If you’re struggling with your website’s performance and find yourself waiting for a page to load for more than 5 seconds, then a good solution would be to install a cache plugin. A cache plugin can cache your dynamic WordPress site which in turns makes it as fast as static sites.
With this point in mind, I’m going to evaluate the performance of a WordPress website by using some of the popular cache plugins. I will also highlight their features after which you can identify your pick that suits your requirements.
But before I start comparing these plugins, let’s take a quick look at what a cache plugin is and how it speeds up your WordPress website.
WordPress Performance and Caching
When it comes to defining the performance parameters of a WordPress website, excessive page load time harms the most. It decreases web traffic, affects Google ranking and brings bad site reviews. However, with a free or a cost-effective caching plugin you can speed up your site.
Users commonly claim that their website’s performance once used to be satisfactory which it is not the same anymore. What you need to understand is,
When new posts, pages, themes, and plugins are added to a WordPress site it tends to slow down and more often than not with growth you outgrow your hosting account (in case you are on a shared server). This together with high traffic rate and a poor web host further deteriorates the performance.
The overall result is increased page load time and a lot of hassle.
How Is Caching Helpful?
Technically speaking, a computer cache temporarily stores data. But when we say a cached WordPress website, then it refers to the user’s local hard drive where all the site contents (i.e. posts, pages, images, etc.) are being stored or database being cached in the RAM of your server and hence your site serves static content instead of dynamic queries.
This also means that the browser does not have to retrieve the frequently accessed files from the server each time a user requires. Instead, they are fetched locally, and the result is faster page load times.
WordPress Cache Plugins
WordPress cache plugins aim to perform the same function of enhancing your site’s page speed. When users visit your website they apparently look at an individual web page but at the back-end, a simple WP page runs several processes and dynamic code routines which take time for your page to load.
A caching plugin generates these dynamic pages for you and creates static HTML files which are stored in the cache of both the server and users’ browsers. These static files are fast by their very nature since all the browser has to do display the HTML/CSS/JS instead of running and waiting on server side languages.
So next time, when the same request is pulled all the previous re-loading of PHP scripts are removed, and the site loads faster than usual. This impacts the overall performance and brings many far-reaching effects for a particular website like Google ranks a fast website higher for the same keywords.
Choosing a Cache Plugin
Enough with the coding-mumbo-jumbo. You learned that a cache plugin is one of the easiest options to improve the slow loading time of your website. But you can enjoy the desired results only if you’re able to identify the criteria for choosing one such plugin that suits your needs. I think there could be a three-point agenda in this respect.
- A credible developer & plugins history.
- Optimum performance and key features.
- For premium options: Quick support and response time.
WordPress Cache Plugins
The points listed above are in no way the ultimate criteria to judge which is the best cache plugin. Apparently, the metrics may vary from person to person and as per their unique requirements. I am going to suggest you a few of both commercial and free plugins that can help you speed up your site.
In terms of performance, WP Rocket outclasses every other name in the list of WordPress cache plugins. It’s a premium plugin and comes highly recommended by many incredible WP community members. By far, it is the only featured premium plugin powering more than 100,000 sites globally. However, it isn’t a free plugin but once purchased brings a great deal of relief. The plugin is available at cost-effective rates starting from $39 up to $199.
- Advanced Key Features: Unlike all the free alternates, WP Rocket is coupled with advanced functionalities. With features like lazy image loading, cache preloading, file minification and GZIP compression, WP Rocket offers fast, reliable and efficient WordPress websites.
- Fantastic Caching Experience: It’s user-friendly interface, and minimal design provides an excellent caching experience.
- Extensive Support: The team provides tremendous support which comes with quick response time to your queries. Their support structure is sufficiently streamlined as they offer a proper ticketing system and a FAQ section. So I can say that WP Rocket follows my three-point agenda of choosing a cache plugin.
Features I Like about WP Rocket:
- CDN networks are fully supported
- Flexible integration with managed hosts
- Customized settings can be exported easily
- eCommerce and multi-lingual compatibility
- Supports Google fonts and their complete optimization
Speed Testing Results
WP Rocket has been tested with certain reputed speed testing tools like GTmetrix and Pingdom and each time gave sweeping results. With GTmetrix, the loading time was reduced by 0.98 seconds and 1.27 seconds with Pingdom. Such proven results are sufficient to declare the real worth of the plugin.
With a plethora of customization options, Comet Cache suits the users who’re looking for free caching solutions. With more than 30,000 active installs, the plugin offers a simple one-click setup.
- Real-Time Caching: The feature which I liked the most is the caching of every post, page, category, etc. in real-time.
- Strong Built: The plugin has a powerful built-in admin panel from where all the options are configured quickly.
- Key Features: Comet Cache sets an expiration time for you cached files. Similarly, it also functions on specific areas like 404 pages, RSS, RDF and Atom Feeds. The plugin is also compatible with WP-CLI and supports several other features like user-agent and HTTP referer exclusion patterns, client-side caching, Apache optimizations, etc.
Going with Comet Cache means peace for those who like to keep things simple and free. It not only speeds up your site but also cuts out the additional clutter. The plugin is well documented, and users find it easy to use.
For more advanced options, there also exist a paid version of the plugin which is available at an affordable rate of $39.
Speed Testing Results
With speed testing tools like GTmetrix, the plugin decreased load time by 0.92 seconds and with Pingdom, the results were even more impressive i.e. 1.26 seconds.
WP Super Cache is another popular free WordPress cache plugin which delivers compelling results w.r.t speed and performance. This plugin has 1 million+ active installs and is managed by Automattic ( the company behind WordPress.com).
- Support for Static Web Page: The plugin supports the option of mod_rewrite for all static pages which is quite unusual when compared to traditional HTML caching. Its exclusive legacy caching mode prevents you from viewing the cached files while you’re logged in.
- Re-Order Plugins Loading: With WP Super Cache plugin, you can even decide the order in which the plugins are going to load. This way you can prioritize your web speed settings.
- Up-to-Date Scheduler: There also exists a scheduler which regularly removes the cached pages hence providing an updated user experience. Just like WP Rocket, it also supports CDN networks and allows the export of customized settings.
Installing a cache plugin may not be your priority when you set up a WordPress website but at some point of time, you do require it. So, it’s better to include it in the list of prerequisite plugins in the first place. I’ve compared the three popular plugins in this niche i.e. WP Rocket, Comet Cache, and WP Super Cache. But every website is different and may require a variety of caching options.
You can quickly test which of the cache plugins is best in knocking down speed via tools like GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights. But do remember that cache plugins do not work on local setups, so you require live sites to compile your test results.
So what are you waiting for?
Choose a few cache plugins and start running your speed tests. Share your experience about it and drop in your feedback in the comment box below or reach out to me via Twitter (@MaedahBatool) account.