W3 Total Cache is a popular WordPress plugin that will help your website run faster and more efficiently. It’s a plugin used by many large, high traffic websites. If you are building an online business or have any type of blog you are trying to grow, W3 Total Cache is something you should be using. It will make your site much more professional and help you avoid many common problems.
In this article, we’ll be explaining what this plugin does and how to install it and set it up.
What does W3 Total Cache do?
There are thousands of WordPress plugins that perform a variety of functions, but W3 Total Cache is one that’s useful for any type of blog. It improves the overall performance of your server, caches all of the content on your site, and thus reduces download times!
Many of the internet’s most popular blogs use this plugin, including Mashable and Smashing Magazine, and of course, all of my own blogs! Even if you’re not yet as well known as these sites, you should use it too. Using W3 Total Cache can result in as much as a 10 times improvement in your site’s performance! It’s also compatible with any type of web hosting, whether you have shared web hosting, VPS or even a dedicated server.
If you are familiar with the process of installing WordPress plugins, you shouldn’t have any problem with this one. However, W3 Total Cache is not compatible with many other plugins that do similar things. Therefore, you should make sure you uninstall any other WordPress caching plugins, such as WP Super Cache.
If this is a new blog, you don’t have to worry about this. If you have lots of plugins, however, it’s a good idea to take a look at them and make sure you didn’t upload a caching plugin at some point and forget about it.
How to install W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is a plugin that you can download directly from WordPress. From your WordPress dashboard, click on Plugins, then on Add New. Search for “W3 Total Cache” and it should come up. Simply click on “Install” and then “Activate”.
Installing this plugin is simple, but you also have to setup and configure it. This is not like some other simpler plugins, where you only have one or two setup options. It’s important that you configure this plugin correctly, as otherwise you could have problems and even get into trouble with your hosting company.
You will first want to go to “General Settings”. The plugin will start off in Preview Mode, which should be disabled so you can make it active for your site.
Enable Page Cache
Page Cache is a feature that creates static cache pages for every page that’s loaded on your site. This is one of the main benefits of the plugin, as it will reduce load time noticeably.
There is also a setting for Page Cache Method. If you are using shared web hosting (if you are a new blogger and/or have the cheapest or most basic hosting plan your hosting company offers, this will be the case) you should choose the Disk Enhanced option here.
This option sets a time limit on the browser cache. I’d recommend that you use the following settings for this (enable means check; disable means uncheck):
- Set Expires Header – Enable
- Set Cache Control Header – Enable
- Set Entity Tag – Enable
- Set W3 Total Cache Header – Enable
- Enable HTTP Compression – Enable
- Do Not Process 404 Errors – Disable
Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Network (CDN) is another very important setting for this plugin. It allows you to reduce your server load and speed up your website by delivering your static content from cloud servers and not just a single hosting server.
For this to work, however, you will need another plugin. One that I highly recommend, and that is fully compatible with W3 Total Cache is MaxCDN. If you use this, make sure that you enable CDN in your W3 Total Cache Settings. You will then have to check the CDN Type. For our discussion, I’ll assume you are using MaxCDN.
To setup MaxCDN, you first must sign up here.
This is not a free service though, but if you want your site to run faster, it’s definitely worth paying the one-time fee of $39.95, which covers your first 1,000 GB of data.
The following three features are optional, and not appropriate for most newer WordPress blogs.
This is another feature that is not recommended for all hosting. If you have a small or medium sized site, you are better off not using this. In any case, you should check with your web host before enabling it.
This function will not be necessary for most users and is only meant for very dynamic sites. We will take about these optional settings on another article in the near future.
Using W3 Total Cache to get the most out of your blog
W3 Total Cache is a plugin that will help any WordPress blog run more efficiently. This will improve the experience of your visitors and therefore support any of your goals. They are more likely to stay longer and return to your website when the pages load quickly and they don’t encounter glitches!
The above suggestions are geared towards beginners and newer sites. As you gain experience or your site gets larger, you may want to look into changing some of the optional settings which we touched earlier. Stay tuned for more articles on website caching and on MaxCDN.