Which WordPress Caching Plugin Should I Use?

One of the most important performance aspects of a website is the speed with which it loads. If you want to optimise your site to give your visitors the best possible experience while also improving your status in Google's ranking system then you need to make sure your site loads fast. A slow site can push you down the ranking and make your visitors push the back button - two things you never want happening.
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One of the most important performance aspects of a website is the speed with which it loads. If you want to optimise your site to give your visitors the best possible experience while also improving your status in Google’s ranking system then you need to make sure your site loads fast. A slow site can push you down the ranking and make your visitors push the back button – two things you never want to happen.

As soon as someone visits one of your WordPress pages they are requesting a lot of data off your web host’s servers (CSS, images, JavaScript) as well as content off your WP database. In order to speed up this process you can use what is called caching.

WordPress Caching Plugins

WordPress uses caching plugins that create a static HTML page of every page on your site. This way every visitor won’t be requesting everything off your server each time they visit your site, drastically reducing its page load time. Here’s a video of WordPress guru Matt Martz’s take on the use of WordPress caching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGQ9faDwHfE

The caching plugins available for WordPress do a bit more than just cache your pages though. In fact some of the other features they offer include GZIP compression, CSS, HTML and JavaScript minification, CDNs and more.

It’s important to remember that when changing the template or design of your site you should always turn off and purge the cache. This ensures that you’re seeing the latest version of the page and not a cached one. For more information about why and how to refresh your cache visit Refresh Your Cache.

So let’s take a look at the best options available for caching plugins.

W3 Total Cache

caching-w3tcW3 Total Cache (W3TC) is one of the most powerful free caching plugins out there. It is used by many top-grade developers and a host of large companies such as yoast.com and AT&T. W3TC improves the user experience of your site in a few different ways.

It increases server performance, reduces download times, provides CDN, and more. In fact, the creators of W3TC claim to provide a ten fold improvement in overall site performance, and they’ve got some great reviews to back that up.

It’s a great plugin that can do wonders for your site. However, the only downfall seems to be the complicated nature of the plugin. It is aimed at the more advanced user, and you’ll notice this as soon as you install it and go to its settings page.

caching-plugins-w3tcYou are presented with a large variety of options, some of which you might not understand if you’re not familiar with how caching works in detail. Others need to be setup in a certain way, sometimes changing depending on what host you’re using. If set up correctly though, it can work wonders.

Get W3 Total Cache

WP Rocket

wp-rocket-logoWP Rocket is the newest caching plugin from this list and it is the only premium-only caching plugin available for WordPress. It’s already been downloaded 6500 times, which considering how long it’s been out on the market for and the fact that it’s a premium plugin is quite good.

WP Rocket offers better performance levels than the free options and also includes a better, easier-to-use settings area for the variety of options it has. Most free caching plugins have very simple configurations, limiting your options, while others have premium add-ons to do this stuff, which are quite expensive.

wprocket-cdnIt also offers regular updates and support, as is the norm with premium plugins; something that none of the other caching plugins offer to the extent that WP Rocket does.

For a better idea of what WP Rocket can offer you over and above the features found in free plugins you can visit their features page as well as my full review here on WP Mayor.

Get WP Rocket

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is one of the most popular and user-friendly caching plugins you will find. It is very easy to get started with, even for the most beginner of users.

Just by going into the settings section of your WordPress dashboard, clicking on WP Super Cache, and switching the caching option ‘on’ will give your site a significant increase in speed.

caching-plugins-wpsupercacheThe advanced section then gives you more options such as choosing which pages not to cache, compressing files, etc. WP Super Cache even gives you a recommended selection of which settings to utilize to get the best out of the plugin.

Furthermore, WP Super Cache provides you with the choice to load several plugins directly into it, making them load faster than any other plugins, and also supports content delivery networks.

Get WP Super Cache

WP Fastest Cache

caching-wpfastestcacheWP Fastest Cache is another user-friendly and simple caching plugin. Although it doesn’t have the capacity to work as well in all the aspects that some of the more complex plugins do, it does enough to improve your page load speed and overall site performance to make it more than satisfactory for your average user.

caching-plugins-fastestcacheAs you can see above the settings page is very easy to configure, and you’re also given options to delete your cache as well as to set a cache timeout. This is a determined time and frequency at which you would want the cached files to be deleted.

While offering simplicity and ease of use, it doesn’t support CDN and your options are limited to just ten basic ones.

Get WP Fastest Cache

Hyper Cache

Hyper Cache is one of the least configurable caching plugins, however it still caches normal and Gzip compressed pages. It’s a plug and play style plugin that works right out of the box.

caching-plugins-hypercacheIt only offers some configurations options such as feed caching, mobile device configuration and the choice to exclude certain specific URLs of your choice from being filtered.

