One of the great perks of using the self-hosted WordPress platform is being able to utilize plugins to add additional functionally to your site. You can install as many plugins as your heart desires to do just about anything to your site. In reality, you should actually as less plugins as possible on your site, because they impact site performance and load time. I’m sharing my top ten list of WordPress plugins that I use on my site, and that you should be using on yours too!
Akismet is the number one spam comment management plugin on WordPress. It has over 1+ million active installs and over 200 ratings, averaging a 4.5 rating. It takes all of my spam comments, with the exception of the occasional one or two, and catches them so that they’re not posted to my site. I can easily go to the Comments section of my site, click over to my Spam folder and review all of the comments captured as spam. From there, I can easily approve comments that have mistakingly captured by Akismet (a rare circumstance) or permanently delete them. Akismet does allow you set the strictness of how spam is captured, in that you can choose to have it discarded by the plugin itself or sent to your Spam folder for review (like I have).
2. EWWW Image Optimizer
EWWW Image Optimizer is an image optimizing plugin that reduces the file sizes for images. Although I save all my images and graphics that I create for my site optimized for the web (done via programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator), they are saved for retina-ready display, meaning they are twice the original size. Images this large can make a lot of requests on your server and slow down your site’s performance and load time. Using a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer reduces these images file sizes, meaning that my server isn’t getting nearly as requests that it would with the images at full file size. It also helps the images to load faster and take up less space in my database.
3. Jetpack by WordPress.com
Jetpack is a comprehensive plugin that houses many services and powerful features that can be enabled on your site. Some of my favorite Jetpack features and ones that I use on my site are Tiled Galleries, Widget Visibility, and WordPress.com Stats. There are over 36 features that you can enable for your site using Jetpack, to include a contact form, custom CSS, and mobile theme features.
4. jQuery Pin It Button For Images
The jQuery Pin It Button for Images plugin makes it easy to add a Pinterest “Pin It” button over images on your site. Not only does it highlight images on hover, but it also allows you to add a custom button for your site. Being able to add a custom button allows you to have a button than matches your sites branding perfectly. You can even upload a button for retina-ready display, which would be twice the size of a normal button and it will automatically display reduce it. One of my favorite features about the plugin is that it let you enable and disable the button for certain pages and posts. Occasionally, I will have a page that I feel doesn’t need the button and directly within the Editor for that page I can disable the button with one click.
5. Regenerate Thumbnails
Regenerate Thumbnails is a plugin that allows you to regenerate your thumbnail images after changing the sizes of them. As a designer and developer, this plugin is so necessary, but it insures that all of my images display correctly if I go in and change or assign different image sizes within the coding or Media settings of my site. Any time you change the size of your thumbnail images, you always need to regenerate them, so that they are all updated to display at the new size.
6. Ultimate Nofollow
Ultimate NoFollow is a plugin that makes it uber easy to add the “rel=nofollow” tag to a link. In terms of Google Rank, you want to insure you’re adding nofollow links to any links that you don’t want to be giving your Google juice to. This goes especially for affiliate links and links to outside sites that you link to. The nofollow tag disables search engines from being able to pass any credit from your site being to out-linking sites . From an SEO standpoint, its essential because it lets the search engines know that your site isn’t doing anything shady in terms of trying optimize SEO for it.
You can add the tag manually to your links, but the Ultimate NoFollow plugin does all the work for you directly in your Editor. When you make a piece of text a link in your Editor, you will see the option to add the rel=”nofollow” tag to the link by just checking a box. No extra steps or coding required! It adds the tag for that specific link, but also saves the setting for any future links you may add in the post or page and you can simply uncheck if not needed.
7. WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin improves the SEO for your site, allowing you to have a fully optimized content in just a few steps. You can assign a keyword and meta description for each post, which I always do, and gives you tips directly in the Editor for how to optimize your content for search engines. It has green, yellow, and red light page analysis system that it uses to rate whether your content is optimized or not. My goal with every post that I publish that I be at green light status. Ever since I really started to fully utilize the plugin, I’ve seen a significant increase in my traffic and the referrals I get from search engines.
If you’re not using this plugin now, you need to install it like yesterday! It wasn’t until I started to fully understand what the plugin could really do and utilize it that I saw the upturn in my traffic and referrals. There are many other features of the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin that help with SEO, like the XML Sitemaps features. This features takes away the need for an additional sitemap plugin to need to be installed, in order for search engines to be notified that a sitemap exists for your site. Sitemaps are important, because they include images in your posts and pages, so that your mages can better be found by search images.
8. Editorial Calendar
The Editorial Calendar is by far one of my favorite and most useful plugins in terms of organization. I can see all of my posts laid out by the month, and drag and drop to schedule or reschedule them as I need to. Its so simple and easy to use, and I’m even able to use the quick edit, edit, and view functions for a post directly from my editorial calendar. It really helps to be able to see all of my posts laid out on a calendar by the day and month, because it makes planning and scheduling them a breeze. There have been times when I forgot to schedule a post in the Editor and saw it on my editorial calendar and scheduled it right then and there with the Quick Edit function. If it weren’t for this plugin, my blogging would be a lot less efficient, because I wouldn’t have a way to make the process of organizing my drafts uncomplicated.
9. WP Maintenance Mode
WP Maintenance Mode is a straightforward plugin that adds a maintenance page to your site, should you be doing maintenance that requires an extended amount of that your site wouldn’t be live. I oftentimes use this plugin when I’m installing a new theme or making a lot of updates to customizations to my current one. Sometimes when you’re working on your site you don’t want your changes to be live until you’re sure that they all display and work properly. The maintenance page that displays while you site is in maintenance mode can be customized in the settings of the plugin, so you’re add to add your own custom wording. You can tell visitors exactly what you want them to know while your site isn’t live, redirect them to your social media feeds, or have them sign up for a notification for when you site comes back live.
10. UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration
The UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration plugin make backing up your site easy and seamless. You can do complete backups of all your site’s content either manually or schedule it to happen automatically. I have mines set to do automatically daily, which I love, because it takes away the anxiety of thinking everything would be lost if something were to happen to my site. Any time I’m doing huge updates on my site, I always make sure that its backed up. Its important, so that if any of the changes made to my site do something funky, I can always restore my site back to a previous time when it functioned properly. My site is backed up to my Google Drive, however the plugin offers plenty of options to choose from to where you want your site backed up to.
I can’t recommend all of the plugins I mentioned enough. Seriously, if they didn’t work for me and help me to blog and run my business better then I wouldn’t share them. The best thing is that all of these plugins can be found for free in the WordPress repository. Many of them are updated on a frequent basis and have active support forums should you run into any issues with them. Many times the developers respond to issues in the forums, so you have access to ask for help directly from the person that created the plugin. Fortunately, there’s yet to be a time in which I’ve had an issue or needed further understand of the functionality with any of them and couldn’t get the help I need through the forums or a Google search. If you are going to have any ten plugins running on your site, these are the ones you should definitely consider. I honestly don’t know how I’d run my blog without them!
Do you have plugins that you couldn’t get alone with? – Which ones are your favorite, and why?