One key to making sure your blog runs fast and smooth for readers is to install a caching plugin. The two best plugins for this are WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
Truthfully, your blog probably doesn’t need either of these until you get a lot more readers and site traffic, but you might as well install one now to prepare for the future. Besides, it will also allow your posts and pages to load faster for search engines, which is something they like to see as well.
So which plugin should you use? I have used and researched both, and while W3 Total Cache is probably the better plugin, it is way too powerful and complicated for most bloggers. WP Super Cache is not quite as good, but is much easier to set up and much less likely to have something go wrong. The first time I installed W3 Total Cache on a blog, my blog blew up, and I spent most of a week trying to put the pieces back together again. So WP Super Cache is best for 99% of the bloggers out there.
So for my 10 Essential WordPress plugins for the new blog, we are going to install WP Super Cache.
Install WP Super Cache
Begin by searching for it from within your Dashboard, and when you find it, install and activate it.
After you install and activate the plugin, you will immediately be greeted with this warning:
No worries, just click the red link, and let’s see where it goes! Alternately, the plugin has added a menu item into the Dashboard Settings, and you can click on it. Either way, you are taken to this screen:
Before we turn on the cache from the “Easy” tab, let’s go through the various other tabs to check our settings. So click on over to the “Advanced” tab and let’s update a few things there.
As you can see, I pretty much just went with all the plugin recommendations, except for the one about clearing cache files whenever a post or page is published. It does not recommend that one, but I checked it anyway. When I publish a post, it immediately appears on the front page of my blog, and I want new visitors to see it, not a cached version of the homepage. So these are my Advanced settings and they have worked quite well for me on all my blogs. Click the “Update Status” button.
But uh oh! When you do, you get a warning message:
The message tells me that the mod_rewrite rules need to be updated, and to scroll down and click the update button. You will see an orange screen with a bunch of code in it. Don’t try to read it unless you understand and love that sort of thing. Just scroll to the bottom and press the button. Maybe a snack will pop out of the hole in the wall! …It’s a joke. Laugh.
Once you press the button, rather than a snack, you get a pretty green screen:
The rest of the tabs are for more advanced settings which we do not need right now. But just by way of summary, CDN is for a Content Delivery Network, which typically costs money. Since Grace Blogger is about blogging for free (except for hosting and the Theme), we don’t want to pay for a CDN.
The Content tab simply shows what is in your cache, which right now is nothing.
The Preload tab is good if you don’t have constantly updated information on your sidebar. Most blogs do, in the form of popular posts, recent comments, and maybe some advertising. Since I will have all of these on my blog, I do not preload the pages.
The Plugin tab is for plugins that have conflicts with a WP Super Cache. Right now there are none, so don’t worry about this tab.
The Debug tab helps you debug the plugin if something goes wrong. We just installed it, and everything is ready to go, so let’s head back to the “Easy” tab, and check to make sure the plugin is working.
Caching should already be turned on, but if not, go ahead and do so, and then scroll down and click “Test Cache.” If everything goes well, this is what you want to see:
The two html files match and so the plugin is working properly.
Your caching plugin is now set up and helping load your pages faster for both readers and search engines. Congratulations! This plugin sets you above the pack when it comes to blogging preparedness.
Oh…one final note. I have found that with this plugin, if you ever turn caching off in the “Easy” tab, you have to go through and reselect all of the options, and update the mod_rewrite rules again, just as we did in this post. It doesn’t take long to do, but is kind of annoying. Just remember to return to this post if you have questions about the plugin configuration.