WP Rocket is an amazing plugin, that has succeeded where so many other plugins have failed: reliable, easy to use and actually capable to increase WordPress website performance.
Before WP Rocket, there were many plugins for speeding up WordPress through us of various methods: CDN, cache, browser cache and many more other methods. But, all these plugins (and that includes W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache and many more), were overly complicated, sometimes impossible to configure, containing too many settings that even experienced developers were not able to understand. Whenever I needed to use these plugins, I was ready to waste few days on properly configuring them.
But, all that has changed when WP Rocket was released. This plugin had a completely different approach to all other plugins: it had a single panel with few tabs, it had only a few options, it didn’t require special diplomas to understand it, and it just worked. And, unlike some ‘free’ cache plugins that had complicated subscription licenses, WP Rocket was simple, yearly license with fixed price depending on the number of websites, starting from $39.00 for a single website, to $199.00 for unlimited websites.
I have switched Dev4Press Network to WP Rocket in 2014, and I have never looked back. And, the proper cache support was essential for Dev4Press, because Dev4Press is WordPress website with the heavy use of multisite/network features, and most of the cache plugins don’t support multisite installations. With WP Rocket it just works.
Install and Configure the plugin
Before you buy and install the WP Rocket plugin, make sure you have removed all other cache plugins, or there might be a conflict with some features. It is generally a very bad idea to run multiple cache plugins. Once you activate WP Rocket, the plugin will already optimize your website performance, and a lot of features are automatically used. What you need to do is to configure optional plugin features.
All the plugin settings are split into several tabs. Each option has short information, warnings about some settings and performance related explanation to help you decide if the option is worth using, and what gains you can expect.
Check out the image below for Basic tab settings.
If your website has a lot of images or videos, LazyLoad might be a good idea to use. You have options to control cache for mobile devices (if you have responsive website enable cache for mobile devices, but disable separate cache for mobile devices) and cache for individual logged in users (this option can significantly increase the size of cache folder for large websites).
Enabling Emoji cache support is also a good idea to disable slow loading WordPress.org emoji support (Dev4Press disabled this differently, so there is no need to enable this option in WP Rocket too). If you don’t want other websites to embed your website using oEmbed support build into WordPress, disable it. Finally, make sure you set cache lifespan, 24 hours is plenty, and if you have very dynamic content, make this number lower (6 or 12).
The second panel for additional settings is called static files. You can see it in the image below. But, it is important to know that depending on your settings, new elements will appear on the page.
WP Rocket can minify HTML page content, and the CSS and JS files too. HTML should be always enabled, but with CSS and JS, you will need to experiment a bit. Problem with CSS and especially JS is that these files can be malformed, and minifications can cause for errors to pop up. To remedy that, the plugin allows you to specify which CSS and JS files you want to exclude from minification. So, if you identify which files are causing minification problems, you can exclude them. This will require some testing, but it might improve the website speed a bit.
If you load Google Fonts individually, the plugin can merge them into a single request, improving loading a bit. Dev4Press doesn’t use that because our theme already does that. As for the removal of query strings, this very interesting option because it can change all CSS/JS files to have query string merged into the file name. This way, query string versions will be preserved (very important to browser caching), and the query string will be removed, because all performance grading websites recommend it. Options for render blocking CSS/JS can be used if you want, but you will need to do some performance measures to determine if there is any gain. For Dev4Press, there was no gain in using these options, most likely because we use HTTPS with HTTP/2 protocol.
Over the years, I have found that CDN is one of the most important features to speed up the website. Offloading images, CSS, JS, fonts to ultra fast delivery networks lowers the load of your server, and due to the way CDN works (and how many servers are used all around the world), it will be faster to deliver static files.
On Dev4Press we use Amazon CloudFront, with 2 distributions, one for images, other for CSS/JS files. If you need to exclude files from CDN, you can do that also from the plugin interface.
WP Rocket has more things you can use. From CDN tab, you can enable CloudFlare support if you use CloudFront. The advanced tab shows additional options to exclude URL’s, cookies or user agents from caching, and few more things. And, on the database tab, you have tools for cleanup of the database. This is not something plugin like this needs, but it is a useful addition if you don’t have other specialized and more complete cleanup plugin.
Preload tab has options for advanced users only, and it is not essential to make any changes there. But, if you want to try it out, you need to know that aggressive preload can slow down your server. WP Rocket also supports Varnish, and it includes an option to purge Varnish cache automatically. On the last tab (Tools), you have options to purge all the cache, import and export plugin settings, and upgrade/downgrade the plugin version.
Even without the settings, you can control, WP Rocket enables a lot of different caches related features when activated and starts improving your website performance. There is no need to go into every little detail, some things should be that easy to use. Depending on the other settings, you can make some significant performance improvement on top of what WP Rocket does when activated only.
With WP Rocket, Dev4Press home page loads under 1 second. Main HTML page (without additional files) is prepared and served in under 0.4 seconds, and all other files are served from ultra-fast Amazon CloudFront CDN.
What I can recommend is:
- Make sure you switch your website to SSL and if your host supports it, enable HTTP/2.
- Use CDN. There are plenty to choose from, only make sure they have a lot of servers all around the world.
- Enable HTML minification, and experiment with CSS/JS minification to try and bring the number of loaded files to a minimum.
- Use the option to remove query strings from CSS/JS, but make sure to test that everything loads correctly after.
- If you use a lot of fonts, enable the option to combine them into a single request.
Test your website before and after WP Rocket, and you will see how much faster your website will get. The plugin works with any hosting and with Apache, Nginx or Windows servers.
WP Rocket Support
If you have any issues WP Rocket team is fast to respond and help you. I contacted them few times over the past few years, and they responded very quickly and helped me every time. For most issues, plugin knowledge base is enough to help you.
Ever since I have switched to WP Rocket, this is the only performance optimization plugin I recommend, and the low price you pay for it is nothing compared to how faster your website will get. And, WP Rocket team always have interesting offers to save even more money with bonus months for renewal, or discounts. And, if you don’t get results you expect, plugin purchase comes with 14 days money back guarantee.
Try WP Rocket, it will amaze you how fast your website can be.