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 post, we’ll cover some of the best caching plugins for WordPress.
Why do you need a WordPress caching plugin?
A WordPress caching plugin is critical to the success of your website because it can help speed up your page load times. Why is page speed so important? The quicker your home page loads, the better chance you have of keeping your visitors. In fact, most visitors expect pages they visit to load in under 3 seconds or they abandon that website.
With the need for 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 is a WordPress caching plugin?
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.
Types of WordPress Caching
There are two types of caching: browser and server-side. Some plugins concentrate on one area of caching or the other, while a few plugins use a combination of both. A quality WordPress caching plugin is 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 most effective caching plugin for your site 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.
The Best WordPress Caching Plugins
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache by BoldGrid, free to download. 200 design templates, 6 plugins, one super theme, and two essential services make up the BoldGrid development community. The company continues to build out W3 Total Cache for every type of website and blog.
With over 1+ million downloads, W3 Total Cache is an awesome WordPress caching plugin. Based on feedback from Google PageSpeed Insights, publishers can expect a 10X increase in download speed. According to Pingdom, W3 shaved an average of 1.06 seconds off an average page load. A speed improvement of nearly 29.16% was realized.
Install the software just as you would any other plugin, that is where the similarity ends.
Optimize your site further by configuring W3 Total Cache with one of the popular CDN services. W3 is a total performance upgrade over other caching plugins because it leaves nothing to chance. With 4,440 reviews on WordPress, W3 maintains a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache by Automattic. Making the web more productive is what Automattic is all about. The company is behind WooCommerce, WordPress.com, and Tumblr. Automattic is a distributed company with over 1176 developers in 75 countries. WP Super Cache boasts over 2 million active installations.
Page speeds were improved by 28.61% as rated by Pingdom, and the plugin also cut load times by nearly 1.03 seconds. WordPress.org gives WP Super Cache a rating of 4.2 stars out of a possible 5. Several features make the plugin unique and extremely quick.
Cached files are served up in three ways:
- Expert; changing the .htaccess file is required, and you need Apache mod_rewrite on your server. This is the fastest caching method.
- Simple; static files are served up by PHP.
- WP-Caching; this method is used primarily for caching pages.
If you are uncomfortable with editing PHP files, use “simple mode” in the plugin.
Garbage collection is another feature of WP Super Cache and a critical element to the success of a WordPress Caching plugin. The plugin cleans up out of date, and old files keeping your content fresh. It is vital to empty out this folder from your server occasionally. Keep in mind the majority of these actions are controlled from the dashboard of the plugin for simplicity.
WP Super Cache is compatible with several CDNs and Rest APIs.
WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache by Emre Vona. Free to download and a Premium version available. This single developer has managed to produce one of the most popular caching plugins on WordPress with over one million downloads and counting rapidly.
Developers have come to realize plugins need to be lightweight and work well, not bloated. WP Fastest Cache has an easy to configure settings page which is checkboxes. All the primary tools are included, with no bloat.
Integrate a popular CDN service to speed up a site even more. Optimize your images and see how much space you are saving. Mobile caching is another critical feature of WP Fastest Cache.
Hyper Cache by Stefano Lissa. This Italian programmer has been writing code for Ten plus years and directs his efforts toward building a quality WordPress caching plugin. Lissa has developed several good ones.
Hyper Cache was built solely to speed up your site. The plugin works because of its deep integration with PHP. The plugin is lightweight and easy to configure once installed. Hyper Cache does not carry a lot of bloated add on software; however, it is compatible with much of modern WordPress innovations.
The plugin is HTTPS and mobile aware, with lots of configurable bypasses. Unlike comparable plugins, Hyper Cache detects and controls comment caching. It has a very nice auto-clean feature and is CDN compatible. The plugin uses compression support to optimize bandwidth and page load. Compression support helps with mobile devices as well.
Hyper Cache targets technologies such as advanced browser caching and URI matching. The plugin is open-source and suitable for beginners of WordPress.
The plugin offers all the modern innovations seen in caching plugins for WordPress, such as browser caching. All changes to the plugin are made from a configuration panel, with no modifications to the base code.
