You need lots of elements in place to have a successful website, including an attractive design and clear content. Two of the most important elements, however, are speed and security. Security is essential to protect your data, users, and reputation, while speed is important for user experience and SEO. In fact, website speed is one of the key factors that Google takes into account when it decides where to rank your website in search. That brings us to Cloudflare: It will make your WordPress website faster and more secure.
In the following sections, you will see how Cloudflare’s ingenious technological trickery works. In a sentence, it wraps your website in a protective bubble while simplifying it and bringing it geographically closer to your users.
That sounds cool, doesn’t it? First, though, let’s look at why you should care about Cloudflare. It all comes down to one word – speed.
Speed, Speed, and More Speed
Having a fast-loading website has never been more important as visitors to websites want them to load almost instantly. In fact, most experts believe two seconds is all you have; after that, users start to get impatient. Crucially, they start to click away on a fairly easy-to-understand sliding scale the longer the website takes to load, the more users click away.
In fact, more users complain about speed than any other problem they face when accessing websites. This explains why Google is so concerned with website speed; if a user clicks away from a page, that user has had a bad user experience, and Google doesn’t like users to have a bad experience on the websites it sends them to.
In fact, Google cares so much about the speed of websites that it created a free tool for developers and website owners to check the speed of their sites and make improvements.
You also have to consider users’ attitudes to devices when you think about the speed of your website. More and more users now access the Internet on mobile devices. This brings a huge number of benefits to users, but that does not mean they accept any reduction in performance just because they use their phone—they want websites to load just as quickly on mobile as they do on a computer.
Lots of things can speed up a website, including improving your hosting, optimizing images, caching your website pages, and removing widgets and other features that take time to load while getting in the way of a good user experience. Usually, you have to look at all of these elements. Something that many people are now turning to is Cloudflare.
What Is Cloudflare?
When a visitor accesses your website, they connect directly to your server. They do this “in competition” with all the other traffic on the Internet that tries to access your website—crawlers, attack bots, other types of bot, etc. The phrase “in competition” was used above as your server only has a finite number of resources. In addition, it is also located in a single location.
Cloudflare, on the other hand, is a CDN (Content Distribution Network). This means visitors to your website first go through Cloudflare’s globally distributed network. The global nature of the service deals with the difficulties of distance because users are served your website’s pages via a data center that is geographically closer to them rather than your server, which could be on the other side of the world.
However, this is only the start of the process. Cloudflare also blocks attacks on your website that would otherwise eat into your server’s resources. It blocks legitimate crawlers and bots too— but only if they take up more than a reasonable amount of your server’s resources. Again, this removes additional unwanted traffic that would otherwise slow your site down. It also makes your website more secure in general, which is important for all WordPress websites, particularly if you don’t apply updates as quickly as you should.
Finally, Cloudflare serves visitors to your website an optimized version of your page so your website loads as quickly as possible.
In other words, it makes your website faster and more secure, plus it is free to use.
Getting Started with Cloudflare
There are a number of steps you have to take to properly speed up a WordPress website with Cloudflare. This starts with setting up a Cloudflare account and then adding your website.
This process is fairly simple, and the on-screen instructions walk you through the steps you have to take. Here is an outline of those steps:
- Register your account.
- Add your website. This will prompt Cloudflare to scan your website’s DNS records.
- Check the DNS records, and manually add any that are missing.
- Update your website’s nameservers with the nameservers created by Cloudflare.
There are two main settings in your Cloudflare account: Performance and Security. The default for Performance is CDN Only, and the default for Security is Medium, although you can change these if you want to.
Optimizing Your WordPress Website with Cloudflare
If you have the technical capabilities and you can control your web server, the first step you should take is to install the latest version of Mod_Cloudflare on your Apache server. This is not an essential stage in the process, however, and you can skip it.
You should take this next step though: installing and activating the Cloudflare WordPress plugin on your website.
Once installed, you can configure the plugin by going to Settings > Cloudflare. Then enter the email you used to register with Cloudflare. You also have to enter an API key. You can get this by logging into your Cloudflare account and going to My Settings.
After you have entered your API key, you will see the option to Apply Default Settings.
When you click Apply, you will be asked to confirm the use of Automatic Cache. This is the recommended setting, so click I’m Sure.
That is the final step to setting up Cloudflare with a WordPress website, although you can go into the plugin in more detail to optimize the settings. For most websites, however, the default settings will work fine and will result in a marked improvement in speed.