Our Favorite Cache and Minify WordPress Plugin – W3 Total Cache

by Brittany Horton on August 31, 2011

W3 Total Cache Plugin CreatorsIn a previous post we discussed the importance of your page speed and load time, and we have recently found a new WordPress plugin that will drastically help with this. It is the W3 Total Cache plugin, which is by Frederick Townes that is chock full of features. I will go over a few of the features and walk through the setup process to help you streamline your blog. Speed is now being factored into the new Google Panda 2.2 algorithm, which you can read more about other additions in Keri Honea’s recent post on Google Panda 2.2.

Features

Among the many features available with this plugin, our favorite aspect is that it not only has a cache function to help improve your page load and speed, but it is also has the ability to minify your files. This minify is a huge plus as it is one of the rating factors in your load time, and when you have your files minified, then your load time will improve. Also, it decreases the number of plugins installed, instead of having one for your cache and one for your minify like we suggested in previous posts, you can now have both functions in one!

Other features (a full list is on the WordPress Extend Plugin page) are:

  • Compatible with shared hosting, virtual private/dedicated servers and dedicated servers
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration
  • Caching and minifying of pages, posts, CSS, and JavaScript with a variety of saving options
  • Caching of feeds (site, categories, tags, comments, search results)
  • Caching of objects
  • Minification of posts and pages and feeds

Installation

First and foremost you MUST delete any old cache and minify plugins, and ensure that you follow the instructions completely to make sure you delete all instances of the plugin. Then when you do install the plugin, you have a few options of how you want to install. We suggest for the basic WordPress Plugin installation, go to your dashboard and select on “Add New” under “Plugins” tab. Do a search for the plugin, “W3 Total Cache” and select on “Search Plugins.” Once the list of available plugins are shown, Click on “Install Plugin” next to the plugin you wish to install. Make sure to check the author of the plugin to ensure you are installing the plugin you are looking for and not a competitors plugin. The install will take a few moments to download and once completed it will ask if you want to activate the plugin, or go back to the installation page, select “Activate plugin.”

Once activated, you will need to change the permissions for your /wordpress/wp-content directory back to 755, as during the install this was changed to 777, which is fully writable. To do this you will need to login to an FTP client (we suggest and provide instructions using FileZilla Client), browse to your wp-content directory, right click the directory, and choose Permissions. Once here, you can change the permissions from 777 to 755, which is safer for the security of your blog. Once this step is completed you can go to the new “Performance” tab on your dashboard menu, which is specific to this plugin (if the plugin is not activated, you will not see this in your menu). If your permissions have not been updated properly, you will receive a message at the top of your dashboard notifying you of the issue with the permissions.

Setup

W3 Total Cache Setting OptionsOnce you have successfully installed the plugin, you will want to change the settings to get the best optimization for your site. Unfortunately, just turning the features on is not the best way to optimize your site for the best speed and load; this plugin does require more setup for all the features to work at 100% and give your site the intended boost. Once you are at the General Settings Page, you will have the option to turn the different features on and off. The author suggest for the “General Settings” page that for most cases you should choose disk enhanced for your page cache, disk mode for your minify, and disk mode for your database caching. This post is only covering the basic setup, to get the full benefit of the plugin, you will want to follow the recommendations of the authors on the installation page.

Each of the deeper navigation pages have default settings that have been preselected, but each page can be customized to your needs and setup. Each server and website is going to have different settings; we are going to walk you through the basic settings we chose on the “General Settings” admin page. First, under the “General” section we do not have the “Toggle all caching types on or off at once” turned on, as we want to choose which options we want on and off. Now under “Page Cache” section we have enabled “Page Cache” and have set the method to “Disk (enhanced)”. Now under “Minify” section we have enabled “Minify,” set the mode to manual, and method to “Disk,” with the HTML, CSS, and JS minifiers set to their default values. Next we have enabled the “Database Cache” under the “Database” section, and set its method to “Disk.” We are not using CloudFlare, so we have skipped this option, if you are interested you can go to the CloudFlare website for more information. We are currently not using Varnish or the Content Delivery Network (CDN)  (we may document the options and setup process of this feature in future posts if requested). Further down we have set the browser cache to enabled and left all other settings to the default options. One of the things you will want to do to see how your page speed is doing, is connect this plugin to google page speed, by getting and connecting with the API code.

Connecting to Google Page Speed API

You are able to connect this plugin to Google’s Page Speed test that will display your page speed test results on your home dashboard as a widget. This is helpful for when you want to test your pages grade before launching a new product or service, or even just to see how you are doing. First, you will have to create a Google API Code through the Google API Console. You will have to create a Google account if you do not have one–keep in mind that you do not have to have a Gmail email account; you can can create a Google account with your personal email address. Once logged into the API console, enable the Page Speed Online API and accept their terms. Once enabled you can go to API Access on the right navigation to copy your API code that you will need to paste into the “Miscellaneous” section on the “General Settings” page in the Page Speed API key line. Click save all settings, ensure that you have enabled the “Enable Google Page Speed dashboard widget.” This way when you go to your dashboard, you will be able to see your page speed rating and see what areas can use improvements.

Let us know if you have any questions setting up this plugin. We are here to help!

Do you have any favorite cache plugins?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Funbrain December 2, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Thank you so much admin, all instruction you made are set on my website and I can see how well my site performs. great job. I totally appreciate your great effort!

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