The Speed Study Goal

My goal with conducting these Speed Studies is to find out which strategies are the best at improving our site speed.

I’ll implement each strategy using the following approach:

  1. Setup the strategy on all 8 of our live test sites
  2. Then for the following 3 weeks, gather the load times from our Desktop Speed Test using GTmetrix. Each week we will test from a different location, starting in Dallas, then London and finishing off in Sydney.
  3. Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after
  4. Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?

W3 Total Cache Speed Study

With our 2017 baseline setup and 4 Image Optimizer plugins put to the test, we have just completed the first test of Caching plugins with WP Super Cache. We are now turning our attention to W3 Total Cache to see which Caching plugin performs best.

What we’re expecting to see is that caching will speed up our sites by effectively copying a portion of the sites content, so the next time you visit, your browser only needs to load fresh content. Let’s find out how well this works for our sites? The plugin we will use for this Speed Study is W3 Total Cache, which is a free offering with over 1+ million active installs.

To kick off this W3 Total Cache Speed Study, the first step is to install the W3 Total Cache plugin. I followed our step by step tutorial on How to Setup W3 Total Cache for each of our test sites.

All Setup

I have now followed this process on all 8 of our Live Test Sites.

Next up is 3 weeks of testing – I am curious to see how much of a difference W3 Total Cache makes to our site speed?


The Results – 4th Jun 2017

After 3 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how much of an impact installing W3 Total Cache has had on our 8 hosts.

Speed Study 14 - W3 Total Cache Results Table


So how did W3 Total Cache perform? The average load time across 3 different testing locations was 1.66s, which is a massive speed improvement of 31% compared to WP Super Cache.

When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, all 3 were noticeably quicker with W3 Total Cache. There was also huge benefits in Page Size, Google PageSpeed Scores & Yahoo YSlow Scores.

So when it comes to making a call on whether W3 Total Cache is helpful, the answer is a clear and resounding YES!!

Individual Host Performance

Let’s now take a look at how our individual hosts performed:

Speed Study 14 - W3 Total Cache - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • The results are consistently positive when it comes to our individual hosts:
    1. GoDaddy & Lightning Base experienced minor improvements of 3% and 8% respectively.
    2. SiteGround, HostGator & Bluehost stepped it up between 18% & 22%.
    3. But the big news story is that 3 hosts experienced massive improvements, with the biggest improver being Web Hosting Hub, who jumped an astronomical 55%!!
  • The overall observation from where I sit is that W3 Total Cache has made a huge improvement to our host’s page loading times. As for a recommendation, clearly W3 Total Cache is preferred over WP Super Cache. Before declaring W3 Total Cache the king, let’s see how our last Caching Plugin performs.
  • Update: With all testing now complete, check out the results for all 3 Caching plugins side by side.

What’s Next?

With W3 Total Cache totally dominating WP Super Cache, let’s put to the test a Premium Caching plugin.

So Speed Study #15 will focus on what speed improvement is possible with WP Rocket?

Speed Study #15: WP Rocket