12 Must-Have Plugins to Optimize Your WordPress Website

12 Must-Have Plugins to Optimize Your WordPress Website

Website speed is a huge concern for web developers and website owners. Not only is a fast website best for visitor conversion rates, but it also influences your website’s Google ranking. WordPress speed optimization plugins can push your sites performance to the top and ensure you are getting the best performance results.

If your WordPress website is loading slowly, you may need to reconsider your site set-up. Consider adding a caching plugin, setting up lazy load images, finessing your approach to image optimization and using a plugin along side performance optimized hosting to get the best results.

Among the thousands of WordPress plugins available, there are a few key players made just for these reasons. If you’ve sat in front of your computer screen and uttered the words, “Why is my WordPress site so slow?”, it’s time for some intervention.

In the following blog post, we share a collection of the best plugins to speed up WordPress. From caching through to image optimization plugins, we cover the best WordPress plugins to speed up a website.

How to choose a WordPress plugin

Before explaining how to speed up a WordPress website, it’s good to share a few plugin selection tips.

In general, it is advised to keep the number of plugins on your WordPress website to a minimum. Too many plugins, especially those left installed and not activated, or not updated, can cause conflicts with various software on your site.

The number of plugins installed is less important than the quality of the plugins—be selective in your plugin selection and to research the plugin thoroughly before installing it.

When selecting a plugin, look at:

  • The number of active installs
  • When the plugin was last updated
  • Reviews from users
  • Whether there is support for the plugin

A good idea is to run your website through an online speed test such as the GTmetrix website speed test or the Pingdom website speed test both before and after installing a plugin. This will give you a good idea of whether a plugin has impacted your site speed positively or negatively.

The Top WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins

Below are a collection of the best WordPress plugins to speed up a website. The plugins are divided into categories based on the roles they fulfil.

Best Caching Plugins for WordPress

1. Divi Rocket

Divi Rocket caching plugin for Divi and WordPress websites

Divi Rocket

First on the list is Divi Rocket, a specialist caching plugin designed to address known performance issues that arise in Divi websites. Divi Rocket offers all of the typical features of a caching plugin, like browser caching, database optimization and GZip Compression, but as it’s been created specifically for websites using the Divi theme by Elegant Themes, there are several extra special features.

First is a special form of Divi-specific server-side caching. Here, instead of loading an entire page each time, the plugin is ‘Divi-aware’, meaning it’ll load only updated Divi modules like the blog module, for example. Another special feature is the first-of-its-kind Divi-specific lazy load, where, when a page is loaded, it loads section by section as the user scrolls down, not all at once

Unlike some caching plugins that have multiple configuration settings and are complicated to navigate, Divi Rocket is easy-to-use and the interface is designed to mirror the Divi theme design. Divi Rocket is constantly being engineered to include more features. An integration with a CDN as well as minification of CSS and JavaScript files.

2. Hummingbird

Hummingbird Pro WPMUDEV

Hummingbird Pro

If you’re in the market for a complete caching system for WordPress, Hummingbird is a viable solution that, as well as enabling browser caching, also offers Lazy Load for images and minification of CSS and JS files. It does a great job all by itself without the need to use extra plugins and includes a great CDN for extra speeding up of loading resources.

As well as the free plugin, there is a premium version of the plugin, Hummingbird Pro, which includes even more performance enhancing features like GZIP compression, and integration with a CDN, starting at $5 per month.

3. WP Rocket

WP Rocket

WP Rocket

If you’re wondering how to increase website speed, WP Rocket is one of the best WordPress caching plugins around. A premium, paid plugin with pricing starting at $49 per year, WP Rocket includes all of the caching functionality that you would need to speed up WordPress, along with several other features, including lazy loading for images, database optimization, CDN integration as well as the ability to host Google Analytics code on your own site. This is a great option if you want a speed optimizer plugin that works perfectly, and does it all while being super user-friendly.

4. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache

Another high-rated WordPress caching plugin is W3 Total Cache. W3TC has been around for ages, and it’s built a reputation of being reliable and effective. This comprehensive plugin includes all of the features that you would need to optimize a WordPress site, including page caching, object caching, GZIP compression, minification and CDN support, among others.

The downside of using W3TC is that while it is a great WordPress caching plugin, it is quite complicated to set up and can be a bit intimidating for beginners due to its extensive configuration options.

5. WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache

WP Fastest Cache

Another top-rated caching plugin for WordPress, WP Fastest Cache comes with a great set of features, including 1-click to clear cache, minification of CSS and HTML, CDN integration and the option to set expiration times for all posts/pages or certain URL strings. Like W3 Total Cache, WP Fastest Cache is a free plugin, but it is much easier to configure and far more user-friendly for beginners. With this plugin, you can simply install, activate and run through the settings for a fast running website.

6. WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache

One of the best free caching plugins for WordPress, WP Super Cache is a popular option for those looking for a robust solution. Created by Automattic, the creators of WordPress, this WP Super Cache’s features include GZIP compression, page cache, CDN support, and advanced cache preload, among others. While it is a straightforward plugin to set up, it has some more advanced settings to get even more out of the plugin.

