Cache plugins are one of the must-haves on every WordPress website. Without them, it is unlikely your website to load faster. So, which one you should choose?
Because there are many caching plugins, sometimes it is hard to choose the right one. And here I am to help.
I picked 3 free plugins and made a test. I chose free plugins because I want to help beginners to start their businesses. As you grow and start earning income, then you can use pro plugins.
What Are Cache Plugins?
In simple words, cache plugins create a static version of your website and show it to visitors. So, it doesn’t need to search databases all the time a new visitor comes to your website.
This increases the page load time, improves user experience, and speed is important for SEO too. Also, these plugins do things like Gzip Compression, HTML & CSS minification, and more.
Also Read: Hummingbird Caching Review
Almost every plugin works the same way. But some of them have unique features. Also, some free features of one plugin are another plugin’s premium features.
So, to have a fast WordPress website, you definitely need to have some kind of caching. Let’s find out which one is the best free plugin.
How I Did Caching Comparison
Because this is for beginners to intermediate bloggers, I wanted it to be simple and free. All the themes and plugins I used for this test, are free. So, everyone can try it.
First of all, I chose the Astra theme because it is a free and very fast theme. Also, it has pre-made websites. I chose the Mountain demo which works with Gutenberg and Elementor.
So, I made two tests – one for Gutenberg and one for Elementor. The same theme with the same demo. I wanted to know how these plugins work with different page builders.
I used the GTmetrix tool for the website tests. I think it is the best tool to check your websites’ performance because it gives you a lot of information.
Plugins I used for this test are:
All three plugins are my favorite free cache plugins for WordPress. I use them on all of my websites. I tested all the three cache plugins for each page builder and here I am sharing the results.
But first, here you can see the Astra theme itself, how lightweight and fast it is.
The fully loaded time was 2.1s, the total page size was 45.3KB, and it had only 9 requests.
Cache Comparison Results
First, I did a comparison with Gutenberg with Astra. And then I tested the same Astra theme with the same template for the Elementor page builder. Let’s see the results and find out which plugin performed the best.
1. Gutenberg Cache Test
The first test was done with Gutenberg page builder. It is becoming more popular and perhaps will be more powerful soon. So, it’s a good idea to see how caching plugins work with Gutenberg.
I just imported the Mountain demo site for the Astra theme. It has a hero section with an image, and the page is full of high-quality images. Great for speed testing.
Here is the template performance score by itself, with no cache plugins installed.
The page size was 1.48MB and the requests went up to 19. The fully loaded time was 2.1s. So, not so heavy and slow, right? Gutenberg is great for speed just by itself.
The first cache plugin I used is WP Optimize. It is not as popular as others but I really love this plugin. Has database optimizing feature.
It had a great performance score. The structure was 98% and LCP was just 0.7s. And considering image sizes and numbers, it is a very good score.
The page size stayed the same, which is odd but the request went from 19 to 15 and the loaded time went from 2.1s to 1.4s. That is a great score.
WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache has almost the same results with small differences. According to my test, these two plugins work almost the same way.
The performance was 100%, fully loaded time was 1.2s, page size stayed at 1.48MB. Total page requests were 17, which is more than with WP-Optimize.
All in all, both plugins results are almost the same.
But I was confused with Hummingbird. It had a good score, but the worst in the three. I use this plugin most of the time, and my website is very fast. Perhaps, I didn’t tweak it enough.
The score itself is not bad but it didn’t reduce page size and request at all and even worse – the fully loaded time went up to 3.1s, which is weird.
Maybe, something was not right when I made this particular test but that is the result.
What cache plugins with Gutenberg showed is that it can improve the speed of your website. Gutenberg itself is lightweight and fast but caching adds more power.
Here are the results for Gutenberg:
2. Elementor Cache Test
Next, I made the same test with the same demo site but with the Elementor page builder. Elementor adds more code and requests to WordPress, so it is a little bit heavier out of the box.
Here is the score without cache plugins. Just demo site built with Elementor.
Pretty good score considering the image sizes. Other than that, it had a total page size of 1.21MB, 31 requests, and it loaded in 2.2s. Not a bad result.
Now let’s see what difference cache plugins can make. First, start with WP Optimize.
The performance went from 88% to 98%. It immediately improved the total score.
The total page size stayed almost the same – 1.2MB. But fully loaded time went down to 1.7s and the biggest difference was in requests – went down from 31 to just 11.
WP-Optimize really improved the performance and speed of the Elementor demo page.
WP Fastest Cache
WP Fastest Cache didn’t have that much of an impact. It worked better on Gutenberg. The score was B instead of A and LCP was 1.8s. Worse than without a plugin.
The request went down to 25, the total page size stayed at 1.21MB, and the page loaded in 2.8s. Not a bad result but WP-Optimize worked better.
Now it was Hummingbird’s time and I was very interested in the results. At first, I was disappointed, but then I realized that not every plugin works the same way.
They all have different strengths and weaknesses. If you look at the results, you may think it didn’t do much but details are important.
Hummingbird’s score was A, performance score was 87%, and LCP was 1.4s. Not the best score but here comes the shocker and why I love this plugin.
Fully loaded time went up to 3.5s which is weird. The number of requests went down to 20. But I was amazed by the total page size. The total page size was 410KB which is three times lower than it had in the beginning.
This shows that various cache plugins work differently. Also, they have different numbers of options.
Here are the Results for Elementor:
Which Plugin Is The Best?
This caching plugins test showed that all plugins work differently. They have different strengths, weaknesses, options, features. Some work great with images and some work great with simple websites.
WP Fastest Cache and WP-Optimize load time were better. But Hummingbird’s strength was in page size compression. It compressed it from 1.21MB to 410KB.
Every website needs a different approach. I personally suggest WP Fastest Cache for simple websites with not many images. The plugin itself is very simple.
For bigger websites with lots of images, I recommend Hummingbird. It has much more features and options. But it may cause some problems if you don’t tweak it the right way.
WP-Optimize is also great for both builders and small and medium-size websites. Its database optimization feature is very useful.
But cache plugins are not the only solution. You need to use tools to compress your images, use CDN, and other tools to improve your websites’ speed and overall performance. Caching is just one part of speed optimization.
However, cache plugins are one of the most important tools when it comes to website speed and page load time. So, choose them wisely.
I hope this cache plugins test will help you to choose the right one for your website. All of these plugins are free and you can test all of them on your website. If you are a beginner and have a very simple blog, start with WP Fastest Cache. Get used to it and then use a more powerful one.
For bigger websites, Hummingbird is a great option. It offers Gzip Compression, advanced HTML, CSS, & JS minification, and much more.