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Is Cloudflare's Automatic Platform Optimization Worth It?

October 3, 2020

By: Kyle Van Deusen

Filed Under: ,

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Rich Deane recently shared a blog post in The Admin Bar Community introducing us to Cloudflare's Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress. A sucker for fast websites myself, I decided to give it a try and see if it really made a difference— or just a new way to spend money with Cloudflare.

If you're not yet familiar with Automatic Platform Optimization, you can read more about it on Cloudflare's blog. I'll include step-by-step instructions on how to set everything up on WordPress later on in this article.

I initially hooked this up on one of my own websites (Docket WP) and was pretty blown away by the results. However, that site has had a lot of performance optimization done and sits on a $30/mo server— so it doesn't seem like the most accurate test of Cloudflare's new optimization services.

Putting Cloudflare's Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress to the Test

Before you get too deep in this post (and my findings) I just want to keep things in perspective... I'm not a performance optimization expert— I'm just a web designer. This isn't the definitive answer on Cloudflare's Automatic Platform Optimization— it's just a quick look into the immediate results one guy got on one website.

Test Results before Automatic Platform Optimization

To give it a more fair test, I put on one of my clients websites. This particular website was running at about a 3-second load time according to GTMetrix... but using the eyeball test, it loaded "fine" (scientific, huh?). It's hosted on a Vultr High Frequency server that I run through Cloudways. The website is built using Elementor and the Astra Pro theme.

Here are screenshots of the timings report on GTMetrix before I setup Cloudflare's Automatic Platform Optimization.

In the 3 tests ran back-to-back, the fully loaded time averaged out to 3 seconds, with the DOM loaded time averaging at 2 seconds.

Test Results After APO

Then I paid for and setup Automatic Platform Optimization and ran 3 tests again...

This brought the average of the fully loaded time to 2.13 seconds (down nearly a full second) and the DOM loaded average to 1.1 seconds (again, nearly a full second).

$5 + 5 Minutes of Work

If speed is important to you (and why wouldn't it be?), this is a quick and easy way to shave a decent amount of load time off of your website. Shaving off nearly a second to your website's loading time is quite huge, really. Going from 3 seconds to 2 seconds is 150% improvement in loading time— and that's not bad.

The best part, for me anyway, was the fact that this took just a few minutes to have setup and running. There was nothing complicated about it whatsoever— no settings to tinker with, no complicated setup... A few buttons and it was ready to go. I didn't time myself, but I don't think it took 5 minutes to have up and running.

But putting tests to the side, there is a very noticeable difference when you visit the website in your browser. It's hard to quantify that way (and that's why I did the tests), but I've spent a lot of time looking at this website, and after setting up Automatic Platform Optimization it is night and day from what it is before. I don't know how I could possibly go back to how it was before at this point.

This, to me, is really what matters— how it actually performs for real human beings using real devices. And I've honestly not seen one of my sites ever load this quickly in the browser.

How to Setup Automatic Platform Optimization

Step 1

you're going to need at least a free Cloudflare account, and have your website's name servers pointed to Cloudflare. Luckily for me, all my website are already running through Cloudflare— so that part was already done.

Step 2

Install and activate the Cloudflare plugin from the WordPress repository. After you install, you'll need to authenticate your account, which just consists of plopping in your email address from your Cloudflare account and an API key (here are instructions).

Cloudflare Plugin

Step 3

Go to the Cloudflare plugin settings (Settings > Cloudflare) and under "Automatic Platform Optimization" click the "Purchase" button. This will open up in a new window and allow you to make the purchase directly. The cost is $5/mo if you are on a free Cloudflare account— but it's included in all their paid accounts. Complete your purcahse.

Step 4

Flush any and all caching. This is important, because Cloudflare may not recognize right away that you have the plugin installed.

Step 5

Login to your Cloudflare account, and click the "Speed" icon. Under that, click the "Optimization" tab and scroll down until you see "Automatic Platform Optimization for WordPress" (under the heading "Optimized Delivery". There will be a note saying whether or not Cloudflare has recognized you have the plugin installed on your website. If it hasn't recgonized it yet, there will be a link that says "Check Again". Click that link and if you've flushed your cache, Cloudflare will display the message "WordPress plugin successfully detected on [domain name].",

Final Thoughts

I'm looking forward to seeing more articles and videos on this new option for speeding up WordPress websites. As this is a pretty new thing from Cloudflare, I expect we'll get a lot of fresh content on the subject and learn even more about how this could help improve the performance of your website.

But even after just these quick tests— I'm sold!

Join in the conversation about this post inside The Admin Bar Community here.

Kyle's Headshot
Kyle Van Deusen

Kyle is the co-host of The Admin Bar, the owner of a agency of one called OGAL Web Design and the co-founder of Docket WP. You’ll likely find him trolling The Admin Bar community.

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