The Best Caching Plugins for WordPress You’ve Never Heard Of
What caching plugin do you use? There’s a good chance it’s either W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, or WP Rocket. However, while those three plugins get the most press and sport the largest user bases, they’re far from the only useful caching plugins for WordPress.
If you’re open to looking at other options, the WordPress plugin directory offers quite a few other caching plugins worth considering – especially if ease-of-use is worth more to you than a few extra milliseconds of page load time.
In this article, I’ll introduce some of the best caching plugins you’ve (probably) never heard of, explain what each does, and briefly explain how to set each one up. In addition, while I’m at it, I’ll even install each option on a test site and run the site through the Pingdom website speed test tool to make every single one of these plugins does what it’s supposed to do: speed up WordPress.
My Caching Plugin Testing Setup
All of the plugins on this list have been installed and tested on a brand new WordPress installation. I set up the site with the Sydney theme, loaded it up with a ridiculous number of high-res photos, added far too many content loops, and installed a pre-built page design using SiteOrigin Page Builer.
The result? A 13MB 74 request monstrosity:
This site is a monster. However, it’s being hosted by a solid hosting company. As a result, it really does perform acceptably well even in its bloated state and sans-caching.
The host managed to deliver this embarrassment of a website in just over 3 seconds. Still, with some basic page caching we can speed things up a bit. If your site is hosted by a lesser host, you can expect to see even greater gains by taking some of the load off of the server with page caching.
In the interest of highlighting the most unknown but solid caching plugins, I’ve arranged the plugins in this list from the plugin with the fewest number of active installs and reviews to the option with the most active installs and reviews.
Let’s get to it.
Simple Cache was developed by Taylor Lovett after getting frustrated dealing with caching plugins that are far more developer-friendly than beginner-friendly. The plugin is active on around 2,000 WordPress websites and has a very strong user rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. Smart Cache does two things: cache WordPress pages (and posts) and enable gzip compression of website resources.
After installing and activating Simple Cache you’ll see an admin notice prompting you to Turn On Caching. The plugin settings panel can be accessed by going to Settings > Simple Cache. If you pressed the button in the admin notice, caching will already be enabled. If you pressed the button in the admin notice, caching will already be enabled. If you didn’t, you can turn on caching from this menu.
The only other thing you will definitely want to do in the settings menu is to enable compression. You can also toggle on Advanced Mode to manage caching exceptions or set up object cache, but most users won’t need to worry about that.
With caching and compression enabled, here’s how our oversized site performed at Pingdom:
Modest results, but considering the weight of the site, not unreasonable. A site this heavy that loads in less than 3 seconds from a shared server is doing just fine.
Gator Cache is a page caching plugin that is designed to work in the background and update cached pages automatically so that you never have to think about it. It’s compatible with WooCommerce, bbPress, and Multisite, and is installed on more than 2,000 WordPress websites. In addition, Gator Cache has a stellar rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars.
Gator Cache isn’t nearly as straightforward as Simple Cache, but it’s not overwhelming. Install the plugin, and go to Gator Cache in the admin menu to set it up. All you really have to do to enable caching is select the checkbox to Enable Page Cache and click Update.
With page caching set up, the site performed much like it did with Simple Cache installed.
A reasonably snappy performance in light of the exceptional size of the site and a meaningful return on the investment of just a few minutes to set up the plugin.
WP-Cache.com is designed to be dead-simple, and it is. Install the plugin, go to the new menu item labeled WP-Cache.com, and turn on the only two available options to Cache Frontend and clear the cache when a new post or page is published.
WP-Cache.com is active on more than 5,000 sites, but it has only been reviewed six times. In addition, the plugin hasn’t been updated in two years, which is cause for serious concern. However, the plugin was just adopted by a new developer a few months ago – so there’s reason to be optimistic about the future of this plugin.
The real question is: how does the site perform with WP-Cache.com set up? Let’s let Pingdom answer that question:
While the future of this plugin might be in question, there’s no question as to whether or not it still works right now.
