Having a slow website will cost you. It will cost you visitors because Google now uses speed as a ranking factor. Some visitors will simply bail if a page takes too long to load. Ultimately, having a slow website will cost you money. WP Rocket is a caching WordPress plugin that is supposed to speed up your website without the need for tweaking complex settings. I am giving it a test as I write this review to see if the $39 price is a fair trade for performance.
What is caching, anyway?
Generally speaking, caching stores a generated page so that it can be shown more quickly on the next view without having to rerun a series of time-costly database queries. Most caching WordPress plugins technically do more than just caching. The goal is to shave precious seconds off of each page’s load time.
Paying for a caching WordPress plugin
My observation is that most caching plugins are free. W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache are. They do a lot. I’ve used W3 Total Cache and it works great, but it wasn’t easy to set up. I’m actually hesitant to recommend it to my theme buyers at churchthemes.com because it’s easy to use wrong which results in no gain or even a performance loss. I see it as a very powerful plugin for more savvy users to tweak and tune.
I started seeing references to WP Rocket a few months ago. People I know and people I respect were using it. Something many of them said is that it is easy to set up. WP Tavern reported that they are raking in $35,000 per month in revenue, so clearly people are finding something worth paying for. What does that say, considering other caching WordPress plugins are free? I think that says there might be something to WP Rocket.
I want to know how well it works and how easy it is to use.
A WP Rocket experiment on Pro Plugin Directory
I launched Pro Plugin Directory last week without a caching plugin in place. And it’s a bit slow compared to sites I’ve used W3 Total Cache on. I saw this as an opportunity to give WP Rocket a test myself so I reached out to them and proposed that they give me a copy with updates and support for as long as I mention WP Rocket in the footer of this website — but only if the plugin works as well as I am hoping. Otherwise, I’ll go back to W3 Total Cache.
Here’s how Pro Plugin Directory’s homepage scores right now, with no caching or optimization implemented. This is coming from GTmetrix which considers test result data from Google PageSpeed and Yahoo ySlow. What I like about GTmetrix is that it shows the page load time, which is what matters more than anything (Google PageSpeed Insights doesn’t provide this). I’m running each test multiple times to make sure the results are typical.
Well, we failed badly without the help of a caching WordPress plugin. An F, I’m afraid. I didn’t think it would be this bad. I should probably apologize to everybody who visited this website since launching last week.
Grade: F (43%)
Load Time: 4.23 seconds (some people probably walked away)
Page Size: 2.05 MB
Number of Requests: 54
The idea is to whittle away at that load time by reducing page size, number of requests, compressing output and by doing other clever things that caching WordPress plugins boast as features. Now let’s see what difference WP Rocket makes. I am installing it on this site as I am writing this review…
Putting WP Rocket to the test
I nabbed my copy of WP Rocket and I got an email that says this.
Once you activate the plugin, WP Rocket launches right away! You will find some extra options on the Settings page, but these are not required – page caching is launched automatically when you activate the plugin.
This confirms that WP Rocket is supposed to give a good speed boost with minimal configuration. Installation was smooth. I liked how it activated my license automatically which is different from what I’ve experienced with most commercial plugins (having to copy and paste a license key to activate one-click updates).
Here are the results after simply activating the plugin. I did zero configuration.
Grade: D (62%)
Load Time: 2.92 seconds
Page Size: 1.68 MB
Number of Requests: 53
Using WP Rocket with no configuration bumped the grades up by one. They are still fairly poor and that worries me some, but I am encouraged that the load time was reduced by more than one second and almost half of a megabyte was chopped off of the total download size. While the breakdown shows there are only about 5 issues out of a possible 27, the scores are not to my satisfaction so I hope the configuration options will help.
Squeezing more out of it
In Advanced settings I told WP Rocket not to cache the Vendor Dashboard pages (where plugin sellers login to submit and manage their listings). It’s possible that I don’t even need to do this because by default WP Rocket is supposed to not cache pages for logged in users (it will do the same for cart and checkout pages used by popular e-commerce plugins). But, it was easy enough that I thought I’d do it for insurance while I was checking things out.
The results after checking those four options are pretty dramatic! This boost is greater than I expected since the out of the box option performance was fairly disappointing.
Grade: A (94%)
Load Time: 2.08 seconds
Page Size: 0.5 MB
Number of Requests: 31
Is WP Rocket a caching plugin worth paying for?
Yes. The improvement in speed is noticeable. The overall load time was cut in half. The amount of data downloaded was reduced to 25%. There wasn’t a dramatic improvement out of the box with zero configuration but going from a speed grade of F to A was literally a matter of installing the plugin and taking 20 seconds to check four boxes in the Basic settings. Nothing on the site broke in the process. I’m sure a little more speed could be achieved with Advanced settings and a CDN but I will settle for an easy A.
Time is money and I feel that compared to how much time I spent configuring W3 Total Cache on other sites, the cost of WP Rocket is justified. I don’t doubt that other caching plugins for WordPress can achieve similar results, but I am not sure if they can do it with as little effort on my part as I just experienced with WP Rocket. It’s also nice to know that technical support is available, something I am not confident about with the free caching plugins.
So, I will honor the deal I made with WP Rocket and link to their listing in the footer of this website. That frankly is costlier than $39 so while I could plunk that amount down and not promote them in this manner, I am proud to tell our visitors that we are happy with the speed boost that the WP Rocket caching WordPress plugin has given us.
Go visit WP Rocket to learn more and see if it would be worthwhile for you. Also see our Caching WordPress Plugins category, which we hope to see fill up with other premium caching plugins as the directory continues to grow.
If you have used WP Rocket, please post a review. We have one from Peter Cralen already, who said this:
After “fighting” with many cache plugins for WP I tried WP ROCKET and can not imagine to use something else for cache. Peter Cralen
You can test your website’s speed with GTmetrix like I did for this review of WP Rocket. It’s a fantastic tool. They generate a free PDF file with details and recommendations.