WordPress Caching Plugins: Are they Essential?

Published on July 3, 2022 | Updated on July 4, 2024

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 Cache Enabler because it is a true caching plugin and it doesn’t try to be everything else WordPress Caching plugins wanna be these days

These are my thoughts about WordPress caching plugins.

WordPress Caching Plugins: Swiss Army Knives

WordPress caching plugins do more than caching, they are Swiss Army Knives.

  • Do you need to lazy load images, videos and Iframes?
  • Do you need to optimize scripts?
  • Do you need to optimize styles?
  • Do you need to preload links?

You could install separate plugins to get those features but you can find them on most popular “caching plugins” like FlyingPress, WPRocket, etc.

Free WordPress Caching Plugins

There are pretty good free caching plugins available on WordPress.org, but they are not that popular for three major reasons:

  • WordPress users tend to lean toward plugins that have lots of features even if user don’t know how those features can speed up their sites.
  • There is no much to say about plugins that take care of caching only, so WordPress influencers won’t probably write a post about them or promote them.
  • There is no affiliate money to be made from promoting free caching plugins.

Influencers 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 promoting it.

Popular Caching Plugins without a Free Version

These are the two most popular caching plugins without a free version.

  • FlyingPress: We don’t know how many people are using this plugin because it is a premium caching plugin. I think that FlyingPress is way superior than WPRocket, despite WPRocket having more installations.
  • WP Rocket: We also don’t know how many active installations WPRocket has, but this is the second best caching plugin, heavily promoted by almost every big influencer out there.

Caching Plugins with a Free Version

These are some of the most popular caching plugins whose free version is available on WordPress.org

  • LitesSpeed 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. The Plugin used to look old as hell. The user interface was updated but it still looks bad. It is not getting any love by Automattic.
  • W3 Total Cache has 1 million active installations but it is way too complicated to use for average WordPress user.s
  • 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.

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 influencers promote.
  • Want to reduce the number of plugins they use.
  • Want to support developers even if they don’t ever need the pro version of a caching plugin.
  • Want to avoid problems that using different speed optimization plugins might cause.
  • Think that the only way to tackle certain problem is through premium plugins.
  • Have complicated issues that a free caching plugin can handle well.
  • Don’t want to learn site speed optimization, they just want to solve a problem they have.
  • Want good speed test scores.

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.

There were moment in which every WordPress caching plugin update came packed with features that blew our minds.

What about now?

All we have left is caching plugins copying each other features, so you will probably find more or less the same features on most of them.

Let’s Talk about the Caching Plugin Features

Speed up sites

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.


As I have said before, Caching plugins do more than caching. 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.

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.

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

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 heavier.

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.

I am not a fan of inlining CSS

Remove Unused CSS

Removing unused CSS has become very popular these days.

I believe you should really remove unused CSS but I don’t believe 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 Snippets plugin.

Minify Scripts, HTML and Styles

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 first of its kind before everyone thought that delaying ads was a great idea.

The plugin has 20 K active installations.

If you don’t want to use a plugin for that and you feel that you can handle a bit of PHP, you should check my tutorial on “How to Delay Ads Without a Plugin”

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.

If you don’t want to do that, you can use native lazy loading.

Sometimes the native lazy loading class is missing so you can use PHP to add the class to images and files

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 Caching Plugin

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

You can host your fonts locally and forget about a paying or installing a plugin for it.

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.


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

I use cache enabler, 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 adds caching could dethrone some of the best caching plugins out there.

Manuel Campos

Manuel Campos

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






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