How Our WordPress Sites Use Cloudflare for Ludicrous Speed

Andrew Fiebert by Andrew Fiebert | Last Updated: November 22, 2021

I’ll confess, I am a long-time Cloudflare customer and fanboy. I’m so much of a fanboy that I’m also a shareholder. That’s how much I believe in the company and its products. The only other companies I own directly are Apple and Tesla.

In 2020 our WordPress websites reached over 11 million people, and we only paid Cloudflare $4,341.58 for the entire year. 😎

I will be as bold as to say that if you have a real business that earns real money online, moving to Cloudflare will be the best business decision you have made all year. Easy.

95% of Lasso customers would wind up paying less than $100/year.

Our customers with fast sites earn more money and they are able to afford pro-level tools, like Lasso, that even further amplify their income.

Success begets success.

What is Lasso?

We create things like this box below, and I highly recommend you check us out if you’re monetizing a WordPress site. We also use our displays to promote our courses and run our list of best affiliate programs.

Our Pick
Lasso: The All-In-One WordPress Plugin for Affiliate Marketing
14-Day Free Trial

A WordPress plugin that lets you add, manage, and display your affiliate links from any program, including Amazon. Increase conversions. Find new affiliate link opportunities. Earn more revenue! Less than 5 minutes to set up.

Learn More Affiliate Program

Our goal isn’t just to optimize your links and content and make you more money. One of the most significant contributors to conversion is site speed. It’s now also a core ranking factor in Google. So for our customers to be successful, they need to be fast.

That’s why we recommend using Cloudflare.

In this article I’m going to teach you:

  1. How much money you will save on hosting costs by using Cloudflare.
  2. How insanely fast Cloudflare will make your site.
  3. Where our $4,341.58 on Cloudflare went and how to estimate what you will pay.
  4. The three tools we use for speed.

How much money you will save on hosting costs by using them.

Do you know who I pay even less than Cloudflare? My WordPress hosting company.

In 2020 we only paid WP Engine $1,150. Or a paltry $104.54 per million visitors we reached. I thank Cloudflare for being able to do that.

Based on WP Engine’s highest listed plan, Scale, the default price is roughly $605 per million visitors or 6x higher than I pay.

So, how much will Cloudflare save you on hosting? Big sites will cut their hosting bill by 6x and smaller sites by far more.

This is true regardless of your hosting company because Cloudflare makes host pricing tiers largely irrelevant. If you’re with a less-powerful host, using Cloudflare is an easy way to boost site speed without needing to upgrade your hosting company.

To understand how this all works, you need to know what a CDN is or a Content Delivery Network. Stay with me. I’ll be quick.

A CDN is a service that sits between your visitors and your website and saves copies of your website. They then serve this page faster than you ever could to every single user. Since they store both your HTML and your Images the server you pay for at your hosting company has to do almost zero actual work.

In plain English, that means your website server barely has any visitors reach it because all of that traffic is absorbed by the CDN. In our case, that CDN is Cloudflare.

An added benefit is that all of the bandwidth that would normally cost you now flows through Cloudflare instead of your hosting provider.

How is this possible? Cloudflare has a ton of data centers that are now responsible for serving your site’s pages instead of just one single dinky server at your hosting company. Their CDN is also proximity-focused, so your site is served from a data center that’s as close as possible to each visitor. If your site is big enough, it can be served from every one of those data centers.

Below is a picture of the Cloudflare server coverage map. It contains over 200 locations, and globally their CDN network serves over 25 million requests per second. So your traffic is but a drop in the ocean of their massive capacity.

Cloudflare CDN global coverage map

How do you get access to all of this goodness and speed up your site?

Easy, it will take you less than 20 minutes to finish, save you hundreds a year, and help you earn more with what you’ve already built.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Sign up for a Cloudflare Account

 

You’re going to start by creating an account which by default, is on their free plan.

Speed as a Service
Cloudflare

If you want serious speed that just works, this is what you've been looking for. Their performance and bang-for-your-buck are unparalleled. They also deliver a monstrous amount of value on their free tier.

Speed Up My Site
We don't earn anything recommending Cloudflare. That's how great we think it is.

Cloudflare Signup Page

Their onboarding will walk you through setting up your domain’s DNS with them. It’s easy, and they have step-by-step instructions for most places you might be currently hosting your DNS.

This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes and is the meat of the value here.

But first, what is your DNS, and why should you care if it’s fast?

DNS settings are the plumbing behind how people type a domain name into their browser and reach a website.

Having your domain name reach every computer connected to the internet takes precious time to figure out for every new visitor so speeding up our DNS speeds up how quickly visitors can first experience our site. The DNS resolution happens before a single page on our site starts to load.

