leverage browser caching

Easiest ways to leverage browser caching in WordPress

Last updated on September 14th, 2023 at 03:06 pm

There are several ways to make a WordPress website load faster, but one of the easiest of them is to leverage browser caching. This method doesn’t require much effort from the website owner and makes the site load in no time in the browsers of your visitors.

If you have used Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix, then you might be aware of the term browser caching, as it is suggested for a faster site.

What is browser caching?

When a visitor comes to your site or a webpage, the browser fetches several resources from your web server. These resources include HTML, CSS files, text, images, JavaScript, etc. Once these resources are fetched, the webpage loads and becomes visible to end-users.

If your site is visited by the same browser again, all the resources will be fetched over and over to load the same web pages. But if you leverage browser caching, the resources will be saved as web cache in the browser and will load instantly when the user visits again. If there are any updates to the page, only the new resources will take time to load rather than everything. This results in faster loading time for your site.

How to enable browser caching in WordPress?

After building a website, you take care of a number of things to provide an enhanced user experience, such as design elements, content, faster loading, and more. Website tools like Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix always recommend leveraging browser caching for a faster webpage speed.

If you are looking to leverage browser caching in WordPress, then the following are the ways to do it.

Leverage browser caching with the .htaccess file

There is a .htaccess file located in the root of the hosting server. To enable browser caching, you need to edit it and add some lines of code which will set the caching of resources on the browsers of end users for a defined time.

Access the .htaccess file from the root directory or cPanel account and open it. Copy the following code and add it to the bottom of that file. Without making any further changes, save it.

#Customize expires cache start - adjust the period according to your needs
FileETagMTime Size
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain text/html text/xml text/css application/xml application/xhtml+xml application/rss+xml application/javascript application/x-javascript
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType text/html "access 600 seconds"
ExpiresByType application/xhtml+xml "access 600 seconds"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"  
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"
#Expires cache end

In the code above, the CSS and JavaScript assets have been set to expire after a month. This means that after a month, the browser will need to fetch these resources again from the server, which will then be stored again for a month. You can edit the time frame as per the need.

Paste the code to the .htaccess file and save it. Using this method, you can effectively leverage browser caching.

Another thing you should take care of to optimize the browser caching is to set longer expiry times for static resources like images and other media items on a webpage. For example, you can choose to set one month for CSS and JS files, and one year or six months for images.

This is because the media files are of large size and consume the most time for browsers to fetch from servers. If you define one year for images, then they will be available for faster loading for the entire year.

Leverage browser caching using a WordPress plugin

The availability of thousands of plugins is one of the main advantages of choosing WordPress from all the web hosting options available out there. These plugins make the platform easy to use and more accessible. There are a number of plugins available for browser caching purposes as well.

If you are wondering why to go for plugins if pasting a code into a .htaccess file can be done easily, then the answer is that things can go wrong if you don’t use the code correctly. If there is a single mistake in code, the server might not analyze it, which might lead your site to show blank pages or display errors.

Using a WordPress plugin, you can avoid this issue, especially if you are not much into technical things. The most popular plugins for browser caching in WordPress are WPRocket, WP Fastest Cache, and W3 Total Cache. These plugins not only fulfil the purpose of caching, but also help in optimizing other caching, like database optimization, memcache, file cache, and more which can speed up your overall site.

1. WP Rocket

This is considered the easiest-to-use plugin to accelerate website speed. It enables a file cache so that the server doesn’t face any load, optimizes Google Fonts to load heavy fonts instantly, compresses static files, and enables minification, so that speed can be optimized. WP Rocket also enables lazy loading for a webpage, so that the browser needs to load the images only when the user scrolls to an image.

2. W3 Total Cache

Another simple plugin for caching, the W3 Total Cache comes with all the essential features required for caching. This plugin has been around for years now and has gained maturity over time.

3. WP Fastest Cache

The WP Fastest Cache automatically modifies the .htaccess file, so you don’t have to do it manually. Other than this, it comes with a number of more features that can help you in optimizing your WordPress site.

All you need to do is choose one of these plugins, and then simply install and activate it.

Wrapping up:

Above are a few of the easiest ways to leverage browser caching in WordPress and make the most out of it. If Google PageSpeed Insight or GTMetrix is recommending you to leverage browser caching, then go for these methods. Check back the tools and see if you have done the things right.

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