What does 408 Request Timeout mean?

Elisa Keller
Digital Marketing Strategist
January 16, 2024

At some point, you've likely encountered a frustrating pause on a webpage followed by the ominous 408 Request Timeout error. This error is not only a nuisance for users but a red flag for site health that deserves immediate attention. In this article, you'll gain an understanding of the 408 status code, why it happens, and how it can impact both user experience and website performance. Delving into the technical realms, we will systematically guide you through diagnosing and rectifying issues causing slow loading times—crucial knowledge particularly when it comes to WordPress sites. Prepare to explore optimization techniques, including configuration tweaks, plugins, and best practices for preventive care to keep those irksome timeouts at bay.

What is 408 Request timeout?

When you encounter a 408 Request Timeout error, it means that your web server attempted to connect to the requesting client but didn’t receive a timely response. Think of it as the server sitting by the phone waiting for a call to come through, but the call never connects. It's an HTTP status code that signals a communication issue between the server and the client (your web browser or the user's device) that’s asking for a resource.

In typical scenarios, a 408 error can pop up if a user tries to submit an online form but their network connection is lagging, if the server is overwhelmed with requests, or if there are long-running scripts in a web page that prevent it from loading quickly. Specifically, when dealing with WordPress sites, this might occur during heavy plugin or theme operations that take longer than the server's configured timeout value. Ultimately, connectivity or server performance issues can lead to these timeout events.

The brunt of a 408 status code is felt most by the users and the site's reputation. For web visitors, it’s a brick wall—stopping them from accessing your content or completing their action on your website. This can quickly escalate to frustration and lead users to abandon your site in favor of one that’s more reliable. From a performance standpoint, if search engines detect that your site frequently times out, they might consider your site less stable, which could potentially harm your search rankings over time.

Diagnosing Slow Loading Issues That Lead to 408 Errors

Identifying the root cause of slow website loading that culminates in a 408 Request Timeout error requires a systematic approach. Follow this step-by-step guide to diagnose these issues effectively.

First, assess your server response times using tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom Tools, or Google PageSpeed Insights. These platforms provide valuable insights into your site's loading performance by simulating user interactions and measuring the responsiveness of your server.

# Example command to check server response time from the terminal:
curl -o /dev/null -s -w '%{time_starttransfer}\n' http://example.com

Next, investigate the server and network performance. A common tool for server-side analysis is New Relic, which offers real-time performance monitoring and can help pinpoint where bottlenecks are occurring. On the network side, troubleshoot using traceroute to identify any latency issues across network paths.

# Running traceroute on UNIX-based systems to check for network bottlenecks:
traceroute example.com

Also, examine the WordPress backend. A plugin or theme could be inefficient or outdated, leading to excessive load times. Utilize WordPress-specific tools like Query Monitor or WP-Optimize to delve into your themes, plugins, and database queries. Enhanced scrutiny of these elements often reveals hidden causes of sluggishness.

By combining these strategies, you should be able to identify and address the fundamental issues causing slow loading that leads to a 408 Request Timeout error — ensuring a smoother, more reliable experience for your users.

How do I fix request timeout?

Optimizing your WordPress configurations can significantly enhance your site's response times and reduce the risk of a 408 Request Timeout. Start with reviewing crucial settings like memory limits and execution times. For instance, increasing the PHP memory limit in your 'wp-config.php' file might help. Use this snippet of code:

define('WP_MEMORY_LIMIT', '256M');

This boosts the available memory for your site. Adjust the 'max_execution_time' in your 'php.ini' file accordingly to give scripts a longer time to run before they're terminated. Simple but essential tweaks like these can stave off timeout issues.

Incorporating effective caching strategies helps, too. WordPress has multiple caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket. These plugins generate static pages to serve to your visitors, thereby diminishing the processing load on your server:

if (!defined('WP_CACHE')) define('WP_CACHE', true);

Further, revving up your website's engine entails diving deeper with advanced methods. Database optimization includes cleaning out unwanted data and using plugins like WP-Optimize that help maintain database efficiency. For broader reach and faster delivery, integrating a Content Delivery Network (CDN) fetches static content from the server closest to the visitor. Finally, evaluating your hosting plan's resources and considering server scaling, whether upgrading to a better plan or shifting to a dedicated hosting environment, are pivotal moves for sites expecting high traffic volumes. Each of these steps brings you closer to eradicating those pesky 408 errors.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Website Timeouts

Understanding that prevention is better than a cure, it's crucial to adhere to certain best practices to keep your site running smoothly and stave off the dreaded 408 Request Timeout error. Continual website monitoring and regular maintenance play a pivotal role in ensuring your website's optimal functionality. By frequently checking your site’s performance metrics, you'll catch issues before they escalate. Establish a routine that includes checking server resources, reviewing error logs, and performing website speed tests. Additionally, verify that your hosting environment is well-suited to your traffic demands to prevent bottlenecks that may lead to timeouts.

Configuring your server timeout settings appropriately is essential. You can adjust the timeout duration in your WordPress server configuration to accommodate the normal response time of your site. For example, in an Apache server, you would edit the Timeout directive within the httpd.conf file:

Timeout 300

The example sets the timeout duration to 300 seconds. However, what's 'appropriate' can vary based on your specific website's needs and the average time to process a request.

Routine updates and security measures are another cornerstone of a healthy WordPress site. Ensuring that your WordPress version, along with all plugins and themes, are up to date will prevent many potential performance issues and security vulnerabilities. These updates often contain fixes that enhance efficiency and speed, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of a timeout error.

Lastly, utilising website monitoring software is key to preempting timeout errors. Such tools can supply real-time alerts when your site's performance deviates from the norm, allowing you to respond swiftly to fix any emerging issues. This proactive monitoring directly ties into the preventive philosophy, helping you maintain uninterrupted service for your end-users. By implementing these strategies, you’re putting defenses in place against time-out errors, culminating in a more reliable and user-friendly website.


Addressing a 408 Request Timeout error is critical to maintaining a fluid and rewarding user experience on your website. In summary, when encountering this error, remember we've covered not only the essentials of what it is and why it happens, but also practical steps for diagnosis and resolution. Tools and techniques are at your disposal to track down and resolve slow loading issues, which could lead to timeouts.

WatchSumo is a website monitoring tool that can track your website response times and alert you if it starts to be slow, so you can proactively fix the issue before your customers see it.