The Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up CloudFlare on WordPress
Let me ask you a question: do you want to speed up your WordPress site while also protecting it from malicious attacks?
If you answered yes (let’s be honest: of course you did!), then you should definitely consider integrating CloudFlare with your website.
Whenever a user visits your site, CloudFlare will first check for any indicators of malicious intent. Once CloudFlare verifies the visit isn’t motivated by nefarious purposes, it serves up data from the data center that’s geographically closest to your visitor
Result: beefier security, and much faster website load speeds.
Integrating with CloudFlare can bring very real, tangible benefits to your site. The company claims that on average, sites load twice as fast and use 60% less bandwidth. When you consider that 30% of users want sites to load in under a second, halving the time it takes your site to load is pretty awesome.
If you want to get those results on your website, read on. It takes just 10-15 minutes to setup CloudFlare, and you’ll be all set to receive the benefits we just discussed and more.
Let’s get started.
Step #1: Sign up at CloudFlare.com
Go to CloudFlare.com and click the “Sign up” button.
On the sign up page, enter your account details and then click “Create Account”.
After that, you’ll be taken directly to the setup wizard.
Step #2: Enter your website details
CloudFlare will now take you through the process of setting up your account. On the first page, you’ll need to enter the URL of your website.
After you’ve entered your URL, click “Scan DNS Records”. It will take about a minute for CloudFlare to gather the data it needs. While you wait, you’ll be shown an introduction video.
Once CloudFlare is finished scanning, click “Continue” to move to the next step.
Step #3: Verify DNS records
This is the step when things might start getting a bit confusing for the non-technical WordPress user.
On this page, CloudFlare will ask you to verify your DNS records. If you’re a non-techie, like lots of other WordPress users, you may not fully understand what DNS is.
Well, to keep things brief, DNS stands for Domain Name System. DNS records are basically the navigation link between your outward facing domain name and the actual server that is hosting your website data.
CloudFlare needs to verify these because the way it functions is by replacing your DNS information with their own DNS info. This replacement allows CloudFlare to act as the navigation link by using its own DNS records.
If you’re a beginner and don’t want to muck around, you can usually trust CloudFlare’s information. Just make sure you see the orange icon (highlighted above) next to your main domain name to ensure that everything is working properly.
On the other hand, if you’re knowledgeable about DNS and need to make some specific changes, you can also do that on this page.
Step #4: Select your CloudFlare plan
On the next page, you’ll need to select your CloudFlare plan. I’ll have some more analysis on the pros and cons of each plan at the end of this post, but for now, I recommend just choosing the Free Website plan. You can always upgrade later.
After you’ve selected your desired plan, click “Continue”.
Step #5: Change your nameservers
This is the first step that will require you to leave CloudFlare’s website. The exact process for changing your nameservers will depend on the specific domain registrar you used when you purchased your domain name. So if you need detailed help, you’ll need to contact your domain registrar or visit their knowledge base.
This article on HostGator has quick links to documentation on nameserver changes from several major domain registrars. It’s made specifically for HostGator users, but will work for people on other hosting services as well.
The page on CloudFlare shows your current nameservers to make things easy. Just replace the two current nameservers with the two new nameservers provided on the page.
Note: your site will not experience any downtime while making this change.
Once you’ve switched your nameservers, go back to the CloudFlare site and click “Continue”.
You’re almost finished! All that’s left is to make sure that CloudFlare plays nice with some WordPress-specific features.
Step #6: Install the CloudFlare WordPress plugin
Because of how CloudFlare works, it can cause some issues with the WordPress comments system. Without any changes, all the comments on your site will appear as if they came from the same I.P. address. That’s no good.
Thankfully, CloudFlare maintains an official plugin that you can install to automatically fix this issue and keep everything working normally.
The plugin is called “CloudFlare” and can be installed like any other WordPress plugin.
After installing the plugin, you just need to take a couple seconds to configure things. On the Settings page of the CloudFlare plugin you’ll need to input:
- Your domain
- Your CloudFlare API key – obtainable at the CloudFlare website. Just click the “Get this?” button.
- Your CloudFlare API email – the email you used to sign up at CloudFlare
Clicking the “Get this?” link will take you to a page at the CloudFlare site where you can view your API key.
Once you’ve entered the required data, just click “Update options” to save.
And there you have it. CloudFlare is now configured to seamlessly work with your WordPress site. You now have better security and faster page load speeds, at absolutely zero cost.
How much does CloudFlare cost?
As you know CloudFlare does offer a limited edition of its feature set for a zero-dollar price tag. However, if you have the budget, then I’d definitely recommend considering their two premium plans.
The Pro plan ($20 / month) comes with everything in the free plan as well as mobile optimizations, a firewall, and real-time statistics.
Which plan is right for you?
Well, that depends on what type of WordPress user if you are. If you just need basic speed and security benefits (and you’re on a tight budget), then the free plan will suit you just fine.
But if you are willing to pay a little extra for tighter security, more detailed analytics, and better mobile performance, then it’s definitely worth checking out the Pro plan further.
Putting it all together
CloudFlare is one of the most popular CDNs for two very good reasons: it’s easy to setup (as you just saw) and offers a real nice bump in load speeds.
I’ve personally installed it on more than one of my own websites, and on both occasions saw a >0.50 second decrease in load times.
You can test CloudFlare’s effectiveness for yourself — just run your website through Pingdom’s speed test. Then install CloudFlare and test it again to see the benefits (comment below to let us know how much faster your site loads).
All things considered, CloudFlare is definitely one service that you need to consider adding to your WordPress site.