“WordPress Performance optimization,” is the first thing, that every WordPress user searches on the web. Once you finish installing WordPress on your site, chances are high that you may want to find ways to optimize your WordPress site and the best performance optimization plugin for WordPress.
I’ve been there, back in the early days of my exposure to WordPress, I also used to be in that place. In those days, there used to be lesser plugins to optimize WordPress and relatively, pretty basic guides on how to optimize self-hosted WordPress blogs.
Those guides used to tell, what to do but, an average WordPress user can’t do much on his own, due to the lack of required knowledge and a risk that he might break his site.
Of course, we’re now in the Post-Managed WordPress hosting era, where WordPress runs on steroids and even the under-optimized WordPress sites loads fast. But robust hosting specialized for WordPress is not the most efficient way to cut down the load time of your WordPress site, instead, you can achieve greater results by optimizing your WordPress site for speed with the help of a specialized plugin, such as WP Rocket.
WP Rocket made Blogosense.com Test site, 73% Faster
Now in order to keep you hooked up with this WP Rocket review, allow me to show you what WP Rocket did to our Blogosense.com test site. The test site is hosted on shared hosting, “baby” plan at Hostgator.com that costs roughly $4 a month.
Considering the fact that a large chunk of WordPress users relies on good old shared hosting platform for WordPress. Therefore, I cloned the exact copy of Blogosense.com on my test site, to first test the performance advancement on a shared host.
After finishing the cloning, without any further optimization I tested the Blogosense.com clone on a shared host with Pingdom Tools, and to my surprise, the site took 3.98 seconds to load completely. That’s a really slow website and don’t expect Google, to put this slow site rank high on SERPs.
Then, further, I installed WP Rocket plugin and configure it fully, except the CDN module and again tested the load time of my Blogosense.com test clone, and the results were fascinating.
- Load time went down, from 4.35 seconds to just 1.05 seconds,
- Google Page Speed score changed from, C-79 to an A-93,
- Page requests count reduced from 39 to 18
- The page size is also down from 542.KB to 425.7KB.
Now that’s definitively a big improvement in terms of performance for any WordPress site, almost 73% faster.
And mind you, I had done nothing except enabling all the features of WP Rocket plugin and it’s done, without breaking my site.
WP Rocket Review – WordPress Performance plugin
As the name suggests, WP Rocket is a performance plugin for WordPress, which is said to greatly optimize the load time of any WordPress site. I knew about WP Rocket for a long, considering the fact that it’s a pretty old plugin, and it exists for more than 5+ years.
Yes! it’s a paid plugin for optimizing your WordPress sites, it will cost you $49 for a single WordPress site for an entire year. Also, there are affordable plans, which will be easy on your pockets in case if you want to use WP Rocket on more than one WordPress site.
[button link=”https://blogosense.com/go/wprocket/” type=”icon” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] Get WP Rocket[/button]
Of course, there are several free WordPress optimization plugins which, can actually do the same job, without paying any amount, like W3 Total Cache. But the real difference between WP Rocket and W3 Total cache etc is, no messy configuration and no need to get your hands dirty, because with WP Rocket, all you need to do is just turn on the activate button, and you’re done.
Whereas, with W3 Total Cache, you need to configure a lot of options, and chances are high that features such as, minify and combine will break your site. And mind you, W3 Total Cache isn’t completely free anymore.
Why WP Rocket?
4-in-one plugin – Yes, WP Rocket for WordPress comes with the functionality of four different plugins:
- File caching and minify – You can optimize the static files of your themes and plugin, minify them, combine them and cache them.
- CDN connect – No need to install any third-party plugin to configure CDN, just drop all your CDN details and WP Rocket will automatically sync your site with any CDN of your choice.
- Database optimize – Optimizing your WordPress database is a recurring process and you will need a third-party plugin to do it every now and again. But, WP Rocket comes with an integrated database optimizer that lets you optimize your WordPress database, within few clicks.
- Heartbeat controller – Controlling WordPress heartbeat is definitely a thing for shared hosting users, and installing a separate plugin is a must. Not the same story for WP Rocket users, as there’s built-in functionality to control the WordPress Heartbeat.
Easiest setup – No messy configuration, with a neat and smart user interface of WP Rocket, all you need to do is just tick the check-boxes or simply enable them.
