Page speed is incredibly important for any website. Whether you’re looking to load your pages more quickly, or making optimizations for SEO or User Experience best practices, having a website that loads quickly will always lead to more visits and conversions.
Google has reported that even a 0.1 second improvement of mobile site speed increased conversion rates by 10% for travel and retail sites, which is significant.
Google is also factoring in Web Core Vitals (or page load speed metrics) into its algorithm, beginning May 2021 - if your website doesn’t meet web core vitals best practices, it’s a guarantee that you’ll lose valuable keyword rankings and organic traffic visiting your website.
If you aren’t tech savvy, optimizing for page speed can be daunting or feel impossible. However, for WordPress users there are many speed optimization plugins that are available. My personal favorite is WP Rocket, a caching plugin that’s guaranteed to drastically improve your site’s load times.
Read our full WP Rocket review to learn more about this caching plugin and why you should be using it for your website.
The WP Rocket plugin is a database optimization and caching plugin for WordPress sites that was first published in 2013.
It's been one of the most common caching applications for WordPress users since it launched nearly a decade ago.
Despite the fact that there are many free caching plugins available, WP Rocket is used by hundreds of thousands of websites.
WP Rocket is incredibly popular because it combines the features of several individual plugins into a single caching tool that is guaranteed to improve your website speed and page load times.
Below we’ll walk through all of the features WP Rocket offers in its dashboard:
WP Rocket offers a few basic caching options that are easily enabled.
The mobile caching option is designed to speed up your site for visitors on mobile devices You can also cache files for mobile devices if you have a dedicated mobile theme or plugin (although most themes employ responsive design and don’t really need this).
The user cache option is great for when you have user-specific or restricted content on your website that you want enabled for logged-in WordPress users.
This option will cache files that are older than the specified lifespan. You can set the cache lifespan manually, or stick with the default setting.
Minifying CSS files basically removes white space and comments to reduce the overall file size of your web pages, which will improve loading times.
This will combine CSS into a single file on the page, which will reduce overall HTTP requests.
This delivery method eliminates render-blocking CSS on your website, which will produce faster perceived load times to users visiting your pages and reduce potential bounce rate.
Images are typically the biggest issue with web pages loading slowly. WP Rocket offers several media optimization options to help combat this, such as:
Lazy loading is meant to improve the perceived loading time of users visiting your web page by only loading videos, images, or iframes once those elements are scrolled into view by the user.
WP Rocket offers lazy load for images, iframes and videos.
As part of Google’s Web Core Vitals, cumulative layout shift is a negative factor that can harm your organic keyword rankings.
Adding missing width and height attributes for your images can help to prevent cumulative layout shift and improve the user’s reading experience as they browse your web pages.
WebP is a new type of image format that prioritizes reduced file sizes without sacrificing image quality. WP Rocket has the ability to serve WebP images on compatible servers. One caveat - you would need to create WebP images for your WordPress website. This can be done through image optimization tools, such as Imagify.
Preloading content can help your server display information to users more quickly and improve perceived load times. WP Rocket offers a few different preload options as part of its plugin:
This will generate the cache, starting with links on your site’s homepage and XML sitemaps. Preloading cache is automatically triggered when you add or update content on your website.
When a user hovers over links on your web page WP Rocket will automatically begin to preload that page, so when a user clicks through the page is already being loaded. This helps with perceived load times.
Prefetching DNS requests will help make external files load more quickly.
Preloading fonts improves performance by helping browsers discover Google fonts in CSS files if they’re hosted on your domain.
Looking to set more advanced caching rules? WP Rocket offers flexibility in setting your own rules on an individual page level. Here are the different features they offer in this space:
Exclude sensitive pages such as login/logout URLs from being cached.
Specify specific cookies that will prevent a page from being cached if they’re set in a visitor’s browser.
Specify user agent strings that should never see cached pages.
Specify URLs you want purged from the cache any time a post or page is updated.
This forces caching for specific GET parameters.
Cleaning up your database is always important to remove unnecessary bloat from your WordPress site. Here’s what WP Rocket offers in this regard:
Enabling this setting will delete any auto drafts, trashed posts, or revisions.
