Boosting WordPress Performance with W3 Total Cache Tuning

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So honestly W3 Total Cache still provides a great deal of benefit to blogs in terms of making your WordPress site load faster for users who aren’t logged in and helping to render pagespeed scores, but this tool alone requires some tweaking and customizations and testing to make sure each setting you change works properly with your blog.

So I started off with some examples of just installing W3 Total Cache and activating it with basic page cache only no other customizations, and here were my initial speed test results.

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A 69 on Desktop for PageSpeed Insights and a 61 Performance Grade from Pingdom Tools.

Further tuning for Minify

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Database caching and object caching

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Plus browser caching

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Flushing all caches, then hitting my homepage and a few posts under incognito mode on Chrome and 2 other browsers to initiate some caching, then testing again showed some improvement.

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Almost 10 points increased on Pingdom and a full 10 points increase on PageSpeed Insights, not bad for just enabling a few check boxes and testing a few times to make sure I saw consistent results.

Things got even better when I started going into each setting and options and enabling more and more things to cache or minify.

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Minify the HTML, CSS, JS and more had a good benefit on the Pingdom Tests for example.

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For the Browser caching configuration, setting as much to cache or encourage browsers to cache helps here too, though not so much with Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom Tools, when I hit my blog with a fresh incognito Browser from Chrome it loaded in less than a second.

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Finally, I did some more flag testing and noticed that object caching as actually slowing my site down, so I just unchecked object caching, flushed cache, rebuilt cache and tested again.

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My Pingdom tools shot up between 85 and 92 and was averaging about 87 after doing that when the servers showed it tested from Amsterdam, but was still in the high 70’s when it switched to the Texas testing servers.

Overall you have to remember to compress your images as well and enable GZIP compression but sometimes this can cause issues with your site if the hosting provider isn’t configured properly so always test each change you make on both a logged in user and a private browsing mode session.

Overall there is lots of tuning and tweaking to be had and it took a combination of W3 Total Cache + Incapsula Cloud Security and Content Caching to get as much performance as I could from this shared WordPress hosting solution that co-resides with 6 other blogs.  I was nearly 20 points higher than I was prior to all the cache tuning and testing on both Incapsula and W3 Total Cache and I was happy and repeated the settings and testing for other sites with very similar results.

Note, you will get some inconsistent results with Pingdom Tools from server to server when they change, but pay attention to averages and spikes. The load times are important and the “wait” or “receive” times are the ones where you are having performance issues you are more likely to be able to address.

Updated: October 15, 2013 — 8:16 am