Advanced caching and WordPress optimization features
Page Caching – It caches all sorts of content served to the visitor, enhances the SEO and boosts your load time, which further improves the user experience by making your website page load, almost snappy.
Browser caching – This is an intelligent feature, that automatically stores the static files of your WordPress site into the browser. When a visitor tries to access the other pages of your site, it doesn’t need to reload those static files again, hence saving time and faster website load time.
GZIP compression – This feature simply compresses your blog’s web page and saves the bandwidth, which ultimately increased the load time. The compressed page is unzipped by the visitor’s browser before it’s presented to the visitor, and the good part about this process is that it only takes a fraction of second.
How to install and setup WP Rocket
Once, you finish signing up an account with WP Rocket, installing the plugin is similar to installing any other WordPress plugin. Just upload the WP Rocket file from your WordPress dashboard and activate the plugin.
You can access the WP Rocket’s Dashboard from the “Installed Plugins” section or you can find the WP Rocket’s menu under the WordPress “Settings”.
I’ve seen and used over dozens of cache plugins for WordPress, but when it comes to the user interface, none of them comes any closer to WP Rocket. The user interface of WP Rocket is beautifully designed and even a novice WordPress beginner, can learn to use the plugin within a few minutes.
There’s a simple side tabbed layout to access and configure all the features of WP Rocket. Under the My Account section, you could see your license type and it’s validity. Those quick actions on the right allow you to easily remove and rebuild all kinds of cache, the plugin creates on the fly.
I’m going to access and briefly talk about all the features of the plugin, accessible under the tabs. However, if you’re looking for a detailed and a step by step guide on WP Rocket, better head over to this official documentation for in-depth information.
Cache – Well caching in simple terms is to store the data of your website, and serve it faster the next time it’s requested. So here in WP Rocket, as soon as you activate the plugin it’ll immediately enable the page cache on your site.
Additionally, you can also enable mobile cache with a separate cache file for mobile devices. Now you must be wondering, what’s “mobile caching”?
Well, for all such types of general nomenclature related to the WP Rocket and website optimization, there’s a “Need Help?” button available on each section of the plugin, you can click that button, and it’ll display a tab, with a good amount of information on each topic.
It’s handy, in case if you are confused about any feature of the plugin, or if you want to know more about a peculiar option, all without leaving your site.
Further, there’s a user cache option that lets you cache content, in case if you have content restricted to a logged-in user on your WordPress site.
Nowadays, a lot of WordPress sites are now migrated to Secure HTTPS, if your site is already on HTTPS, then keep this option checked.
For the cache lifespan, you can configure the cache lifespan, as per your site needs, ideally, you can set it at 10 hours.
Under the file optimization, you can check the first three options without any hassle.
Minify HTML – Minify your web page size by removing the white space and comments from HTML.
Combine Google fonts files – Combines all the Google fonts files, which will reduce the number of HTTP requests served on your site.
Remove query strings from static resources – Have you noticed those “?ver=1.0” appended at the end of your static files, such as “Style.css”?
Often website loading tools such as Pingdom Tools and GTmetrics recommends to remove them, as they might not get cached by CDNs. With WP Rocket you can remove those query strings from your static files and improve your Google PageSpeed score.
Therefore, as a precautionary measure, you should turn a feature one by one, and check your site in a browser, if it appears fine, then only keep it on, and move to turn on the other features of the plugin or else skip it and try to test with other options.
And of course, if anything goes messy, you can always look for support with the official WP Rocket team.
LazyLoad – As the name suggests, it only loads the images and videos, which are visible in the viewport of your browser. This reduces the number of HTTP requests and can significantly improve the load time of your WordPress website.
You can also enable the feature, for iframes and videos, with an additional feature to enable YouTube embeds with preview images. If you happen to embed a lot of videos from YouTube, then this feature could save a good amount of load time for your pages by reducing the number of HTTP requests.
Emoji – Earlier there used to be no support from browsers for loading emojis. Now since a majority of browser supports emoji by default, therefore there’s no need to load a separate emoji library from your WordPress sites, instead, you can disable it from here and the browser will load all the emojis on your site, without any issue and keeping your WordPress site lite.
Embeds – If you want to prevent other people on the internet to embed content from your site, and also prevent you from embedding the other websites. Yes, this will also stop simple URL embed, of YouTube videos on your posts. Use this feature accordingly.
