If you’re reading this WP Rocket review, website speed matters to you. Recent research shows that a site that loads in 1 second has a 2.5x higher conversion than a site that takes 5 seconds to load!
Page speed depends on multiple factors, of which, the crucial factor is website caching. For WordPress websites, this comes down to using the right cache plugin can provide a big boost to your page load times.
WP Rocket, as you know, is currently one of the most popular WordPress cache plugins. It’s a premium cache plugin without a free version. This sets WP Rocket apart from most of its alternatives that offer freemium versions.
But do you really require a premium cache plugin like WP Rocket to improve your website performance or will a free plugin be sufficient? I will answer this and many more such questions in this in-depth WP Rocket review of 2023 where I will test the plugin’s impact on this website’s performance with real-world results.
Must Read: The best settings for WP Rocket
The Test Parameters
To test WP Rocket, I wanted to check out the performance improvement achieved from using the plugin and compare WP Rocket’s performance with other popular WordPress cache plugins.
This way you will know which cache plugin to pick from reading this review instead of reading separate reviews of different cache plugins.
Also, the entire test has been done on this website and not on some test site. This way the results you see in this WP Rocket review are actual world results that you can reasonably expect on your website once you start using this plugin.
The website speed was measured using GTmetrix and Google Core Web Vitals to obtain accurate and reliable results.
So let’s dive right in.
WP Rocket Interface: Is it easy to use?
Before I test this plugin’s caching abilities, I wanted to give a brief overview of the interface. I have to admit that I found the categorization of the different plugin settings quite handy and easy to use.
All the settings are neatly laid out on the plugin’s left menu panel.
On the right side, you will find links to useful articles on using WP Rocket and also to the plugin’s documentation. I have been following their blog for a long time and, believe me, the articles published on the WP Rocket blog are of really high quality containing actionable tips on improving your page load times.
Configuring WP Rocket
You can turn any setting on and off with a single click effortlessly. If you’ve been using a free cache plugin then working with WP Rocket is like upgrading from basic mobile to a smartphone (or from Android to iPhone for iPhone lovers).
WP Rocket’s settings are divided into the following 8 parts:
- Basic cache options
- Image optimization
- Cache preload
- Database optimization
- WordPress Heartbeat API control
- CDN integration
- Advanced settings
Configuring WP Rocket was quite easy. Once you turn on caching, you will need to configure CSS and JS optimization along with cache preload. This will take care of the bulk of the cache settings in WP Rocket.
Most users will never require to touch the advanced settings in WP Rocket.
You should go through my in-depth article on the best settings for WP Rocket to set up this plugin within 10 minutes.
Adding a Content Delivery Network (CDN) was a breeze in WP Rocket. If you’re using Rocket CDN then it’s auto-configured for your site. But you can use any other CDN like Bunny CDN by specifying the CNAME in the settings.
Fortunately, integrating Cloudflare was even easier thanks to the dedicated Cloudflare add-on within WP Rocket. All I had to do was activate the add-on and fill in the credentials to control the Cloudflare cache from within WP Rocket.
Testing WP Rocket’s Performance
Now starts the exciting part where I test drive WP Rocket to see whether it substantially affects PassionWP’s page load times.
I tested WP Rocket on a subdomain of PassionWP since you can use a single WP Rocket license across multiple WordPress installs as long as they share the same top-level domain.
So let’s say your website is xyz.com. Then you can use one WP Rocket license across xyz.com/abc/, abc.xyz.com, abc-2.xyz.com, etc. This is unique since other plugin authors limit their license use on the basis of the number of WordPress installs.
In order to mimic the real-world scenario as closely as possible, I installed multiple plugins running different scripts on the homepage. Also, I did not use any other speed optimization plugin except an image compression plugin.
Since WP Rocket is not an image compression plugin, using an image compression plugin will not affect its or other cache plugin’s performance.
Here are the test results on GTmetrix without using any cache solution on the test site.
|Page Size||1.29 MB|
|No. of Requests||61|
|Load Time||2.0 s|
And here are the Lighthouse Page Speed performance scores when no cache plugin is used:
- Mobile: 68
- Desktop: 95
After this, I ran the test again after activating WP Rocket on its recommended settings.
|Page Size||550 KB|
|No. of Requests||37|
|Load Time||364 ms|
The results are pretty impressive. The page size was reduced by more than 50 percent and the number of requests fell by 40 percent. This remarkable result was achieved by activating the “remove unused CSS” option since CSS scripts usually make up for the bulk of the page size.
However, not all CSS is actually used on every page so stopping unused CSS from loading will reduce the page size making it load faster.
But the biggest achievement was the drastic reduction in the page load time. The fully loaded time fell from 2.0 seconds to just 364 ms, which is really remarkable. Also, notice the reduction in the Time to First Byte (TTFB) from 583 ms to 86 ms.
Improving the TTFB has an important bearing on Core Web Vitals (CWV) like First Contentful Paint (FCP). By combining a free CDN like Cloudflare, you can further reduce your TTFB and thus further boost your web vitals.
Let’s now check out the Lighthouse Performance Score after using WP Rocket:
- Mobile: 90
- Desktop: 100
The desktop score even without using any cache plugin was already 95 so getting a perfect 100 score, although remarkable, isn’t entirely unexpected. The real improvement is on the mobile front as the mobile score improved from 68 to 90.
