As a WordPress user, you know that the success of your website or blog relies heavily on its performance. A slow-loading or unresponsive site can drive away potential readers and customers, which is why it is essential to optimize your site for speed and efficiency.
One way to do this is by using performance plugins, which can help you improve your site's loading times, reduce its overall size, and optimize its performance.
In this review, we will take a look at some of the best performance plugins for WordPress and understand their features, pros, and cons to help you choose the right one for your needs.
How do I improve my WordPress performance?
I've been working with WordPress for over 15 years now. And for the majority of that time, I have known that WordPress has a lot of downsides when it comes to performance or even general functionality that has to be supplemented with a plugin or a custom function. In 2016, I was doing research on performance optimization plugins and eventually settled on WP Rocket.
And to this day, it is still the only performance plugin that I use because it takes care of practically all bottlenecks. I'll talk about this more in my actual review below.
Outside of plugins, I also run and maintain my own servers for hosting websites. This allows me to make custom changes and install various caching systems (such as Varnish), but for the most part - I try to run everything on a very minimal basis.
If I don't need a specific plugin or feature, I'll typically disable it entirely because it's not worth having them enabled as far as performance is concerned.
Pricing - Single site license starts at $59 per year.
Best for - A universal solution that can handle even the most demanding sites.
If you're anything like me and love to solve many problems all at once without having to tinker with things too much, then WP Rocket is pretty much the plugin for you. When you install and activate the plugin, all the most important optimization features get enabled by default.
You get a lot of options/settings for customization, but in the 7 years that I have been using the plugin - I rarely change anything. And when I do, it typically is because there is some incompatibility with another plugin that I am using, but this can be resolved quickly.
Some of my favorite features of this plugin are:
Page caching, cache preloading, and browser caching.
GZIP compression for faster content delivery.
eCommerce optimization with sensitive pages excluded from cache.
Compatible with all popular themes and plugins.
Customization options for cache, file optimization, media preloading, database, CDN, and add-ons.
LazyLoad for images and iframes to optimize perceived and real performance and save bandwidth.
Sitemap-based cache preloading.
Database optimization options to clean up comments, posts, and transients and schedule automatic cleanups.
I can't stress enough how good WP Rocket is at doing performance optimization without needing to stare at the settings for an hour straight. The plugin is designed to be as simple as possible. The Help widget from the admin dashboard can be used to get answers to common questions quickly.
Activate and forget. Nothing feels better than having instant performance improvements!
Designed to ensure that your site meets all the Core Web Vitals standards.
A lot of ways to customize settings and activate third-party addons.
Sadly, WP Rocket does not include image optimization, but they develop their own plugin for it at an additional cost.
Not having a free plan might feel offputting, but ultimately it is worth the money, and it is the plugin I use on the site you're now.
Has a free version - No. (30-Day Money-Back Guarantee)
Pricing - Personal plan (1 site license) starts at $25 per year.
Best for - All-around solution for personal and business projects.
The Perfmatters plugin was created by Brian Jackson (one of the former key marketing people at Kinsta) and his brother Brett Jackson. Both have been working with WordPress and Web Development in general for over a decade. Their plugin is designed to give you all the essential features and tools to make your WordPress site compliant against things like the Web Vitals.
One of my favorite features about this plugin is the Script Manager. If you didn't know, typically, what happens with WordPress plugins is that they all get loaded on every single page, even if the plugin isn't needed on the said page. The problem with this is that it reduces the load time of pages like your homepage but also pages where you don't necessarily use or need the plugin.
Outside of this, Perfmatters also offers features such as:
Database optimization to clean up revisions, auto-drafts, spam comments, and transients.
Quick toggle options, including disabling emojis, embeds, dashicons, limiting post revisions, changing autosave interval, disabling Heartbeat API, comments, and Google Maps, and disabling WooCommerce cart fragments (AJAX).
Lazy loading for images, videos, and iframes.
Easily change the default WordPress login address to prevent spammers and bots from hammering it down.
Custom preloading options for fonts and other resources. Make follow-up pages super fast!
I love the clean interface that Perfmatters has, making it very simple to find the right settings and apply them immediately. And lastly, both Brian and Brett have prepared a good chunk of articles related to performance optimization, including guides on how to use their plugin to achieve specific goals.
A unique approach to managing the scripts on your site and loading them conditionally.
Quick-toggle through more than 20 different options to reduce resource usage.
You can enable the option to host your Google Analytics script locally!
Pricing - The Pro version starts at 79$ per year for a single site.
Best for - Personal blogs and websites.
One of the key features of Autoptimize is its automatic optimization. It helps with minifying, which removes unnecessary characters from your site’s code, and concatenation, which combines multiple separate files into one.
While Autoptimize is a great plugin to use, it’s important to note that it does not do page caching. However, it’s still a great tool to pair with a caching plugin or your host’s server-level caching.
