If you’re planning on choosing WordPress to develop your website, you’ve made the right decision. WordPress is one of the most highly used website platforms around. There are literally hundreds of free themes available and many of them are responsive which means they are ready for mobile use. Responsive simply means that they automatically adjust the appearance of the website pages to fit the screen size of the device being used to access it. Along with the many available themes come thousands of plugins. Plugins basically add functionality to WordPress sites so your site can deliver the types of capabilities that you want your visitors and customers to have.
Here are 10 of our favorite plugins that we use frequently when designing websites for our customers. There are many more, but these are some of the most highly used.
Akismet automatically checks all comments against the Akismet Web service and filters out the ones that look like spam. Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were caught or cleared by Akismet and which were spammed or unspammed by a site moderator. URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links. Moderators can see the number of approved comments for each user. Akismet also has a discard feature that outright blocks the worst spam, saving you disk space and speeding up your site.
- All In One SEO
This plugin allows you to optimize your WordPress site for Search Engine Optimization. With upwards of 90% of today’s consumers using search engines to locate their goods and services, websites that are not rated highly enough will just not be seen. I recently heard a line that went “Where’s the best place to hide something? … On page two of Google – nobody ever looks there”. I have read statistics showing that as little as 20% of users ever go past page one. If you don’t want your competitors to get the new business, you need your site to rank high in the search engines. The other popular SEO Plugin is WordPress SEO by Yoast, which is also very good. They both provide excellent SEO configuration capabilities and it really comes down to a matter of choice as to which one to use.
There’s another saying that goes, “If you don’t want to lose it, back it up”. Sites get hacked every day. Our passwords are rarely as strong as we think. And sometimes it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we (or our clients) delete the wrong file or make a change that breaks something. Have you ever triggered a fatal error from a bad plugin? Crashes happen. But with BackupBuddy, recovering from a problem is quick and easy. This plugin also makes moving a site from one host to another quite easy.
- Enhanced Media Library
This plug-in is a powerful tool and can be very handy for those who need to manage a lot of media files. Here are a few highlights: Media Taxonomies (Categories for Media Files), you can create unlimited amount of media taxonomies (like categories and tags), be in total control of your custom taxonomy parameters via admin, edit and delete your custom media taxonomies, assign existed taxonomies to Media Library (for example, you can use post categories as a taxonomy for your media files), immediately set categories to any media file during upload, allow/disallow uploading for any file type, and much more. There is also a paid version that allows for bulk file actions.
- Google Analytics
This is not really a plugin, but a very important feed mechanism. Knowing your audience and what they want is key to the success of your website. The best way to know your audience is through your traffic statistics and this is exactly what Google Analytics provides for FREE. It shows who visits your website – their geographical location, which browser they used, their screen resolution, language, etc. You can see how long users stay on the site, which pages they visited the most, where they most often leave from, the average number of pages viewed, etc. It shows where they arrived on your website from, you can see how they found you. Whether it was through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.), a link from another website, or a direct type-in. If you’re not using Google Analytics to monitor your site utilization, it’s like driving with blinders on. As the old saying goes: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Google Analytics helps you improve your site and give your audience what they like.
- Google Maps
If you have a brick and mortar business and want to show your site visitors where you are and how to get to your location, this plugin is for you. It provides directions, interactive maps, and satellite/aerial imagery of many countries. You can embed a basic map, a Street View image, driving directions, or a local search into your website. When your viewers are signed in to Google, they can also see their home and work, saved places, and more in your map.
- Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which helps search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to better index your site. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post with new content.
- Gravity Forms
The most basic use of Gravity Forms is your general contact form, which just about every WordPress site has or needs. Whatever the reason that people need to get in touch or you need to collect information, Gravity Forms makes it easy. But it’s the versatility of what you can do in terms of contact and support forms that makes even this seemingly mundane use of forms exciting. You can create any variety of form, collect any array of data, allow for file uploads, and much more.
Monarch is a Social Sharing and Social Following plugin built to get you more share and more followers on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Monarch does this by using various different social sharing integration methods, such as social sharing sidebars, inline sharing buttons, popups and fly-in boxes. By encouraging your visitors to share, and making it easy for them to share, Monarch can greatly increase the social sharing activity on your website.
- TinyMCE Advanced
Although the WordPress post editor includes some useful tools for formatting your content when you are crafting a new post or page, it’s possible to add even more formatting and presentation options to the editor in order to help you create even more attractive and engaging content. TinyMCE Advanced makes the WordPress post and page editor even more powerful. Once this plugin is installed on your site, you can not only customize the buttons which are displayed on the post editor, removing or adding items as needed, but you also get access to a selection of new buttons and functionality.
These are just ten of the plugins we often use when designing and developing a website. There are many, many more that we have used for particular applications but at a minimum, these will certainly get you going. Are there any other plugins you are familiar with that you think should be added to this list?