57% of visitors will leave your site if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

That means optimizing your load time is essential to the user experience. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to speed up your WordPress site, such as optimizing your images and purchasing a CDN service.

These steps can require more time and budget investment than others. If you’re looking for an easy and quick way to optimize the speed of your WordPress website, then consider data caching. Let’s define what caching is and why it’s important, then look at some plugins that can simplify the process for you.

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What is caching?

Caching is the process of saving and storing static copies of your site’s files in a temporary storage location. That way, a web page can be generated and delivered to a visitor’s browser more quickly.

To understand the benefits of caching, let’s go over the usual process of how a web page loads. When a user visits a page on your site, the site sends requests to your hosting server to load different elements of your site — including HTML files, CSS stylesheets, JavaScript, images, and more — from your WordPress database. This requires your server to use lots of resources to load the page. 

By caching your website, your server will need fewer resources to load a web page, which will in turn reduce Time to First Byte (TTFB). TTFB is the amount of time between the browser sending a request to the server and receiving its first byte of data. This will improve your overall website performance

While you can set up caching manually on your WordPress site, it will require you to add code to your cache.php file or create an SQL query.

If you don’t have the technical experience to feel comfortable with either of these methods, then you can use a WordPress plugin. Let’s check out some of the best cache plugins available below.

Best WordPress Cache Plugins

The best cache plugins for WordPress will enable you to quickly and easily cache your posts and pages. Below is a collection of premium and free plugins that do just that.

1. WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache is the highest-rated cache plugin in the official WordPress directory. The free version of WP Fastest Cache offers a range of advanced features. With this plugin, site admins can delete all cached files and minified CSS and JS files, or schedule them to be deleted at a particular time. They can also enable or disable the cache option for mobile devices and logged-in users  — all by checking a box in the settings page.

WP Fastest Cache plugin settings page

Unlike other free cache plugins like W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache not only minifies HTML and CSS files — it combines them to make your code cleaner and web pages leaner.

The premium version offers even more functionality, including minifying JavaScript files,  eliminating render-blocking JavaScript resources, and lazy loading.

2.  LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache is another five-star cache plugin in the WordPress directory. It can minify and combine your CSS and JavaScript files, lazy load images, auto-optimize images, and more.

LiteSpeed Cache plugin dashboard

What sets LiteSpeed Cache apart from other plugins is that it’s server-level cache, which is faster than a PHP-level cache. So while the plugin is free, it does require you to use the LiteSpeed Web Server for its built-in page cache features. Page cache can bypass PHP and database queries, and use cookies to serve multiple versions of cached content depending on the user’s device, geographic location, and currency. You’ll have to pay a small monthly fee to purchase a license to use this server.

3. WP-Optimize

WP-Optimize is another five-star cache plugin in the WordPress directory with over one million active installations. You can configure the plugin settings to instruct client browsers to reuse cached resources, compress HTML, CSS, and Javascript files, and minify and defer CSS and JavaScript to reduce the size and number of requests to your server. You can also check a box to generate separate files for mobile devices to ensure an optimized version of your website is served to users on mobile devices.

WP-optimize plugin settings page with caching enabled

Unlike the previous plugins, WP-Optimize is an all-in-one solution for web optimization. In addition to caching your web pages, it will help you clean your database and compress your images, which will make your site even faster.

4. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache (W3TC) W3TC is one of the most popular cache plugins for WordPress. One reason for its popularity is that it’s compatible with most hosting plans, including shared, VPS, and dedicated server hosting. 

With W3 Total Cache, you can minify HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files as well as posts, pages, and RSS feeds. You can lazy load images, defer CSS and JavaScript, eliminate render-blocking JavaScript resources, and schedule automatic database cleanups. You can also set up an integration with your CDN provider for even better website performance.  And you can test all these configurations in preview mode before deploying them on your website.

W3 Total Cache plugin settings includes preview mode feature

W3 Total Cache Pro offers even more functionality, including fragment caching, advanced caching statistics, lazy load for Google Maps, and more.

5. WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is a free cache plugin developed by Automattic. With over two million active installations, it’s the most downloaded cache plugin from the WordPress directory. Part of its appeal is that it offers three caching modes. Expert mode is the fastest but requires you to modify the .htaccess file. While it’s great for developers and users with technical experience who want more control over the caching process, it’s not ideal for all users — particularly since making a mistake in the .htaccess file can take down the whole website.

