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speed up wordpress blogYou’ve undoubtedly seen a ‘Top 10 WordPress Plugins’ post before. It’s pretty much required reading if you have a new WordPress blog, and everyone seems to be writing them these days. We’re guilty of this as well, having written our share of plugin articles over the years.

One plugin I’ve seen on a lot of these lists is WP Super Cache, a caching engine designed to produce static HTML pages and load your blog faster. WP Super Cache is a good plugin, don’t get me wrong, but is it really the fastest?

If you’re really looking to speed up your WordPress blog, I recommend you check out the W3 Total Cache plugin.


In this article, I’ll educate you about this plugin and show you what you can do to give your blog a blazing fast speed.

What’s All The Hype About?

Before I show you how to set up this plugin, I figured I should give you a little more incentive to check it out. According to the plugin page, W3 Total Cache is:

the fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin. W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.

It boasts a significant improvement (at least 10x) in overall site performance, as well as “instant” second page views.

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Don’t know what a CDN is? Read on and I’ll show you how to set all this up.

Getting Started With W3 Total Cache

Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, head over to the settings page.

On the General Settings page, you should see a few messages at the top of the screen. One may ask you to ’empty page cache’. Go ahead and do that and make sure you disable/uninstall any other caching plugins (like WP Super Cache) for the time being.

speed up your WordPress blog

W3 Total Cache’s default settings are fine to start with. Go ahead and check the box under General to turn caching on.

You should already see an increase in speed just from using W3 Total Cache, but to throw your site into warp drive, I’ll show you how to set up a CDN.

Why Use A CDN?

If you are hosting your own WordPress blog, chances are you are renting server space from somewhere. Regardless of what hosting provider you are using, your server is probably in another state/country. Add that to the fact that it’s a shared server (probably a busy one) and sometimes it can take a while to load all of your files (images, etc.).

A content delivery network allows you to eliminate this delay. A CDN will use a server close to you to deliver your content when called upon. It’s this efficiency that allows your website to load faster.

Setting Up Amazon CloudFront

Still on the General Settings page, scroll down until you see the Content Delivery Network settings. Check the Enable box, and under CDN Type select Amazon CloudFront. Save your changes and you should now see a bunch of new messages at the top of the screen.

Go to the CDN Settings page from the drop-down menu at the top and scroll down to the Configuration section. To fill in this information, you’re going to have to input some data from Amazon.

Head over to the Amazon web services page and click Sign Up for Amazon S3. Then, head over to the CloudFront page and sign up for that as well.

[Note]: Technically Amazon S3 and CloudFront are not free, but they’re awfully close. It costs roughly 15 cents per GB of monthly bandwidth transfer, which most of us won’t come close to using. Not a bad way to make use of the change you find in your couch.

Once you’ve signed up, head to the Account tab and select Security Credentials.

You’ll want to copy your Access Key ID and Secret Access Key and paste them into their respective WordPress fields.

Now, you can scroll up to the top of the Amazon web services screen and click on the Sign in to the AWS Management Console link. This will take you to your management page.

Click on the Amazon S3 tab and select Create Bucket. Name your bucket (preferably something short) and go back and enter in that name in the Bucket field of WordPress.

In the management console, select the Amazon CloudFront tab. Click Create Distribution, select your bucket under Origin, and click Create. When the State column goes from ‘InProgress’ to ‘Deployed’ (takes a few minutes) we’re ready to move on.

See where it says Domain Name? Copy what’s in front of

.cloudfront.net

and paste it into the hostname field in WordPress. Click Test CloudFront upload and save your changes to make sure everything checks out.

speed up your WordPress blog

Finally, head to the top of your WordPress screen and click on export your media library. Click Start and it will upload your existing media files to your CloudFront account. When finished, go through the other buttons and do the same thing.

[Note]: You only have to do this once, when you first install the plugin. Everything you upload to your media folder from here on out will automatically get copied over to your CloudFront account.

Conclusion

The first time you visit your website after setting up W3 Total Cache it should load at normal speed or even slower than usual. Don’t be alarmed, as this is normal. Click refresh and see how much it speeds up your WordPress blog!

What do you think of this plugin?  Let us know in the comments below.

  1. Black
    December 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Your conclusion is wrong. But if you're so bad in IT to write such things, I can't even argue with you. This article is lie (promo) from top to bottom.

  2. Marble Floor Polishing
    December 14, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Good question. When you export your media library, it has you back up all of your blog's widgets and media items, so I'm assuming it handles these items the same way as it handles images for your site.