Why should you host your DNS records and nameservers with Cloudflare?

Because Cloudflare created the fastest free DNS service that exists. Faster than Google, faster than Amazon. Check this out:

Cloudflare DNS Speed

If all you do is complete Step 1 in this guide, you’ll have already increased the speed of your site permanently, no matter how many visitors you reach.

That’s pretty powerful. It’s also infinitely scalable and 100% free.

Yes, Cloudflare’s DNS is free – it’s officially known as 1.1.1.1. That IP address is quite a flex.

It’s also not the only thing they have that’s free, which is why they’re so compelling for both large and small sites. You can start for free.

Step 2: Enable Caching and Setup Cloudflare

This is where the actual heavy lifting happens. But, before I explain, click this button here on your domain in Cloudflare, so it’s orange and says “Proxied.”

One-click, that was easy. Great, because that’s it, you’re done. The base level of your site is being served by the Cloudflare cache. If you have any subdomains, I recommend you do the same thing there as well.

We’ll configure caching to perform at a 95%+ coverage level but already by clicking that one button, you’ve reduced the cost of your web hosting and sped up your site considerably.

Why? Because we just enabled Cloudflare’s CDN.

As an added benefit, you get automatic DDoS protection when you use Cloudflare. Yea, epic security is included without having to touch any Cloudflare settings.

Step 3: Install the Cloudflare WordPress Plugin

Caching can be annoying, and getting it right used to be very time-consuming and technical. It’s why most people didn’t do it.

If you’ve used a CDN before, how often have you tried to view an article on your site you updated, only to realize the changes weren’t displaying? You probably went crazy trying to figure out why things weren’t refreshing. Sometimes, it could feel like the internet gods were conspiring against you.

In the early days of our business, for me, it was happening weekly. Ask anyone who’s written for one of our sites, and they’ll tell you it was annoying. Not only that, our writers would sometimes lose posts because our server was overloaded, and WordPress auto-saves weren’t always working.

Time is expensive so wasting my time or my team’s time was a costly problem for us.

How did we fix this? First, we ditched WP Rocket page caching entirely and leaned into Cloudflare.

This is the entirety of their plugin settings. It’s inspiring that something so complicated can be so simple.

Cloudflare wordpress plugin interface

Why did we ditch WP Rocket caching? Because Cloudflare’s CDN is infinitely better. More importantly, having two cache plugins was redundant and created problems for the team, both content and site development. Wasted Time = Wasted Money.

I highly recommend you get the Cloudflare plugin. It takes 15 minutes to set up, you’ll use it once, and it will push your cache hit-rate to very close to 100%. Automatically.

It’s no joke that writing this all out now will take me much more time than reading and implementing this whole guide. But it’s easy to understand.

Let’s get the Cloudflare WordPress plugin connected.

Here’s their guide to get your Cloudflare keys to configure the plugin: [LINK]

After you click connect, do this:

Cloudflare wordpress plugin installation steps

If you want to read more on Cloudflare’s Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) feature? They’ve got an excellent article on it and their automatic cache here.

Simply put, it integrates into WordPress, so every time you update something, Cloudflare will run a cache purge for just that page. Because it’s integrated so profoundly, you’re able to achieve insane cache hit-ratios. This feature is relatively new.

Before they released APO, I struggled to keep our sites at a 90% cache hit ratio. Trust me when I say I spent a lot of time configuring Cloudflare and the code on my sites. Now I leave Cloudflare to do its thing automatically, and it’s honestly great to be able to focus my time elsewhere.

At this point in the guide, we’ve gained about 80% of the possible value from Cloudflare for most sites. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Cloudflare offers free SSL certificates for WordPress sites.  This will help you secure your site and allow it to always use https with automatic https rewrites. This has been important for SEO for a while now, and we highly recommend you secure your site.

After this, I will show you the final toggles to flip and features I think you should buy to make your site wicked-fast. Let the speed of this blog post or any other page on getlasso.co be a testament to that. For a very long time, speed has been an easy, competitive advantage for us.

Step 4: Lossless Image Optimization

For all of our customers, images are the single most considerable load time on their site.

All of our best customers have the best image optimization possible to speed up their load times.

Cloudflare excels at reducing image load times. So much so that you do not need to do much at all.

Just turn these on in the Speed section of your site’s Cloudflare dashboard:

Enable polish for Cloudflare

Enable more Cloudflare Speed Optimizations

That’s it, every image that now passes through your domain is faster and precisely the quality you expect it to be.

As an added benefit, the above changes will optimize the speed that your site’s CSS, Javascript, and HTML are served. Cloudflare can even handle the minification of those resources if you’d like.

