There are a number of different free caching plugins available for WordPress, many of which are easy to set up and offer great performance. You may be wondering why anyone would pay for a premium solution, such as WP Rocket, because of this.
In previous posts, we reviewed everything WP Rocket has to offer in terms of features, performance and price. We also showed you how to set up and optimize the plugin. You can view those posts here:
In this post, we want to explore the idea of paying for caching by comparing this plugin against the top free caching plugins available for WordPress. We’ll take a look at each plugin’s performance, features, pricing and support options.
Let’s start by introducing each plugin.
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What is WP Rocket?
Source: WP Rocket
WP Rocket is and always has been a premium caching solution for WordPress. It launched in 2013 and was developed by developer duo Jonathan Buttigieg and Jean-Baptiste Marchand-Arvier.
While current caching solutions of the time performed well, the two felt they were far too complicated to configure and wanted to create a solution general WordPress users would find easier to configure.
As of early 2019, the plugin is used on over 701,000 sites by over 89,000 customers. It offers page caching, browser caching and a variety of additional features that’ll help you optimize your site for speed.
The Top WordPress Caching Plugins
Now, let’s introduce the plugins we’ll be comparing WP Rocket to.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is one of the most widely used caching plugins available for WordPress. It offers page caching and browser caching as well as several options that allow you to optimize your site even further. In fact, it’s known as one of the more technical options available for WordPress.
It’s used by over 1 million sites and currently has a 4.3/5 star rating in the WordPress plugin directory.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache is another popular caching plugin, even more so than W3 Total Cache. In fact, it’s used by over 2 million sites and has a rating of 4.3 stars. While caching isn’t built into WordPress by default, this is more or less the “official” caching plugin for WordPress as it’s made by Automattic, the same team that makes the CMS.
It’s one of the simplest caching solutions out there. It has a caching feature and allows you optimize files, but its list of features pales in comparison to the ones offered by WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache. Still, it’s an efficient solution that’ll optimize your site for speed either way.
As far as comparisons go, let’s cut to the chase and start with performance.
Before we get into performance metrics for each plugin, let’s go over the test site we’ll be working with. It’s hosted on SiteGround’s cheapest hosting plan and is built with the free version of Hestia. There are no additional plugins as far as performance enhancement goes.
I tested the site with Pingdom and GTmetrix prior to installing any caching plugins to get a baseline for comparison. I ran each test three times for accuracy. The numbers you see are the average of those three tests.
Here were my results prior to caching:
- Load Time (Pingdom): 1.3s
- Load Time (GTmetrix): 2.03s
- Performance (Pingdom): 75
- Performance (GTmetrix): 77 (PageSpeed); 72 (YSlow)
As you can see, the load times without caching were 1.3s with Pingdom and 2.03s with GTmetrix. The performance scores were 75 with Pingdom, 77 with PageSpeed and 72 with YSlow.
Let’s see how WP Rocket did.
If you read our review and tutorial posts on WP Rocket, you’ll learn this plugin has a few different options that allow you to minify JS and CSS files, optimize them in other ways, lazy load images, and more.
I enabled most of these settings to enhance WP Rocket’s capabilities as much as possible alongside its caching functions. Here were my results:
- Load Time (Pingdom): 697ms
- Load Time (GTmetrix): 1.4s
- Performance (Pingdom): 80
- Performance (GTmetrix): 93 (PageSpeed); 80 (YSlow)
As you can see, my load times were nearly cut in half at 697ms for Pingdom and 1.4s for GTmetrix. My performance scores also increased dramatically to 80 for Pingdom, 93 for PageSpeed and 80 for YSlow.
W3 Total Cache
I did the same thing with W3 Total Cache as I did WP Rocket by configuring its built-in settings accordingly to my own setup. This mainly involved enabling minification.
Though slightly slower than WP Rocket, the results were quite impressive:
- Load Time (Pingdom): 770ms
- Load Time (GTmetrix): 1.6s
- Performance (Pingdom): 84
- Performance (GTmetrix): 92 (PageSpeed); 85 (YSlow)
My load times were 770ms and 1.6s for Pingdom and GTmetrix respectively, and my performance scores were 84 for Pingdom, 92 for PageSpeed and 85 for YSlow. Not bad for a free solution.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache did the worst out of the bunch, but it still caused a significant improvement in performance.
- Load Time (Pingdom): 954ms
- Load Time (GTmetrix): 1.6s
- Performance (Pingdom): 78
- Performance (GTmetrix): 87 (PageSpeed); 86 (YSlow)
You can see the load times decreased to 954ms and 1.6s. The performance scores also increased to 78, 87 and 86.
Performance is a major factor when it comes to deciding which caching solution is best for you and your site, but it’s not the only one. You should also consider which features each plugin has and whether or not its configuration is compatible with your skill level in web design.
In my tests, WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are the clear winners when it comes to performance. However, W3 Total Cache is notorious for being too technical for general users to configure properly while WP Super Cache is known as one of the simplest even if it doesn’t have nearly as many features.
Let’s compare the features and settings each plugin has to offer.
Each plugin offers page caching, browser caching and mobile caching. They also offer what’s known as preloading, which takes the place of the first visit needed to create a cached version of your site.
WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache also offer caching for logged-in users while each plugin allows caching for SSL-enabled pages. W3 Total Cache takes the cake with caching as it also offers Opcache, database caching, object caching and fragment caching.
It also allows you to choose which pages get cached. They include the front page, feeds, SSL-enabled pages and 404 pages. It also offers a long list of settings you can configure for other forms of caching, but it’s too long to feature here. Just know that these settings play a major part in why many feel this plugin is far too complicated for general users.
When it comes to file optimization, specifically JS and CSS files, WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are the clear winners. WP Rocket allows you to enable minification for JS and CSS individually. You can even choose whether or not to optimize CSS delivery and load JS deferred.
W3 Total Cache allows you to choose between automatic and manual minification. Manual minification allows you to configure minification to your needs.
WP Rocket also allows you to combine Google Files to reduce the number of HTTP requests your site relies on.
Fortunately, each plugin, including WP Super Cache, offers GZIP compression, which will increase your performance scores.
Each plugin offers some form of CDN integration. WP Rocket even has its own add-on for Cloudflare. Other features this plugin offers include lazy loading for images and videos and database optimization.
W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache don’t offer many settings outside of caching and settings related to caching. W3 Total Cache gives you more control over the way your site handles caching, but it comes at a cost of being difficult to configure without technical knowledge.
The same could be said about WP Super Cache if you want to do more than enable caching, but it’s nowhere near as complicated as the former plugin. WP Rocket is by far the easiest plugin to configure out of the three.
Pricing & Support
WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin while W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are both seen as free options. WP Super Cache is entirely free, but W3 Total Cache also comes in a premium version.
Here are the minimum and maximum prices each plugin offers:
|W3 Total Cache
|WP Super Cache
WP Rocket’s plans are based on the number of site licenses you need. W3 Total Cache’s premium plan enables the plugin’s more technical forms of caching.
As for support, WP Rocket offers ticket support Monday through Saturday during “normal business hours.” It’s documentation is also extensive, walking you through configuration of the plugin, configuring specific sections and troubleshooting. The developer’s blog is also a great resource for those who want to learn more about site performance but need simplified explanations.
W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache both offer support in their respective support forums on WordPress.org. W3 Total Cache is much more responsive in this regard.
As you can see, each of these plugins offers a significant improvement in performance. However, WP Rocket is the clear winner based on my tests due to its performance and easy configuration.
Again, check out our other posts if you’d like to learn more about it: