- Easy to set up.
- Tons of features.
- Somewhat finicky.
- Potential WebP issues.
- Critical CSS can be janky.
- 1. About LiteSpeed Cache Settings
- 2. LiteSpeed Cache Features
- 3. LiteSpeed Negatives
- 4. LiteSpeed Cache and Cloudflare
- 5. General Settings
- 6. Cache Settings
- 7. Purge Settings
- 8. Excludes Settings
- 9. Optimize Settings
- 10. Tuning Settings
- 11. Media Settings
- 12. CDN Settings
- 13. Edge Side Includes Settings
- 14. Advanced Settings
- 15. Debug Settings
- 16. Crawler Settings
- 17. Management Settings
- 18. Edit .htaccess Settings
- 19. Image Optimization Settings
- 20. Crawler Settings
- 21. Report Settings
- 22. Import / Export Settings
- 23. LiteSpeed Cache Summary
What’s in it for me? Here’s how to get the most out of this article.
- Beginners – it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed with WordPress. Jump to sections of interest using the table of contents and don’t feel silly asking questions.
- Intermediates – as your experience grows, you become more inquisitive. Use this to your advantage. Feel free to skim through to the useful bits.
- Power users – we’d love to have your input. Answering questions and offering improvements is a great way to help – participate and learn at the same time.
LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress is currently talk of the town, among WordPress caching nerds at least. With 800,000 downloads and 1000 five-star reviews, things are definitely looking up for LiteSpeed Technologies.
So come with us on a LiteSpeed journey where we cover every single setting.
Then you can get yourself results like this…
That result was achieved with only LiteSpeed Cache as the only ‘real’ plugin. It didn’t change when we put Cloudflare in development mode, either, so that’s an even bigger feather in LiteSpeed’s cap.
For the above test, we concentrated on performance, as the other parts of Lighthouse are regarding the website itself. We’re obviously interested in how the plugin performs, which is amazingly good, as it helped the test site pass 23 out of 23 audits.
There’s a lot of parrots on the Internet. Not the one’s that drop the odd name now and then. Human ones, that is. You know the type that go on Google, snatch up a few lines of code then reapeat it in their blog post?
Well we like to do things properly at Page Speed Tweaks. Parroting code isn’t good for anyone, it’s how urban myths get spread about. Instead we prefer to test everything so we know what actually works, not just what we think works.
LiteSpeed run on our test site, after only a few hours setting everything up, gave us this on GT Metrix.
Although LiteSpeed cache, like most caching plugins, has been in the plugin directory for many years. It seems to be more popular now than ever. That’s testament to the genuinely useful features they’ve added, but also the fact that Hostinger, an up-and-coming company themselves, now includes this plugin with all WordPress installations.
Of course, you can delete it, just like I did.
When something is forced upon us, it doesn’t seem right. It’s like we need to get our own way, regardless of whether it’s good, bad or outstanding.
That said, I decided to give LiteSpeed Cache another try.
Hostinger are serious about website performance and could have gone with any free caching plugin liked. The fact they chose LiteSpeed Cache speaks volumes, in a good way.
Yes, they also use LiteSpeed Web Server, but that’s not because they’re biased. It’s because they’re a hosting company and it’s in their best interest to use performant software.
- LiteSpeed Cache syncs well with LiteSpeed Web Server.
- LiteSpeed Cache outperforms rival applications in WordPress benchmarks.
- LiteSpeed Cache is free to use, which sits well with Hostinger’s value-led performance strategy.
Is LSCWP perfect? No, of course not, no software is. Are the benchmark results skewed? Most likely they are real, but numbers can be manipulated without actually telling lies.
Remember those famous tablets everyone was taking? Statins or something? Well the placebo effect saw a 1% improvement. Statins were a mighty 3% improvement over not taking anything at all. Sounds lame, doesn’t it, but when you say Statins are 66% better than a placebo, well that sounds amazing.
This is why we need to do our own testing before we get tablets stuck in our throat.
On a more positive note, LiteSpeed is slicker than a greased eel. The way you can whizz through the settings menu is sheer delight. It’s so fast you’d swear it was using preloading, but come to think of it they do have an instant click setting.
I’d wager a pretty penny that’s how they achieve the smoothness.
