WordPress page load speed can be frustrating, especially if you use a lot of plugins or images on your site. WordPress is a resource intensive way to create a webpage, because every single page is built on the fly using a programming language called PHP, pulling information from multiple files and a MySQL database. This means that a WordPress page can take a lot longer to load than a traditional HTML webpage. Its worth it though, because WordPress lets us create very powerful and complex websites which are easily modified or able to change quickly.
Web page loading speed is a very important aspect of your visitor’s experience of your site. Its so important that Google actually considers it a significant factor for search result ranking: Google knows that slow pages are less popular. This is based on their own research, which has led to their very stripped down home page and a limit of 10 results per page. Google discovered that as page load times increased, the number of searches decreased, and so did their ad sales and thus profitability.
WordPress Caching plugins turn dynamic web pages into static pages
WordPress caching plugins make your site faster by serving cached static web pages, rather than creating dynamic pages every time a visitor requests a new page. Caching your WordPress content has several benefits:
- Pages load faster.
- Thus your visitors are happier, and more likely to stick around and explore your site.
- Conversions increased because your bounce rate falls (people stay on your site).
- The load on your server is reduced: its much easier to serve up a static web page than to run WordPress and build a dynamic one for each page load.
Best Caching Plugins for WordPress
There are a lot of WordPress caching plugins, offering a range of features. Its actually impossible to choose a single best WordPress caching plugin because the performance of these plugins varies a lot depending on their configurations and your web hosting server. Also, most WordPress users would prefer a simple plugin which is set and forget, while others have more time, skill and interest in optimising their WordPress caching plugin.
Choosing a WordPress caching plugin
Choose the best WordPress caching plugin for your server.
Lets keep it simple:
If your WordPress site is hosted on shared hosting then use WP-Super Cache.
- WP-Super Cache is relatively easy to set up and performs well in a shared hosting environment.
- It definitely works better with configuration beyond the default settings
- You can largely just select all the “Recommended” settings in the advanced options tab.
- WP-Super Cache doesn’t have a built in minify function. There are separate plugins for this, but be aware minification can break your site.
If your WordPress site is hosted on a VPS, dedicated or some types of managed WordPress Hosting and cloud hosting then use W3 Total Cache
- Be prepared to tweak your server substantially to harness the full benefits of W3 Total Cache
- W3 Total Cache is substantially more challenging to set up, especially if you don’t know the configuration and capabilities of your server (like most people on shared hosting)
- Setting up W3TC can take quite a lot of time and trial and error to get right. What works on one server won’t work on the next, due to different configuration.
- Shared hosting greatly limits the extra features the extra features
- When not set up properly, caching programs can actually make your site run faster. This is more of a risk with W3TC than with WP-Super Cache due to it’s complexity.
- Some of the options on W3 total cache will break your site (temporarily), so you need to test it as you configure the settings. The minify settings especially often break the CSS of the site, as can other minification plugins.
- W3 Total cache needs to be set with different setting depending on your server. If you are serious about site speed, it can be worth getting this done professionally.
There is more to WordPress Speed than Caching plugins
Caching plugins are just one way to improve you WordPress speed. Here are some other critical things to check to make your site faster.
- Compress your images.
- Use clean coded, lean themes.
- Keep images and other media to a reasonable size.
- Remove unnecessary/greedy plugins and widgets.
- Reduce slow external calls: loading data from other sites (like social media or analytics sites) can really slow your WordPress page load times.
- Make WordPress Faster with a CDN
- Choose the best WordPress hosting plan for your site.
WordPress Page Speed Loading Time Test Tools
Testing the page loading time for your WordPress site is critical if you are trying to improve your page load speed or deciding whether to move to a faster WordPress host.
Our favorite page speed tools include
- Pingdom.com – Great interface and easy to run multiple tests, but no Australian test servers.
- Site24x7 – Lets you test from browsers located around the world. We use this to test our Australian load times.
- GTMetrix – Combines Google page speed and Yahoo’s Y-Slow test tools and has a nice interface
Its useful to use multiple tools because they do give different results.
Also be aware that if you are using caching plugins, CDNs or other WordPress tools to speed your site, that you may need to run several tests in a row to get the best load times, as the caches/CDN edges need to be loaded before they can speed up your site. This is especially important straight after you flush your cache or publish a post.