Get Hyper Cache

Conclusions & Recommendations

Whichever caching plugin reviews you read, every blogger, web designer or WordPress guru is going to have a different opinion based on their own experiences and preferences.

Different plugins work differently depending on a number of factors. These include the type of hosting plan you’re on, whether your server and caching plugin have been configured correctly, the type and abundance of content on your page, and more.

The only way to find out which caching plugin is best for you is to test them out for yourself, with your own site and hosting service. Apart from WP Rocket all other plugins are free and can easily be tested at no cost.

Using Managed Hosting? You’re All Set

It’s also important to remember that if you are on a managed hosting plan such as those offered by WP Engine or even SiteGround, then caching is handled by the hosts themselves.

Even though managed hosting comes at a higher cost, it not only takes a load off your shoulders but is also the best and most straightforward solution when it comes to caching your site.

Final Verdicts

W3 Total Cache is a great plugin I would only recommend to someone who is knowledgeable about how cache works. WP Rocket, in my opinion, is the best choice (even though it comes at a price). WP Super Cache, although offering less options, should be the plugin of choice for the more novice user.

I’d love to know what you guys think of these plugins and your experiences with them. Feel free to comment below.

Further Reading

 

Mark Zahra
Mark Zahra
CEO at RebelCode, the team behind WP Mayor, Spotlight, WP RSS Aggregator, and the Mastermind.fm podcast. Follow me on Twitter @markzahra.

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45 Responses

  1. I was having site load time issues on a few of the sites I manage and never have been a fan of any caching plugin for a variety of reasons. Last night I came across a post about wp-rocket and went and purchased a personal license to try it out. Within 3 minutes of installing, the site went from load times of about ~13 seconds to under 2! I then upgrade to unlimited license and installing on all 30+ sites I manage, clients are going to be happy.

    Easy interface, most of all if I am having an issue with a script on a specific page, all I have to do is copy and past the URL into the admin section and it does the rest, I dont have to chase down the script myself, very easy.

    Well worth the premium price, without question.

  2. I host most of my stuff on SiteGround and use their caching plugin (which is awesome) but for sites that I host elsewhere, I use Hyper Cache Extended, which is super simple to set up for those of us that want the quick and easy route

  3. This is a really useful article, thanks for taking the time. I have always used W3 Total Cache but have heard a few tales of plugin conflicts. I will definitely look at WP Rocket.

    1. You’re welcome Peter. That looks like a good plugin too, but focused on SEO optimization rather than caching like the ones mentioned in the article. Worth a look though.

  4. WP Rocket has a price, but it is so simple to set up that I use on every wordpress website I have to build !

    1. Agreed Eric, sometimes it’s better to pay that little bit extra for better quality, especially in this case.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! Good to know of another satisfied customer for WP Rocket – seems like there are a lot of satisfied customers out there.

    2. Hi, what does Varnish do in combination with WP Rocket? I have a Woocommerce shop and like to install WP Rocket, but am a bit scared since I am not that technical (only know CSS) :). Thanks!

  5. I’ve been using W3 Total Cache for the last year, however, never noticed too large of an increase in speed of my website(s). I am interested in WP Rocket, however, and have heard good things about it.

    Do you know if it works with Cloudflare? The reason I’ve been using W3 Total Cache for so long is due to its Cloudflare support.

    Thanks for your time.

    Regards,
    ~Gale.

  6. You can tweak your website in more than hundred ways to make it load faster, however installing a cache plugin is the most effective way to reduce your loading time. Cloudways have listed 5 of the best WP Cache Plugins here: http://www.cloudways.com/blog/best-wordpress-caching-plugins/.
    These are listed:
    W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes
    WP Super Cache by Donncha O Caoimh and Automattic
    WP Fastest Cache by EmreVona
    ZenCache by WebSharks, JasWSInc, and RaamDev
    WP Rocket by Jean-Baptiste Marchand-Arvier, Jonathan Buttigieg, and Julio Potier

  7. Mark! Awesome! Maybe in a future post you could do a speed case study? Where you take one of your own pages or a test page and try the various caching solutions and show us the results! That would be awesome! Do you think if I tried that myself, would deleting and uninstalling each plugin leave any “residual” settings that could impact each plugin’s performance? Thank you! And great article

    1. Thanks Jared! Yes I’d definitely want to try that out at some time, I just need to have the time to set it up 🙂 Not sure about the residual settings or anything of the sort to be honest. It would be best to ask each plugin’s developer about that to be 100% sure.

  8. I just wanted to warn people, caching is a complex concept and be careful being seduced by the wp-rocket ‘one click hype’. I had various issues with minification which they initially solved. However, with an update to their own plugin 2 months after I bought it, images stopped loading in certain browsers.

