WordPress Cache: WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache
The easiest way to make your blog faster is to install a WordPress cache plugin. In this review I’ll tell you about 2 of the best WordPress cache plugins. The best thing is that you can install these plugins for free, so there’s no reason to not use a WordPress cache plugin!
For the moment, the most popular cache plugin is WP Super Cache. The reason why WP Super Cache is so popular, is that it’s so easy to configure. On the other hand, there is W3 Total Cache. If you do some research, you’ll read that W3 Total Cache has better results, but is much more difficult to configure.
That’s why I wrote this little review about those 2 plugins, so you can find out and decide which plugin is best for you!
How Does a WordPress Cache Plugin Work?
In most cases, when you visit a webpage, that web page is generated on the fly. This means that the server where the web page is on, creates that page the moment when you visit it. In short: it connects to the database to get content, the server puts the content in a page and serves that page to the visitor.
When you have 1 visitor at a time, this isn’t really a problem. But when you have hundreds of visitors at the same time, your server will slow down. You could buy a more powerful server, but there’s a much better solution: a WordPress cache plugin (okay, this isn’t the same as a really fast server, but it will give your blog a serious speed boost!).
In short, a cache plugin will make a copy of the generated page and serve that copy to visitors.
When the first visitor requests a page, the server will generate that page AND make a copy of it. When the next visitor requests that page, the server won’t generate it again, but just serve the ready copy of that page.
The result is a much lower server load; the page will be served much faster to the visitor and your server can handle a lot more visitors at the same time (this is important when one of your articles will go viral!).
Configuration: WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache
In your choice which WordPress cache plugin is best for you, it’s important to know how easy / difficult configuration is.
Installation itself is the same for both plugins. If you don’t know how to install a WordPress plugin, I advice you to read this previous article.
WP Super Cache
The reason why WP Super Cache is so popular, is that it’s quite easy to configure.
Once installed, configuration is indeed very easy. In the most simple version, all you have to do is to enable caching in the plugin’s settings. But there are more options. If you really want to get out everything of this plugin, you should tweak some more options in the other tabs. However, if you’re a beginner you’ll be happy to see that just enabling caching will already do the trick.
W3 Total Cache
Configuration of W3 Total Cache is a little more difficult, even confusing when you use it for the first time!
W3 Total Cache has a lot more options and features. The result is that you can tweak everything a little more in detail, however, this is not for beginners!
In the beginning, I found the Preview mode very confusing. When you enable and configure the plugin for the first time, you’re still in “Preview mode”. This means there are no real changes on your blog until you disable “Preview mode”.
Speed Test: WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache
Note: I ran these speed tests on Dreamhost shared hosting.
The Importance of a Fast Loading Site
Before telling you more about the speed results, I would like to explain the importance of a fast loading site (or blog).
In it’s aim for perfection, Google is constantly updating their search algorithm (for the record, this algorithm is top secret, nobody knows it!). The goal is to serve search results of high quality to Google users.
In that aim for perfection and quality, Google also takes the loading time of a site / page in count. This means, if you have a fast loading site, that site will be ranked higher in the Google search results then a similar slower loading site.
To know if you’re site / page loads fast, Google has developed a tool, the Google PageSpeed Tool. After analyzing an URL, you’ll see a score (out of 100) and tips how to make your site faster. For example:
Remember, this is how Google sees the loading times of your site, so in my opinion, this is a quite important tool!
WP Super Cache
After installing and enabling WP Super Cache I checked my test blog again. And yes, I see it loads much faster then before.
The crazy thing is, when I check the Google PageSpeed Score, that I don’t see a big difference… In fact, I don’t see a difference at all! However, in the past I made some web sites where I installed WP Super Cache in combination with WP Minify (a really simple plugin!) and yes, the Google PageSpeed score is now 91 out of 100!
W3 Total Cache
When I do the same after installing and configuring W3 Total Cache, I see the same results. My blog is loading much faster.
The Google PageSpeed Score is immediately quite high, 98 points out of 100!
Which WordPress Cache Plugin Is The Fastest?
Remember, these scores are based on a default WordPress installation. The loading times depend on so many other things: hosting, the amount of installed plugins, the theme your blog uses, the content and images,…
I saw similar results on other blogs (live blogs, on other web hosting). W3 Total Cache was always a bit faster then WP Super Cache + WP Minify.
And The Winner Is…
Pure on the results, W3 Total Cache is the real winner. I must say that I use this plugin for all the blogs I create.
But, If you’re a beginner, then I advice to go for the combination of WP Super Cache AND WP Minify. If you don’t have any technical knowledge you’ll get the best results with these plugins! Just install and enable them, and that’s it!
In the end, it doesn’t really matter which plugin you go for. Both WordPress cache plugins will make your blog much faster!