The Speed Study Goal

My goal with conducting these Speed Studies is to find out which strategies are the best at improving our site speed.

I’ll implement each strategy using the following approach:

  1. Setup the strategy on all 8 of our live test sites
  2. Then for the following 3 weeks, use hourly monitoring via GT Metrix to independently gather the load times. To eliminate the possibility of location bias, I change the test servers each week, starting in Dallas, then London and finishing off in Sydney.
  3. Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after
  4. Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?

2018 WP Rocket Speed Study

In the most recent Speed Study, W3 Total Cache performed brilliantly, totally outperforming WP Super Cache. Now let’s step up the level of competition by using a premium caching plugin and see which performs better.

So this Speed Study will look into whether WP Rocket can speed up our sites more than W3 Total Cache?

2018 W3 Total Cache

How to Setup WP Rocket

To kick off this 2018 WP Rocket Speed Study, we first need to install WP Rocket using consistent settings across each site. I used the settings included within our step by step tutorial on How to Setup WP Rocket.

All Setup

I have now followed this process on all 8 of our Live Test Sites.

Next up is 3 weeks of testing – I am curious to see whether WP Rocket is able to justify it’s premium price point of $39/year?

The Results – 25 Mar 2018

After 3 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how our 8 hosts performed with WP Rocket installed.

Speed Study 27 - 2018 WP Rocket Results Table


Let’s first see how WP Rocket performed compared to W3 Total Cache? The average load time across our 3 different testing locations is 1.78s for WP Rocket, which is 7% slower than with W3 Total Cache setup.

When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, 2 experienced drops in speed, with the most noticeable being London which was 21% slower. On the other side of the equation, Sydney was 3% faster with WP Rocket.

WP Rocket was more effective at reducing the Page Size, and was slightly ahead on Google PageSpeed Scores. W3 Total Cache came out on top with Yahoo YSlow Score.

So when it comes to making a call on which caching plugin is preferred, the decision is easy -> W3 Total Cache, as loading time is always the most important metric.

Individual Host Performance

Let’s now take a look at how our individual hosts performed:

Speed Study 27 - 2018 WP Rocket - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • When it comes to our individual hosts, the comparison between W3 Total Cache & WP Rocket are predominantly favoring W3 Total Cache:
    1. The only exception were Bluehost & Namecheap, which were 0.5% & 2% faster with WP Rocket setup.
    2. The remaining 6 hosts experienced slower speeds with WP Rocket, ranging from 3% with GoDaddy up to 16% with Web Hosting Hub.
  • The overall observation from where I sit is that W3 Total Cache is the preferred caching plugin. This is especially the case when you take into account that WP Rocket is a premium plugin that costs $39/year, while W3 Total Cache is FREE!!

What’s Next?

With W3 Total Cache proving to be faster than WP Rocket, let’s find out if we can find another caching plugin that can outperform W3 Total Cache?

So Speed Study #28 will focus on what speed improvement is possible when we use Simple Cache?

2018 Simple Cache WordPress Plugin