Are you looking for a Caching plugin to speed up your WordPress site? W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress powered sites. In this W3 Total Cache review, we will take a look at its performance, features, and ease of use. The goal is to find out if W3 Total Cache truly the best WordPress caching plugin.
Why You Need a Caching Plugin for WordPress?
Speed is one of the most important factors used by search engines like Google to determine search rankings. Slower sites rank low, and fast websites rank higher.
WordPress is written in PHP which is a server side programming language. When a user requests a page from your website, WordPress runs PHP scripts to fetch the page and display it.
This resource intensive process is slow and become even slower when you are on a shared hosting environment. This can significantly reduce your site’s performance and search rankings.
A caching plugin stores a version of your pages in cache. When a user visits your website, they are served the cached version. This eliminates the need for WordPress to run PHP scripts. Your site becomes faster and your server becomes more responsive.
Having said that, let’s take a look at how W3 Total Cache improves your site’s speed.
Setting up W3 Total Cache Plugin for WordPress
W3 Total Cache is a powerhouse of a plugin. It comes loaded with many features to improve your site’s speed. The number of options make it look quite intimidating to new users.
The most important option that you need to enable is page caching. Enabling it will allow W3 Total Cache to start storing and serving cached pages to your visitors.
See this beginner’s guide on how to install and setup W3 Total Cache for detailed instructions.
Serve Compressed Pages to Your Users with W3 Total Cache
When you test your website’s speed using tools like Page Speed, you will notice that it recommends you to serve compressed pages.
Serving compressed pages means that when a user requests a page from your site, your site sends them a gzipped (compressed) version of your page. Compressing the page reduces its size and it loads faster. Once the gzipped page reaches the user, their browser automatically extracts and displays it.
W3 Total Cache allows you to turn on compression with just a click. Simply go to Performance » Browser Cache and check the box next to ‘Enable HTTP (gzip) compression’ option.
Using CDN with W3 Total Cache
See this guide on why you need a CDN for your WordPress blog for more information.
We recommend using MaxCDN which is one of the largest CDN service. We use it on all our websites and it helps us boost page speed.
See this tutorial on how to install WordPress CDN solution MaxCDN for detailed instructions.
W3 Total Cache vs WP Super Cache
Comparisons between two popular plugins in the same niche are quite common in WordPress community. Just like All in One SEO and Yoast SEO, users are comparing W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache for a long time.
Both plugins have very large user base, both of them are available for free, and both of them are a great choice to speed up your WordPress site.
They are both very advanced plugins. They both appear intimidating due to large number of settings and complicated setup instructions. The only real area where we can compare the two is performance.
W3 Total Cache’s performance is slightly better than WP Super Cache. It integrates beautifully with CDN and has object caching, minification, and other advanced features.
Pricing and Support Options for W3 Total Cache
Like with all popular free plugins, W3 Total Cache comes with limited free support. The plugin provides excellent documentation packed right into the plugin. There are also some excellent tutorials available online.
The plugin author also offers premium services for $99/year. You can sign up for it by clicking on Performance » Support in your WordPress admin area. However, you will still have to pay for each support query.
Our Verdict on W3 Total Cache plugin
W3 Total Cache is not the most easiest to use plugins. However, it is understandable considering the advanced features it offers and how complicated those can be. The plugin provides detailed explanation for each feature right inside the plugin which is quite impressive.
In terms of performance W3 Total Cache totally deserves to be called the best WordPress caching plugin.
We give W3 Total Cache 4 out of 5 stars. Here is the breakdown of our scores: