Better WordPress performance is something most site owners strive for at some time or another. After all, the faster your sites load, the more likely you are to keep visitors on there and have them check out what you have to offer.
As with just about everything on the world’s most popular CMS, there’s a wealth of plugins to help you do just that with limited technical know-how. Remember that no matter what web hosting you have, it’s key to optimise your site as much as you can. Tracking performance (site loading times) has always been an important aspect so once you’ve found the perfect host you can continue optimising by using a caching plugin.
Among the best of the bunch are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache.
Both of these include tools and features designed to reduce loading speeds and deliver better all round performance. Yet whilst the latter is a simple, no-frills plugin which covers the basics, those looking for a fully comprehensive approach to improving their sites are often better suited with W3 Total Cache, a tool which -I’ll be honest- can take some getting used to.
I use W3 Total Cache on all my WordPress websites as I personally prefer this plugin over its competitors, having spent a lot of time configuring the different options available and seeing positive results. To help you do the same, I’ve put together this step-by-step guide to installing and configuring W3 Total Cache.
Setup W3 Total Cache for Better Performance
The setup procedure goes through both simple and advanced set of tools, so you need to follow each and every step with precision.
Before we go any further, it’s a good idea at this point to use a website testing tool like Pingdom or Google PageSpeed to see how your website is currently performing. Once we’re done, you can go back and run the tests again to see the difference in real time.
The first obvious step is to install W3 Total Cache plugin. You can either download its package from the WordPress Plugins Directory, or search it inside the Dashboard itself. Either way, get it installed and activated.
Now in the left-hand side list inside Dashboard, you’ll see a new column added, named Performance. You need to click on this and select the General settings first.
You need to leave the General tab untouched and scroll down to the Page Cache section. Under this, Enable the Page Cache option and select Disk: Enhanced option from the drop down list ahead of the method.
Up next is the Minify section, which again needs to be Enabled. From there, select Auto option from the mode. Select Disk as the method and leave rest of the options as Default. In the case of using MaxCDN, you need to keep the Minify mode to Manual.
Keep the Database Cache Enabled and select Disk as the method for it.
Next, keep the Object cache Enabled and again keep the Disk as the method for it.
With that done, keep the Browser cache Enabled and hit Save all settings button. The General setting section ends here and whatever is left underneath or above, is required to stay Default.
Now, after making the General settings happy, we need to dive into individual ones. Starting with the Page Cache, you need to enable first, second, and second-from-last options. You can leave the remaining options untouched.
Scrolling down, you’ll find Cache Preload option, where you need to enable Automatically prime the page cache option and make sure to click on Save all settings button.
Keeping the Minify, Database Cache, and Object Cache options as default, click on the Browser Cache option from the left sliding menu. Over here, Enable the first Six options and leave the rest on default.
Click on the Save all settings button underneath and you are good to go.
Checking your performance
Now after getting over with all these settings and tweaking, I’ll recommend to check out the current grades of your website using FTP tool of Pingdom and also using Google Page Speed insight. I’m sure you’ll find improvement in each of them.
The key thing to note here is that I never went into the details of any individual option. That’s because a lot of these things are technical in nature, and to be honest, what’s important isn’t so much how they work as much as it is that they get the job done. If you do want to look further into how each option helps you to achieve better WordPress performance, a good technical web developer or Search Engine Optimisation blog should provide everything you need to know.
Also, if you’re still not satisfied with the performance improvements, I’d recommend using a CDN network. You can start with CloudFlare which is free to begin, offering limited options, or you can opt for much advanced MaxCDN which offers tons of features and a guaranteed improvement. This is included in most of the hosting companies that we have reviewed. The second one is paid and comes with a premium support team, always ready to help you out in any situation.