Speed Up Your Blog With W3 Total Cache & Amazon

I’ve discussed using Amazon S3 and Cloudfront for hosting videos but there is another fantastic way to use those services to make your blog lightning fast.  It’s no secret, Google pays attention to how fast your blog loads (part of an SEO strategy).  They announced this just recently, it’s important to them, and  important is your users.  Nobody likes slow web pages, and likely if a page takes too long to load, or there is a delay (intermittent or not) they will leave and never come back.

The W3 Total Cache Plugin allows you to use a Content Delivery Network such as Cloudfront (which uses Amazon S3).  Several other CDN’s are supported, but I went with my already useful Cloudfront account.  It’s very simple to use, you need a Cloudfront account and Amazon S3 and you’re set.  You can manage everything from within the WordPress admin panel.  Uploading the proper files to Cloudfront, setting up caching options, it handles it all.

Installing W3 Total Cache

Installation is a breeze and can be completed in minutes.   At a high level, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. Sign-up for Amazon S3 & Cloudfront
  2. Install W3 Total Cache Plugin within WordPress
  3. Follow W3 Total Cache Instructions within WordPress admin panel
  4. Log in to Cloudfront control panel and create a Distribution for your newly created bucked (done in step 3)

I’ve outlined these steps further below

Amazon S3 & Cloudfront

Signing up for your Amazon services is simply, no up front costs, it is entirely pay as you go and dirt cheap!   Unless you’re getting Mashable type traffic, I don’t think you need to concern yourself with any ‘surprise’ bills.   You can monitor your site usage and check with their rates.  I’m sure you will find out it is VERY cheap.

W3 Total Cache Plugin

From your WordPress admin site, install the plugin directly from there, it will show up under ‘Settings’ once installed and then you can follow through its setup instructions.  The plugin has a whole pile of cache settings.  I’ve yet to really play with any of them, I am mainly interested in the CDN support.  So you click on ‘CDN Settings’, input your Amazon information and the plugin will then start uploading your static content to Amazon S3.   Once that is complete, when users access your blog, the plugin changes the url for static content to point to your Cloudfront distribution.  This causes users browsers to fetch the static content of your blog from there rather than your host server where you wordpress is installed.


Cloudfront Distribution Setup

You will need to create a Cloudfront Distribution and input the distribution name into your W3 Total Cache ‘CDN Settings’ page.  This can’t be done until you have created a ‘bucket’ in step 3.  This will distribute your web content stored in Amazon S3 to the Cloudfront Distribution network.


It is really quite simply and quick, make sure you back up your blog before installing any new plugins, if for some odd reason something were to go wrong, you can quickly revert but I’ve done this several times now with ease.

Updates after installation

The W3 Total Cache plugin will automatically start to upload your attached images/media library as you add more, all of this is done automatically so your static blog content stays hosted on the CDN.  It has had trouble (at least for me) with odd image names (special characters).  Make sure any images/video (etc.) you are using have a basic name with no special characters in it.

What do you think?

This blog is hosted using the Cloudfront CDN, did it load fast?   I tested the before and after, and it literally dropped the site load speed by over 50%. Give it a try, because Google really does care, and so do your readers/customers/whomever connects to your WordPress site.

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Comments (26)

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  1. Steve Bunn says:

    I’ve ‘heard’ about Amazon S3, but didn’t realize it was that simple. I installed that plugin, it was a piece of cake setting up my blog up to host some of the items on cloudfront, can’t believe how much faster it loads. Thanks for pointing this out!

  2. Brad Pidsadny says:

    I have been using it for some time now, it’s fantastic. Nothing I hate more than pages that take too long to load.

  3. Kevin says:

    No problem, I was amazed at how easy it was myself when I installed it.

  4. Keith Davis says:

    Hi Kevin
    Came over from “WordPress How to Spotter” via the comment you left there. Then saw this article.

    Is this “W3 Total Cache Plugin” really so good?
    Looking at my wordpress page load times using Google Webmaster Tools has shown that my site is rather slow.
    Will this plugin speed up the page load time for the Googlebot or just for viewers of the site?

