WordPress is renowned for having an open-source nature that allows you to build so much more than a blog with a few simple pages. You can build nearly any type of website you like with virtually any design, and you can take control of your own management of the site to ensure everything is done properly.
That includes speed and performance, which, in turn, includes caching. Caching is just one of many things you’ll be in charge of managing when you use WordPress. Fortunately, there are several third-party plugins that implement this function for you.
In this post, we’re going to focus on WP Rocket, one of the most popular premium caching solutions available for WordPress. It’s part of a series of posts we published on this plugin. You can read the second post here:
About WP Rocket
WP Rocket is the brainchild of Jonathan Buttigieg and Jean-Baptiste Marchand-Arvier. There were only a small handful of caching solutions available for WordPress when they developed their product in 2013.
While solutions at the time were efficient in their task of improving site performance, their usefulness came at a cost in the form of poor user experience and an overly complicated setup process.
Thus, WP Rocket was born, and it’s grown well enough to acquire a customer base of 87,000+ and active installs of over 689,000, as of early 2019. Check out the features they offer.
- Multiple Forms of Caching – Page caching is enabled immediately upon activation. It provides the bulk of this plugin’s performance benefits. The browser caching feature stores your site’s static content in your user’s browser when they first visit your site so they do not need to be reloaded every time they visit a new page.
- Mobile Caching – Detects mobile devices and distributes an alternative cached version of your website optimized for mobile devices. It’s recommended for sites that have mobile-specific features, such as mobile-only social share buttons.
- Cache Preloading – Your entire website needs to load in order for the plugin to create a cached version of it. This feature takes the place of that first visit so only the faster cached version is distributed to crawlers and visitors.
- GZIP Compression – Optimizes content by compressing HTML, CSS and JS files.
- Lazy Loading – Prevents images, videos and other media from loading until the user scrolls to it.
- Minify & Defer – Strips unnecessary data from HTML, CSS and JS files to lighten their load. Deferring ensures JS only loads once the entire page is rendered.
- Database Optimization – As your site grows, database tables featuring old revisions of posts, files for plugins that no longer exist and other content will accumulate. This feature cleans your database by removing these types of files.
- Google Fonts Optimization – Reducing HTTP requests results in faster load times for pages featuring Google Fonts.
- Remove Query Strings from Static Resources – Provides a small boost in performance and improves your GTmetrix score by removing query strings from CSS and JS files.
- CDN Integration – Integrates seamlessly with CDN services, especially Cloudflare.
- Ecommerce Integration – Compatible with WordPress shopping cart plugins, including WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.
- Multisite Integration – Works with subdomains and subdirectories created in multisite networks.
- Multilingual Integration – Compatible with popular multilingual plugins, including WPML, Polylang and qTranslate.
Setup & Ease of Use
Installing WP Rocket is no different from installing any other plugin. All you need to do is upload the zipped version to the backend of your WordPress site or upload the unzipped version through an FTP client.
It’s a fairly straightforward plugin to use after that. You can enable every feature by simply checking its box. Users with more technical knowledge can exempt certain files and URLs from caching and other functions by simply listing them in those functions’ designated textboxes.
Let’s take a closer look at the dashboard.
WP Rocket Dashboard
The WP Rocket dashboard can be accessed in the WordPress admin by navigating to Settings → WP Rocket. It’s broken up into 12 different sections. We’re going to focus on the most essential ones, which are:
- File Optimization
We’ll touch base on the other ones in a bit.
The Dashboard section, pictured above, is the home screen for the entire WP Rocket dashboard. It contains information and actions related to your WP Rocket account, including your license information, access to support and documentation, and a link that leads to your account on the official website.
It also has action buttons you can use to clear and preload the cache immediately.
Since page caching and browser caching are enabled by default and cannot be set yourself, the Cache section is reserved for alternative forms of caching. This includes caching for mobile devices, logged-in users and SSL-enabled pages. You can also set a schedule for how often your site’s global cache is cleared.
The File Optimization section is where you’ll configure the way the plugin handles the optimization of your site's CSS and JS files.
You can start by minifying these files and excluding any that become corrupt through minification. You can also combine files, optimize CSS delivery and defer JS.
The Media section is where you can configure your site's lazy loading settings, specifically which forms of media you want to use it for. You can also improve performance ever so slightly by disabling WordPress’ emojis and using your visitor's browser's instead as well as preventing other sites from embedding your content.
Here are brief descriptions of the remaining sections:
- Preload – Activate preloading for sitemaps and control how your site preloads the cache.
- Advanced Rules – Specify which URLs and cookies should be excluded from caching.
- Database – Optimize the WordPress database immediately, and set up a schedule to do it automatically.
- CDN – If your site stores content in a CDN, you can integrate it here to ensure those files get optimized by WP Rocket.
- Heartbeat – Enable or disable the Heartbeat API.
- Add-Ons – Install add-ons made by the developers.
- Image Optimization – This section is an advertisement for WP Rocket’s image optimization plugin Imagify. You can use it to compress every image in your Media Library, including thumbnails, and compress any additional images you upload.
- Tools – Import and export the settings you configure in this plugin.
Let's get into how this plugin performs using real-world numbers.
I tested this plugin in its unoptimized (only caching) and optimized (minifying, deferring, lazy loading, etc.) states. Before we get into the numbers, let me show you what I was working with.
The test site was hosted on SiteGround’s cheapest shared hosting plan with basic CDN services provided through Cloudflare’s free plan. I used Hestia, a popular free theme in the WordPress theme repository.
I ran each test three times in Pingdom and GTmetrix. I used the testing location closest to my server’s data center in Pingdom, which was the Washington D.C. testing location. The numbers you see below are the average of those three tests.
Here were my results with Pingdom without WP Rocket activated:
- Load Time: 1.3s
- Performance Score: 75
Here were my results with GTmetrix:
- Load Time: 2.03s
- Performance Scores: 77 (PageSpeed); 72 (YSlow)
This site wasn’t slow to begin with, but its performance improved immediately upon activating WP Rocket.
Here were my results in Pingdom with WP Rocket’s default settings:
- Load Time: 706ms
- Performance Score: 80
Here were my results in GTmetrix:
- Load Time: 1.5s
- Performance Scores: 87; 80
Finally, I enabled WP Rocket’s minifying settings for CSS and JS, optimized CSS delivery and deferred JS.
Here were my results in Pingdom:
- Load Time: 697ms
- Performance Score: 80
Here were my final results in GTmetrix:
- Load Time: 1.4s
- Performance Scores: 93; 80
Pricing & Support
WP Rocket is fairly affordable as far as premium plugins go. Its plans are based on the number of site licenses you need. These are its plans as of early 2019:
- $49 for 1 Website
- $99 for 3 Websites
- $249 for Unlimited Websites
Each plan comes with one year of support and updates. You can renew your license before it expires at a 30% discount. There’s no trial, but the developers offer a 14-day, money-back guarantee.
WP Rocket offers quality support, but it only offers ticket support during normal business hours at this time. This means there’s no priority support for the higher-tiered plans nor do they offer live chat or phone support.
They also offer an extensive documentation you can use to work yourself through the plugin’s setup process and common issues. Their blog also contains some of the clearest explanations of caching and similar technologies around.
And again, if you’d like to learn more about how to use this plugin and how it performs against other caching solutions, check out our other posts in this series: