WordPress caching plugins instruct your viewer’s web browsers to store some information on their computers so it doesn’t need downloading again. For example, if people keep skipping between your home page and your product pages, a caching plugin may save your home page on a temporary file on somebody’s computer. That way, then they go back and look at your home page, it loads from their local temp files rather than having to be re-downloaded again.
The downside to caching plugins is that they all slow down your page speed, but may speed up the user experience if somebody spends a long time on your website. The other problem is that caching programs never have the sort of in-depth customization that gives you full control over what is saved on a user’s device and what is not. Finally, some people don’t like caching plugins because they make it easier for hackers to exploit the website or its users. That is why you need to find a good WordPress caching plugin for your website. Here are a few of the most popular.
If you are a beginner, or simply don’t fancy dedicating enormous amounts of time to learning about each caching plugin, then WP Rocket has you covered. They designed their interface to keep it as simple as possible. They kept the setup as simple as possible, and they still left the door open for developers to get in there and make some very deep customizations. WP Rocket doesn’t make the top of many best WordPress performance plugin lists, but just because it is the McDonalds of the cache plugin world, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fill your stomach.
It comes with all the expected features. You can lazy load your content, it cleans up your WordPress database, it is compatible with Cloudflare, it is multi-site compatible, you can preload the cache, and there are tools for minification and controlling concatenation. The only problem with this plugin is that it is not on the WordPress.org website, which can make it inconvenient to install.
Though it doesn’t top our list, W3 Total Cache is one of the WordPress plugin library’s most popular wordpress plugins. There is a free option that does what most smaller websites need, but it will not further optimization with some WordPress themes. Like all caching solutions, there is a possibility this will increase your loading and rendering speeds. But, with that said, the plugin is so popular that no matter what problem you are having, there is an online solution ready and waiting for you.
No matter your chosen type of hosting, this plugin has options for clusters, shared hosting and dedicated servers. This is good if you are using tools like Google Developer Tools – Page Speed and your loading times are a little low. It speeds up SSL websites, and it works with your media library so you can see how well your images are being optimized. It caches your database, objects and posts. It is one of the few WordPress performance plugins that offers a long-term free option and still works very well.
A very different WordPress performance plugin from the one above, despite having very similar names. This is another WordPress website plugin that offers a free solution over the long term and still works pretty well. It doesn’t have the usability qualities that the WordPress plugins above do, but its best feature is the fact that you can pick between three modes, and the “Simple” mode is very safe. It creates caching that is legal in most countries, that is the least likely to slow your page loading, and that is least likely to conflict with other plugins or WordPress themes.
On the other hand, if you want a little more power, you can use expert mode and really optimize your WordPress site. You can make modifications to your “.htaccess” file (if you’re on Apache/Litespeed web hosting) and really optimize your website as you see fit. This is especially helpful if you have the skills and software required to test and re-test your website over and over to see the difference each time you modify your caching plugins. This is a free plugin with power, but it isn’t as user friendly or well made as the plugins listed above.
Often called the budget version of WP Rocket, you can use their free solution to do several WP optimize tasks. As you probably know, Google created WebP images, an online friendly image format, and Cache Enabler was the first caching software to help people serve WebP images. This has the benefit of making your website faster and making it more search engine friendly. The settings on offer are pretty user friendly too. The settings page has explanations of what each function does, and if you are not eager to look under the bonnet on this one, then it makes caching setup and optimization a little easier. This is a faster and easier caching WordPress plugin, but that also means you sacrifice a lot of in-depth customization. This WordPress caching plugin is best suited for smaller websites and low-risk websites that wish to improve their user experience a little.
Some people like to pair Cache Enabler with Autoptimize (the one featured below). This means that people wanting a stronger or more customizable experience can have it. You can do things like injecting CSS into the page head, and setting up isn’t too difficult since there are plenty of guides online that show you how to combine Cache Enabler with an Autoptimize setup.
The Cloudflare and Autoptimize solution is one for advanced users. The Autoptimize plugin optimizes your WordPress website, and Cloudflare (not a WordPress plugin but a CDN) can be used for caching. If set up correctly, this can be one of the best solutions for optimization and caching. As one of many WordPress speed optimization plugins, Autoptimize is great. But, it needs something like Cloudflare to help it reach above and beyond its call of duty. If you are looking for a fast loading website, then these two are good when working together, but you may experience problems and conflicts if you try to mix these with some of the others on this list.
