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When it comes to speeding up a WordPress site, choosing the right combination of plugins is crucial. In some cases, using multiple plugins could cause incompatibility and break your site.
Over the years, W3 Total Cache has been my top choice when it comes to optimizing site speed. It gives a lot of options and it works relatively well with other plugins without causing many issues. However, hosting companies such as WPEnegine prevents its customers from using W3 Total Cache along with WP Super Cache, and WP File Cache because they could conflict with their built-in caching structure. More and more hostings such as FLywheel, and Kinsta are providing a built-in caching structure and this is a big headache for me as an SEO consultant because some of my clients’ sites are hosted with one of such hosting.
This is why I started looking into other plugin options that can be used to improve the site speed.
WP Rocket – Not Free but Worth It!
Then, I came across WP Rocket, which is not free but from what I could see, it sounded promising.
First and foremost, WP Rocket is allowed on WPEngine, which means it likely won’t conflict with other hosting sites that have their own built-in caching structure. This along was a large plus.
I opted to buy the multi-site license as I wanted to use it on multiple sites and I must say it did not disappoint me.
Let’s Get to Know WP Rocket
Right off the bat, by simply installing WP Rocket into your website, it already applies page cache and browser cache which already contributes positively to the loading time of your site.
According to WP Rocket’s user guide, other than the page and browser cache, here are other features that are automated once WP Rocket is installed and activated in the website that improves your website’s speed:
- Page caching (static HTML file cache)
- Browser caching (on Apache, if available on the server)
- GZIP compression (on Apache, if available on the server)
- Cross-Origin support for web fonts (on Apache)
- Detection and support of various third-party plugins, themes, and hosting environments
- Combination of inline and 3rd party scripts
- WooCommerce Refresh Cart Fragments Cache
On the Dashboard page, it provides quick call-to-action buttons to clear cache files or regenerate critical CSS rendering path.
Purge OPCache – Opcode compiles human-readable PHP code to code your server understands. By cashing (saving) it to server’s memory, it removes the need for PHP to load and parse scripts on each request.
Regenerate Critical CSS – Do this when you make changes to stylesheets or modify CSS files.
In the Basic Cache Options, you would find the following:
- Mobile Cache – By default, “enable caching for mobile devices” is ticked.
DRM Tip: If you use certain mobile plugins such as WP Touch, enable both Mobile cache and Separate cache files for mobile devices
- User Cache – This setting best used for membership sites – if your website has restricted content for specific users. If activated, WP Rocket will create respective cache files for every logged in user in your site.
- Cache Lifespan – leave it as is but if your site is not updated often, this can be increased.
File Optimization is the section where you can adjust your setting to optimize to minimize the size of your HTML, CSS and JS files.
Basic Settings gives you:
- Minify HTML – removes all blank spaces and other features in the source code that are unnecessary for the user. Removing these makes the source code lighter – allowing the browsers to load the page fast.
- Combine Google Font files – this setting is enabled by default. Enabling this will minimize the number of requests for your browser to load the Google Fonts API
- Remove query strings from static resources – can improve your site score by deleting the version query strings from the file names
DRM Pro Tip: Although all functions improve site performance, these features may affect your site negatively or positively depending on the type of your site. On my DRM site, Minify HTML caused errors so I disabled it.
Excluded CSS Files – is useful if you have specific CSS URLs you not want to be “minified”.
As with all plugins, JS files are usually attached to their functionality. This forces your browser to wait for all the JS files to load before your user can see anything on their screens. Giving you an irate user and losing you a potential customer.
DRM Pro Tip: Use a site speed test tool to identify all the CSS and JS files on your site first. So you know the file names in case you need to exclude some files when minifying or combining files give you an issue.
- LazyLoad – Delay loading the media files (images, audio, video) until a user scrolls down the page, reaching to where the media files are on the page.
DRM Pro Tip: Enable all settings in Lazyload could boost performance substantilly if you have media heavy site, but always test it to make sure everything works properly.
- Emoji – disabling HTTP requests for emojis will improve site speed.
- Embeds – prevents users to embed into your content.
- WebP compatibility – You would need to have way to convert existing and uploaded images to WebP before enabling this. Not all web browsers can render WebP yet (WebP is initiated by Google so Microsoft and Apple browsers are not 100% supporting it yet).
Preloading creates a page cache before it is even loaded by a user’s browser. This will essentially speed up the page load even when the user is visiting the page for the very first time.
Under “Activate Preloading”, you would see:
- Activate sitemap-based cache preloading – WP Rocket will preload detected pages/posts listed in the sitemap.
DRM Pro Tip: Enabling Preloading cache is of great help in decreasing the HTTP requests in your browser but it could cause a huge drain to your server if you have a large site. Especially if the cache lifespan is set too low.
In cases that you need to stop WP Rocket from caching certain pages, cookies, or user agents, this is where you can control that. You can also set to always purge certain URLs or caching certain query strings. Most of us probably don’t need to use these features but it’s good that WP Rockets provide them.
You may not know it but your site might have a lot of unnecessary content that hinders your site performance to a great extent. Unnecessary contents may include posts, pages, comments, drafts, spam comments, settings for plugins and themes.
WP Rocket unburdens you with this by optimizing your database.
In the Database section, you will see the following:
- Post Cleanup – WP Rocket detects all the unnecessary drafts, trash and post revisions in your site. You can permanently delete these files within WP Rocket.
- Comments Cleanup – You sure don’t want spam comments on your site. You can also permanently delete them in WP Rocket Dashboard.
- Transient Cleanup – As the word implies, transient files lie in your site for a short time and can be safely removed since they will be automatically generated again if your plugin is in need of them.
- Database Cleanup – Immediately optimizes your WP-database for you.
- Automatic Cleanup – You can also schedule your cleanup. Adjust the frequency to daily, weekly or monthly – whichever is of your liking.
DRM Pro Tip: Backup your database before doing the clean up!
Content Distribution Network is essentially a network of servers spread out across the globe that are located closer to a user (someone from Asia) who is trying to access your site. Since the CDN is located closer to the user, it could deliver the files much faster compared to the hosting server which could be located on the other side of the world from the user.
Benefits of leveraging CDN is also mentioned in my post: https://digitalreadymarketing.com/improve-website-speed-wordpress-sites/
Heartbeat is the synchronization of all elements of your WordPress website – in one heartbeat.
Heartbeat API makes sure there is efficient real-time communication between the server and the browser. BUT, the concept of real-time data sharing bloats up your server by generating high CPU usage for logged in users who are in your site for a longer period of time. Again, it complicates and leads to issues – which we essentially want to avoid.
WP Rocket allows you to disable or reduce the activity behavior in your site’s backend, post editor and frontend – providing you with total control of the Heartbeat API efficiently.
DRM Pro Tip: While this feature is highly recommended by DRM, it is also best to test this in your staging sites since disabling the heartbeat can break plugins and themes.
WP Rocket Add-ons
The Add-on tab provides a few substantial add-ons for:
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Pixel
What’s so remarkable about this is that these are one-click add-ones — so you would not have to undergo strenuous configuration, making it perfect for SEO beginners.
After using WP Rocket for a few months, I am happy with my purchase and I must say it is a well-designed site speed plugin. No wonder it’s recognized by many WordPress experts.