You want your WordPress site to load fast because you know how important page speed is for user experience, SEO, and conversion rates.
However, getting into the technical aspects of WordPress performance can be tricky, and it’s probably not how most people dream of spending their Saturday afternoon.
WP Rocket is a premium WordPress plugin that aims to make WordPress performance optimization a lot simpler by giving you all the tools you need to speed up your WordPress site in one user-friendly package.
In my testing, it shrunk my site’s load times by 41%, and it can probably do the same for you.
Keep reading my WP Rocket review to see that performance data and a hands-on look at how WP Rocket works.
WP Rocket performance test – let the numbers speak
While I could kick off this WP Rocket review by telling you all about its features, I think the numbers speak louder than words when it comes to WordPress performance plugins.
So while I will share all those nitty-gritty details and show you the WP Rocket interface, let’s just start things off with a simple test.
I’ll take a test WordPress site without any performance optimizations and test its speed. Then, I’ll install and configure WP Rocket and see how much of a difference it makes.
To try and approximate a real website, I set up a fully-functioning site built with the Astra WordPress theme, an Astra starter site, and the Elementor page builder plugin. I then ran each version through nine separate page speed tests in WebPageTest and took the median value.
Without WP Rocket, my test site had a median load time of 2.201 seconds:
Honestly, that’s not bad (a testament to the Astra theme’s built-in performance optimizations) – but it can get a lot better.
After enabling and configuring WP Rocket, my test site’s median load time dropped to just 1.297 seconds. You can see it also cut the HTTP requests from 56 to just 16 and the file size from 962 KB to 737 KB:
All said, the exact same site with WP Rocket loaded ~41% faster than without it, which is a big deal.
So as you can see, WP Rocket can make a pretty big impact on your WordPress site’s page load times.
Now, let’s dig into how it actually does that and how everything works…
Checking out the WP Rocket features and dashboard
One of the best things about WP Rocket is how it’s able to combine simplicity and beginner-friendliness with lots of important performance tweaks to speed up your website.
It does this in two ways.
First, as soon as you activate the plugin, it automatically enables some of the most important performance configurations. So without any configuration, you should already have a faster-loading WordPress site just from activating the plugin:
The features that WP Rocket activates right away are:
- Page caching
- Browser caching
- GZIP compression
- Cross-origin support for web fonts
WP Rocket will also automatically detect common plugins, themes, and hosting environments and configure itself to work properly. For example, if you’re running a WooCommerce store, WP Rocket will automatically detect that and exclude your cart and checkout pages from caching to avoid any issues.
From there, WP Rocket gives you a user-friendly dashboard where you can configure a bunch of other performance optimization techniques and tweak how your site’s caching functions.
Let’s run through all of the features you can configure in the dashboard…
Basic cache settings
The Cache tab houses some basic settings for how your site’s caching functions.
First, you can choose whether to enable caching for mobile visitors and, if so, whether to use a separate cache for mobile visitors. This is helpful if you offer a unique mobile experience and want to make sure mobile visitors are able to get the version that’s specific to them.
You can also choose whether or not to enable caching for logged-in WordPress users. If you allow public registration – like a membership site – this is a great way to speed up your site for those visitors. By default, WP Rocket excludes logged-in users from the cache, which ensures that you always see the uncached version of your site.
Finally, you can configure the cache lifespan, which is how long your site caches a page before clearing the cache. If your content never/rarely changes, you can permanently store the cache. Or, if your content is regularly changing, you can purge the cache every X minutes, hours, or days.
- Minification – Eliminates wasted space in your code files to shrink them without changing functionality. For example, removing white space and code comments.
- Concatenation – Combines multiple files into one file to reduce the number of HTTP requests your site needs.
You can also perform some other optimizations, like combining Google Fonts files and removing query strings from static resources:
Sometimes, minification and concatenation can cause issues with certain files on your site. If that happens, WP Rocket includes this really handy feature that lets you manually exclude the files that are causing issues:
The Media Optimization tab helps you optimize your site’s images, videos, and iframe embeds by implementing lazy loading.
With lazy loading enabled, your site will wait to load content that’s “below the fold” until a visitor starts scrolling down the page. Because your server has to load less content on the initial page load, this can speed up the perceived page load times of your site.
Additionally, if you embed a lot of YouTube videos, WP Rocket has this neat feature that lets you replace the YouTube embed with a static thumbnail image. Then, once a visitor clicks on the static image, it will load the actual embed:
WP Rocket can also help you disable emojis and WordPress embeds.
Cache preloading, which you can configure in the Preload tab, is a bit of an advanced topic, but it’s helpful for optimizing your site’s caching.
