This article is dedicated to bloggers who have been wondering how to make their blogs faster and secure with a green padlock (https/SSL).
Cloudflare will make your blog load faster and more secure. This is something to look out for since page speed is now a major Google ranking factor. I shall introduce you to Cloudflare and how you can use it to speed up and secure your WordPress Blog.
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Whether or not you have heard about Cloudflare before now, this article is for you. I will teach you everything you need to know about Cloudflare including a tutorial on how to install Cloudflare CDN on your WordPress blog without hiring an expert. Trust me, it’s going to be the simplest Cloudflare guide ever.
To make things easier for you, I shall break down this tutorial into five sections:
- What is Cloudflare?
- 10 reasons you should use Cloudflare
- How to Install Cloudflare on Your WordPress Site
- Cloudflare Page Rules
- Cloudflare Frequently asked questions and answers
After following all the steps below, give it 24 hours for the green padlock or https to start working fully. Are you ready for this high voltage lecture? Let’s continue…
What is CloudFlare?
Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and Security Company dedicated to making your site faster and secure.
You may be wondering, what is Content Delivery Network? it is a system of distributed servers (network) that deliver pages and other Web content to a user, based on the geographic locations of the user.
By this, we mean Cloudflare has servers in different locations. Cloudflare then collects articles and other content from your blog and spread it across their servers to be distributed to visitors.
Now, if someone visits your blog from America, they will be served resources from the server in or very close to America while those who visit from Japan will be served from the server in Japan (or closer to Japan). With this, your content gets to your visitors faster (reducing page load time).
The process of Cloudflare taking content from your blog and saving it in their server is called Caching.
10 Reasons You Should Start Using Cloudflare
Should I use Cloudflare or not? How important is Cloudflare to my blog and how much do I need to pay to get Cloudflare installed on my WordPress blog? Take a look at the top reasons you should set up Cloudflare on your site today:
- Cloudflare CDN is free for basic users.
- You will have access to free https/SSL certificate
- Cloudflare helps speed up your site dramatically.
- Cloudflare can protect your site from hackers by hiding your IP.
- Cloudflare reduces requests to your server, thereby helping you save bandwidth.
- Cloudflare blocks visitors who are not genuine from visiting your blog.
- Cloudflare has a beautiful analytic dashboard which shows the number of requests, bandwidth saved and the number of visitors to your site.
- Cloudflare will help you save hosting cost since not all traffic and request will go to your server.
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How to Install & Set Up Cloudflare on Your WordPress Blog
The following are steps required to setup Cloudflare on your WordPress blog:
- Create an account with Cloudflare
- Add your Site and choose a plan (free plan)
- Point Your site to Cloudflare (Change Nameservers)
- Install Cloudflare Plugins.
- Configuration settings
A. Create a Cloudflare Account
Visit Cloudflare official website at www.cloudflare.com and click Sign Up. You will be required to enter your email and password you wish to use (for login). Skip this step if you already have an account with Cloudflare.
B. Add Your Site
Now that you have created Cloudflare account, login and click on “+ Add Site.” in your Cloudflare dashboard. Input your site’s domain(e.g flashlearners.com) and click on “Begin Scan.” (You don’t need to add www or HTTP/HTTPS). CloudFlare will now scan your Blog. This will take few seconds. When the scan is finished, you need to click on the continue button to proceed with the setup.
Cloudflare will then automatically query your DNS records. If you’re confused about what that means, Cloudflare provides you with a nice little explanation. Once you’re satisfied with the explanation, go ahead and click Next.
On the next page, you will need to select a Cloudflare plan. Choose the free plan. Then click “Continue.”
C. Point Your Site to Cloudflare
Cloudflare will show you the nameserver you are already using and the one they want you to change to. If you are using Namecheap, you will see the default nameserver before. If you are using another hosting, the FROM will show your default Nameservers (change them to the one in TO)
You will then need to change the nameservers on your domain to point to Cloudflare (use the ones they provide). Because Cloudflare is a full proxy service, basically how it works is you point your domain to Cloudflare, and Cloudflare then points your domain to your hosting.
Note: if someone else bought or registered the domain for you and you don’t have the login details, contact them to send you the domain username and password or help you to change the nameservers from their end.
There is no downtime when you switch your nameservers. Here are a couple links to documentation with different domain registrars on how to change them.
- How to change nameservers in Hostgator
- How to change nameservers with Namecheap
- How to change nameservers with GoDaddy
- How to change nameservers with Bluehost
- How to change nameservers in iPage
Then click “Continue.”
