests on WordPress important?
Overall, reducing HTTP requests is a critical step in improving loading times and performance, ultimately leading to better SEO, increased traffic, and more successful conversions for your WordPress site.
In fact, a whopping 70% of users admit site speed directly affects their willingness to stick around, and 53% would simply abandon a website that takes longer to load.
In Google’s eyes, website speed is critical for the success of your online business. By reducing the number of HTTP requests on your WordPress site, you’re not simply boosting your speed and performance but also ensuring:
- Lower bounce rates
- Better user experience and engagement
- Improved user satisfaction and conversion rates
- Higher rankings in SERPs (+ more visibility and traffic)
How to check and analyze your site’s HTTP requests?
If you suspect your WordPress site performs too many HTTP requests, your first step would be to confirm it.
A couple of popular methods are available to check and analyze your site’s HTTP requests:
- Chrome Developer Tools: Right-click on a web page and select “Inspect” or press the F12 key. In the developer tools, navigate to the “Network” tab to see all the HTTP requests made by the web page, along with their status codes and response times.
- Online Tools: For detailed reports on your site’s HTTP requests, you can try GTmetrix or Pingdom. Both analyze your website’s performance, identify opportunities for optimization, and provide recommendations for improvement.
Snippet from GTmetrix report testing www.google.com
Not sure which resources you should focus on first? Check what the most popular culprits for excessive HTTP requests are to highlight the ones you should optimize first.
Most common causes for too many HTTP requests
Too Many Unnecessary or Heavy Plugins
Unnecessary or resource-intensive plugins can slow down the website’s performance and increase load times. It is important to only use plugins that are vital for your business and have a minimal impact on your site’s code.
Plugins that load scripts sitewide
Some plugins load on every website page, even if the scripts are only needed on certain pages. Not only does this bump up the number of HTTP requests, but it also devalues the plugin you might be paying for.
Unnecessary and/or unoptimized images
Large unoptimized images bloat your website’s resources and the number of HTTP requests made to load them. They are often the first to go in for optimization, as well as for review to decide which ones are critical for the user experience and which can go.
Images and videos that aren’t lazy-loaded
Loading images and videos before they are needed is a common mistake that stacks more HTTP requests than necessary. Lazy-loading them will help immensely optimize the number of requests made in the initial page load.
Heavy unoptimized WordPress themes
Themes that include unnecessary resources, extravagant effects, and are not optimized for speed can slow down the website and harm performance. By choosing tried-and-true themes like Astra and Superb Pixels, you will reduce HTTP requests to a minimum without sacrificing your site’s appearance and efficacy.
Too many Third-Party HTTP Requests
Third-party scripts and resources, such as social media widgets or tracking pixels, can increase the number of HTTP requests slowly but surely. It is important to only use necessary third-party scripts and resources and to load them asynchronously to reduce the impact on page load times.
Render-blocking resources delay the loading of your website and hurt your site’s performance. It’s important to defer or load these resources asynchronously to reduce their impact on page load times.
Not using CDN
Without a CDN, your website’s resources are only served from a single server location. A CDN can distribute resources across multiple server locations, reducing the time it takes to load resources and improving site speed.
Inefficient coding practices, unnecessary whitespace, and sliced code greatly contribute to excessive HTTP requests. Manual optimization, as well as via a plugin, are great ways to tackle this issue.
Rolling up your sleeves to challenge every issue on your own can prove impossible. Unless you have a dedicated web performance team and are willing to put a lot of resources into maintaining it, you might want to consider the alternatives.
Especially when we’ve handpicked the tools that can make optimizing HTTP requests a breeze.
6 Best WordPress plugins to reduce HTTP requests (Free and Paid)
1. NitroPack for 360 performance optimization
Once installed, NitroPack applies 35+ advanced optimizations automatically without the need for extra fine-tuning. Currently, 168K+ active users enjoy 90+ PageSpeed scores, passed Core Web Vitals, and a 24/7 expert technical support.
- Rating: 4.3
- Number of installations: 160,000+
- Price: Free and paid plans are available
2. Cloudflare CDN
Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) and web security company that offers online services to 30 million websites and web applications worldwide. Its CDN network is made up of over 200 data centers located in more than 100 countries, allowing for fast and efficient content delivery to end-users.
Thanks to Cloudflare’s edge caching, load balancing, and compression, you can significantly reduce the number of HTTP requests made to your server. Furthermore, your content will load an average of 60% faster, and your website’s scalability will improve.
- Rating: 9.1 at TrustRadius
- Number of installations: 3+ million
- Price: Free and Paid plans available
3. a3 Lazy Load for resource lazy loading
a3 Lazy Load is a WordPress plugin focused on lazy loading images, videos, and iframes. The plugin only loads these elements when visible in the user’s viewport, reducing the amount of data that needs to be loaded initially, which means fewer HTTP requests when a visitor lands on your website.
- Rating: 4.3
- Number of installations: 100,000+
- Price: Free
4. Fast Velocity Minify for resource minification
- Rating: 4.6
- Number of installations: 70,000+
- Price: Free
5. EWWW Image Optimizer for image optimization
EWWW Image Optimizer offers various optimization techniques for new and existing images, including lossless and lossy compression, resizing, and conversion to WebP format. EWWW Image Optimizer is compatible with popular page builders and supports a wide range of file types, including PNG, JPEG, GIF, and PDF, to help you reduce the number of HTTP requests required to load a web page.
- Rating: 4.7
- Number of installations: 1+ million
- Price: Free and paid features available
6. Plugin Organizer
Plugin Organizer helps you control your plugins and, more specifically, where on your website they are loaded. By reducing the number of plugins that load site-wide, you will significantly decrease the number of HTTP requests made by the browser.
- Rating: 4.7
- Number of installations: 20,000+
- Price: Free
How many HTTP requests are too many?
In essence, HTTP requests are not bad. They are an integral part of the rendering process of your website’s content, and only when in excess are they harmful to your website.
That said, you might be wondering – “What number of HTTP requests is good practice?”
The ideal number of HTTP requests for a small or medium website is less than 25, but you should aim at less than 50 for a more manageable initial scale.
It’s important to note that the optimal number of HTTP requests can vary depending on the size and complexity of your WordPress site. A good rule of thumb is to try to keep the number of HTTP requests to a minimum by combining and minifying files where possible.
Some exceptional examples of websites with an optimized number of HTTP requests include:
- Amazon.com: Despite being a huge e-commerce website with many images and resources, Amazon’s abundant homepage has an average of 260 HTTP requests for impeccable loading times.
- Medium.com: The Medium platform, which hosts blogs and articles, has only 80 HTTP requests in the initial load.
- Getbootstrap.com: The Bootstrap website, which provides a popular front-end development framework, shows text-book HTTP request optimization with the impressive 20 requests on their home page.
- Basecamp.com: Basecamp’s project management platform sends only 36 HTTP requests.
These websites have optimized their resources, combined files, and used efficient coding practices to keep the number of HTTP requests to a minimum, resulting in fast-loading, high-performing websites.
Choosing the best tool for reducing HTTP requests for your case will depend on your requirements, budget, and optimization strategy.
To ensure your site’s optimal performance, it’s important to keep running tests to confirm the newly-introduced solutions are doing their job.
Additionally, don’t forget to monitor your site’s analytics, specifically your traffic and user behavior. If the website’s bounce rate decreases and the average time on site increases after fixing issues with excessive HTTP requests, it is a good sign that the changes have improved the website’s performance.