With most caching plugins, your content is only loaded into the cache once someone visits it. So the first visitor after your cache is emptied isn’t actually getting a cached version of a page, which means they might experience slower page load times.
Cache preloading lets you fix things by “preloading” your content into the cache, without waiting for a visitor.
When you activate preloading, WP Rocket will automatically preload the cache whenever you publish or update a piece of content. It will also automatically preload your homepage and all the links found on it.
Beyond that, you can also enable sitemap-based preloading, which lets you automatically preload the content in your XML sitemap whenever you change your settings or the cache lifespan expires:
As the name suggests, the Advanced rules tab is really just about fine-tuning how your cache functions. If you’re a casual user, you can probably skip it, but advanced users and developers will appreciate the depth here.
For example, you can target specific URLs, cookies, or user agents to exclude from caching.
You can also specify URLs to always purge when you update a piece of content:
Your WordPress site’s database is where all of your content and settings are stored.
You want it to be as clean and clutter-free as possible so that your server is able to quickly access all that information when needed.
The Database tab helps you make that happen by cleaning the “gunk” out of your database. By “gunk”, I mean things like trashed posts, spam comments, etc.
One of the nice things here is that you can also schedule this cleanup to run automatically for hands-off optimization. You can pick from three different automatic frequencies:
A content delivery network (CDN) helps you speed up your global page load times by delivering your content from a network of servers around the world.
WP Rocket does not include its own CDN, but it can help you integrate with your preferred CDN service.
Most CDN services work by serving certain static content – like your images – from a different URL. For example, cdn.yoursite.com/image.jpg instead of yoursite.com/image.jpg.
If you’re using a CDN, WP Rocket’s CDN tab helps you control which content is served from the CDN and which content gets served from your site’s server. You can:
- Exclude specific files from being served via the CDN.
The WordPress Heartbeat API keeps what’s happening in your browser connected to your server via a constant “heartbeat”. It’s responsible for plenty of helpful functionality, like auto-save drafts to protect you from losing your work.
However, because it’s always on and “beating”, it also sends a lot of requests to your server, which can result in high CPU utilization and impaired server performance.
For that reason, a lot of people like to either:
- Completely disable the Heartbeat API.
- Change how frequently the API sends requests, to limit the impact while still getting some of the benefits.
WP Rocket’s Heartbeat tab lets you do both:
Finally, the Add-ons tab houses a number of WP Rocket’s built-in integrations.
WP Rocket includes integrations for Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel that lets you host those tracking scripts locally with the click of a button:
WP Rocket also includes other built-in add-ons for:
For example, if you enable the Cloudflare integration, you’ll get a new Cloudflare area where you can connect your site to Cloudflare and control some basic settings right from your WordPress dashboard. You’ll also be able to clear the Cloudflare cache:
Beyond the integration add-ons, WP Rocket has also created integrations for a number of popular managed WordPress hosting providers, including WP Engine, Kinsta, and SiteGround.
Many managed WordPress hosts ban caching plugins because caching plugins interfere with managed WordPress hosts’ server-level caching.
However, because of the built-in integrations, you can still use WP Rocket with many of the popular managed WordPress hosting providers, which is quite unique.
WP Rocket pricing information
WP Rocket offers three pricing plans. All three plans offer the full feature list – the only difference is in the number of sites each plan supports.
- 1 site – $49
- 3 sites – $99
- Unlimited sites – $249
All three plans give you one year of support and updates. After that, you can continue to use the version of the plugin that you have, but you’ll need to renew to continue receiving support and updates. If you renew before your license expires, you’ll get 30% off.
WP Rocket also offers a 14-day money-back guarantee, so there’s no risk to your wallet.
WP Rocket review: final thoughts
WP Rocket is not the only way to get a fast-loading WordPress site, but it is one of the most convenient and user-friendly ways to speed up your site.
There are lots of great free performance plugins out there that you can use to make your WordPress site load faster.
However, they usually offer a piecemeal approach – one plugin for page caching, another for minification, another for lazy loading, etc. That makes things a little more complicated and harder to maintain.
WP Rocket is unique in that it combines all these performance tips under one roof in a convenient, user-friendly dashboard. Everything is already built to work together, and you’ll only need to update one plugin in the future.
So if you’re willing to pay for time, convenience, and simplicity, I think spending $49 for WP Rocket is worth it.
On the other hand, if you’re on a shoestring budget and are willing to put in some elbow grease to build your own free performance plugin stack, that’s also a viable route to go, and you can certainly still get a fast-loading WordPress site with just free plugins.
Pick the approach that best meets your needs and enjoy a faster WordPress website!
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