Stock WordPress doesn’t have much in the way of customization, but it does have a robust plugin engine that will make it do anything you want. You can turn your site in to a membership site, forums, a social network, or just add this functionality to your blog.
Besides adding functionality and customization, plugins also protect your site from spam, optimize it for the search engines, and so much more than I can cover here. As always, I suggest that if you have a need for a certain functionality, you search for something like “best wordpress plugin for _____________”. I Googled everything I know about WordPress and taught it to myself. If you’re a course type of person, they are numerous.
Without further ado, here are my recommended essential plugins. Many of these you will find repeated across the web as the must-have options. Here’s a how-to on how to find, install, and delete plugins from your WordPress blog – http://prowebwriter.com/using-plug-ins/
Let’s do this!
Jetpack – Developed by WordPress.org, Jetpack is an all-in-one plugin that accomplished many things including, but not limited to: contact form, social sharing, publicizing content, site stats, monitor for downtime, image carousels, additional widgets, like button, favicon, and shortlinks. This plugin accomplishes a lot of things it would take numerous others to get done. You’ll need to create a WordPress.com account and connect it to your self-hosted site via the prompts. I’m surprised WordPress doesn’t ship with this plugin.
Yoast SEO – Back in the day, All-In-One SEO Pack was the go-to SEO plugin for WordPress. Yoast has since replaced it with it’s simplicity of use. By using the features therein, you can pretty much fully optimize your blog without having to hire SEO services which can be quite costly. Yoast features are easy to use and compliant with the Google gods, so you don’t have to worry about crazy algorithms named after animals to knock your feet out from under you. Eventually, we’ll delve more into SEO, but to start, Yoast is all you need.
Akismet/WP-Spamshield – These are both anti-spam plugins. They prevent spam comments as well as other opportunities spammers use to aggravate you. All new installs come with Akismet by default. Since it’s inception, Askismet has become a paid plugin. It does its job well, but not everyone can afford to pay for every plugin especially if there’s a free alternative that works just as well. WP Spamshield will accomplish the same objective and allow you to donate what you can afford to the developer. I do encourage you to rate and review the plugins that help you out at the very least.
Security and Maintenance
Wordfence Security – Quite simply, the best security plugin out there. I use the free version and find it more than adequate. I receive notifications via email from the plugin when unauthorized people try to log in, when my plugins need updating, and when anyone logs into the site. I’m also able to see live traffic on my site, anyone who attempted to log in, and I can block their IP addresses as an added security measure. This is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the data this plugin returns via a simple tabbed interface.
Updraft Plus – Again, I use the free version of this plugin and find it adequate both for myself and clients. Updraft Plus backs up your WordPress site to your Dropbox or Google Drive among other cloud services. It is also effective in restoring your site from backup. Don’t ask me how I know this! 😛 With the paid version, you can use this plugin to easily move your blog from one host to another should you ever need to. You can backup every aspect of your blog including your database. You can run manual backups or schedule them to run automatically. This plugin makes it simple to run a backup any time.
Broken Link Checker – This plugin serves one function: to notify me when links break on my blog because the Google gods hate broken links! Broken Link Checker shoots me an email if a link breaks in my posts, pages, comments, blogroll, or anywhere else. I’m able to find the broken link directly from the email and fix it by unlinking, editing, or replacing it. If the page you are linking to no longer exists, Broken Link Checker will find it in Archive.org and link to it from there. I’m surprised this hasn’t been integrated into Yoast SEO or a redirect plugin, but it remains a small, standalone plugin that I find is a must-have.
I Need Them
Page Builder by SiteOrigin – This page builder plugin allows you to build pages in a simple row/column interface where you place widgets in each cell to create your page elements. This works great for sites that have static pages or a static front page. Other developers make a number of plugins that work with the SiteOrigin page builder and widgets packages like the one below. Just type “siteorigin” into the Plugin Insaller search to see what they have available. They are must-haves when you’re trying to make things be in certain areas of your pages without having to manipulate CSS or HTML code.
SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle – This is a package of widgets to compliment your Page Builder by SiteOrigin. Now that you can build out your pages using different widgets, you’ll want to have a variety to choose from for sure! Like what? Well, how about Google Maps, buttons, images, post carousel, slideshows, headline, video, and social links. Your pages will look professional and amazing. As I said above, search for “siteorigin” and get more! Less is more, but in this case, less is awesome!
BlackStudio TinyMCE Widget – This is another standalone plugin that serves one functions, but it’s a very important one to me. This widget installs the Visual Editor widget which puts the regular WordPress post/page editor in a widget so you can update widgets with images, etc. just as you would in a post or page. You can easily center content, bold it, add buttons, or whatever you need to do without HTML or other codes like you would normally need with the plain text widget. Just as with the regular WordPress editor, you can switch between Visual and Text whenever you need to. This one is handy!
TablePress – If you have data that needs to go into tables, this is THE plugin to get it done. If you’ve ever worked with tables before, you know it is tedious. TablePress allows you to stay organized with a simple interface and great-looking features. The stock tables look awesome, but you can customize them with CSS if you’re into that kind of complicated stuff. Tables are added to your posts and pages using shortcodes. You can edit your tables and have them update to your posts and pages dynamically. I can’t do tables without it!
You Might Want Them
Hello Bar – Add a bright bar to the top of your site that says “HELLO!” and calls your users to take action! This is powerful if you are trying to build a list or you have an important offer. This free tool will add subscribers to your list consistently week after week. You can also do some A/B split testing to find out what works the best. This tool puts you and your blog at that pro level. Hello Bar is one of those plugins that confirms why you should check out what the Plugin Installer has to offer from time to time. You might want this one, but I’m definitely going to try it out! NOTE: You’ll be prompted to download the plugin once you’ve set up your bar, so I’ve linked to their website instead.
This post took a ridiculous amount of time to write; however, plugins are a super integral part of WordPress and why it’s the best. This isn’t the first plugin post I’ve done, and I’m sure it won’t be the last! If it helped you out I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Got a great plugin that doesn’t appear here? Please leave a comment!