What WordPress plugins do you need?

WordPress Plugins make building your site easier!

When you have a WordPress site, you can extend the functionality with WordPress plugins. These are scripts and programs that allow you to do all sorts of amazing things, both visible and invisible to the user. If there’s something you are struggling with, there’s probably some WordPress plugins to help.

What kinds of WordPress Plugins do you need?

WordPress Plugins fall into four categories: sharing, security, performance, and tracking. There are multiple options for each category, but we’ll focus on the most popular and my personal recommendations.

1. WordPress Plugins for Sharing

The two biggest and most popular WordPress plugins that help your content get out there are Jetpack for WordPress and Yeost SEO. Both of these have free versions that provide multiple functioning.

Jetpack for WordPress

This plugin connects your WordPress.org site to the widespread WordPress.com network. It also has built in automatic sharing tools for the major social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. It has the ability to optimize your site, to display images, to check your spelling and grammar, and even to track your pageviews and user visits.

Jetpack can be encroaching and bulky though. So make sure you double check all the settings, and only turn on those things that you really find useful. To make sure that you’re only using what you need, do this:

In Jetpack, click on settings. Scroll down all the way to the bottom, where in small print you’ll see <debug>. Click on that, and you’ll be taken to the Jetpack Debugging Centre. At the bottom of this page, in small print, you’ll see <Access the full list of Jetpack modules available on your site.> When you click on that, you’ll see a long list of all the Jetpack modules that are available¬†and active on your site. Hover your mouse over each one to see the option to deactivate, activate, or configure.

Yeost SEO

Yeost is another powerful plugin that works both for you as the writer and helps with publicizing your site. Primarily, Yeost helps you monitor and improve the SEO of your site.

First, it gives you a way to check your writing, by giving it a readability score. It will give you tips on how to improve your writing, and rank your score as “Needs Improvement”, “OK, and “Good”.

Second, Yeost lets you pick a focus keyword, and ranks your SEO for that keyword. (The premium version lets you have more than one keyword.) It also gives tips here for how to improve your SEO score, with similar ranking as for Readability.  Yeost lets you create custom meta data for your posts too. This means you can write out the descriptions that will be seen both on search engines, and when your post is shared to social media platforms.

If you want even more customization of what gets shared, Yeost lets you create messages specifically for Facebook and Twitter, for each post. You can even determine what image from your post gets shared on each platform.

A social icon and sharing plugin

Every blog needs to provide a way for its readers to share its posts. Popular plugins for this function include Social Warfare, Ultimate Social Share, and Shareaholic. My recommendation is Shareaholic, for a few reasons. You get sharing icons that float along with your scrolling, yet they are still unobtrusive. You also get sharing icons at the end of each post or page. On top of that, you can have a gallery of recommended posts, that encourages your readers to read more of your posts. And, Shareaholic gives you a monetization option, by allowing them to place ads on your site in several places. You can have ads in among your “related content” gallery, or you can have banner or video ads on your posts.

An email marketing platform plugin

Email marketing is one of the best ways to monetize your site. So in order to use email marketing, you have to have a way to capture the emails. That means you need to connect your email marketing provider to your website.

No matter what email marketing provider you use, there’s a plugin to attach it to your site. I recommend Sumo, The free version of Sumo allows you to integrate easily with your email marketing provider, and create themed popups and banners. It also lets you view clicks and subscribers right in your site. And you can create newsletters in your site as well, making it an all-in-one functionality.

2. WordPress plugins for Security

Your site is valuable. You need to protect it.

A spam plugin

One of the most popular spam catching plugins is Akismet Antispam. This plugin catches the majority of the spam comments on your site, keeping it from being cluttered up by bots and scammers. It’s connected to your Jetpack plugin, so set up is easy.

A security plugin

This plugin should scan your website for viruses and malicious code that may try to get into your backend. It also should monitor your login point, so that hackers can’t get into your site. I recommend WordFence, but there are others, such as Sitelock.

A backup plugin

You’ve put in a lot of work on your site. A backup plugin helps protect all that work. If you ever made a mistake on your site and “broke” it, you can restore it using a backup. Or if your host’s servers or your site itself were hacked into, you can restore the damaged content by using a backup.

The best backup plugins back up your content and your site automatically and unobtrusively. I recommend UpdraftPlus, but you can use any backup plugin you like. Just make sure you connect it to an offsite storage, such as Dropbox or Google Drive.

3. WordPress plugins for performance.

How fast your site loads for your readers is important. Research shows that nearly half of website users expect a site to load in just a few seconds and will abandon it if the site is slow! So you want to make sure that your site is loading as quickly as you can get it.

Luckily, there are WordPress plugins to help.

Image compression plugins

Images are the biggest slow site culprits! If you have a lot of images, especially on your home page, your site will load slower. You can improve that by compressing the images as you’re uploading them to your site. I recommend WP Smush, but there are other options. Whatever you choose, make sure it compresses your images as you upload them. And double check the maximum size of the image that can be compressed!

Optimization plugins

There are bits and pieces of code that can slow your site down. When you put your URL into a site speed tester (like Pingdom), you may see things like “parallelization” or “combine Javascript”. An optimization plugin will help you do that, even if you don’t know how to code.

I recommend AutoOptimize for this plugin, but WP Optimize is also a good choice.

Caching plugins

Caching is when the website is stored on individual browsers, rather than being retrieved from the server every time a user visits it. When a site is partially or fully cached, site loading speed improvements are huge! You want a caching plugin that will perform all its functions — caching and deleting old caches — automatically. I recommend WP Caching, and there are tons of other options.

4. WordPress plugins for Tracking

One of the key website tools is tracking your stats. You want to know how many and which pages were viewed, where and when your traffic is coming from, and what your audience is doing on your site. That means you need to track a lot of things!

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the gold standard for website tracking programs. That’s because Google is the world’s largest search engine, and the ranking start of all website plugins.

I recommend using MonsterInsights to connect and track the data you need from Google.

Cookies

The new privacy laws recently introduced require all websites to notify their audience members if they use cookies. A cookie is a small file placed on individual computers, in order to cache websites, to track virtual movement, and sometimes to help you with your other blogging-related tasks.

It will soon be required in other nations to notify your users about cookies. So be proactive, and use a cookie notification plugin. I like Cookie Notice. This plugin shows up and not only notifies the user about cookies, asking them to accept, but allows a user to say no — and to revoke previous acceptances. It also links to your privacy policy, right in the bar!

What’s on your WordPress Plugin list?

These are my top WordPress plugins recommendations. What’s on your list?

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