Hey there everybody, I’m back with another post about WordPress. This time, I’ve decided to compare the best WordPress cache plugins to see which ones can speed your website up the most. Or, at least the most popular.
Now, in general, I’m going to be comparing only the free versions of several different plugins to see if I can get an apples to apples comparison of which plugin works best to speed up your site. As I add to this post, I may see if any of the paid versions do significantly more to speed up your site, so check back if you want.
Let’s take care of some business first. I’ve tested my own site, Templified, just to be able to know exactly what’s going on and what seems to help or hinder fast load times. I’ve got a theme installed that I created, it’s called King. (Free! – Check it out!) Templified is on CloudFlare, so that’s an aspect that should be considered. This is science baby, I’m keeping everything the same for every test, so it shouldn’t matter in the end. And here are the plugins I have installed. Some of these, I actually use, some I’ve just installed for this test.
- Akismet Anti Spam
- Auto Image Attributes from Filename with Bulk Uploader
- Better Search and Replace
- Classic Editor
- Download Monitor
- Google Analytics for WordPress by Monster Insights
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- Rank Math SEO
- Smush Pro
- Sucuri Security
- Symple Shortcodes
- WordFence Security
And I’ll be using GT Metrix to check the page load times. I think this is probably the best tool around, but some might rather use Google Insights or Pingdom. For this, I’m just going to go with what I know, that’s GT Metrix. Also, I’ll be testing the Vancouver, British Columbia server, which is the location closest to my house. It’s still a ways though.
Why do you need a caching plugin? They help speed up your website, it’s as simple as that. How? Well, it’s complicated. To put it in a nutshell, caching allows your site to store commonly uses elements in a place that loads up faster than heading all the way to your server and back to get the information.
Here’s how it breaks down.
- Somebody comes to your website and their web browser contacts your web server to get information.
- WordPress, from your web server, looks up and grabs all the requested information from your database.
- The web sever turns that into an HTML file to serve to your visitor’s browser.
So, what a caching plugin does is compresses some files, saves others in the browser so you can save time running back and forth between grabbing information and serving it up to visitors. Anyway, that’s the basics.
So, I know there are a ton of these speed comparisons out there but one thing they really don’t tell you is that every website is different. I’ve seen a lot of different lists of the best WordPress cache plugins and, a lot of the time, somebody different is at the top. Really, everybody puts WP Rocket at the top because they have an affiliate programs. Well, I’m not reviewing them, I’m reviewing the free cache plugins.
So, first step, let’s get a baseline speed. This is with all of those plugins installed, roughly 200 published posts, a handful of comments and some other stuff in the trash. I’ve run these tests three times each, just to make sure the results are consistent and posted the closest to average. In general, they all ended up really close to each other within each cache test, so I think it’s a pretty solid estimate of the true performance.
Here’s a look.
Templified Page Speed with No Cache Plugin Active
Obviously, you can read, but the Page Speed Score rated at 94% with a YSlow score of 80%. Total page load time was 4.80 seconds for one of my inner pages. 41 requests, 333 KB total size. Not fantastically terrible, but I think we can do better.
A lot better.
Keep in mind, I’m doing these tests fast. This is with the most basic features enabled and I’m not going to spend hours trying to shave a few milliseconds off the final results. I want to see what gets your site fast…fast. I bet we can find some real gems in here, so let’s get cracking.
So, on with the show.
Templified Page Speed with Litespeed Cache Plugin Active
The Page Score and YSlow score remain the same, as do the number of requests and the page size. But the load time plummeted to 3 seconds flat. That’s 3000 milliseconds to you and me. A big improvement right off the bat.
To get the full effects of what LiteSpeed can do, you actually have to have a LiteSpeed server, but it did seem to work pretty well without it, so…you be the judge. I personally don’t want to have to spend a bunch of money just to get a slightly better result. Not at this point. Sure, hey, if I’ve got some money burning a hole in my pocket, I might go for it. But now, no thanks.
This LiteSpeed Cache is among the most popular cache plugins around, with over 800,000 installations and a nearly perfect rating, so somebody loves it.
Templified Page Speed with Comet Cache Plugin Active
But not so fast LiteSpeed Cache. Comet Cache has done you a little better with a load time of 2.5 seconds. A significant improvement. Considering the fact that Google says pages are slow if they take over 3 seconds to load, I think this is a categorical success story here. But Comet Cache requires more to fully function. You need to get a certain PHP file activated on your hosting account, which is more than many beginners are willing to do.
Comet Cache currently has about 60,000 downloads and around a 4.5 rating overall.