Offers powerful features for managing resources, such as scripts and pre-loading.
Settings (in the admin dashboard) are explained really well. You can enable/disable features knowing exactly what that will do to your site.
The plugin does not offer page caching, so you need to use it with another plugin.
Support is limited to the WordPress.org community forums for the free version.
Pricing - Total Cache Pro pricing starts at $8.25 a month.
Best for - Sites with extreme demand who need multiple caching systems and custom settings.
W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress, and it's great because it's completely free. You get all the features you need without paying for any upgrades. It can also integrate with a CDN (Content Delivery Network), which helps distribute your website content to different servers worldwide, making it faster for people to access your website from anywhere.
The plugin works well for both mobile and desktop devices, and it also has SSL support, making it a good choice for eCommerce stores. It provides features like minification, compression, and feed optimization, which can save you bandwidth.
However, the backend settings can sometimes be confusing, which might not be ideal for beginners. It's recommended that if you're new to WordPress, you stick with a different plugin. But if you're confident, you'll find a lot of settings to play around with and improve your website's performance.
W3 Total Cache has over 1 million installations with an average rating of 4.4/5 from more than 5,000 reviews, so it's definitely a popular choice. The developers claim that you'll see at least a 10x improvement in overall site performance when you fully configure the plugin.
The plugin provides a range of customization options that allow you to fine-tune its performance to suit your specific needs.
W3 Total Cache can improve website performance by enabling browser caching, meaning frequently accessed resources are stored in a user's browser.
It is free and open-source.
Some users may find the initial setup process to be complex and time-consuming.
Resource-intensive, especially on shared hosting accounts, which can result in slowdowns and increased server load.
While the plugin is free and open-source, there may be limited options for support and troubleshooting if you encounter issues.
Best for - Any kind of project, including busy sites that need Varnish caching.
Breeze is a WordPress caching plugin that can help improve your website's speed and performance. It's free, easy to use, and made to work with WordPress, WooCommerce, and WordPress Multisite.
One of the best things about Breeze is that it comes with built-in support for Varnish, which is a type of cache system that helps speed up your website. Even if your server doesn't have Varnish installed, Breeze can still help improve your website's performance by using its own internal cache mechanism.
Another great thing about Breeze is that it's super easy to install and set up. You can get started right away by installing the plugin and activating it on your WordPress website. The default settings usually work well, but you can also customize the settings to fit your needs.
Breeze is also fully compatible with WooCommerce and WordPress Multisite, so you don't have to worry about any special configurations or setups. However, if you have any other cache plugins installed, it's recommended to disable them before using Breeze. This way, you'll get the best performance results from using just one cache plugin.
Breeze also supports CDN integration, which means you can serve all your static assets (like images, CSS, and JS files) through a CDN for even faster website performance. Plus, the database optimization feature in Breeze helps clean up your database and remove any junk data, which can reduce the size of your database and thus minimize the requests WordPress makes to your database.
Overall, if you're looking for a free, simple, and effective way to improve your website's speed and performance, Breeze is a great choice. It's easy to use and comes with a lot of great features that can help you optimize your WordPress website.
Built by Cloudways - one of the leading hosting companies in the world.
Completely free and covers features that some plugins charge money for.
There have been reports of it being hard to get support for this plugin, but significant issues are well documented.
WP Super Cache is a free plugin built by Automattic. It has over two million users and is the most downloaded cache plugin from the WordPress directory. The plugin helps make your website faster by generating static HTML files instead of processing heavy and slow WordPress PHP scripts.
It offers three different caching modes to choose from, including "Expert," "Simple," and "WP-Cache." Expert mode is the fastest, but requires editing the .htaccess file, so it's only recommended for advanced users. Simple mode is easy to set up and the recommended choice for average WordPress users. WP-Cache mode is the most flexible and slightly slower, but it caches pages for known users and URLs with parameters.
Best for - Great for overall performance optimization. Plugin offers a lot of graphs if you love data!
The Hummingbird plugin is a great way to make your website faster and improve its performance. It's made by the same team that created the popular Smush image optimization plugin (we'll look at it next).
Another noteworthy feature is the built-in Cloudflare integration so that you can control your browser cache and other settings provided by Cloudflare directly from the plugin.
In conclusion, if you're looking for a way to make your website faster and improve its performance, Hummingbird is definitely worth checking out.
Hummingbird integrates with popular performance tools such as GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights, making it easy to monitor website performance.
The plugin provides uptime monitoring, which alerts you if your website goes down.
Hummingbird is designed to optimize website speed, with features like file compression, asset optimization, and page caching, which can significantly improve page load times.
There have been reports of conflicts with other plugins, especially those that are also used for performance optimization, which can result in unexpected behavior and errors.
