Choosing a caching plugin: the top 3 picks for your WordPress site

When your visitors are viewing your WordPress site, do they experience excessive load times?  If so, you could find your Google search rank lowering and experience reduced traffic. Visitors are more likely to exit your page if it is slow to load.

Installing a caching plugin is a low-cost, easy to use solution for a lagging, slow-loading site.

Slow Website

Understanding Caching and Caching Plugins

Server-side caching saves frequently requested data to serve it faster to visitors. Instead of querying the database every time a page is requested, it will save the results in a cache and serve this instead, until changes are made.

Client-side caching means that a visitor will only request static files (stylesheets, JavaScript files and images) once until the browser cache expires.

Using both server-side and client-side caching makes your load times go down, and that basically means happy visitors who are more likely to stay on your site.

Finding the Best Caching Plugin for Your Website

When choosing a caching plugin for your WordPress site, you should consider:

  1. Ease of installation and use: If you have no experience with caching plugins, you may want to consider a plugin that explains the installation and setup process step by step.
  2. Functionality: Choose a caching plugin that suits your needs. Some plugins come with features such as GZIP file compression and content delivery network integration. When properly configured, these extra services will make your site load even faster.
  3. Cost of the plugin: These plugins can range in cost from free to several hundred dollars, depending on the license you pick. Free plugins are usually just as good but may require more tweaking to get the same results.

Top 3 Caching Plugins

WP Rocket

This caching plugin is the one we recommend at WP Captain, and our hosting platform is highly optimized to work hand in hand with WP Rocket. It cannot be matched for superior speed, functionality and ease of use. While this plugin does require the purchase of a license ($39 to $199 depending on the number of sites you can use it on) it is one of the most effective and efficient plugins available. Philip Blomsterberg, a Swedish marketing expert, tested WP Rocket against the competition and found it to be the fastest caching plugin on the market today.

The good results do not come as a surprise, since WP Rocket features:

  • Cache preloading
  • Lazy image loading
  • CDN and CloudFlare support
  • GZIP compression
  • Google Fonts optimization
  • Minification and concatenation
  • Page and browser caching

Every license comes with support, open 6 days a week during normal business hours. Documentation is plentiful.

The best thing about WP Rocket is just how easy it is to install and configure. Once you activate the plugin, you’re pretty much done – you should see improvements right away. Activating advanced features is very easy as well, but you should always test your site to ensure you didn’t break anything in the process.

With its ease of use, bundled features, and impressive performance gains, WP Rocket is the number one contender in the top three caching plugins available today.

W3 Total Cache

Featuring over sixteen pages of configuration options, W3 Total Cache (W3TC) is easily one of the most customizable caching plugins available. It is free to use, and features:

  1. CDN and CloudFlare support
  2. GZIP compression
  3. Minification and concatenation
  4. Page and browser caching
  5. The largest community of active users
  6. Compatible with virtually every hosting platform

While W3TC is a very powerful plugin, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the configuration options at your disposal. We highly recommend taking the time to read the documentation.

With more than 1 million active installations, W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugin currently on the market. When configured properly, it yields excellent results. Its high adaptability and customization options make this a very popular plugin.

WP Super Cache

With over 2 million active users, this plugin is the number one caching plugin. This plugin, made by Automattic, focuses solely on server-side caching and should be used in complement with other plugins that handle browser caching and minification/concatenation. WP Super Cache has the following features:

  1. Page caching and compression
  2. CDN support
  3. Automatic garbage collection

One drawback to WP Super Cache, however, is that the default “simple” mode still requires cached pages to be served by PHP. This results in unnecessary server load and becomes problematic if you experience a traffic surge.

WP Super Cache is a popular choice due to its ease of use and installation. Just be aware that it doesn’t do much out of the box, and that you will need to supplement it with other plugins to leverage browser caching and minify your CSS/JS files.

Before choosing your caching plugin

  1. Ensure that you’re aware of the limitations imposed by your hosting platform
  2. Test that the plugin is correctly installed and running well before allowing it to run “live”
  3. Back up your site before installing or running the plugin
  4. Check if your hosting provider offers any support for caching plugins, as this might come in handy later. WP Captain recommends and supports WP Rocket.

The Final Verdict

While all three of our top picks are stellar plugins, WP Rocket is the best choice for speed, support, and ease of use. We used to recommend W3TC, but the time and knowledge required to get the best possible results weren’t ideal. WP Rocket makes it incredibly quick and painless. While you may initially hesitate to pay for the license required to install WP Rocket, it is an investment well worth making.

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