The best WordPress caching plugins are going to help speed up your website. But which one should you choose with so many options available?
In this guide, we’ll explore what WordPress caching is and help you find the best WordPress caching plugins to make your website fly. Let’s get started.
What is WordPress Caching?
In short, WordPress caching is a critical part of WordPress optimization, or how you get your WordPress website to run as efficiently as possible. WordPress caching can dramatically improve performance by reducing page load times. Instead of serving up dynamic content with each page load, WordPress can instead generate static HTML files to your visitors. This means faster page loading and less load on your server.
Most people explain caching in some convoluted way that never makes sense but instead picture it like this.
You find a hip new restaurant downtown and go once, then you go back a second time, and the chef remembers you and cooks your favorite dish.
That right there is caching. Storing information in a memory, the chef remembers you and can save you both time by just cooking your favorite.
Caching works the same way someone visits your website once, and then the next time someone visits your website, the plugin has cached your site and can serve it faster as all the previous steps, such as loading assets, have already been handled.
In short, website caching is storing complex information — one person doing the heavy lifting, making it faster for everyone else the next time.
Types of WordPress Caching
There are two types of WordPress caching: browser and server-side. Some WordPress caching plugins concentrate on one area of caching or the other, while a few plugins use a combination of both.
The best WordPress caching plugins are the best of all worlds. These plugins minimize the amount of data transmitted from the visitor’s browser, WordPress database, and the web server.
- Browser side caching allows for content like static files and scripts to be stored on the client’s hard drive.
- Server-side caching is more complex with page and mobile caching, along with user and database query caching. Object-based caching is part of the WordPress caching system.
Finding the best WordPress caching plugin for your website is more than just downloading and activating. All caching programs are going to perform differently under hosting and content conditions. If your website is loaded with dynamic content, a simple caching plugin must work harder and thus will take longer to load a page. If the plugin is built to handle a lot of this type of content, your site will improve.
Test your site with tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix and establish a benchmark. Install a popular WordPress caching plugin and test against the benchmark. After several passes, results usually become apparent as to which plugin is best for your site.
Why Do You Need a WordPress Caching Plugin?
Page load times are critical to a website’s success. After all, how many times have you gone to use a website, and it takes a while to load — given up and gone to a competitor’s site? Exactly.
And it’s not just important for your users; it’s also important for Google. In fact, Google recommends websites load under 3 seconds for new industry benchmarks for mobile page speed. Anything less than this and your search engine rankings could be impacted.
If your search engine rankings are impacted, your organic search traffic will go down. If your organic search traffic goes down, then your revenue goes down, and as you can tell from this downward spiral, WordPress caching is pretty essential.
With the need for website speed, you’d think website admins would work to reduce the size of website pages so they would load faster. Unfortunately, this idea is not the trend. Today’s average size for a single downloaded webpage is about 2.2 mb. In 2010, the average size was 702 kb, a 317% increase.
The growth in size for a single page on a website can be attributed to visual elements of content such as images, videos and fonts.
What Does a WordPress Caching Plugin Do?A WordPress caching plugin generates static HTML pages of your website to help increase the speed of your website. Every time a visitor makes it back to your website, the plugin’s algorithm recognizes what has changed and serves up the newest content, not the entire page.
To understand this a bit better, let’s dive into the specifics of what happens when someone visits your website. First, their browser requests files such as HTML and PHP, along with images and scripts. WordPress is designed to serve up posts and pages from the database dynamically. This content delivery procedure slows down the process, meaning your customer must wait (remember the 3 second rule!). Without a caching plugin, visitors are presented with a new page each time they visit your site.
Once a website is published, not much changes other than posts and a few pages designed to deliver updated content. Without a caching plugin, your visitors would need to download every page, every single time they visit. Modern browsers and caching plugins allow guests to access your web page content much faster, creating more conversions, and customer visits. And will also lead to a lower bounce rate.
It is essential to be as specific as possible when you are looking for an advanced plugin like caching. Do not choose a plugin which will be overwhelming and add to the complexity of your site. Stay as simple as possible.
What to Look for in the Best WordPress Caching Plugins
There are a lot of caching plugins. In fact, there are so many that if you type “caching” into WordPress.org it’ll return hundreds of results, so how do you whittle them down? Finding out what you want from a caching plugin is a good start.
Here are our top 5 things to consider when looking for a WordPress caching plugin.
1: How easy it is to use
Caching plugins can be notoriously complex beasts to use coming with pages upon pages of options and settings.
Try and pick a caching plugin that offers user-friendly features such as a setup wizard to help you get started quickly and easily.
