WordPress is arguably the most popular content management system available. With a vast array of available plugins and customization, it provides businesses and individuals with a wide variety of options to create a website.
Unfortunately, the large number of WordPress plugins can also affect businesses and individuals creating a site. Some plugins looks and perform the same function, that it’s hard to choose which one to use. Both have similar ratings, good reviews and such, and filtering through all that can be overwhelming.
With that being said, we understand the pain and here are 5 essential WordPress plugins that every website should use.
1. SEO Yoast (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/)
The importance of search engine optimization for businesses is undeniable and among the different WordPress plugins available, we use SEO Yoast to get the job done. It provides a wealth of information that we find invaluable as we write blog posts and page content.
Prior to using SEO Yoast, we used an older blogging platform called Moveable Type. With that program, we had to copy and paste all the content that we were typing up onto a third-party SEO keyword tool. It proved to be quite cumbersome, especially when producing multiple posts and having to check them repeatedly. After we moved to WordPress, we knew that we wanted Yoast and it has been invaluable to us.
With Yoast, there’s no need to constantly move content over to third-party optimization tools. Simply type your post or content, choose your keyword and save the draft. Once you save or refresh the page, the plugin automatically checks to see how well a piece of content has been optimized.
SEO Yoast also analyzes your site’s content against the keyword you are trying to rank on. For example, if you want to rank higher for “WordPress Plugins,” Yoast will provide you with a variety of information that you can use to optimize your blog. From word count and readability, to keyword usage and density, Yoast provides everything you need to optimize your content.
2. Smush.It (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/)
I’ll admit it. I don’t have any graphic design skill. Any images that I use on my posts are created using a free tool called Canva (www.canva.com). The images that we produce by using Canva usually come in large sizes and can potentially slow down page load speeds. With Smush.It, file size is almost never a problem anymore. For example, the header image’s original file size is 1MB; after running it through Smush.It, the size has been reduced to 12.6 KB and I don’t see any loss of quality.
The Smush.It plugin optimizes any images you upload to WordPress and removes any junk information. This leaves you with an image that has a much smaller file size and minimal to no loss in quality. For image heavy websites, especially photography sites, Smush.It will be an integral part to make life easier.
If your WordPress website has a lot of images, you might notice an increase in the amount of time it takes your pages to load. The more images you use, the longer it takes for a WordPress site to communicate and grab the necessary files off of your server.
3. Akismet (https://wordpress.org/plugins/akismet/)
Akismet is the reigning king of anti-spam WordPress plugins. Whenever a comment is submitted on a blog post, it checks the comment against its database to see if it looks like spam or not.
Once a comment is identified as spam, it automatically blocks and prevents any similar comments from showing up on your dashboard ever again. For comments that it isn’t quite sure whether to mark as spam or not, Akismet holds it under the comments section of the admin dashboard of your WordPress site. From here, WordPress users have the option to manually approve or reject the comment.
We tested out how well Akismet works in the past by using ourselves as guinea pigs. We left Akismet off for a few days as we had to update a few things on our blog and the amount of spam we received was staggering. On the marketing inbox alone, we were receiving 60 spam messages every half hour. Luckily, we had Akismet back up after four days which made life significantly better again.
4. CloudFlare (https://wordpress.org/plugins/cloudflare/)
CloudFlare is a multi-purpose tool that any website should have – you can even say it’s the Swiss Army Knife of WordPress plugins.
So how does it work? CloudFlare filters through all the traffic you receive to block threats and abusive web crawlers from your site. This means that server resources and bandwidth aren’t wasted on useless traffic.
The second aspect of CloudFlare is that it speeds up your website, significantly. By using CloudFlare, any content you upload is sent over different servers around the world. This means that someone visiting your site from across the world can access your site really fast. By uploading content onto multiple servers, it also provides redundancy levels and safety nets for your WordPress site. In the event that one server is affected or requires maintenance, your content is still loaded quickly and efficiently.
5. W3 Total Cache (https://wordpress.org/plugins/w3-total-cache/)
Next to the quality of your web hosting provider, page caching is essentially what determines how fast a website loads. Page caching creates a copy or a template of your site onto the visitors’ browsers so that they don’t have to load your entire website each time they visit. With page caching enabled, pages load faster and sites perform better, while using up less resources than necessary.
W3 Total Cache makes blogs fast – really, really fast. I can’t say enough good things about this plugin because of how it works and how well it optimizes WordPress websites. W3 Total Cache is the fastest and most complete WordPress optimization plugin and caches every aspect of your site to reduce and/or eliminate any unnecessary download times that may slowdown your site.
The best part about W3 Total Cache? It integrates with content delivery networks to give WordPress websites using both W3 and CloudFlare plugins a big boost to speed.
Take note that after you install it, it may seem a bit overwhelming on how to configure it and if you need help activating it, www.wpbeginner.com has a good step-by-step tutorial on it.
BONUS: WP Super Cache (https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/)
You’ve made it to the end of the post and here’s a bonus! For new WordPress users, WP Super Cache is a great alternative to W3 Total Cache. While it doesn’t provide as many options as W3 Total Cache, it’s very simple and easy to use. Once the WordPress plugin is installed, simply activate caching and it’s good to go.