My WordPress blog was slow so I tested W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache to see if either would speed it up. After testing both, WP Super Cache wins.
My goal was to make my pages appear to load faster. Sure, I’d like a 95 from Google Page Speed or YSlow, but what I really care about is how fast the page loads for my users. The reason I say this is there does not seem to be a direct correlation between page speed scores from Google or YSlow and how fast the pages load in your browser as you click through a site.
For example, when I tested one of my pages in Google Page Speed, I got a score of 77. Not bad, but not real fast. And yet the page loaded instantly. YSlow is an even stricter grader: for the same page, I received a score of 60 or D, failing. But that page loads almost instantly.
As a further test, I went to yoast.com. Yoast has a very fast site. There’s a good reason for that. He’s an expert in speed and SEO, he uses W3 Total Cache, 6 nodes on a VPS.net cloud server, and MaxCDN to speed up his site. And yet he also gets a D, or I should say D+ (69), failing.
I’m on shared hosting on Bluehost, I get about 16,000 visits a month. The pages load pretty fast, but not fast enough for me. What do I mean by pretty fast? Since I’m on the web all day building and viewing sites, I am very sensitive to a page that loads slowly. Fast is between 1-2 seconds, medium is 2-4 seconds, and slow is 4 or more seconds. If you’re pages load in a second or less, you can stop reading here.
Without any cache plugin, my pages were loading between 2-6 seconds. The speed probably depends on the load on the shared web server, which fluctuates all day long.
I installed W3 Total Cache and also created an account on MaxCDN; these two tools are supposed to work together to help you get some big speed gains. After spending a day trying to get W3 and MaxCDN to work together, I kind of got it to work. But my site wasn’t faster. In fact, often, I’d see the browser waiting for both my domain and the CDN domain to load. I even tried W3 Total Cache without MaxCDN, but it was not any faster than having no cache plugin. Strangely, I got much better speed scores from Google Page Speed and YSlow. But the pages didn’t load faster; they loaded slower. I disabled W3 Total Cache and tested WP Super Cache next.
I installed WP Super Cache, spent about 3 minutes with the configuration, and my site was instantly faster. No doubt about it. My pages were loading in 2-3 seconds. But my Google Page Speed and YSlow scores went down, probably because WP Super Cache does not have the configuration settings required to make Google and YSlow happy.