Speed Up Your Blog With A Caching Plugin

A fast loading blog means a happy blogger and even happier readers. I recently wrote more on the topic in my first post about speeding up your blog where I listed some basic tips to keep extra information out of your WordPress blog so it runs lean and mean. If you haven’t read that then start there before continuing with this post as it’s the next step in improving the speed of your blog.

Why do you need a caching plugin then? Well when someone visits your blog all of those lines of code that make up your site activate themselves. First the server works out what needs to be displayed by reading the code from your pretty theme. Then it pulls out the words and pictures that need to be displayed before forming in all together into what you are looking at when the web browser loads it. That’s a fair bit of work for your hosting server to do for every visitor to your blog.

What a caching plugin will do is instead of generating all of that work every time you get a blog visitor it saves the page the first time it is created. On subsequent visits from your readers the plugin will load the saved page reducing the work on your server because the page is already generated. If the page changes it gets re-cached otherwise it just sits there saving your server some work.

If that’s too confusing think of it like this. You just hand wrote a flyer for a meeting you are going to and now need to write 100 more, that’s a lot of work right? But if you have a photocopiers it’s easy to make 100 copies saving your hands from dropping off and hours of work. Well the server without a caching plugin is you hand writing 100 pages and with a caching plugin is you using a photocopiers to do the work. With me so far?

Enter W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin. This bad boy does all the heavy lifting for you and can up to halve the time it takes to load your blog (time-saving will vary).

Like all good plugins you install this one by logging into the admin section of your blog and navigating to “Plugins”, “Add New” and then searching for “W3 Total Cache”. Go ahead and Install and Activate the plugin. (Note: If you have another caching plugin already installed be sure to deactivate and uninstall it first).

Install W3 Total Cache WordPress

WordPress W3 Total Cache Performance LinkThe next step is to get the plugin working for you. Down the bottom of the settings menu to your left you should hopefully find a new item added called “Performance”.

Here is where you tune this plugin to the needs of your blog and squeeze as much speed out of it as you can. Don’t be alarmed by all the options I’m going to cover the main settings you need to worry about that will get you started. If you want to cover anything really specific to the settings or if you want to know more about what you can set up ask over in the travel blog support forums and I’ll do what I can to help out.

Now the settings below are going to be suited to anybody who has their self-hosted blog running on a shared server. If you are running a dedicated server or VPS well I don’t need to explain this to you because I’m guessing you already understand.

To make this easier I’ve included pictures of each different setting menu that you should adjust so just copy what I have and you will be on your way. the first menu you need to change starts at Page Cache. Here you need to tick the box to enable it and choose “Disk (enhanced)” from the drop down menu.

W3 Total Cache Page Cache

The next setting to configure is “Minify”. Again just as above check the enable tick box and choose “Disk”.

W3 Total Cache Minify

The last setting that’s really important on this page is the “Browser Cache” setting down the bottom. It’s easy to configure as you just need to tick the box.

W3 Total Cache Browser Cache

Up to this point it’s been a breeze right? Well it can stay that way because for the majority of you this will have hopefully dropped a couple of seconds off that load time. All you need to do is deploy the settings you have just enabled. No doubt you have seen this bar at the top of the settings page when you first entered.

W3 Total Cache Deploy Settings

Hit that “Deploy” button and after the page refreshes you can then hit the “Disable” button to turn off preview mode as you won’t be needing it anymore.

This is where you go and refresh your blog to make sure it still looks like it should and you don’t see any errors. If it all looks good you can check the plugin is actually there and working by viewing the source code of your website. This varies on each web browser but to give you an idea on where to look this should point you in the right direction.

Google Chrome – View – Developer – View Source
Safari – View – View Source
Firefox – View – Page Source
Internet Explorer – What you still use it? for shame.

What you will be looking for is right at the bottom of all that foreign text and it should look something like below:

W3 Total Cache Check Enabled

W3 Total Cache Settings MenuI know none of you are silly and will have noticed the array of other menu options that appear under the “Performance” heading in your sidebar to the left. For the most part you don’t need to worry about them as the default settings work reasonable well for the majority.

If you were going to tweak the settings for the better it would be under the “Minify” sub menu. What minify does is help to remove extra line’s from code and really compress down your html, javascript and css code. If you don’t understand those three words well it’s best you stay away, if you do and want to push your blog to the limits well buzz me in the forums. I broke my blog several times trying to perfect the settings in there so it’s best to understand it all and not just change settings you don’t understand.

And with all that said I’ll leave you to get to work. I really hope all of this makes sense as W3 Total Cache is an amazing and complicated plugin, but definitely worth the effort. For those that have gone through my first post on speeding up your blog hopefully you kept the original load time of your blog. It will be interesting to see how much you have gained from beginning to the end of this post.

