Website load time is more important than ever. If you read the Google Webmaster blog, you know that they want you to have a responsive web site that loads fast. I spent some time checking my site speed load time, and I knew there was room for improvement.
About my testing:
There are no hard and fast rules to which caching plugin is best, or which optimization techniques will work the best for you. It really depends on a lot of things such as your server, your theme, the number of plugins you use, etc. For this post, I just wanted to share results with others in hopes that I might help someone else’s website load faster.
When this post was published, I was using Westhost for my server, the Genesis Framework and a customized Themedy theme for this WordPress site. I contacted Westhost to see what plugin they recommended for their servers, and they suggested SuperCache. I also reached out to the Genesis community on Google+ to see if anyone had a caching plugin recommendation. I received some good advice and spent the last week testing them all out.
Caching Plugin Comparison:
I used http://www.webpagetest.org/ to test the load time of each plugin. I ran the test three times to get an average load time. You can see the results below:
The fastest plugin for my website was W3 Total Cache…but wait…
5 Steps To A Faster WordPress Site
#1 Optimize Tables
You can use a plugin called WP-Optimize or you can access databases via phpMyAdmin. I went old school and updated the database through phpMyAdmin.
#2 Use Google’s CDN
Save your web server some bandwidth and use Google’s CDN to speed the delivery of popular libraries. This plugin helps to use a visitor’s cached versions of jQuery, Dojo, MooTools and other frameworks already on their browser.
#3 Use Smush.it
Smush.it can reduce image file size without sacrificing too much quality.
#4 Fix Your Waterfall
Check your waterfall in WebPagetest for files that take a long time to download. Large PNG files can be heavy and clog up the lanes. Missing linked images can also hurt your load time.
#5 Use .htaccess For Caching
After the previous 4 steps, I tested all the plugins again. This time, using .htaccess to cache my site gave me the fastest results. Save your permalinks after you upload the .htaccess file to you web server; otherwise you may have some issues. You can see the tutorial here.
Final Word On Website Load Time
If you are looking for a quick way to speed up your site, W3 is the best option. If you don’t mind tinkering around, go with .htaccess.