Despite the plugin being free, the more powerful features are available only in the paid plan.
Best for - Anyone who publishes content with images frequently.
In today's digital age, where people expect fast and seamless online experiences, image optimization ensures that a website loads quickly and efficiently. For starters, optimized (compressed) images are smaller, so they take up less bandwidth and load faster. This results in a faster website, which can positively impact user experience and reduce bounce rates.
WP Smush is a great choice for image optimization in the context of WordPress websites. The plugin is specifically designed for WordPress and provides a simple, efficient, and effective solution for optimizing images.
Here are some of the reasons why WP Smush is a great choice:
Easy to use: WP Smush is easy to install and use, even for those with limited technical skills. With its user-friendly interface, you can optimize images with just a few clicks, without the need for manual image compression or resizing.
Automated optimization: WP Smush can automatically optimize images as they are uploaded, ensuring that all images are optimized from the start. This saves time and effort compared to manual optimization.
No quality loss: WP Smush uses advanced lossless compression techniques to optimize images, meaning there is no noticeable loss of image quality. This is important as high-quality images are essential for engaging website visitors and creating a positive user experience.
Performance optimization: WP Smush can optimize images without slowing down the website, which is critical for overall website performance.
The plugin provides an easy-to-use, automated, and efficient solution for optimizing images without sacrificing quality or performance.
The plugin will automatically optimize images as you upload them, saving you time and effort.
WP Smush uses lossless compression techniques to reduce images' size, ensuring no noticeable loss in image quality.
Great track record for being compatible with most themes and plugins.
Depending on the number of images you have on your website, the optimization process can take a significant amount of time.
If you have a lot of high-resolution images on your website, you may find that the free version of the plugin is insufficient, and you will need to upgrade to the paid version to get the best results.
Has a free version - You can get a refund within 14 days after trying.
Pricing - The Pro plan starts at $95 per month.
Best for - Full-scale business platforms that depend on WordPress.
Object Cache Pro is a Redis object cache backend for WordPress that aims to provide improved performance and reliability for WordPress websites. It is written to build on top of what Redis provides but with a custom read-and-write engine to emphasize raw performance.
It's also fully tested and optimized for popular WordPress plugins such as WooCommerce, Jetpack, and Yoast SEO.
Some other key features:
WordPress object cache API compliant, avoiding mix-ups or error-prone return values.
Includes logging and debugging features for easier troubleshooting
Offers premium support from a dedicated engineer for faster response and hands-on help.
Features faster binary serialization, compression options, asynchronous flushing, and cache analytics.
It supports multiple compression algorithms (LZF, LZ4, ZSTD) and has Batcache and WP Rocket support.
The ideal customer for this plugin would be larger organizations or businesses that require a high-performance, reliable object cache solution and are willing to pay a premium for it.
It goes without saying that if you don't have a technical understanding of Object Caching or Redis, this plugin is not for you.
Trusted by brands like Harvard, GoDaddy, Samsung, and others.
A custom-made backend that is tailored specifically for WordPress.
Complete coverage for multi-sites and eCommerce platforms.
The pricing is quite steep, even if you have the technical experience to utilize this plugin.
Pricing - The Lite plan costs $5 per month for a single-user license.
Best for - Great for anyone running multiple websites.
WP Compress is a WordPress plugin designed to optimize images to improve website performance. The plugin offers two optimization modes: local and live. Local optimization allows you to compress your media library and image thumbnails, while live optimization uses real-time compression and a hybrid CDN to deliver auto-optimized images in real time.
One of the strengths of WP Compress is its ability to optimize images without sacrificing quality. The plugin generates the right image size and format in real time to deliver high-quality images with small file sizes and fast load times.
Another advantage of WP Compress is its use of the WebP image format, which provides smaller file sizes and faster load times than traditional image formats. The plugin also provides adaptive images, which are resized based on the user's device and screen size, and retina support, which generates high-resolution images for sharp screens.
Compared to other image optimization plugins on the market, WP Compress offers a complete solution with local and live optimization modes, agency features, and a hybrid CDN. While some plugins may offer similar features, WP Compress combines them all in one plugin, making it a more comprehensive solution.
The plugin is easy to install and use, and provides a user-friendly interface for optimizing images.
WP Compress supports batch optimization, allowing you to optimize multiple images at once, saving you time.
The plugin works well with other popular gallery plugins and page builders.
Some advanced features, such as automatic image optimization and resizing, are only available in the Pro version of the plugin.
Some users have reported compatibility issues with certain themes and plugins.
My personal view on things like performance is that if it is too hard, then it's probably not worth it. So, in this context, my goal for this article was to review plugins that are both extremely good at improving performance and simple to use. If you combine this with a reliable hosting provider - you should find that hitting that sweet spot for performance isn't that difficult.