WordPress is an amazing content management system right out of the box, but to really stand out from the crowd and improve conversion you’ll need a few plugins. There are so many plugins available for WordPress that deciding which to use and which to avoid can be an overwhelming process. This list will cover plugins that are essential, plugins that are not so essential, and how to manage them.
What You Need
There are many more that can greatly enhance and optimize your WordPress site, but to keep this list manageable I’m discussing just 10 plugins today:
Akismet is a spam-blocker from Automattic—the makers of WordPress. It checks your comments against its own database to determine if the comment is spam. Prices range from free for unlimited personal use, $5 per month for one commercial site, and $50 per month for unlimited commercial sites.
Jetpack is a free package from Automattic that contains over 30 free—and a few paid—tools that expand WordPress.
You won’t need all of the tools. The most useful are Carousel, Contact Form, Extra Sidebar Widgets, Jetpack Comments, WordPress.com Stats, WP.me Shortlinks, Sharing, Subscriptions, Widget Visibility, Shortcode Embeds, Mobile Theme, Related Posts, and Omnisearch. You most likely won’t have a specific need for the others. Unless you need them, turn them off.
WordPress SEO from Yoast is one of the most popular plugins for SEO. It optimizes your page’s content, posts titles, and meta descriptions; cleans up your permalinks; handles XML maps and RSS announcements; and more. It is the most complete SEO plugin available.
Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps generates an XML sitemap that search engines can use for indexing. It also alerts the search engines of updates. The purpose of your website is to be seen and this plugin helps you do that.
Pretty Link shortens your links. This is a great tool for linking to much longer affiliate links. You can track each link and get a full report. The links can even be used in forums and in comments on blogs. Pretty Link is available as a free lite edition or as an upgraded premium edition staring a $37 that will replace all of your keywords with links and much more.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache improves site performance and user experience through caching. It caches your browser, page, object, database, minify, and content delivery network support. This improves the user experience, speeds up page-loading, increases server performance, and reduces down-time.
Better WordPress reCAPTCHA
Better WordPress reCAPTCHA utilizes Googles reCAPTCHA library to reduce spam. It integrates with Akismet. You can easily add captcha to your comment form, user registration form, site registration form, and login form, ensuring that it’s a real person using these forms instead of a spam robot.
Backup Buddy keeps offsite, scheduled backups of your WordPress site. You can back up just your database or your complete site. Pricing starts at $80 per year for two websites, $100 per year for 10, $150 per year for unlimited, and $297 for unlimited sites with lifetime updates and one year of ticketed support. This is also a good tool if you need to move your complete site to another domain or host. This is a good feature for those that build websites on temporary domains or local servers.
Gravity Forms is the easiest way to create custom forms for WordPress. You can build powerful forms based on conditions that you determine. Prices range from $39 for a single site, $99 for three sites, and $199 for unlimited sites.
Social Media Widget
Social Media Widget is a free sidebar widget that allows visitors to share your site on their favorite social media networks. It is highly customizable and has several icon sets to choose from.
What You Don’t Need
You don’t need plugins installed that you never use. Delete those. They’re taking up space and might be slowing down your website. You have a limited amount of time before a visitor gets tired of waiting on your site to load. It’s in your best interest to give them what they want and give it to them fast.
You don’t need two different plugins that do the same thing. For example, you don’t need two plugins for SEO. If you’re using Jetpack’s Sharing tool then you won’t need Social Media Widget. Think minimal. Think streamlined.
You don’t need plugins that don’t add value to your site. Hello Dolly? Delete it.
Managing your WordPress plugins can get away from you if you’re not careful. Keeping your plugins updated will help ensure compatibility and security and help improve user experience. When WordPress plugins are not managed properly, your site can become hacker fodder. Don’t be hacker fodder!
Set yourself a schedule to perform WordPress housekeeping. Here are a few quick tips:
- Only install what you need
- Only install reputable plugins
- Deactivate plugins that you only use occasionally
- Every 3 to 6 months check for new plugins that will perform better than old plugins
A site’s success depends on an attentive and dedicated administrator— and the above plugins can give you the tools you need to do your job.
Don’t have the time deal with it? Get someone to do it for you. Yes, it’s that important.
One option is using an auto-updating service like WP Updates. WP Updates will keep your premium themes and plugins up-to-date. For $5 per month you get service for 10 products, full analytics, and access to support. $9 per month will get you 50 products, and $19 per month covers unlimited products. You can try it for free, too.
Managing your WordPress plugins is good for both you and your visitors. A buggy and bloated site will fail to convert. Usability is more important than perks and bling. Using the right plugins and keeping them updated is an essential element for the success of you WordPress site.
Did I leave out your favorite plugin? Do you have plugin management tip? I’d like to hear about it in the comments below.
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