GTmetrix WordPress Plugin Review

I recently added a new plugin to this site to continually monitor the speed called GTmetrix for WordPress.

I like this plugin because every time I log into the WordPress dashboard, I can see how fast my site is loading in a nice, visual widget.

Here’s what it looks like in the Dashboard:

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You can set how often the plugin runs a speed test on your site and it uses the GTmetrix API to run the tests.

To set it up, you simply install the plugin, sign up for a free account at GTmetrix, and click on the api tab at the top of the screen.

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Next, navigate to the GTmetrix for WordPress plugin settings and enter the email address you signed up with, and your api key.  Make sure you check the box that says “show dashboard widget.”

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Then just run your first test and set a schedule for running every day or every week in the future.

Now you don’t have to worry about the affect of new widgets or plugins on your site speed because every time you log in, you’ll see exactly how fast your site is loading.

 

Speed up your WordPress site in 10 minutes with W3 Total Cache

WordPress site speed is a hot topic right now for many reasons.  #1 – Google has made it very obvious that they care about site speed since launching their Page Speed Insights and adding page speed to Google Webmaster Tools.

There is also a wide body of independent research that supports the connection between site speed and website conversion rates.  The most commonly sited statistic is that every second that you can lower your site speed improves conversion rates by 7%.  I have personally seen the impact of improving site speed on local business websites, although the 7% figure is hard to validate based upon my own experience.  I’ve seen small improvements and big improvements from improving the load time of a site, in one case as high as a 40% improvement, but I that was a unique situation and shouldn’t be considered a normal thing.

The single best plugin I have found to handle a lot of the heavy lifting to improve site speed is W3 Total Cache.  I know that a lot of people prefer WP Super Cache, but I’ve tried both and I get better results from the former plugin.

For a measurement tool, I’ll be using GTMetrix to measure the speed of the site after W3 Total Cache is configured.

Before we set up W3 Total Cache… do yourself a favor and …

Remove inactive plugins

Inactivating a plugin does not prevent that plugin from loading javascript when your site loads.  Anything you’re not using should be deleted.

Our example site has 30 plugins – 25 active and 5 inactive.  After removing the inactive plugins, and running a test on GTMetrix, the site loads in 3.17 seconds.

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Let’s Install and Configure W3 Total Cache

This plugin is highly configurable so I won’t cover every single configuration option here, otherwise this post would be called “Speed up your site in 2 hours or less,” so I’ll just cover the basics that make the biggest difference without too much fuss.

After installation, the plugin settings can be found under the main WordPress dashboard navigation under Performance.

PLEASE NOTE ==> You should check the homepage of your site every time you save any settings in W3 Total Cache to see if anything broke.  We’re messing with CSS and Javacript with this plugin so breaking things is common.  If you find that something isn’t loading correctly, just undo the changes you just made and everything will go back to normal.  Common issues involve sliders/carousels, videos, and anything interactive.  Some trial and error is usually required with W3 Total Cache.

… and don’t forget to test your forms, too.

Here are the settings to use:

  • General Settings
    • Page Cache: Enable (disk: enhanced)
    • Minify: Enable (auto)
    • Database Cache: Enable (disk)
    • Object Cache: Enable (disk)
    • Browser Cache: Enable
  • Page Cache
    • General: Cache requests only for yoursiteurl.com site address (checked)
    • Cache Preload: Automatically prime the page cache (checked)
  • Minify – This is a common breaking point.  Save your settings, empty the page cache, and check your site after making changes to any section listed below.
    • HTML & XML: Enable, Inline CSS Minification, Inline JS Minification, and Don’t minify feeds (checked)
    • JS (enable)(minify)
    • CSS minify settings (Enable)
  • Browser Cache
    • Set Last-Modified header (checked)
    • Set expires header (checked)
    • Set cache control header (checked)
    • Set entity tag (checked)
    • Enable HTTP (gzip) compression (checked)
    • All other settings on this page should remain on the default settings

Test the site at GTMetrix: 2.48 second load time (-.69 seconds)

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That’s a 22% reduction in load time in just 10 minutes… not too shabby!  But we need to get the load time under 2 seconds so we’ll keep moving forward in my next post. I’ll show you how to implement Cloudflare & Amazon Cloudfront.

I’ve used both of these content delivery networks (CDN’s) on many sites, and sometimes the best speed comes from using one or the other, or both at the same time.

So in my next post, I’ll walk you through the implementation of these two CDN’s.

Weekly Goal Update – 3/8/2015

Get in shape – Lose 25 lbs. and work out at the gym three times a week

Weight is down 7 pounds in 9 weeks, and I finally got back in the gym today. Eating a lot of rice and beans instead of Ramen noodles which is one of my favorite secrets foods. Just 18 more lbs. til goal weight and only 90 days til the pool opens.  Challenge accepted!