Comet Cache has a 4.2 star rating at WordPress.org.
Simple Cache by Taylor Lovett. Free to download and 5,000 active installations. 4.5 Star Rating.
Cachify by pluginkollectiv. Free to download with 10,000 active installs. 5 Star Rating.
Cache Enabler by KeyCDN. Free to download, Open Source. 80,000 active installations. 4.5 Star Rating.
All-In-One Plugins to Optimize PageSpeed and Compression
WP-Optimize by Team Updraft. Free to download, Premium version available. All in one plugins have been around for years. Some are very good, and a few are worthless. WP-Optimize does everything really well. With over 900,000 active installations, a lot of people are speeding up their sites with the help of WP-Optimize.
The plugin does three things to your WordPress installation that keeps the site running efficiently.
- Database: The plugin can clean and compress the MySQL database on whatever schedule you choose. Automatically backs up and optimizes the database.
- Image Compression: Videos, logos, and images are the elements that take up most of the usable space in WordPress. WP-Optimize uses lazy-loss image compression. Images can be compressed in bulk, auto-compress, and intelligent compression.
- Caching: WP-Optimize uses one of the most advanced compression engines for WordPress. Configure the plugin exactly how you wish, turn it on and forget it.
WP-Optimize is multi-site and mobile ready. Use sophisticated scheduling to run each tool in the plugin to optimize and speed up your site consistently. Some plugins may be a little better at caching or image compression, but none are as complete and do a great job in all three.
WP-Optimize has a 5 Star rating on WordPress.
Hummingbird by WPMU DEV. Free to download. This plugin is more than just a caching engine; it attacks speed by doing several things such as compression and minification. WPMU DEV is one of the best development companies on the web. It offers tons of great plugins, themes, and tools designed to make a site extremely efficient.
One excellent tool in Hummingbird is the Scan and Fix. The tool scans your website and ferrets out files and images that are slowing down your site.
- The caching engine includes full-page, browser, and gravatar caching.
- GZIP: transfer large files using the GZIP function.
- Integrate with Cloudflare and Smush Image compression, and WooCommerce.
Hummingbird counts over 100,000 active installations.
LiteSpeed Cache by LiteSpeed Technologies. Much of the optimization this plugin performs is at the server level, which reduces load and speeds up your site.
LiteSpeed is multi-site and mobile Ready and is compatible with all the significant plugins on the market, such as WooCommerce and Yoast SEO. If you have any significant server OS such as Apache, the plugin is compatible. LiteSpeed employs LSCache, which is a server-level cache engine, rather than a PHP cache.
The features of this plugin are extensive; a few are listed below:
- QUIC.CDN Cache
- Optimization of images
- Minify inline CSS/JS
- LazyLoad images
- Opcode cache
- Advanced settings and easy interface
Move to the PRO version, and this plugin is all you will need to speed up and optimize single or multiple sites. A significant feature of the plugin is its ability to use API to extend functionality. Even if a piece of software or plugin is NOT compatible, use the LiteSpeed API to log in.
The plugin features over 900,000 active installations and has a solid 5 Star rating.
Honorable Mention for All-in-One plugins
JCH Optimize by Samuel Marshall. Free to download. 10,000 active installations and a 4.2-star rating
WordPress Cache and CDN by pigeonhut. Free to download. 1,000 active installations and a 4.5-star rating
SG Optimizer by SiteGround. Free to download, but note: this plugin only works with Siteground performance and does not work for any other hosting providers.
This plugin links WordPress with SiteGround and its services. Once connected, there are a couple of services that will speed up your site considerably. SiteGround and its plugin lets you turn on and off services such as automatic cache purge and excluding targeted URLs from dynamic caching.
Two essential functions critical for system performance and included, are SuperCacher and Memcached.
There are three optimization panels:
- Environment: in this panel, you can force HTTPS for your site, and you can switch to a different PHP version. Browser caching and GZIP compression are also available.
- Frontend: with this tab, you can minify resources like HTML, CSS, and JS. Query strings can be removed from static resources.
