Step One: Perform a SEMrush Site Audit Investigation
This issue was identified from the resultant SEMRush Site Audit report. A picture of the report appears below with a pointer to the top issues. I am a bit surprised this hasn’t impacted more pages but for whatever reason, two stand out and this is a potentially more significant issue than perhaps appears at first glance.
I looked into this a bit and suspected that the issue was likely due to the following:
- The ThosPFuller.com site uses the OceanWP Theme and Elementor page builder plugin.
- The Gutenberg WordPress theme plugin and CoBlocks page builder plugin (see also CoBlocks on GitHub) are both present but not in use.
- We shouldn’t need these two WordPress plugins and the site functions fine after deactivating them.
Prior to disabling these plugins I checked one of the identified pages and noticed that it had 114 occurrences of “.js” and 99 occurrences of “.css” in the page source (this count was determined using a simple find). After disabling these plugins the same page had 65 occurrences of “.js” and 66 occurrences of “.css” and the SEMrush warning is gone.
Once we’ve deactivated the unused WordPress plugin the next step is to test the website.
Step Three: Test The Website
Step Four: Execute another SEMrush Site Audit and Check that the Issue Has Been Addressed
We’ll run the SEMrush Site Audit again and check that the results indicate that the warning is gone — we can see that this is the case in the image below.
The next step will be to delete unused WordPress plugins.
Step Five: Delete Unused WordPress Plugins
Once we’re satisfied that the website has been tested and is working as we’d expect it to, we can then remove the unused plugins. This is recommended because unused WordPress plugins can still weigh down a website, even if they’ve been deactivated. We don’t need them, we don’t want them, so let’s delete them.
We should also rerun the SEMrush Site Audit and check that the issue has been addressed. We can see the result of this in the image below.
We can opt to retest the site again at this point. For a personal or professional website, this step may be unnecessary whereas for a proper business or e-commerce website we may want to run a final set of tests, just to ensure that nothing was missed.
Why You Should Remove Unused WordPress Plugins
According to the article entitled “Removing Unused WordPress Plugins” by Oliver Whitham :
By learning how to fully uninstall plugins you no longer use, you can ensure that your website doesn’t accumulate files and data you don’t need. In practice, this means you can keep your site running smoothly and your loading times lean.
Expanding on this quote above, there are specific benefits to only using required WordPress plugins:
- You know exactly what you need for your WordPress website to function properly.
- It’ll be easier to update versions of PHP because there are fewer plugins that may be outdated. Outdated plugins that rely on older versions of PHP can be problematic and block an upgrade which then impacts the upgrade path for the entire site.
- The surface area for website security-related issues will be smaller .
- This avoids database bloat  however the MySQL instance your WordPress website relies on may benefit from optimization as plugins often leave dependent tables and data in the database — there are WordPress optimization plugins that can help with this [3, 4].
- It is, generally speaking, good software development practice to use only what you need. This idea applies as much to WordPress administration as well.
- Plugins can have ramifications that impact the entire site and not just these two pages identified in the SEMrush Site Audit report.
- Unused plugins that are still active can have a performance impact across the entire WordPress website. If it’s bad enough the bounce rate might be artificially inflated because people aren’t waiting for pages to load. This becomes particularly important when optimizing for speed as there’s the potential to get some quick and easy performance gains simply from removing unused plugins.
- If you’re running WordPress in the Amazon Web Services Cloud (AWS) or on another cloud provider with a similar billing strategy, a slow WordPress website will likely result in a higher monthly bill.
When it comes to Performance optimization, which is related to Technical SEO, everything listed above comes into focus when it pertains to achieving fast page load times. Below I’ve included a picture of one of the performance reports for an article on this site. Performance engineering is something I spent a fair amount of time on and achieving fast results, even when hosting WordPress with a fast provider, still requires effort, discipline, and constant attention.
For simple blogs what I’ve mentioned above may be low-priority issues however for high-traffic WordPress eCommerce websites these problems can impact the bottom line, and losing both customers and their money quickly becomes a serious problem.
Have you encountered this problem? Do you disagree with anything here or have I forgotten anything? Let me know in the comments!
Technical SEO References
- Removing Unused WordPress Plugins
- 14 Best WordPress Database Plugins (Clean and Optimize Your DB) by Matteo Duò
- WordPress Database Plugin: 6 Options for Cleaning and Development
- How to Fix the og:image Open Graph Meta Tags are Missing Critical Issue
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