    I had a lot of back and forth with wp-rocket support (mind you they are not native English speakers) and there was so much miscommunication it was staggering. They did not troubleshoot my issue thoroughly and I wasted many hours on emails getting nowhere. I requested a refund. Their policy is that after 30 days refunds aren’t possible so I ended up disputing with PayPal to refund 10 months worth of wp-rocket’s value. I am waiting for PayPal to decide.

    I was using W3 total cache before and have switched back after removing wp-rocket. W3 total cache is definitely faster than wp-rocket and more customizable so ultimately more powerful since you can specify whether to use memcache, object cache, disk etc.

      1. My money got refunded yes but the issue wasn’t resolved. I offered them a live test site that they could troubleshoot and actually fix the problem but they weren’t interested after they refunded me. Varnish is the superior caching solution for me anyway. I discovered this easy way to warm up your Varnish cache and intelligently refresh it so you never have to purge. For me Varnish renders any WordPress caching plugin moot.
        http://www.htpcguides.com/smart-warm-up-your-wordpress-varnish-cache-scripts/

  9. Hi

    In addition to the above, I would like to recommend another great plugin, called WP Superformance (one of the newer plugins), as an alternative – especially to those looking for a solution without the hassle, learning curve, or unnecessary configs. This plugin weighs less than 50KB and does its job better than most. It also handles a myriad of performance tasks – which one would generally need 15 plugins for. Has a load of features, such as lazyloading, HTML, CSS, JS minification, hotlink protection, browser caching, etc. This one is well-worth a try. http://wp-superformance.com/

  10. There is a new cache in town that will be quickly climbing to the top of the pile. Litespeed has recently released a WordPress Cache Plugin that offers staggering performance. We did a quick comparison of this new cache and WP Super Cache and Litespeeds new WordPress Cache doubles the performance of WP Super Cache.

    You can see the comparison here:
    http://ops.kickassd.com/wp-super-cache-vs-litespeed-wordpress-cache/

    @Mark Zahara

    If you are interested in testing this plugin just let us know on our main site.

  11. I’ve been trying (quite hard) to get my website under a 1 second load, but it’s difficult. It was originally 6 seconds+, which is fairly bad. I got it down to 4 seconds with WP Total Cache, however, using WP-Rocket with Cloudflare has gotten it down to about 1.4-2 seconds.

    Is there anything further I could do to push it down a half second? I’ve seen other websites with the same theme as me with their website loading faster.

    I have a dedicated server for the website – and it’s fairly strong. Is it just a case of having the server in a bad part of the world? The Netherlands, that is.

  12. I use WP Super Cache and it seems to work well…But I wasn’t aware of W3 Total cache until I read your article (thank you) so I’m going to install that and try it out on my next WordPress project.

  13. I was tempted to try Wp-rocket as it seemed it didn’t need much configuration. However and I eventually went with W3 Total Cache and a free Cloudflare setup.

    I initially struggled to get my site below 2 seconds load speed time but a couple of hours tweaking the configuration the cache plugin, I managed to get below 1 second.

    My homepage is quite image heavy and over 500K in size, but even with my cheap hosting it load pretty quick.

    Very pleased I went with W3 Total Cache and Cloudflare option

      1. MMOByte

        I get 2.4 seconds on gtmetrix.com with a homepage size of 1.57MB.

        Page size is your biggest problem and it’s all down to your images.

        Your Path to Exile image is 228K, your images are full size, 960 by 320 in the above case, yet it only takes up about 300 pixels of your screen (width wise).

        Here’s what you need to do. I downloaded it, compressed and resized it and got the size down from 226K to just 11K.

        I used 30% compression and resized it to 300 x 225 and it you can’t tell the difference in quality.

        You have got 9 images like this, optimize them all and you will see a big improvement in your site speed.

        1. That’s actually very useful information for all of us. 🙂 I always tend to forget about image size on my website(s). Reducing their filesize (along with banner/logo filesize) is always a problem of mine.

          Do you know of a good plugin to automatically resize images?

  14. w3 total cache is a good plugin, but it has a lot of options which is not easy for every one to understand. On the other hand wp rocket is easy to use, but now it seems not as good as i use it before. i am having minify CS JS issue with wp rocket.

  15. Thanks for sharing Mark, great article! I totally agree that the utilization of Caching Plugins is a perfect way to greatly improve the page loading time of your website. I think our latest blog post might be of interest to you as it also discusses the same subject of Caching Plugins and we mention a few more less popular but very useful as well. Having your feedback regarding the article would be an honour for us. https://goo.gl/chLfl3

  16. Hello everyone,

    I made a new caching plugin for WordPress called Borlabs Cache. You can try it for free https://borlabs.io
    I also offer a Pro version with additional features like cache preloading, database optimization, and many more.

    If you have any questions or feedback, you can contact me 🙂

  17. have any of you heard abot this new plugin called WOT CACHE? i heard alot of good things about it did anyone test it and can give reply?

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