  5. Keith Davis says:

    Sorry Kevin… a few extra points.
    One of the things W3 Total Cache Plugin uses is “Gzip compression”, does that cause problems with internet explorer 6? or is there an option for turning that bit off?

    Are there any “how to” guides or videos out there for installing the plugin?

    Would this plugin work on a local server? I Run a copy of my live site on a local server using XAMPP.
    And BTW your site is fast, fast, fast.
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..The eyes have it! =-.

  6. Kevin says:

    Hey Keith, this plug-in has the option to disable gzip compression. It also addresses (with a work around) the issue in IE6 SP2 with gzip compression. You have the option to disable/enable both of these features as part of the plug-in.

    I don’t know about any how-to guides, I just downloaded and started exploring myself. I haven’t really tweaked it in any way, I did a default installation and used the Cloudfront Content Delivery Network to really speed things up. I think this would definitely help out your site load time, no matter where you are hosting it. The plugin loads a lot of your images/js/css etc. onto Cloudfront, that is then spread throughout their Edge server network. Once that is complete, your pages will reference the content on Cloudfront which is a much faster download than your local machine or even a hosted service provider.

  7. Kevin says:

    I Keith, thanks for stopping by. As for the plugin, I can certainly say it has significantly decreased my page load times. I’ve been using this page load speed test. It shows me exactly how long it’s taking to fetch everything from my site. I have a problematic plugin at the moment that drags on longer than I would like but the majority of the site loads in about 3-4 seconds. I compared that to sites without the plugin (WordPress sites) and the appeared to load in under 10 seconds on average.

    I’m not 100% positive on the speed improvements for Googlebot, but my guess is yes it would. Google is certainly interested in page load time, if your site loads fast for users, this is a good thing.

  8. I wrote a how to guide on configuring W3 Total Cavhe @ my blog. With regards to gzip and old browsers, the author tells me that the plug-in creates compressed pages compatible with gzip enabled and gzip disabled browsers.

    At first, I didn’t activate the gzip function cos my web host said it took up plenty resources but I’m trying it out know to see if that’s true. Besides my blog doesn’t get traffic huge enough to cause dampening of server resources.

    .-= Udegbunam Chukwudi | StrictlyOnlineBiz´s last blog ..Make Your Blog 10x Faster With W3 Total Cache Plug-in =-.

  9. jmaster 2 says:

    Newbies rejoice. There is a newly released plugin that configs the CDN automatically. No need to put in CDN information. $29/mo billed thru Paypal. One click install and let the speed begin :P http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/speedcache/.

  10. pasindu says:

    Nice post.It is realy useful.keep it up bro

    Check this method also.It will be useful for you


  11. Nino says:

    Nice post! I will try Cloudfront.I use W3 Total Cache Plugin and it awesome!

  12. Borris says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the tut on Amazon Cloudfront

    Did you try Cloudflare as a free CDN?

  13. Kevin McKillop says:

    Hey Borris, I’ve only ever used Cloudfront. It was the first one I tried, did the job and I haven’t touched it since.

  14. Regenwaldtee says:

    This is totally cool! This plugin is what i’ve been waiting for a long time. being hosted all your images and have it redirected from the Cloud CDN. I’m having second thoughts and rely on the one i’ve been using before since at first i think it’s more complicated, but maybe i was wrong or maybe you just have excellently explained it in layman’s term and that’s why i’ve finally begun to understand on how to use it. Great explanation, you definitely help me a lot with this.

  15. [...] the whole setup process was. One online guide we found useful when setting up the CDN can be found on the Freedom Target [...]

  16. pcgamerman41 says:

    This has to be the best blog I have seen in awhile, thank you for sharing all of this information with us.

  17. chaip says:

    W3 cache did not work for me. I have try, there use many variable set up.

  18. Tim says:

    Great write-up on w3 total cache! I’ve been using the Google Page Speed Tool along with w3, and trying to get my score above at least a 90. Great resource here, thanks!

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