Note that it may take up to 72 hours for DNS to propagate worldwide. Once nameservers update has been completed, you will receive an email confirmation message from Cloudflare. You can also click Recheck nameservers once in a while to check the status of Cloudflare website. Your website will not face any downtime during this process.
D. Install Cloudflare Plugins
Now, you need to login to your WordPress Admin (Wp-Admin), install and activate two Cloudflare plugins. You may want to click here for a tutorial on how to install a plugin in WordPress.
- Cloudflare flexible SSL
I usually don’t recommend that you install the first (Cloudflare) Plugin. It is easy for you to login to Cloudflare dashboard (cloudflare.com) to make necessary changes. Besides, Plugins slow down blogs.
With justCloudflare flexible SSL plugin, you are good to go. In this tutorial, I will assume you are only using the Cloudflare flexible SSL.
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E. CloudFlare Settings and Tabs
When you log in to Cloudflare and click your site, you will see different menus/tabs. We shall be making changes to only the Crypto, Firewall and Speed Tab.
a. Cloudflare SSL/TLS (Formerly called Crypto)
ON SSL menu, do the following:
- Under SSL, Choose flexible. If you already have ssl/https on your blog, choose full SSL
- Under origin certificate, click on create certificate
- You will see a popup showing origin certificate installation. Just scroll down and click next without changing anything (see screenshot below).
- You will then see your origin certificate and private key. Scroll down and click okay without changing anything.
- Scroll to always use https and turn it on
- Turn on authenticated origin pulls
- Turn on Opportunistic encryption, onion routing and Automatic HTTPS Rewrites.
Note: If you already have SSL on your site, make sure to choose Full SSL instead of Flexible SSL in the Crypto tab at Cloudflare. Otherwise, you might run into the ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTSissue.
b. Cloudflare Firewall Tab
The only thing you should change here is security level. Change the security level to Medium. If it is already in medium, leave it like that. Hope this answers the question as to which security level to use in Cloudflare?
c. Cloudflare Speed Tab
Note: You are permitted to have only one caching plugin active on your blog. This also applies to SEO. Don’t use Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO Plugin together.
Her at flashlearners, I enabled HTML, CSS AND JS Minify via W3 Total Cache. Therefore, they are turned off/unchecked in Cloudflare panel.
The rule is:
- If you have a caching plugin installed, check if minification/optimizations are enabled in the plugin. If they are disabled, you can turn Cloudflare minify ON.
- Choose whether to minify resources using Cloudflare or Plugin (don’t use both)
- If you are using autoptimize plugin, then you need to turn on Cloudflare minify.
Note: Turning on minify on both Cloudflare and your caching plugin can make your site crash or have issues.
Still, on SPEED TAB, Turn on Rocket Loader and Broti.
Cloudflare Page Rules
You can create up to three-page rules for free. But your blog should work well even without creating any page rule. For example, I didn’t set up any page rule for flashlearners. However, if you are having redirection issues, then you need to create 301/302 Forwarding URL page rule.
As I said, you really don’t need to bother about page rules as a beginner. But if you know what you are doing, checkout out an introduction to page rules here.
Other Page Rules you can create are:
- Always Use HTTPS
- Security Level
- Cache Level
- Edge Cache TTL
- Browser Cache TTL
- Always Online
- Disable Apps
- Disable Performance
Cloudflare (CF) Frequently Asked Questions
1. What if I already Bought SSL or my hosting offers free SSL?
If you already have SSL on your site, make sure to choose Full SSL instead of Flexible SSL in the Crypto tab at Cloudflare. Otherwise, you might run into the ERR_TOO_MANY_REDIRECTS issue.
2. What if I already have Minify and caching plugin installed?
If you’re already using a plugin that minifies your site’s code, you might want to disable Cloudflare’s minification in the Speed tab (or consider disabling the plugin).
3. Why did my site break after Setting up Cloudflare?
It may be because you turned on minification in Cloudflare even when you already have a caching and minify plugin
4. Can I use Cloudflare with other caching plugins?
Yes, you can. However, don’t turn on minify on both Cloudflare and your Caching plugin.
5. Will Cloudflare make my blog faster and more secure?
Yes, Cloudflare will make your blog load faster and secure. Cloudflare will also help you save a whole lot of resources and cost.
6. Do I need to change hosting to use Cloudflare?
Cloudflare offers free DNS services to customers in all plans. Note that:
1. You do not need to change your hosting provider to use Cloudflare.
2. You do not need to move away from your registrar. The only change you make with your registrar is to point the authoritative Nameservers to the Cloudflare Nameservers.
7. Can I use Cloudflare with a Blogger.com domain?
You can use Cloudflare with any custom domain (yoursitename.com) for which you have control over managing its authoritative DNS.
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