1. About LiteSpeed Cache Settings
If you’ve come here for the settings, the good news is that LiteSpeed is hovering somewhere between easy and medium in configuration toughness.
Most caching plugins fall in one of two camps; either very simple, but not very effective or you get lost in a sandstorm of decisions without a camel to pull you out.
Just your good old self to get the hump when things go wrong.
That’s what the start of my W3 Total Cache career was like. It was stressful edditing the .htaccess file only to find out I’d locked myself out of my own website.
Another stress was ticking the Content Security Policy and not realising its powers. Yes, it really can stop your two-factor authentication form from loading. Locked out again!
Thankfully, those hard-learned lessons from W3 Total Cache have turned me into a caching geek, one of those super-nerdy caching geeks to be exact. So now when I get locked out, there’s no need to panic or ask for help. No, all I do now is edit my .htaccess file CORRECTLY.
LiteSpeed Cache even has your .htaccess settings super handy in your WordPress admin panel. (Though if you were to get locked out, you’d have to go the long way round via your hosting cPanel.)
We’ll go over the full settings shortly, but let’s talk some caching coolness beforehand.
2. LiteSpeed Cache Features
Caching plugins are first and foremost premier WordPress plugins, they are in the category of software you can’t live without.
This is what makes caching plugins the juggernauts of the plugin world, along with SEO and image optimization they’re almost untouchable.
Over recent years, every major plugin has grown its feature set five fold.
While this is good in some ways, it’s bad in others.
- Excessive features make for duplicate code, redundant features and unnecessary complexity.
- The Swiss Army Knife effect has trickled down to every popular brand in the app store.
- Plugin bloat is worse than ever, if not carefully managed.
LiteSpeed Cache has the potential to turn the tide. You just have to trust in its features, which is hard at first, but not impossible once you see the benefits.
So what does LiteSpeed Cache offer us that other caching plugins don’t?
On all my WordPress sites I’m currently running the following plugins that can potentially be replaced with LiteSpeed.
- W3 Total Cache – caching and CDN integration for Cloudflare & Stackpath.
- Autoptimize – minification, aggregation including Lazy Loading.
- WP Optimize for database cleanup.
- Warm Cache – cache warming via cron job.
To prove my bloat theory, the first three plugins above offer lazy loading. It’s confusing to say the least, especially for beginners who will wonder what plugin does what?
They’ve all gone beyond their original remit, but maybe that’s progress, eh?
The key to finding plugin joy, though, is when you have a combination that covers all your needs, without any excesses. Minimal code scraps for the doggy bag.
Further more, LiteSpeed’s amazing feature set also offers the following goodies.
- Critical CSS generation – this is a paid feature with Autoptimize.
- Image optimization – including WebP format to shrink image file size.
- LiteSpeed Quic Cloud – free to register.
3. LiteSpeed Negatives
Life in the plugin lane isn’t all a bed of roses, in fact it’s more Grand Theft Auto at times. It’s not so much LiteSpeed is missing anything, on the contrary, but you need time to master these highly complex caching plugins.
Initially I had issues with LiteSpeed when I configured critical CSS; it seemed janky and my loading stuttered into view without any styling. However, I’ve since got it running a treat. (Possibly just my lack of LiteSpeed familiarity.)
Cache purging wasn’t so sweet either. It seems like the purge all didn’t really work unless you went for it’s big brother – LiteSpeed’s Empty Entire Cache – aka the nuclear option.
WebP images didn’t seem to work for me, although they were displaying properly in my gallery so they were actually generated okay. Again, probably something I could overcome with time and patience.
WebP images aren’t supported by Apple so turning on WebP only is a non starter really. This is why I wasn’t that bothered and decided to delete my image optimizations and concentate on caching.
Lazy Loading of images stopped working as well once I’d run the image optimization script.
To be fair to LiteSpeed, I’d only seriously been playing with the configuration settings for less than a day, at this point, while W3 Total Cache took me several years to master.
In tradesman’s years, it’s like I served my time with W3 and now I’m rocking a management position with LiteSpeed.
A quick summary of what I didn’t really get to grips with. Some of this might be temporary, but others are certainly out of my hands. There’s only so far tweaking will take you, it won’t grow new switches, that’s a fact. Luckily for us, LSCWP has enough of them to keep us busy.
