A faster website is what makes us like it and follow it. So, let us say you have a website, most probably on WordPress. The first thing you would want with your website is to make it load fast!
No beating around the bush there. There should be no two thoughts about it. A faster website makes your visitors happy and goes a long way in improving your site’s performance. If you have a quicker loading site, people will buy from you, or you will be able to achieve that whopping traffic growth.
But wait – getting your site load faster will mean you need to understand things like caching minification of codes and something called content delivery. If you are a new blogger, all those things can get more robust and complicated, right?
That is where caching plugins come into play. How about speeding up your website without spending a penny and without having to wonder about that technical know-how? We have a solution – the W3 Total Cache. It is an excellent and powerful free plugin for your WordPress site that can drastically improve your website’s performance.
Do you need a W3 Total Cache?
A million-dollar question. And the answer is a thumping YES. If you are looking for cache-based content optimization for your website, W3 Total Cache is currently the best plugin you can opt for. It handles multiple caching requirements on your site and can considerably improve the loading times and general performance.
It can apply multiple caching algorithms to your pages and enhance the responsiveness of your website considerably.
WordPress comes with a lot of dynamically rendered static content. Of course, the terms may appear to be too technical, but the crux of the matter is the plugin caches many static elements on your page, and thus, your web server does not need to do a lot of things. This eases the load on the servers, and your website loads faster.
How to install W3 Total Cache?
This can be quite overwhelming. W3 Total Cache has an annoyingly massive number of options. In fact, unlike most other plugins you use with WordPress, it has more than 15 different menu options. The dizzying list of options you can configure can, indeed, make it an overwhelming experience for a newbie in the blogging world.
Let us now break down the things one by one and see how to configure W3 Total Cache.
Step 1 – Install W3 Total Cache
Well, this should be the most straightforward part of setting up your W3 Total cache plugin. You will need to install it using the method you do for installing any other plugin.
Go to your WordPress admin dashboard and enter the Plugins section. Click on Add New and search for W3 Total Cache. Click on the right search result and install it. Once the plugin is installed, activate it. The steps here should be self-explanatory.
Step 2 – Configure W3 Total Cache
This is the complicated part and perhaps the primary reason you are here. The settings section has 19 different sections or tabs. Most of the settings come predefined in some sections, while you need to configure a few as per your preferences.
Let us break down the tabs and explain them in detail.
This is the first step towards configuring your W3 Total Cache. Here, we will enable or disable each of the features and then configure them appropriately in the next sections. That would mean you need to set your General Settings before others.
In the Page Cache section, choose Enable to apply cache settings across the entire website. You are using this plugin will mean you would want to enable cache. No rocket science here!
In the Page Cache Method, choose Disk Enhanced if it is not selected by default.
Do note that minification can, at times, break your site. To avoid any such issues, it is advisable to exercise caution while setting it up. Minifying the static files on your website can help you reduce the load on the servers.
Do note that many hosting providers suggest not using minification. If you are not a tech-savvy blogger or site owner, we would recommend not enabling it.
Leave it at default.
It would be practical to leave it unchanged. This is used to cache the database queries. It can, however, stress your server resources, and tinkering with it would not be advisable.
This, too, can be quite heavy on your resources, and we would advise leaving it not enabled.
This setting saves a copy of your website on the user’s browser. This will be the best option to reduce the calls to your browser and load the site faster in subsequent searches. Enable it as in the image here.
If you are using CDN or Content Delivery Network such as Cloudflare, you would need to configure it. The steps will depend on the exact CDN you are using. Discussing this setting is beyond the scope of this tutorial. Assuming you are not using any CDN, leave this unchanged.
Leave the next set of configurations at the default value. These would include Reverse Proxy, User Experience, Statistics, fragment cache, monitoring, and licensing.
These can be optional. Enabling all of them is optional. It is preferable to leave the settings at their default values.
This is for debugging purposes. If you aren’t using those debugging activities, it is wiser to keep them unaltered.
This setting is used for importing your W3 Total Cache settings to another site. This can help configure the settings for the plugins in one go for multiple locations. It isn’t essential for us at the moment, and we will leave it unchanged.
That concludes the settings in the General Settings. Based on what we have changed or enabled in this section, we will cover the next chapters in W3 Total Cache Settings.
Page Cache Tab
Now that we have enabled the Page Cache option in the General settings, we will now fine-tune it further. Make sure you are configuring all cache settings with due diligence. Practically speaking, you would want to enable page caching across all pages.
Ensure that you have enabled SSL before enabling SSL Cache.
Aliases may not be useful for most of the websites out there. It would be a good idea to leave it as it is.
This can be useful in building a cache even before your visitors visit the page. Make sure you enter your XML sitemap here. Make sure you check the option for Preload the post cache upon publish events to ensure that the page rebuilds the cache each time you publish new content or make changes to the site.
Leave all other values at default.
This section will clarify which parts need to have the cache purged when you publish a new post and add something to your site.
In the Advanced section, you can exempt a few browsers from receiving the cached version. Or even apply some of the exceptions to caching rules.
Just enable the Compatibility mode and leave all other settings to their default value.
Like in the case of page cache, we will fine-tune the minification settings we have enabled previously.
It is advised to keep all the settings at their default value and not change anything.
HTML and XML
Enable all the options here except for the option Don’t Minify feeds.
Follow the image below for the right settings you need to configure.
The picture here should help you set it properly.
This section lets you configure the default interval for minification and garbage collection. You can leave the default settings unchanged.
We will leave the other two options as we have not enabled them – Database Cache and Object cache.
Browser Cache tab
The section comes with the options for fine-tuning the browser cache.
Most of the default settings should help you get things done. Make sure the checkbox for Set Last-Modified Header is enabled.
Also, make sure that gzip compression options and Prevent caching of objects after settings change options are enabled. This will let the browsers know the recently cached files.
You will have the same options in the subsequent CSS and JS HTML & XML and Media sections. Please leave all of them at their default values.
The rest of the sections can be left to their default values. They are designed for use with advanced users. Under standard conditions, the stings and configurations we have discussed here should get most of the tasks done.
Well, that was how you could set up and configure your new WordPress site. The powerful caching plugin should ideally make your website run faster and offer an exciting user experience to your visitors.
Please note that the settings we have outlined in this configuration are meant for the newbies and those bloggers who are not much well versed in the complexities of website hosting and optimizing.