What’s the Best Plugin to Speed up WordPress?
The table below compares all five WordPress caching plugins.
|W3 Total Cache||8||7||7||Free or $99/yr|
|W3 Super Cache||5||6||4||Free|
|Autoptimise||6||7 (9 with Cloudflare)||7||Free|
The problem with comparing such complex pieces of software is that there are too many variables to compare them fairly. Where one may offer some very deep customization, others may offer a quick and easy user experience. Where some may offer intelligent database optimization, others may offer amazing image compression.
The other troubling side of WordPress caching plugin comparison is that different plugins and settings will give different results. A WordPress website with one theme and content may get far better results from one caching plugin than another. Those who measure the effectiveness of plugins, such as by how long they reduce loading times, can never really anticipate your experience with the same caching plugins. If you are looking for a truly perfect experience, then trial and experimentation is your most useful tool.
Do I Need a WordPress Caching Plugin?
No, you do not need a WordPress caching plugin. It is quite possible for you to have a fairly fast-loading website that doesn’t need help from a caching and optimization plugin. It is also possible that your website doesn’t need caching because people rarely revisit the same pages. Also, a lightweight website, a website that isn’t visited often, or a website that doesn’t need to rank up the search engines may also operate very well without any sort of caching.
Caching offers things like quicker response times and less server load, which is most suitable for websites that are larger, that have lots of people visiting, that have peak times with lots of people visiting, for heavier websites and for websites where people keep coming back to revisit the same pages. Caching is used to solve usability and user experience problems and sometimes helps with a website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization). With that in mind, it only solves a problem if you have a problem.
Also, don’t confuse caching with optimization. Many caching plugins have optimization tools because they fit neatly into the software package. However, where optimization can create a cleaner, lighter, more ordered and more search engine friendly website, caching is mostly about the user experience (especially when there are a lot of users). The byproduct of caching is that your website may be ranked higher up the Google search engine results, and some websites run, respond and load more quickly if they have good caching solutions installed.
How Much Difference Will a WordPress Caching Plugin Make?
It depends on a lot of factors. If your website is being run by the supercomputers at NASA and your viewers are accessing it from next door, then caching will make no difference at all. On the other hand, if you have a takeaway ordering website where thousands of people want to make quick orders at peak times, then caching may make a massive difference to your website.
You have to remember that the very best WordPress performance plugin is going to affect many different things. It may affect your SEO because it affects your site speed, crawl rates, offers faster loading, etc. It may affect your user experience, which will help make your website more popular, which in turn helps rank your website up the search engines.
Caching is often a very good solution to high bounce rates, especially when you remember that 32% of people bounce after 3 seconds, and up to 90% bounce after a load time of just 5 seconds. More than 6 seconds and 99.9% of people bounce.
Caching helps mobile browsing in a variety of ways. Mobile Internet is getting a lot better, but caching can make a lot of difference if your website is taking as long as ten to fifteen seconds to load. Caching makes websites more responsive, which also helps conversion rates, especially when you add in the fact that faster-responding websites offer a better user experience.
Final thoughts: Caching Plugins Aren’t the Whole Picture
As your website grows, it becomes more sophisticated, and as it becomes more popular, things like caching start to matter more and more. You reach a junction where the risks of caching plugins are outweighed by the risks of a poorer user experience. And, some people feel it is better to optimize and customize your caching sooner rather than later because it is more difficult to customize a massively popular website. Plus, the interruption in online commerce is less severe when the website is newer, smaller and less popular. Ergo, it is better to have your website down for maintenance (which you install, customize and test caching) when you are a smaller website than when you are an international success.
Though, do remember that caching isn’t the whole picture. When you optimize your website, you have to think about things like the hosting services you are using, how optimized the theme is, the number of images/videos and other things that should be concerned aside from caching. Caching is one of the most important improvements, but it is only part of the puzzle. In many cases, people like to get the other side of optimization done first before they install caching plugins. They like to have their WordPress site or WordPress theme all up, running and bug-free before they install caching. Nevertheless, when the time is right, you should strongly consider using a caching website.