- The cache purging wasn’t performing great.
- Lazy loading broken after image optimization.
- Couldn’t get WebP images to load.
- Critical CSS seems a bit janky, although I’ve yet to see a really good autonomous CCSS tool.
- Inline CSS does work, even with CCSS turned off, but it baffled me what it was actually inlining.
From my own experience, if you keep your CSS under 50 – 60 kb you can inline it without the hassle of any critical CSS. Even slightly more than that, maybe 70 kb is okay as long as the rest of your webpage is superlight.
If you are already a conscientious WordPress owner, then critical CSS optimization can be one of the least effective from a time-effort-savings perspective.
Unless your website posts and pages are really heavy, it’s hard to gain much with critical CSS. It’s one of those things that’s more of a hype job to be honest. That’s not to say that it isn’t useful because every tool has its place.
After turning off Critical CSS and refreshing the cache, the website is loading a lot smoother. There’s a slight pause and then it loads all at once,
rather than in three incremental stages, which is off-putting. Now I’ve got CCSS working great, as the Lighthouse audit shows.
So, yeah, it’s all coming together nicely. Looks like LiteSpeed Cache could be a keeper!
Anyhow LSCWP looked like it was giving me one merged CSS file, but when I’ve checked it was actually inlining some CSS. This seems strange because although I have ticked Inline CSS Minify, I’m not sure where the inline CSS is from if it isn’t the critical CSS?
It definitely wasn’t inlining all of the CSS, because the paragraph of CSS was too small.
However, if that’s all I’ve got to worry about things are definitely looking good.
4. LiteSpeed Cache and Cloudflare
Let me quickly say that when you sprinkle Cloudflare with some secret settings, the speed of the origin doesn’t matter so much, as Cloudflare masks any slowness.
Turning Cloudflare to development mode showed my TTFB was around 0.5 seconds with LiteSpeed Cache – average speeds for a shared server. Once I turned Cloudflare CDN back on it dropped to under 0.2 seconds.
That’s what we like – free stuff that gives us the same speed as a virtual private server.
Of course, if Cloudflare has to go back to your origin for data, it would be better if you’re running a VPS than a shared server, but for a small site Cloudflare is absolutely amazing.
Speed. Security. Scale. Can’t believe it’s free!
Wordfence is a great security plugin also, does its job superbly, but it is all on your origin. Cloudflare does its work before the nasty stuff gets to your WordPress instance. Your origin doesn’t break sweat.
Anyway enough talking, let’s get among those settings you’re here for…
5. General Settings
Rather than go over every TTL – time to live – setting on the general tab, I will quickly explain that you don’t need to adjust them for normal use.
It’s better to leave them standard and adjust our caching life-time, or expires time, in the advanced tab later on. That way we only need to adjust one setting.
Browser caching times affect the end user, whereas the times here are what happens between your website and the caching application, which is LiteSpeed in our case.
6. Cache Settings
If you feel that there’s an overload of setting information from now on, I’ll try and simplify it for you.
- Setting – the green switches are turned on or off exactly as I set them.
- Setting – black text inside a box is what I used myself.
- Advisory – red text notes are advisory comments.
- Example – red text inside a box shows a typical example for furture reference.
When you first install LiteSpeed Cache, you are confronted with only four tabs in the settings section, but ideally you need to set up all twelve to release its full potential.
7. Purge Settings
The purging was giving me a few problems at first, but once I spent more time with the plugin, this quickly melted away. It goes without saying that any intensive plugin, like LiteSpeed Cache, will take a while to get to know properly.
Unfortunately, with such things you can’t have your cake and eat it. You can either have the settings pre-configured, but it’s far more rewarding setting it up yourself. Achievement is always multiplied by the work you’ve put in yourself.
Here’s how I adjusted this section, which should give you a good base to start from.
It’s worthwile noting that the bigger your website the more work your origin server has to do rebuilding the cache, which it’s why it’s good to use the ‘lightest’ purge possible.
Only use the nuclear option, purge everything, as a last resort.
8. Excludes Settings
You can see from the screenshot that I didn’t make one single adjustment, simply because I didn’t need to. It’s highly likely that you will go the same route.
