How I Improved My Site Speed by 362% In Under 10 Minutes

By Chris Lee 76 comments

monoflat_icons_240You may have noticed that RankXL loads faster than it used to…

A lot faster.

I didn’t change hosting plans. RankXL still runs on Bluehost’s shared hosting plan.
(EDIT: RankXL now runs on Traffic Planet.)

But I did do something I now regret not doing a lot sooner: use CloudFlare, combined with the WordPress plugin, W3 Total Cache.

I’ll get into them both in a second.

But first…

What is CloudFlare?

I’ve seen the name, CloudFlare a bunch of times before in the past, but never really took the time to research what it actually is.

According to their website, CloudFlare “supercharges” your website.

At first, I assumed it was just another hosting company.

But after digging around, I learned that it isn’t a hosting company at all.

Then what is it?

The short answer, according to their website:

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.41.25 PM

I won’t get into the technical aspects, because I don’t even fully understand everything myself.

Essentially, it’s not a CDN, but acts like one.

Instead of files being served directly from your web host, it goes through one of CloudFlare’s globally distributed data centres instead.

It protects your site from attacks and serves up your webpages at lightning speed.

And the best part is… it’s free.

You’re not changing your hosting company by using CloudFlare.

CloudFlare works on top of your existing hosting plan.

As you’ll see later in the tutorial, you don’t need to configure anything in your hosting settings, and only need to change your nameservers.

Let’s take a look at the results of using it.

What happened when I moved to CloudFlare?

To test my page load speed, I used Pingdom.

Take note of the “Load time.”

Here are the results before using CloudFlare:

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.53.53 PM

I was actually pretty shocked to see that.

That’s not good at all.

And here are the results after installing the W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin (without CloudFlare)

Website speed test 2

Much better.

But not good enough.

Here are the results after using CloudFlare combined with the W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin

Website speed test

Without spending any money, and less than 10 minutes of set up… that’s awesome!

I shaved nearly 8 seconds off my page load time.

How to set it all up

Now that you’ve seen the results, I’ll show you how to set everything up.

CloudFlare makes it really easy to set up.

You don’t need to install any software or hardware.

You only need to change your nameservers.

And it only takes about 5 minutes to do.

STEP 1: Go to your hosting C-Panel

You can sign up directly from CloudFlare’s website, but I chose to do it from my hosting account C-Panel.

I’m using Bluehost for this example, but most hosting plans will have the same options.

Under the “Upgrades” tab, you should see an icon labelled, CloudFlare.

options cpanel

Click it and you’ll see this page:

cloudflare set up

Enter in your email and click, the “next” button.

Your email will be your username.

On the next page, your account is set up. All you have to do is log in.

cloudflare login

On the next page, click the button highlighted in red to log in.

You don’t need to set up a password.

Instead, click on “Forgot your password?” and you’ll be emailed instructions to create one.

STEP 2: Adding your website to CloudFlare

Once you set your password and log in, you can now add your site.

It’s pretty straightforward from here.

Click on “Add site” and enter in your domain.

add in domain

CloudFlare will scan your site.

When it’s done, click on continue.

On the next page after that, just click continue.

You don’t need to change anything. Don’t touch any of the defaults if you’re not familiar with what they are.

If you have a subdomain for your site, then see this guide on how to set it up.

And that’s that.

CloudFlare will then give you 2 DNS nameservers, and all you need to do is go to your registrar where you bought your domain, and change your current nameservers with the new ones that CloudFlare gave you.

It will take a few minutes before your new nameservers take effect.

There will be no downtime, and your website will remain online so you don’t need to worry about that.

And that’s it!

You’ve just set up your site with CloudFlare.

Now it’s time to go even further by using W3 Total Cache.

Step 3: Install and set up W3 Total Cache.

If you’re not using W3 Total Cache on your websites already, you’re missing out on a ton of speed.

It’s the most robust caching/speed plugin available for WordPress, and it’s free to use.

First, install the plugin.

Link: https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/

Because the software is so sophisticated, there are a lot of things you can configure in the settings.

It isn’t too difficult to get running, though.

Just follow these steps outlined by WP Beginner.

Step 4: Connect CloudFlare

Now that that’s set up, we want to connect the plugin with our CloudFlare account so that they run synchronously.

In your W3 Total Cache settings, click on “Extensions.”

extensions cloudflare

Then activate CloudFlare, and go into “Settings” to configure.

Click on Enable, enter in your email (the same one you used to register to CloudFlare) and enter in your domain.

Screen Shot 2015-09-12 at 4.45.51 PM

Finding your API Key

Simply click on the link that says “find it here” and it will take you directly to your CloudFlare settings page where you can find your API key.

api key

Copy and paste it into the field and then save changes.

That’s it.

