The best WordPress caching plug-ins compared

Is your website operating very slow? Or is its performance just not enough for you? For many visitors, a slow website is a dominant reason to hit the back key. In the worst case, this can cost you potential customers. Optimizing your homepage is also important for search engine rankings, as Google and co. reward fast-loading websites with a better positions in search results. WordPress caching plug-ins can help you optimize the performance of your WordPress site.

But what actually is a cache?

What is a cache?

Whenever a user visits your website, their browser sends a request to the server in order to call all required data from the page. The server works on this request using its database and sends all necessary data and files to the browser. For large websites with a lot of – or particularly big – CSS files, images, or JavaScript files, this request can take quite some time.

In order to reduce this time, the server uses what is known as the cache. Instead of loading dynamic objects from scratch each time and calling them from the database, a static version of the site is stored in the cache. The user, therefore, receives a finished website, which may not be the most recent version but loads significantly faster. This is exactly what a WordPress caching plug-in can help you with.

Tip

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What do you need a WordPress caching plug-in for?

Caching generally has a lot of advantages and is always useful to have. Depending on your hosting solution, the service provider might already handle caching at the server level, meaning you have nothing to worry about. This is especially helpful if you have no technical knowledge on the subject.

If you have a shared hosting solution or you host your own WordPress website on your own server, a WordPress caching plug-in is a sensible idea.

Advantages of WordPress caching plug-ins

  • Faster loading time: Since you save data and other objects in the cache, the browser can load your website more quickly.
  • Better user experience: A fast-loading website is more inviting for users and will reduce the quit rate.
  • Less server resources: WordPress caching plug-ins relieve the server, as it has to handle fewer requests.
  • Better search engine optimization: Thanks to the quicker loading time and better user experience, your website will be ranked more highly by search engines.
  • Lower “time to first byte” (TTFB): TTFB is a measurement of the responsiveness of a server. This is the time the server needs to be able to send the first byte of data to the browser. You can reduce this time by using a WordPress caching plug-in.

Disadvantages of WordPress caching plug-ins

Depending on the things you want to display on your website and how often you change your content, WordPress caching plug-ins can have the following disadvantages:

  • Basic knowledge requirements: Unlike caching at the server level, WordPress caching plug-ins require basic knowledge for you to be able to optimize the plug-in for your own website and make sure that everything displays correctly in the end.
  • Constantly changing information: If, for example, you show the number of active readers on your site, a browser using caching techniques will always show the older, saved version. The latest data will only be shown once the cache has been cleared.
  • Old prices on affiliated websites: Affiliated websites show the prices of products in other online stores. If these stores change their prices, the browser will only show these new prices once the cache has been cleared. To avoid outdated prices being shown on your website, it is recommended that you set it up so that affiliated websites are automatically deleted from your cache after one to two hours.
Note

When you make any changes or updates to your website, you should immediately clear your WordPress cache. The browser will then directly show the page’s new content.

WordPress caching plug-ins: the most important features

WordPress caching plug-ins offer a range of different features to help improve the loading times of your website. The most important features to speed up your WordPress website are as follows:

  • Combining files: Websites often use various CSS and JS files. Each file needs its own request. In order to reduce the number of requests, the plug-in bundles individual CSS and JS files into one bulk file.
  • Browser caching: When a user visits a site, the plug-in creates copies of the various resources. If the user visits the same site again, these resources are taken directly from the cache.
  • GZip compression: WordPress caching plug-ins can use Gzip to reduce the size of HTML, CSS and JS files.
  • CDN (Content Delivery Network): Data can be sent more quickly over a CDN.
  • Image optimization: Large images or a lot of images often slow the loading times of a website. Optimized image sizes noticeably improve performance.

The best WordPress caching plug-ins

WordPress offers a wide choice of WordPress caching plug-ins. We dug out the best ones to compare for you. All of them have extensive settings. We recommend you test two or three different plug-ins, checking your speed using Pingdom. This way, you can find out which plug-in works best for your website, server, and requirements.

