WP Rocket Review: Real Performance Data + Thoughts On This Caching Plugin

WP Rocket
  • Editor Rating
  • Rated 4.5 stars
$39
  • 80%

  • WP Rocket
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: February 7, 2018
  • Ease Of Use
    Editor: 100%
  • Performance
    Editor: 100%
  • Features
    Editor: 95%
  • Price
    Editor: 75%

There are a lot of WordPress plugins that only certain sites need. And then there are some plugins that every single WordPress site needs.

A caching and performance optimization plugin falls decidedly in that latter camp.

Because performance is so important – affecting everything from user experience to Google rankings and conversion rates – everyone who wants their site to be successful needs to make sure it loads quickly.

When it comes to caching plugins, WP Rocket is one of the most popular options. And even though it labels itself as a caching plugin, WP Rocket also includes a bunch of smaller performance-optimization features to go along with caching.

But in a world of free caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache, is WP Rocket actually worth paying for?

That’s what I aim to find out in my WP Rocket review.

Join me for a look at some real performance data, a tour of the WP Rocket dashboard, and my thoughts on whether WP Rocket’s features justify its price tag.

WP Rocket Is More Than Just A Caching Plugin

Page caching is one of the absolute best things you can do to speed up your WordPress site.

But here’s the thing:

There are tons of popular free WordPress caching plugins:

free wordpress caching plugins

That means, in order for WP Rocket to justify its premium price tag, it needs to find a way to differentiate itself from those free options.

WP Rocket tries to do that in two ways:

  • By offering an interface that’s beginner friendly and easier to use than many other caching plugins.
  • By including tons of other smaller performance optimizations that most other caching plugins don’t offer.

You’ll see how the interface is designed a little later on, but let me lead quickly with some of those other optimization tweaks because I think they’re where most of WP Rocket’s value comes from.

Here are some of the biggest tweaks that you get:

  • Minification – shrinks the size of your site’s code by removing unnecessary content, like whitespace, without changing the code’s functionality.
  • Combine files – does what it says! Combines multiple files (like multiple CSS files) into a single file.
  • Remove query strings – removes queries strings, like “?ver=1.0”, to improve your GTmetrix score.
  • Render-blocking CSS/JS – does what it says and helps you get rid of the famous “Render blocking” warning in Google PageSpeed Insights.
  • Lazy Loading – speeds up your site by only loading certain media content once it enters the visitor’s viewport. Essentially, your site won’t load images and/or videos until absolutely needed.
  • Easy CDN integrations – helps you connect to CDNs like Cloudflare and origin pull CDNs.
  • Database optimizer – lets you clean your database right from WP Rocket, rather than requiring you to install a separate plugin.

Putting WP Rocket To The Test – Real Performance Data

Because WP Rocket is all about improving your site’s performance, it wouldn’t be a WP Rocket review without some actual test data.

And because all those features I listed above are a moot point if WP Rocket doesn’t actually make your site faster, I’m not going to make you wait to get a look at the data.

Here’s how I’m going to test WP Rocket’s performance:

I’ve set up an unoptimized test site hosted at SiteGround. It’s using GeneratePress and an Elementor template to make sure there’s a good amount of content on the site.

I’m going to test the site’s unoptimized performance. Then, I’m going to configure WP Rocket and see how the performance changes.

Then, after I share all that data with you, I’ll take you through the WP Rocket interface and actually show you the settings and features that make up the plugin.

That way, you’ll know more than just WP Rocket’s features – you’ll also know how those features translate into real life performance.

Ready to get testing?

Here’s How My Test Site Performed Before WP Rocket

Before installing WP Rocket, here’s how my unoptimized site performed in Gtmetrix and Pingdom tests:

GTmetrix:

wp rocket review before otpimizing

Pingdom:

before optimizing test site with wp rocket

WP Rocket Cut Page Load Times By 50%+

After optimizing my test site with WP Rocket, its page load times dropped by more than 50% in both tests. And, as I’d hoped for, there were also reductions in the number of requests and my test site’s page size:

GTmetrix:

wp rocket performance test

Pingdom:

wp rocket pingdom test

WP Rocket Before And After Compared

To make it easier to see the differences, here’s a table summarizing the change before and after optimizing my test site with WP Rocket:

Before WP Rocket

After WP Rocket

GTmetrix Page Load

2.1 s

1.0 s

GTmetrix Requests

45

25

GTmetrix Page Size

920 KB

909 KB

Pingdom Page Load

1.50 s

423 ms

Pingdom Requests 44

24

Pingdom Page Size

1.0 MB

967.5 kB

How To Optimize Your Site With WP Rocket

Ok, so now you know that WP Rocket does indeed do a pretty good job of actually speeding up your site. But how does it actually go about doing that?