Of course, it’s good to have the option should you need it later on, especially as it’s a highly-detailed page with many powerful settings.
Definitely one to use for troubleshooting, after you’ve run the debug option.
9. Optimize Settings
Without doubt, the optimization settings tab is where this plugin earns its keep. You’ve got all the good stuff that WordPress caching afficianados love to use:
- Minification – remove the whitespace, and comments, from files.
- Aggregation – combine files to reduce HTTP requests.
- Inlining – speeds up paint time and page generation for better user experience.
- Critical CSS – inlines the above the fold CSS for faster paint times, as above, but more focused.
- Lazy loading – loads images, and frames, as you scroll to speed up load time and save data.
- DNS prefetching – preconnects to the domain name server to speed up the handshake process.
- HTTP Push – sends or pushes the files before the browser requests them.
I’m sure you get the picture, this is one comprehensive plugin. It covers all the bases, which is what we like.
Pro tip: notice the yellow warning. Test thoroughly after each setting change and also do a purge action. To speed this up you can turn them on in sections, perhaps three or four at a time, then if you have a problem you only have to pay attention to that small group. Activating each setting one by one will be time consuming, so use this trick to speed things up.
We can tweak the cache TTL via the browser in the advanced tab in Section A, which is why I recommend leaving it stock on here.
* This image was updated on 03/03/2020 to include disabling the CSS library, as it is pointless when using critical CSS. You really need to use one or the other.
10. Tuning Settings
Tuning is another tab where I didn’t have to spend any time, apart from flicking on the Remove WordPress Emoji switch. This is common in most performance oriented plugins, as it saves a few bytes, especially on a busy site.
Like I said previously, it’s still nice to have the other options should you need them at some point.
Here’s my thoughts on how you’d go about things…
11. Media Settings
This is another ‘main’ tab that you will surely use.
You will need to be aware that some settings are dependant on other ones so you’ll need to pay attention to the notes under each switch. Not a big deal, but it would be nice if everything was grouped to gether better, as this type of thing will catch a lot of people out.
Warning: Don’t remove original backups unless you are absolutely certain it’s the right thing to do. It could be a disaster if you used this setting without fully understanding the implications.
WebP images are great for saving data, but they have one big drawback. Apple doesn’t play ball. Why do the always have to be awkward? It’s understandable they want to lock you into certain things, but when everyone else does something and they’re the last man standing, you can’t help but be annoyed.
The only other browser that doesn’t support it is Internet Explorer, but that’s becoming increasingly irrelevant. Check out the full list here at WebP Can I Use?
This causes a problem because you can’t simply run WebP by itself, which is why you won’t really be able to use the WebP only option. Instead you will need to serve WebP dynamically, so the browser swaps between traditional JPEG or PNG images on the fly.
Dynamic swapping takes a fraction of a second, so you’ll need to test whether this actually saves time, even though the WebP files themselves are smaller than the equivalent JPEG or PNG image.
Unfortunately, while I optimized the gallery okay and could see the WebP versions in the gallery, I couldn’t serve them and after an hour or two gave up. Normally I would persevere, but because of the Apple situation, there’s a huge chunk of website users that can’t benefit from them. Case closed.
Lazy loading is something that I use elsewhere and am pleased to confirm it works here also.
12. CDN Settings
Regardless of the size of your website, you should be using a CDN. The are many benefits of using a CDN, but Cloudflare is amazing for two reasons – it’s free and secure, when set up correctly. That’s why you should be using it and here’s how you set it up.
Although Stackpath isn’t essential, for $10 per month for the CDN only, I use it just to boost my audit results on GT Metrix. Unnecessary perhaps, but it’s not a great deal to pay, especially as I judge things as a whole rather than individually.
Together Cloudflare and Stackpath make a great combination.
Setting up your CDNs on LiteSpeed Cache is fairly straightforward. The only setting that might trip you up is the Original URLs form input. You will probably think, as I did, why do we need to include our website name? I think the answer is in case there are multiple URLs served under the same domain.
LiteSpeed wants to know them, even if there’s only one.
So here we go, this is what I had to do…
I actually filled the CDN URL in with my stackpath details and also the three boxes in the Cloudflare section, but the reason why they’re in red was for security.
