Wordpress is without doubt the most popular content management system available today. It’s become far more than a blogging platform with WooCommerce (an e-commerce plugin) now dominating small to medium sized e-commerce sites. We ourselves at Pixeld develop all kinds of custom web applications on top of WordPress, taking advantage of it’s easy to use admin interface.
A big part of the success of WordPress is the community and plugins repository that gives you access to a world of custom functionality. The downside to this, is that perhaps there is too much choice and not every plugin is created equal. Some care needs to be taken to choose trustworthy, reliably coded plugins.
With that in mind, the following are some plugins that we consider absolutely essential to running an effective website and install on every site.
Security is imperative to any site. It would surprise you just how frequently your site is being checked for an unlocked door. The attacks are usually automated, but if you slip up, or let your software get out of date you will evenetually get caught out. iThemes security implements some best practice steps you can take to lock things down. If you are unclear on some of the settings just look for the settings they mark as recommended. My number one tip is to move your wordpress admin URL from /wp-admin. That’s where any hacker would start. Move your admin address to something unique and possibly obscure.
Gravity Forms (premium)
Most websites lead to some kind of enquiry. Gravity Forms makes it extremely easy to create forms with it’s click and drag interface. There’s a bunch of field types and you can even take payments when linked to a supported payment gateway. You can also setup automatic confirmation messages to your clients, a great way to let them know their enquiry has been received and some action is being taken (even though it may not have just yet). It’s also very extendable and can be incorporated into custom website applications, cutting down a lot of development cost. In the form settings, look for the ‘spam honeypot’ setting. We get next to no spam with this setting on.
WP Super Cache
Performance is so important. Important because your customers want a fast, snappy experience when browsing your site, but also because Google considers your page load speed a major ranking factor. When a customer requests a page from WordPress a bunch of things happen on your server. The template file is found, the database is queried for the page content, and a lot (quite a lot) of WordPress system magic. Super Cache basically takes a snapshot of each page and says to WordPress, “I’ve got this one”, feeding it out to the customer without doing all that thinking every time. Super Cache keeps the copy for a specified period of time, before finally asking WordPress again for a copy of the page. The default settings on this one are usually pretty good, just turn cacheing on.
One of the most well known and lauded plugins is Yoast SEO. They’ve dominated the WordPress/SEO game for many years. The plugin makes it very easy to setup all the titles, tags and descriptions you need on your pages to improve your search engine rankings. It also does a great job of managing how your site will appear on social media. It’s important to get your page title structure right, and there’s a great previewer of how each page will appear in Google search results pages.
Google Analytics by Yoast
Everyone should track how their site is performing traffic wise with Google Analytics. The Yoast plugin makes it a breeze to setup and includes some simple graphs of the key stats. A great feature is that you can track outbound links, that is links that take your users away from your site.
For a small fee you can get the Woocommerce add on that implements conversion tracking for your e-commerce store. With this you can easily identify the source of your sales which might be a light bulb moment for your marketing strategy.
There are bunch more plugins that we love and use on a regular basis, but they probably fall more into the developer category. The plugins mentioned above are popular amongst developers but they also make it very easy for any site owner to take their site to the next level.