Cache Enabler is a page caching plugin from KeyCDN. It’s installed on more than 7,000 WordPress websites and sports a solid rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. In addition, Cache Enabler is designed to integrate easily with KeyCDN and Autoptimize.
Setting up Cache Enabler is simple. Just install the plugin and activate it, and it will start caching. You can fine tune plugin configuration by going to Settings > Cache Enabler. You will probably want to enable Cache Minification from this menu. Try the HTML & Inline JS option first, but fallback to the HTML option if that breaks your site.
Let’s see how quickly the test website loads with Cache Enabler set up:
Our best result so far! CacheEnabler has shaved more than a full second off of the test site’s load time.
Cachify is another popular caching plugin. It’s active on more than 20,000 websites and sports a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars. It can cache pages using a variety of different methods including disk caching, Alternative PHP Cache (APC), and Memcached. It’s also Multisite ready and comes with friendly superhero branding (you know how we feel about super powers). What’s not to like?
A solid performance that puts Cachify in the thick of the results we’ve seen so far.
Comet Cache, the caching plugin formerly known as Zen Cache, is active on more than 30,000 WordPress websites and is well-loved enjoying a stunning rating of 5 out of 5 stars on the strength of 37 user reviews.
Comet Cache is designed to be easy to use and has some of the most user-friendly and well-written documentation of any plugin on this list. In addition, the developer responds to every support thread posted in the WP.org support forums. That’s impressive. Let’s see if the plugin performs as well as it should in light of the evidence at hand.
To set up Comet Cache, install it, activate it, and then go to the new Comet Cache admin menu item, select Yes, enable Comet Cache, scroll to the bottom and click Save All Changes. There are many additional settings you can configure if you want to, but all you really have to do is select the option to enable Comet Cache and save changes to enable caching.
That result places Comet Cache among the most effective options for this particular site and this particular host.
Hyper Cache calls itself a pure PHP caching plugin that works on every blog, even resource-starved shared servers. The plugin is compatible with sites that run a separate mobile site, is designed to work well with commenting systems, and works with bbPress.
Hyper Cache is active on more than 50,000 WordPress sites. However, it’s rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars is the lowest of any plugin on this list.
Hyper Cache setup should be relatively easy. However, I had to enable
WP_CACHEmanually by editing wp-config.php. This was probably caused by some action taken by one of the other caching plugins I had already tested on this same site and not something most users will encounter. So I’ll let that minor hiccup in the setup process slide.
To set up Hyper Cache, install it, activate it, and go to Settings > Hyper Cache. There are many options you can configure. For my purposes, the only options I enabled were the options to Enable compression and Allow browser caching. With those options enabled, here’s how my test site performed according to Pingdom:
That’s a solid performance.
WP Fastest Cache is hardly unknown. It’s active on more than 100,000 websites and has managed to maintain a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars despite receiving almost 1,000 user reviews.
WP Fastest Cache is the most full-featured plugin on this list. It supports CDN integration, HTML and CSS minifications, CSS and JS combination, Gzip compression, and browser caching. Unfortunately, the current version of WP Fastest Cache is not Multisite compatible.
Setting up WP Fastest Cache is a little more complex than many of the other options on this list, but that’s because it offers more features. To set up the plugin, install it, activate it, and go to the WP Fastest Cache admin menu item. In the Settings tab, I enabled the Cache System, Preload, Minify HTML, Minify CSS, Gzip, and Browser Caching options to produce these results:
Now you know why WP Fastest Cache is so popular. It didn’t break the 2-second barrier every time I tested it, but it did break it more often than not and was the only plugin on this list to accomplish that feat.
Which Plugin is Right For You?
That’s a hard question to answer. If anything, this plugin roundup drives home how many high-quality caching plugins are freely available from the WordPress plugin directory and how hard it is to make any headway (or money) as a plugin developer.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list. All are highly-rated and produced a measurable improvement in the performance of my test site.
Having said, you didn’t come here for diplomacy. Here are my favorites:
- Best performance for the least amount of effort: Cache Enabler.
- Best user experience and documentation: Comet Cache.
- Best overall: WP Fastest Cache.