Step 5: Enable Argo

You own a router to connect to the internet. Simply put, the internet is just a bunch of computers with routers in between them. A lot of routers. Some of these routers are great; they cost thousands of dollars. However, most are cheap and not great, especially at certain times of the day when things get busy. Think Netflix at night.

Argo uses machine learning to determine the best path from your visitor’s browser to your website as possible. This is one of the only real ways to improve your time to first byte.

It’s so fast that Cloudflare brags it reduces our own site’s response time by 37.86% (349ms).

Enable Argo Smart Routing

Argo does cost money, something that good can never be free. You’re literally buying site speed. We will talk more about Argo’s cost and their paid plans later on. Long story short, we think Cloudflare’s Argo pricing is very fair. Towards the end of this post, I will give you a breakdown of it on our sites.

How insanely fast Cloudflare will make your site.

Simply put, most of what Cloudflare does, you just can’t do with just a plugin like WP Rocket. And, many of the things a plugin like WP Rocket does, Cloudflare does so much better.

A big reason is that Cloudflare is so powerful is that you’re gaining the power of their massive infrastructure. With WP Rocket, you’re installing some software on a slow computer hidden in a closet somewhere. Not great.

Because Cloudflare handles caching, your physical server doesn’t get a lot of visits. And, because your server doesn’t get a lot of visits, WP Rocket doesn’t get a lot of action. It sits behind Cloudflare.

Cloudflare, in many ways, is the internet. At least the fast internet. They own a lot of the physical wiring between data centers and a massive amount of e-commerce and the commercial internet hosted on their CDN. For example, Shopify is one of the many enterprise customers. You’re in good company.

As to how fast Cloudflare can make your site, let’s use one of our blog posts as an example:

When I run that page through GTMetrix, this is what I get:

Blog post gtmetrix score hosted on Cloudflare

👆 This is why the page load time on our sites feels near-instant.

Where our $4,341.58 on Cloudflare went and how to estimate what you will pay.

We have 16 websites on Cloudflare – only 5 of them actually need to pay. Here’s our cost breakdown for those five sites:

      • Pro Cloudflare Plan – $1,200/year ($240/year x 5 sites)
      • Argo – $3,141.58/year

I think there are two main takeaways from this:

First, Pro Plans are not expensive and are generally a great value. Second, speed delivered through Argo is so important to our businesses that we’ll gladly pay almost 3x more for it than the Pro Plan.

You don’t need another person with a website telling you speed is essential. You’ve gotten this far in an article about speed; you get it.

That said, look at this graph:

A fast website is defined as one that loads in 0.8 seconds or less. That’s fast.

This graph above shows automatic savings equal to nearly half the load time for a fast website.

Now, if I can achieve that sort of speed increase by doing no more than flip a toggle, then you’re going to see me flip that switch 100% of the time. That’s a competitive advantage right there.

How is the Argo price calculated? It’s $5 for the first GB and then $0.10 for every GB after that.  That makes the easiest way to save on Argo costs to reduce the size of your site, which, coincidentally, is what the Pro Plan focuses on.

The three tools we use for speed.

We only use three tools. Being fast is easy, especially when Cloudflare does most of the heavy lifting. This is in no small part due to the Cloudflare WordPress plugin with next-level cache functionality.

Speed as a Service
Cloudflare

If you want serious speed that just works, this is what you've been looking for. Their performance and bang-for-your-buck are unparalleled. They also deliver a monstrous amount of value on their free tier.

Speed Up My Site
We don't earn anything recommending Cloudflare. That's how great we think it is.
Imagify

Imagify speeds up your website with image compression so your pages load faster. Instead of taking the time to format your images, they’re automatically optimized. We use this on all of our sites.

Optimize Images Affiliate Program
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

👆This is a Lasso Grid display, one that performs exceptionally well. So well that we use it to build our site’s resource pages.

Beautiful, high-performing product displays are just one way we use Lasso on our sites to grow revenue and help our visitors quickly find what we recommend. They’re also super easy to tweak and adjust to fit your site and branding perfectly.

You can check out our other displays in action here.

Need expert help?

We’re all in for our customers. We have deep experience growing large affiliate businesses. We find it exciting, and we love to talk about it.

Consider us an extension of your business; our north star is growing your revenue.

Have a question about Cloudflare’s performance benefits? Need a white-glove tutorial or help with custom page rules?

If you’re a customer, message us, and we’re here to help!

Andrew Fiebert
Andrew Fiebert is a thirty-something father of twins, a self-professed data nerd and founder of Lasso. He's spent the past ten years growing his online businesses to generate seven figures yearly in just affiliate income. Andrew has a B.S. in Computer Science and has been featured in Quartz, Forbes, Business Insider, and The Telegraph.

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