Having your own self hosted WordPress site allows you to install WordPress plugins that can add necessary features to optimise and improve your theme.
WordPress Plugins are essentially files of code that are added (plugged-in) to your activated theme. I always recommend keeping your plugins to a minimum so only install what you really need and delete ones that aren’t being used.
Having a lot of WordPress plugins can really increase your overall website size and there are many negatives to this. The main side-effect is that it will slow down your website’s load time and this will negatively affect your visitors experience when viewing your website and lower your search engine rankings as Google penalises slow loading websites.
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Below I’m going to share my top 8 WordPress plugins I use and recommend for a solid WordPress foundation. Some of these plugins may not be necessary for you, so please ignore them. However, the majority of WordPress websites will require most of these.
Jetpack is a plugin developed by WordPress themselves so you know that it is a plugin you can trust. It provides many features to optimise and improve your website, such as security features, spelling and grammar check for posts, infinite scrolling, social sharing, site statistics and so much more!
Akismet is a default plugin that comes with the first install of WordPress. It’s purpose is to filter the comments received on your blog posts and will either delete what it considers spam comments or simply separate the spam comments from the genuine depending on your chosen settings. This is one of the plugins you may not need as your website may not have a blog or comments section.
Remember when I said that Google hates slow websites? Well this plugin is a must if your server doesn’t have it’s own caching feature. What this plugin does is saves versions of your site in the browser, so after the very first visit every time a visitor goes to your site it will load a lot faster as it is already compiled and saved.
Whilst we are on the topic of please Google, this plugin is definitely a must-have to boost your rankings! It allows you to insert keywords and it will tell you how to improve your SEO, whether your images need an ‘Alt’ tag, or your meta description is too long/short or doesn’t contain the keyword and a lot more.
Yoast SEO also provides you a feature where you can insert an image, title and description just for Facebook sharing. It makes linking your Google Analytics and Webmaster accounts very easy as it takes you through a step-by-step guide after the install.
There’s nothing more important than securing your WordPress website. WordPress is an extremely popular CMS software so it is a natural target for hackers. Installing iThemes will add layers of security to your site including, brute force attack, file change detection, strong password enforcement and more.
A free version is available however, I strongly recommend investing in the premium version to really ensure your site is completely protected. There’s nothing worse than having a hacked site!
Another must-have plugin is UpdraftPlus. This plugin provides backups of your website files and database. You can choose how frequently the updates happen, from hourly to monthly. If you are constantly making changes to your website I recommend choosing daily or hourly. The backups can be saved to an external platform such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
If you do happen to need to restore your website, you can easily do this in the plugin settings with just one-click. There is a free version or a premium version, the premium version provides more external platform options for backups. I recommend saving the backups off your server so it is still accessible if your web server gets hacked.
Every website should be using a ‘secure’ protocol (HTTPS). I have written an article on how to setup HTTPS for your WordPress site, you can view it here.
Once you’ve switched your website over to HTTPS, you will need to update your websites permalinks to ensure they have all switched over to the new protocol. Really Simple SSL does this for you. It is free and very easy to use. Just install it and follow the prompts, it really is that easy!
If you are serious about blogging, jQuery Pin is definitely a must. It adds a ‘Pinterest Pin It’ button on all of your images so your visitors can easily pin them to their Pinterest. This is a social media tactic to drive more traffic to your website.
I highly recommend deleting any WordPress plugins that aren’t being used for your website. You want to have the smallest website possible to have a great load time and unused WordPress plugins just add to the size.
Let me know how you go with these plugins or if you have or own ‘must-have’ plugins in the comments below!