Were you once happy with the performance of your WordPress website, only to now find it’s not loading as quickly as it once did? If so, then it's time you thought about installing a WordPress caching plugin. In this article, we’ll be testing and comparing the best WordPress caching plugins to help you improve the speed of your website.
But before we get to the test results from comparing the caching plugins, let’s take a quick look at what a caching plugin is and the benefits of using one to speed up your WordPress website.
However, if you just want to know which is the fastest caching plugin, click here to jump to the test results.
Why Use a WordPress Caching Plugin and Which is Best?
As your WordPress website grows, with the publication of new content and the installation of additional plugins, it will, unfortunately, start to slow down. Even a fresh installation of WordPress can suffer from poor performance during spikes of high traffic or if you’re using a low-quality web host.
How Loading Times Impact Your Website
When it comes to page speed and loading times, an improvement of just a single second can have huge implications for your bottom line. For example, back in 2012, Amazon estimated that if their website loaded just one second slower it would cost them $1.6 billion in sales; and this number has surely only increased since then.
Reduced Conversion Rates
You’re probably not operating quite on Amazon’s scale, but slow loading times are still costly. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of your visitors will lose patience and leave your site if your pages take more than three seconds to load. A single second of delay can reduce your conversions by 7%.
Even if you're not selling anything from your site, you probably have some goal in mind. Whether that goal is more email subscribers, more social shares, or just more page views and discussion, slow loading times will hurt your goal conversion rates.
Poor Search Engine Rankings
Furthermore, Google uses page speed as a factor when determining where to rank your content in its search engine results pages. So, if you want greater search engine visibility and more traffic from sites like Google, you need to speed up your website.
No matter the purpose of your website – whether it’s to promote products and services or simply build an audience – higher bounce rates, reduced conversion rates, and decreased search engine rankings hurt. So what can be done?
How to Improve the Speed of WordPress
Well, the good news is, while there are many ways to improve the speed of WordPress, one of the easiest options is to use a caching plugin. As we’ll soon see in our comparison of the best caching plugins for WordPress, in some cases simply installing and activating a caching plugin can shave seconds off your loading times. But how do they work?
What Does a Caching Plugin Do?
In short, caching plugins help WordPress work more efficiently. By default, each time a page on your WordPress website is accessed by a visitor, the content is generated dynamically with lots going on in the background, including multiple database queries and code executions.
A caching plugin will create a static version of your content, removing many of the steps that take place when a page is generated dynamically. The result of this is faster loading times and happier visitors.
Which is the Best WordPress Caching Plugin?
Therefore, if you want to improve your site’s SEO, increase its conversion rates, and offer your visitors a more enjoyable user experience, installing a caching plugin is a quick and effective way to do so. However, with so many to choose from, which is the best WordPress caching plugin?
To help answer that question, this post will test and compare nine popular caching plugins to determine which is the best option for speeding up your WordPress website.
However, if you're ready to find out which is the fastest caching plugin, click here to jump to the test results.
How We Tested the Best Caching Plugins
The GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights tools were used to compare and test the best WordPress caching plugins — the same tools we used to find the fastest WordPress themes.
A testing WordPress website was created using the popular multi-purpose Divi theme and a content-rich homepage, hosted on an entry-level, shared web hosting package. As the sample site didn’t perform very well in the initial tests, there was great potential for speed improvements by using a caching plugin.
The baseline scores for our un-cached testing website were as follows:
- GTmetrix: PageSpeed Score 64.5% and YSlow Score 80% with 2.72 seconds average loading time
- Pingdom: performance grade of 80 with 3.9 seconds average loading time
- Google PageSpeed Insights: 44/100 in desktop test and 47/100 in mobile test
The natural ebb and flow of internet traffic can dramatically vary loading speed from hour to hour and day to day. Because of this, instead of basing our conclusions on one sole test, we ran three series of tests on different days and at different hours and then averaged them. The final ranking of the caching plugins averages all these speed changes together.
