WP Rocket Review: Is It The Magic Bullet To A Faster Site?

Have you checked your site speed lately?

Nobody likes a slow site, especially your own visitors.

And if it is too slow, many of them will hit the back button and quickly bounce off your site.

This is something that Google tracks and can negatively affect your rankings.

But fortunately, there’s an easy solution.

WP Rocket Review

Last updated: Feb 2, 2020
Initially published on: Feb 2, 2020
Product rating: 4.7 / 5.0

tl;dr Summary
WP Rocket is a beginner-friendly caching plugin that can speed your site up with just a few clicks.

Visit the website

And that’s by installing a WordPress caching plugin.

While there are plenty of free WordPress caching plugins out there, in this article I’m going to talk about WP Rocket, a paid plugin we use on this blog.

And I’m going to show you how it works and why we use it over one of the free plugins in this WP Rocket review.

WP Rocket

Here’s what we are going to cover:


What Is WP Rocket?

What Is WP Rocket?

WP Rocket is a WordPress plugin designed to decrease the load time of your WordPress website with a few configurations.

First and foremost, WP Rocket is a caching plugin. Caching, if you don’t know, involves serving a static version of your website to your visitors, allowing it to load much faster.

Caching is widely used, but it’s hardly groundbreaking technology. In fact, there are a number of free WordPress caching plugins on the market if that’s all you’re looking for.

Fortunately, WP Rocket is no one-trick pony. You’ll find plenty of additional settings under the hood that make otherwise technical and complex optimizations incredibly painless to implement.

This includes advanced lazy loading, file and image optimizations, CDN integrations and general WordPress database cleanup tools.

Who is WP Rocket For?

As you can probably guess from the name of this product, WP Rocket only works on WordPress websites, so Drupal or Joomla users will have to sit this one out. (Also, what were you thinking?)

Of course, not all WordPress websites are equal. If your site is relatively new or is naturally light on long content, large media and heavy plugins, your site speed likely won’t be an issue — assuming you have a good web host.

Not sure if your site is slow? Pop your URL into GTMetrix and Google Pagespeed Insights to get an idea.

Even then, if you’re not getting any traffic to your site, improving page speed using WP Rocket or similar plugins won’t magically fix your traffic woes. Google rewards speed, but it won’t compensate for bad content.

Let’s face it, that rules out a sizable chunk of people. But what’s left is a small category of webmasters who will see huge gains from using a plugin like this.

In other words, if you have a medium to large WordPress site with existing traffic and well optimized content, keep reading.

What Are the Best Parts About WP Rocket?

Awesome thing #1: A speed boost right out of the box

Nothing easy in life is worth keeping, right?

Well, not really. This was by far the easiest thing I’ve ever done to get a respectable speed increase on my site, and I’m keeping it.

This report was generated on a long-form page before I installed WP Rocket:

 WP Rocket a speed boost

While GT Metrix gave me a slightly below average score, a fully loaded time of 7 seconds isn’t something I’d boast about on my Facebook feed.

After installing WP Rocket and making exactly ZERO adjustments, I managed to improve this speed by around 23%, landing now at 5.4 seconds.

Here’s the new report:

WP Rocket speed increase

This is largely a result of WP Rocket caching, which is enabled by default. (We’ll talk more about caching later in the review.)

Of course, there’s still a lot of room for improvement here, and there are a number of ways to do that with WP Rocket.

Awesome thing #2: Explanations and warning prompts

When optimizing a WordPress website for speed, you’ll quickly find yourself messing with core files that can potentially break your site.

Whether you’re doing this manually or using a plugin like WP Rocket, you need to have some understanding of what you’re doing, or you could spend the rest of the day fixing a fatal error.

WP Rocket alleviates some of that stress in two ways:

  1. It gives plain-English explanations of how each setting works, so you can make an informed decision about whether to enable it. Some even include links to full articles.

plain-English explanations

2. It gives you a warning on critical settings that may break your site, and even tells you how to proceed if it does.

a warning on critical settings

While this won’t fully protect you from messing up, it will allow you to better evaluate each individual setting beforehand.

It’s a simple but often overlooked feature.

