Setting up W3 Total Cache for WordPress

Tips and Guides/ 29th Jul 2016/Will Cook-Martin

W3 Total Cache

What is W3 Total Cache?

W3 Total Cache (W3TC for short) is a WordPress plugin that can help dramatically speed up your WordPress website, through a combination of optimisation techniques including:

1. Caching – Object and query caching, Page caching and Browser caching
2. Minification – HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
3. Gzip compression
4. CDN support

Yes, one plugin really can do all that – it’s the reason we highly recommend anyone struggling with a sluggish WordPress site install it.

What settings should I use for W3 Total Cache?

W3TC can be quite daunting for a new user. It can be configured in a multitude of ways, because of this there is an almost endless number of options within W3TC’s settings.

What settings you deploy depends upon a number of factors including; are you on a shared, cloud or dedicated hosting platform, does your site’s content change regularly (blog, e-commerce store etc.) or not.

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, many users simply give up at this point. Whilst others will utilise a more automated solution such as WP Rocket, which comes at a cost and is not nearly as flexible.

With a little patience and trial and error the guide below should set you off on the right path…

W3 Total Cache Configuration

Warning

Before you complete any of the steps below you should backup your files and your database. You can either do this manually, or by using a plugin. I recommend either Duplicator or UpdraftPlus

1

Test your present load time using tools.pingdom.com and note it down somewhere

pingdom_load_time_initial

2

Install the W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin. Not installed a WordPress plugin before? Follow this guide.

plugins_add_new

3

Click the General Settings link under the Performance tab in your WordPress admin dashboard.

general_tab

4

Enable page cache and set the caching method.

If you are on a shared hosting package you should use Disk: Enhanced.

If you’re using a dedicated or virtual server and you have Memcache or any other PHP caching extension installed, you should select the relevant option.

general_page_cache

Test your site is still working

We recommend you test your site is still working at this stage – click the “Save all settings” button then empty your cache – Click the “Dashboard” link under the performance tab and then click the “empty all caches” button

5

Enable minification and set mode to auto

If you are on a shared hosting package you should use Disk: Enhanced for minify cache method.

If you’re using a dedicated or virtual server and you have Memcache or any other PHP caching extension installed, you should select the relevant option.

general_minification

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

6

Enable browser cache

general_browser_cache

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

7

Click the Page Cache link under the Performance tab in your WordPress admin dashboard

page_cache_tab

8

Scroll to the “General” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

page_cache_general

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

9

Scroll to the “Cache Preload” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

page_cache_preload

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

10

Click the Browser Cache link under the Performance tab in your WordPress admin dashboard

browser_cache_tab

11

Scroll to the “General” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

browsercache_general

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

12

Scroll to the “CSS & JS” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

browsercache_css_js

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

13

Scroll to the “HTML & XML” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

browsercache_html_xml

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

14

Scroll to the “Media & other files” section – Apply the settings as per the following image

browsercache_media

Test your site is still working

Save all settings, empty cache and test your site

15

Retest your load time using tools.pingdom.com and compare to your initial load time test completed in step 1. Let us know how the two numbers compared in the comments section below.

Here’s what we managed – did you do any better?

pingdom_load_time_initialpingdom_load_time

Summary

Thanks to W3TC, you hopefully now have a site that is as we say up north, pretty nippy (fast for everyone else!).

Further WordPress optimisations are discussed in our WordPress performance challenge and How to improve WordPress speed blog posts

For those that are seeking further improvements or if you would simply prefer us to handle everything, we’d be delighted to talk to you about our WordPress optimisations, which are available on both our managed cloud servers and managed dedicated servers

If you have any issues directly relating to W3 Total Cache, you can find their support forum here.

Any comments?

How did your W3TC install go? We’d love to know your page load time before and after implementing W3TC – let us know in the comments below.


Will's our technical sales guy from the hills of Rossendale. A follower of Stoke City, father to Eddie, husband to Catherine and a fan of gadgets - oh and he's recently mastered the art of really slow DIY.
We have a very strong team here at Clook and we build on everyone's strengths and weaknesses, you have to be able to make a good brew too!

Chris James

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