Fact: WordPress now powers 28.4% of all websites on the internet. “We welcome thousands of new sites every day,” the industry behemoth says on its own WordPress-powered website. “From small business websites, artist portfolios, and blogs to giant media websites like TIME and CNN.”
With its simplicity, ease of use, robust capabilities and relatively low cost, millions of people who do not possess high-level web development expertise are using WordPress to create personal blogs, artist portfolios, high-functioning business websites and more.
But whether you build your own WordPress website or work with a web design company to help you take things to the next level, you’re going to want to know about plugins — essential software components that add functions and features to your website.
Many of the plugins you can use to supercharge your site are available for free from WordPress; others come as free or paid add-ons from third-party developers. In fact, because they make possible such a nearly infinite range of functionality and customization, a well-known saying within the WordPress community is: “There’s a plugin for that.” And it’s no exaggeration, considering that WordPress itself hosts a library of over 50,000 plugins.
Plugins can enable you to:
- Sell products online
- Collect and manage email contacts
- Optimize your site for search engines
- Speed up your website’s performance
- Keep it safe from hackers and spammers
- Manage your social media activity
- Monitor traffic and goals with high-level analytics
- And much, much, much much more!
Here is a quick rundown of some of the top WordPress plugins we recommend (and use) when crafting high-performing, customized websites for our clients.
Best WordPress Plugins for Security, Speed, SEO, eCommerce and More
In a world where an estimated 30,000 websites are infected with some type of malware each day, iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) is described by our director of development as “an essential plugin to keep WordPress locked down tight.” The software provides two-factor authorization, strong password enforcement, automatic daily scans for malware, brute force protection and much more — boasting 30+ ways to secure and protect your WordPress site from the ever-present threat of hacker attacks.
Who’s got your back? BackupBuddy. The ability to easily schedule automatic backups is critical for protecting your WordPress website. For businesses, it helps safeguard business and customer data in the event of a hardware failure or an attack on your host’s servers. Sometimes likened to an insurance policy, this plugin can store your backups safely offsite at places like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 or BackupBuddy’s own Stash service. In addition to offering peace of mind against a potential server crash, BackupBuddy guards against such security issues as hacks, malware, user error, deleted files and bad commands. It also makes it easier to move a WordPress site from one host to another.
W3 Total Cache
Performance is everything in our short attention span world. If a user has to wait for your website to load, every extra second might seem like an eternity and — poof! — they’re off to check out the latest cat video instead of spending quality time (and maybe some dollars) on your website. By adding browser, page and object caching, W3 Total Cache is designed to give WordPress sites an enormous speed boost, which in turn boosts user experience. Speed is also essential because page loading time is an important factor in search engine rankings. And when it comes to eCommerce, Kissmetrics reports that a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Making sure your WordPress website loads quickly also requires that you always optimize your images for the web. EWWW Image Optimizer helps you do this tedious task automatically as you upload them to the WordPress media library. The plugin uses “lossless” optimization techniques, so your image quality will be exactly the same after optimization.
Sorry, that page does not exist! … The page you were looking for could not be found … 404 error — page not found … These are things you NEVER want a user to see when trying to find or navigate your website. This can happen if you are migrating a site, editing URLs or changing your directory configuration. It represents horrible user experience and is bad for business. The fix is called a 301 redirect. Our go-to solution is Redirection, a plugin that WordPress touts for its ability to “manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have.”
Studies show that 100% of people and companies who have websites want visitors to find them. Search engine optimization is so crucial that nearly everyone knows at least a little something about SEO. (What are your target keywords?) One of the most popular of all WordPress plugins, Yoast SEO helps you optimize your website’s pages, your content, your meta descriptions and more — creating XML sitemaps, keeping you focused on keyword strategy, helping you integrate with your social media channels and giving you a preview of what each post or page will look like in search results.
If you’re running a business website, you need a robust and efficient way to create forms that enable you to collect and manage information (especially those all-important email addresses!) from your visitors and customers. Gravity Forms helps you quickly build and design your WordPress forms — with built-in tools to select your fields, configure your options and easily embed forms on your site. It also features add-ons to integrate with CRMs, secure third-party payment systems like PayPal and Stripe, email services like MailChimp and much more. (WordPress users seeking a free option should check out Ninja Forms.)
By seamlessly adding full eCommerce capabilities to WordPress websites, WooCommerce makes it easy for anyone to set up and manage an online store. A free plugin that provides endless flexibility and access to hundreds of free and paid extensions, it equips you with a full range of payment options, inventory tracking, analytics for deep insight into your business and the ability to grow as you add more products — and customers.
To help people find what they’re looking for when they visit your WordPress website, we recommend SearchWP — a plugin that basically replaces WordPress’s default search engine with something much more powerful. This is especially helpful for eCommerce applications, for example. With its WooCommerce integration, it enables visitors to generate search results that include product information, product categories and product reviews. It also helps you analyze what your visitors are looking for and, just as important, whether they found it.
Advanced Custom Fields
Using WordPress’ custom fields can be a bit tricky for your average user. They are also not terribly flexible when it comes to inputting different kinds of content. By making the addition and management of custom fields very flexible and easy for developers, Advanced Custom Fields has become an essential plugin to make WordPress a full-fledged content management system (CMS). It helps developers easily go beyond the capabilities of standard pages to create customized displays that enhance the appearance and functionality of your WordPress website.
Here at Vital, we have deep experience in all aspects WordPress website design and development. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to exchange ideas about your next website project.