Caching Plugins: Are they Essential?

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Do you use a caching plugin? Have you ever tried understanding what they do? Are the essential to have a fast WordPress site?

Sometimes I use a caching plugin and sometimes I don’t

When I do, I use a free plugin such as Surge because it is a true caching plugin and it doesn’t try to be everything else in terms of speed

These are my thoughts about caching plugins.

Caching Plugins: Swiss Army Knives

A few caching plugins do what every caching plugin would do and they do that only.

Despite those plugins being very effective in what they do, they don’t tend to be popular for three major reasons:

  • WordPress users tend to lean toward plugins that have lots of features even if they don’t know how those features help.
  • There is no much to say about plugins that takes care of caching only so you won’t probably write a post about it.
  • There is no affiliate money to be made

On the other hand, user tend to run toward plugin that claim to be everything you will ever need and that are heavily promoted by influencer in the WordPress space and affiliate marketers.

Caching Plugins: A Good Business

Influencer in the WordPress don’t talk about a specific caching plugin because they care about you, the speed of your site and the state of WordPress in general.

They are writing reviews and making videos about specific plugin because they get paid to do so.

I think we saw with the birth of Flying Press, few people were talking about it and once they introduce their affiliate program, small and big influencers started caring and talking about it.

We have seen the same pattern before with hosting providers, themes, Gutenberg Blocks and other tools or services.

Caching Plugins: What are we Paying for?

I don’t know why we are paying for caching plugins but these are some good attempts to explain it:

WordPress users:

  • Buy whatever their favorite influencer promotes.
  • Want to reduce the number of plugins they use.
  • Want support even if they don’t ever need it
  • Want to avoid problems that different speed plugins cause.
  • Don’t want to mess with site CSS, Scripts and HTML.
  • Think that the only way to tackle certain problem is through premium plugins.
  • Have complicated issues that a caching plugin can handle well.
  • Don’t want to learn site speed, they just want to solve a problem they have.
  • Want good speed test scores.

If you do your research, you will find that lots of speed features packaged in caching can be found for free or implemented with code snippets.

Caching Plugins: The Future

I don’t know where the future will take us but I think that caching plugins are running out of ideas.

They are copying each other features or improving existing ones from speed optimization plugins.

They are also trying to find and use lighter scripts or join forces with CDN providers.

Most Popular Caching Plugins

These are some of the most popular caching plugins which are dominating the space.

  • FlyingPress: We don’t know how many users are using FlyingPress but this is definitely the king of caching plugins.
  • WP Rocket: We also don’t know how many users are using WPRocket but this is the second best caching plugin, heavily promoted by almost every big influencer out there.
  • LiteSpeed Cache has 3 million active installations. It could have more if we all were using that litespeed web servers.
  • WP Super Cache has more than 2 million installations.
  • W3 Total Cache has 1 million active installations.
  • WP-Optimize – Cache, Clean, Compress has more than 1 million active installations.
  • WP Fastest Cache has more than 1 million active installations.
  • SiteGround Optimizer has more than 1 million active installations.
  • Breeze – WordPress Cache Plugin has more than 200 K active installations.
  • Hummingbird has more than 100 K active installations.

Let’s Talk about the Features

Caching plugins are taking care of your

  • Site HTML
  • Site CSS
  • Site Scripts
  • External Scripts
  • Media: Images, Videos, Iframes.
  • Site Elements

Let’s talk about the features that you will find in most wordpress caching plugins, free alternatives, how badly they are needed.

Caching

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As I have said before, Caching plugins do more than caching. They are Frankenstein of speed optimizations. Caching is just one of those optimizations.

Caching could also be a good way to market a speed optimization tool and capitalize on the need for them.

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If you want basic caching, I recommend Surge or Simple Cache

Advanced Caching

If you have an information site, you don’t really need advanced caching options.

information sites are supposed to be cached entirely.

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Advanced caching options are a good fit for membership and ecommerce sites.

Preloading Caching

Preloading caching is one of the features that I really like when you want everything cached before your visitors arrive.

I think this is a feature that every caching plugin should have.

Combine CSS and Scripts

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WordPress user want to combine CSS because they probably hate the requests that they see in speed tests.

It has been recommended again and again that combining your CSS files is not a good idea so don’t do it if you don’t have a good reason for it.

Inline CSS

The problem with inline your CSS is that will make your HTML file.

If those files that you want to inline aren’t that big in size, you can dequeue the file using a code snippet and add it via your favorite CSS plugin.

Once you do that, you won’t worry about it anymore.

Remove Unused CSS

Removing unused CSS has become very popular these days.

