WordPress out of the box is a CMS that is not that fast. A PHP and MySql based CMS solution is not that fast out of the box because everything that you see is generated dynamically every time a visitor or person opens up a page. Now just multiply this thing with some huge number of page views and database queries and you have a site that slows down to a crawl and takes ages to load. And in this scenario enter caching plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super cache, and new entrants like the awesome WP-Rocket plugin. Today we are going to peg this plugin against the likes of the already mighty WordPress speed up plugins and test which plugin really stands a good chance against the other when it comes to fine tuned performance!
First and foremost a thing that you should know is that the WP-Rocket plugin is a paid plugin which can be bought for a minimal price of $39 for a single site, $99 for 3 sites and $199 for unlimited number of sites. All of the three pricing variants include 1 year of updates and support and if the user wants to continue receiving updates even after that then they have to renew their subscription. But it’s entirely their choice the plugin would still work after that and the support provided is quite good.
Table of Contents
Basic features of WP-Rocket caching plugin
The following are the salient features of the WP-Rocket plugin found in the basic settings page:
- Page Caching module: WP-Rocket plugin provides one of the best page caching modules we have ever seen on WordPress caching plugins. The page caching module is simple and turned on by default and is the main stand out feature of the plugin, the user does not have to mess with any settings for the page cache and it’s convenient and on by default.
- Minifying assets and Concatenation of resources: The plugin comes with a handy minification option which does not ask the user to specify individual files for minification rather groups the minification process under easy tabs like HTML, CSS, JS and Google Fonts.
The HTML minification feature is nice. CSS minification is something you can test on your site and know whether it breaks your existing layout or not. But in most cases the themes are not well coded so using CSS minification breaks things so that should not be activated for most of the websites.
The HTML minification is safe and must be activated on every site.
The Google fonts concatenation combines all used Google fonts on the site in a single file and minifies them too.
- Lazy Loading of images: The WP-Rocket plugin has a solution of lazy loading images as they enter into the viewport. This reduces the number of HTTP requests sent by your website and also helps in speeding up the initial page rendering of the website. So enabling this features helps in speeding up the overall load time of your website. But this feature can also be tricky if you are using custom elements like we do. On Inspire2rise.com we have a floating mega menu which takes ages to load if we have the lazy load turned on, so we don’t use this feature. But in most cases it would work fine and help you in boosting your website performance!
- Mobile Cache: This option on activating enables caching for mobile devices and if you are not serving an entirely different page to mobile users then you can safely activate this feature.
- Logged in user cache: You can enable cached pages for logged in users. But in most cases we would strongly recommend against this.
- SSL cache: This feature allows you to cache pages served on the secure socket layer (https) protocol. If secure data served by you is of dynamic nature then you can deactivate this feature or else you can use it.
- Cache lifespan: This decides the time for garbage collection and for how long your site cache will remain fresh. 7 days i.e. 1 week is a good starting point but you can set it to a maximum duration of 1 year too if you really want to!
Advanced options for WP-Rocket caching plugin.
The above options were all of the basic options present on the settings page of the WP-Rocket plugin. The advanced settings include the following options:
1.) Prefetch DNS requests: This is a mechanism for the site to reduce latency on files being downloaded from external websites. For example you might load your ajax libraries from Google’s CDN rather than serve WordPress’s own copies. In this case if you add the URL
http: in the field for this option then the DNS requests would be prefetched thereby speeding up the whole loading process.
2.) Empty the cache of a specific page on any updation: This option allows you to clear up the cache of a particular page/post whenever you update any post. You must note that the homepage, tags, categories etc. are automatically recreated whenever you publish any post.
3.) Never cache pages: You can specify the pages here that you don’t want to be cached by the plugin.
4.) Don’t cache pages using a specific cookie: Here you can specify the cookie which if found on a page should make the page ineligible for caching.
5.) Specify CSS and JS files that should be excluded from minification, this option gives W3 Total cache like fine tuned minification control to the user. This would require a trial and error approach to find the files which on minifying break the website’s layout which is a time consuming process.
6.) JS files to be included in footer: You can specify the JS files which you want to be loaded in the footer i.e. at the end of the page.
7.) JS files for deferred loading: Here you can specify async loading for JS files to be loaded along with the page on first load. Or you can defer files for loading after everything has already been loaded.
Cloudflare for WP-Rocket plugin.
The plugin supports Cloudflare integration into websites much like its competitors and it does that pretty good while adding a little neat touch of its own in the form of optimized Cloudflare settings where the user doesn’t have to do anything. The user just has to put in the API key, cloudflare credentials and manage Cloudflare from that page. You can also clear the Cloudflare cache from the internal settings page itself.
CDN for WP-Rocket:
You can use your custom CDN and use its CNAME for your files using the plugin’s settings.
Added benefits of this plugin include the option to Preload the cache for all of your site after clearing it, something which is not present in the prime competitor W3 Total Cache plugin.
Tests and other conclusions: We used the W3 Total Cache plugin as well as the WP-Rocket plugin on the same site with few posts and a homepage size of around 1 mb. Though the W3 Total cache scores well in terms of implementing every feature in an amazing way, it has database caching, object caching, minify, page caching and everything else. But still the WP-Rocket plugin when configured full with Cloudflare and W3 Total Cache configured full with Cloudflare then the performance for both of them is comparable and the former is sometimes better in real world conditions. The page caching module of WP-Rocket is insanely fast and beats the page caching module of any other plugin at the moment and we could recommend this plugin only for this feature too!
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