To show you what’s going on underneath the hood, I’m going to take you through the WP Rocket interface now.

But first – here’s the part about WP Rocket that’s pretty nice:

WP Rocket starts working from the second that you activate it, which means you get most of the benefits without needing to do anything or look at any settings:

wp rocket instantly starts working

If you’ve ever tried to configure W3 Total Cache, WP Rocket is going to feel like a breath of fresh air.

In fact, this ease of use is one of the big things to help justify WP Rocket’s price tag, especially for beginners. Without configuring a setting, you already have:

  • Page caching
  • Browser caching
  • GZIP compression

Those three alone are already going to get you a massive performance boost.

All the other smaller settings are optional tools that can boost your performance even more.

But if you’re a beginner and don’t know what they mean? Well, you could technically never even look at WP Rocket’s interface and still enjoy a big speed boost, which…well, that just isn’t the case with W3 Total Cache (trust me, I’ve had to write 3,500 word tutorials on how to configure W3 Total Cache)

If you want to get into the guts of the plugin, though, here’s what’s going on in the dashboard:

Basic Tab

In the Basic tab, there are a few pertinent details you might want to modify:

  • LazyLoad – this setting lets you enable lazy loading for images or iframes and videos (two separate options). As I mentioned in the intro, lazy loading delays loading assets until they’re about to enter a visitor’s viewport (AKA, until the user starts scrolling down).
  • Mobile cache – depending on your theme/plugins, you might want to disable caching on mobile, which this setting lets you do.
  • User cache – by default, logged-in users don’t see cached pages. This lets you change that.
  • Cache lifespan – lets you specify how long until the global cache is cleared.

There are also some other smaller settings dealing with emojis and embeds:

wp rocket basic settings

Static Files Tab

The Static Files tab is an important area, especially if you’re focused on improving your site’s Google PageSpeed Insights score.

Here, you can:

  • Minify various types of files. Again, minification shrinks the size of the code on your site by removing unnecessary characters without changing its functionality.
  • Combine files. The types of files that you can combine depend on what options you choose in Minify files.
  • Remove query strings from static resources. This helps improve your GTmetrix score.
  • Remove render-blocking CSS or JavaScript. This is a common suggestion from Google PageSpeed Insights.

wp rocket static file settings

The only thing to be careful with in this section is that some of these settings can break parts of your site. For that reason, it’s important that you thoroughly test your site after enabling any of these settings.

One thing that I like about WP Rocket is that it makes this very clear by displaying a prompt on settings that might cause negative effects:

wp rocket warning

CDN Tab

The CDN tab helps you connect your site to a content delivery network in two different ways.

First, it includes a dedicated Cloudflare setting that, when activated, gives you access to an entire tab for Cloudflare that helps you connect your site to Cloudflare.

While you could always use the separate Cloudflare plugin, this is nice because it eliminates the need to install and configure another plugin:

wp rocket cloudflare integration

If you’re using a different CDN, WP Rocket can also help you rewrite the URLs on your site to work with your CDN:

wp rocket cdn setup

While there are free plugins that can do this like CDN Enabler, WP Rocket gives you a little bit more flexibility with the ability to add multiple CNAMEs for different file types, as well as the option to manually exclude individual files.

 

Advanced Tab

The Advanced tab gives you detailed control over exactly what gets cached, for whom it gets cached, and when the cache gets cleared.

Here, you can:

  • Automatically exclude certain pages from being cached.
  • Exclude certain cookies or user agents from seeing cached pages.
  • Clear the cache for certain URLs whenever you update a piece of content.

If you’re an average user, you probably don’t need to mess around with any of these settings. But they are especially helpful if caching causes issues with certain content.