- Image: in this section, you can enable or disable optimizing newly uploaded pictures and use the bulk optimize function. You can enable lazy load for images on the site.
There are over 800,000 active installations and has a 4.5 star rating.
Swift Performance by SWTE. Free to download or get the PRO version. This plugin does a little bit of everything and does it well. It is one of the new kids on the block, but SWTE is heading in the right direction.
Caching for the plugin comes from a proprietary tool which allows for page caching, and an AJAX request. The tool lets a user have content rules, which removes URLs and pages from the caching engine. Caching is compatible with WooCommerce, Varnish, and Cloudflare.
The plugin features the following tools:
- Swift Performance uses its built-in database optimizer to clean expired transients, orphans, duplicate metadata, comments which appear to be spam.
- Optimize and organize plugins: this tool recognizes poorly written plugins and lets you enable and disable them on the pages you wish. You can have rules for URL, Frontend, Admin Pages, and then set your exceptions.
PRO features include the Compute API for advanced minification. The unlimited image optimizer to increase performance for every image on your site.
The plugin has 20,000 active installations and a 4-star rating.
Breeze by Cloudways. Free to download. This plugin is another example of WordPress linking to specialized hosting solutions. Breeze is meant to be a simple interface for a more extensive collection of tools.
Breeze is compatible with WooCommerce and multi-site. There is built-in support for the Varnish platform. If your server does not support the Varnish mechanism, Breeze has an internal emulator to speed up the performance of your site. If you choose to use Cloudways Servers, Varnish comes with the platform.
Breeze concentrates its efforts in three areas:
- Performance: the plugin features support for file-level caching, database cleaning, and minification. Breeze has built-in support for CDN and Varnish integration.
- Convenience: recommended settings are usually sufficient for most sites. The plugin is easy to install and configure out of the box. Database cleanup takes just a click. A WordPress database is notorious for storing every bit of information that comes into the site. Over time the installation becomes bloated and slows down performance. Breeze takes care of this problem in an instant.
- Simplicity: install and activate the plugin, and results are instant. WordPress maintenance services are available instantly. Breeze works with all major hosting providers and plugins. The plugin features GZIP, browser caching, minification, grouping.
WPSSO Core by JS Morisset. Free to download Core Plugin, a Premium version is available from the website. The WordPress Social and Search Optimizer is one of those foundational plugins that can take single or multiple sites to the next level of performance and speed. Options and add-ons are extensive for the free version and even more so with the Premium edition.
There are add-ons available from third-party vendors, WordPress, and JS Morisett’s website. Do not get caught up in a terrible client protection plan when a quality plugin like WPSSO is available. It all starts with installing the core. Creating meta-tags and having Schema Markup for your site is essential if you want your content to look professional on all the social service websites.
There are so many outlets for advertising, social engagement, and search engines that it becomes tedious and impossible to create tags for each vendor. This feature is where WPSSO comes in. Add a single image to your site, tag, edit, compress, add SEO information, and WPSSO makes sure it is compatible across all social channels such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Pinterest, and the rest. No need to manually re-enter the same information.
WPSSO takes advantage of all available caching methods on the front-end and pre-seeding in the background. They also continually update the internal code, making sure it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress and PHP. WPSSO is location/language-aware, meaning pre-configure the settings, and the software converts in that language and location.
Support and compatibility tools are built-in. Advanced WordPress configurations and support are available inside the plugin, such as WPMU DEV. Complimentary add-ons are available such as WPSSO FAQ Manager, WPSSO Organization Meta, and WPSSO Tune Image Editor.
Support and documentation are just as extensive as the plugin options. There is no better plugin to add to your site than WPSSO. Set up and configuration can be overwhelming; however, take the time to learn the system, and the benefits will be amazing.
There is always quality plugin and software excluded from an article listing the best of something. WordPress has a massive number of plugins in its database, along with the plugins which are just starting to hit the market.
Choose only one caching plugin. Two caching plugins will not double the benefits; more than likely, it will confuse the database and crash it.
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.