One of the greatest things about WordPress which makes the platform so accessible is that it supports third party plugins. Once you have the popular blogging platform installed on a server, you can customize your setup almost completely just by activating various extensions, otherwise called plugins. These plugins can change the way the site looks, and they can even introduce new functionality.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already know what WordPress is and, more importantly, what plugins are. They are quite easy to activate, too. If you don’t want to bother with FTP protocols you can install them directly from the WordPress admin dashboard.
There are hundreds – no, thousands – of third party plugins available right alongside a handful of official plugins from WordPress devs. In fact, there are so many it can be tough deciding which plugins one should install. So, which of them are considered the cream of the crop? There is a star-based rating system, but it doesn’t exactly help weed out the plugins you may or may not need.
To help, I want to tell you about my favorite WordPress plugins. Undoubtedly, these should be added to every new WordPress install.
W3 Total Cache
Website loading performance is important. If you have a slower site, your visitors may become frustrated, resulting in them leaving much sooner than normal. When you want your visitors to stick around, that’s never good.
W3 Total Cache essentially improves performance and boosts loading speeds through the use of several new functions to reduce download times. It speeds up loading times through several different advanced methods, all of which you can read about on the official plugin page. It’s always a good idea to install this plugin before you start uploading lots of images to your site.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
At some point you are going to employ the use of SEO optimization techniques, and maybe you already do. Instead of optimizing each post the difficult way, install this plugin to simplify everything. You can customize the meta title, description and keywords from within the post creation screen. The plugin also helps ensure your content and various elements are up to snuff before you publish.
Since even the smallest mistake can seriously harm your SEO ranking, resulting in lower traffic and exposure ratings, this plugin should definitely be considered essential.
404 to Start
404 error pages can be a real bother, especially when it comes to search engine optimization. This plugin fixes any and all 404 errors that may occur by redirecting traffic to another user-specified URL. For instance, instead of sending visitors to a 404 error page, you can send them to the website homepage or another one if you specify something different. This gives the impression that you haven’t made any glaring mistakes to visitors and search engines alike – which is clearly a boon.
You can also setup email alerts so that the plugin tells you when and where a 404 error would have occurred. It really helps turn a potential issue into a win-win scenario.
One of the best ways to bring in more traffic is to encourage your visitors to share your content via social media. The Digg Digg plugin adds a floating share bar to pages you choose. It allows your visitors to share your blog and site content via several different networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest and more. Next to each sharing button there is also a count that shows visitors how many times your content has been shared. Better yet, there are quite a few configurable options that allow you to customize how the bar operates.
If there’s only one plugin on this list you choose, make sure it is Jetpack. Hailing directly from the official WordPress devs, this plugin offers a comprehensive set of tools and features for every blog or site. What does it come with, exactly? Bundled within is a unique commenting system, traffic stats, email subscriptions, data forms, social networking integration and much more.
What I find absolutely necessary is the social publishing support which allows you to automatically post content updates across various social networks and connected accounts. This saves you from having to post the content manually every time you publish something new. You can also customize the related status message before it is posted via social.
One of the latest updates added cross-site support, meaning you can manage your Jetpack settings for multiple portals via any connected site. In the past, you could only manage each site individually through the local dashboard.
The List Goes On
We could write an endless list of great WordPress plugins. Just to name a few runner-ups you should check out Subscribe2, Akismet, Contact Form 7, WooCommerce and Google Analytics+. Don’t be afraid to look for alternate plugins related to functionality and support you may need for your site. Plugins are easy enough to install, activate and uninstall too if necessary.
Happy plugging WordPress users – and by that, I mean have fun hunting for and installing those plugins!
Do you have a favorite plugin not covered by this list? Tell us what it is in the comments below!