Updated November 20, 2015: Since publishing this post, I now use WP Rocket, a premium caching plugin. WP Rocket provides a superior result, an extremely streamlined configuration, and doesn't need any additional plugins to achieve great performance. WP Rocket costs $39 and is well worth the value. However, if you are very cost conscious, the method outlined in this post still deliver great results.
Like many new ‘online writers' I had an obsession with with making my first website as fast as possible. But, it seemed no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't crack the code — no pun intended. The more I tweaked, the worse it seemed to get. Caching programs helped. They provided a noticeable improvement, but not the performance I was hoping to get.
After awhile I had to accept that it just wasn't possible, at least not without handing my credit cards over to a specialist with questionable credentials. And, in reality you reach a point when the real-world sinks in and you realize that increasing page speed by a second or two is really working on margins when it comes to the big picture of operating an online business. It's much more important to focus on creating great content and writing clean code.
But that changed recently as I discovered a few plugins that resulted in a dramatic improvement in performance. If you suffer with the same obsession to improve your WordPress page speed, give these plugins a try. They cured my obsession.
Before these installing these plugins I used W3 Total Cache (W3TC) and the free version of Cloudflare on my sites. I had respectable results, but here's my new configuration:
First, I changed from W3TC to WP Total Cache. W3TC is very good, but it has a huge set of options and settings. I never felt I had the very best settings for my sites and the advice from the in the online community was often vague and varied greatly. WP Total Cache is much easier to set up – generally speaking, stick with the recommended settings.
The next plugin I installed was Remove Query Strings from Static Resources. Just download and activate. There are no settings and it just works.
Finally, I still use Cloudflare. Under the Performance Tab I set the Caching Level to Aggressive and check the JS Tab under “Auto Minify”.
Here are my results from Pingdom:
And from GMetrix: