Plugins are the best thing about WordPress. They allow you to extend your website to do about anything you need to do. They can also slow down your site if poorly created. After trying many different plugins, I have settled on the following. They cover the gamut of functionality from social media to security.
Create and Share your content (Social Media & Content Calendar):
This is part-plugin, part-website. It is an editorial calendar and social media manager rolled into one. An editorial calendar by itself will boost your blogging ability by itself but CoSchedule really shines at allowing you to create and schedule your ENTIRE social media campaign right from the plugin. You can set-up templates to make sure that you send it to all your social media platforms on set days after the blog is finished. See how we use CoSchedule. Don’t let publishing your blog be the last step! Free 30-day trial that you must try. This has a monthly fee but if you write a review article you can get 50% off for the first year.
Social Warfare Pro
Do you ever share a post with facebook or twitter and hate how it displays a random picture from your blog? This plugin will allow you to specify the exact picture to display for your posts. It even allows you to specify a Pinterest image that will get pinned and a separate description. No more trying to decide between optimizing your pictures for Pinterest or Google SEO. Has a one-time cost for the plugin and a yearly maintenance fee for software updates.
Get found (SEO):
This is the master in SEO plugins. It adds everything you need for on-page SEO. It has a place to enter the keyword you are trying to match and will tell you what else can be done to improve your SEO for that keyword. It also has a readability score that will tell you how difficult your writing is to read. It doesn’t just leave you in the dark on that either though, you get specific steps to take to make it more readable. This plugin is free!
Pretty Links Beginner
This is not a traditional SEO tool but it does help. The main benefit is creating easy to remember links that will forward to a longer URL. For example, you can have a link like https://www.getawaycouple.com/tt instead of https://www.getawaycouple.com/category/thousand-trails/. This also works great for most affiliate links since they tend to be really long urls. This has a free version which is all that is needed for most people.
Speed it up (Caching and Compression):
This is a caching plugin. WordPress was built to be dynamic and load from a database everytime someone visits a page. This is great because of the flexibility but 99% of the time you will load the same data to every person that visits that page. Since loading from the database is a little slow, you will want to cache your pages. Think of this like taking a xerox copy of the page once it has loaded. This is waaaaaay faster to load when you browse to a page. I originally used WP Cache because it was free but it was confusing. I ended up breaking my site a few times. After some quick research, I found WP Rocket. It loads faster than WP-Cache and was simple to set-up. Check your page speed on Pingdom (https://tools.pingdom.com/) and if it is slower than 2 or 3 seconds you should look into this plugin. It has a one-time cost for the plugin and a yearly maintenance fee for software updates.
This plugin is made by the same people who made WP Rocket. It is an image optimization plugin. What does that mean? It will compress (make smaller) your images so that they take up as little space as possible. That will allow even people with slow internet be able to load them. Remember the dial-up days when images loaded slow? That can still happen today even with fast internet if they are not optimized since modern cameras can make huge files. Why force your readers to wait on an image and use more of their data plan than they need to when you can make your images smaller with no quality loss?
See how people use your site (Analytics ):
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights
This is one of the easiest ways to get your Google Analytics code set up correctly on every page. This is key to monitor where your traffic is coming from and how people are using your website. It even shows how long they will stay on a page so you can see if your page is keeping visitors or they are leaving right away. It is free!
This is a plugin from WordPress. They do their own analytics tracking and display it easily on the main dashboard. This is what I use when I want a quick look at the days/weeks stats without diving in. It has a TON of other features as well. They continuously add features to make sure that you go in and check them out from time to time. I also use it to show related articles at the bottom of every post.
This will enable you to set up the Facebook analytics code correctly on every site. This is mandatory if you want to set up ads on Facebook. It’s a simple plugin and allows you to target people on Facebook who have been to your website. Ever wonder how Facebook knew you were just looking at a site and started showing you ads? No, they aren’t listening to you through your phone.
Protect your Site (Security):
This is an amazing all-in-one security tool. It will monitor your site for any known vulnerabilities and notify you. It will also block attackers when it detects them to keep you safe. Struggling with the new GDPR regulations? Your target Audience not in those countries? Wordfence will allow you to block countries from GDPR countries so you don’t run afoul of the law. The offer both free and paid versions but free will suffice for most people.
This plugin was purchased by WordPress and integrated into their Jetpack plugin. It blocks SPAM comments from your blog. Don’t want to get comments that try to sell Viagra? Install it and be protected. It’s free.
This is the hardest to get setup but gives you the greatest security right off the bat. It means that even if someone guesses your password they cannot log in unless you let them with your phone. This is called 2-factor authentication and is a MUST-HAVE in this day and age on the internet. Wordfence recently released a feature that performs something similar so you can use theirs and skip this plugin. It is free to choose one and use it.
Those are my plugin recommendations. Do you agree? Do you have one to add? Let us know below!