You’re all done.

Are there any problems running CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache together?

Not at all. They work very well alongside each other.

The only thing you have to remember is not to turn on the “minify” options for both CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache.

Only one of them should be turned on.

They’re both turned off by default so you shouldn’t need to worry about this, though.

I have mine turned off for both.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to maximize your site speed, then I highly recommend going through the steps in this tutorial.

RankXL isn’t big enough yet where I feel I need to invest in more expensive hosting options. But even while running on shared hosting from Bluehost, my site speed now rivals the speed of bigger blogs running on much more expensive hosting plans.
(EDIT: I moved RankXL to Traffic Planet. Check out the results here.)

And I didn’t have to spend a penny to make it happen.

You should see a huge improvement in your site load speed, especially if you’re using cheaper hosting solutions to begin with.

Test your website speed at Pingdom and you’ll notice a big improvement.

Leave a Reply

76 Comments

  • Reply Gabe September 12, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    I always had questions about CloudFlare but this article pretty much answered all of them for me, thanks!

    I’m glad I find your site it’s been a huge help and is very inspirational

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Happy to hear that!

  • Reply Josh September 12, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Great write up Chris! I think I will look Into cloud fare, I am currently using max cdn with W3 but that costs 9.99$ a month. Free is always better πŸ™‚

    • Reply Chris Lee September 12, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks Josh. Haven’t tried MaxCDN before, but heard great things. I’m sure it’s faster than just using the free method I outlined.

      • Reply Josh September 12, 2015 at 9:13 pm

        Not much… My site loaded in 1.25 secs but also use traffic planet hosting.

  • Reply Genta Kusuma September 12, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks a lot Chris, for the awesome sharing. I really never hear this methode before. And I’ll try this methode to my site..

    But How about different region or country? Is it influence for use this metodHe ( for speed) to our site?

    Regards,
    Genta

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Different countries and regions are fine. CloudFlare has data centres all around the world.

  • Reply Mahesh September 13, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Hey Chris,
    . Thanks for the post. I had cleared all my doubts regarding to cloudfare.Thanks for a detailed post.expecting much more from you.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks for reading.

  • Reply Shawna September 13, 2015 at 2:09 am

    Had no idea that you could make CloudFlare work with W3 Total Cache like that! Definitely gotta implement that on my sites.

    Also, I don’t think you have to do the nameserver change if you do Cloudflare via cPanel…unless it’s different with Bluehost?

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      The nameservers are changed at your domain registrar, not your hosting, so you will still have to change it manually.

  • Reply Sharath September 13, 2015 at 6:19 am

    I just tried this on one of my websites and saw the page speed go up from 4.5 secs to 2.54 secs. That site is still on shared hosting and I think this is brilliant! Thanks a lot, Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Nice!

  • Reply Adam Kotala September 13, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Great Guide Chris!

    I had already installed Total cache before, but with your Cloudflare idea i am able to reduce the load speed from 5 seconds to just 1.9sec!

    Thanks again, you are doing great job for everybody!

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      That’s awesome. Glad to hear that.

  • Reply Richard September 13, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Hello Chris,

    Very useful information!

    Perhaps I can add to the information you kindly shared: it might also help others seeking faster site loading speeds. I use https://gtmetrix.com/ to measure page loading speed ( Pingdom is very good, I use it though for measuring site uptime data for my own hosting company). GT Metrix also provides a very comprehensive plan to increase site speeds and optimise everything. To analyse one’s website one just needs to add one’s URL and the results take a few minutes.

    Thanks again for sharing your tutorial: very useful!

    Kind regards,
    Richard

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Richard.

    • Reply Dennis Staal November 12, 2015 at 8:53 am

      Thanks Richard, didn’t know about GTMetrix, that is a very good site. I personally use http://www.webpagetest.org and sometimes http://www.giftofspeed.com when I want to test from different locations.

  • Reply Gaurav September 13, 2015 at 11:49 am

    This is an excellent tutorial. I haven’t used bluehost yet but soon I will use it & use this method to speed up all my websites. Thanks!!

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks for your feedback.

  • Reply M.Jyothiprakash September 13, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    Till now I was in two minds whether to stay back with the same old hosting plan or move to Cloudfare, 100% convinced to move to latter after reading your article.Thanks a lot Chris.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      No problem!

  • Reply Theodore Nwangene September 13, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    This is really awesome Chris,
    I’ve also heard a lot about Cloudflare but have never bordered to check it out and see what impact it can create on my blog speed.

    I guess i will have to go check it out at once.

    Thanks for this awesome tutorial.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Theodore.

  • Reply mohdazizi September 13, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    thank, since i ready your email newletters, my site improve significantly.

    thank again

    • Reply Chris Lee September 13, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Glad to hear that!

