Cut WordPress Load Time in  Half

With Google now considering site speed as a ranking factor, it’s important to keep your site running at it’s fastest. There are many ways to improve the performance of a WordPress website. Using a content delivery network is one of the best bang for your buck methods. But how much faster can a CDN really make your website? Let’s take a look at a real world case study.

I’m going to install MaxCDN, an affordable CDN option starting at $39, onto 3 high volume WordPress websites and track the results to find out. In order to analyze the effectiveness of the CDN I need an accurate measure of each sites current speed, before any adjustments are made. Pingdom provides a great set of speed testing tools to help with this.

Configure MaxCDN using W3 Total Cache

The W3 Total Cache plugin makes it very easy to use your MaxCDN in WordPress. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Login into your MaxCDN account
  2. Browse to Manage Zones > Pull Zones and create a new pull zone, entering your website’s URL. Check Compression if your server supports it. If you’re not sure run a free HTTP compression test.
  3. Browse to My Settings > API and click the + Add Key button. Remember the API ID and API Key.
    Log into your WordPress install and browse to the Performance menu. This will only be available if W3 Total Cache is installed.
  4. In the General section of the Performance menu, scroll down to the Content Delivery Network box, check Enable and select NetDNA / MaxCDN from the dropdown. Save your settings.
  5. Browse to the Content Delivery Network section of the Performance page (W3 Total Cache settings). Add your MaxCDN API ID and API Key in the Configuration box.
  6. Enter your MaxCDN hostname. This can be found on the MaxCDN dashboard under Content Zones.
  7. Click the Modify Attachment URLs button and follow the instructions to migrate your Media Library files over to your CDN.
  8. Save your settings, and empty all cache previous stored by W3 Total Cache.

That’s it, all done!

To verify that the CDN is working view your website source and search for your MaxCDN hostname. It should be sprinkled throughout the source code.

For advanced, customized themes I recommend changing any references to the current domain manually. 6.8 sec reduction

Before: 9.8 secs

Openview Blog Pingdom Benchmark - No CDN

After: 3 secs

Openview Blog Pingdom Benchmark - With CDN 5.7 sec reduction

Before: 9 secs

Openview Partners Pingdom Benchmark - No CDN

After: 3.3 secs

Openview Partners Pingdom Benchmark - With CDN 3.8 sec reduction

Before: 7.8 secs

Openview Labs Pingdom Benchmark - With CDN

After: 4 secs

Openview Labs Pingdom Benchmark - With CDN

Not bad at all!

Using MaxCDN I was able to reduce 16.3 seconds of load time across all 3 sites with very minimal file editing.

Meet the Author

Kevin Leary, WordPress Consultant

I'm a freelance web developer and WordPress consultant in Boston, MA with 16 years of experience building websites and applications. View a portfolio of my work or request an estimate for your next project.