Database Tab

As your WordPress site ages, its database picks up all kinds of “gunk” in the form of post revisions, auto drafts, and other content that’s not necessary for the functioning of your site.

The Database tab lets you clean your database and remove all those extraneous details:

wp rocket database cleaner

While, like some of the other features, there are free plugins that can do this for you, you’re, again, essentially paying for the convenience of having it all under one roof.

And one thing that I especially like about WP Rocket’s Database area is that you can schedule your database cleanup to run automatically:

Preload Tab

Normally, your site only generates a cached version of a page after someone visits that page.

That means the first person to visit that page won’t actually get a performance benefit because the page hasn’t been cached yet.

If you have posts or pages that get infrequent traffic (even high-traffic sites will have these types of posts), that’s not a good thing for your site’s performance.

The Preload tab helps you change that by “preloading” your content into the cache, even if it hasn’t been visited yet.

WP Rocket lets you preload your content via two different methods:

  • Sitemap – you enter a URL to your sitemap and WP Rocket preloads content based on that.
  • Bot – an actual bot will crawl URLs to create the cache.

Sitemap preloading is less resource-intensive, but only runs when the cache lifespan expires, whereas the bot will preload pages as soon as they get published or edited (but uses more resources as a result).

You can read a more thorough explanation of the differences at this help doc.

The important thing is that WP Rocket gives you multiple methods for preloading your content, which most caching plugins don’t do.

wp rocket exclude

Varnish Tab

The Varnish tab helps sync WP Rocket with Varnish cache if it’s running on your server:

If you have no idea what Varnish cache is, you can feel totally free to ignore this area.

Tools Tab

Finally, the Tools tab provides options to manually clear or preload your cache, as well as to import/export WP Rocket settings:

wp rocket tools

While these options are definitely helpful, you probably won’t visit this area very often because you can also clear your cache from the WP Rocket option on the WordPress Toolbar:

wp rocket toolbar options

How Much Does WP Rocket Cost?

WP Rocket starts at $39 for a single site license. In total, there are three different pricing plans. The only difference between the plans is the number of sites that are supported – there aren’t any feature limitations:

wp rocket pricing

Each plan includes one year of support and updates. It’s worth pointing out, though, that you do get 50% off renewals if you want to continue receiving support/updates after the first year.

WP Rocket also offers a 14-day refund policy, in case you’re not happy with the plugin.

WP Rocket Review: The Final Thoughts

Honestly, if you’re on a shoestring budget, I think it is possible to cobble together a stack of free plugins that get you pretty close to the same functionality as WP Rocket. Maybe not everything. But pretty close.

But here’s what I think paying that $39 gets you (and why WP Rocket has been so successful):

  • Convenience – everything is housed under one roof and easy to access and configure, whereas if you built your own free stack, you’d constantly be bouncing back and forth between different plugins.
  • Compatibility – because WP Rocket is a single cohesive plugin, you can be sure that none of the features will interfere with each other. If you try to stack together different plugins, you can quickly start hitting compatibility issues.
  • Support – when you go with free plugins, you’re either getting no support or severely limited support. With something as potentially complicated as performance, it’s worth it to have an expert to talk to sometimes.
  • Updates – because WP Rocket is a premium plugin, you can be more confident that it will continue to receive regular updates because there’s a financial incentive for the developers to do so (though to be fair, plenty of free plugins receive regular updates as well).

So – yes, you can get a quick-loading site with the free options, and plenty of people do. But if paying $39 for those benefits sounds like a good investment to you, I think WP Rocket is a great product that manages to give you tons of functionality while still keeping things beginner friendly.

After all, time is money. So if WP Rocket's ease of use and convenience saves you a couple hours of hair-pulling and gets you a faster website, I think the pricing is fair.

Pros

Reduced page load times by 50%+
Easy to use, especially in comparison to W3 Total Cache
Includes performance optimization features that go beyond caching
Well-designed dashboard area

Cons

It's not free, like much of the competition

WP Rocket

Summary: WP Rocket is a premium WordPress caching plugin packed with tons of smaller optimization features.

$39
Rating
Rated 4.5 stars

Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing and WordPress. You can hire him to write for your website.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, we may receive a commission. All opinions however are our own and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

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