Spam or trashed comments will be permanently deleted.
Transients are temporary options saved in WordPress that are safe to remove. Most plugins will automatically regenerate transients if they’re required to function.
Your database tables will be cleaned up and optimized if this option is enabled.
Based on your above selections, WP Rocket will automatically cleanup your database. You can specify to clean up on a monthly basis, or set a custom routine.
Do you use a CDN to serve your images? WP Rocket can integrate with most CDNs, with Cloudflare serving as the biggest one.
WP Rocket also offers its own CDN called RocketCDN that will speed up your site through its high performance content delivery network with unlimited bandwidth. I used their CDN for a long time and saw positive results when testing for web core vitals on Google Page Speed Insights.
Heartbeat is an option on WP Rocket that can help preserve some of your server’s resources by reducing activity in the backend, frontend, or post editor of your site.
WP Rocket also offers a few different add-ons that can help with optimizing your tracking codes to improve page load speeds. Here are the one-click add-ons they offer:
You may be wondering how WP Rocket stacks up to some of the other free plugins available for WordPress. Here’s a quick look between WP Rocket and some free alternatives as far as popular caching plugins go, or what most folks consider to be the best wordpress caching plugins out there:
We’ll also dive in below as far as the actual page performance we experienced when testing each plugin:
Using a website baseline of 3.5 seconds, after installing W3 Total Cache, we saw load times drop to an average of 2.25 seconds, which isn’t too shabby.
WP Super Cache is a very simple and beginner friendly plugin. All you need to do is install it, select “caching on” and your site will be cached.
Using a website baseline of 3.5 seconds, after installing WP Super Cache, we saw a 50% improvement of site speed performance, reduced to about a 1.90 second load time
Similar to WP Super Cache, this plugin is simple in that all you have to do is check a box to enable all of its caching features. As far as speed performance, WP Fastest Cache generated similar results compared to W3 Total Cache.
Similar to the other options, one feature that Hyper Cache lacks is lazy load, but it generated similar page speed scores to WP Super Cache. It also hasn’t been updated in several years, so this plugin may be outdated / incompatible with your existing version of WordPress.
After activating WP Rocket, we experienced an average 1.65 second load time which came out to be the fastest out of all the free caching tools available.
WP Rocket is my favorite caching plugin available out on the market for WordPress. When using this tool on my website, I experienced a 40 point increase in my mobile Web Core Vitals, using Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool. On GTMetrix and Pingdom, my pages also loaded less than 1 second, which is a huge improvement considering it took me just 3 minutes to set up WP Rocket on my website.
Even though you need to pay for this plugin, I highly recommend this tool for all webmasters. If you don’t have a caching plugin (or even if you have one that isn’t WP Rocket), you need to stop reading this review and purchase a license for your website. You’ll be more than happy with the results.
Below we cover several questions that are frequently asked regarding WP Rocket:
WP Rocket doesn't offer a free version - it does cost about $50 per month, but the price is well worth the investment, especially with Google announcing that a website’s page speed performance will now be considered an important factor for ranking well on its search engine.
Unfortunately WP Rocket doesn’t offer a free trial at this time. It does, however, offer a 14-day refund policy, so if you aren’t satisfied with the performance, you can get your money back within that 14-day window.
WP Rocket optimizes the cache of both browser cache and server cache.
Server cache involves creating static HTML pages to improve page performance by avoiding PHP processing.
WP Rocket offers a three tiered plan:
This option costs $49 per year and comes with support / updates for 1 website
This option costs $99 per year and comes with support / updates for 3 websites
This option costs $249 per year and comes with unlimited support / updates for an unlimited amount of websites.
There are a couple of different reasons why your site may be loading slowly, even after installing WP Rocket. Here are a few other factors to consider when optimizing your site for page speed:
It isn’t recommended to use more than one caching plugin This is because most caching plugins offer similar functionality. You run the risk of either breaking pages because these plugins conflict with one another, or slowing down your website because they’re trying to perform similar operations.
WP Rocket does offer an affiliate program, which you can find here.
WP Rocket does offer a support team that is willing to help you with any page speed optimization questions or needs you may have.