2: Asset and Page Exclusion
Vital to almost any WordPress website as while there are some WordPress websites that are purely static content most have some form of dynamic content whether that be in the form of a membership website, a website that sells courses, eCommerce with WooCommerce, and much more.
Dynamic content doesn’t play well with browser caching and page caching which is why it’s important to find a caching plugin where you can exclude specific pages and assets from being cached.
3: Concatenation of Assets
Say it with us now “Concatenation” yes it’s a mouthful! Specifically, this is the method of which combining files is done.
For example, if you have 10 CSS files from your theme and plugins on your website you can serve just one file instead — by combining the 10 CSS files into 1 meaning the browser has to deal with and serve less requests.
With the advent of HTTP2, this is of less importance than before but it’s still a good feature to have.
Caching can be daunting, and if you’re stuck with the setup, it’d be nice to know there’s a friendly professional at the other end of a computer willing to help you.
That’s why you may prefer to use a premium caching plugin over a free caching plugin to get paid support with whatever issues you run into.
As while there shouldn’t be issues every site is different, and peace of mind is nice to have.
As there are so many different caching plugins there’s also an array of pricing strategies. In fact caching, plugins can cost nothing all the way up to $100 and more.
It’s important to evaluate each plugin carefully as paying more doesn’t necessarily equate to getting a better plugin, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee a faster website.
The Best WordPress Caching Plugins
Here’s a recap of the best WordPress caching plugins. For each plugin, we’ll offer some pros and cons, as well as pricing info and a summary of our opinion of the plugin.
1: WP Rocket
About WP Rocket?
WP Rocket is one of the most popular caching plugins in the world. Now powering in excess of 1.2 million websites.
Created by the team at WP Media, the plugin gained a legion of loyal fans thanks to its clean interface and easy to use setup wizard.
Pros of WP Rocket
Apart from the beautiful interface, there’s also a lot else to like about WP Rocket, including
- Cache preloading — pre-load your cache and make your website fly.
- WooCommerce support — support for the most popular eCommerce plugin for WordPress.
- Built-in lazy loading — rather than load all the images at once, only load the images that are in the current viewport of the user.
- Easy to use setup wizard — configure WP Rocket in just a few clicks!
Cons of WP Rocket
To be honest there aren’t a lot of cons to WP Rocket. The main con is its premium only so there’s no free version to get a feel of how it works and if it’s the WordPress caching plugin for you.
Although there is a 30-day money-back guarantee.
WP Rocket Pricing
As we mentioned there’s no free version of WP Rocket and the premium pricing is based on the number of websites rather than restricting features across the plans.
- $49 for 1 site.
- $99 for 3 sites.
- $249 for unlimited websites.
Our Opinion on WP Rocket?
WP Rocket is one of our favorite caching plugins. While being premium only may put some people off, it’s well worth the asking price and is an easy-to-use plugin for developers and beginners alike.
2: W3 Total Cache
About W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache was one of the most — if not the most popular caching plugin for WordPress. However, it had a rough time a couple of years back where support requests went unanswered, and even paying customers couldn’t get any help.
In turn that racked up over 400 1 star reviews on a WordPress.org. Subsequently, BoldGrid (a specialist WordPress company) acquired W3 Total Cache in 2019. And ever since it’s been back on the up with more timely support.
Pros of W3 Total Cache
There’s a range of features in W3 Total Cache here are some of our favorites.
- WP-CLI support — ok this one is geeky and aimed at developers but still pretty cool nonetheless.
- AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) support — AMP is all the rage and having support for Google AMP out of the box is no bad thing.
- Works in all server environments — No matter if you are a die-hard Apache fan or you prefer your Nginx. Whichever platform is your cup of tea W3 Total Cache will work with it.
Cons of W3 Total Cache
Ok maybe we were spoiled by WP Rocket’s stunning interface but W3 Total Cache is definitely more early 2000’s than 2020.
It’s also not that easy to navigate and can be confusing for a beginner user making it easier to misconfigure.
And overall the Pro version is very difficult and confusing to buy as you can only buy it through the free version of W3 Total Cache and there are no discounts based on the number of sites you have.
W3 Total Cache Pricing
The free version of W3 Total Cache is available on WordPress.org. The premium version of W3 Total Cache comes in at $99/yr per site with no discount on multiple site licenses.
Our Opinion About W3 Total Cache?
While it has a bumpy past, W3 Total Cache is now back on track and can still compete with any of the other plugins available on their day.
An older style interface may not scream “ease of use” yet it still has everything you’d need in a caching plugin even in the free version.
