WordPress Core is somewhat lacking when it comes to using caching systems to decrease site load time and use of server resources. Using a caching mechanism on the WordPress site ensure enhanced user experience by reutilizing the data user has already requested by making use of browser caching. Due to caching, files are instantly available which makes a website load faster.
Luckily, there are a few best plugins available in the WordPress repository; one of them is WordPress W3 Total Cache plugin that helps to make websites load faster using caching rules. W3 Total Cache is by far the most versatile WordPress caching plugin available, used in high traffic sites like Smashing Magazine, Mashable, MakeUseOf, and Yoast.
W3 total cache plugin can improve every aspect of your WordPress sites like its page cache, Minify, Database Cache, Object Cache, Browser Cache, CDN support, Varnish, and Network performance, etc. All these things make W3TC as one of the best-caching plugin for WordPress blogs.
What is caching?
A cache is an area in the computer’s memory that stores recently used information. When a site is cached, caching plugins save dynamically generated HTML files in the cache and serve them whenever a request is made instead of reloading the entire scripts from WordPress.
In simple terms, a cache is a time-saving device. As business owners, web administrators, and bloggers we are well aware of the speed limitations of our websites. Reducing file load times is a high priority for most of us but many people are not familiar with web cache software, which can significantly improve download speed on your site. Caching is an important part of WordPress SEO. We’ll examine the benefits of using one of the most popular cache tools for WordPress, W3 Total Cache.
Why do you need a Caching Plugin?
Speed is one of the most important factors used by search engines like Google to determine search rankings. Slower sites rank low, and fast websites rank higher. WordPress is written in PHP which is a server-side programming language. When a user requests a page from your website, WordPress runs PHP scripts to fetch the page and display it. This resource-intensive process is slow and becomes even slower when you are on a shared hosting environment. This can significantly reduce your site’s performance and search rankings.
A caching plugin stores a version of your pages in the cache. When a user visits your website, they are served the cached version. This eliminates the need for WordPress to run PHP scripts. Your site becomes faster and your server becomes more responsive.
Let’s have a look at one of the most used performance optimizer tools available for WordPress, W3 Total Cache.
W3 Total Cache
With more than 1 million active installs of this plugin, we can safely presume it does what it says on the tin: Increases server performance and reduces download times. W3 Total Cache is an open-source plugin, which is completely free to use. A free install gives you access to all of the features, and you won’t be pitched any upsells after the fact.
W3 Total Cache does the job of storing data from previous requests to prevent re-downloading of the same data for further requests. It also compresses elements of your page and creates static files before they are sent to the browser, reducing the overall page size and increasing the speed of WordPress.
The first thing you need to know about this plugin is that its Settings area is divided into 16 pages. W3 Total Cache has a dedicated Settings page for every type of caching – page caching, object caching, database caching, browser caching, etc. The level of customizability that you get with W3 Total Cache is difficult to find elsewhere. Even though it’s a popular choice, it may not be the best option for WordPress beginners. So unless you’re a developer who has lots of experience with these options, I’d recommend sticking to the defaults.
How W3 Total Cache Works?
W3 Total Cache is a plugin like any other. If you have an up-to-date version of WordPress, you can install and activate it from the admin panel. You’ll then need to spend some time setting up the following features.
- Page Caching: Like WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache serves static pages whenever it can. When you enable this feature, choose the method it will use to create the pages. A basic disk is probably fine. You can then configure what will be cached and how long the cached version will last before it expires.
- Database Caching: W3 Total Cache caches database queries, speeding up the site significantly. Make sure this doesn’t cause problems with your content.
- CDN: Integrate W3 Total Cache with a range of CDNs, including StackPath, Amazon S3, Amazon CloudFront, or any CDN that accepts FTP uploads. You’ll have to set up the CDN separately.
If you have the time, setting up all of these features could be worthwhile.