Awesome thing #3: Set advanced page-level rules 

Caching your pages is an easy way to improve site speed, but it comes with a potentially significant drawback; visitors won’t always get the most up to date version of a page.

In many cases, posts or pages aren’t updated frequently enough for this to be a problem, but in other cases the opposite is true.

For example, if you have:

  • A rankings page where positions fluctuate up and down
  • A deals page with products and prices regularly change
  • A forum where new threads are being submitted
  • A redesigned sales page for an upcoming product launch

That’s where WP Rocket’s ‘Advanced Rules’ come in.

Advanced Rules

This tab allows you to exclude individual pages from caching (such as the ones mentioned above), as well forcing a purge on these pages whenever they’re updated.

You can even exclude specific user agents, such as those visiting on mobile, or using a specific browser.

What Are The Annoying Things About WP Rocket?

Annoying thing: Separate plugin for image compression

Most WordPress peeps have no idea how poorly optimized their posts are when it comes to images.

If you’ve ever downloaded a stock photo and plopped it straight into your content without a second thought, I’m talking to you.

When your content area is only 800px wide, using a 2000px wide image adds so much unnecessary weight to your page. And too many people skip image compression which can seriously reduce image file size without sacrificing any noticeable image quality.

Unfortunately, WP Rocket opts out of this responsibility. Instead, they put this functionality into a different WordPress plugin:

image optimization

While you could argue that a caching plugin shouldn’t be expected to compress images, WP Rocket isn’t marketed as just a caching plugin. Besides, you could say the same about many of the other features it offers.

The worst part? Imagify is a freemium plugin, so you may have to purchase this one alongside WP Rocket.

An Inside Look at WP Rocket

Unlike most plugins, you won’t find WP Rocket in the WordPress plugin repository because there is no free or freemium version of it.

If you want this thing, you’ll need to pay for a license upfront.

a license upfront

From the WP Rocket account dashboard, you’ll be able to download your copy of the plugin, along with check renewal dates, active website installations and payment history.

With the WP Rocket plugin file on hand, you can upload this to your WordPress site like you would any other plugin file.

add plugins

Once installed and activated, there’s no license verification steps involved, it just works right out of the box. (Verification must be baked into the plugin file or something, it’s very efficient.)

WP Rocket will immediately take effect on your site, and you can access the dashboard from the Settings panel to see what optimizations are enabled by default.

WP Rocket dashboard

Regardless of how technical you are, the plugin interface does a great job at explaining what each of the different configurations actually do in simple terms, as well as linking out to further resources.

Let’s take a deeper look at the most important aspects.

WP Rocket Caching

Caching, as we’ve already touched on, takes a snapshot of your website content and serves it directly to the visitor, reducing the server load which ultimately increases page speed.

Of course, this is a grossly oversimplified explanation, especially since there are different types of caching. It’s worth reading up on this stuff if you’re serious about optimizing for speed.

In summary:

  • Site Caching creates a static, HTML version of your page when it’s loaded for the first time, bypassing some of the server requests and reducing load time for subsequent visitors.
  • Server Caching is very similar to site caching, except the cached version of your site is also loaded from a server. Content Delivery Networks (CDN’s) like Cloudflare fall into this category.
  • Browser caching works fundamentally the same way as the previous types, except it stores those static website files in the visitor’s browser instead of on a server. Most browsers do this automatically.

WP Rocket uses the first type listed above; ‘Site Caching’, otherwise referred to as ‘Page Caching’ — and it works really well as you saw from my instant 23% speed increase earlier in this review.

Since this is a core feature of the plugin, it’s automatically enabled and there’s no way to turn it off without an additional helper plugin, though you can enable and disable it for mobile devices.

WP Rocket also allows you to enable caching for logged in users, which is useful if you run a membership website or any other type of content-restricted platform.

Finally, you can set the cache lifespan which purges those static snapshots of your pages so visitors can see potential changes — such as article updates and new comments.

And that brings us to…

WP Rocket Preloading

Preloading

One of the problems, when installing a new caching plugin or regularly purging the cache to reflect changes, is the time it takes for visitors to see the new cached versions of your site.

This is because most caching plugins create a cached page only after the first visitor has loaded that page, meaning some of your users will still have to tolerate slower load times.

