Configure W3 Total Cache To Reduce Page Load Time
W3 Total Cache is one of the best Caching Plugin for WordPress. It also finds a place in my list of 15 Essential WordPress Plugins that are free to use. By properly Configuring, W3 Total Cache Plugin, you can improve you website load time by over 50%.
However, a lot of beginners are confused about how to configure W3 Total cache as it is slightly complicated to fine tune the advanced settings it offers. In this guide, I am going to explain to you how you can tweak the various setting in W3 Total Cache to boost your page loading time.
WHY SITE LOAD TIME IS IMPORTANT
Website load speed is one of the several On Page SEO Optimization Factors that Google considers for ranking as faster loading sites add to better user experience. This was first announced by Google in 2010 after which google started penalizing the slower loading websites.
Also, a slower website can be a turn off for the visitor. According to a Survey, 40% people will abandon a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. The impact is more on E-commerce websites. According to another Survey, 51% of online shoppers in the US say that site slowness is the top reason they’d abandon a purchase.
When a user opens your websites in search results and if it loads slow, he may hit the back button immediately and open another website, this will negatively affect your search rankings.
Because of all these reasons, it is essential for you to reduce your site load time.
HOW TO CHECK IF YOUR WEBSITE IS OPTIMIZED
Before moving to the configuration part, you must first know how your website is performing currently. There are many tools which help you measure your Website Performance. Here, we are going to use the two most commonly used tools.
- Google PageSpeed Insights Tool
- Pingdom Tools
For more tools, you can check my article on Free Tools To Check Website Load Time
Bloggerz Arena Site Test Results Without W3 Total Cache
For demonstration purpose, I uninstalled W3 Total Cache from Bloggerz Arena and checked my website with the above tools. Here are the results for the same
As seen below, Bloggerz Arena got a score of 57/100 in Google PageSpeed Insights which is really bad and hence Google marked it with red. At Pingdom, we managed a score of 63/100, with 3.68 seconds page load time and 762.3 Kb page size. The number of requests generated was 88.
Now let us install and configure W3 Total Cache and see what difference it makes to the above scores.
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CONFIGURING W3 TOTAL CACHE
Before Installing W3 Total Cache, make sure you disable any other cache plugins you are using, as it may cause conflict leading to undesired results. Check your .htaccess file for any entries left behind by the previous cache Plugin. If it leaves behind any folder, delete that too.
After Installing and activating W3 Total Cache, head straight to General Settings under performance tab of your WordPress Dashboard.
1. General Settings
In the general settings section, you will see various settings. Make the following changes
- Enable Page Cache and Select “Disk Enhanced” if not already selected
- Enable Minify. Select Minify mode as manual, For Minify cache method select “Disk” Option. Leave rest of the Minify settings as it is. You can compare the Minify settings in below image.
- Leave Database cache disabled if you are on shared hosting.
- Enable Object Cache. Select Object cache method as “Disk”.
- Enable Browser Cache
Save the settings and go to Page Cache settings under performance Tab
2. Page Cache Settings
In the General section, make Following changes.
- Enable Cache for Front Page
- Enable Cache for feeds
- Enable Cache for SSL requests
- Enable Cache for 404 pages
- Enable Don’t cache pages for logged in users
In Cache Preload Section, Enable Automatically prime the page cache option.
Keep the rest of the settings as it is and save settings. Next, move to Browser Cache Settings
3. Browser Cache Settings
In General section, Enable the following
- Set Last-Modified header
- Set expires header
- Set cache control header
- Set entity tag
- HTTP (gzip) compression
Now click on save settings. After saving, the above settings will be automatically added to other sections below it. Just confirm it if it’s not.
Next scroll down to HTML and XML section and change expires header lifetime to 7200 and Save the settings.
4. Minify Settings
General section, Enable Rewrite URL structure
In the HTML and XML section
Enable HTML Minify Settings and check the following options
- Inline CSS minification,
- Inline JS minification,
- Line break removal
Under the JS Section
Enable JS Minify Settings and do the following changes
- Leave Operations In Areas as it is
- Enable Preserved Comment Removal
- Enable Line Break Removal
Under the CSS Section
- Enable CSS Minify Settings
- Enable Preserved Comment Removal
- Enable Line Break Removal
Now save the settings and scroll up.
The next step is very critical and may require some trial and error. Make sure to back up your Website before proceeding further. If you get lots of traffic, activate Maintenance Mode using Ultimate Maintenance Mode Plugin or any other maintenance plugin you are using.
In the Top section, just above general section, you will find the option “Help Wizard” as shown in below image. Click on it
You will now be presented with the following pop-up
Do not minify any Theme CSS Stylesheet and any Analytics or Stats scripts. You may also skip the font scripts if you want to be on safer side. If in doubt, only select Plugin scripts indicated by wp-content/plugins folder. Select each script for all the page templates of your theme to optimize the entire blog.
Next, click on “Apply and Close”. You will now have all the selected scripts listed under JS File management and CSS file management section. Click on save settings.
Now check your theme on both Desktop and mobile if everything works fine. If the setting breaks anything, you have to manually find out the script causing the problem by removing scripts from JS and CSS file management sections.
Since this entire process may take some time, it is recommended to try it during least traffic hours.
If everything goes well, you will now see a significant improvement in your Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Tools test.
Bloggerz Arena Site Test Results After Installing W3 Total Cache
Let us now check, how Bloggerz Arena performs after Installation
As you can see, our Google PageSpeed Insight Score Jumped from 57 to 88. If you manage to get a score of 80 and above, it can be considered fairly good. Please note, you may not be able to Improve your Mobile PageSpeed score above 80. So ignore it.
Pingdom tools test is even better. The performance grade improved from 63 to 76, and the number of requests reduced significantly from 88 to 35. The page size reduced to 379.6Kb which is lesser than 50% of the earlier value which stood at 762.3 Kb. The site load time too reduced to 49% of original value from 3.67 seconds to 1.8 seconds.
However, since there was a gap of 5 hours between the test, the Site load time may not be the best parameter to compare as Pingdom servers give varied site load time results at different times of the day. But in any case, 1.8 second load time is good by any standard.
As you can see, after properly configuring W3 Total cache, we managed to reduce the site load time significantly. More importantly, we were able to solve all the major Google PageSpeed suggestions.
By maintaining your page load time within 3 seconds, you can greatly improve your user experience and at the same time, you may just move up in search rankings as compared to your Competitors.
Though the above results might not just be perfect and the results can be further Improved, but overall improvement will not be much. So I personally feel it’s not worth further tweaking your codes, especially on a live site, as you may end up losing some Important traffic for a minor difference in site load time.
I hope this article will help you to Improve your Site load time and Google PageSpeed Scores. If you have any feedback or suggestion to further Improve above configuration that we suggested or if you are facing any trouble while configuring W3 Total Cache, do let us know through the comments.