WordPress Plugins: The Bare Essentials
WordPress is one of the world’s premier content management systems, powering over 18% of the web. The platform’s popularity stems in part from its deep repertoire of user-generated plugins, which boost functionality and efficiency for WordPress sites, often for free.
But with so many plugins to choose from, the noise can become overwhelming. In this post I will go over the six WordPress plugins that you absolutely need.
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
For those looking to squeeze every bit of potential traffic onto their site, search engine optimization is key. Yoast’s plugin helps WordPress users efficiently manage their SEO.
“Spending time on your WordPress SEO might seem like a waste of time,” writes Yoast founder Joost de Valk. But “it most definitely is not.”
The plugin allows you to choose which pages display in search results, automatically insert meta-tags, generate easy XML sitemaps – and more.
It even shows how a page will appear in search results, so that in addition to high rankings, people actually click on your links. SEO by Yoast is the most prominent all-in-one SEO package for WordPress sites.
2. W3 Total Cache
Getting users to your site is not enough – you need them to stay there. Slow loading times chase visitors away, but caching provides a great path to a speedier site.
The W3 Total Cache plugin compresses your site’s files so that they load faster, which can provide numerous benefits. Quicker load times mean that visitors spend more time with your content and less time waiting around – it even makes them less likely to leave. A faster site also tends to boost search rankings and enhance your credibility.
The plugin brings better server performance and sees use by sites like Yoast, Smashing Magazine, and even Mashable. Skeptical? You can always install the plugin and test the diference with Google PageSpeed tools.
Comment spam sucks. Akismet fights comment spam.
The plugin is easy to use: you can set it up in WordPress and then let it be – it will do all of the hard lifting for you to make sure that your blog’s comment section isn’t full of snake oil salesmen and virus-linking spam bots.
Whenever a visitor posts a new comment to your site, Akismet runs it by hundreds of different tests to determine whether or not it’s spam. It automatically approves or rejects each comment, which leaves you with more time to create content or work on developing your product. A spam-free comments section will create the right environment for users to engage with your site.
Another benefit that the plugin offers is reasonable pricing: individuals can use it for free, but businesses and people looking for more features can purchase upgrades starting at $5 per month.
4. Contact Form 7
A well-functioning site that gets clicks is great – the next step is to communicate with your users. Instead of just throwing your email up on the web for all to see, you can make things easier for visitors by embedding a contact form in your website. This free plugin that allows you to do just that.
The plugin is simple: it lets you set up multiple contact forms and customize their contents. It can also integrate with other awesome plugins – like Akismet’s spam filtering.
This plugin is a gift for those obsessed with their site’s numbers – but anyone managing a WordPress website should use it, because it contains a myriad of other fantastic features.
WordPress.com users have long had access to in-depth statistics pertaining to their site. Jetpack gives people who build sites on WordPress.org the ability to see that same information. A simple chart in your dashboard displays daily visit statistics, which go beyond the number of page views – you can see which links or search terms sent your visitors to the site. The stats go even more in depth, but they don’t put any additional load on your server.
Here is just a small sample of additional features that come along with Jetpack:
- Social network comments.
- The WP.me URL shortener.
- Ability to enable automatically post to social networking sites.
- A widget that shows your recent tweets.
- A lot more!
These and other features can help your site stand out, and the statistics can inform the decision that you make concerning your website.
6. Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin
It may well happen in the course of running a website that you’ll find the need to redirect users from one post or page to another. You might want to link an older post to a new, updated article on the same subject, for example.
The plugin enables you to add quick, easy redirects when editing posts or pages in WordPress.
From beginning search engine optimization that boosts traffic to the stats that inform future decisions, the WordPress community boasts a number of superb plugins that you can use on your site. While the choices can at first seem overwhelming, I tried to point out a few of my favorite, must-have plugins.
What WordPress plugins do you think are key to operating a stellar website? Let us know in the comments below!