Preloading – One unique feature about WP Rocket is that it comes with your own self-hosted crawler, that stimulates a visit to preload the cache, which makes the indexing of your website by actual search crawlers, super fast.
Think of it like, visiting a coffee shop. You visit the shop and your favorite cup of cappuccino is already ready for you to be served, piping hot. No need for you to place the order and wait for your coffee to be prepared.
Sitemap Pre-loading – In a similar way, as of above it preloads the XML sitemap of your site to ensure it’s always ready to be served for search engine crawlers. It automatically detects the XML sitemap plugin of your choice, be it Yoast, All-in-One SEO, and even JetPack sitemaps.
DNS prefetching – Alongside, the content on your site, there are certain web elements loads from the other domains on the web, such as Google, YouTube. This generally requires additional DNS lookups/requests but, when you enable this feature it automatically preloads them.
Under the advanced rules, you can configure all things advanced such as:-
Never cache URL(s) – here you can mention all the URLs, which you don’t want to be served cached by the WP Rocket, and all the mentioned URL here will be served, as it is and WP Rocket won’t mess with them.
Never cache cookies – If you want some of your cookies not to be cached by the plugin, list them here.
Never cache User Agents – If you want to serve any specific user-agent (s) to not be served by a cache version of your site, you can list them here.
Always purge URL(s) – You can set specific URL(s) from your site, which you want to be purged from a cache, every time you update any post or a page.
Cache query strings (s) – If you want the plugin to forcefully serve, a cached copy of specific query strings, you can define them here.
What I really like about this plugin is that it also serves as a database cleaner tool, and eliminated the need to use a third-party plugin to clean your WordPress site’s database.
There’s a post-cleanup section, where you can check to clean the revisions, drafts and trashed posts on your site. And similarly, you can also wipe out spam and trashed comments from your database, to reduce the size.
I could assure you, nearly half of WordPress users have zero ideas on what are transients in WordPress. And since they don’t know anything much about the transient, they never care about cleaning them.
For those who don’t know about transients, they are just temporary options, saved in your WordPress options tables, inside the database of your WordPress site.
Often, when you install a plugin or a theme, it saves the configuration data inside your WordPress options, and even when you install such plugins or themes, they don’t completely wipe out the transient data, and it ends up as bloat to your database, completely useless.
With WP Rocket, you can wipe out those expired transients or even all transients, and don’t worry as they are safe to remove, if any plugin or theme uses them, they will be regenerated by them, automatically.
Typically, you need a separate plugin to integrate CDNs on your WordPress site. However, if you are using WP Rocket, then you don’t need to use the standalone CDN integration plugin, instead, you can use the WP Rocket’s built-in CDN integration module and use any CDN of your choice, including Amazon CloudFront, MaxCDN, KeyCDN, and more.
Back when, WordPress heartbeat API was introduced with version 3.6, and as the name implies, it sends a continuous pulse to perform periodic tasks such as,
- Autosave of posts and revisions, in the post editor
- WordPress dashboard admin notifications
- Post locking information when another editor is editing a post
- Real times data by plugins etc
This all sounds so convenient but, in reality, it made a mess for those shared hosting WordPress site owners. As the API runs a set of tasks on an interval or “tick” at every 15-60 seconds and utilizes the file admin-ajax.php on the (dashboard) back-end, post editor, or the front end to perform this activity.
This caused the situation, where the said script draws out high server resources, making the site slow, and often result in, warning or worse with the suspension of hosting services by the host.
Therefore, it’s a must to control the activity of Heartbeat API, especially if your site is hosted on a shared server. With WP Rocket, you can check the control heartbeat option, and it will reduce the API’s activity. Further, you can even reduce activity/do not limit/ or completely disable the API, in the WordPress back-end, post editor, and front-end, individually.
One-click add-ons are simple, ready to active add-ons, that causes nifty enhancements to your site.
Google Tracking – Nearly all of the website owners rely on Google Analytics to track the traffic data, now instead of loading all those Google scripts from their server, WP Rocket will host them on your site.
This will result in improved page load time and increase PageSpeed score for “leverage browser caching”.
Facebook pixel – Similarly, the plugin will also host Facebook pixels locally on your server to minimize the load time from external domains.
