I’ve been using WordPress on my website for some time now. I started using it because the platform was free, but I’ve come to LOVE IT because of all of the neat things I can add to the site for little or no extra monetary investment. The web development community that supports WordPress is awesome and is always coming out with new plugins that make my WordPress site even better.
There are literally thousands of WordPress plugins now available. You can pick and choose the ones that you want to use on your site. But there are a few that I don’t consider optional. These are the plugins that I use on EVERY WordPress site that I create (or manage) for myself or a client.
I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, not in order of importance. As I find (and use) more essential plugins, I’ll add them to this list.
Broken Link Checker
One of the most time consuming tasks related to website management is looking for and correcting broken links. When your website visitors encounter a link that doesn’t work — whether that link would take them to another location on your site or off of your site — the broken link creates a negative impression in the mind of that visitor. If you can’t be trusted to manage your links, you aren’t going to be trusted to do business with. Broken Link Checker can help you ensure that all of the links on your site function properly all the time. The Plugin works in the background, checking all of your links individually. When a broken link is found, it will email you and let you know.
Google Analytics for WordPress
Google Analytics is a free service provided by Google that helps you track the traffic to your site. To make it work properly, you need to add a bit of code to each one of your pages. The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin does this step for you, making it easy to track the visitors to your site with Google Analytics.
Google XML SiteMap
Organic (meaning non-paid) search results are your site’s bread and butter. Your site (or its pages) won’t come up in search results unless the content has been indexed by the search engines. One of the easiest ways to increase the amount of material on your site that gets indexed is to create a Sitemap. There are two kinds of sitemaps: sitemap with a small “s” help your human visitor locate things on your website. Sitemap with a capital “S” is for the website crawlers, the computers that crawl your site and index it for the search engines. Creating a Sitemap for your WordPress site is easy with Google XML SiteMap. This plugin will automatically update your Sitemap every time you post new content and then ping the major search engines (Yahoo!, Google, Bing, and Ask) for you. My search engine traffic has increased dramatically since I started using this plugin.
Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin (G.A.S.P)
If you allow comments on your WordPress site, you will inevitably become the target of spammers. Spammers post comments on blogs in order to use the link created by the comment to “validate” their website with links to legitimate websites. To keep spammers from using your site for their own purposes, you can moderate all comments. Or you can use Askimet, which requires people to re-type the displayed letters/numbers in a box. While this system works, the Growmap Anti-Spam Plugin works even better. It requires humans to simply check a box to prove they are humans, which is much easier and less prone to display issues. AND it contains non-displayed fields that trip up the spam bots. These two features combine to practically eliminate spam comments, which also eliminates the need to moderate your comments.
Have a Twitter account? Want your website visitors to follow you on Twitter? Just post your latest tweets on your blog with Latest Tweets. If your tweets are interesting, you’ll entice your website visitors to follow you on Twitter as well.
Most visitors to your website are human and humans make mistakes. When those mistakes occur while typing in the address to your website, they will likely receive what’s known as a “404 error.” You’ve probably seen one of these messages when the search engine can’t find what you were searching for. 404 errors are annoying and frustrating to your website visitor. Use Smart 404 and the plugin will “guess” where your visitor was likely going and display that page, thereby nearly eliminating the potential frustration of your website visitor.
Creating a blog is only the first step to getting traffic. You also have to give the search engine “crawlers” the information they need to accurately index your site. The Yoast SEO makes creating these additional fields easy: add a meta description and customize your social media shares right from the Post or Page editor.
All of these plugins can be installed from within your WordPress installation. Just search for the plugin by name and click the install button. Many have settings pages that make setting up your new plugin super easy.
Do you have a favorite essential WordPress plugin that I didn’t mention? Post a comment!