Hummingbird compared to most of the other plugins here is a fresh-faced youngster. It’s built by the team at WPMU DEV who certainly knows a thing or two about plugins and speed. After all, they are behind the popular image compression plugin “Smush”.
Pros of Hummingbird
Hummingbird has two main selling points if you ask us.
- It’s built and supported by a team of WordPress experts that offer 24/7 support. Meaning that no matter how complex your site is, they’ll help you get up and running.
- The scan & fix functionality. If you’ve ever broken your website when configuring a caching plugin you understand how frustrating it is. That’s where “Scan & Fix” comes in which will scan your website for caching configuration conflicts and automatically attempt to resolve them.
Cons of Hummingbird
Overall there aren’t a lot of downsides to Hummingbird, the interface is fresh and modern and there’s a variety of features. If anything there are too many features that can seem daunting to a more beginner user.
There’s the free version of Hummingbird available on WordPress.org.
Then there is also the premium version of Hummingbird which is available for $6/month or $60/yr (two months free).
That’s for a single site there are also multiple site discounts available and the full WPMU DEV membership which includes hosting, a variety of pro plugins, and even live chat support.
Our Opinion on Hummingbird?
Hummingbird may be newer to the game but it’s backed by one of the best development teams in WordPress and is jam-packed with features and functionality.
4: Swift Performance
About Swift Performance
Swift Performance made a splash on nearly every WordPress Facebook group you could think of when it first released, quickly becoming used by thousands of users worldwide.
For a short period of time, it was removed from the WordPress.org repository although it made a swift return (ok we’ll stop with the jokes).
Pros of Swift Performance
It really is the swiss army knife of WordPress caching plugins coming with more features than you ever need. Which is perfect the person who likes to tinker and squeeze the most performance from their WordPress website.
Also there’s a rather nifty feature called “Swift Organizer” which allows you to disable plugins on specific pages and only use them where they are needed.
Perfect for those plugins that seem to load all their assets on every page like Contact Form 7.
Cons of Swift Performance
If you take a gander at the WordPress.org reviews you’ll see some users have a negative support experience and while that can be the case with any WordPress it seems more of a trend with Swift Performance.
Oftentimes users are left hanging and just told to buy Pro which of course every plugin developer has to eat but overall if you offer a free version of a plugin it’s a good idea to offer even limited support.
Swift Performance Pricing
There’s a free version of Swift Performance called “Swift Performance Lite,” which is available on WordPress.org.
Then there’s the pro version of Switch Performance which is priced as so:
- $39.99 for 1 site.
- $99.99 for 4 sites.
- $199.99 for unlimited sites.
All licenses renew annually.
Our Opinion on Swift Performance?
Swift Performance is a good WordPress caching plugin. However, we prefer WP Rocket and Hummingbird over Swift Performance.
5: WP Fastest Cache
About WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache is another extremely popular caching plugins boosting over a million active installs on WordPress.org.
It’s one of our favorites thanks to its ease of use and simplicity. It doesn’t come with all the fancy bells and whistles of other caching plugins which for some is exactly what they’re after.
Pros of WP Fastest Cache
It has to be the no-thrills ease of use. It does exactly what a caching plugin should do and doesn’t come with a ton of extra features like other plugins. Making the experience of using WP Fastest Cache a pleasure and one of the easiest plugins to use for the beginner user.
Cons of WP Fastest Cache
The user interface could do with improving to be more intuitive to use but that’s about it.
WP Fastest Cache Pricing
There’s a free version of WP Fastest Cache available on WordPress.org.
Then there’s also a premium version of WP Fastest Cache which is priced at:
- $49.99 for 1 site.
- $125 for 3 websites.
- $175 for 5 websites.
Unlike most WordPress plugins WP Fastest Cache is a one-time payment with updates for life, so you don’t have a yearly expense like you do with WP Rocket.
Our Opinion on WP Fastest Cache?
An easy to use caching plugin that does it exactly what it needs to and nothing more with a friendly to the wallet licensing structure.
Conclusion: The Best WordPress Caching Plugins
WordPress caching plugins don’t have to be difficult to use or setup. In fact, quite often, they are simpler to use than their interfaces would lead you to believe.
If you asked us what the best WordPress caching plugin is? We’d go for WP Rocket or WP Fastest Cache. Both are great options for users of all abilities.
The most important thing is never to use more than one caching plugin as it can cause unintended consequences and issues on your website.
Have you used any of the caching plugins we’ve mentioned here? What’s your favorite WordPress caching plugin? Let us know in the comments below.