Best WordPress Caching Plugins Compared
There are countless free and commercial WordPress caching plugins available. However, to make the comparison more manageable, only the top 8 best WordPress caching plugins were selected.
Only free plugins with a user review rating of at least four stars out of five at the WordPress Plugin Directory, which had also been updated within the last two years, made the final list. Commercial plugins that appeared to have a positive reputation and decent feature set were also included.
When selecting the plugins for this comparison, we looked for options that were easy to setup and offered speed improvements in just a few clicks, rather than requiring advanced configuration. If you have the time and abilities, then it's possible you could configure these caching plugins for your website's specific setup and get better results, or find more advanced alternatives not included in this collection. However, for the purposes of this comparison we were looking for the fastest plug and play options.
The plugins are listed in descending order by the number of WordPress sites currently using them, with the fastest WordPress caching plugins revealed at the end of the article.
However, if you just want to see the results, click here to find out what is the fastest caching plugin.
W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress, with over a million active installs and 4.3 out of 5 stars in the WordPress Plugin Directory. It's updated every few months and used by many major publications, such as Smashing Magazine, Mashable, MakeUseOf, Web Designer Depot, and many others.
In our GTmetrix tests to find the best WordPress caching plugins, W3 Total Cache shaved an average of 0.62 seconds off the baseline loading time, with an average improvement of 20.64% on page speed. According to Pingdom, the plugin shaved an average of 1.06 seconds off the loading time, with an average speed improvement of 29.16%.
Another highly popular free WordPress caching plugin, WP Super Cache earned its place in our guide to the best WordPress caching plugins as it has over a million active installs and a user rating of 4.2 out of 5 stars. It's especially effective at keeping your server from slowing to a crawl or even overloading during the large traffic spikes that can occur if your blog hits the homepage on Reddit or is featured on other popular sites.
WP Super Cache cut down the loading time by 0.85 seconds in GTmetrix, improving the speed by 28.07%. In our Pingdom tests, this plugin cut the load time by 1.03 seconds, improving the speed by 28.61%, making it one of the fastest options in our test of the best WordPress caching plugins.
WP Rocket is the most popular premium option in our comparison of the best WordPress caching plugins. It consistently scores well in side-by-side comparisons with other caching plugins for WordPress and is currently installed on over 100,000 sites. A single-site license costs $49, a three-site license $99, and an unlimited license can be yours for $249.
According to GTmetrix, WP Rocket cut the loading time by 0.98 seconds, improving the speed by 34.12%. In our Pingdom tests, it cut the loading time by 1.27 seconds on average, with a speed improvement of 35.21%. These results make it the fastest plugin in our test of the best WordPress caching tools.
WP Fastest Cache is similar to many other caching plugins, but with fewer customization options it's easier for the average user to get to grips with. It's updated often and is rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on the WordPress Plugin Directory. There are over 100,000 active installs of WP Fastest Cache.
In our speed tests, WP Fastest Cache didn’t prove to be the fastest, decreasing load times by just a half second in either case. This led to a speed improvement of 15.3% in GTmetrix and 15.74% in Pingdom placing it near the bottom in our test of the best WordPress caching plugins.
5. Hyper Cache
Hyper Cache is a PHP caching plugin that works on any WordPress blog and does not require complex configuration. It has separate caches for desktop and mobile users, and an extra feature that allows it to cache efficiently even on sites with very active user commenting and discussion participation – something which is known to trip up other caching plugins. It scores 4.5 out of 5 stars and there are over 50,000 active installs according to the WordPres Plugin Directory stats.
In GTmetrix testing, Hyper Cache reduced the page load time by an average of 0.45 seconds, improving the speed by 13.75%. It fared a little better in the Pingdom tests, decreasing the load time by 0.71 seconds and improving the speed by 20.37%. However, this wasn't enough to earn Hyper Cache a place in the top half of our results table comparing the best WordPress caching plugins.
