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How to speed up your WordPress blog quickly and easily

, May 7, 2016
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Website performance is very important if you care about your users. It can also impact on your results in popular search engines. While there are many options and tweaks that you could try including cache plugins and other settings, today I am going to talk about something that can be set up in literally 5-10 minutes and is completely free with quick, noticeable results.

CDN to the rescue

The main feature of a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is to distribute your content around the world so it’s closer to your visitors. There are many CDN’s to choose from. Two of the arguably most well known CDN’s are MaxCDN and Amazon CloudFront. For this website we decided to try Cloudflare and from initial testing the results are very positive.

The benefits of using Cloudflare CDN also include protection against DDoS attacks, automatic optimisation and increased security, and the something else which was quite surprising to find:- free SSL!

Free SSL?!

Hard to believe I know, but even the free plan comes with a free SSL that you can use with one click. For anyone that has tried to use SSL on a site before you will know they can sometimes be a bit of a pain especially for ecommerce sites. We have not yet implemented SSL on this site so would be keen to hear your experiences on Cloudflare free SSL below.

Here’s what Cloudflare say about their free SSL certificates..

CloudFlare is on a mission to build a better Internet. One of the ways we’re achieving this is by bringing the tools of the Internet giants to everyone. Today, in an effort called Universal SSL, we’re enabling SSL by default for all our customers that are signed up directly for CloudFlare— even those on our Free plan.

Our first impression of Cloudflare

The website itself is very informative and it was easy to see the plans they had on offer. Everything is very clear and user friendly and it didn’t take a genius to add your settings. Simply sign-up (1min), add your website (30secs) and change the nameservers on your domain via your domain provider (2mins). To finish the process download the cloudflare wordpress plugin, a plugin that has over 100,000 active installs and is well-maintained. There are some settings in there that you need to add (website url, api key and the email address you used to sign up to cloudflare) and that’s it (2mins). You don’t actually have to do this part as your CDN would still work, but its advised to add these settings so that you don’t encounter problems down the road.

What the Cloudflare WordPress plugin does

  • Correct IP Address information for comments posted to your site
  • Better protection as spammers from your WordPress blog get reported to CloudFlare

The main purpose of the Cloudflare WordPress plugin is to ensure you have no change to your originating IPs when using CloudFlare. Since CloudFlare acts a reverse proxy, connecting IPs now come from CloudFlare’s range. This plugin will ensure you can continue to see the originating IP.

Every time you click the ‘spam’ button on your blog, this threat information is sent to CloudFlare to ensure you are constantly getting the best site protection.

Anyway, back to the testing. Below is a screenshot of a Pingdom Tools test taken before the CDN was implemented (Pingdom Tools is not a definitive answer to analysing your site but it is good for a general indication of how your site is doing and also has some good optimisations tips, Google PageSpeed Insights is also an excellent optimisation tool)..

Pingdom Tools Before

So, the results

Firstly, this site has had no other work in terms of optimising yet, no cache plugin, using full size images etc. Last night on pingdom tools our site was showing as 71% slower that all websites. Today the website is showing as 55% faster than all tested websites. Not bad for literally 5 minutes and 30 seconds work. In the coming weeks we will be looking at other methods of optimisation and will share the results.

Cloudflare Pingdom Tools results

Animated chart image courtesy Virgil Pana via http://codepen.io/christiannaths/pen/yNBjBq