Caching is a sure-fire way of speeding up your website. On a WordPress website, you can do it simply by installing a cache plugin. There are a lot of options, each with its own pros and cons. This article explores the best WordPress Cache Plugins, and answers all the questions you might have about them, and about caching in general.
37% of all websites run on WordPress, that is around 455 million of the 1.3 billion websites on the internet. The most cited reason behind this astounding popularity is that non-developers can carry out day to day operations of a WordPress website quite easily.
We will understand
- How a WordPress site is different from a static HTML website.
- What makes it easier to modify a WordPress website.
- What necessitates WordPress Cache Plugins.
- How to identify the best WordPress Cache Plugin for your site.
The first thing you need to know before we get on with the discussion of best WordPress cache plugins and whatnot, is how a WordPress website functions. Of course, if you know all that and would like to jump straight to the list of the best WordPress Cache Plugins, here’s a tunnel.
How does a WordPress Website Function?
WordPress is a content management system that combines four different elements to help you build a website. What are these elements?
WordPress core: This is a set of PHP and HTML files that you get when you install WordPress. The software itself and most of the plugins are written in PHP. We will learn about its functionality in a bit.
Database: A MySQL database contains all your files, content, and structures. WordPress cannot function without a database.
Additional data: There’s other data like, themes, plugins, and images that you upload. All of these are stored in WP content files.
Dashboard: WordPress comes with a dashboard or admin panel that allows you to control everything on your website. This is the place where all the dragging and dropping takes place.
This is how it all comes together to run your website.
When a visitor types in the URL for your webpage on their browser, the PHP code running on your server side receives the request and runs MySQL queries to retrieve necessary information from the database. The information is then converted into HTML code and sent to the browser.
How is this different from a static HTML website?
HTML sites are basically a library of HTML files with one file for every page on the website, while in a WordPress site the hosting server assembles the requested pages from the database using PHP code.
As you can realize, HTML sites do not require PHP execution, as the webpages are basically ready-to-serve HTML pages. In the case of WordPress sites, a lot happens in the backend. Therefore, WordPress sites are naturally slower to load. Now that is something you cannot have if you want your website to rank high on Google.
Loading speed is one of the key criteria when it comes to ranking. In fact, studies show that 25% of visitors abandon a site that takes more than 4 seconds to load. The ideal loading speed for e-commerce sites is less than 2 seconds.
It would be a shame should you have to abandon the ease of using a CMS for the sake of speed. This is where cache plugins come into play.
What is a WordPress Cache plugin?
Caching means creating static versions of your web pages and storing them in an easily accessible spot. That means caching bypasses the whole process of retrieving relevant data from the database and converting them to HTML whenever a visitor requests a certain web page. WordPress cache plugins are programs that enable your WordPress site to cache certain pages. By using the best WordPress cache plugins you can significantly cut down the loading time of your website.
How exactly does a WordPress Cache Plugin Increase Loading Speed?
There is more to caching than just bypassing the PHP execution. There are a bunch of functionalities that come with the best WordPress cache plugins. Let us look at some of the features and functionalities before jumping to the list of WordPress cache plugins.
Various Features of Cache Plugins
Object caching refers to storing database query results, so that it can produce them faster the next time they are requested.
A browser typically stores the static assets of a website for the next use. This saves a lot of loading time and bandwidth.
As the name suggests, fragment caching allows caching of certain parts of a webpage as opposed to caching the entire webpage. It is achieved by caching each user control individually.
When you request a webpage with your browser the web server returns certain files which the browser has to download to show you. Now, if the web server is asked to provide a zipped file, the download happens faster, and the page loads quicker. This is what Gzip compression does.
It refers to loading a certain portion of a webpage instead of loading the entire page. Let us say you are scrolling down a web page and the browser is loading the webpage as you scroll down. This particular feature is called infinite scrolling.
Usually a cache is built when a visitor visits your website for the first time. With cache preloading, you do not have to wait for the first visitor, and optimize the loading speed from the first search.
Database caching creates a supplemental data cache that can live in various areas including your database. It usually caches the most frequently used data, thus decreasing the pressure on your database, and enhancing performance.
When a browser requests some resources from a server, the domain name has to be resolved. This resolution adds latency to the loading process. DNS prefetching masks this latency.
There are other functionalities afforded by WordPress cache plugins which contribute to decreasing loading speed of a WordPress site. Now that you know what a cache plugin is and what you can achieve with it,
Let us Find Out the Best WordPress Cache Plugins
1. W3 Total Cache
W3 Total cache is one of the most popular cache plugins famous for its incredible depth of functionalities.
