If you’re using WordPress.org, then you’re likely familiar with plugins and love them as much as I do. Whatever you want to do – a plugin can do it for you. For those of you not familiar, plugins are packages that you install into your website that give you capabilities that WordPress doesn’t originally have. Plugins can do everything from adding a newsletter signup to snowflakes falling down your page at christmas time. Though you can likely search and find a WordPress plugin for exactly what you are looking for, there are a few that you should have regardless.. Here are 10 plugins that you should download if you don’t have them already.
This plugin protects your WordPress site from spam comments and malicious login attempts. The good thing about this plugin is that you’ll only ever have to think about it if you don’t have it. You don’t have to do anything – Akismet just sits in the background protecting your website. Hopefully this way you’ll never have to think about what would happen if someone with poor intentions was able to access your backend, or if you got thousands of spam comments showing up on your posts.
Featured Image in RSS w/ Size and Position
WordPress automatically creates an RSS feed for your site. This is what websites like Bloglovin and services like MailChimp use to draw your latest posts from. However, the automatic feed that WordPress creates is just titles and excerpts of each post. The Featured Image plugin allows you to add your featured images to your RSS feed, and even lets you customize the size of your images. If you’re downloading this when you’ve already got content, you’ll need to regenerate your thumbnails to make sure that old images show up in the new size as well.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
If you don’t have Google Analytics connected to your website, you need to do it right now. This free service gives you all the information you need to track the traffic that your website gets. You can see everything from where your readers live, to which pages they’re reading, to how long they stay on your site. This information is vital to making the most of your traffic and optimizing your readership. The Google Analytics plugin lets you view the most important information in your WordPress Dashboard rather than having to log in to your Google account.
Jetpack by WordPress.com
If you’ve made the switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org you know that Dotorg doesn’t have all the capabilities that WordPress.com has. People made the switch, realized this, and then were disappointed. So Wordress created Jetpack, a way to transport the best features of Dotcom to Dotorg. This includes things like built in stats, a larger list of widgets, gallery carousels, and much more.
jQuery Pin It Button For Images
If you have a blog with imagery and you’re not using Pinterest, then there’s a disconnect somewhere. Pinterest is a great way to share your images and get your content out where people can say it. It’s pretty standard now to expect that when you hover over an image on someone’s site, a ‘Pin It’ button will pop up to let you pin the image. If this doesn’t happen, readers are often confused or annoyed and will forget about pinning it at all. JQuery Pin it Button provides this button on hover capability, and even makes it possible for you to upload your own, custom pin it button if you want to.
Having a website that is mobile friendly is vital these days. A huge portion of your readers are likely using a mobile device to look at your site, and Google has just implemented guidelines that make mobile friendly sites rank higher in search results. Though many WordPress themes come with responsiveness built in, if your’s doesn’t, this Responsive Menu plugin is a good option, or maybe even a good add on to your mobile friendly site. It shrinks your menu down to the three lines that we are all accustomed to seeing on mobile sites, and slides a menu out upon click. You can customize the colour and fonts of the menu, and even make it display different links then in the full version of your site.
W3 Total Cache
This is another one of those plugins that works in the background. User Experience is such an important part of your website, you want to make sure your clients and readers have a positive interaction with your site. If they have to twiddle their thumbs waiting for the page to load or images don’t show up right away, they aren’t going to be happy. W3 Total Cache improves the speed of your pages and content loading so people always have a positive experience with your site and keep coming back.
This is just another Google Analytics plugin that I recently discovered and I currently have both of them running on my site. Google Analyticator gives you a little more insight into your traffic and numbers at first glance, and I like to have as much as I can available to see in my WordPress dashboard without having to log in to Google Analytics. Keeping one set for today’s traffic and one for the past month is a great way to see everything easily.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
SEO is such a vital part of any website – without readers and traffic, there really isn’t any point to creating web content. So driving people to your site and improving how often it shows up in search results is the best thing you can do. WordPress SEO by Yoast is, by far, the best SEO plugin I know of. In the window where you write your posts, it gives you a box to enter SEO details like Focus Keyword, SEO Title and Meta Description. Then it gives you a rating on your SEO for that post and tells you how to improve it.
WP Complete Backup
I can only hope that you’ve never been a situation where you need to revert to a backup, but if you have, you know that having a backup is vital. I myself had my computer crash last year and I lost everything that I had done since my last backup (which was far too long ago). Now I backup on a regular basis to make sure that I have everything I need. But, backing up your computer is one thing – backing up your website is another. Everything is stored on the server, and unfortunately problems can happen, so you want to have your own backed up version of your web content. You could do this manually by saving files to your desktop, or you just download WP Complete Backup, create an account, and back up your entire site to their server. If you ever have a server issue you’ll thank god that you downloaded this plugin and clicked backup.
There are plugins tailored to every individual need that you and your site might have, but having the basics set up is important as well. Do everything you can to secure and optimize your site.