July 01, 2021

When it comes to your WordPress site, one seemingly small thing can make or break traffic — speed. 

Your WordPress site should load in three seconds or less. Slow loading means visitors will leave your site, abandoning any purchases they planned to make.

Luckily you can use WordPress performance plugins to make sure your site operates quickly, and loading speed doesn’t cause you to lose visitors.

Why Use WordPress Performance Plugins?

WordPress performance plugins make your site run and load more quickly. But that’s not all they do. They focus on key features that make your site perform better and faster.

Here are some of the areas in which WordPress performance plugins help optimize your site:

  • Cache. A cache for WordPress is commonly accessed data that are temporarily stored to speed up processing. A computer can access this information quickly while retrieving any new information related to the site. Caching is the most common way to get your website to load faster and generally perform better.
  • WordPress HeartBeat API. WordPress’s built-in server polling Application Programming Interface allows applications to talk to each other quickly. It allows for almost real-time updates.
  • Reducing or Disabling Ajax. Ajax updates part of a web page without reloading the entire page. It can be helpful, but it also can slow down your Central Processing Unit, making it necessary to reduce or disable Ajax usage.
  • Deferring Scripts. To defer scripts means you load your CSS or JavaScript files last, making your site accessible to visitors more quickly.
  • CDNs. A Content Delivery Network distributes the work of delivering content to your web browser, making it more efficient by increasing the number of sources, their closeness, and caching.
  • Lazy Loading. Lazy loading loads the parts of the website visitors are viewing first. Lazy loading means avoiding loading the whole page at once, which may take a long time.
  • Minification. Reduces website load time by eliminating unnecessary content in HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files.
  • Concatenation. Combining files to reduce the number of requests on your site.

Remember, when installing plugins, only install what your site really needs and what you’ll update regularly. Old, inactive plugins will slow down your site, defeating the purpose.

👉 The Essential Guide to WordPress Plugins >>

9 Best WordPress Performance Plugins

Now you have a better idea about what WordPress performance plugins do. But having this information may not make choosing a plugin easier with all of the options out there. So we’re breaking it down even further for you. Here are the nine best WordPress performance plugins.

1.WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache has more than two million users, making it one of the more popular caching plugins. It is free and easy to set up. It includes settings for advanced users to allow them to get more out of the plugin. 

WP Super Cache features include:

  • Support for multiple caching types.
  • Serve static HTML files.
  • Cache preload.
  • CDN support.

2. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is a popular speed-enhancing plugin with more than a million downloads. The free plugin supports a variety of caching methods and advanced support for some CDN services. But, because there are so many customizable options, this plugin is best for advanced users. 

W3 Total Cache features include:

  • CDN support.
  • Browser, database, and object caching.
  • Minifying.

3. WP Super Minify

WP Super Minify is a free plugin that combines, minifies, and caches JavaScript and CSS files to speed up page loads.

WP Super Minify features include:

  • Option to disable compression of CSS/JavaScript.
  • Easy to use with simple, three-step installation.

4. WP Smush

WP Smush is a free app used to optimize images and remove unnecessary bytes from image files. It uses a lossless format, so viewers don’t notice any difference in image quality.

WP Smush features include:

  • Strips unused color from images.
  • Strips unnecessary metadata from JPEGs.
  • Optimized JPEG compression.
  • Ability to run existing images through the plugin.

5. LazyLoad by WP Rocket

LazyLoad by WP Rocket is a free app that loads specific page elements as the viewer needs them, instead of loading all at once and slowing down the load time. 

LazyLoad features include:

  • Replaces post images, thumbnails, etc.
  • Can replace YouTube iFrames with preview thumbnails.

6. WP Rocket

WP Rocket is an easy, user-friendly caching plugin. It allows users to cache their site with a single click instantly. Its crawler automatically gathers your WordPress pages to build up the cache. WP Rocket isn’t free. It ranges in price from $49 to $249 a year, depending on how many websites you want it to run on.

WP Rocket features include:

  • User-friendly interface.
  • Minify CSS, HTML, and Javascript.
  • Cache preload, page caching, and advanced caching rules.
  • Lazing loading images.
  • CDN support.
  • DNS prefetching.
  • Google Analytics integration to load the code from your server.
  • Settings import and export.
  • WordPress version rollback.
  • Delay Javascript execution time.

“We serve clients with varying needs, budgets and configurations. And WP Rocket is one of our go-to plugins.” — Eric Dye from WP VALET

7. Perfmatters

Perfmatters allows you to disable WordPress options that aren’t necessary for most sites and slow down performance. It also allows you to disable scripts on a per page basis, stopping plugins from loading code whether it isn’t needed. It isn’t free. It ranges from $24.95 to 54.95 a year, depending on the number of sites you want to run it on.

Perfmatters features include: 

  • Works with your existing caching plugin.
  • Disable WordPress options that are slowing your site down.
  • Disable scripts on per page/post basis.
  • Supports advanced performance-boosting functionality such as DNS prefetch and preconnect.

8. NitroPack

NitroPack is a complete speed optimization platform. It optimizes everything for you and allows you to choose how aggressive you want the optimization to be. The app automatically implements a global CDN, various caching types, minification, compression, image optimization, serving images in next-gen formats (e.g. SVG), DNS prefetch, deferring of JavaScript, etc. 

There is a free NitroPack plan, but it adds a badge to your footer and has limited resources. Otherwise, it ranges from $17.50 to $146.67 a month, depending on your site’s needs and how many sites you run.

NitroPack features include:

  • Automatic website optimization.
  • Supports WordPress and other content management systems.
  • Global CDN included and automatically configured.
  • Various caching types (page, browser, etc.).
  • Automatic image optimization.
  • Convert images to next gen formats.
  • DNS prefetching.
  • Defer JS loading.
  • HTML, JS, and CSS minification.
  • HTML, CSS, and JS compression.

9. WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache is a free performance plugin that focuses on caching. It’s used by more than one million people, probably because it’s easy to operate. You install it, activate it, and run through the settings.

WP Fastest Cache features include:

  • Easy setup.
  • One-click changes.
  • Minify CSS and HTML.
  • Set posts/pages to exclude.
  • Set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings.
  • CDN integration.
  • Premium, paid version available with extra features.

Building Your WordPress Performance Plugin Strategy

Building a WordPress performance plugin strategy is necessary to keep your site operating quickly for viewers. The nine performance plugins above (or a combination of them in some cases) will help keep your site running quickly.

Still not sure about the best performance plugin strategy for your site? Nexcess can help! Contact us to learn more.


Nexcess, the premium hosting provider for WordPress, WooCommerce, and Magento, is optimized for your hosting needs. Nexcess provides a managed hosting infrastructure, curated tools, and a team of experts that make it easy to build, manage, and grow your business online. Serving SMBs and the designers, developers, and agencies who create for them, Nexcess has provided fully managed, high-performance cloud solutions for more than 22 years.

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