Caching and plugins

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Hi, this is the second time I am posting on this topic, but I can't find the previous post. But if it's a duplicate I'm sorry.

I have two Wordpress accounts with Inmotion. I have set up the Inmotion Cache Manager on both, but it seems I have only set up the NGINX Helper plugin on one (not sure why I missed the other one). I am using a very minimalist theme, but by the time I add graphic, plugins, etc, the load times are slowing down, and I want to speed them up if I can.

I have tried various optimisation plugins (WP Fastest Cache, Hummingbird, WP_Optimize, Autoptimise), singly and sometimes a caching plugin in combination with the Autoptimise plugin. After extensive testing, I found that none of these different plugins improved site speed, and I stayed with the Inmotion cache manager.

I've searched on the web and there is so much conflicting advice. So I'm wondering if you could clarify these questions please:

1. Do I need to use both the Cache Manager and the NGINX Helper plugin for best results?

2. If I have both of them, do you think I need any other optimisation plugins? Which do you suggest?

3. Google Page Speed Insights identifies "Eliminate render-blocking resources" as a major issue, and recommends I " inline critical assets or defer less important resources". Does Inmotion cache manager or NGINX helper plugin address these issues? Would another optimisation plugin assist with these?

Thanks for any advice you can offer me.

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Ronnie H.
Quote from EricH

Hi Arnel, thank you for such a helpful and detailed reply. I really appreciate it. I hope it's OK to ask you just a little more please.

Firstly, you did choose the correct sites, and those GTMetrix results (99% & 97%) were very good. However I presume Google ranking is based on their own metrics, and with Google the sites don't perform quite as well. I get these Google results:

Page Speed - the Way:

Score: 74/100

Time to interactive: 4.5 sec

Render blocking resources: 1.83 sec

Initial server response time: 0.97 sec

Page Speed - ITAG:

Score: 84/100

Time to interactive: 3.6 sec (but yesterday it scored 4.5sec)

Render blocking resources: 2.02 sec

Initial server response time: 0.91 sec

On Google Search Console Core Web Vitals, 15 pages take over 4 sec to load on a mobile, which issues a warning to me.

So Google doesn't rate my sites as well as GTMetrix does. I don't use video and my graphics are generally small, so it must be something else. I'm wondering whether GTMetrix has analysed on a desktop while Google is now using mobile. So three more questions to you please:

1. Would you recommend any plugins (WP Super cache, W3 Total Cache, Autoptimise, etc) that would specifically help with mobile optimisation and/or render blocking resources?

2. Are there settings in Inmotion's Cache Manager or NGINX Helper that I might have missed that specifically help with these?

3. Would an upgrade to a higher Inmotion plan help me at all with mobile page speed?

Thanks you so much for your help. I hope this isn't asking too much.

Hi, Eric! I checked with Arnel, who said he'd take a look at these again when he had time, but I wanted to go ahead and see if I could offer any useful tips. 


I would advise against piling on cache managers. Anything beyond your server cache management, your site cache management (one plugin), and a CDN is more likely to lead to plugin conflicts than actually speed anything up. Think about the cache managers as being on various levels and try to have one at each level at most.  Anything beyond that isn't actually going to help -- two caching plugins running at the same time are more likely to slow the site down than speed it up. 


Also, I think you're going to see diminishing returns in terms of overly technical WordPress optimizations. Here are my personal suggestions:

1. I strongly agree with what Arnel said regarding image optimization. The EWWW Image Optimizer he recommended is quite good, but Smush could be worth trying as well. In addition to image optimization, Smush has lazy loading features that load images in the order they're needed rather than all at once. It may help on image heavier pages of your sites and this may help with the time to interactive you mentioned. If you opt for a different image optimizer, then consider a standalone lazy-load if you don't have it already.  


2. Also as Arnel mentioned, try out some CDNs. These will improve load times on your sites in places geographically far from the server.


3. When it comes to caching settings, make sure the Default Refresh Time of your InMotion WordPress caching is not set too short. If you have a really short refresh time, then you won't see the speed benefits of caching. 

