The speed at which your site loads is becomig increasingly important. Not only does a speedy site provide a good user experience, but it’s becoming increasingly important from an SEO perspective – site speed is a factor that Google considers in its rankings.
One of the easiest and most effective ways you can speed up your site, particularly if you are on an inexpensive shared web hosting plan is to use a service called Cloudflare. Cloudflare, which you can use for free, will speed up your site, help protect it from spammers AND help make it more secure. Here’s how it does that:
CloudFlare protects and accelerates any website online. Once your website is a part of the CloudFlare community, its web traffic is routed through our intelligent global network. We automatically optimize the delivery of your web pages so your visitors get the fastest page load times and best performance. We also block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources. The result: CloudFlare-powered websites see a significant improvement in performance and a decrease in spam and other attacks.
For most sites, the free account with the default settings will be sufficient. One caveat is that if your site has SSL you will need the paid version of Cloudflare.
The steps to activate CloudFlare are as follows and take literally about 5 or 10 minutes to complete.
1) Sign up for a free CloudFlare account here
2) Add your site
3) Configure DNS – this is the technical part. If you have a complex server/domain set up you will need to know what you are doing on this screen. For more regular users, CloudFlare will automatically get the settings right for you and you can go with the defaults they provide.
4) Settings – So far I have used the default settings which are using the CDN + basic optimizations and having the security set to medium.
5) Update nameservers – This is slightly technical but easy to do. Even if you don’t understand why you are doing it it, all it involves is copying pasting the CloudFlare nameservers into 2 boxes in your domain registration account (ie. wherever you bought your domain name). This is best to do at a low traffic time for your site. CloudFlare is taking over your DNS and while I’ve never experienced a hiccup or interruption to my site, whenever you are making changes to things like DNS, there’s hiccup potential.
6) Install the CloudFlare WordPress plugin and enter your CloudFlare API key (which you can find inside your CloudFlare account) and email address.
That’s it, you’re done!! Shortly after activation you’ll be able to log into your CloudFlare account to get analytics on how your site is being protected and how much bandwidth CloudFlare is saving you, and you should see a difference in the speed at which your site loads up.
If you are using a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache you can enter your CloudFlare account into directly into the plugin and the two services will complement each other.