Cloudflare needs a couple of special setup tweaks to work with WordPress
Almost all bloggers who use WordPress know that a fast and secure website is critical. The first step is to use a reliable and fast web hosting provider or to use managed WordPress hosting.
I know that many authors are now using WordPress to help in book promotion. But the file sizes of large book covers and images can be resource hungry along with some social media and auto-posting plugins, so speed should be a priority.
The best three ways to reduce loading times for a WordPress site are:
- Use a caching plugin
- Use a lazy loading for images
- Use CDN services
There are thousands of articles, reviews and opinions online regarding the choices of these four key speed elements, so I won’t go into any depth here in this article. I will focus mainly on getting WordPress to run smoothly and fast with your Cloudflare account.
However, before I go on to setting up Cloudflare for WordPress, I should preface my advice by indicating what speed tools I am currently using on my site.
- For caching, I use W3 Total Cache for browser and page caching.
- For lazy loading, I am using A3 Lazy Load.
All three are the free versions available form the WordPress plugin repository and work superbly well together.
It is possible to minify with W3 Total Cache and it works perfectly. But I find that Autoptimize is a little better because I don’t have to make any setting adjustments when I add or delete plugins.
While these three plugins alone reduce page loading times extremely well and often result in near 100% results on some speed test sites, there remains a problem of distance.
My site server is in Geneva in Switzerland and it is very fast and reliable, especially for site visitors from Europe.
But for say, my US visitors, there is a long distance for the site data to travel. This results in slightly slower page loading times, which affects user experience, in the US, Canada, South Africa and Australia.
Using a CDN service solves the distance problem.
Cloudflare is well known as a reliable CDN (Content Delivery Network) provider that is used by bloggers and enterprise clients. Cloudflare support is good, but 95% of the questions you might have can be answered from the official Cloudflare knowledge base.
In brief, once you change your IP addresses, Cloudflare stores your static files on local servers. Your data can then delivered much faster from the Cloudflare cache to site visitors in any location because more than 80% of any one of your web pages consists of static data. However, it does not store static HTML by default, but this is no big deal.
There are many choices of CDN providers, but Cloudflare has three huge advantages.
- One: The network is worldwide.
- Two: It can protect against hackers.
- Three: It is free.
For these reasons, it is the logical first choice for bloggers wanting to use a CDN to improve their site performance.
Setting up a WordPress site on Cloudflare is a straightforward process and there are a lot of in-depth articles explaining the process. Here is one article example explaining the basic Cloudflare setup steps.
Basically, you will be transferring your DNS servers from your web host to Cloudflare servers.
The only tip I would add is that the Cloudflare WordPress plugin is not really necessary. If you want to use it you will need to use your Cloudflare API key to connect.
But it is just as easy to start your installation from the Cloudflare website and then complete the setup steps and add web applications from the Cloudflare desktop page and admin area. But the choice is up to you.
Now you have a very fast site for all your worldwide visitors.
After setting up Cloudflare, your site is now much more secure and faster loading.
When you check your site and run a few speed tests with Google PageSpeed, GTmetrix or Pingdom, you will see how fast your site is after deploying Cloudflare.
Everything is working, your site is lightning fast, you are pleased, so all is great with the world.
Except! What’s going on with my WordPress admin page?
When you go to the admin page, little problems might start to appear.
The most common issue is slow loading. Or on rare occasions, perhaps a white page.
After a few days, the problems usually tend to get worse.
I nearly tore my hair out trying to resolve these annoying issues. Normally it is only a matter of searching on Google to find a WordPress fix, but this one eluded me for a while.
In the end, the solution came from two pieces of information that I glued together after my frustrating hunt through probably hundreds of advice articles.
The problem is that Cloudflare, WordPress and your admin pages are all using different and competing cache settings.
How to get WordPress admin pages to work with Cloudflare.
There are two simple steps involved in solving your WordPress slow admin page problems on Cloudflare.
First, and most importantly, you have to change one automatic cache purge setting in Cloudflare.
This is where all the admin page problems start from because you need to use your WordPress cache settings and not the default Cloudflare settings.
The default settings are for a couple of hours of caching, which is why the admin pages lag so badly. To fix this is very easy.
How to change the cache setting
Go to your login page for Cloudflare, and click on the menu item, Caching.
Now, change the Browser Cache Expiration setting to Respect Existing Headers from the drop-down selection box.
Your cache is now working correctly. The cache for you admin pages is now controlled by WordPress and not Cloudflare.
Add your Cloudflare page rules
Next is to fine-tune your admin page performance.
Now go to Page Rules to set up your page rules.
You will need to add three rules. As you only get three rules with a free Cloudflare account, it is important to use them wisely.
Add your first rule for your wp-admin page. You can copy the rule below but edit it to your own site URL.
Then add two settings. Cache Level and Disable Performance.
You can set the cache to Bypass on all of the three rules if you wish but there are some files that standard caching helps load a little faster.
The second rule is to stop any interference with your draft preview function.
Lastly is to make sure Cloudflare doesn’t affect your login page.
Now you need to set the order of your rules to make sure they load in the correct order.
To set the order, pull up or down using the arrows on the left of the rule box.
That’s all you need to do.
Now you will have all your backend WordPress admin pages behaving perfectly again.
Using a CDN is well worth considering for any WordPress site.
Not only for extra site security and to reduce page loading times, but also to ensure that your site visitors have a positive experience when they visit your site.
Google has made it clear that it prefers fast loading websites and has made page speed a strong ranking factor. So this is another very important reason to think about upgrading your site with a CDN.
Maintaining your blog and ensuring it is working for you is always work in progress. So keep looking for small improvements you can make to your blog to increase your visitor satisfaction and return rate.