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, use hourly monitoring via GT Metrix to independently gather the load times. To eliminate the possibility of location bias, I change the test servers each week, 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?

2018 W3 Total Cache Speed Study

The 1st Speed Study of 2018 showed significant improvement in site speed following the addition of WP Super Cache. It makes perfect sense to put another caching plugin to the test and see which performs better.

So this Speed Study will look into whether W3 Total Cache can speed up our sites more than WP Super Cache?

2018 W3 Total Cache

How to Setup W3 Total Cache

To kick off this 2018 W3 Total Cache Speed Study, we first need to install W3 Total Cache using consistent settings across each site. I used the settings included within our step by step tutorial on How to Setup W3 Total Cache.

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 whether W3 Total Cache continues it’s 2017 dominance over WP Super Cache?

The Results – 03 Mar 2018

After 3 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how our 8 hosts performed with W3 Total Cache installed.

Speed Study 26 - 2018 W3 Total Cache Results Table


Let’s first see how W3 Total Cache performed compared to WP Super Cache? The average load time across our 3 different testing locations is 1.66s for W3 Total Cache, which is 20% faster than with WP Super Cache setup.

When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, all experienced speed improvements, ranging from 16% faster in Sydney through to 27% in London. The 3 other metrics of Google PageSpeed Scores, Yahoo YSlow Scores and Page Size all improved considerably with W3 Total Cache on board.

So when it comes to making a call on whether W3 Total Cache was beneficial, the decision is easy -> YES, with W3 Total Cache comfortably outperforming WP Super Cache.

Individual Host Performance

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

Speed Study 26 - 2018 W3 Total Cache - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • When it comes to our individual hosts, the comparison between WP Super Cache & W3 Total Cache are predominantly favoring W3 Total Cache:
    1. The only exception, was Namecheap, which was 1% slower with W3 Total Cache setup.
    2. The remaining 7 hosts experienced faster speeds with W3 Total Cache, ranging from 2% with HostGator up to 47% with Web Hosting Hub.
  • The overall observation from where I sit is that W3 Total Cache is the preferred caching plugin.

What’s Next?

With W3 Total Cache proving to be much faster than WP Super Cache, let’s find out how a premium caching plugin will go?

So Speed Study #27 will focus on what speed improvement is possible when we use WP Rocket?

2018 WP Rocket