7. Perfmatters



The Perfmatters plugin takes a different approach to caching. It doesn’t supply a full-scale caching solution, but can be used in conjunction with one of the above-mentioned caching plugins to optimize WordPress and create an even more speedy website.

The plugin works by making it possible to disable a collection of unnecessary options that WordPress has enabled by default. With a simple toggle on or off system, you can disable a series of operations running on your site such as disabling or limiting post revisions, disabling scripts that you may not have on your site like emojis or dashicons, and much more. All of these options aim to solve the biggest factor that tends to slow down the rendering of a website: HTTP requests that aren’t needed. This is a premium plugin, with pricing starting at $24.95 per year for a single site.

Best WordPress Plugin to Optimize Images

8. WP Squish

WP Squish

WP Squish

Images are one of the biggest culprits responsible for slow loading websites. When considering imagery for websites, it’s important to compress all images before they are loaded onto a site. Typically, this is done using an online service like TinyPNG or TinyJPG, but sometimes this step is skipped.

To save this problem, WP Squish, an image compression plugin will assist by optimizing images as soon as they’re uploaded to the Media Library. Once the plugin is installed, the user can set dimensions for full-size images uploaded to the site, as well as compression values for other images. When a new image is loaded to the site, the plugin will automatically compress the file and decrease the overall size without impacting the integrity and quality of the image.

9. WP Smush

WP Smush

WP Smush

Another great image optimization plugin comes from WPMUDEV in the form of WP Smush. As well as automatically compressing images as soon as they’re loaded to the site, the plugin also removes unused colours on the image and metadata from JPEG images. WP Smush supports all common image formats (including JPEG, GIF and PNG), is compatible with other plugins, and can compress up to 50 images at a time.

Check out our complete breakdown of Smush Pro on the Digital Buddha YouTube channel.

10. BJ Lazy Load

BJ Lazy Load

BJ Lazy Load

If your website has a lot of images, you may want to consider installing a lazy load plugin, such as BJ Lazy Load. Once this plugin is installed, your page will no longer load all at once, but rather only load images as the user begins to scroll down the page.

Other Plugins To Optimize WordPress

11. WP Optimize Cache

WP Optimize Cache

WP Optimize Cache

Over time, your website will start to accumulate unnecessary data. To help assist your website as it goes, WP Optimize Cache is a great plugin that will clean up the SQL database for maximized efficiency. The plugin de-fragments MySQL tables along with removing data like pingbacks, expired transient options, trashed comments and post revisions. With WP Optimize, you have control over running automatic or scheduled clean-ups of your website’s database. Additional performance features include compressing your images and caching your site.

12. CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally

CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally

CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally

CAOS | Host Google Analytics Locally is the plugin to go for when your website’s speed test on GTMatrix is telling you to leverage browser cache. By hosting Google Analytics code locally, you can leverage browser caching for analytics.js, ga.js or gtag.js.

The plugin is relatively easy to set up – just install the plugin, enter your Google Analytics Tracking-ID and CAOS will add the Tracking Code to the header. CAOS is also compatible with Monster Insights for a streamlined experience. The WP Rocket plugin can also do this, so, if you have that plugin installed, you won’t need to install this one as well.

13. WP Super Minify

WP Super Minify

WP Super Minify

The last plugin on the list to optimize WordPress, WP Super Minify, combines and compresses HTML, JavaScript and CSS files to reduce the time it takes for your website to load. The installation process is as simple as downloading the plugin, uploading to the back-end and activating the plugin. While this plugin won’t decrease your Google page speed rating as much as some of the other more technical plugins mentioned, you can expect a 2-4% increase in performance.

The Importance of Web Hosting

A huge factor at play in the site performance space is its web hosting. Installing performance and speed optimization plugins can get you far, but if your website is hosted with a sub-par service provider, you will likely encounter issues.

If in range of your budget, it’s always wise to choose a faster and more reliable hosting provider, rather than basing your choice on pricing. Managed WordPress hosting service providers, like Divi Space Hosting, FlyWheel and WPEngine, offer a number of performance features within their hosting packages. Traditionally these include server-level caching and performance enhancements. Divi Space Hosting goes a step further by configuring servers specifically for Divi from the get-go and implementing other Divi-specific performance measures on the server level.

Ending Thoughts

Caring for your website and its performance is a task, but one that you’ll be rewarded with greatly. A fast loading website can mean increased traffic, decreased bounce rates, engaged site visitors and a higher chance of conversions.

We’ve shared an extensive list of plugins to optimize WordPress, we hope that some of these will transform your website from slow and sluggish to blazing fast. Have you used any of the plugins mentioned above? Let us know your experience in the comments below!

Lisa-Robyn Keown

Lisa-Robyn is a qualified copywriter and brand strategist from Cape Town, South Africa.