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