At the time of writing this post, there are 42,888 WordPress plugins available in the official directory. How the hell are you supposed to know which ones will improve your website?
There are plenty of horror stories out there of plugins breaking websites and allowing hackers to break in … How can you know which plugins to trust?
I’ve been building and running WordPress websites for years now and I make a living basically doing that. Without WordPress, I’d have no business. It follows that without WordPress plugins, I’d have no business.
Instead of googling the web and giving you the same old stale list of WordPress plugins that everyone else had already written, I decided to take on this article in a different way.
I went through my websites and wrote down the most essential plugins that I use. These are the most precious, the best of the best, the plugins I’d gladly pay for. Without these, I’d be working at a nine-to-five job.
But since I am planning a large redesign this year, I decided to also research the new players on the block. These promising plugins are listed under “yet to be tested”. Enjoy!
There are many on-site SEO criteria you need to be careful about, but coding those right into your theme doesn’t make sense. The Yoast SEO plugin lets you not only set custom meta tags, but also pick a specific picture as your Facebook share image. It will also run a number of tests to find out if your article is properly optimised for the keyword you picked.
Google Analytics by Yoast
My favourite feature of this plugin is excluding all the visits I create myself and my employees. When creating a new sub-post sign up box, I might reload the site a couple of times, browsing the pages to make sure that everything looks ok. These page views shouldn’t be a part of my GA reports. This plugin makes sure they aren’t.
It also allows you to easily integrate demographic and interest data about your visitors. This is particularly cool, as GA shows you what topics your audience is most interested in, their age, and much more valuable information for your marketing.
If you want to set up a couple of very simple A/B tests without learning how to set up Google Analytics Experiments, use this simple plugin. The interface is not exactly self-explanatory, so I wrote a guide on setting it up.
Subscribe & Download
Before I switched over to ConvertKit, I had been using this great plugin to offer content upgrades for some of my posts. This strategy has earned me at least half of the entire email database I’ve collected until this date.
Here’s an example of content upgrade within one of my blog posts:
This paid plugin lets you set up simple forms on your website with a simple shortcode. For each one, you can offer a different freebie and grow your email list. The best part is, it integrates with Mailchimp (as well as some other email providers) and automatically writes the email into the database. Flawless.
This great plugin lets you create custom shortcodes for use within posts and anywhere else. For example, you mention your epic newsletter in one of your articles. With the use of this plugin, you can directly link them to the popup form so they can subscribe without any additional steps.
Magic? Nope. Post Snippets.
Advanced Custom Fields
ACF has been around for a while, and while it’s not exactly a beginner-friendly (or beginner-focused, for that matter) plugin, it is packing an amazing amount of value.I built the ThemeBro app with the plugin, and it has saved me a ton of time. If you’re looking for a way to organise a larger amount of data, use this plugin.
I built the ThemeBro app with the plugin, and it has saved me a ton of time. If you’re looking for a way to organise a larger amount of data, use this plugin.
Disqus Comment System
Who hates comment spam? Raise your hands.
Disqus is a great way to limit the amount of spam your comment section is getting. In my experience, simply using this plugin noticeably increases your chances of getting comments on your content — so it really is a no-brainer to download and install this one.
Contact Form 7
This trusty old plugin has been around since forever. And it has improved a lot since I first installed it on a website! When I need to provide a way for people to contact the site’s administrator, Contact Form 7 is still my go-to plugin.
It allows many different use cases, too — from surveys to collecting emails, tracking sent emails with Google Analytics, and accepting file submissions, this plugin has you covered. Just install Akismet too to avoid getting too much spam.
WordPress Editorial Calendar
I think this plugin should be the default functionality of WordPress.
Its simple to use calendar interface will have you scheduling posts like there is no mañana! You’ll be able to stay on top of your content calendar like it’s a charm, and managing a team of contributors is straightforward as well.
The experts say that you can’t truly protect your WordPress website from hackers. The best way to avoid problems is by doing backups, and often. Then when there’s a problem — you simply restore the website as it was.
Jan Koch recommends the BlogVault plugin to handle the backups automatically. I think I will have to implement something like this as well as manual backups are a real chore.
Currently, I use GZip Ninja Speed Compression to make my website load faster, but improving loading time is at the top of the list of priorities for this year. WP Smush is getting a lot of positive attention in the realm of compressing images, so it’s a real candidate to consider in a speed increasing stack.
While I prefer to handle the task management outside of WordPress, this plugin may be able to replace WordPress Editorial Calendar. The only downside of this one seems to be the fact that it hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. Bummer!
I’ve been trying to fight off SumoMe for a long time. I guess I just don’t trust a free app could provide so much value as this one promises to.
This amazing plugin offers image sharing, building your list, and displaying analytics. The downside is that it only integrates with MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, and Campaign Monitor.
Broken Link Checker
Having broken links on your website is a no-no.
Google doesn’t like websites that link to 404’s, but how to protect against it?
You can’t roam around your website clicking on every link all day long. This tiny plugin will help with that. Neat little thing.
WordPress to Buffer
As an avid Buffer app user, I am furious I didn’t know about this plugin sooner. However, I am also furious that the PRO version which offers some of the “d00h” functionality, costs a bazzilion bucks. I’m not quite sure if the convenience is worth the steep price.
Here it is, a list of great plugins you should give a shot this year.
Did I forget your favourite? Share it in the comments!