As good as WordPress is, it does have its flaws. Let’s be honest, it’s not the fastest CMS out there. It’s quite bulky and if you have any traffic of note, without proper optimisation, you’re going to run into issues. Combine this with lots of constantly called CSS/JS files utilised by your theme and the endless amount of plugins you’ve installed – it can become a living nightmare.
Fortunately, there are things you can do negate these issues. The answer is simple, caching. Caching is literally the storing of elements so they’re not reloaded each and every time as your visitor navigates your site – which they would be ordinarily.
Caching in general can speed up your website no end thus providing your users with a great overall experience. It also has added benefits in terms of your search rankings as Google actively rewards fast websites and it also limits your bouncerate.
So today, we’re going to run through what I consider to be the top 5 WordPress caching plugins out there. All of the basic versions are completely free of charge and all are highly configurable meaning you can choose to cache all or simply specific elements.
Combining one of the scripts below with one of our optimised WordPress hosting plans will ensure your blog performs at optimum speed.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache sits at the top of the list as it is my go-to plugin of choice when it comes to WordPress caching. It is capable of speeding up your site 10-fold and comes with a wide range of features and functions.
W3 Total Cache also combines files so if for example you were calling 5 .js files from your theme, it would merge them all into one. The lower the requests to the server, the quicker loading your site will be.
WP Rocket is a genuine competitor to W3 Total Cache with over 250,000 active users – including some pretty big sites. Like with all WordPress caching plugins, it does what it says on the tin in terms of caching content and speeding up your blog. But it does have some interesting features in its own right.
One of those features is cache preloading meaning your content is cached as per your sitemap before a visitor even accesses it. Another great feature is “images on request” meaning that images (often slow loading) are called as your visitor scrolls down your page rather than all at once as they would be traditionally.
WP Super Cache
This one works slightly differently to the others as it literally creates flat HTML files to serve to your visitor rather than calling them dynamically as they would normally be.
We all know flat HTML files process faster than PHP combined with database queries and WP Super Cache seeks to address this. They call this “supercaching”.
This however is just one feature. It also combines all of the other standard features such as CDN support, cache rebuilding and regular page compression.
Hyper Cache is another one of my favourites due to its simple configuration options. Whilst other plugins have gained popularity due to their feature lists, sometimes you just want to keep things simple.
General settings for Hyper Cache include being able to simply define the time (hours) pages are cached for and simple tick boxes to enable basic page compression.
You can also bypass certain sections/areas of your site if you’re serving content that you specifically don’t want to be cached and you can also manually control where your cache folder is located so it’s not taking up valuable space when included in your backup routines.
WP Fastest Cache
Another good all rounder is WP Fastest Cache. It can be used like Super Cache to generate flat HTML files to serve your content or it can also be used to serve and cache regular dynamic pages.
It has a wide range of configuration options and features you’d expect such as Minifying, Gzip compression and browser caching.
One thing I like about this plugin is that the cache automatically clears when a new post is added (or edited) which can be handy if you’re changing things around on your blog and get tired of manually emptying the cache each time in order to see the changes you have made.
It also has the option to combine the likes of CSS and JS files meaning less calls to your server each time pages are loaded.
Unfortunately many people wait until it’s too late before optimising their WordPress install. Usually an influx of traffic makes us sit up and take notice as our blogs become slow loading or in worse cases, don’t load at all. So be proactive and do something about it before it becomes an issue.
You may well be wondering what is considered “slow”. Well, like with most things, there is an app for that. My favourite is GTMetrix. Just head on over and enter your domain name and it will perform a full analysis of your site remotely. Not only will it report back how you fair in the speed stakes it will also analyse your entire site based on a range of criteria. It will then report back on what you need to improve. If that wasn’t enough it will also show you how to do it!