*** NOTE: ALL INFORMATION IS ACCURATE AT DATE OF PUBLISHING ***
I’ve been a WordPress lover and user for some time, more than a decade in fact. I had my own web design business and remember installing WordPress on servers which was a royal pain. These days it’s quick and easy to get a website up and running using WordPress, and it’s a great starting point for a blog. Being open-source software, this means developers can create additional code we can install to provide additional functionality on our site. These are known as plugins. Using too many isn’t advisable, and using plugins that don’t have a great reputation may cause issues with your website. I thought it might be of interest to see what plugins I use and why.
I try to keep the number low, and add PHP to my WordPress theme for functionality where I can. For all of the suggestions I have, there could very well be plugins that do the same or similar things that will work just as well.
This one is typically added to a brand new WordPress install. For a long time, I didn’t use it and most times deleted it from my websites. I think that’s because I didn’t get much traffic and therefore no spam comments. If you have your comments open (and I believe you should to try and encourage engagement and discussion), at some point, you will start getting spam. Once that happens, it can become overwhelming and unmanageable, deleting comments all the time. This is where Akisment Anti-Spam comes in. You will need to sign up for an API key to use it, but you can get a free one for a personal blog. Once you have it set up, you can sit back and relax.
For a long time, I used MailChimp for sending out subscription emails. It was great, but my needs changed and I wanted something that I could use not only for email marketing but for course students and help with my business once I went out on my own. I switched to ConvertKit. This gives me a ton of flexibility, and also a way to integrate subscription forms into WordPress. If you use ConvertKit, and have WordPress, check out their plugin. You then have the ability to display specific forms on specific posts or pages, or even display the same form on all posts of a certain WordPress category. Although the plugin is free, you have to have either the free or paid service with ConvertKit to use it.
If you don’t write much content and don’t blog on a regular basis this isn’t really one for you. It gives you an overview of all of your blogs, showing when they went live, and those you have scheduled for future dates. The Editorial Calendar has an easy to use drag and drop interface which means I can move things around if I need to rearrange or reschedule the content.
This is a simple but very helpful plugin. Using this, you can exclude pages or posts from the search on your site. You might have a thank you page, or a page used as a parent page that displays child pages. Not all pages need or should be found using the search functionality. Using the Search Exclude plugin, you can set specific content to be excluded from your sites search results.
Simple 301 Redirects
If you’ve had your site for a while, it’s highly probably you’ve changed the URL structure for one or more posts/pages, be it intentional or not. Sometimes you just aren’t thinking and you change the link for some content. If that content has been shared online or indexed by search engines, visitors to the old link will get the dreaded 404 error not found. Using something like Simple 301 Redirects means you can set up a quick redirect from the old URL to the new one. This also means the page rank for the old one will be passed through to the new one. It’s simple to use too!
Page load times can make or break a website, and often it’s large images that can cause issues. Using the Smush plugin means you can compress your images in a way that doesn’t lower the quality but helps optimise the page speed for you. If you already have a ton of images, you can compress them all after installing the plugin, then images will be compressed moving forward as you import them and add them to your content.
This plugin is essentially a firewall and security scanner for your WordPress website. When I first added it to my own site I was amazed by how many attempts there were from malicious traffic, with people trying to log in and gain unauthorised access. You are notified immediately when attacks occur, and it checks your theme, plugins and other core files for malware and code injections. If you don’t have anything like this installed already, check out Wordfence Security.
WP to Buffer Pro
This is a paid plugin, and the only paid one I use. The lowest cost is $39 a year, which for something that provides me with a lot of value, I am happy to pay. It adds a new section to the bottom of all pages, posts and custom post types which gives me the ability to schedule status messages to share on social media. As the name might suggest, it works in conjunction with Buffer, a free social media tool. I use it to share on my Twitter account and LinkedIn profile, but it also works for Facebook Pages & Groups, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn Pages. This means I can create my blog and schedule it, then once it is published, it sends to my Buffer account whatever social content I have crafted. That means I can schedule it and forget it, rather than waiting for the post to go live, then remembering to go and schedule everything. In addition to the WP to Buffer Pro plugin, you will need a Buffer account. For Buffer, you can just use a free account.
The last one is all about SEO. If you are not using SOMETHING for SEO, you are missing out big time. This plugin should be the last thing you use right before you hit schedule or publish on your blog posts. It helps you with your Search Engine Optimisation and adds a section at the bottom of your posts while editing giving you the ability to control your title and meta description, set keywords and provide insight in to the readability of your content, and give an overall SEO analysis. It’s easy to use but really powerful. So, check out the Yoast SEO plugin and start optimising your content!
What about you?
What plugins do you use and why? Let me know in the comments below. Always interested in new features and functionality I can add to my site.
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