Save the Internet from WordPress speed abuse.Updated: June 2017
It’s another incredible speed myth. Self-appointed experts claim including a caching plugin on your WordPress site is essential. Many plugin reviewers declare, “Caching plugins make your WordPress site highly optimized for speed and performance.” Some even avow a 10X speed – improving your SEO.
This is an outrageous untruth. Total nonsense. First, speed does not improve SEO. Best case, only repeat visitors may get speed benefits from caching. But with some website, only 20 percent of their traffic is returning visitors. Not helpful for the other sad 80 percent. Second, caching plugins never improve speed on a well-optimized site. None of them.
If a caching plugin helps a site, it means something. A tired, lazy, unskilled, or apathetic designer didn’t want to optimize. Admit it. Suddenly, paying $39 for a plugin doesn’t sound so bad to solve the problem. But in 5 years, that’s almost 400 tacos you lose. Cheap ones – but tasty.
As we’ve said before:
What is Caching? It’s page components stored for future use. The images, files, and web objects are now on your local hard drive. When you open the page again, the browser has most files cached and ready. This takes less time than retrieving files from remote servers.
Note: Your browser caches pages whether you have a plugin installed – or not.
WP Rocket caching plugin authors claim your website will load at lightspeed. That is 186,000 miles per second.
“More than 80,000 websites are using WP Rocket.” April 2016
Let’s save the world million of dollars in repetitive fees! We already feel better. Ready. Keep reading.
Note: Our PagePipe site creations go faster than a speeding bullet. The average bullet travels at 1,700 miles per hour. So WP Rocket already advertises better specs than ours. Metaphorically anyway. Light versus bullet.
We don’t recommend the paid WP Rocket plugin because you can get the same results with free plugins.
Here are some of WP Rocket’s other specs and claims:
- Page Caching – They claim this improves SEO. Wrong.
How can we be so confident? We downloaded and tested 21 free plugins from the WordPress repository. Every free caching plugin we could find. That included testing WP Rocket – even though it’s not free.
Here’s how things turned out:
We calculate what we call plugin retention. Call us crazy. We take the number of installs and divide by the number of downloads. Those numbers are found on two different pages of the WordPress repository plugin page. Installs is on the plugin description page and downloads is on the Stats page. After doing the math, the result is an estimate of how many people decided to keep the plugin after using it. They chose to stick with that plugin over time. It’s a crude benchmark of product loyalty, we admit. It’s a percentage that usually runs a spectrum from 2 percent to 30 percent maximum.
1We threw out the caching plugins that just didn’t work. Those four losers included: Easy Cache (15 second page load?), Next Level Cache, WP FFPC, and WP Spider Cache.
2We got rid of the plugins with the poorest retention – the 2 to 14 percent range. There were 9 of those: Batcache, WP Fast Cache, Gator Cache, WP Super Cache, Hyper Cache Extended, Hyper Cache, Bodi0s Easy Cache, AIO Cache, and Alpha Cache.
WAIT! We chucked WP Super Cache? It has over 1 million installs and 11 million downloads. Yep. Do the math. That’s only 9 percent retention. That plugin is getting old and on the decline. You can Google the topic and read about user-concern of abandonment. The author assures it’s not orphaned. But the herd is moving away from the plugin.
Warning: We couldn’t uninstall the plugin “Bodi0s Easy Cache” using the WordPress dashboard. We had to erase its folder from the server via Cpanel. Badness!
3We have 2 plugins that are either too fussy or too feature-sparse.” Those two are Super Static Cache and Cache Enabler. They are out, too.
4There are plugins that are slow to load. Yes. Three plugins flunked when tested with P3 Performance Profiler Plugin. They were: Comet Cache, 43.8 milliseconds, W3 Total Cache 70.5 milliseconds, and WP Rocket 45.3 milliseconds. You’re thinking, those are insignificant times. Maybe, but they load on every single page of the site. We call that site drag. The thing is they were significantly slower than the winners. We’ll give you those times next.
Not again! Another big one bites the dust. W3 Total Cache plugin has a million installs and 6.6 million downloads. But it’s the slowest caching plugin and it’s retention is only 15 percent.
5The three winners had retention around 20 percent and good speed.
- Simple Cache, 4.4 milliseconds and includes Gzip, expires, enable caching. Combine this with autoptimize plugin for minification (13.7 milliseconds). You have a great combination.
- WP Cache.com, 7.2 milliseconds, just caching. So add to it Far-futures Expiration – includes Gzip – 0.8 milliseconds.
- WP Fastest Cache, 8.4 milliseconds. Includes minification, Gzip, caching. Combine this with far-future expiration plugin (adds another 0.8 milliseconds).
You can substitute some of these free plugins listed below for WP Rocket’s other paid features:
- Cache Preloading
Pingdom testing frequently gives a message called “Leverage Browser Caching.” Here’s the speed-error fix:
Install the Far Future Expiration Header plugin.
- Far Future SETTINGS
- Set the expiration to 365 days (yes, 1 year).
- Select all the file types you are using.
- Select Gzip compression.
- GZIP Compression – Gzip and expiration header. We know this makes sites go faster. We’ve tested this stuff. The expiry plugin above works great. Some Gzip plugins don’t work. But Far-future expiration plugin is a two-for-one deal and works great. You just select a button an Gzip is automatically added to your .htaccess file on your server. Then all pages are activated.
Read about Gzip here:
PagePipe: Update on Gzip compression >
- Browser Caching – JS, CSS, and images from page to page in browser cache. Sorry. No caching plugin improves well-optimized sites. They do not show any speed improvement.
- Google Fonts Optimization – claims fewer HTTP requests. We simply remove Google Fonts for speed.
Free plugin suggestion: Remove Google Fonts References >
- LazyLoad – This is good because it delays loading of images below the fold. It’s a good trick. But it can give us lousy UX as slow images on mobile devices leave blank spaces. Images eventually appear when scrolling. (We use lazy loading wherever and whenever possible). Get lazy loading for free:
Free plugin suggestion: Rocket Lazy Load >
Minification gives some improvement in getting good scores but doesn’t always improve speed. Minification can break your site. WP Rocket even warns about this on their FAQ page. So they’re human!
Free alternatives include:
Free: Better WordPress Minify plugin (our first choice).
Free: Autoptimize plugin (second choice)
If those fail try, Speed Booster Pack (but disable the lazy load. It causes site drag.)
Also, W3 Total Cache has minification options. Not our choice of plugin but if you really need minification, it has those features.
If none of those work, forget using minification. It’s not worth the grief.
- Defer JS Loading – page rendering errors eliminated.
We’ve written an article about this:
PagePipe: Google PageSpeed Insights: Render-blocking JS is the most annoying and unresolvable error message >
WP Rocket PRICE: $39 personal annual license fee. ($99 for business). But often on sale!
Secret plugin ingredient: the WP Rocket crawler.
Claim: WP Rocket developed an intelligent crawler. It’s called each time you create or update site content. This primes the cache in preparation for your first visitor.
Enough plugin bashing. A 4-second site can go to 2-seconds by activating WP Rocket. That’s pretty amazing. But we retort, “It must be a pretty cruddy site.” Does the 4-to-2-second miracle make WP Rocket better? No. Just a different, costlier solution.
We’ll keep our $39 bucks for tacos – and use free stuff. Thank you!
Serious Mobile WordPress Speed Strategy for Business