Comparison with other cache plugins
You have seen the test result after using WP Rocket. But the objective of this review is to help you make an informed decision. That’s why I will run the tests again using different cache plugins and then compare their performance with WP Rocket.
WP Rocket vs WP Fastest Cache Premium
WP Fastest Cache is a very popular free cache plugin with more than 1 million active installs. So it made sense to compare these two cache plugins’ performance. However since WP Rocket is a premium plugin with no free version, I tested it against the premium version of WP Fastest Cache to keep the comparison fair.
|Metric||WP Fastest Cache Premium||WP Rocket|
|Page Size||0.99 MB||550 KB|
|No of Requests||56||37|
|Load Time||1.2 s||364 ms|
|PSI Score (Mobile)||76||90|
|PSI Score (Desktop)||100||100|
It’s easy to see that WP Rocket beats WP Fastest Cache Premium hands-down. Except for the Page Speed Insights Score for desktop, these two cache plugins don’t even come close.
WP Fastest Cache performance did not improve substantially over the scores with no caching plugin installed.
Needless to say, the free version of WP Fastest Cache’s performance was even worse and did not lower the loading times at all.
WP Rocket vs W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache also has more than 1 million active installs on the WordPress plugin repository and is one of the original cache plugins. Most of the features in W3 Total Cache are free to use and users can upgrade to receive premium support.
Let’s see how they score against each other.
|Metric||W3 Total Cache||WP Rocket|
|Page Size||0.99 MB||550 KB|
|No of Requests||55||37|
|Load Time||1.8 s||364 ms|
|PSI Score (Mobile)||47||90|
|PSI Score (Desktop)||97||100|
Really, there’s no competition between these two cache plugins. The load times achieved with W3 Total Cache are similar to the no-cache plugin test (2.0 seconds).
The Page Speed Insights (PSI) score on mobile degraded rather than improve. Overall, the gains are very less and it wouldn’t make much difference between using W3 Total Cache and not using a cache plugin on your site.
WP Rocket vs WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache, which has now been acquired by Automattic, is one of the earliest cache plugins for WordPress. It is still quite popular and is in use on more than 2 million websites.
It does not have a premium version presently and all features are available to all users. However, its dated interface really needs an update to stay relevant in this market. But that does not matter in this review since we are only interested in its caching performance and not its interface.
Let’s see how WP Super Cache performed against WP Rocket.
|Metric||WP Super Cache||WP Rocket|
|Page Size||1.26 MB||550 KB|
|No of Requests||51||37|
|Load Time||1.2 s||364 ms|
|PSI Score (Mobile)||70||90|
|PSI Score (Desktop)||98||100|
Like other competitors, WP Super Cache does not come close to WP Rocket’s performance. But, it scored over W3 Total Cache on every parameter. It matched WP Fastest Cache Premium on the load time (1.2 seconds) metric, which is what really matters for many WordPress users.
For a free plugin, it’s really easy to configure, and the fact that it provides the same performance as a premium plugin (WP Fastest Cache) makes it an attractive option if you’re not ready to invest in a premium caching solution for your website.
However, when compared with WP Rocket, it has miles to cover to be considered a serious challenger.
Plugins not considered
Although there are many cache plugins in the market and a comparison of every plugin with WP Rocket is not possible, still there are two notable exclusions here.
The first one is LiteSpeed Cache. This plugin boasts 5 million+ installs with a 5-star rating and it’s completely free to use. The only problem is that it is specifically tuned for LiteSpeed web servers and not Apache or other web servers.
Much as I tried to fine-tune its settings, I could not obtain a decent performance that would do justice to its reputation. This is probably because my web server runs on Apache and not LiteSpeed.
Another downside of LiteSpeed Cache is that it’s loaded choc-a-bloc with settings to configure that will easily overwhelm you if you don’t know what youré doing.
It’s easy to misconfigure this plugin and I would advise you to read a detailed guide or join one of the Facebook groups dedicated to speeding up WordPress to learn how to use LiteSpeed Cache.
The second one is WP-Optimize. It is currently installed on around 1 million sites and comes in free and premium versions.
Many people would consider this cheating or gaming the speed testing tools to gain better results. Of course, the WP-Optimize team issued a detailed clarification. But I thought it best to avoid testing this plugin since its credibility is in doubt.
WP Rocket Pricing: Is It Worth It?
As you might know, WP Rocket is not a freemium plugin. There’s no free or trial version. It’s a premium plugin that costs $49 per year for a single site license (including unlimited installs on sub-domains).
The Plus plan with 3 site license costs $99 per year while the Infinite plan allows unlimited website installs for $249 per year, which is ideal for client sites.
Although the WP Rocket site does not specifically mention renewal discounts, once you sign up for any of the three plans, you will be emailed special renewal discount offers by their marketing team that you cannot miss. At least I did not.
Now the question that arises is whether you should invest in a premium cache plugin when there are tons of free cache plugins available?
I relied on these free cache plugins for a long time earlier and even bought the WP Fastest Cache Premium license (which is a one-time purchase BTW). But as you can see from the comparison in this review, none of them come even close to WP Rocket in terms of performance.
Also, the WP Rocket interface and usability are far superior to any of the plugins that I have tested so far. As far as updates are concerned, this cache plugin is updated frequently and its developers are constantly eking out performance enhancements with every release.
Clearly, I am never going back to a free cache plugin again after having used WP Rocket for 2 years now.
What about you?