Adding a cache plugin to your WordPress site is basically the best thing you can install on your site after Akismet and WordPress SEO, by default WordPress sites are served by compiling the various PHP files for each visitor which causes an overhead on your server. By installing a cache plugin, the PHP files are complied into static HTML files which load a lot faster and decrease the load on your server, unless you have a very dynamic site like a forum there is no reason to not use one.
Increased page speed is proven to decrease bounce rates, increase conversions and also will now give you a boost in Google search results as they now take page speed into account as a ranking signal.
There are several options for caching in WordPress, the main two which are also free are W3Total Cache and Super Cache and both do great jobs at lowering page loading times - I currently use Super Cache on WPlift and was very happy with the results so I was interested to find out if WP Rocket could improve loading times.
As you would expect from a premium plugin, to justify the purchase price when compared to similar free plugins it needs to offer more features which WP Rocket does. As you can see from the feature comparison table taken from their site, they offer a lot of features that the competitors don't. Some of the extra features in WP Rocket which stood out for me are the fact it is eCommerce friendly, multisite compatible and the ability to defer JS loading and ability to use LazyLoad.
Purchasing this plugin will also include customer support which is provided by a support contact form within your account menu on their site.
After installing and activating WP Rocket for the first time, you are presented with some instructions for setting CHMOD permissions on various files and folders so the plugin can modify these for you - wp-config.php and the wp-content folder. Once the plugin has installed, you can set these back to their previous permissions to ensure your site stays secure.
Once the plugin is activated you can visit the options page - the first tab is "Basic Options" where you can enable LazyLoad which defer loading of images until the users scrolls them into view - a nice feature if you have a lot of images on your site. You can set file optimizations (Minification & Concatenation):
This mechanism reduces the weight of each file and allows a faster reading of browsers and search engines.
This mechanism reduces the number of HTTP requests and improves the loading time.
You can also enable mobile cache, logged in user cache, SSL Cache and set a Clear Cache Lifespan ( set to 24 hours by default ).
Moving on to the "Advanced Options" Tab you have the ability to Prefetch DNS requests, Empty the cache of set pages when updating a post, Never Cache set pages and so on.
The "CDN" tab is where you can configure your CDN settings and Cloudflare settings, including the ability to set up a a CNAME for your site to something like http://cdn.yourdomain.com
"Tools" is where you can perform manual actions such as clearing the cache, preloading the cache, importing and exporting your settings to another site.
Finally you have the "FAQ" tab which links through to the documentation with some commonly asked questions, and the "Support" tab lets you submit a support question from inside the plugin.
For the purposes of this test, I decided to test on an eCommerce site of mine which I had never previously used a cache plugin on as I didn't want to interfere with the shopping cart functionality, WP Rocket works automatically with popular eCommerce plugins such as WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads etc by excluding the view cart and checkout pages from being cached.
I used the website speed test available at Pingdom which gives you a true measure of actual loading time for your site. I also ran the test 5 times to get an average speed. I chose New York USA as the testing location as my server is based in the USA.
First test, no cache plugin
To get a base line speed for the site, I first tested with no cache plugin installed, the site homepage is 1.2 MB in size. The result was an average load time of 1.59 seconds, faster than 76% of all sites tested.
- 1.76 seconds
- 1.55 seconds
- 1.53 seconds
- 1.6 seconds
- 1.53 seconds
- Average Load time: 1.594 seconds
Second Test, WP Super Cache
For the second test I activated the Super Cache plugin which brought the average load time down to 1.024 seconds, faster than 89% of sites tested.
- 1.04 seconds
- 1.01 seconds
- 1.03 seconds
- 1.00 seconds
- 1.04 seconds
- Average Load time: 1.024 seconds
Third Test, WP Rocket
Finally I tested with WP Rocket and as you can see this is the clear winner, bringing average load time down to less than a second at 781 millseconds, faster than 94% of websites tested.
- 702 milliseconds
- 812 milliseconds
- 705 milliseconds
- 946 milliseconds
- 740 milliseconds
- Average Load Time: 781 milliseconds
Pricing for WP Rocket starts at $39 per year for a one site license, 3 sites for $99 and $199 for unlimited sites. All plans include 1 year of support and updates and a 30 day money back guarantee so you can test it on your site to see if it out-performs your existing plugin.
WP Rocket is very easy to get up and running - It is easier than WP Super Cache and a lot easier than W3 Total Cache which has lots more configuration to do and can even slow your site down if not set up correctly. Really, the only way to judge these types of plugins is how well work they work on your site, as you can see from the test I ran, it significantly out-performed Super Cache in page loading times and halved my page load times compared to not using a cache plugin at all.
So, would I recommend this plugin over a free one ? I would say that if your site relies on making money from customer sales, signups and so on then the benefit vs the cost of paying $39 for a year is definitely worth it (renewals are 50% off), that increase in speed could result in a few extra customers then it will have justified its cost. If you run a personal site which is not designed to make money then I would say you will do just fine using a free option - I have used WP Super Cache for many years now and it has performed just fine for me.
I was skeptical at first as to whether WP Rocket would justify its premium price tag but after seeing the results of my test, I am definitely going to be moving my sites over to WP Rocket.