When using WordPress as CMS for your website there are about a billion plugins you can use on your site. I am going to focus on five that I find to universally helpful with almost any theme. This collection of important WordPress plugins that are utilitarian mostly in nature, and hit on a wide range of areas that can help your site out.
WordPress is decently geared to help most site get good SEO results. Also, there are a lot of custom themes out there that have built in SEO options to get better results. But, if you are using a free theme or a custom theme with out a great SEO option, SEO Yoast is one of the best tools I have used out there.Yoast is a company well versed in the best SEO practices and having great knowledge of the WordPress system. Their site offers tons of way on how you can help your site’s SEO and other web optimization techniques. Their plugin helps you to utilize their SEO knowledge, and allows you to incorporate it into your WordPress site. SEO Yoast lets you drill down into each page and post of your site and input specific SEO copy for that page. The system the use color codes and grades each page against what the accepted SEO practices are. It is a pretty straight forward system that makes it easy to pin point where your potential SEO issues could be, and the offer some basic solutions on how to fix it.
The SEO Yoast plugin will also score your copy to the “Flesch Reading Ease” test. This can be a useful third party test to figure out if what you are writing is somewhat logical.
There is even more control in the advanced tab, that can be used to: no index pages, control how it is used in a site map, or can place a redirect on a page. This type of technique can be very useful for hidden landing pages or helpful in implementing an SEO strategy behind promotional pages for a site.
This plugin offers some unique features and controls for various pieces of content through out your WordPress site, and if you are looking to further upgrade your SEO control SEO Yoast is something you need to check out. If you find that you need more than what this just offers straight out of the box they offer a premium upgrade, which could be right up your alley.
Each site is of course different and unique depending on what it is geared to do. So, this plugin takes some tinkering and testing to figure out the best performance features for the plugin. If you want some help configuring this, Yoast has made a tutorial video walking through the process. But, if you just want to go at it on your own, it’s easy enough to test your findings against each other at: http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/. They also offer some premium services that may be helpful in trying to customize the best configuration this plugin offers.
If you have a site in need of a performance increase W3 Total Cache is a pretty solid place to start.
There is a rumor out there that says WordPress has some security issues. But, that comes with the territory of being the most popular open source CMS on the planet Earth. In order to protect your WordPress site I would highly recommend installing the plugin Wordfence Security.
This enables a lot of fundamental security features right off the bat quickly and easily. This plugin drops in a firewall, log in security, a live traffic view, performs scans of your files to detect security weak points and sends alerts. Also, one of the nicer features about this plugin is that it can be set to automatically update itself. It is easily set up to notify you of any security items, plugins and unauthorized sign in attempts.
Of course this is not the end-all-be-all for security measures that you can take on your WordPress site. But, this free version of Wordfence Security is a great first step. If you find you need to beef up your security more than this, I would suggest trying their premium upgrade as a second step.
This plugin has been a life saver for me, and if you find yourself in search of a security solution for your WordPress site make an effort to install Wordfence Security.
This is an extremely useful plugin for compressing the image weight of all of the items in your media library. WP Smush It is ran by the wpmudev squad, and they are also responsible for creating a bunch of other awesome WordPress tools. The plugin is based around the principles of Yahoo’s Exceptional Performance standards. In other words, these people know what they are doing with this plugin.
The plugin is an extremely straight forward tool to run. It places itself into the media library section on the WordPress admin panel, and gives users that have a site up and running one of the most useful options called, “Bulk Smush It.” This nifty setup allows you to compress all of the assets in your library that are under 1MB at one time. Of course you could do each item in your media library one-by-one, but why?
After performing your bulk compression what happens next? Well now when you upload new items into the media library or directly into a page or post, they are automatically compressed by smush it. Having this in place helps to insure that items uploaded by people who are not the most conscious of file weights, can have some measures in place in order to help still create a positive user experience.WP Smush It is a seriously amazing plugin. If you find yourself with a WordPress site that has a ton of uncompressed assets in the media folder and it is hurting your site’s performance, this is one of the best tools I know of to fix that. Or, if you find yourself handing off a project to a client or a team member who doesn’t seem to care or grasp the importance of image compression, this tool can help to curb the amount of large media files uploaded to a site.
Hold up, I can get a Google Analytics widget installed on my WordPress dashboard? Yes, you can, and it’s fairly awesome. Now, this is not the full Google Analytics dashboard that you get when you actually sign into Google Analytics. That is because Google Analytics API, (currently at the time I am writing this) does not support this.
You just need to take one preliminary step before the installation of this plugin can work. That is, installing your unique Google Analytics tracking code into your website. If you need some more info on how to do this, wpbeginner offers a nice little tutorial on how to do this.
Once you have taken that step, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP will allow you to see all of the good stuff from Google Analytics on your WordPress dashboard.
It will allow you to quickly scan: Visits, Visitors, Organic, Page Views and Bounce Rate. While also allowing you to filter those categories based on: Real Time, Today, Yesterday, The Last 7, 14, 30 or 90 Days. I have found that leaving mine on visits for the past 14 days works well for a decent snapshot of activity. Of course each install will more have it’s own each useful snapshot view.
You can also view your geographic data. As well as see: top searches, top pages, top referrers and a traffic overview. All of this is controlled the backend settings option on the plugin. Which makes it very easy to turn these options on and off, and gives a very custom look and control to your dashboard data.
This plugin also offers the ability to quickly change the color scheme of the data. Which is useful if you are looking to match the backend of WordPress, or are looking to match some brand standards for your client. It is a small thing that offers some unique control to help make the plugin look more integrated and professional with your site.
All of these little details bring touches of a customized analytics dashboard right into your WordPress install. Which can provide some valuable data at a snapshot view. I have found that this is one of those options that can help to separate what you can offer to someone with a WordPress install. It can be a nice little differentiation for yourself that brings immediate obvious value to your client.