WP Rocket uses preloading to solve that problem, and it works by automatically caching all of your website pages on plugin activation, or following a purge.

This is another option that’s enabled by default, and it should work fine with no further input as long as all your pages are easily accessible from your website home page.

Basically, if it takes more than a few clicks to reach certain pages, or you have pages of your site that are orphaned (not accessible from your site), you can tell WP Rocket exactly where to look by adding your sitemap URL.

Finally, pre-fetching external hosts will resolve DNS for external content, such as Google Fonts or embedded YouTube videos. (Basically, it will request the content ahead of time.)

WP Rocket File Optimization

File Optimization

This is where WP Rocket attempts to shrink the size of your website by compressing some of the core HTML, CSS and Javascript files that it relies on.

After all, the smaller your file sizes, the less downloading is required on the visitor’s end and the faster your page loads.

It does this through a process called minifying, which removes unnecessary characters and empty space in your code without compromising the code itself. Minified files aren’t pretty to read, but browsers can still read them all the same.

If you’re thinking this sounds like a trivial process, minification can reduce file sizes by up to 60%. Not bad for ticking a few boxes, huh?

WP Rocket also allows you to combine minified files into one, so you end up with a single HTML, CSS and Javascript file. While this technically doesn’t reduce file size, it does reduce the number of server requests, which will also decrease load speed.

Lastly, you’ll find a few other bonuses here like the ability to combine Google Fonts, remove query strings on static files, optimize CSS delivery, and load Javascript deferred.

Of course, WP Rocket gives you a summary of what each of those actually mean, so I won’t bore you with the details.

Going full aggressive with these options, I was able to shave off almost another second in load time. Not bad.

Latest performance report

WP Rocket Media Handling

Media

Media is often one of the main culprits behind slow websites, particularly on pages with a large number of images and video embeds.

As I said at the start of the review, WP Rocket doesn’t compress images for you. It does, however, offer a few technical solutions that can make a difference on the front-end.

The first is lazy loading, which only loads images and videos as the visitor scrolls down the page. This won’t always improve raw load time but it will be perceived as faster by your visitors.

You can also disable emojis and WordPress embeds, preventing users from uploading potentially large files and removing certain Javascript requests related to WordPress embeds.

And finally, you can enable WebP caching. This will cache your WebP images the same way your other images are cached. If you’re not using WebP, this won’t do much for you.

So how important are these settings for speed?

After turning on the above settings and running a new report, I noticed a huge drop is page size and requests. Interestingly, I only managed to shave off a fraction of a second in load time as a result.

settings and running a new report

WP Rocket Database Options

Database

WordPress is a database-driven CMS, meaning everything you create inside your WordPress website is ultimately stored in a database.

That’s every post, every page, every image, every revision, every comment, every user, every theme option…

Everything.

Naturally, over time, your database can get pretty cluttered, and this makes your WordPress website slower than it once was. Not just on the front-end, but inside the WordPress dashboard too.

WP Rocket offers some basic housekeeping here, such as removing revisions, drafts and trashed posts. As well as removing spam comments, trashed comments and transients (temporary plugin files).

There’s also an option to optimize your database tables, though it’s not entirely clear how WP Rocket does this aside from “reducing overhead” — whatever that means.

Finally, you can set and forget all the above by running an automatic database cleanup on a daily, weekly or monthly interval.

And yes, after running a manual cleanup, I managed to squeeze a liiiiittle more speed from my site:

squeeze more speed

Integrations & Add-Ons

add-ons

Last but certainly not least are the WP Rocket add-ons, which is really just a fancy way to say integrations.

If you’re using Cloudflare for example, you’ll be pleased to know that WP Rocket integrates seamlessly which includes automatic configuration for optimal settings.

Of course, you can still use this plugin with other CDNs but it will likely require some manual input to get everything working right.

You’ve also got Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel integrations, each allowing you to host the appropriate scripts locally as opposed to on their respective servers.

If you’re using Varnish (another speed optimization plugin), you’ll need to activate the Varnish add-on in order to keep everything in tune. Be warned, this one isn’t optional.

