Caching plugins will speed up your website. It\’s as simple as that, and a faster website will result in better performance and better rankings in search engine results. But historically, these plugins have been hard to install, harder to understand, and out of reach for most nonprofit staff members and even some designers and developers. Not to mention, the myriad ways these plugins can conflict with even the most basic server setup – a combination which can result in errors on your live site like missing images, sliders not working, javascript conflicts…the list goes on and on.

In the past, I\’ve used W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache on small sites (under 100mb) and on large sites (over 3gb). I tend to see better results when using the plugins with well-coded themes, frameworks, and plugins. WordPress standard themes work well, as do Genesis Framework themes. Other themes that call huge JavaScript libraries to bring in animation and other fancy effects typically do not work as well, and are more often associated with errors once caching is involved, in my experience.

Overall, those plugins work. They always improve site speed and reduce requests to your server, which has been an increasingly important factor in search rankings, according to Google\’s guidance on site speed and search rankings, and other analytics like SEO Moz.

But recently, I\’ve been working with a new entry to the caching market called WP Rocket. It\’s a premium plugin, offered at $39 per site with discounts to those buying multiple site licenses.


In my experience, the plugin is extremely easy to use, quick to configure, and it just works. The sites in which I have activated WP Rocket have seen good improvement in page speed, load times, overall requests to the server, and in overall site performance. And in each case where WP Rocket was implemented, the plugin was installed, activated, and completely configured in less than 5 minutes…and without any issues on the front-end of the site.


WP Rocket In Action

But enough about general information and platitudes on what we should do to speed up our sites. Here are a few results from a site on which I recently installed WP Rocket.

On this particular site, I\’m running a custom Genesis child theme, with a few plugins including some Genesis helper plugins, Slider Revolution, Gravity Forms,a search indexing plugin, and a responsive menu plugin. It\’s a fairly typical site.

My initial performance metrics were as follows:

  • Google Page Speed: 70%
  • Yslow Grade: 73%
  • Page Load Time: 3.44 seconds
  • Total Page Size: 1.37 mb
  • # Requests: 48

After WP Rocket was activated and configured, I saw an immediate improvement in performance, as evidenced by the results in the table below.

[table id=1 /]

Page speed improved to 93%, Yslow grade to 88%. Page load time decreased to 1.65 seconds and total page size to 1.03 mb. Total requests dropped to 35. Overall, the percent change in performance is shown in the ∆ column. Page speed improved 33%, Yslow grade improved 21%, page load time dropped 52%, total page size dropped 25%, and requests dropped 27%. An impressive change for just a few minutes spent in setup.


WP Rocket Setup

I\’ve gone on about setup being so easy with WP Rocket, and here is the proof. After activated, I needed only one settings page with 5 check boxes to achieve the improvements mentioned above. To achieve the same results on other caching plugins takes a little more work, and some plugging through documentation to understand the settings. In some cases, the other plugin even involve changing code on your site, or changing .htaccess files and editing your wp-config.php.



How About Mobile?

Google announced late last year that sites with faster mobile response speeds will naturally rank higher in search rankings. You can see this article titled Google Site Speed Penalty Coming to Mobile, discussing the release from Google\’s head search Guru Matt Cutts.

There\’s no doubt that mobile usage will continue to increase and evolve  in the coming years. Your site needs to be well optimized for mobile usage, and that includes have a fast-loading website on ALL mobile devices. Slow pages just wont be tolerated. For me, if I have to wait more than two or three seconds for a website to load in my mobile browser, I\’ll usually close it out and check it out later when I get home. I hate to wait for something on my cell phone.

With these performance improving and caching plugins, I\’ve noticed page load time on mobile decrease as well, which is a nice benefit. In my experience, page load speed time improves even more on mobile devices when you remove things like sliders and large images, and when you optimize images in general. For that, using a plugin like WP Smush-it works well to further improve your site, a note that most of these plugins will pass on to you as well.

WP Rocket takes care of mobile caching with just one check box, and even warns you not to enable it if you\’re running certain other plugins that might interfere or cause conflicts.


Is a Premium Caching Plugin Worth the Cost?

There are many premium plugins on the WordPress market that don\’t add much value to similar free plugins on the WordPress repository that do the same thing. There are also many premium plugins that are well written and well maintained, that have great feature sets not found in free plugins, and which provide great benefit to your website. Plugins categories like sliders, e-commerce, and events management have long been offered in premium forms, but caching plugins have mostly been offered for free. So is the cost of a premium caching plugin worth the purchase?

In the case of WP Rocket, absolutely. The plugin is so easy to setup, with three simple clicks I achieved more performance boost on my site than with a half-hour (or more) of setup in the case of either WP Total Cache and WP Super Cache. The settings were easier to understand, tutorials were clear and concise, and support was lightning quick. I submitted one request about switching a license key from staging site to live and the developers answered me within 15 minutes.

Using the Download Settings option in WP Rocket is another great feature which allows you to port those same settings to another site. If you work off a template site, or have a template framework installed with similar back-end processes and front-end pages, porting your settings can save you even more time, especially if you employ a few advanced options, like disabling caching and minification of certain JavaScript libraries called by your theme.

Again, for me, it\’s about time spent in setup and the amount of value I get for that time. For example, if you are a nonprofit staff IT person handling your organization\’s website and your salary equates to $50 per hour, then purchasing this plugin for $39 and taking 5 minutes to set it up will save you money over using one of the other more setup-intensive plugins. If you\’re a developer working with a client charging $100 an hour – the decision is even easier to make. Just remember, whatever metric you use – the end-performance of the website should always be your focus.


So What Should You Do?

If you\’re operating a website for your organization I highly recommend using WP Rocket to speed up your site. Over time, that will work its way into your rankings and you will see a bump because of it.  $39 a year is a pittance, considering the benefit you will receive.

For developers, it can get costly adding a $39 license for each site you create and manage, and then renewing that license each year. I\’d recommend using a multisite license, which offers a lower per-site license fee.

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