WordPress is one of the most popular website and blogging platforms. This article explains why I prefer WordPress. One of the reasons is the availability of thousands of free and premium WordPress plugins.
What is a Plugin?
Plugins are add-ons to the WordPress (WP) operating system that add functionalities to a website or blog. Think of them as tools to do a lot of time-saving tasks as well as adding security and usability.
In this post, I’m going to cover the basic ones that every site should have. Obviously, depending on the purpose of your website, the plugins that you need will vary. Most of these plugins are free with added features for an additional cost.
Security and Peace of Mind WordPress Plugins
Hackers are having a blast with more people getting online and using technology. The problem is that whenever the good guys build a bigger wall of protection, the hackers just build a bigger cannon. You constantly have to keep up with the latest security measures. Fortunately, there are plugins available to help you do that.
Back in 2014, my website got hacked twice. Lesson learned: protect your site. Hackers will hack because they can or to get money through ransomware. Wordfence installs a firewall of protection and monitors your site. You’ll get an email if there is an issue. It will also regularly scan for suspicious malware.
Have you ever gotten spam emails from the contact form on your website? Annoying, right? Well, WPBruiser will block them. I also had to add a captcha on my site to prevent spammer robots. The free version blocks some, but not all. They offer upgrade “extensions” to work with whatever contact form plugin you use.
WP-SpamShield and Akismet
WP comes with Akismet installed, but not activated. This plugin blocks spam comments. A problem with comments is that people can add their website address so it helps drive traffic to their sites. However, they are usually all spammers and you don’t want them. They’ll disguise their comments with “Nice post!” or some complement like that. Akismet is free for non-profits only. Otherwise, you have to pay to use it. If you’re a for-profit business, delete it. The plugin you want is WP-SpamShield. This one will block unwanted spam comments.
Tip: You should allow comments, even encourage them by asking a question at the end of your blog posts. But make sure in Settings: Discussion that you select to monitor all comments before they go live on your site. This is something you have to manually do once a week or so.
Nothing is more frustrating than losing all of your content. Updraft Plus is an automated back-up system for your website. You can set it to back it up once a day or once a week. Store the back-up off-site in Dropbox so it’s on an external server rather your own website’s server. If your website goes down or gets wiped out by a hacker, you’ll still have the backup on another server.
SEO and Social Media Sharing
I put these WordPress plugins categories together because they work together. Social media helps with SEO, but it could be very time consuming. That’s where these plugins come in.
This is by far the best SEO (search engine optimization) plugin. After the initial setup, which connects the account with Google Analytics, it adds, at the bottom of every page and post, a section with guidelines to help you optimize each page and post so that search engines will pick it up. It grades each page or post. You want each one to be green. However, don’t break your brain if it’s yellow and it doesn’t make sense to do what it suggests. Remember, you’re writing for the human reader with the search engine in mine.
This is for both analytics and SEO. This invaluable tool tells you how many visitors came to your site and from where. This is important so that you know which of your marketing efforts are working or not working. The Search Console tells you the keyword phrases that led people to your site as well as how many times you came up in Google search results. It also gives you how fast your website loads on both desktop and mobile.
WordPress started as a free blogging platform — WordPress.com. As more people used it, they wanted to self-host it and customize it more so WordPress.org was born. JetPack was a feature from the free platform that does many cool things. My main reason for using it is its “Publicize” feature. It adds share buttons to the bottom of each blog post and/or page. This makes it easy for people to share your content with their friends.
It also shares new blog posts to a Facebook business page, Twitter, a personal LinkedIn (not a business page) and Tumblr. This saves a ton of time! You first need to connect it to your social media profile pages. Once set up, just hit publish and it goes! Beware, however, that LinkedIn disconnects itself every 3 months and you’ll see a warning that you have to reconnect it. (This applies, also, to anything else you have connected to LinkedIn.)
It has a bunch of other features that you can check out and turn on if you need them.
Sharing your blog posts on social media helps drive traffic to your website as well as with SEO. JetPack shares only new posts. Revive Old Posts is a WordPress plugin that will share old posts randomly. You choose the frequency. Don’t turn this on until you have at least 20-30 posts published. You don’t want it sharing the same thing over and over again. Watch, also, for time-sensitive posts. You don’t want a New Year’s post going out in July! Connect your networks, set it, then forget it! You can connect Twitter and a Facebook biz page for free and upgrade to add LinkedIn.
If you have links to external websites in your blogs, you’re going to want this one. Sometimes it happens that a link you put in your blog citing a source no longer works. That hurts your SEO. Google follows links. You need both internal and external links to boost SEO. But what if that webpage you linked to, because of the cool infographic you shared, is no longer? That’s where this WordPress plugin comes in. It checks your site for broken links, then sends you and email when it finds them. At that point, you need to check it and remove the link or see if there’s another one that works. It will also check internal links of pages and posts you may have trashed.
WordPress Plugin Updates
Just like any other operating system, there are always updates. They could be bug fixes or security updates. It’s important that you keep your website updated. As soon as there is a WP update, all the plugins have to be updated. They’ll tell you when there’s an update.
If you fail to update them, they may not work properly and they can also leave an opening for hackers. There’s also the possibility that one plugin might have a problem with another plugin and you really don’t have a clue which one. Yes, technology doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to.
If you feel uncomfortable dealing with all this technology yourself, then I recommend OnSiteWP. They’ll maintain your site for you for a reasonable monthly fee. Call it peace-of-mind.