One little side note, I’ve having a devil of a time actually deleting this plugin. It keeps saying my site has had a critical error. Not a good look, Comet Cache. I’ll be passing on this one.
But, I may have screwed something up. So, let’s move on.
Templified Page Speed with W3 Total Cache Plugin Active
Wow! Bigtime improvement. PageSpeed score is the same, but the YSlow cascade shows a significant improvement. The page load time is the real gem though, it fell off the table to just 1.1 seconds. Considering this is far from a small page, I think it could end up at under 1 second with just a few tweaks. This is the basic setup with just a couple extra boxes ticked off. I ran the test about 7 or 8 times and it was 1.1 or 1.2 every time.
Surprising? Maybe, I mean, W3 Total Cache is really, really popular. However, in my experience, this isn’t that surprising. I’ve tested a bunch of cache plugins before and this has been a pretty similar result to what I’ve seen in the past.
Honestly though, I was surprised. I had to test it several times to make sure those results were accurate. And, yeah, they seem to be really consistent.
With over 1 million installations and a solid 4.5 rating, this is a very popular cache plugin and certainly among the better reviewed plugins too.
Templified Page Speed with WP Fastest Cache Plugin Active
WP Fastest Cache is a plugin that I have used extensively in the past. I like the user-friendly nature of it and with over 1 million active installations, this one is just as popular and just as well liked as W3 Total Cache.
And, I guess I can see why I picked it before. I ran 5 straight tests over around 15 minutes to prove the speed was solid. The best time was a cheetah like .7 seconds and the slowest was 1.2 seconds. All but that one were .7 or .8 seconds, so something weird happened.
That’s why we test a bunch of times!
Templified Page Speed with WP Super Cache Plugin Active
This is probably the most popular caching plugin on WordPress.org? Over 2 million installs and rising. The rating is strong too, just over 4.5.
The Page Speed Score remained at 94% and the YSlow clocked in at a solid 80%, which is pretty much what we expected. The page load time itself was really solid at 1.1 to 1.2 seconds in 10 trials, so I think we can assume that that’s a really reliable result.
Again, I didn’t spend hours noodling with the settings to try to squeeze every last millisecond out of it. Right out of the box, solid.
Templified Page Speed with Hummingbird Plugin Active
A step back from the last couple, but a step ahead of Comet Cache. The load time was 1.8 seconds, which is fine, but it’s not blisteringly fast. The user interface is a bit more slick than some of the more utilitarian plugins like WP Fastest Cache. But what does that mean?
Hummingbird is a cache plugin I hadn’t heard of until a couple months ago. It’s by WPMU Dev and I have heard of them, because they do Smush, the image optimization plugin. This Hummingbird plugin has around 80k installs and a solid rating of close to 5 stars.
This plugin has the longest setup time of any in this rundown, which is okay I guess? Somebody had to be the slowest! And, it works, but it wasn’t that great to be honest. It’s possible that with the slightly more complicated setup process, I missed some obvious time savers in there? So, I’ll reserve total judgement on this plugin. It may be better than I’m giving it credit for.
I’ll come back to this and update at some point after I fiddle with some of the settings a bit more.
Templified Page Speed with WP Optimize Plugin Active
So, I saved this one for last, because one of the biggest advantages it provides is the built in database optimizer. I didn’t want to do that until the end, so we can see what kinds of advantages WP Optimize delivers. It also offers a cache feature, so it does compare to the rest of the plugins in this collection.
The results were…interesting. Really solid results overall, but very inconsistent. As low as 1 second flat. As high as 1.8 seconds over the course of 10 tries. I’m not sure what to make of that exactly.
But yeah, overall it was pretty good. It’s hard to know if that’s because of the cache or because of the database optimization? The only way to know is to do this experiment again, I suppose.
**EDIT** I went back and tested a couple of the plugins again after having optimized the database. WP Fastest Cache settled in at .8 seconds and WP Super Cache at around 1.2 seconds, exactly where they were earlier. So, I doubt that the optimization had a huge effect on the site load times.
At least in this case.
That said, I think you should use a database optimizer. I optimize my database every week or when I think of it and that may be why it didn’t result in much improvement.
In Conclusion: The Fastest WordPress Cache Plugin
For free WordPress cache plugins, I see no reason to look at anything by WP Fastest Cache. Possibly W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, if you feel more comfortable with those plugins. Those three rose above the crowd of contenders.
For sites in the past, I’ve tested a handful of caching plugins and gotten different results. I think a lot of it depends on your theme, your plugins, your content, your server, your host…a lot of factors. So, save yourself some time and just test those three plugins.
I’m guessing that for 95% of users, one of those three plugins will be the fastest.