WordPress is a great platform for anyone looking to create their own website, it is massively supported by developers the world over and regardless of what you are using it for, there is usually someone who is doing the same and there will be themes or plugins available to make your life easier.
In this post, I’m going to talk about 6 WordPress plugins that we use extensively, and not only that we highly recommend this plugins to our clients to help them create fast, efficient experiences for their customers, as well as make their lives a little easier when it comes to maintaining their sites.
When building your WordPress site, one of the key things you need to ensure is that it loads fast and delivers a great experience for your customers, and this plugin goes a long way to help you make those little tweaks that can deliver big gains on the speed front.
While all of the tweaks it delivers could be done manually, the beauty of the plugin is that you simply install it, click a few options and then let it do its thing, no digging into code or getting your hands dirty (and potentially breaking your website along the way).
One of the authors, Brian Jackson, is currently the Chief Marketing Officer over at Kinsta (who are renowned for their fast WordPress Hosting) and he has vast experience in the CDN (Content Delivery Network) and WordPress hosting industries. He’s optimised thousands of websites and published a ton of articles relating to WordPress performance, so you know you’re in good hands.
Check out perfmatters.io for more information.
Nearly every website built for a business is going to offer users the ability to get in touch or use a form for another purpose and while there are a ton of form building plugins available, HappyForms is one of the best available at the moment.
It utilises an interface for building your forms that is familiar (the WordPress customizer), offers a wide range of form input types for capturing customer/user information and includes a number of features that other form builders require additional plugins for (redirect to thank you page, saving messages in WordPress and Captcha functionality to reduce spam.
Adding your forms to a page or post is easy via a shortcode and you can also place your form anywhere that accepts widgets. Best of all, there is a ton of easy to use customisation available so you can style the forms to match your business brand and website quickly each easily. And lastly, the code is pretty lightweight, so you can be confident your pages continue to load quickly.
Check our happyforms.me for more details.
Another plugin designed to help you ensure your WordPress site is running as quickly as possible. This one works by optimising images as you upload them, stripping out unnecessary information and compressing them to reduce their file size (a killer when you have multiple images on a page).
Not only does the original image that you upload get optimised, so do all of the additional images that WordPress creates during the uploading process (thumbnails, medium, large) meaning no matter which size you choose to use in your posts you’ll be getting one that has been optimised for the end user.
An additional benefit is that the plugin does not utilise your own server resources to perform the optimisation process (which can place a heavy load on shared hosting environments), it uses dedicated servers located in Germany to do the heavy lifting and then pass the optimised images back to your site (using https).
Check out Optimus.io for more details.
4. Pretty Links
WordPress is a popular platform for bloggers and affiliate marketers, both of whom tend to recommend other products and services, many in return for a commission from the end seller. This is a great way to make a little money on the side for recommending products or services that you use yourself and think would benefit others.
Alternatively, even if you aren’t sending people to other sites for the purpose of making a purchase it can be useful to know how many people are clicking on links within your articles, so you can determine what content is resonating with your readers and site visitors.
A great tool for doing that is called Pretty Links, a plugin that lets you create friendly URLs (similar to bit.ly and other services) that link to content on (or off) your site. So rather than sending someone to reallylongdomain.name/some-extra-content-here-for-the-page-title, you can just create a new link along the lines of yoursite.com/link-name, which is much tidier and easier to remember.
Check out PrettyLinks.com for more details.
5. The SEO Framework
While WordPress does pretty well on the SEO front, it pays to have a little more control over your site if you’re truly interested in ranking highly in the search engines. So the SEO Framework is a great plugin to help you manage your site and give you additional control over how your site appears in search results and when your content is shared to other sites.
One of the great things about the plugin is that it’s designed to be fast, meaning it won’t result in your site slowing down and (ironically) getting penalised by the search engines it’s designed to be helping you with. It comes pre-configured so that it will make a difference right out of the box, but also allows for a range of customisation if you want to dig into its settings in more detail.
It will automatically create post titles that follow Google guidelines, improves your social sharing by supporting social network standards, seamlessly integrates with your WordPress dashboard and has exceptional support. It doesn’t try to do everything and provide you with a bunch of features you don’t need, it just gets on with the job of ensuring your SEO is done well.
Find out more at SEOFramework.com
6. iThemes Security Pro
Security can be a concern when you use WordPress, because it’s such a popular platform for bloggers and business owners, it can be a target for hackers who will try and exploit old sites and poorly coded plugins/themes to try and make a mess of your site.
With that in mind, iThemes Security Pro (and the free version) is a fantastic tool for ensuring that your site stays safe and isn’t compromised (which can be a huge headache on shared hosting). It provides a range of protection against attack, including among others: Malware Scanning, Two-Factor Authentication (Pro), Force SSL, Strong Password Enforcement, One-Click Security Check & Secure Site, 404 Detection, Google reCAPTCHA integration (Pro).
Even if you don’t choose to upgrade to the Pro version this plugin does a great job in protecting your site from attack and shutting down some of the most common things a hacker will try and exploit. You can also make use of an integrated security dashboard that gives you an overview of your security logs, making it easier to understand how you are being protected.
Learn more about iThemes Security.
While there are a ton of recommended plugins available for WordPress, this article is a quick summary of 6 that we highly recommend and use extensively on our and client websites. Each of them provides you with a suite of functionality that will help your WordPress site run efficiently and safely in the future, allowing you to concentrate on other, more interesting aspects of your website.
The aim is to provide more detailed reviews of each of these in the future, so stay tuned for updates where we’ll dig a little more deeply into each of the plugins to show you how to get them set up and running on your WordPress site.
Of course, comments are always welcome, so if you have experience with any of these plugins or others that you would recommend we take a look at, feel free to share below.
Until next time.