Speeding Up with W3 Total Cache

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Some of Google’s latest updates have incorporated your website load speed into your page rank. This means that you need to take a very serious look at how quickly your page loads. First I’ll cover how to determine your page speed and then I’ve got a 5-minute speed up your WordPress website with W3 Total Cache.

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Find Your Current Speed

Before we can speed up, we need to know how well we are currently doing. To do that, we’ll head over to Google’s PageSpeed Insights and find out how well our sample site does. All we need to do is enter our sample site’s URL (include www but not http://) into the PageSpeed Insights box and click analyze.

google_pagespeed_insights

PageSpeed will take a moment to analyze our site and then present our baseline speed.

pagespeed_before

Baseline Score: 81

W3 Total Cache

Now we have our baseline and we would like to speed up our site with very little effort in about 5 minutes. To start off, go ahead and install the W3 Total Cache plugin. If you are in WordPress, just go to plugins and then add new. Enter W3 Total Cache into the search and install the plugin.

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After installation make sure to activate the plugin. Once it is activated and before adjusting ANY settings, I’ll check the speed again.

pagespeed_middle

Current Score: 86

That’s a definitely improvement, but we can do better.

Adding Browser Caching

Now we’re going to go in and add in browser caching. In simple terms, browser caching tells the web browser not to re-download certain files from your web server. Examples of files that get cached are images, CSS, and JavaScript.

In your WordPress dashboard go down to the Performance setting. Then select Browser Cache. Under the General settings you want to add check marks to “Set expires header” and “Set cache control header”. Then just click on save all settings.

w3_total_cache_settings

Now that browser caching is added, I went back over to check our speed.

pagespeed_after_w3_total_cache

Final Score: 90

Side Note About Caching

I should point out that any new plugin does run the risk of interfering with other plugins. Since caching plugins can affect how JavaScript and JQuery files are served, they do occasionally cause a problem. Just be sure to check your site.

What About WP Super Cache?

WP Super Cache is another popular plugin for WordPress, however it doesn’t have as many features as W3 Total Cache. Most notably it doesn’t support browser caching, which as you noticed made a big difference in our Google PageSpeed Score. I did try out the sample site with WP Super Cache just for comparison sake and the result was a speedup from 81/100 to 83/100.

Conclusion

In 5 minutes we’ve improved our score from 81 to 90. Which I think is a rather nice return on your five minutes invested. Other areas where you can get a lot of return are making sure you don’t have any duplicated resources (google will let you know if you do) and compressing images.

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