WordPress is the most powerful CMS for creating websites today. But, the downside of this framework is that it is a memory-hungry platform. It depends too much on the database and has been noted for a few performance issues. One such common issue is the site load time. Many WordPress site owners face this problem, however, it can be possibly resolved through caching process.
If you are just wondering what caching stands for? Well, Caching is a process in which document such as image, html pages are stored temporarily to reduce the load on the server and make page loads fast.
Many WordPress caching plugins are available in WordPress directory but W3 Total Cache is the most popular choice. With more than one million active installs and an impressive rating, this is worth a try. This single powerful plugin comes with lots of beginner and advanced-level features and provides support for everything that you need.
W3 Total Cache Plugin Installation
If you haven’t installed it yet, then, first of all, you need to download and install W3 Total Cache from WordPress plugin directory or you can directly install it from the plugins page.
Note: before installing W3 Total Cache, you need to uninstall other cache plugins that you are using for your site.
Once you have done the installation on your website, then activate the plugin, it will provide you with notice to enable the edge mode. This feature will unlock the pre-release features, which are intended for advanced users. Then, click the ‘Hide this message‘ button and the notice will disappear. Now, you will see a new menu item titled ‘Performance‘ in your WordPress dashboard.
Before we go to the setting, we highly recommend you to check your website speed using either Pingdom Tool or Google Pagespeed Tool. Note down the results that you get from these both before you make any changes.
For us, the Pingdom overall score was 83 (grade B) and the load time counted more than 5 seconds, which are not really great. As per the SEO guidelines (Search Engines preferred the faster website to rank them better in SERPs), the load time should be less than 5 seconds.
Well, we configured the W3 Total Cache setting properly and tested with Pingdom tools and the result was surprisingly better than earlier. Let’s have a look at the below screenshot.
As you can see, our site speed load time gets improved and was graded 92 overall (Yeah..A Grade!). If you want to have a load time like this, follow our ultimate guide. But, make sure you also have a well-structured theme.
W3 Total Cache Settings for 2018
We assume you have installed the W3 Total Cache plugin. Now, let’s go to Performance -> General Settings to access the configuration section. This section is divided into several sub-sections and we will tell you what settings you should enable and explain benefits of each.
W3 Total Cache General Settings
In this first sub-section, you can select the checkbox to turn ON or OFF all the caching types at once. And the ‘Preview mode‘ feature enables you to test the changes you make before applying them to the live site. We recommend you to leave the first subsection’s box unchecked and move to the next. Start checking boxes from second subsection one-by-one as suggested below else you can also follow the images.
- Leave Toggle all caching types and move to the next sub-section
- Check the Page Cache check-box to enable this option and select the Page Cache Method as ‘Disk Enhanced’
- Enable Minify, set Minify mode to Auto and select Disk as Minify cache method. Leave the rest in default in this sub-section. (it should be disabled if using Cloudflare)
- Opcode Cache is only available with Pro version
- Enable Database Cache and set Disk for Database Cache Method
- Leave Object Cache Unchecked
- Select the checkbox to enable browser cache
- Enable CDN and select the service that you plan to use (if you don’t have CDN service then leave it unchecked)
- Leave Reverse Proxy unchecked
- Leave Monitoring unchecked
- Fragment Cache support is only available with pro version. So, leave it unchecked.
- Licensing, you can submit your pro version license key here
- Leave Miscellaneous section default
- You can leave the Debug section as default
- Import/Export feature is helpful to import or export the setting
We have covered all the sub-sections of the General Setting’ section. Now let us move to the detailed sections.
Page Cache Settings
When a user requests a page of your website, WordPress cycles through some PHP pages and MySQL queries to deliver the page. The whole process takes some time, but when you have the page cache enabled on your website, a static version of that page will be created. From the next time, the visitor will be able to load those pages way faster.
You can find more settings options for the page cache in the Performance -> Page Cache section.
- Check the cache front page.
- Check cache feeds.
- Check cache SSL (https) requests, if you use otherwise leave it unchecked.
- Untick cache URIs with query string variables.
- Untick cache 404 (not found) pages.
- Check don’t cache pages for logged in users.
- Check don’t cache pages for following user roles
Rest, you can leave as default setting.
This feature improves your database’s performance and reduces the time it takes to create posts, pages, and RSS feeds. However, it may slow down your website if you are using shared hosting. Though, if you have enabled the database cache in general setting, don’t do any changes here.
This cache method could be useful for large, complex websites. But, if you have shared hosting then this caching method could slow down your website and there is no configuration required here.
This is another excellent feature of W3 Total Cache. This caching method speeds up your site by caching static resources in your visitors’ browsers, thereby eliminating the need to constantly reload static content. You should definitely enable this feature and for required settings follow the image below.
CDN is a large distributed system of proxy servers deployed in multiple data centers via the Internet. This allows you to store the frequently used static content on their servers and load them from the closest location of the visitor.
W3 Total Cache comes with native support for most of the modern CDN services including MaxCDN, Amazon Cloud Front, Rackspace and Amazon S3. The setup process for each CDN provider is different. Therefore, we won’t go into details about setting up CDN here.
As we mentioned above, this feature allows you to import or export the setting. For example, you already have spent a considerable amount of time in reading this article and making the necessary changes in your website. Now, if you have another website where you want to apply the same settings, then simply click on the download button and import this setting in another website.
This subsection has another option called “reset configuration’ which you can use to reset the current plugin settings.
We have skipped some of the features from the general settings page as they were not recommended for beginners. So, we are going to discuss them briefly here.
- Reverse Proxy: It is somehow similar to a Content Delivery Network. These proxies allow you to cache the regular static file on third-party servers. This feature improves the page loading speed, however, it requires lot more advanced level settings.
- New Relic: This helps you if your website and the server performance get dropped. But, to use this feature you need to create an account.
- Miscellaneous: we skipped this section which includes different types of options such as Google page speed dashboard widget, enable edge mode, etc.
- Debug section: It allows you to troubleshoot any problem created by the plugin. Once you enable the feature and choose the particular cache method(s), the caching information will be added as HTML comments in each page. You can view them from the page source.
- Fragment caching comes in handy when you don’t want to cache the whole page, but a particular fragment of the page only.
- Extensions: These are useful for adding third-party services to the plugin. For example, if you are using AMP plugin then you can enable its extension to maximize the performance.
We hope this article has helped you to increase your site performance. If you liked our article ‘W3 Total Cache Settings for 2018’ then please do share this over your favourite social media. Also, let us know if you face difficulties while setting up W3 Total Cache. We will be more than happy to help you. You can also read our other article to speed up your website.