As you’re probably aware, the speed at which your site loads can affect how well it ranks on search engines. It has an impact on sales, too: a one second delay can reduce conversions by as much as 7%. One of the best ways to improve the speed of WordPress websites is to use caching. In this post, well explain what caching is and look at the options available to you.
How caching speeds up WordPress sites
Whilst WordPress is an awesome CMS platform, providing users’ websites with unparalleled functionality, the use of themes and plugins means there are often lots of additional scripts that need to be transferred between server and browser before a web page can load. These scripts slow down the speed of your website and can make it sluggish.
Caching, however, can speed up that process. Normally, when someone visits one of your pages, the request is processed on the server, the page is converted into an HTML file and then it’s sent to the visitor’s browser. With caching, this only needs to be done once because the server stores the HTML file. This means that if anybody else visits the page, the HTML page can be sent without the need for any processing or converting. If your page is updated, the cache is cleared and a new page can be generated, but again, this only has to happen once.
Additionally, you can also set up browser caching where the HTML files are stored on the user’s computer. If they revisit the page, the browser can retrieve the HTML files from the hard drive rather than sending requests over the internet.
Both of these methods significantly improve the speed of loading.
The advantages of caching
Caching has three main advantages for WordPress users. Firstly, it speeds up the performance and loading times of your site. It also reduces server load as your database won’t be accessed as frequently and you won’t need as much RAM. If you’re on shared hosting, this can make a significant difference to your performance. Finally, you’ll get the benefits of a faster loading time: improved search engine ranking and associated traffic growth, reduced bounce rates and increased conversions.
Different WordPress caching options
There are two caching options that WordPress users can choose from: their web host’s caching solution or a caching plugin. In this next section, we’ll look at both.
Web host caching
Some web hosts provide their own bespoke caching solution and these may make use of server-side software and custom-made plugins designed to improve page loading times. These often come with pre-configured settings which not only save you time and effort but also provide more advantageous results than working out your own configuration.
Other web hosts offer well-established third-party plugins, such as Varnish, a high-speed, full-page caching solution designed for content-heavy, dynamic websites, and CloudFlare, a multi-purpose system that provides a caching service, content delivery network, DNS server and protection from DDoS and malicious code injections.
WordPress caching plugins
An alternative way to set up caching is to install a caching plugin from the WordPress repository. The advantage of these is that, should you migrate your website to a new host, you can take the plugin with you. Another host, however, may not use the same in-house caching system.
There are quite a few free caching plugins available from WordPress and various other premium plugins you can buy. Many caching plugins have additional functionality too, just like CloudFlare, which you can also take advantage of.
As there is such a wide choice of plugins, it can be difficult to pick the right one for you. To help, we’ve selected two of our favourite plugins for you to look at.
WP Total Cache
With over a million active installs and a user rating of 4.4/5, WP Total Cache is the predominant caching choice for WP users. It is used by internet giants such as AT & T, Mashable and even on the website of Google’s Head of Web Spam, Matts Cutts.
WP Total Cache promises a minimum 10x improvement in overall site performance (when fully configured), browser caching, optimised progressive rendering, reduced load times and improved server performance.
It also minifies scripts and performs HTTP, CSS and JS compression which it claims can reduce bandwidth usage by up to 80%.
WP Super Cache
Another big player and highly rated plugin on the caching market is WP Super Cache. This plugin is well suited to dynamic sites, serving 99% of users with static HTML files, but also serving custom cached files for visitors who are logged in or who leave comments.
WP Super Cache also has a built-in ‘Garbage Collection’ which automatically deletes any out of date cached pages which may be taking up unnecessary space. Again, like WP Total Cache, it can have a dramatic impact on your site’s performance.
As you can see from this article, caching can have a big effect on your website. By reducing the time it takes your website to load, you can improve your search engine ranking and benefit from the increased traffic this brings. In addition, the increased speed of your cached site will help make those visitors stay around, increasing the chances of them buying from you or engaging with your content. In the end, whether you opt for a plugin or the web host’s solution, caching is beneficial to all WordPress websites.
If you are looking for high-performance hosting with caching included, check out our WordPress hosting packages.