Finally, some security plugins will also offer caching, such as Sucuri. Enabling the Sucuri add-on will sync the cache and prevent any potential conflicts. This is highly recommended.

How Does WP Rocket Compare with the Competition?

So how does WP Rocket compare to some of the other WordPress caching plugins out there?

To find out, I conducted a simple test on this site to see how the plugins performed.

First, I created a staging site (a copy of my existing site) so I could experiment freely.

Then I took the following two posts on the site and ran them through GTmetrix.

The metrics I looked at are page load speed, page size, and requests.

To start, I ran the two posts through GTmetrix with no caching plugin installed to come up with a baseline.

 Fully Loaded TimeTotal Page SizeRequests
Post 13.6 seconds1.60 MB128
Post 23.6 seconds2.53 MB102

And then I did the same with these 4 plugins: W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and WP Rocket.

Here are the results for Post 1:

 Fully loaded timePage sizeRequests
W3 Total Cache2.8 seconds (+22.2%)1.04 MB (+35%)81 (+36.7%)
WP Super Cache2.2 seconds (+38.9%)1.57 MB (+1.9%)117 (+8.6%)
WP Fastest Cache2.6 seconds (+27.8%)1.56 MB (+2.5%)101 (+21.1%)
WP Rocket2.4 seconds (+33.3%)0.97 MB (+39.4%)56 (+56.3%)

And the results for Post 2:

 Fully loaded timePage sizeRequests
W3 Total Cache2.6 seconds (+27.8%)0.99 MB (+60.9%)80 (+21.6%)
WP Super Cache2.0 seconds (+44.4%)2.53 MB (+0%)102 (+0%)
WP Fastest Cache2.2 seconds (+38.9%)2.52 MB (+0.4%)86 (+15.7%)
WP Rocket2.3 seconds (+36.1%)956 KB (+62.2%)55 (+46.1%)

One interesting thing that I found while doing this testing is that the Fully loaded time metric will often vary quite a bit between runs.  So I ran these tests multiple times and took the average.

But overall, the results show that any WP caching plugin will help the performance of your site versus not using a caching plugin at all.  But WP Rocket was the plugin that gave me the most consistent improvement across all 3 metrics we were looking at.

WP Rocket Pricing

WP Rocket has 3 different pricing plans, with the main difference of each being how many sites you can use it on.

The Single plan is $49 for 1 website and the Plus plan is $99 for 3 websites.

You can also get the Infinite plan to install WP Rocket on unlimited websites.

WP Rocket

It’s really easy to upgrade or downgrade your plans from your dashboard once you buy it.

All plans come with 1 year of support and updates. So it’s essentially a yearly subscription since you probably don’t want to be using out of date plugins.

There is no free trial to WP Rocket, but they do have a 14-Day Money-Back Guarantee.

Final Thoughts

While there are many WordPress caching plugins out there, SmartBusinessTrends uses WP Rocket for two reasons. One, it’s just way easier to set up than the other competitors that we’ve tried. And two, we’ve been able to squeeze just a little more speed out of it when compared to the competition.

I want to provide the best possible user experience for my visitors. So every little bit of speed I can squeeze matters to me.

And that’s why you should use WP Rocket too.

Get Started with WP Rocket Today

WP Rocket Pros

  • Automatic page caching and purging
  • Automatically preload cache after purge
  • File optimization to reduce core file sizes
  • Database cleaning and automated scheduling
  • Media optimization (including lazy load)
  • Reduce WordPress Heartbeat API frequency
  • Advanced page-level rules for purging and caching
  • Integration with Google Analytics and Cloudflare
  • Ability to export and import pre-optimized settings
  • 50% off annual renewals

WP Rocket Cons

  • No native image optimization
  • No live chat support
  • No lifetime pricing options
  • Results can vary
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you liked our WP Rocket review. Please note that some of the links inside this article may be affiliate links to WP Rocket. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, I may be compensated for it. If you do happen to click, we really appreciate it! Any money we make keeps this site running smoothly and allows us to keep writing these high-quality reviews.
About Lewis Parrott

Lewis is a writer and SEO nerd based out of Southeast Asia. He spends most of his day churning out internet marketing related content from his laptop. Believe it or not, he also has a girlfriend.

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