Site speed is becoming one of the most important factors in your website’s success. Google looks at page speed as a ranking signal, which means your SEO now depends on whether or not your website loads quickly, i.e., in a matter of seconds. In fact, according to an Akamai study, half of web users will bounce away from a site if the content doesn’t load within two seconds.
Test your WordPress website to see if it loads this quickly. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GT Metrix to get a free analysis. Don’t panic if your results aren’t perfect right away. Installing a caching solution could help you shed seconds and get your site speed to where it needs to be.
How does website caching work?
Caching optimizes your site’s performance by cutting out steps that are usually taken to show a visitor the content on your website. Instead of getting a request from a user, going to the main server, finding the content, and then loading it fresh each time it’s requested, it shows a static, or “cached,” version of the page from a temporary storage system.
Caching plugins makes websites run faster by serving “copies” of your files. However, this doesn’t mean visitors will get outdated information or see old versions of your website. The on-file versions are updated frequently, so your visitors will see your page exactly as it looks after you make a change. You can even adjust the settings so the cached versions are refreshed every time you publish a new piece of content or make a change.
You might think of it as the difference between having a file cabinet with copies of frequently requested forms within reach, or waiting until a person requests the document and then going back through a file closet to find the correct form and making a fresh copy on the spot. The first is much more efficient. The person making the request gets the information they want much faster. This is what plugins do.
Here are the top three WordPress caching plugins:
1. WP Rocket
A premium plugin, WP Rocket costs $39 to install on a single site, and it’s a great option if you want an out-of-the-box solution with proven results. It has over 20 features enabled to help sites run faster, including:
- Page caching
- Browser caching
- Cache preloading
- Lazy image loading — This means the page only loads images above the fold until the viewer scrolls down, to save time loading additional content.
- A content delivery network (CDN) — This hosts your files on a large number of servers and pulls from local servers to accommodate each visitor, thereby cutting down load time and bandwidth requirements.
Design Bombs, an online magazine on WordPress and web design, tested a series of plugins and determined WP Rocket was the best. It decreased the load time of the sample site from 3.13 seconds to 2.12, which was the most significant decrease of all six plugins tested. As a premium plugin, it also offers customer support that other free versions don’t provide.
Best for: Small to medium-sized businesses that rely on their website to be competitive and generate revenue.
2. W3 Total Cache
This plugin is free and promises to improve website performance tenfold when fully configured. Like the WP Rocket plugin, it offers dozens of features to reduce page load times and optimize your website for visitors and search rankings. Among them are:
- Page caching
- Browser caching
- A CDN
- Minification of images and posts
Best for: Businesses that prefer a powerful solution to an out-of-the-box solution and have the tech know-how to configure all the settings properly.
3. WP Super Cache
The WP Super Cache plugin is a popular free caching with over 1 million installs to date. That high figure is a testament to its performance. The plugin significantly speeds up WordPress sites by:
- Using Apache Mod_Rewrite to serve “supercached” static HTML pages
- PHP Caching
- Caching content for mobile device users
- Supporting CDNs
- Compressing pages
In the Design Bombs test, this plugin dropped the test site’s load time from 3.13 seconds down to 2.92 seconds, which put it slightly below W3 Total Cache. However, where it lags in results, it makes up for in usability. This plugin is easy to install and use, with fewer settings to adjust.
Best for: Websites that want a simple and fast solution to improve their site speed as they grow their web presence.
WordPress hosting is due for an upgrade. Most WordPress sites today use the same shared hosting plans that have been around for decades. WordPress needs something built specifically for it. Luckily, that is on the horizon. A new platform called Convesio is changing the game for managed WordPress hosting. They have integrated several features that WordPress needs. These features include automated backups, WordPress specific security and server caching.
Despite the increasing importance of having a fast website, most businesses have a site-speed problem. Google took a cross-sampling of websites and found that 70 percent take more than seven seconds to load content on mobile devices. Unless they make changes to speed up their websites, these sites risk losing half of all visitors.
If you haven’t already optimized your website to be as fast as possible, try one of these caching solutions as a short-term fix. In the long term, work toward revamping your SEO strategy to keep customers on your pages longer and drive even more revenue from your website.