6. Comet Cache
Comet Cache is the successor plugin to ZenCache, an older caching plugin by the same developers that enjoyed a reasonably large following. This plugin is fully “plug and play” – just install and activate, and you're set. Comet Cache currently has a full 5 out of 5 stars rating (ZenCache had ranked 4.6 out of 5) which is unsurprising considering this is the second fastest caching plugin in our test and the fastest free option in this collection of the best WordPress caching plugins.
If you would like to customize your WordPres caching configuration further, there are more advanced features available, as well as pro features you can enable by purchasing the premium version of the plugin for $39.
In GTmetrix, an average page load time decrease of 0.92 seconds was recorded, improving the page speed by an impressive 32.13%. In Pingdom, the results were even more dramatic, knocking 1.26 seconds off the load time, improving the speed by 35.07%.
Cachify features several different types of caching and works with WordPress multisite installations. It's rated 4.7 out of 5 stars and has over 20,000 active installs.
This plugin took an average of 0.78 seconds off the load time in our GTmetrix tests, resulting in a speed improvement of 27.89%. In our Pingdom tests, Cachify decreased the load time by 0.74 seconds, resulting in a 21.14% improvement. These respectable results placed it around the middle of the table in our test of the best WordPress caching plugins.
8. Simple Cache
One of the simplest free caching plugins available, Simple Cache has two settings: on and off. It is rated 4.7 out of 5 stars and is currently installed on over 1,000 sites.
Simple Cache took an average of 0.75 seconds off our test site’s load time in GTmetrix, with an average speed increase of 26.93%. In our Pingdom tests, it shaved off almost an entire second, leading to a 26.62% increase in speed. Both are respectable results that make Simple Cache and its minimal settings a good choice for anyone looking for a fool proof WordPress caching plugin
Best WordPress Caching Plugins Test Results
Before we reveal the top 3 fastest WordPress caching plugins, you can use these interactive charts to find out more about the results. First, it's the average loading time improvement for each plugin in our speed tests:
Next, it's the page speed results, broken down by the individual test services and tools:
Now the loading time improvement results from the GTmetrix testing:
Finally, the loading time improvement results from the Pingdom testing:
Now that you've seen the test results for the best WordPress caching plugins, let's take a look in more detail at the top 3 fastest caching tools for WordPress users:
First Place: WP Rocket
By a narrow margin, the premium plugin WP Rocket beat out the other nine caching plugins, with an average load time decrease of 1.13 seconds across all our tests on both tools, and an average speed increase of 34.67%. WP Rocket was also one of the few plugins that consistently was able to make Google’s PageSpeed Insights scores budge, scoring 48/100 on mobile and 45/100 on desktop for our sample site. The premium pricing model for their plugin has given them the freedom to develop a caching plugin that is currently the fastest available.
Second Place: Comet Cache
Comet Cache came in second, shaving an average of 1.09 seconds off the load time and improving the speed by 33.6%. On Google PageSpeed Insights, Comet Cache earned 47/100 on mobile and 44/100 on desktop. As a free plugin with a premium version, this is a great caching plugin to opt for if you do not have the money to invest in a premium plugin now but might want to upgrade later.
Third Place: WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is the second most popular WordPress caching plugin, and it came in as a solid third in our tests, decreasing load times by an average of 0.94 seconds and improving the speed by an average of 28.34%. WP Super Cache scored the same on Google PageSpeed Insights as Comet Cache in our tests. If you are looking for a popular, free, and highly vetted caching plugin with a lot of customization options, WP Super Cache is the plugin for you.
That’s it. The results are in, and our tests point to WP Rocket, Comet Cache, and WP Super Cache as the fastest WordPress caching plugins. However, every site is a little different, and your particular setup or theme might require a different variety of caching.
It's easy to test how different plugins affect the speed of your site using a combination of GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights. Simply install the plugins you are considering, then activate them one at a time, configure them if needed, and run your website through the various testing tools, taking note of the results.
Now it’s your turn – how do our results compare to your own experiences with caching plugins? Which of these plugins have you tried on your own site, and how have they impacted your load times? Share your experiences in the comments below.