Varnish – If your site is hosted on a managed WordPress platform or on Cloud hosting platform, such as Cloudways. Then chances are high that your site must use Varnish cache on your server. Enabling this add-on will result in, the purge of Varnish cache, along with WP rocket cache, to make sure your site content is always updated.
Rocket add-ons are further enhancements to extend Cloudflare and Sucuri accounts with your site.
Once you enable these rocket add-ons, a separate tab for each service will be added below the add-ons and then you need to do is provide the required credentials of each.
As soon as these service gets configured with WP Rocket, you can control Cloudflare settings from WP Rocket panel, such as enabling development mode, optimal mode, and also purge Cloudflare cache.
In a similar fashion, the Sucuri cache will also be purged along with WP Rocket.
The last tab under WP rocket is tools where you can do export the settings of WP Rocket, and if you have a multi-site license for WP Rocket, then you use those same settings under different WordPress sites, using the import function.
Rollback is something very new for me, I’ve never seen any other WordPress plugin with this rollback functionality, where you can actually roll back to the previous major version of the plugin, in case if something goes wrong with the latest version of WP Rocket.
WP Rocket actual performance test
Alright so, we’ve already configured the plugin, now is the time to test the actual performance of the plugin, I want to see what are the actual performance advantage of using WP Rocket on a real WordPress site, Blogosense.com.
Yes, what could be better than Blogosense itself, to test the WP Rocket. Before, I begin the test let me give you a piece of brief information about this site.
(Blogosense.com un-optimized, no-cache plugin, no WP Rocket, link to this test)
Hence, Blogosense is backed by a single-core processor, 1 GB of RAM and 25 GB of SSD storage and costs me under $10/month at Cloudways. And according to GTMetrix, the performance of this site is pretty good and it manages to load my site in just 644 milliseconds, scores Google PageSpeed B (87%), with a page size of 507 KB and requests makes total 42 HTTP requests.
Now we need to test the Blogosense with WP Rocket, fully configured.
(Blogosense.com Optimized, WP Rocket installed and fully configured, link to this test)
Once, I configured all the options and features of the WP Rocket, I flushed all the cache and ran a new website speed test at Pingdom, and the results were exciting, as the plugin did great enhancement in the website optimization department with minimizing HTTP requests to just half, only 21 and Google PageSpeed score improved to an A 93, page size is also reduced to 442.8 KB, while the load time of the site is 30% improved and the site now loads under 432 milliseconds.
I am completely blown by the optimization skills of WP Rocket, as it not only managed to load my site faster but also did so without breaking any of the portions of Blogosense. However, my blog is hosted on a cloud hosting platform for WordPress, whereas a majority of WordPress users are still using a shared hosting plan to host their, respective blogs.
Therefore, I bought a shared hosting plan at Hostgator, and completely cloned my Blogosense.com on the shared hosting, and conducted a website speed test at Pingdom.
And the test site, which was previously loading at around 4 seconds, is now loading at around only 1 second. All thanks to the amazing optimizing ability of the WP Rocket, without breaking any portion of your site. Hence, I can say that yes! if you’re looking to use WP Rocket on your shared hosting WordPress site, just go ahead and make your site robust and optimized with WP Rocket.
I’ve been using WordPress for a long time now, and WordPress is getting a feature-rich by every update, which further makes WordPress resource hungry. Therefore, running a WordPress site without any cache plugin is a kind of injustice with your WordPress based sites.
I would recommend all WordPress users to use a cache plugin of their choice, and there are actually a lot of free and paid plugins out there. Nearly all cache plugins for WordPress claims and even makes your WordPress site faster, but chances are extremely high that they will break your site, in favor of optimization.
And I’m being very honest here, I’ve used W3 Total cache for years, and most importantly that minification feature, always used to break my site, plus configuring W3 Total Cache is a hit and trial process, and definitely not easy for an average joe.
However, with WP Rocket, it took me no time to completely enable all of its features and it beautifully optimized my WordPress site, without any break in functionality, sort of magic for me.
In my final words, I would say that if you’re serious for your WordPress site, then WP Rocket is worth an investment, that over time, you’ll feel like the “best money I’ve ever sent” period
WP Rocket Review
- Performance friendly
- Does what it claims
- Ease of usage
- Help Documentation & Support
- Updates regularly
- Value for money