The following are the many features W3 Total Cache Plugin can offer:
- GZIP compression to optimize web browser rendering
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) support
- Secure Socket Layer (SSL) support
- Caching of search results pages that are URLs with query string variables
- Caching of database objects in memory or on disk
- Caching of objects in memory or on disk
- Caching of fragments in memory or on disk
- Minification of posts and pages and feeds
- Browser caching
- Import post attachments directly into the Media Library
- Support for Content Delivery Networks (CDN) which helps in speed
- Compatible with CloudFlare to boost your website loading times
How to measure the plugin’s effectiveness?
When determining the effectiveness of this plugin, it’s crucial that you can correctly calculate and test your website’s page load time.
Statistically speaking, Neil Patel says that if the load time takes more than 3 seconds, 40 percent of people leave a website. So it comes as no surprise that Google’s search algorithm continues to prioritize site speed. The less time you spend on the load, the higher your search rankings, and the more organic traffic you can generate.
A variety of tools are available for checking your web page speed. Such types of software work by simply inserting the URL of your sites into the tool and running the check. Check the page pace here are our best picks:
Because page speed is a significant ranking factor for Google SEO, they have their own speed testing tool, Google Pagespeed Insights, which tests a page’s efficiency for mobile devices and desktop computers, to help you boost the speed of your web. The Page Speed Score ranges between 0 and 100 points. Better is a higher score which means the page performs well.
Another common speed analysis tool of all Pingdom alternatives, and the best-known. It’s easy to use and can be picked up very easily by beginners. This tool offers a detailed overview by integrating the Google Page Speed Observations and YSlow results and recommendations. It is an important tool for all your needs for speed optimization.
This tool is best known for its free speed monitoring feature on our website. Over the years it’s gained popularity because it’s super easy to use, particularly when compared to similar speed test devices. Pingdom can be a great place for beginners to start. What’s also unique about this method is that you can monitor the pace of your website from different parts of the world by testing the content delivery network (CDN) for a faster and more accurate web monitor.
Why is this one of the best WordPress caching plugins?
W3 Total Cache is an excellent plugin that will help you squeeze a lot more speed from your WordPress installation. The basic configuration will give you some performance boost but a complete configuration can see those efforts doubled.
Below are some reasons why you should consider using this caching plugin on your website:
- W3 Total Cache is completely free and it provides the majority of caching plugins you’ll need to keep your site fast and highly-optimized.
- Although you shouldn’t always follow the crowd, popularity is often an indicator of quality. W3 Total Cache has thousands of great reviews and millions of installations.
- The plugin is compatible with all sorts of hosting options such as dedicated servers, shared hosting, and clusters.
- Caching is provided for all mobile environments as well. This way, when someone lands on your website while on a mobile device, they still get the same benefits of caching as they would on a desktop
- SSL support is provided for when you’re trying to make your online store faster.
- The CDN works with the media library so that you’re able to see how well your images are being optimized.
- Minification and compression are provided, along with caching of your database, objects on your disk, and posts.
- Support for Object caching.
Conclusion: W3 Total Cache is simply one of the best caching plugins
W3 Total Cache is not the easiest to use plugins. However, it is understandable considering the advanced features it offers and how complicated those can be. The plugin provides a detailed explanation for each feature right inside the plugin which is quite impressive.
There are many advanced settings that you can tweak to better optimize the WordPress website using W3 Total Cache Plugin. It all depends on various WordPress setups. Keep in mind that you could mess up the settings, which is why using the suggested settings will prove to be most useful for you. However, if you still want to experiment with various caching combinations; I suggest you take a full backup of your site.
Despite the drawbacks, W3 Total Cache still provides impressive results in our tests, and if you’re more developer-oriented is definitely worth a shot! We’d personally recommend sticking with the free version, given the rather expensive paid/Pro options. So if you’re looking for better website performance and loading times, make sure to install a caching plugin like W3 total cache and you’ll see amazing results.