  • Reply Laura | SmoothiesCentral September 14, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Impressive results Chris!

    Just one more tip to add: you can use the free wpsmushit plugin that will drastically reduce the file size of an image, while retaining visual quality. I have it on my blog and it shaves 10-30% off images during upload… you should definitely give it a try…

    I’m gonna try and put cloudflare or maxcdn on one of my blogs. Thanks again, you are doing great job for the rest of us!

    • Reply Chris Lee September 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks for the tip, Laura! I’ll give it a try.

  • Reply Jafar Abhi September 14, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    I always had questions about CloudFlare but this article answered all of them for me, thanks!

  • Reply Pulkit September 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    This is the first time I am reading your blog. This is the kind of knowledge that impresses, educates and motivates me. Trust me i am floored. I am also just starting out on internet marketing stuff and have been trying to gather a lot of info regarding SEO, On page Offpage,affiliate, Adsense etc. Though your expertise seems to be a little more on the Adsense side. but I am planning to go for amazon affiliate first, solely because of the instant perks one may achieve. It would be great if you can guide me to the best possible resources that would help a newbie like me. Domain and hosting things done, Idea also created. Now I need the right methods using right techniques to follow my dream!
    P.S: There is so much honesty in your article that it conveys the message that you truly want to help your readers with best of the knowledge you have gained over the years. Wish you more luck. thanks

    • Reply Chris Lee September 17, 2015 at 2:49 am

      Thanks Pulkit πŸ™‚ Best of luck with your projects.

  • Reply Yunar September 17, 2015 at 12:38 am

    Hi Chris,
    which is the most important, performance grade or load time? Mine is Perf. grade84/100 Requests31 Load time4.46s Page size406.6kB I only use W3 Total cache without cloudflare.

    • Reply Chris Lee September 17, 2015 at 2:47 am

      They’re both important. I focus more on load time. Try cloudflare, you could probably improve that pretty significantly.

  • Reply gil September 30, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    hey chris what do you use for your CDN? wpbegginer says to use MaxCDN. thanks alot

    • Reply Chris Lee October 1, 2015 at 12:57 am

      Hey Gil, I don’t use a CDN. Just CloudFlare.

  • Reply Karan October 4, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Hello Chris Lee, I read your article on nohatdigital “adsense millionaires…” that how came to know about your site. Same case is mine I too had seen at many places Cloudflare but did nothing about it.Thanks for posting such speed boosting article that too at zero cost !!!

    • Reply Chris Lee October 5, 2015 at 10:14 pm

      No problem. Glad it was helpful.

  • Reply Vijay kumar October 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I am interested to check things for a trail first

  • Reply Jakob October 12, 2015 at 6:11 am

    Before 7.52s loading and after w3 + cloudflare = 852ms , thanks !

    • Reply Chris Lee October 12, 2015 at 7:16 am

      Sweet! Thanks for sharing your results with us, Jakob.

  • Reply Harry Singh October 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Hi Chris, Very nicely written post for understanding and implementing cloudfare. Keep up the good work mate strongly following you these days. Cheers!

    • Reply Chris Lee October 17, 2015 at 3:29 am

      Thanks Harry πŸ™‚

  • Reply AJ November 20, 2015 at 1:53 am

    Hi Chris,
    Would you know if it’s possible to have one CloudFare account (with one email address) and using this for multiple websites? I am planning to implement this for all my sites in my shared hosting account.
    Thanks, great post.

    • Reply Chris Lee November 20, 2015 at 2:20 am

      You should be able to have multiple sites on your one account πŸ™‚

  • Reply Peduli Sehat December 11, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Hi Chris,
    I use WP Super Cache to improve my site speed, whether W3 Total Cache is better?

    • Reply Chris Lee December 11, 2015 at 4:19 pm

      You’ll have to google that. I’ve been sticking with total cache and haven’t tried super cache thoroughly enough to answer that.

  • Reply Mike February 16, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Good stuff.
    Changed my site from “faster than 37% of all tested websites” to “faster than 76% of all tested websites” in 2 minutes!

    • Reply Chris Lee February 17, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      Sweet! Thanks for sharing, Mike.

  • Reply goutam sachdeva May 31, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Thanks bro for the great post.

    • Reply Chris Lee June 1, 2016 at 3:45 am

      No problem Goutam.

  • Reply Muhammad Ismail August 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Hello chris,
    This article cleared a lot of confusion that was going in my mind about the Cloudflare system. let me implement it on blog and one quick question. i am using WP Rocket plugin for speed optimization .
    What’s your suggestion about it ?
    i will be waiting of your answer

    • Reply Chris Lee August 23, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      I haven’t tried WP Rocket so can’t comment on that.

