I have a csv file that I want to insert that consists of ~1,500 rows and 97 columns. It takes about 2-3 hours to do a full import and I'd like to improve this if there is a way. Currently for each row I'm doing a $post_id = wp_insert_post and then an add_post_meta for the 97 associated columns with each row. This is pretty inefficient...

Is there a better way to go about this in a way that a could get a post_id keep the relationship between post and its post_meta values?

Right now I'm trying this on my local machine with wamp but will have it running on a VPS

  • In addition to the WP tips below, also look at using InnoDB in MySQL and commit transactions in batches, per this answer.
    – webaware
    Jun 8, 2013 at 22:20

4 Answers 4


I had similar problems sometime ago with a custom CSV import, but I ended up by using some custom SQL for the bulk insert. But I hadn't seen this answer by then:

Optimize post insert and delete for bulk operations?

to use wp_defer_term_counting() to enable or disable term counting.

Also if you check out the source for the WordPress importer plugin, you will see these functions just before the bulk import:

wp_defer_term_counting( true );
wp_defer_comment_counting( true );

and then after the bulk insert:

wp_defer_term_counting( false );
wp_defer_comment_counting( false );

So this might be something to try out ;-)

Importing posts as draft instead of publish, will also speed things up, as the slow process of finding a unique slug for each one is skipped. One could e.g. publish them later in smaller steps, but note that this kind of approach would need to mark the imported posts somehow, so we don't just publish any drafts later! This would need careful planning and most likely some custom coding.

If there are e.g. lot of similar post titles (same post_name) to be imported, then wp_unique_post_slug() can become slow, due to the loop query iteration to find an available slug. This can possibly generate a huge number of db queries.

Since WordPress 5.1 the pre_wp_unique_post_slug filter is available to avoid the loop iteration for the slug. See core ticket #21112. Here's an example:

add_filter( 'pre_wp_unique_post_slug', 
    function( $override_slug, $slug, $post_id, $post_status, $post_type, $post_parent ) {
        // Set a unique slug value to shortcircuit the slug iteration loop.
        // $override_slug = ...

        return $override_slug;
    }, 10, 6

If one tries e.g. $override_slug = _truncate_post_slug( $slug, 200 - ( strlen( $suffix ) + 1 ) ) . "-$suffix" with $suffix as $post_id, then we would note that $post_id is always 0 for new posts, as expected. There are various ways though to generate unique numbers in PHP, like uniqid( '', true ). But use this filter with care to make sure you have unique slugs. We could e.g. run a group count query afterwards on post_name to be sure.

Another option would be to use WP-CLI to avoid timeout. See e.g. my answer posted for Creating 20,000 Posts or Pages using a .csv file?

Then we can run our custom PHP import script import.php with the WP-CLI command:

wp eval-file import.php

Also avoid importing large number of hierarchical post types, as the current wp-admin UI doesn't handle it well. See e.g. Custom post type - posts list - white screen of death

Here's the great tip from @otto:

Before bulk inserts, disable the autocommit mode explicitly:

$wpdb->query( 'SET autocommit = 0;' );

After the bulk inserts, run:

$wpdb->query( 'COMMIT;' );

I also think it would be good idea to do some housekeeping like:

$wpdb->query( 'SET autocommit = 1;' );

I've not tested this on MyISAM but this should work on InnoDB.

As mentioned by @kovshenin this tip wouldn't work for MyISAM.

  • 6
    In addition to this, you can also use the query function to turn off autocommit before, and then manually commit after the insertions have been done. This greatly speeds up the operations at the DB level when doing bulk inserts. Just send a SET autocommit=0; before the inserts, followed by a COMMIT; afterwards.
    – Otto
    Jun 8, 2013 at 20:27
  • Interesting, thanks for that! I'll have to test it when I get home. Jun 8, 2013 at 20:31
  • @Otto, thanks for the great tip. So we could do $wpdb->query('SET autocommit = 0;'); before the inserts but can we skip $wpdb->query('START TRANSACTION;'); in that case? I will check out the MySQL manual to learn more about it ;-) cheers.
    – birgire
    Jun 8, 2013 at 21:05
  • 1
    Good point Mark. If these are only inserts and not updates, then wp_suspend_cache_addition( true ) should help NOT put stuff in the object cache. Also @birgire mentioned they didn't test this with MyISAM -- don't bother, the storage engine doesn't support transactions so setting autocommit or starting a transaction will have zero effect.
    – kovshenin
    Aug 2, 2016 at 0:01
  • 1
    great tip @Otto. My query earlier took 38 sec, now it takes 1sec.
    – Annapurna
    Aug 22, 2017 at 10:47

I had to add this:

    remove_action('do_pings', 'do_all_pings', 10, 1);

Keep in mind that this will skip do_all_pings, which processes pingbacks, enclosures, trackbacks, and other pings (link: https://developer.wordpress.org/reference/functions/do_all_pings/). My understanding from looking at the code is that pending pingbacks/trackbacks/enclosures will still be processed after you remove this remove_action line, but I'm not completely sure.

Update: I also added

    define( 'WP_IMPORTING', true );

Beyond that I'm using:


    wp_defer_term_counting( true );
    wp_defer_comment_counting( true );
    $wpdb->query( 'SET autocommit = 0;' );

    /* Inserting 100,000 posts at a time
       including assigning a taxonomy term and adding meta keys
       (i.e. a `foreach` loop with each loop containing:
       `wp_insert_post`, `wp_set_object_terms`, `add_post_meta`.)

    $wpdb->query( 'COMMIT;' );
    wp_defer_term_counting( false );
    wp_defer_comment_counting( false );

You will need to insert the post to get your ID but the $wpdb->postmeta table is very simple in structure. You could probably use a straight INSERT INTO statement, like this from the MySQL docs: INSERT INTO tbl_name (a,b,c) VALUES(1,2,3),(4,5,6),(7,8,9);

In your case...

$ID = 1; // from your wp_insert_post
$values = '($ID,2,3),($ID,5,6),($ID,8,9)'; // build from your 97 columns; I'd use a loop of some kind
$wpdb->query("INSERT INTO {$wpdb->postmeta} (post_id,meta_key,meta_value) VALUES {$values}");

That won't deal with any encoding, serialization, escaping, error checking, duplications, or anything else, but I'd expect it to be faster (though I haven't tried).

I would not do this on a production site without thorough testing, and if I only had to do it once or twice, I'd use the core functions and take a long lunch while things import.

  • Think I'll take a long lunch, rather not insert raw data into my tables and there's no sense in rewriting what Wordpress will already do. Jun 8, 2013 at 18:27
  • 1
    this is how mysql injection happens, so please don't use this.
    – OneOfOne
    Mar 9, 2015 at 17:04
  • Everything is hard-coded, @OneOfOne. Injection does not-- cannot by definition-- happen without user supplied input. That is the nature of "injection". The OP is importing data from a .csv file which is under his control using code under his control. There is not oppurtunity for a third party to inject anything. Please pay attention to context.
    – s_ha_dum
    Apr 10, 2015 at 0:00
  • +1 from me, i needed to add 20 customs fields values and this was much faster than "add_post_meta"
    – Zorox
    Oct 5, 2015 at 12:48
  • 1
    You can't expect the OP to thoroughly check the CSV file before importing it, and therefore you should treat it as user input, and at least ->prepare() your SQL statements. In your scenario, what would happen if the ID column in the CSV contained something like 1, 'foo', 'bar'); DROP TABLE wp_users; --? Something bad probably.
    – kovshenin
    Aug 1, 2016 at 23:58

Important note about 'SET autocommit = 0;'

after setting autocommit = 0 if the script stops execution (for some reason, like exit, fatal error or etc...), then your changes WONT BE SAVED IN DB!

$wpdb->query( 'SET autocommit = 0;' );

update_option("something", "value");     

exit; //lets say, here happens error or anything...

$wpdb->query( 'COMMIT;' );

In this case update_option won't be saved in DB!

So, the best advise is to have COMMIT registered in shutdown function as a precatuion (in case any unexpected exit happens).

register_shutdown_function( function(){     $GLOBALS['wpdb']->query( 'COMMIT;' );    } );

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