Most of the file types are included in the CDN section, but one that springs to mind is the .manifest file type, or mime type as they’re known in Apache speak. This is covered in more detail in our PWA tutorial.
13. Edge Side Includes Settings
Not a name that rolls off the tip of the tongue, is it? Although this section wasn’t of any use to me personally, I still made some notes so you have a bit of a head start with ESIs.
From what I can gather, you use shortcodes to add content to pages. This content is cached seperately from the actual page it lives on. Not sure when this would come in handy, but there is obviously legitimate use cases for it, otherwise they wouldn’t have included it.
Apart from that, here goes.
14. Advanced Settings
This is where the browser settings live; adjust the browser TTL from here. The good thing is that there is only one setting to do this whereas with rival caching plugins there is usually several, which can complicate things unnecessarily.
Main settings on here are:
- Browswer TTL.
- Advanced Cache.
- HTTP/HTTPS compatibility.
- Instant Click.
I’ve added notes on them all, but 1 and 2 are definitely most important for caching. 3 is also important if you’re running mixed content, but you should really be using HTTPS across the board. 4 is more of a nice-to-use feature if you’ve got enough resources.
15. Debug Settings
The debug section isn’t something you need unless there are issues that you need to pinpoint. That said, here’s my thoughts…
16. Crawler Settings
Crawlers are meant to search the database and find pages to cache. The idea is that the pages get pre-built in the cache so they’re ready for the user.
Unless you’ve got a dedicated server, your cache time will be shared with other websites. So bearing this in mind, it’s important to try and keep your most important pages in the cache rather than simply cache everything.
I’ll freely admit that I’m no expert in cache crawling, but going by the advice from someone who I trust, AJ at WPFaster, he recommends not using the cache pre-load on W3 Total Cache and instead using Warm Cache plugin to warm the cache from a cron job. He says it’s more reliable.
So taking his advice on board, I use Warm Cache rather than the inbuilt option, though LiteSpeed’s variation does seem like it would actually work if it was configured at server level.
It’s not really W3 Total cache’s fault, because they’re trying to activate it from within the plugin, but really it’s a seperate job to do correctly.
Due to cache warming and pre-loading being resource intensive, it’s the kind of thing that hosting companies restrict somewhat. You will have to ask your hosing company to activate this module, if they are using LiteSpeed Web Server.
It says it is turned off for me, but I filled the form input in with my site’s IP just in case it was needed.
Other than that it is advisable to leave the settings as they are out of the box.
17. Management Settings
This is whole new section, which you can find in the main LiteSpeed WordPress menu.
The management tab can be broken down into the following:
- Purge – you can purge individual files or nuke the lot.
- DB Optimizer – a database optimizer that’s enough to get the job done.
- CDN – a mini version of Cloudflare’s settings – the important ones.
Personally, I prefer the lightweight Cloudflare section because you can quickly turn on development mode or purge everything on a Cloudflare level. It makes more sense than repeating every setting like W3 Total Cache does, because thier version can be a bit clunky.
Hot on the heels of the purge tab is DB optimize. Here you’ll find a selection of buttons that clear individual sections rather than optimize everything at once.
It’s nice to have granular control, even if you don’t use it very often.
Lastly there’s the CDN tab, which really should be named Cloudflare, as it doesn’t include other CDNs that you might be using.
Regardless it’s super simple to use, which is what matters most.
18. Edit .htaccess Settings
The .htaccess file is very powerful. It’s great that LiteSpeed let you quickly edit this file from the main menu of WordPress.
My only concern is that if you don’t know what you are doing, be very careful. These days most hosting providers back up their clients’ websites automatically, but it could be weekly rather than daily, depending on the price. With Hostinger Business hosting, I get daily backups so no longer bother doing them myself.
It’s not a hassle backing up one or two sites, but when you have ten to do it’s a pain. Yes, you can use multisite apps to make life easier, but I prefer to keep my sites seperate for security purposes.
So first of all check that your site is getting backed up for you or do it yourself; then you can safely play around with .htaccess. If you never learn the ropes, you’ll never master such things. Making mistakes isn’t usually critical, such is the reliability of modern web hosting.
