Finding the Best Web Hosting Companies Part XII: W3 Total Cache Tutorial

w3totalcacheLet me explain this very simply: good web host + bad site optimization = your site is slow. Bad web host + good site optimization = your site is slow. Bad web host + bad site optimization = your site is VERY slow. No, I am not trying to keyword optimize this W3 Total Cache Tutorial in the Ultimate Web Hosting Guide for “bad web host” or whatever other set of words I kept repeating like a parrot (anyone who didn’t get the joke is a teddy bear! Hopefully, pandas are as stupid as teddies…but I won’t count on it). I am trying to make a point very clear: you need both a good web host, such as Site5, and a well optimized website to get performance that is decent enough, so that your visitors (and hopefully leads) will remember surfing your site as a pleasant experience. The plugin I choose to speed up Money Earning Sites is the W3 Total Cache plugin. In this tutorial, I will be showing you how to configure it to get the best possible experience on Site5, as well as most other shared hosting providers.

The Myth

Before we being our W3 Total Cache tutorial, I’d like to bust a myth, namely that configuring W3 Total Cache is extremely complicated and there is one specific, but secret and hard to attain, set of settings that will increase your site’s performance by 900% or more. Many WordPress users, with slow websites, go on the web hunting for the perfect W3 Total Cache tutorial, that will show them how to configure the plugin for their specific host and get miraculous results. But they never find one. The truth is that most shared hosting providers use the same set of settings for their servers. W3 Total Cache has a wide variety of settings but most of the default ones will do just fine for shared hosting. There are, however, a few tweaks that can greatly enhance your experience. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a W3 Total Cache tutorial at all? However, don’t worry because there isn’t that much work to do and it’s not as complicated as some people make it to be.

What To Expect

W3 Total Cache improved my site’s average loading time from 2.5 seconds to 1.7 seconds. That’s a decrease of 0.8 seconds. If your site has bigger issues than 2.5 seconds, the plugin may actually do an even better job for you. Remember that you need a good host to begin with. If you’re already using cache plugins and following my optimization tips through this guide, but are still experiencing poor performance, chances are that your host is the culprit. My (interested but genuine) advice is to try Site5. You can sign up for a month for free, without giving your financial details. See if you do better with them. If not, forget about it and drop me a line. Take note, however, that a cache plugin is not the only thing you need to optimize your site. You also need a well coded theme and optimized databases (this is the topic of the next chapter), web-optimized images (chapter 14’s topic) plus disabling unnecessary plugins and functions that will clutter your site. The most prominent of these are WordPress revisions, as discussed in the previous chapters. That is not to say you shouldn’t use any plugins at all. I have nine plugins installed on my site. It’s a matter of choosing reputable ones that are coded by expert hands. If all this still doesn’t help you out, I will see if I can. My advice/coaching/help or whatever you want to call it is completely free. It’s my way to say thanks to those who actually take time to read what I write. First, please try to follow these tips, however!

W3 Total Cache Tutorial

W3 Total Cache is, not surprisingly, a cache plugin. What does this mean? WordPress works with a programming language called PHP. This means that a WordPress site is a dynamic type of website. Pages are generated by the WordPress program installed on your host’s server. To understand what this means (in case you don’t already, of course), have a look at Money Earning Sites. You will see that the homepage displays the five latest posts. Whenever I publish a new post on the site, these posts change. The new one is placed on top, the first one is pushed down to second place, the second one to the third etc. What actually happens is that the PHP code run by the servers at Site5, inquire the database to see which are the five latest posts that I wrote and extract relevant information from the database (title/content/date/category). Then the PHP code loads the theme to find out how the page will be displayed (things like background color, fonts etc.). Finally, everything is translated to html, which is the language that our browser understands, and delivered to your visitors’ computers.

Then, what does a cache plugin do? The process of building an html page with PHP requires resources and time and, if repeated every time a visitor requests a web page from our site, it can degrade his user experience. The cache plugin will store a copy of the generated html page, the first time it is created and send that to every subsequent visitor until it detects that something has changed on the page, such as when a new post is added. Once that happens, a new page is generated with PHP and stored. The process keeps repeating itself. In this way, rather than generating an html page with PHP every time someone visits our site, it will be generated only when the page actually changes.

1. Before we begin the tutorial, take note that W3 Total Cache cannot work without Permalinks enabled. At least, not as a cache plugin. Permalinks allow WordPress to identify pages and posts with a name of their own. For example this web page is http://moneyearningsites.net/w3-total-cache-tutorial. W3-total-cache-tutorial, here, is the permalink which identifies the page. It does make sense that it should be this way, since the W3 Total Cache plugin needs to identify the pages with “proper names” before creating html backups to serve to a site’s visitors. Go to your administrator’s dashboard and select Settings -> Permalinks.

check_permalinks

2. Select the radio button for Post name and then click on Save Changes.

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3. To install the w3 Total Cache plugin, always from your dashboard, choose Plugins – > Add New and then type “w3 total cache” in the search box. Click on Search Plugins, when done.

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4. The first result in the search results should be W3 Total Cache. Click on Install Now.

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