Today I’ll touch on the topic of Caching as it applies to website performance.  It’s all about speed.  Page Load Speed is Vital to ensure quality User Experience for the people visiting your website.  And the important role Search Engines have in bringing you those visitors.

Page Load Speed accounts for at least 5% of the overall “score” your website is given, which determines its position in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

While 5% of your score may not seem like much,  it’s enough to tip the scales in your favour, or against you.  Particularly in highly competitive markets.  Faster loading websites convert more visitors into customers, which at the end of the day, is what pays the bills.

Enabling caching is a simple and effective method to increase your Page Load Speed.  And remember to Optimise Those Images BEFORE you upload them!

What do Storm Troopers have to do with caching?  Well, they all look identical. Keep reading, it will all make sense soon.

What is Caching?

There are two main types of Caching, Server Caching and Browser Caching.

Server Caching

To put it simply, a cached file is a snapshot of your web page that is stored and delivered to your visitors.  When you visit a website, the browser you are using makes a request to the server for each piece of information within the webpage.  This process of calculation, retrieval and delivery adds precious seconds to your Page Load Speed.

As the process is essentially identical for every visitor to your website, by caching the information only the first visitor to the page needs to go through the data retrieval process.  Following visitors are presented with a snapshot of the finished product.

Making sense? Think of the old “here’s one I prepared earlier” trick used on cooking shows, to save time filming

Browser Caching

Today most web browsers support caching.  This means if you visit the same website multiple times, a cached copy of the website (saved from a previous visit) is stored in your browser.  The next time you visit, the cached file is delivered, which drastically reduces resources and saves a great deal of time.

The concept is pretty much the same as Server Caching and when the two forms of caching are combined, the results can be staggering.  Other than server performance and optimising images, caching is the next highest contributor to fast page load speed.

So if you’ve made changes to your website and saved them, but can’t see any difference when you view the page – chances are you’re viewing a cached copy of the page. Therefore you will have to clear the cache to view the page correctly.

Assuming your website has been built using the WordPress CMS, there are a huge range of caching plugins that can be used to speed up your pages.  Plugins that I’ve found useful include W3TC, WP Fastest Cache and Comet Cache.

Only ever use ONE caching plugin on your WordPress installation at any given time.

Each website has unique demands and settings must be tweaked to get the best possible speed gains, without compromising things such as image quality.  It’s quite easy to “break” a website by maxing out every caching parameter and minification option of your chosen plugin.

The WordPress Theme used to power your website also plays a role in choosing the correct plugin (and its settings) for your particular purpose.

Having a website that loads quickly will give you a noticeable SEO boost, which contributes to increased visitors and more conversions.  Caching is just one of the many factors that can assist in delivering your web pages to visitors at lightning speed.

Do you have any caching tips  you’d like to share?  What’s your favourite caching plugin?  If you enjoyed reading this article or have anything to add, leave a Comment below.

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