Essential Plugins to Optimize Your WordPress Website

Plugins are tools that extend as well as enhance the functionality of  WordPress.  They enable a user to tailor their website or blog to meet specific needs and do almost anything imaginable.   There are over 24,000 in the WordPress database to choose from.  But, there are some that I consider the “nuts and bolts plugins”  of WordPress that are essential.  If you want to remain spam free, have first rate SEO, improved site performance and added security,  then the following plugins are key.

plugins every wordpress blog needs

1.  Spam Blocker

Less face it web spam is bothersome.    When I first started my WordPress blog, I did not immediately avail myself to a spam filter plugin and paid the price.  You don’t have to deal with bogus comments or at least as many when you make the effort to safeguard your site.  Do install one so you don’t have to waste your valuable time sorting through and deleting spammy comments.

 Akismet

Akismet is a service that saves time by automatically detecting  comment and trackback spam.  You can basically set it and forget it.   This plugin comes with your WordPress installation by default.  It does have to be activated via the WordPress plugins panel and set up with an API key.  This is what I currently use on my site and client sites.  It works well.

Better WordPress reCAPTCHA (support Akismet)

Consider using this plugin for added protection.  The Better WordPress reCAPTHA utilizes the anti-spam library, reCAPTCHA to help your blog remain spam free.   It also integrates with Akismet.  Therefore, the reCAPTCHA  (a distorted text image) will only show when if the user has posted something considered spam by Akismet. .  If you are unfamiliar with CAPTCHA, it  is a special program that can determine if a user is a human or a computer. The term CAPTCHA stands for (Completely Automated Public Turing Test To Tell Computers and Humans Apart). 

recaptcha

2.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO matters BIG time!  When your website and its pages rank higher and more frequently in the search results, more people have the opportunity find you.  The major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing will provide results based on relevancy or how weighty they are.    There are many WordPress SEO plugins that optimize your website/blog for search engines.   My website is powered by the StudioPress  Outreach Theme and the Genesis Framework.  It just so happens that included is a built in SEO feature that can be accessed from the dashboard as well as  posts and pages.   If you have a premium WordPress theme installed an SEO feature  may built into the theme.   Check it out and make sure you set it up.   Otherwise  use a plugin.  There are  many free plugins available.  Here are the top two SEO plugins that are highly recommended by the WordPress community:

WordPress SEO by Yoast

seo_by_yoast

This SEO plugin is first rate and receives rave reviews with an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars and over 4,807,023 downloads.  It is packed with bonus features such as multi-site compatibility,  XML Sitemaps, RSS optimization, social integration and the ability to edit your .htaccess and robots.txt file and more.

All In One SEO Pack

all_in_one_seo

All in One SEO Pack is an old friend to many WordPress users and has recently been updated with many new features such as webmaster verification options for Google, Bing, and Pinterest   It is easy to configure.  If you are a beginner, you don’t even have to look at the options; it works out-of-the-box. Just install. For advanced users, you can fine-tune everything.  The developers state that it is ONLY plugin to provide SEO Integration for WP e-Commerce sites.

 3. Google  XML Sitemap

A sitemap helps to ensure that a search engine knows about all the pages that are on your site, including URLs that may not be discovered by the normal crawling process.   Installing a plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help the major search engines to better index your blog.

Better WordPress  XML Google Site Map

better_site_map

This is the plugin I on my personal KimSource Website.  You can see the actual sitemap here.  According to the developer it is the first WordPress XML Sitemap plugin that comes with comprehensive support for Sitemapindex, Multi-site and Google News sitemap.  It also gives you the ability to build a custom sitemap should you choose to do so.  I personally give this one a thumbs up.

Google XML Sitemap Generator

site_map_1

I have used this sitemap site for clients.  It is also used by Social Media greats like Mari Smith, Kim Garst, Andra Vahl  and Amy Porterfield to name a few. Here is a sitemap view that is utilizing this plugin.  This current version is not currently compatible with Multi-site,  however you can download the Beta Version on the plugin installation page. 

It is a matter of preference.  Both plugins work very well and accomplish the  same task.

4.  Cache Plugin for Site Speed and Page Performance

W3 Total Cache

total_cache

This plugin improves page speed which a one factor for improving SEO.  According to the Google Webmaster Central blog,  site speed is taken into account in search rankings. Google uses a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.  The W3 Total Cache guarantees at least a 10x improvement in overall site performance.  It is also the suggested plugin of Web Hosts like Host Gator and Go Daddy and is trusted by companies such AT&T and Mashable. If you would better understand how caching works you can learn more at  WordPress.org.

 Other Caching Plugins that are highly rated:

  1. Hyper Cache – 4.3 Stars
  2. Wp Super Cache  - 4.1 Stars

5.  WordPress Site Back-up

Site backups are important.   What would happen if your WP database would ever get erased, hacked or corrupted?   In just one instance you could lose everything.  Losing your site would disheartening to say the least. A backup plugin will give you peace of mind and protection.

UPDraftPlus

back-up

This is the plugin that I personally use.  It simplifies backups and restoration.   UpdraftPlus supports file backups for the cloud on Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and email.  The plug in has received 4.7 out of a 5 star rating on WordPress.org  and  ranks 38th out of 24,000 plugins for quality on rankwp.com.  Backups can be scheduled or done manually.  Restorations are done with just one click.  This plug-in is free version but user can opt to purchase a pro version with add on features and premium support.

Other Backup plugins that might be of interest:

  1. VaultPress
  2. Backup Buddy
  3. My Repono

6.  Google Analytics

Keep track of the number of people who visit your website, where they came from, how long they stayed and more by installing a Google Analytics plugin.   You will be required to set up an account with Google Analytics and obtain a Google Analytic Tracking Code for the Plugin to authenticate.   Google Analytics for WordPress  is free plugin that is easy to set-up.  It uses the asynchronous Google Analytics tracking code, which is the fastest and most reliable tracking code Google Analytics offers.  The plugin supports the usage of custom variables to track meta data on pages like Author, single category and multiple categories, post type (especially useful if you use custom post types), logged in users,  publication year & tags.  It also tracks Google Absence clicks and track downloads.

analytics

Other Free Plugins to check out for Google Analytics integrations:

  1. Wp Google Analytics 4.5 Stars
  2. Google Analyticator 3.7 Stars

Visit the WordPress Repository for “official”  plugins that can extend your WordPress to do almost anything you can imagine.  That is why I love WordPress!!

I hope that you found this blog post helpful.  Please add your comments.  Do you currently use any of these plugins or have some that you would like to suggest?

 

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