One of the key elements to speeding up a WordPress website is using a cache plugin. Often this can scare away those of us who are ‘non-techy' because we think it's too hard, we might mess things up and well…who has the time for that anyway?
My goal for you by the end of this article is:
- For you to have chosen which plugin best suits your needs
- Downloaded, Installed & Set-up your chosen plugin
What Is Cache?
Cache is a collection of data that is stored on your web servers so that users can get quick access to your website.
Rather than your site having to request information from the database each time a page loads, it has a repository of data that it can access quickly.
For WordPress, being a CMS (Content Management System), this proves to be a life-saver and a very smart way to speed up your website.
Why Does Website Speed Matter?
A slow website can kill your business or blog. You've got about 3 seconds to capture the reader's attention if your page loads slower than that, they're likely to hit the back button never to return.
It's really fine margins, and if you're an e-commerce store or selling anything from your website, it can mean the difference between just surviving and thriving.
There is also the added benefit of saving precious server resources, which has a direct impact on your costs to host your website. Be reducing server-load, you save money. Simple!
Before You Start Caching
Before you dive in, I suggest you use two free tools that will give you a baseline for your website speed.
So let's dive right in with our top 5 WordPress Cache Plugins…
1. WP Rocket (Premium)
WP Rocket has been my go-to plugin for a few years now. We use the plugin on this very website and it was what helped us to speed up our website and get page load times under 0.5 seconds.
Now, this is a premium plugin, which, previously I was against. After all, why pay for something when there are other options you can use for free right?
hWell, it wasn't until I joined a Facebook group dedicated to improving website speed did I realize what I'd been missing out on.
I decided to bite-the-bullet and buy a license for WP Rocket. Within an hour I'd not only got it all set up and running on my website, but I decided to purchase their ‘Unlimed Website' package and have this plugin installed across all of our web properties…it's that good.
There are two other reasons that WP Rocket takes the top spot on this list.
The first is the ease of set up. It literally takes minutes to set up and with the excellent documentation on offer, you can have a fully tweaked cache plugin in a matter of 30-minutes.
Lastly, is their customer support, which after having to use them a couple of times for small things and clarification when running my tests, I can say was above and beyond what I expected.
2. Swift Performance (free & Premium)
Swift seems to have come out of nowhere to take the speed optimization world by storm recently. With 2 versions, a free and a paid premium version on offer, you have plenty of options with Swift.
To be honest, it almost pipped WP Rocket to the #1 spot, and may well do in the near future.
With the premium version of the plugin, you can schedule regular database cleanups and get access to their advanced image optimization tool. There is also the great support that has come to be known for.
3. W3 Total Cache (Free)
W3 (aka “W3TC”) is a very popular and capable plugin, with over 1 million active installations, it's easy to see why this plugin makes the list. Now the main trouble for me with this tool was I found quite complicated.
Now, there are some great guides out there that will help you get set up, and when it's up and running it rocks, but I would suggest only those with experience with cache plugins give this a try.
For most it can be a little overkill, and should you be on a basic shared hosting account, it's not really built to work well with those smaller/less powerful servers. If you have a VPS or powerful server/hosting package, then W3 can work very well at speeding up your website.
4. WP Super Cache (Free)
The most popular in terms of the number of downloads is WP Super Cache by the Automattic group, who are also the owners of WordPress.
You've no doubt seen WP Super Cache when installing other plugins on your website. It's heavily pushed as a ‘Recommended' product…so don't let those 2m+ active installs affect your decision too much, they are simply pushing their own product.
Now, onto the good stuff.
WP Super Cache is a nicely laid out and intuitive plugin, where the settings pages don't scare you. It's fairly easy to set up, not as easy as WP Rocket but still, easy for most of us.
The downside is that it's not nearly as fast as WP Rocket or SWIFT from our testing, but it is the go-to for many WordPress users.
5. LiteSpeed Cache (Free)
Next up we have the LiteSpeed Cache plugin, with 600k+ active installations. It's a great tool for those of you who are seeing a ton of traffic coming to your website each month (lucky you, well done!).
LiteSpeed is yet another cache plugin who've come out of the corner fighting and are up there challenge the long-standing big name players. The owners of this plugin (LiteSpeed Webserver) are a web server/hosting company that knows a thing of two about website optimization, disk usage, performance and everything that's involved with a speed website.
Their plugin is also free, a smart way to attract more customers to your service for sure, which is great for those of you looking for a tool that's got a team of developers behind it who really know what they're doing.
If you combine this with a LiteSpeed server you're golden!
I hope this article helped you to find the best caching plugin for your WordPress website. If you're looking to speed up your site even further, you should check out our guide to WordPress speed optimization.