Online WordPress

WP Rocket review: Will it speed up your WordPress site?

rocket ship photography
Lift off: WP Rocket can boost site speed

If you want a cat in hell’s chance of ranking in Google these days, your site needs to be nimble. And as anyone who’s built a WordPress site knows, speed isn’t its greatest strength. Even with this site being hosted by WordPress.com, we were failing Google’s ‘Core Web Vitals’ test on the desktop version of the site and seeing search traffic suffer. Could a $49 per year plugin bring our site up to speed? Here’s our review of WP Rocket.

What does WP Rocket do?

Buy Now logo

WP Rocket rather boldly promises to “skyrocket your PageSpeed scores instantly”. It claims to accelerate page load times by doing a number of things, including:

  • Caching pages for visitors
  • Optimising your CSS files to reduce their file size and remove redundant code
  • Optimising JavaScript code and deferring the load of JavaScript files so that they don’t bog down page load times
  • ‘Lazy loading’ images so that pictures and iframes are only loaded when the user reaches or is about to reach them

All of these options and more are available in the settings of the WP Rocket plugin. The company advises that you switch these various features on one at a time, so that if any breaks on your site, you can quickly identify the culprit and switch it back off.

That’s what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks on this site. Here are the results.

WP Rocket review: performance results

Before we installed WP Rocket, we used Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool to measure the performance of our mobile and desktop sites.

Here are the mobile results:

Google PageSpeed Insight

And here are the desktop:

Google PageSpeed Insight

As you can see, we were just about scraping a pass on the mobile site and failing two of the three key metrics on the desktop.

Now, after about six weeks of having WP Rocket installed, here are the current results, first for mobile:

Google PageSpeed Insight

And now desktop:

Google PageSpeed Insight

To make that slightly easier to digest, here’s a results table showing the before and after for both mobile and desktop:

MOBILE BEFOREMOBILE AFTERDESKTOP BEFOREDESKTOP AFTER
LCP2.5 secs2.3 secs3 secs2.6 secs
FID18ms15ms3ms2ms
CLS0.050.050.170.09

So, as you can see, there have been clear improvements across the board. The site is still failing one of the desktop tests, the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), but only by a 0.1 seconds. As you can see from the screengrabs, the results are based on a 28-day rolling collection period and we’re pretty confident that we will get down to the required 2.5 secs in the next couple of weeks after making recent changes.

What gives us that confidence? If you look at the PageSpeed diagnostics results for several of our pages, they are now falling well within the requirements, as you can see below:

Google PageSpeed Insight after WP Rocket

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve also seen a boost in our traffic and search performance. Of course, search performance can be affected by all manner of factors, but we’re fairly confident improved page load times is one of them.

Verdict

WP Rocket

Overall, we’ve been very impressed with WP Rocket. The plugin is very simple to install and use. Each of the options are carefully explained and there’s a strong set of tutorial videos and support documents to help explain further.

There have been a couple of settings that broke things on our site. When we enabled the setting to automatically add missing image dimensions, for example, something which helps improve layout shifts, the site logo broke on the mobile version of our site. There is an option to exclude specific images which we need to look into, so WP Rocket might well have that covered.

The biggest performance improvements came as a result of optimising CSS and JavaScript, something that took ticking a few boxes. It’s very simple to use, even for those who aren’t 100% sure what terms such as Largest Contentful Paint mean!

If Google’s reporting problems with the speed of your WordPress site – even one that is hosted by WordPress.com – WP Rocket might well help boost performance without having to do anything drastic with your template, ads or other site furniture.

WP Rocket
  • Ease of use
  • Performance
  • Value for money

WP Rocket summary

A simple-to-use WordPress plugin that delivers impressive performance gains with little effort

Overall
4.3

Pros

  • Very simple to use
  • Improved both desktop and mobile performance on this site

Cons

  • Not cheap, but might pay for itself in ad revenue returns

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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