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Speed Up Your Blog With A Caching Plugin

17 Comments So Far, What Do You Think?

  1. Great overview of w3. Especially the part of being careful around the minify. It can be really helpful, but also needs some understanding to get it all right.
    The tip I would add is that by default (I believe) w3 has a different caching scheme when you are logged into your own blog. So definitely log out of the admin section and load up your page or better yet have a different browser open. By this I mean a different program, IE, Chrome, Firefox.. not just a second window of the same program. Sometimes you will see differences in the page that were missed when you are logged in due to different caching settings.

    Andrew April 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm #
    • Thanks Andrew and yes you are right, logging out of your blog or opening up the site in a separate web browser will be the best way to test how the site is loading up without it conflicting because you are logged in.

      Chris Richardson April 15, 2011 at 9:53 am #
  2. I know there’s been a lot of talk about W3 Total Cache (John O’Nolan certainly recommended everyone who attended his workshop to install that on their blogs) but there hasn’t been a lot of resources giving the sort of details on its functionalities the way you did. Cheers for the guide – you certainly made this noob review his W3 settings and get them right 🙂

    Dylan April 15, 2011 at 12:00 am #
    • Thanks Dylan. There is a lot more you can configure and tweak with W3TC but for the average user who isn’t using a caching plugin at all the above settings should help improve speed straight away.

      Chris Richardson April 15, 2011 at 9:54 am #
  3. Awesome, that was really easy to follow and I can already notice my site loading much faster!! 🙂

    Lauren April 15, 2011 at 8:13 am #
    • That’s great Lauren glad you got something out of the post.

      Chris Richardson April 15, 2011 at 9:55 am #
  4. Chris – this is great. I’m now just under 10 seconds! Yay!
    Thanks heaps,

    Sophie April 17, 2011 at 11:13 am #
    • Glad to hear its helping a bit Sophie. I just have a quick look at your load times with pingdom and you have 2 pictures that if you resized before uploading to your blog should get you down to 5sec loading time or less. One is the Atlantis Hotel and the other is the picture of the Mermaid from Copenhagen.

      It is always best to re-size your picture on your computer before uploading as they add huge amounts of delay to your site. The mermaid picture looks like its 1.6MB in size so its killing you because every viewer needs to download that for the page to load.

      Chris Richardson April 17, 2011 at 11:29 am #
      • Oops, only saw your reply now. Thanks so much for taking a look, Chris. I’ll fix those two pictures in a jif.

        Again, thanks heaps!

        Sophie May 1, 2011 at 12:38 am #
  5. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the guidance – I do seem to have some struggles with this blog, when I am doing a little editing, and wondering if you can help out. Say I am trying to change the image in a post, I will save changes and then refresh my blog, but often the change does not take place. I was told that this is likely because my site keeps a cache (is that the right way to say it??) of my old post, and doesn’t refresh it. Apparently there is a way to set this plugin so that it does not cache for administrators…but I must be blind, I am missing it….
    It has gotten bad enough that usually I have to uninstall this plugin, every time I do major editing.

    Thanks for the help,


    Skott April 18, 2011 at 5:38 am #
    • Hi Skott,

      If you are using W3 Total Cache (hope so) you can tell it no to cache the page by going to the page cache settings and tick the box that says “Don’t cache pages for logged in users”.

      Hope that helps.

      Chris Richardson April 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm #
  6. I was so excited to find this plugin already installed and activated! Haha! Thanks, Chris! =) How perfect that all I needed to do was follow the steps on this post. Thank you so much for sharing these easy-to-follow instructions! =)

    For some reason, I got a weird message that I decided to ignore: “The required directives for fancy permalinks could not be detected, please confirm they are available.” Mean anything to you? =P

    Samantha Bangayan April 27, 2011 at 1:44 am #
    • Sam your setup will be different to the above as you aren’t hosted on a shared server like the majority of others.

      I should have had it all setup for you already but can check it all out this weekend if you like.

      Chris Richardson April 27, 2011 at 8:52 am #
  7. Another great post, Chris !
    Very helpful.

    Madhu Nair April 28, 2011 at 5:21 pm #
  8. Thanks Chris! Enabling everything above took me a few moments to sort out since my screen didn’t look like the screencaps you have above but I eventually sorted it out 🙂

    Heather May 25, 2011 at 2:38 am #
    • Hey Heather, There has been a major update to the plugin since I wrote this post and as a result I’m in the process of re-writing it to help everyone.

      Chris Richardson May 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm #
  9. Nice, mate! Thanks. Using another Cache plug gave me a best time of 6.9 seconds. First test with W3 yielded a 5.8.

    Wes Nations June 11, 2011 at 11:22 am #

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