Site performance is something every website owner needs to worry about. If your site doesn’t perform well, visitors aren’t going to stick around. Even worse, search crawlers will demote your site.

There are a number of different things you should be doing to optimize your site for speed, but caching should be near the top of the list. With WordPress, caching is one of those things you’re required to handle on your own, particularly if you’re on a shared host.

Fortunately, there are numerous plugins that can help you implement this feature. In this post, we’re going to compare three of WordPress’ most popular caching plugins.

They are WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. This is Part 3 in our three-part series on WP Rocket. Check out the other two parts if you’d like to learn more about this plugin in particular:

Overview of WordPress’ Top Caching Plugins

Let’s go over the basics of each of these plugins before we get into the specifics of everything they have to offer.

WP Rocket WordPress Plugin Review

WP Rocket is a premium plugin that was released in 2013. It’s designed for everyday WordPress users, though it has plenty of developer-friendly features as well. Along with caching, this plugin allows you to optimize your site for speed with file optimization, lazy loading, database optimization and more.

At over 1 million active installs, W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins available for WordPress. It’s a free plugin that offers an astonishing number of advanced features. This goes beyond caching and includes integration with CDN services, minifying of CSS and JavaScript files, and more.

WP Super Cache is the official caching plugin for WordPress, meaning it’s developed by Automattic, the same company that runs WordPress. It has over 2 million active installs. It’s a simple plugin that enables caching and preloading, allows you to control caching, and integrates with CDN services.

With that said, let’s get into our comparisons. We’ll be testing the features these plugins offer, how they perform, their pricing structures as well as the support they offer.

Caching Plugin Features

Let’s kick things off by discussing the features each of these plugins offer, starting with WP Rocket. We’ll get to pricing in a bit, but it should be noted WP Rocket is a premium plugin exclusively while W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache both come in free versions.

WP Rocket Features

WP Rocket’s primary features are page caching and browser caching. It also allows you to control the way your site handles caching. You can minify CSS and JavaScript files, lazy load media, optimize your database, and connect your CDN. More advanced users can “fine tune” the plugin’s settings with advanced caching rules.

Here are a few additional features:

  • Cache Scheduling
  • Preloading
  • GZIP Compression
  • Google Fonts Optimization
  • Remove Query Strings from Static Resources
  • Defer JavaScript Loading
  • Support for Mobile-Only Pages
  • Integration with eCommerce Plugins, Multilingual Plugins and WordPress Multisite
  • Developer Friendly

W3 Total Cache Features

W3 Total Cache’s primary features are page caching and browser caching, similar to WP Rocket. However, W3 Total Cache’s Settings page allows you to enable certain forms of caching that aren’t present on WP Rocket’s Settings page. These include database caching and object caching.

Unfortunately, these types of settings make W3 Total Cache one of the most complicated caching plugins to configure. Many site owners even leave some of these settings disabled as they only cause problems, such as slowing down the backend of WordPress.

With that said, here are a few additional features W3 Total Cache offers:

  • Minifying of HTML, CSS and JavaScript
  • Support for SSL
  • Support for AMP
  • Support for Mobile-Only Pages
  • Reverse Proxy Integration
  • Caching Stats
  • Fragment Cache (Pro)
  • OPcache (Pro)
  • Google PageSpeed Insights Integration
  • Developer Friendly

WP Super Cache Features

WP Super Cache is one of the simplest caching plugins available for WordPress. It literally has an ON/OFF feature that allows you to enable and disable caching with ease. There are also a few advanced features for more experienced users. These include GZIP compression, dynamic caching and support for mobile-only pages.

Here are additional settings WP Super Cache offers:

  • Preloading
  • Integration with CDN Services
  • Caching Statistics
  • Disable Caching for Regular Visitors
  • Disable Caching for Pages with GET Parameters

Caching Plugin Performance

Each plugin comes with a different set of options you can use to optimize your site for speed. When it came to load times, I found WP Rocket to perform the best in both its optimized and unoptimized states.