4. Since you already have a pretty well optimized WordPress site, I'd wait on the account upgrade. In your situation, the upgrade will be more useful once you have consistently high traffic and need more resources to make sure the high traffic is not what's dragging down load times. 

Hope that helps!

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EricH

Hi Arnel, thank you for such a helpful and detailed reply. I really appreciate it. I hope it's OK to ask you just a little more please.

Firstly, you did choose the correct sites, and those GTMetrix results (99% & 97%) were very good. However I presume Google ranking is based on their own metrics, and with Google the sites don't perform quite as well. I get these Google results:

Page Speed - the Way:

Score: 74/100

Time to interactive: 4.5 sec

Render blocking resources: 1.83 sec

Initial server response time: 0.97 sec

Page Speed - ITAG:

Score: 84/100

Time to interactive: 3.6 sec (but yesterday it scored 4.5sec)

Render blocking resources: 2.02 sec

Initial server response time: 0.91 sec

On Google Search Console Core Web Vitals, 15 pages take over 4 sec to load on a mobile, which issues a warning to me.

So Google doesn't rate my sites as well as GTMetrix does. I don't use video and my graphics are generally small, so it must be something else. I'm wondering whether GTMetrix has analysed on a desktop while Google is now using mobile. So three more questions to you please:

1. Would you recommend any plugins (WP Super cache, W3 Total Cache, Autoptimise, etc) that would specifically help with mobile optimisation and/or render blocking resources?

2. Are there settings in Inmotion's Cache Manager or NGINX Helper that I might have missed that specifically help with these?

3. Would an upgrade to a higher Inmotion plan help me at all with mobile page speed?

Thanks you so much for your help. I hope this isn't asking too much.

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Arnel C
  • Answered

Hello ErichH,

Thanks for your questions concerning the Caching and plugins.  If you are on a WordPress-optimized server, then NGINX is being used for reverse proxy caching.


1.  The basic cache management is being done by the cPanel Cache Manager. The NGINX Helper is more granular as it has the capability to set event specific actions to manage the cache. So, yes you can use both.  If you want to be very specific for purging your NGINX cache, then you would use the NGINX Helper.

2.  The need for optimization plugins will depend on the content of your site.  If you use large graphics, then you should make use of a graphic optimization plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer.  There are others, but I did hunt for your account based on your email address and I found 2 sites (not sure if these were the ones that you are referring to.  I typically use a 3rd party optimization tool like GTMetrix. It uses many of the same tools as some other optimization sites (e.g. Page Speed), but it brings them all together under multiple tabs and gives you really good recommendations.  Your 2 sites got an A grade for speed and performance.  The only thing that stood out to me was the recommendation to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN).  There are many CDN options available - just be aware that most are not free.  If your graphics aren't going to change too much, then you may want to consider making sure they're optimized for the web and then put them directly on the server.  Video should NOT be played from the web server.  I suggest an optimized solution like YouTube or Vimeo to provide video playback for your site viewers.  These video solutions are basically specialized video distribution networks, so when people play a video link from your site, then they are seeing the video optimized to their location on the network. Additionally, video from either of these solutions are optimized when saved to their servers and can be adjusted to the connection speed of the viewer.

3. The messages that you got from Page Speed - "Eliminate render-blocking resources and "inline critical assets or defer less important resources" have to do with eliminating unnecessary processing and references to resources that reside outside your website.  In other words, if you have website elements that don't necessarily need processing in order to be displayed (e.g. javascript) or graphics that are not saved directly to your website, then you can improve performance by replacing the script-dependent elements and saving static graphic files directly to your site.  

Though to be honest, when I looked at your websites (if those were the correct ones), everything did appear to be optimized. The other nice thing about GTMetrix is that they tell you how much of an impact their recommendations would make to your website.  And both of the suggestions you listed were medium-low to low in terms of improving performance.

You can see the results I compiled here, or you can go directly to the sit and run the test again to see how it's currently performing.


https://gtmetrix.com/reports/is-there-a-god.info/u4DLjW5A/
https://gtmetrix.com/reports/the-way.info/aU8wrjA5/

I hope that helps to answer your questons! If you have any further questions or comments, please let us know.


Kindest Regards,

Arnel C.