A Guide to WordPress Transients: What You Need to Know

WordPress transients are designed to help optimize a site’s performance. 📈 However, understanding how they work and how to manage them can be a little tricky.

To help you out, we’ve put together a quick guide to WordPress transients. Once you have a good grasp of the basics, you can start using them on your own site or web development projects. Plus, learning how to manage WordPress transients can speed up your loading times.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at 🔎 WordPress transients and how they work. We’ll also discuss the benefits of using them on your site. Finally, we’ll show you a few effective ways to manage transients in WordPress. Let’s get started!

What are WordPress transients?

Before we dive into the ins and outs of WordPress transients, let’s have a quick look at two related concepts: caching and Application Performance Interfaces (APIs).

Caching in WordPress involves saving your website’s data in a temporary cache. This way, the site won’t have to re-run requests for the same data when a user visits it. Instead, it will use the cached data, reducing loading times.

Meanwhile, API is a system that enables two different platforms to communicate with each other. For example, if you purchase an email marketing tool, you’ll likely need to enter its API key into your WordPress site so that it can start recording subscriptions and form submissions:

Now, you may be wondering how WordPress transients fit into all of this. Well, some plugin developers use transients to store temporary data in the WordPress database.

This is very common with tools that use an API to pull data from another platform. Let’s say you have a social media plugin that displays the number of shares on your posts.

When a user visits a post, your server will need to connect to your social media pages to fetch those numbers. As you can probably tell, this process can slow down your site.

However, if the plugin uses a transient, this information will likely be stored in your WordPress database. This means the server won’t need to communicate with the social media platforms – it can simply retrieve the cached data and deliver your content faster.

We’ll take a closer look at the benefits of using WordPress transients in the next section. For now, let’s break down the main components of a transient.

How WordPress transients work

Transients work by storing data in the WordPress database using a key-value pair structure. This key is used to identify the transient, while the value specifies the data that’s being stored.

Additionally, some developers set an expiration time for the transient. After this date, the data will become invalid and would need to be fetched again.

Using the same example as above, a social media plugin might only store the share count details for two or three weeks. After this period, it will regenerate the data so that the number of shares is updated.

👉 Essentially, every transient is made up of three parts:

To set the transient, you’d need to use the set_transient() function. So, here’s what the final result would look like:

set_transient( 'special_query_results', $special_query_results, 12 * HOUR_IN_SECONDS );

⌛ That example is pulled from the official WordPress Transients documentation [1]. We recommend checking out that page for a full breakdown of transients (and how to use them).

The benefits of using WordPress transients

As mentioned earlier, WordPress transients can help improve site performance. Many developers use them to minimize the number of external API calls.

If the server has to make several API requests to retrieve data, it can lead to slower loading times for your users. For example, you might be using a social media feed or displaying follower and share counts on your site. If the server has to connect to these third-party platforms to fetch that information, it will take longer for the content to load.

If this data is stored in a temporary cache in the database, the information can be delivered more quickly. Therefore, when used effectively, transients can significantly reduce loading times and help you deliver a better user experience.

From a web development perspective, transients facilitate easy data management. For example, you can choose which content you want to cache, and how long you want to store it for.

This can be particularly useful if you have data that needs to be fetched via an API, but doesn’t change frequently. You can cache this content so that it loads quicker, and refresh it every few months.

If your site displays data that needs to be updated in real-time, using transients may not be the best course of action. In some cases, you might want to delete the transient so that the site displays the more recent data all the time. In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at managing your WordPress transients.

How to manage transients in WordPress

Current Version: 2.0.3

While you may need some programming knowledge to manage WordPress transients, there are some plugins you can use that will simplify the process. You may already be using an optimization tool that includes this feature.

For example, WP Rocket enables you to remove all transients from your site by checking a box. You also have the option to delete expired transients only.

If you’re looking for a free tool (or more control over your transients), you might want to check out the Transients Manager plugin. This enables you to view, edit, and delete all transients on your website.

Once you install and activate the plugin, head to Tools > Transients. Here, you’ll see a list of all the transients on your website:

To modify a transient, hover on it and select Edit. You can change the name, value, and expiration time, using the appropriate fields:

Once you’re ready, click on Save Changes.

When it comes to deleting transients, you have several options. For example, you can delete expired transients only, unexpired transients, or those without an expiration date:

In the top WordPress toolbar, you’ll see an option to suspend transients (and unsuspend them):

This plugin can come in handy when testing new transients. It enables you to try different transient values (data to be cached) and see how it affects your site’s performance.

WordPress transients enable you to store information that is typically fetched via an API in your database. This way, the server won’t need to connect to third-party platforms to retrieve that data. Transients can therefore boost loading times and improve site performance.

👉 For example, if you have a social media plugin, a transient can be used to store data like share and follower counts. Plus, you can use a tool like WP Rocket or Transients Manager to delete and modify transients.

Do you have any questions about WordPress transients? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Jeff Kerby

CEO | KERBCO Web Services