  3. SEOinvasion
    December 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Might have to try this out. Been using WP Super Cache and it sometimes does the trick and sometimes messes things up. This sounds like a better approach.

  4. Trinae Ross
    December 10, 2010 at 3:32 am

    I am currently working with AWS/CloudFront and I do notice the improvement with my site. Thanks for the informative article.

  5. Samlack99
    November 5, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    LOL! I installed W3 Total Cache and when I checked it out a month later (I can be lazy) on Google Webmaster tools I saw it had substantially slowed my wordpress site down. I used the default settings, and ended up disabling it.

    Good post though, I enjoyed the S3 part =)

  6. Samlack99
    November 5, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    LOL! I installed W3 Total Cache and when I checked it out a month later (I can be lazy) on Google Webmaster tools I saw it had substantially slowed my wordpress site down. I used the default settings, and ended up disabling it.

    Good post though, I enjoyed the S3 part =)

  7. Peacocks Clothing
    November 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    This is fantastic especially with Googles continued push on page speed being an important factor.

    • Steve Campbell
      November 4, 2010 at 4:29 pm

      That's a good point, Google is definitely focused on speed!

  8. Marck
    November 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I'm using it in my blog. Great plugin!

  9. Rug Cleaning Plantation
    November 2, 2010 at 7:27 am

    thanks to you .it's a great post .

  10. Anonymous
    October 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    I set it up without a hitch. However, my mp3 podcasts don't play/stream from the cache at AWS/CloudFront. I've had to disable the plugin since. Any suggestions?

    • Steve Campbell
      October 20, 2010 at 12:21 am

      Unfortunately I don't have much experience with mp3 podcasts. Might be worth a shot sending your question to the creators of the plugin, might just be a setting you need to tweak.

  11. Passive Income Ideas
    October 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    works great

  12. majalah gratis
    October 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I love this plugin. It help my site running faster although I used its default setting

  13. Used Transmission
    October 13, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I wanna find more info about this, anybody could?

  14. Internet Geeks
    October 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Having hard time setting it up. Look like my installation or server don't support it. :(

  15. Aibek
    October 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    We use it here on MakeUseOf, extremely happy about it.

  16. Steve Mould
    October 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Just set it up. Works great. (blog.stevemould.com)

  17. Steve Mould
    October 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Just set it up. Works great.

  18. Steve Campbell
    October 6, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Good question. When you export your media library, it has you back up all of your blog's widgets and media items, so I'm assuming it handles these items the same way as it handles images for your site.

    I use Disqus on my site, as well as other widgets, and I have not experienced any issues with these items. Nothing is being altered, just cached on a faster server.

  19. Mark O'Neill
    October 6, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    I started using this system on my own blog after editing Steve's article and I have to say that I am quite impressed. My account balance is currently one US cent and I have been using it now for about a week.

    It takes a bit to set it up but the benefits are worth it. Pages are sped up significantly and as I said, it only costs a few cents a month (literally).

    I use Disqus and it doesn't seem to affect Disqus at all. In fact a lot of readers won't even realise I am using Amazon S3 in the first place as everything is so seamless.

    I highly recommend everyone uses this. And you can integrate it with your current Amazon customer account so you don't even have to set up a new account.

  20. DarkUFO
    October 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    How does it handle things like Generated Ads/Adsense, Live comments/Disqus, other non-static items like "Latest Comments" widgets etc

    • Mark O'Neill
      October 6, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      I started using this system on my own blog after editing Steve's article and I have to say that I am quite impressed. My account balance is currently one US cent and I have been using it now for about a week.

      It takes a bit to set it up but the benefits are worth it. Pages are sped up significantly and as I said, it only costs a few cents a month (literally).

      I use Disqus and it doesn't seem to affect Disqus at all. In fact a lot of readers won't even realise I am using Amazon S3 in the first place as everything is so seamless.

      I highly recommend everyone uses this. And you can integrate it with your current Amazon customer account so you don't even have to set up a new account.

      • DarkUFO
        October 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

        Thanks Mark, nice one.

    • Steve Campbell
      October 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      Good question. When you export your media library, it has you back up all of your blog's widgets and media items, so I'm assuming it handles these items the same way as it handles images for your site.

      I use Disqus on my site, as well as other widgets, and I have not experienced any issues with these items. Nothing is being altered, just cached on a faster server.

      • DarkUFO
        October 6, 2010 at 5:01 pm

        Cheers Steve

    • Tgo
      November 16, 2010 at 4:05 am

      Thanks for all the great how to tips you have on your site. I'm learning a lot and could spend days here! I'm going to give the Amazon Cloud soon.

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