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WordPress plugins are tools that help you extend the functionality of your WordPress site. Want your site to do something more than it already does? There’s
an app a plugin for that! As of the time of writing this article, there are currently almost 37,000 WordPress plugins to choose from and the number keeps on growing. In my experience using WordPress, I have researched many plugins and come up with a list of the plugins that I find are the most helpful or must-haves for anyone with a WordPress site.
Below is the list of the top 10 WordPress plugins to improve your blog:
Plugin Description: Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security and performance plugin that makes your site up to 50 times faster and more secure.
I’m starting out the list with one of the things that I believe is way overlooked and should be addressed first before anything and that is security.
Wordfence has it all when it comes to security. There are hackers and bots out there that will try to get into your site by brute-forcing your password. You can use Wordfence to block every IP that guesses 10 wrong passwords (or whatever number you want). That way, you won’t ever have to worry about that machine trying to hack into your site again. Wordfence will scan your site daily for things such as upgrades needed for your themes or WordPress plugins, weak passwords, and much more.
There are many more options to choose from. For example, get an email whenever someone with “admin” rights signs into your site. An absolute must-have plugin if you want your site to be safe from hackers and make sure everything stays up-to-date.
Alternatives to Wordfence: iThemes Security
Plugin Description: Improve your WordPress SEO: Write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is what determines how high up in search results your page shows up. It is extremely important that you focus on SEO when writing your posts if you ever want to get visitors to your pages. WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the best WordPress plugins out there if you want people to find your blog posts. It will help you focus on the most important aspects of SEO so that your page will show up higher in search results.
You fill in your focus keyword (for example this post’s keyword is “Top 10 WordPress Plugins”), and then the plugin will analyze your post and let you know what parts are good and what parts need work. There are so many factors out there that help with SEO, so install this plugin and let it show you what parts need help.
Plugin Description: Track your WordPress site easily with the latest tracking codes and lots added data for search result pages and error pages.
Google Analytics is your friend. It gives you all the statistical data you could want about your site and then some. Find out how many views certain pages are getting, what countries your visitors are from, what browser they were using, what pages led to certain clicks, and much more. The Google Analytics by Yoast plugin is a plugin that will help you get Google Analytics right into your WordPress site.
I actually have never used this plugin on this site, but based on reviews and the fact that I use another plugin by Yoast, I’m sure it does great. I actually implemented Google Analytics tracking code without a plugin, because I didn’t want any unnecessary overhead caused by the plugin. If you know what you’re doing, you can follow my blog post that teaches you how to add Google Analytics tracking code to your WordPress site without a plugin. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, it will be much easier for you to just add the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to your site.
Alternatives to Google Analytics by Yoast: Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
Plugin Description: The simplest and fastest WP Cache system.
WP Fastest Cache is the best caching plugin I’ve used so far. If performance of your site is important (which it should be for everyone), then you should start using WP Fastest Cache. My initial install of WordPress came with WP Super Cache and I was getting poor performance on my pages. When I installed WP Fastest Cache, many of my desktop pages jumped up 15-20 points according to Google’s PageSpeed Insights which is a huge difference in page load speed. Also, the faster your pages load, the better your page will rank in Google’s search results.
This plugin is the simplest caching plugin to use, but if you know what you’re doing, there is a more robust caching plugin that gives you more control over certain things. This plugin is called W3 Total Cache and is mentioned in the “Alternative Plugins” line below.
Alternatives to WP Fastest Cache: W3 Total Cache
Plugin Description: Reduce file sizes for images in WordPress including NextGEN, GRAND FlAGallery and more using lossless/lossy methods and image format conversion.
EWWW Image Optimizer is another plugin that will help the performance of your site dramatically. The whole idea behind it is that it will take any images on your site (and any images that you upload in the future) and it will compress them down. It will do this through either lossless or lossy compression. Not that you need to know what that means, but basically lossless compression means that your image size will be shrunk down significantly and you will not lose any quality of your picture. So, now you have the same quality images on your site, except they’re much smaller in file size.