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache has over a million active installations, making it one of the most popular WordPress caching plug-ins. It is very easy to use and comes with a whole host of different settings that you can turn on and off using checkboxes.

WP Fastest Cache offers both a free and premium version. The premium version comes with more tools to help speed up your WordPress site. For most users, though, the free features are enough.

Pros and cons of WP Fastest Cache

Pros Cons
Minimizes CSS and HTML Not suitable for multiple sites
JS and CSS files can be combined Combined and minimized JS files in the footer with the premium version
SSL & CDN support Image optimization with the premium version
GZip compression Database optimization with the premium version
Desktop cache  
Browser caching  
You can exclude certain sites, cookies, CSS files, JS files and users from the cache  
Option to automatically delete the cache if you publish or update a post or page  

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a comprehensive premium plug-in that provides all the features you need for a faster online presence. The developers do not offer a free version of this plug-in, but the paid version comes with a 14-day money-back guarantee. The price is between $36.75 and $186.75, depending on how many websites you want to use the plug-in for.

WP Rocket is a particularly good WordPress caching plug-in for beginners, as its user-friendly interface and quick installation make it very simple to use.

Pros and cons of the premium WordPress caching plug-in WP Rocket

Pros Cons
Minimizes CSS and HTML No free version available
JS and CSS files can be combined  
Delayed loading of JS files  
CDN support  
GZip compression  
Desktop cache  
Browser caching  
Database optimization  
Unique optimization of Google Fonts  

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is completely free. There is no premium or paid version to unlock any features. All important features are already available in the base version. The extensive range of features makes this WordPress caching plug-in a little more complicated to use for beginners. If you already have a little knowledge, this is a good choice to get access to a bunch of fine-tuning possibilities absolutely free.

Pros and cons of W3 Total Cache

Pros Cons
Minimizes CSS and HTML No database optimization
JS and CSS files can be combined No lazy load option
GZip compression  
Desktop cache  
Browser caching  
CDN support  
Compatible with multiple websites  
Support for mobile devices  

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache, however, is easier to use than W3 Total Cache. The caching modes are particularly helpful. Beginners can use the simple mode to get effective caching without taking risks. If you want more in‑depth options, there’s also an expert mode that lets you use more precise settings. However, you need to have enough technical expertise to be able to use this mode safely, as it affects important server files.

The WP Super Cache plug-in was developed by the same company that developed WordPress. WordPress users therefore think of it as the official WordPress caching plug-in. The biggest advantage of this plug-in is that it sets up static HTML pages. This allows the browser to display the site significantly faster than when reading data from a database.

Pros and cons of the WordPress caching plug-in WP Super Cache

Pros Cons
Three modes for quicker installation No Google Fonts optimization
Sets up static HTML sites No lazy load option
GZip compression No option to minimize or combine individual CSS or JS files
Desktop cache  
Compatible with multiple websites  
Support for mobile devices  
CDN support  

WordPress caching plug-ins: a direct comparison

Now that we have shown you the four best WordPress caching plug-ins, take a look at the table below to get an overview of all the important features.

Feature WP Fastest Cache WP Rocket W3 Total Cache WP Super Cache
Browser caching Yes Yes Yes No
Desktop cache Yes Yes Yes Yes
Minimizes CSS and HTML Yes Yes Yes No
Minimizes JS Yes, with premium Yes Yes No
Combines JS and CSS files Yes Yes Yes No
JS files in the footer Yes, with premium Yes No (programming knowledge is required for the W3 Total Cache tag) No
CDN support Yes Yes Yes Yes
GZip compression Yes Yes Yes Yes
Database optimization Yes, with premium Yes No  
Google Fonts optimization Yes, with premium Yes No No
Support for mobile devices Yes, with premium Yes Yes Yes
Compatible with multiple websites No Yes Yes Yes
Lazy load Yes, with premium Yes No No
Image optimization Yes, with premium No No No
Free version Yes No Yes Yes
Premium price (July 2020) From $49.99 From $36.75 Free Free

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