On top of page caching W3 Total cache can perform Minification, Opcode caching, Database caching, Browser caching, Fragment caching among others.
So many options add to the complexity of W3 Total cache. Nevertheless, the freedom it affords to pick and choose functionalities is unmatched by any other WordPress Cache Plugins.
It is the best pick if you are looking for flexibility at the expense of simplicity. But if you are new to this, and do not know what you are doing, then some other plugin might suit you better.
W3 Total Cache has been found to increase page speed by 20.64% to 29% and reduce loading time by 1.06 seconds.
2. WP Fastest Cache
WordPress caches are primarily used to enhance loading speed. That is exactly what you get from this plugin minus the flexibility of W3 Total cache.
WP Fastest cache offers Minification, Gzip Compression, Browser Caching, and Cache Preload. It has a very simple interface and you can get started simply by ticking some boxes.
WP Fastest Cache can curtail load time by around 0.5 seconds with a page speed enhancement of 15.74%.
3. WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache comes from Automatic, the makers of WordPress.com. It is very easy to use. You can just turn the cache on and it does most of the work by itself.
You do have the options to configure some advanced features like cache preloading, CDN integration, browser caching, etc. You can also exclude certain content from being cached.
In a test WP Super Cache has been found to reduce loading time by 1.03 seconds and increase page speed by 28.61%
4. Comet Cache
Comet Cache is a pretty useful plugin both for server caching and client side browser caching. Just like the previous one this too is a plug and play software. However, you have to complete some tasks manually in the free version.
The best part about this cache plugin is the documentation. It has elaborate guides to help you understand and navigate different features.
Comet Cache can shave upto 1.26 seconds of loading time while increasing page speed by 35.07%
5. Cache Enabler
Cache Enabler is a simple yet powerful tool for WordPress caching. It comes with features like automatic cache clearing, real time cache size display on WordPress dashboard, Gzip precompression, among others.
It captures static HTML pages and stores them in the server disk thus reducing the resource intensive backend processes.
6. WP Rocket
Here is another plug and play cache plugin with impressive performance and qualities. You can just activate the cache plugin and it works on its own with its preset configurations.
If you understand the best practices of caching, you can play around with the features to optimize it further. WP Rocket is equally appealing to the beginner and the experienced website owner.
In a test WP Rocket has decreased load time by 1.27 seconds with a page speed enhancement of 35.21%.
Cachify has a range of different caching options and is currently active on more than 20,000 sites, and has quite impressive ratings.
It has curtailed load time by 0.75 seconds with a page speed enhancement of more than 21%.
WP-Optimize is a very popular cache plugin with more than a million installations. It allows you to control browser caching. You can minify HTML and JS code with it. It also allows you to generate separate cache files for mobile devices so that you can give mobile users an optimized experience of your website.
What are the Benefits of Using WordPress Cache Plugins?
Enhances speed and performance: The whole point of using cache plugins is to reduce loading time and increase page speed. Every second of added loading time increases website bounce rate by 4.4%. Hence, decreasing loading time is the most important benefit.
Reduces load on host servers: Caching saves server memory and reduces input-output operations. This is a very important benefit for website owners working with limited web hosting plans.
Better SEO ranking: Page speed and loading time are listed as important ranking criteria by Google. You can enhance your chances of moving up the SERP by implementing the best WordPress Cache Plugins.
Better user experience: 70% of users of Ecommerce sites opine that page loading speed has a direct impact on their willingness to make a purchase from a site. Optimizing loading times for both desktop and mobile web pages is a principal benefit of using cache plugins.
Security issues in WordPress Cache Plugins
Even the best WordPress Cache Plugins are subject to security threats. In October 2021 some severe vulnerabilities were discovered in WP Fastest cache. Earlier in August critical security loopholes were found in W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Each month various security companies come up with reports on vulnerabilities found in WordPress cache plugins.
These vulnerabilities can lead to attackers inserting malicious scripts into your web pages. It is important to be aware of these vulnerabilities and take appropriate measures to avoid a hack situation. If your site does get hacked here is a guide to quickly remediate the situation: WordPress Hack Removal Guide With Complete Steps.
When it comes to running a commercial website or a blog, slow page speed and a loading time that exceeds 4 seconds are your worst enemies. You lose visitors, lose conversions, and lose ranking to pages that perform better. That is why it is important to find and implement the best WordPress Cache Plugin for your website.
Cache Plugins have always carried some security risks, and they will continue to do so. You have to be vigilant and should ideally enlist the help of Security Experts.