7 plugins every WordPress website needs
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Using WordPress for your service-based business site? You’re going to need to use some plugins. With more than 55,000 plugins in the WordPress plugin directory (not to mention the many premium plugins out there), things can get confusing fast. Which plugins are the best for SEO, contact forms, security and performance? These are the plugins I recommend and use in every project.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Yoast SEO – free
Improving SEO will help you to get more pageviews each month through Google (and other search engines). It can be confusing and overwhelming. That’s where Yoast SEO comes in. It has a stoplight for each post. Red if the post has bad SEO, yellow if it’s fine and green if it’s good.
The very basics of SEO is just using your keywords multiple times throughout the post. For example, let’s say your keywords are “feeling more confident”:
- Put those words in the title of the post, e.g. “10 Steps To Feeling More Confident”
- Save the image as feelingmoreconfident.jpg
- Add text “10 Steps To Feeling More Confident” on the image, so when people pin it, they know what the blog post is about.
- Include the words “feeling more confident” in the alt text and description of the image.
Google changes it algorithms every once in a while to prevent people and companies from using certain techniques that could otherwise help them get higher ranked in the search results. No matter the changes, it still always comes down to using your keywords multiple times, but make sure the content makes sense and is valuable to the reader. Write for people, not search engines.
Gravity Forms – $39
Though there are many different plugins to create forms in WordPress, Gravity Forms is my absolute favorite. It makes it super easy to create & customize multiple forms in WordPress and the responses are sent to you via email, while a copy also remains on your site. It shows you how well your forms convert (what percentage of people that visited the page with the form actually sent the form), and allows for conditional logic, which means you could show certain form fields only when other form fields have a certain input (for example, if someone answers ‘Yes’ on a certain question, show field A, if ‘No’, don’t show field A (or perhaps show field B instead).
It’s user friendly and allows for super powerful forms, so I believe it’s well worth the $39 price.
Security & Backups
iThemes Security – free
Instead of spending hours figuring out all the different parts that will make your site more secure, this plugin will enable and configure the most important security checks automatically for you.
UpdraftPlus – free
Backups are incredibly important, but unfortunately all too often forgotten. Think about it, what would you still have from your site if it crashes? There are many reasons it can happen, and even if you haven’t had it happen before, you never know when it might happen, so this is definitely something you want to be prepared for.
Your web hosting company probably makes backups for you, but they generally don’t guarantee the quality of backups, so you might still lose files or data. It’s much easier to have your own backups to restore, which can also give you more peace of mind.
There are many plugins that do automatic backups for you. I recommend UpdraftPlus. It will back up both your database and files. Some backup plugins only backup the database, which means you’d still risk losing your theme, plugins and uploaded files.
UpdraftPlus can save backups to different cloud-storage services, like Amazon S3, Dropbox and Google Drive as well as FTP and email. When your backups are saved to a separate folder on your site, you should still also have backups elsewhere. If your site ever becomes compromised, you may lose all folders and files on your site, even the backup folder, so make sure they’re saved somewhere really safe. I can’t recommend it enough to have your backups stored with a cloud-storage service.
WP-Optimize – free
Most people will only wait up to 3 seconds for your site to load. If you’re struggling with slow loading times for your website, cleaning up your database could give a boost to your loading time which will in turn decrease your bounce rate. Even if you don’t currently struggle with this, you might want to look into cleaning it now and keeping it at its best so it won’t become an issue for you later on. Doing so will also help minimize the size of your backups.
A clean WordPress installation will have 11 tables, and sometimes plugins and themes create new tables to store the information they need. They can also store information in the existing tables. Whether they store it in the existing tables or create new tables, this information will often still be in the database even after you remove a plugin or switch themes. Another cause of database bloat are the revisions that are stored for every single post.
As your WordPress site grows, a lot of information is added to the database. It’s taking up valuable space, and it can also be a huge factor in slow loading times for your website.
WP Optimize can clean up post revisions, spam comments, and lots of other extraneous information.
Before you first use it to clean your database, it can be fun to look at how large it actually is before cleaning and then again after cleaning. You can view it under ‘Tables’.
On the main ‘Optimizer’ view, it’s pretty straight-forward to clean up your database. Select the clean-up options you want, then click the Process button.
Don’t remove the unapproved comments if there might be any non-spam comments you haven’t approved yet!
Under ‘Settings’, you can set it to automatically clean your database every week, every other week or every month.
This plugin will not do the backup, so make sure you have scheduled backups running before you set a schedule for the database clean-up.
W3 Total Cache – free
As I said, most people will only wait up to 3 seconds for your site to load. Apart from cleaning up your database, using caching and compression can also boost your site “performance” or loading speed. W3 Total Cache does all the hard work for you.
I previously recommended a plugin, but it’s since come to my attention that the plugin is sending way too many requests to your site, affecting the server and slowing down your site. So much so, that several hosting companies have banned the plugin from their servers.
Instead, here’s how to check your site for broken links now. I still recommend you check your links regularly.
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