Here’s a table breaking down the load time results I received from Pingdom and GTmetrix:

Pingdom (secs) GTmetrix (secs)
No Caching 0.97 1.9
Unoptimized: WP Rocket 0.82 1.5
Unoptimized: W3 Total Cache 0.98 1.9
Unoptimized: WP Super Cache 0.93 1.8
Optimized: WP Rocket 0.76 1.3
Optimized: W3 Total Cache 1 1.8
Optimized: WP Super Cache 0.95 1.6

The site I tested is hosted on SiteGround’s cheapest shared server. I ran each test several times and used a test location closest to my data center. The numbers you see on the table are the averages of three tests.

The “unoptimized” tests used each plugin’s default features, typically page caching and browser caching. The “optimized” tests included features like minification and deferred JavaScript.

WP Rocket was the clear winner in my tests while WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache didn’t seem to make much of a difference in the way my site performed.

I should note that my daily drivers for this site include WP Super Cache and plugins that enable lazy loading, minifying and the deferring of JavaScript. My load times with this configuration are typically around 700 milliseconds.

I was most surprised by W3 Total Cache. My site isn’t nearly as slow as it could be on its own, but I expected one of WordPress’ top caching plugins to at least make a dent in my site’s performance.

Caching Plugin Pricing

Each of these plugins has a different pricing structure. WP Rocket is a premium plugin exclusively while W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache offer caching for free. However, W3 Total Cache has a premium version while WP Super Cache is available exclusively for free.

Here’s a basic comparison of how much these plugins cost:

WP Rocket W3 Total Cache WP Super Cache
Single License – $49 Free Free
Plus License – $99 Pro – $99
Infinite License – $249

WP Rocket has three pricing plans based on the number of site licenses you need, be it one, three or unlimited. Support and updates are available for one year, at which point you’ll be required to renew your license for a discount of 30%.

W3 Total Cache Pro enables this plugin’s fragment cache and OPcache settings.

Caching Plugin Support

The varied pricing structures these plugins offer have led to a natural disparity in the support they offer. WP Rocket offers ticket support Monday through Saturday during normal business hours. Their pricing plans are based strictly on the number of licenses you need, so you won’t receive priority support by simply paying more.

WP Rocket also offers an extensive documentation that shows you to configure and optimize each setting. Their blog is also filled with performance tips for WordPress. The articles on this blog are written for general WordPress users in an effort to explain complex topics in a clear way.

W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache both offer support through their respective support forums on W3 Total Cache does a much better job at keeping up with the support requests that come through their forum. As of March 2019, 184 out of 214 requests were resolved in the last two months.

Getting support from WP Super Cache is hit or miss. In the last two months, only 12 out of 76 support requests were resolved. Replies to support threads are also typically written by other WordPress users, not Automattic.

W3 Total Cache Pro comes with email support you can use to contact the developers if you have a question. However, you may need to pay an audit or consultation fee if the problem requires an analysis of your website or deeper investigation.

Final Thoughts

Each plugin has its strengths and weaknesses, and while W3 Total Cache didn’t work out so well for me, its 1+ million active installs and 4.3 star-rating provide enough evidence of its performance for other users. Plus, it offers a lot of advanced features without charging a penny for them.

Still, it’s a fairly complex plugin that can be quite intimidating for some users. It’s also been known to break some sites. Plus, the developer may request for you to pay a premium price if the issue is too severe.

WP Super Cache is a fine caching plugin that has simple features for low-traffic websites or users with little technical knowledge. It also has a few advanced features for power users.

Support is this plugin’s weak point. Like I said, receiving support in the WordPress forum from the actual developers is not likely. Plus, there’s no hope of receiving priority support as there’s no premium option for this plugin.

WP Rocket performed best on my test website in both its optimized and unoptimized versions. It may not be free, bu it has a wide variety of features that enable you to optimize your site for speed in multiple ways. Plus, it’s by far the easiest to configure out of the three plugins tested here. Support is also highly accessible.

Again, if you’d like to learn more about this plugin, check out our other two posts in this series:

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