Wake up by 7:00 AM every morning — sleep 8 hours a night.

I’m only sleeping anywhere from 4 to 7 hours a night but it takes a while to catch up with me and I’m taking 20 minute naps occasionally to prevent myself from losing focus late in the day.  Seems like I don’t need as much sleep as I initially thought.  I’ll give this til the end of the month and adjust my goal to 7 hours a night if I keep up this pace.

Learn to code web apps with Ruby on Rails

I finished my first app and already working on another.  The first one was guided by a tutorial but the second is all me baby!!!  It’s a content collaboration system for creating content for my clients.  It’s about 60% done and I’ve put about 30 or 40 hours into it.  I think this will be a winner.  Once this is done and I’ve successfully attracted some beta users, I’ll mark this goal off as DONE and put it at the bottom of my list while continuing to develop cool apps… probably in PHP.

New Goal: Learn to build plugins for WordPress

This is on hold until I launch my first rails app.  I have an idea for creating a WordPress plugin to connect WordPress to my content collaboration app.  This will be the first way for me to get into plugin development, but I’m probably two months away from starting any development on it.

Stop smoking — always drink in moderation

Smoking like a freight train.  Totally quit drinking.  I’m hoping that getting back in the gym will help motivate me to stop smoking, but right now, I’m fine with puffing away on my death sticks throughout the day.

I’ll try to post more helpful content on here instead of just blabbering about my personal goals to make this site a little more useful.  In fact, I’ll write another post right now.

Goal Update – 2/26/2015

Get in shape – Lose 25 lbs. and work out at the gym three times a week

Weight is down 4 pounds, but I haven’t been working out.  Basically, I’m just working all the time which causes me to forget to eat.  Not the best weight loss plan, but at least I’m on track.

Double the revenue in my business

Revenue increased 9% over the average monthly revenue in 2014.

Wake up by 7:00 AM every morning — sleep 8 hours a night.  This has been a problem for me half my life.  This year I’m going to wipe this out once and for all.

Going great!  My sleep patterns are finally becoming normal after my doctor game me medicine to calm my racing thoughts at night.  This has always been the problem and after years of trying to use over the counter sleeping pills, Ambien, and other stuff, I think I’ve found a solution.  Who knew that a pill could calm a racing mind.  Woo-hoo!  And it only took 35 years to figure it out.  What a relief!

Learn to code web apps with Ruby on Rails

I’m 95% done with my first rails app which is a Twitter-like app that I’ve created by following the Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl.  To feel like I’ve accomplished this goal, I plan to create a usable app of my own design.  I know this is still miles away from I’ve already taken the first step.

New Goal: Learn to build plugins for WordPress

I’ve recently realized that the path to building custom web apps with Rails involves a brutal learning curve.  And even though popular opinion seems to hold that learning on Rails is the easiest way to learn to code, the simplicity of WordPress plugins seems very desirable.  So I’m going to pursue PHP and Rails at the same time, going back and forth between that two as my motivation carries me.

Stop smoking — always drink in moderation

I’m smoking more than ever.  Not sure why, but I have actually lost my desire to even quit smoking.  I’m meeting with my doctor tomorrow to discuss this.

I’ve also decided to completely stop drinking instead of drinking in moderation.  Seems like an easier decision since overindulgence is so easy … a real slippery slope. Not sure if I’ll quit forever, but definitely going to completely abstain for the foreseeable future.

Finally, I’ve added a “Goals” category to the blog for easy access to my entire goal log.

Launching a product on Udemy

Well, I’ve decided that the first project that I want to undertake is to launch a course about optimizing WordPress on Udemy.

I’ve been working on it for 10 days and I think it will be pretty darn cool when it’s done.  The goal is to create something that I’m really passionate about, bring it to the market, make a few sales, and keep building and launching new things.

I’ve also been experimenting with Adobe After Effects for video production and it’s really amazing.  I can’t believe it took me this long to mess around with it, but creating this course and trying to create something unique motivated me to check it out.

To get started on the right foot, I bought a set of animated text from Video Hive that allows me to create moving text for an intro for my Udemy course without have to create every single slide and motion.  So basically … it lets you get started making an animated into with very little knowledge of After Effects.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to use this blog to document my life as an entrepreneur instead of my initial intention of using it as some kind of public accountability which I wrote about in my first post.

Here’s my thinking … if I write about my goals, projects, and what I’m doing as an entrepreneur, I will still get the benefit of public accountability without too much self revelation into my personal life and I might actually help some other people and get a few readers along the way to interact with.

Once the Udemy course is done, I’ll put an official post on here about the course and document my process for creating the marketing material, driving traffic, and getting publicity for the course.

That’s all for now … maybe next time I’ll add an image to the post and “get all fancy!”