The best way to edit your .htaccess file is via your cPanel or hPanel with Hostinger – same thing, different name.
If you make a mistake it’s easy to log into your hosting provider and revert the changes. If backing up the full site takes too long or is done for you, just make a copy of your .htaccess file itself. It might be hidden, too, so turn on your show-hidden-files setting.
Of course it’s much easier to edit this file directly from WordPress, which is the whole point of LiteSpeed including this method in the first place.
Hostinger have a nice tutorial for editing and creating a .htaccess file.
Regarding LiteSpeed, here’s how it looks in settings…
19. Image Optimization Settings
The image optimization settings are potentially very useful for many people. However, I didn’t use them in the end, as I previously touched upon.
WebP is very appealing if it wasn’t for Apple to be such spoilers, as they always are when it comes to things that Google creates first.
While I respect Apple on so many levels, there’s also so many others where they are totally fake and couldn’t care less about their customers.
You’ve no doubt heard how they are trying to prevent people repairing their own devices. This is the type of thing that infuriates people. It’s pure greed. Yet ironically you’d think repairing devices would be good for their environmental work.
No doubt their cringy mission statement says how much they care. That’s like all politicians claiming to be religious. Lies and more lies.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
20. Crawler Settings
Cache crawling comes in several flavors. However, it usually needs to be configured at server level, as is the case with LiteSpeed Web Server.
It’s also not so popular with web hosting companies as it puts huge loading on the servers, especially in a shared hosting environment.
You’ll be fine on VPS or dedicated server because you say what goes in that situation.
This type of crawling is to cache your pages on the origin server and shouldn’t be confused with the type of crawling and indexing that Google does.
21. Report Settings
Report settings are for troubleshooting directly with your development team, if you’re posh enough to have one, or LiteSpeed themselves if you’re using their premium service.
There’s not much else to say on this, apart from fingers crossed you won’t even need to use it.
22. Import / Export Settings
Finally we’ve got the good old import/export settings tab. You can quickly and easily import settings from another site then tweak the names, etc. Alternatively you can export settings to another site or for safe keeping.
It’s a useful and essential feature that every decent plugin must include.
23. LiteSpeed Cache Summary
So the big question on everyone’s mind, I presume, is either one of the following:
- Should I ditch my own caching plugin for LiteSpeed Cache?
- Should I ditch LiteSpeed Cache and keep my own caching plugin?
What am I doing? That would be question number 3, but it’s not about me so I left it out. However, I’ll still give you my thoughts because it might help you make your mind up.
Before I started this review, I honestly thouht that I’d be sticking with W3 Total Cache because I know it so well, plus it’s good for other things like the security headers it includes.
The thing is, you can easily copy the security header information from your .htaccess file while W3 Total Cache is active, then add it to your LiteSpeed Cache .htaccess file. Then you can have the best of both worlds. Don’t miss out on any security, but still get the ease of use that LiteSpeed offers.
I’m going to do more testing before I jump ship, but on the back of this test, I can say yes I’m in. LiteSpeed Cache is a very good plugin for the following reasons.
- Easy to use – the full menu is easy to access and find things.
- Fully featured – is a genuine Swiss Army type plugin that kills several birds with one stone.
- Dashboard navigation is a breeze – that’s a huge step on from W3 Total Cache in itself.
So there we go, now it’s over to you.
Please let us know what you liked/disliked about this review. It’s the fifth one I’ve done for Page Speed Tweaks so my approach is constantly evolving.
Your feedback will help me make things better so please say how you feel.
Until next time. Happy caching, speedsters.
The more I learn about this plugin the more impressed I become. It’s not only a powerful plugin in its own right, but combined with it’s server prowess it really has no rivals.
Stay tuned for my FREE Google Cloud review of Openlitespeed. Some of the options that are disabled on shared hosting are all under your control. Not only that, but it’s absolutely free. You only need a few cents for your IP address.
New users also get $300 free trial, but you don’t even need it. They obviously want you to blitz through that then end up on a paid plan, but we’re not falling for that one.
Free speed feels better than paid for speed. 🙂
I’m just finding my way around Google Cloud before dropping the knowledge. It is intimidating at first, but soon becomes familiar, same as all software does eventually.
Stay tuned, guys.