WP Supercache plugin settings page shows expert mode selected

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That’s why WP Super Cache also offers Simple mode. In this recommended mode, the plugin generates static HTML files to serve to most visitors. There is one other mode called WP-Cache for serving custom cached files that are tailored to visitors who are logged in, viewing a password-protected page, or have left comments.

6.  Hummingbird

Hummingbird offers a similar range of features as the cache plugins above: browser caching, GZIP compression, CSS and JavaScript minification and deferral, elimination of render-blocking resources, and lazy loading for images, comments, and longer posts

What’s unique about Hummingbird is that it will scan your site, find files that are slowing it down, and provide tips and fixes. In some cases, it will even provide one-click improvements, like a full cache suite, minification of styles and scripts, and deferrals of CSS and JavaScript. This makes speeding up your site as simple as possible.

Hummingbird plugin scanning WordPress site for improvements including caching-min

There is a premium version available with even more advanced features, including automated scanning, uptime monitoring, enhanced minify compression, and CDN-hosted minification.

7. WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin that offers a robust range of features. In addition to offering cache preloading and GZIP compression, WP Rocket enables users to minify and combine CSS and JS files, lazy load images, eliminate render-blocking JavaScript resources, and schedule automatic database cleanups.

It’s also optimized for ecommerce sites so it automatically excludes “Cart”, “Checkout”, and “My Account” pages from the cache to avoid interfering with the purchasing process.

What sets WP Rocket apart from other speed optimization plugins is that it begins working right out of the box once installed and activated on your site.

WP Rocket settings page

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8. Cache Enabler

Cache Enabler is a simple, lightweight cache plugin for WordPress. It allows users to set cached files to expire after a period of time, clear the site cache if content has changed, pre-compress cached pages with GZIP, and minify the HTML in cached pages. It also works on multisite networks. 

Cache Enabler plugin settings page-1

It is limited in functionality compared to other plugins on this list, however. For example, a user can only clear the site cache if a post type, comment, or plugin has been published/activated, updated, or deleted. Excluding content from the cache is even trickier. Instead of checking a box, the user has to type in the post ID, page path, query string, or cookies manually to control what pages should bypass the cache.

9. Comet Cache

Comet Cache is an easy-to-use plugin for caching your WordPress posts, pages, tags, categories, archives, RSS feeds, and XML sitemaps. The settings page contains detailed explanations of its features, making Comet Cache a beginner-friendly option for users who aren't familiar with caching. 

Comet Cache plugin settings page detailing its client-side cache feature

You will have to purchase Comet Cache Pro for some of the features that the above mentioned plugins offer for free, like HTML compression and the ability to cache logged-in users. 

Also, unlike other cache plugins, Comet Cache does not directly handle GZIP compression. If your site is running on the Apache web server, you can enable GZIP compression in your admin dashboard in a few clicks. If it’s not, then you’ll have to create an .htaccess file in your WordPress installation directory or edit the one that’s already there. If GZIP compression is a must-have feature, then this plugin might not be the right choice for you.

10. Borlabs Cache

Borlabs Cache is a highly-rated, premium cache plugin in the CodeCanyon marketplace that starts caching your site as soon as it’s activated. In addition to the standard features that other cache plugins offer — like compressing and combining CSS and JavaScript files and lazy loading— Borlabs Cache offers unique and advanced features.

Its fragment caching feature, for example, enables you to have some dynamic content in your static files so that you can still serve ads in cached versions of your site.

Fragment caching feature in Borlabs Cache plugins settings

It also offers cache presets so that you can have different cache settings for every site in your WordPress multisite installation. Most cache plugins that support multisite networks only allow you to set global cache settings.

Speeding Up Your Site

A cache plugin is a must-have WordPress plugin. You can use any of the plugins above to create a fast website that delights your visitors — without touching any code in your theme or .htaccess files. 

Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

 Use HubSpot tools on your WordPress website and connect the two platforms  without dealing with code. Click here to learn more.

Originally published Jan 20, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated January 21 2021

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WordPress Plugins