Every byte that your browser has to load when you go to a web page causes the web page to load slower. Images generally take up the most space on a web page by far, and so if you can shrink down the size of every image on your site, your pages will load much faster for your visitors, and they’ll still be presented with the same quality images you had in the first place.
After I used this plugin to compress every image that I have on my site so far, I saw many of my desktop pages jump up about 5-10 points according to Google’s PageSpeed Insights. I’m happy. My browser is happy. My visitors are happy. It’s a win-win!
Plugin Description:Mashshare social share buttons, a high-performance social sharing and social SEO ecosystem for Facebook, Twitter, Subscribe, and more networks.
See the “Share on Facebook” and “Share on Twitter” buttons above? That’s Mashshare. You’ll also see these “Share” buttons at the top and bottom of each one of my posts. It’s a fantastic social share button plugin that gives you the same type of share buttons on Mashable.com.
There are also a number of Mashshare add-ons that you can purchase if you want to extend the functionality the plugin.
Hey, while you’re at it, why don’t you try out the “Share” buttons and share this article with your friends? 🙂
Plugin Description: Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet Web service to see if they look like spam or not.
Akismet is one of those plugins that you activate and then just sit back and relax. If you enable comments on your blog posts, then having Akismet or something similar will save you from so many headaches. Every comment that gets submitted to your site goes through their Web service to see if it looks like a legitimate comment or if it’s spam. If it’s spam, it will automatically mark it as such and keep it in a “spam” bucket for you to look through if you wish. Otherwise, you can just empty the spam bucket entirely and never have to worry about spam getting through. Only real comments from real people will make it through to your blog posts.
In about 2 months time, I would say that Akismet catches somewhere between 2500-3000 spam comments on this blog. Thousands of spam comments that I don’t have to manually go through and weed out. Pretty awesome stuff.
Alternatives to Akismet: Really Simple CAPTCHA
Plugin Description: Permanently redirect all 404’s to the main blog URL. The primary purpose is to salvage Google PageRank (TM) from missing pages.
404 Redirection is an extremely simple WordPress plugin that has one purpose: Redirect all bad URLs to your home page. What do I mean by that? Well, if someone were to click on a broken link on this blog, or perhaps they typed in the wrong URL such as “https://crambler.com/madeuppage/”, they would normally be given that page that says “404 Page Not Found”. Instead, this plugin just redirects them to your home page. Pretty nifty, huh? That way, they can start out on the home page and won’t leave your site due to a “Page Not Found” error. This also helps boost your Google PageRank because broken links = bad in Google’s eyes.
Plugin Description: Backup and restoration made easy. Complete backups; manual or scheduled (backup to S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace, FTP, SFTP, email + others).
There’s not much to say about UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration except that it does what it needs to do which is back up your WordPress site for you. Also, you are able to restore a previous backup in case anything bad were to go wrong. Best of all, UpdraftPlus is FREE! I looked into a number of backup options for my WordPress site, and I decided I would try out this free one, and it’s been perfect for me so far.
I think the greatest part about UpdraftPlus is that you have a whole bunch of options of where you want the backups to go, including cloud storage. So, for me, I have a Dropbox account that has about 50 GB of space on it. I set it up so that every week UpdraftPlus kicks off automatically and backs up all of my website files. They go into separate folders right on my Dropbox and I never have to do a thing. Also, you can kick off a manual backup whenever you like as well. It feels good to have a backup each week and know that if something were to ever happen, I can just restore a previous backup that worked.
10. Contact Form 7
Plugin Description: Just another contact form plugin. Simple but flexible.
Contact Form 7 allows you to manage multiple contact forms on your site. You can customize the form and mail contents with simple markup which is nice. Also, it supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, and Akismet spam filtering. If you want your own contact forms and to be able to customize their content, then this is an essential WordPress plugin!
That completes my list of the top 10 WordPress plugins to improve your blog or site! I really wanted to focus on the most important aspects of a blog – security, SEO, caching (for site performance), social sharing, backups, spam filtering, etc. and I hope this list helps you get your site on the right track. Do you have a plugin that I didn’t mention that you consider essential for a WordPress site? Tell me!