The ultimate wordpress caching plugins and how to choose the correct one
You thought building your WordPress website was the hardest part, and now the clients and visitors would come rolling in? In essence, you are only partially correct, as a standalone CMS WordPress is a fantastic product, which has the capability to integrate with thousands of plugins and expand its core functionality.
However, one of the main areas that is always overlooked, is the speed at which your WordPress website loads, if it takes too long then you visitors will simply abandon your site, and go elsewhere to find what they are looking for.
Whether this is a generational thing, or a widespread lack of patience who knows. Yet you can take back control of your website, and increase its speed dramatically.
Here we are going to review the best WordPress caching plugins, and give you our final verdict after having tested all of them!
What’s Caching and How Does It Help Your WordPress Site?
Caching speeds up your website. In addition, it reduces the amount of bandwidth used, decreasing your server load and potentially minimizing the amount of money you would have to spend for hosting.
How does this work?
A cache is technically a temporary storage area for webpages. For example, if a file request is made for your website’s homepage, it takes a moment to load all of the images, written content, widgets and files.
Without a Caching Plugin:
If someone pulls up your homepage, no previous version of that homepage has been stored in the cache, therefore the server must deliver a completely fresh rendition of the webpage. This means that each item, from images to widgets, must go through the loading process.
With a Caching Plugin:
Since a caching plugin stores several previous versions of the homepage, it can deliver one of those versions to a user, instead of loading up an original page. This cached version of the homepage already has the files loaded, so it pops up for the user much faster, and it prevents further requests going through the server.
Here’s a rough analogy:
If Jim wants to take a picture of the sunset, he must leave his house, grab his camera, buy film and go out at the right time to get the ideal shot. However, if his next-door neighbour just took a picture of the same sunset, with the same camera and in the same location, Jim could simply ask for a copy of that picture to put on his wall.
So, essentially a cached page is a copy of your website from a previous point in time. It takes more work and time to generate an original version, so it’s best to grab one of the identical copies stored in the cache.
Now that we’ve clarified exactly what a WordPress caching plugin is, and what it can do to improve your user experience, let’s take a look at the most effective plugin solutions on the market.
Now onto business, let’s review the market
01. WP Rocket
WP Rocket is one of the best caching solutions for WordPress and one of the two premium plugins on our list. It is tremendously user-friendly and a lifesaver for webmasters who find technical terms and web programming to be perplexing.
The plugin will function correctly after activation; as a result you won’t be racking your head against the wall trying to configure it. Those of you who are technologically literate can dive into it’s advanced options and set up a custom configuration.
It’s lazy image loading feature sets it apart from the other popular caching solutions. Those of you who don’t already know, this feature makes it so that the images you have set on your page are loaded only when the user scrolls down the page. This non-preemptive approach significantly improves load times.
Here are some other features you’ll find on every license of the caching plugin:
- Simple, fast, and intuitive setup.
- Page caching is immediately activated.
- Google Fonts Optimization minimizes HTTP requests.
- Integrates seamlessly with CloudFlare.
GT Metrix – I went back, installed and activated WP Rocket on Zippy Magazine. This time, it gave a total page size of 716 KB which loaded in 1.7 seconds!
Pingdom – According to Pingdom, installing WP Rocket dropped the page load time to 2.11 seconds for a 742.5 KB page size.
02. W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is the only WordPress Performance Optimization framework that is designed to boost user experience and improve page load times. This caching solution is highly recommended by some of the top hosting providers in the industry including Page.ly, Flywheel, and SiteGround.
The first thing you need to know about this plugin is that its Settings area is divided into 16 pages. Whoa! This may be quite overwhelming (even for some developers) but the important thing to remember is that you don’t have to manually configure the settings to make the plugin work – its default settings work pretty great too.
W3 Total Cache has a dedicated Settings page for every type of caching – page caching, object caching, database caching, browser caching etc. The level of customizability that you get with W3 Total Cache is difficult to find elsewhere.
- GZIP compression to optimize web browser rendering.
- Support for Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
- Compatible with CloudFlare.
GT Metrix – After WP Rocket, I went ahead and installed W3 Total Cache on the test site. As stated by GT Metrix, the total page size of 719 KB loaded in 1.8 seconds.
Pingdom – Testing it on Pingdom gave the total page size as 746.2 KB at a load time of 2.76 seconds.
03. WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is a free caching solution available for WordPress. Its caching mechanism is fairly easy to understand. The plugin basically generates static HTML files from your dynamic WordPress blog and caches it instead of the WordPress PHP scripts.
It offers three options for decreasing load times:
- Use mod_rewrite to deliver static pages
- Serve static pages using PHP
- Use a legacy caching mode that caches pages for users who are logged in
- Page compression and dynamic caching.
- Support for Content Delivery Networks (CDN).
- Caching for visitors using a mobile device.
- Scheduler to manage deletion and re-caching at given intervals.
GT Metrix – On installing WP Super Cache, the total page sized came in at 719 KB and the page loaded in 1.2 seconds.
Pingdom – And according to Pingdom, the page size was 745.8 KB and its load time was 2.92 seconds. Not bad.
04. WP Fastest Cache
The second of our premium plugins, according to its developers, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is “the simplest and fastest WP Cache system”. Similar to WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache generates static HTML files based on your dynamic WordPress blog and saves it in the cache.
WP Fastest Cache prides itself on providing an easy-to-install plugin – and it delivers. You don’t even have to modify the .htaccess configuration file.
- Mod_Rewrite which is the fastest method is used in this plugin
- All cache files are deleted when a post or page is published
- Supports CDN and SSL
- Enable/Disable cache option for mobile devices and logged-in users
- Block cache for specific page or post with Short Code
GT Metrix – WP Fastest Cache gave some pretty awesome results on GT Metrix. The page size totaled in at 719 KB and it only took 1.2 seconds to load it.
Pingdom – On Pingdom, the total page size amounted to 746.0 KB and the page loaded in 2.92 seconds.
05. Zen Cache
ZenCache (formerly Quick Cache) is quickly gaining popularity under its new name. It takes a real-time snapshot of every post, page, category and link and caches them intuitively. This simple yet effective method saves you processing time that was initially causing the page load time of your site to rise.
The plugin uses advanced techniques to determine when it should send a cached version and when it shouldn’t. By default, users who are logged into the system and visitors who have commented on the website recently are not served cached pages. You can edit these configuration settings from the Settings page.
- Options to control the automatic cache clearing behavior for Home and Posts Page, Author Page, Category, Tag, and Custom Term Archives, Custom Post Type Archives, RSS/RDF/ATOM Feeds, and XML Sitemaps.
- The ability to cache or ignore URLs that contain query strings (GET Requests).
- User agent and HTTP referrer exclusion patterns.
- Set automatic expiration times for cache files.
GT Metrix – The total page size on GT Metrix turned out to be 719 KB and loaded in 2.1 seconds.
Pingdom – The result turned out better on Pingdom which reported the total page size to be 745.7 KB and page load time of 2.66 seconds.
06. Cache Enabler
Cache Enabler is the new kid on the block (with only about 100 downloads so far) but it looks promising. The plugin is a lightweight caching solution for WordPress that does two things to decrease your site’s page load times – generates static HTML files and provides WebP support. The static HTML files are saved on the server’s hard disk.
Once a file is accessed or requested, the web server delivers the static HTML file while avoiding all of the backend processes which may be resource intensive. This caching strategy dramatically increases your site’s speed, results in lower page load times and improves the performance of your WordPress installation.
- Efficient and fast disk cache engine for faster caching
- Display of the actual cache size in your dashboard
- WebP Support (when it is combined with Optimus)
- HTTP/2 focused
GT Metrix – The total page size on GT Metrix turned out to be 718 KB and loaded in 2.0 seconds.
Pingdom – The result turned out better on Pingdom which reported the total page size to be 745.7 KB and page load time of 2.72 seconds.
Here’s a comparison table of the page load times of all five caching plugins. Page load times are recorded in seconds for both GT Metrix and Pingdom tests.
|Prior to caching||WP Rocket||W3 Total Cache||WP Super Cache||WP Fastest Cache||ZenCache||Cache Enabler|
Our Final Verdict
After having tested all of the plugins mentioned above, and taking into account speed details from both GT Metrix and Pingdom, we would recommend WP Fastest Cache. It offers far superior performance compared to all of its major rivals, and if you opt for the premium version which only costs $39.99 you will unlock even greater speed achievements. It is the plugin we use here at Plan Your Website, and the one we recommend to all of our customers!