I believe you should really remove unused CSS but not in using a plugin for it.

If you know a bit of CSS, you can remove or purify the CSS and then inline it or load it in an external sheet using your favorite CSS or snippets plugin.

If you do that once, you won’t have to worry about it anymore

Removing Scripts and Scripts Conditionally

Sometimes you really need the styles and scripts but only on certain pages or posts.

I would suggest dequeuing those files and then add them to your site using your favorite CSS or Snippets plugin.

Minify Scripts, HTML and Styles

You can minify scripts, your HTML and styles via CloudFlare if you use that.

If you are adding CSS and scripts via a CSS plugin or a Code Snippets plugin, you can minify the styles and scripts before adding them.

That way, you don’t have to rely on caching plugins to do the minification process again and again.

Also take into account, that those files might be already being minified so you don’t really do anything for some of them.

Delay Scripts

I have delayed scripts in the past, Google Adsense and Google Analytics but I don’t do it anymore.

I want my site to load adsense ads as soon as possible. I don’t recommend delaying ads if you have one or two units above the fold.

I stopped delaying Google Analytics because I am using the minimal analytics snippet

If you have more scripts and you see the need for this features, use Flying Scripts:

Flying Scripts

It is free and I think that it was the plugin of its kind before everyone thought it was a great idea.

The plugin has 20 K active installations.

Defer Scripts

Deferring scripts is the last optimization for scripts on this list, If you have concerns about render-blocking, you should do that.

This is something that can be done manually.

Clean the DataBase

I don’t think you really need to clean the database that often, especially if you don’t spend a lot of time inside your WordPress dashboard.

You can set a limit for your post revisions using a code snippet or use a plugin to clean the database every other week.

Remember that the options found in most plugins don’t clean the database thoroughly

This is what Breeze, the official caching plugin from Cloudways does.

Clean the Database

If you want to clean the database thoroughly, you will probably need a more advanced plugin or you’ll have to do it manually.

Control the HeartBeat

If you are the only one working on your site, you don’t really need to control what you don’t really need.

You can remove these core wordpress functionality with the help of your favorite code snippet plugin.

Remove Emojis

If you don’t use Emojis, you can get rid of this core wordpress functionality with the help of your code snippet plugin.

Do it once and don’t worry about it anymore.

Lazy Loading Images, Videos and Iframes

I think Lazy loading is important specially when you add YouTube videos on your site.

You don’t want those eight to ten YouTube requests unless your visitors click on the videos.

WP Rocket has a free plugin that does that. I have used it but I replaced it with Optimize More! Images simply because the script they use was lighter than the one used by WP Rocket.

Optimize More! Images will also add width and height attributes to images to reduce layout shifts

If you use FlyingPress and Use Placeholder Images for YouTube iFrames, You can self host the YouTube Placeholders

That’s an advantage that FlyingPress has over its competitors.

Preloading Links

If you are trying to remove as many scripts as possible, keep in mind that this feature will add a script to your site.

This feature won’t help much if visitors visit only one page from your site.

As long as your site load fast, you won’t need it.

Flying Pages

The plugin has 20 K active installations and it is very popular among wordpress user who love fast sites.

Lazy Render

Lazy render is something I have never seen before but it is available on the FlyingPress

YouTube video

I haven’t seen other caching plugins add this feature to their repertoire.

I don’t know of any alternatives yet.

Google Fonts Optimization

If you use Google Fonts, you have to optimize them for speed.

FlyingPress does this to optimize your fonts:

  • Combine all Google Fonts on the page to reduce HTTP requests
  • Self-host Google Fonts (download and save fonts locally)
  • Inline Google Fonts CSS

I don’t use Google Fonts so I don’t worry about this that much.

CDN Service

If you want to use a CDN, CloudFlare seems to be a good alternative which is also happens to be free.

If you need more for free, you can use, you can page rule to cache your styles, scripts and HTML. This is commonly called Full Page Caching.

If you want to take another step, you can subscribe to CloudFlare APO. It is $5 a month and it will send your server on vacations more than 90% of the time.

Conclusion

Don’t buy caching plugins because some guy on the internet is telling to do that, specially if that guy is making money for telling you that.

I still use Surge, I didn’t renew my WP Rocket subscription. I think that FlyingPress is taking the lead.

I also think that Perfmatters is doing a great job taking care of a bunch of optimization talked about in this post.

If Perfmatters add caching and minification could dethrone some caching plugins out there.

JM

Sobre Jose Manuel

I am José Manuel. I am writing about things I know and things that I am learning about WordPress. I hope you find this blog useful.