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arrowwise
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This is an interesting topic. Even on the fastest server, with a fresh out of the box install WordPress is always a little slower than your traditional static HTML web page. Fundamentally it is a very clunky framework due to everything that is built into the database etc. The best one can do is like what has been said is to minimise the use of dodgy plugins, optimise all your images, don’t use a slow loading theme, choose a business grade high performance web host and have your web designer perform a few more tweaks to ensure the best response times.

I am yet to read any hard evidence that that WordPress sites are specifically penalised by Google, but I suspect it’s load times in general against where the target visitors are loading from.