  • Reply Sufyan September 17, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    i reduced my site speed from 4secs to 1.2secs using a simple..

    anyways thanks much for your info

    • Reply Chris Lee September 21, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Awesome!

  • Reply Mohamed Elhosary October 9, 2016 at 3:02 am

    Im using hostgator hosting and i cant find cloudflare at there .
    so what i have to do?

    • Reply Chris Lee October 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

      You can install it manually following the instructions through the Cloudflare website.

  • Reply sam November 27, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    If one has cloud hosting, is there any need to use cloudflare and W3 total cache?
    Thanks.

    • Reply Chris Lee December 4, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      Not completely sure how much it will affect your speed in that case. You might want to ask your hosting provider.

  • Reply Bruno Vincent February 25, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Can I enable the SSL certificate with with that?

    • Reply Chris Lee March 10, 2017 at 12:46 pm

      Yes, WPX gives you free SSL certificates once you sign up.

  • Reply Steve February 26, 2017 at 10:05 am

    Yep, I just signed up to Cloudflare myself. All I had to do was change the nameservers at the domain name host site and they took care of the rest.

    Backstory: I had some DDoS attack my VPS, or similar and it stood up to the attack (or whatever it was), but since then, I’ve been looking at ways to plug holes even further, do things better and speed up the site.
    I’d had Cloudflare suggested as a CDN to speed up the load times, so I signed up. However, as it turns out it’s better than that, as it’s a DNS thing, so can protect your server from a flood of attacks and more. The caching and stuff is does is amazing.
    All connections to the site run faster, and domains that I have on the VPS that are not run through Cloudfare are actually slower – seriously.
    So, I’m sold. It’s a winner.

    • Reply Chris Lee March 10, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      Yeah those would definitely scare me into getting higher security setup myself. Cloudflare is so awesome. Glad you share my opinion πŸ™‚

  • Reply sarina March 8, 2017 at 7:24 am

    Hi chris, thanx for this tip; I see that you have got ssl on your site – did u get it from cloudflare – if yes – can you describe how you did it

    • Reply Chris Lee March 16, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Hey Sarina, I didn’t get it from cloudflare. You can get it from anywhere you like and ask your hosting company to help set it up.

  • Reply Joe April 3, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Chris,
    Just wanted to take a quick moment to thank you, great post!! thank you for taking the time to and sharing this helpful info withus:)

    Was just curious, if i went through all the cloudflare steps (including linking w3cache to it but, don’t actually switch my name servers to cloudflare do I still get the speed lift or is it only by me using the cloudflare dns?

    Thanks, would really like to know.

    • Reply Chris Lee April 5, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Glad you liked it Joe πŸ™‚ Not completely sure, but you should change it to cloudflare’s dns unless there’s a reason you can’t. Then contact your hosting (or cloudflare) to ask what the proper steps are.

  • Reply Matt May 18, 2017 at 3:41 am

    Wow! Great post. I have been thinking why my site site loads so slowly, my customers have started complaining. This article have given me some great insights to improve my site speed. I had so many doubts if CloudFlare will work but with this article I am convinced.

    Thanks Chris for these insights.

    • Reply Chris Lee May 18, 2017 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks Matt! Glad it was helpful. Hope you can see some good results with it.

  • Reply Johnwick May 24, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Excellent tutorial post!

    I also recently added CloudFlare to my site before that it was around 8 sec but after CloudFlare, it’s down to 2 sec. but not tried with cache plugin bcoz I using SiteGround hosting, the company provide the default cache plugin it works very well. (sg cache press)

    After reading this post now I have the plan to switch to W3 cache plugin but having confusion which cache plugin is best.

    WP rocket or WP super cache or W3 total.

    One questions Chris Before you use W3 total did you researched about best plugins?
    Any suggestion chris?

    • Reply Chris Lee May 25, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Thank you John! That’s great to hear.

      I haven’t tried the other ones. I saw that other marketers were using Total Cache so just installed that one. They’ll all give similar results.

  • Reply Yasser June 7, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Hi Chris. I’m looking for ways to increase site speed and TTFB (time to first byte) and I’ve been hearing people using Cloudflare. So thanks for the post and recommendation. I was wondering, do you know if Cloudflare affects local rankings? Since I heard it displays your site to a viewer closest to where the viewer is.

    • Reply Chris Lee June 8, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Not quite sure about that.

  • Reply Swati June 8, 2017 at 7:50 am

    I liked this article very much.
    Saved it for future reference.
    Your writing style is also very easy to understand.

    • Reply Chris Lee June 8, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks Swati.

  • Reply Gaurav Ghosh July 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    Thank a lot for sharing a wonderful article about how to use cloudflare to speed up the website . I will follow and speed up my website . Thanks again .

    • Reply Chris Lee July 10, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Awesome!