WordPress provides one of the simplest and most efficient ways to maintain a blog and website. Because of this, it's no surprise that about 46% of all websites are built on Wordpress (wordpress.org or wordpress.com). With its many themes and settings, you can give your site a professional and customized look without needing advanced technical skills. To get the most out of WordPress, however, you need certain plugins. These are tools you can easily install to your site to enhance performance, aesthetics, and even make it easier to build on the backend. Many of these plugins are free or have a freemium model. Let's look at 10 the most useful plugins to make your website better, safer, faster, and more user-friendly!
Akismet isn't hard to find as it's pre-installed with WordPress. However, in order to activate it, you need to get an API key. This isn't difficult and instructions and a link are provided on the plugin page. If you've used Akismet on other sites and stored your API key, you can use the same one for every site. The plugin blocks spam comments, which are a real nuisance on blogs. Once you've activated it, you don't have to do anything else. You'll forget that it's even there. However, if you don't use it, you'll probably find that you get lots of spam comments that you have to delete manually.
If your website takes too long to load, you'll be losing visitors. Google also uses site speed as a ranking factor. W3 Total Cache is a free plugin that speeds up your site by compressing files as they load to your visitors' browsers. Without caching, visitors have to wait for lots of different files to be fetched and loaded. Caching these files speeds everything up. You should test your site's speed regularly. Once you install W3 Total Cache, you'll probably find a significant difference. By tweaking some of the plugin's settings you can probably make it even faster. Speed always wins when it comes to websites! You don't want to be the tortoise in this situation.
3. Yoast SEO
WordPress is fairly SEO-friendly all by itself. You can fill in topics and keywords as you make posts, for example. A good plugin, however, can optimize your posts and pages even more. Yoast SEO is a powerful free plugin that makes it simple to make sure all of your content is fully optimized. One of the best features is that you get a snippet preview so you can see how your site appears in the search results. You also get a quick summary of your post's SEO and ways to improve it. Whether you're an expert or a complete beginner with SEO, Yoast can help you see better results.
One of the few potential downsides of using WordPress is that WP sites are often targeted by hackers. That's why security is such an essential consideration. WordFence is one of the best all-around security plugins to help you protect your site. Features include a firewall, malware scan, and notifications if the plugin notices anything suspicious. There are also options such as blocking traffic for certain IP addresses or even whole countries. The basic version is free, but there are also some premium options if you want to upgrade your security. Premium features include enabling two-factor authentication and checking to see if your IP has been blacklisted for any reason.
A sitemap is a tool that makes it easier for search engines to find and index your site. While Google XML Sitemaps is obviously made primarily for Google, it also helps you get indexed on Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.com. It not only notifies the search engines about your site but notifies them every time you create a new post. This free plugin is an essential SEO tool that will help you get your content ranked faster.
Social media integration is important for widening your influence online. There are many plugins that provide social media buttons and other social sharing capabilities, but Social Warfare does this and also has some premium features that help you strengthen your social media presence even more. The free version provides attractive social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You can choose where to place the buttons (above or below your content or manually). You can also display social proof, letting visitors know how many times a page has been shared.
Social Warfare Pro, which costs $29/year per site (you can also purchase licenses for multiple sites), provides additional sharing options to Reddit, Tumblr, Buffer, and other social sites. Additional benefits include link shortening, analytics, Twitter cards, and Pinterest-friendly images. Whether you use the free version or Pro, Social Warfare is a powerful tool for amping up your social media marketing.
7. WP Forms
You want your website to be an effective tool for building relationships with your customers. To do this, you need to provide a convenient way for visitors to stay in touch with you. There are many options for setting up forms but WP Forms is one of the simplest. There are two versions, WPForms Lite, which is free, and WPForms Pro, which has plans starting at $39.50/year. The free version, which you can install on as many WP sites as you want, is adequate for setting up basic forms. The Pro version adds multi-forms, additional fields for your forms, integration with other services such as Constant Contact, spam protection, and advanced support.
To find out what is and isn't working well on your website, you need strong analytics. Google Analytics is the most popular tool that lets you do real-time tracking across all platforms and devices. The free Lite version of the plugin lets you track all Google Analytics metrics right from your WP dashboard, which is more convenient than having to log into Google separately. You can track traffic, ads, e-commerce, links, and more. Monster Insights also makes a Pro version if you want to add more analytics capabilities.
Unless you back up your WordPress files and databases regularly, you risk losing all your work in the case of a system crash or hacking incident. BackupBuddy is one of the most popular WP plugins for easily backing everything up. You can choose to save your files to Dropbox, Amazon S3, or other cloud services. You can schedule backups daily, weekly, or monthly. The cost of BackupBuddy depends on the number of sites you want to back up. It's $80 for one site, $127 for 10 sites or $197 for unlimited sites. The cost is a one-time fee so there are no recurring costs.
So it's no secret that we're pro-HubSpot in almost any situation so we feel like we saved the best for last here. Through this plugin by HubSpot, you can add a variety of conversion tools and features to your Wordpress site for free including drag and drop form builder, pop-up forms (not your dad's annoying pop-ups though), live chat, CRM, and it even offers integrations to tools like MailChimp, Shopify, Magento, and more. All of these tools help you to be able to convert visitors and manage them more efficiently. Live chat, specifically, is becoming almost mandatory on every website. We are seeing more and more people going directly to the live chat to find what they're looking for rather than searching around your website.
These plugins will help you get more out of your WordPress website, whether you're an expert or a beginner. They also give you an idea of the capabilities and functionality that you can add to your WP site with plugins. You may want to add others as well. At the same time, consider your needs before you download plugins as you don't want to add them just for the sake of it. Add ones that will truly enhance your website and business. Like we mentioned, Wordpress sites are a target for hackers. Because of this, you don't want to add unnecessary plugins or themes. Only keep the ones that you actively use. Don't give hackers any new avenues to exploit!
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