Are these the best WordPress plugins?

Posted by Julie McNamee on 24 Apr, 2013
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Find out which are the favored WordPress plugins on Wordtracker, the leading keyword tool.

WordPress developers always have a list of WordPress plugins they wouldn't be without. Here's a selection that Julie McNamee keeps seeing in the developer forums (and many she's used herself). Have you used any of them? Do you agree? Have you any to add?

Secure your site

Avoid the heartache and hassle that will inevitably result from your website being hacked, by installing a security plugin. And if you haven't heard, bot attacks are happening in a big way at the time of writing.

One security plugin I've used on quite a few sites and isn't very resource-intensive is WordFence It's very simple to set up and looks after your site nicely, repairing infected files if you've been hacked and scanning plugins and content for malware.

Better WP Security was a much recommended plugin for this job, although if you see Mike's comment below and another from Steve Bolton on Google+ (thanks both) it has been causing a few problems recently - clashing with existing plugins. If it does work for you, go into Settings once it's installed, and you'll be asked if you'd like to backup the database in case of problems - of course you do. A backup will duly be emailed to you.

Then it will ask if you'd like to allow the plugin to change WordPress core files. In most cases this is an easier option than changing code in these files yourself, but if you have a unique server setup or just want to do it yourself, then don't allow the plugin to change anything in these files.

Now you'll be given a report on how secure your site is looking. Go through each option, clicking to fix (or not) as you choose.

SEO your site

Sitemap

Google XML sitemap
Image: blogs.visionwebinfo.com

Google XML Sitemaps is a plugin that makes it easy to create a sitemap and even notifies the search engines when content has been added to your site. Just upload the plugin and your sitemap will be generated automatically.

Read How to create a sitemap and let Google know where you're at to find out more about what sitemaps are and why they're useful.

Specialist SEO plugins

All in One SEO screenshot

All In One SEO is a tool that covers a lot of ground in getting your site optimized for the search engines, but the settings have to be configured to get full use out of it. Read this article on WP Beginner for some tips on how to set All-In-One SEO properly. Of course you'll need to find the keywords to use with it - that's where Wordtracker can help.

Yoast is another very highly regarded SEO plugin that covers an enormous range of SEO issues.

There's a lot you can do when it comes to SEO'ing your WordPress site that we'll not go into here because we've already written about it here: You can optimize your website. It's easy!

Stop bad robots hitting your site

Defensio anti-spam

Stop sign

Defensio is a free alternative to Akismet. (The latter charges $5 per month for small businesses with fewer than 5 employees, but is free for personal use). Defensio has basic spam defence capabilities and can even be used to protect your Facebook profile and pages.

Back up your site

Backing up your site is an absolute must - and you should do it on a regular basis. And you should especially back up before upgrading plugins or WordPress itself. But which tools are the best?

Backup Buddy

Backup Buddy backs up everything including your database (some of the more basic plugins don't do this) on to Amazon S3 storage. This means that your files aren't being stored locally and you'll be able to get to clean copies of them if you ever need to. A year's worth of unlimited backups is included for two sites for the sum of $75.

Backup WordPress plugin
Image: StateofSearch

A free alternative is BackUp which you can schedule to make copies of your files that you can store locally, or have them sent to Google Drive. As you can see from the image above, you can choose which part of your website to back up.

Add functions to your site

The Events Calendar

WordPress Events Calendar

The Events Calendar provides an events management framework for WordPress that includes events pages, a calendar or event list view and Google Maps showing where your event is being held. There's also a microformats field that means Google will know that these pages are events pages, giving results such as this:

Event microformats

Maps Marker

Maps Marker

Maps Marker allows you to create a map showing the location of your own b&b or your nearest restaurant when they're staying at your b&b. The plugin doesn't only restrict you to creating a map using Google Maps - you can choose between OpenStreetMap, Google Earth, Bing Maps or even customize your own.

Add buttons to your site

There are lots of different styles of buttons to share your fantastic content with. Here's a selection of the best.

Social share buttons

Shareaholic screenshot

If you've seen the share buttons that hide their faces until you click on them, you've probably seen these Shareaholic buttons. Shareaholic have a huge range of buttons to choose from and they're customizable.

Have Slick social button slide up and down your screen, follow your article around, float or simply stay put as a static bar, if that's what suits you. Lots of customizations are possible with the Slick social share buttons.

Or try this alternative:

If you're less concerned with fancy buttons than you are with making sure that your web pages don't load slowly, check out this tutorial by Toby Osbourn It's probably the JavaScript that's causing your Twitter and Facebook buttons a while to load, and doing away with it is Toby's solution. It takes some knowledge of coding to make it work.

Transform your site into a social network

BB Press

Forums are an excellent way to keep and engage followers, and the plugin created by WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, bbPress 2.0 is simple to install and lightweight, meaning it doesn't take up too much of your site's resources. Once set up it's easy to moderate. Find out how to set it up and more in this article in Smashing Magazine

Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner is an example of a very successful social networking site that makes use of another forum plugin, BuddyPress, to great effect. Actually, BuddyPress is a whole set of plugins that together add up to a very sophisticated networking site. Here's an article on wpmudev on how to make BuddyPress work.

Let customers buy from your site

Wootique theme

Woocommerce is a well-regarded ecommerce plugin that makes setting up tax and shipping rates, reports and payment gateways fairly simple. Beware that you may need to pay for extra add-ons depending on the options you need. One page checkout is an important feature it boasts, which is a must for checkout optimization

And there's a big choice of "WooThemes" available that are made to work with WooCommerce, including some free ones, like that pictured above. There are also a whole range of responsive, magazine style and business themes available, both free and paid.

Speed up your site

W3 Total Cache

If you have a large site with bucket loads of traffic, a highly customizable solution to improving the speed is W3 Total Cache. It's used by Mashable and was in fact created by that site's CTO. Beware that it's massive and you need technical skills to run it.

For smaller sites with not too much in the way of huge traffic surges, WP Super Cache is a good choice. It works by creating static HTML pages: all you need to do is activate it and you should see a difference in the time it takes your page to load. And of course there's a benefit in that for both your user and the search engines.

Here's an article explaining how caching plugins work: WordPress Caching Plugins

Other speed-enhancing plugins include:

WP Minify compresses script such as JavaScript, CSS, and HTML, thereby making your site run more smoothly and swiftly.

And last but not least, WP Widget Cache which works on compressing your widgets rather than your pages.

Point to the good stuff on your site

Hello Bar

Have you seen the orange bar across the top of Wordtracker pages saying "Do you have SEO errors on your site? Check now"? Well, the Hello Bar lets you do the same thing on your own site:

Hello Bar

Link it to your new e-book, or a specific piece of content that you think is worth promoting.

YARPP & Better Related Posts

YARPP coffee image

Promote posts that you think your visitor will like, based on the one they've visited. And, give the search engines an easy way to get to your old content at the same time. How? By using a recommended posts plugin like YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) Better Related Posts

And finally ... some tips on using WordPress plugins

  • Be selective in the ones you choose. The more plugins you use, the more chance there is in one of them going wrong or slowing things down.

  • Don't install more than one plugin at once without checking that nothing is broken on your site. Sometimes one plugin will clash with another and chaos ensues. If an error does occur, delete the latest plugin from your FTP directory and try an alternative or look in the forums for help.

So, which plugins are you using ...?

... and can you recommend any more "must-haves"?

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