6 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Website
WordPress is by now enormously popular, and powers 26% of the web, according to managewp.com. The utter ubiquity of the web publishing platform is hardly surprising given its flexible, easy-to-navigate interface and plentiful features, but what really makes it stand out is its rich tapestry of plugins. Managewp.comreported the existence of 44,225 plugins as of April this year, all of which designed to improve aspects of websites as varied as SEO, content, performance marketing, speed optimization, and plenty more. The problem is, who honestly has time to sift through 44,225 plugins to find the ones their site really needs? It is difficult and time consuming to separate the wheat from the chaff, so we’ve taken the liberty of giving you a head start. Here are our recommended essential plugins for your WordPress site.
1. Yoast SEO
Starting with one of the most established and popular, Yoast SEO provides the ideal foundation for your website to climb the search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Although WordPress is already pretty well optimized, Yoast will take you to the next level. Its functionality is among the best you’ll find in a WordPress plugin, with automatically generated XML sitemaps and meta information just the tip of the iceberg. It also helps you create more effective meta and link elements, simplifies social media integration with features such as Facebook OpenGraph, and will produce a page analysis report for you. On top of that, Yoast forces you to choose a focus keyword when writing articles, and provides a snippet preview, to improve your content. All of this, for free.
2. W3 Total Cache
There are several ways to make your WordPress site faster, as explained in detail on 1&1’s blog, including optimizing image sizes, minimizing CSS, and so on. For the sake of brevity, however, caching with W3 Total Cache alone will do wonders to reduce the loading time of your website. Ordinarily, each time a user loads a page on your site WordPress must retrieve the content of that page from their database, which of course takes time. W3 Total Cache dramatically reduces this loading time by generating a static version, which is loaded far quicker, and features a host of advanced caching options.
3. iThemes Security
Similarly to its stock SEO capability, WordPress already has very decent security measures in-built. Nevertheless, because of the vast number of sites built on the platform, WordPress is an especially attractive target for hackers looking to maximize the potential number of sites they can breach. For this reason, a security plugin for extra protection is an absolute must. There are plenty available, including more highly specified and technical options appropriate for advanced users. However, the iThemes Security plugin services less experienced users as well as those needing more advanced features, and comes in free and pro versions. The free version is no slouch though, and features more or less everything you need: brute force protection, 404 detection, protection from back door vulnerability, and malware scanning, and whole host more besides. If you want to step up to the pro version, you’ll also receive some valuable extra features such as two-factor authentication and Google reCAPTCHA.
Backing up the content and database of your website is an essential aspect of its routinemaintenance. If you neglect backups and your server fails, all your hard work could be lost. Two of the most popular options of backup plugins are VaultPress and Backup Buddy, both of which are highly effective but also come with a price tag. While it is of course positive to support good plugin development, not everyone can stretch to paying for all their plugins. Although it’s true that some free plugins often only backup to your server, meaning your data will still be at risk. Luckily, BackWPup is a free plugin that doesn’t suffer from the previous statement, and allows you to back up to the cloud (Dropbox, Amazon, S3, Rackspace, etc.), and even supports automatic backups. It’s rare to find such great features for free, so it comes highly recommended for all your backup needs.
Virtually everyone hates receiving spam, perhaps even spammers themselves! In order to offer the smoothest, most hassle-free experience for your visitors, it’s time to tackle the spammers. Akismet is the top WordPress plugin to do just that for good reason – it works by cross-referencing comments to your website on its extensive database to determine whether it’s spam or not. Spam comment filtering is performed automatically, but each comment also has a status history so you can monitor the process and make adjustments manually. The basic version is free and all you need to get started is an Akismet.com API key.
JetPack is an exceptionally comprehensive plugin – one you’d be wise to download. It covers so many bases, such as security, image optimization, and centralized management. However, its insights and analytics capabilitiesare the focus here. It provides users with all the vital statistics they need, from viewer counts and demographics to top searches, and even a related posts function that assists you to boost reader engagement.Armed with this powerful tool, you’ll be much better placed to make informed decisions on how to develop all aspects of your website.
Of course, there are a plethora of plugins to choose from on WordPress, so you can spend hours exploring the possibilities to improve your site. But with just these three plugins, the foundations of your website will be highly visible, fast, secure, and strong; the perfect base from which to add supplementary plugins.