Many readers of my articles host their websites on WordPress and so today I want to give you my recommendations of the top 10 essential WordPress plugins to add to your business website. I will show you what each of them can offer you – from interactivity to better security and help with SEO.
This is one of my absolute favourite plugins and for good reason. You simply type your content in and save it as a new post and then Yoast gets to work on your behalf as an automated SEO consultant offering tips on how to optimise your content for keywords, grading your text for ease of readability, and reminding you to set up tags, a category, specify the canonical version of your content, breadcrumbs and much more. The beauty of this tool is you don’t need to understand any of these terms or the technical elements of SEO, you simply need to follow the prompts and see your engagement and traffic rise. There is a free version of Yoast and if you don’t want to invest in the premium version you will still get a whole lot of value. The premium version, priced at $75USD per year, offers more keyword assistance and also checks for deadlinks, generates internal linking suggestions and gives you access to free help and support for one year.
MonsterInsights is a WordPress plugin that shows you exactly how people find your website, which keywords they search for, who refers them, and what CTAs they click on your site. MonsterInsights is used by many big players including Microsoft, PlayStation, Subway and Yelp. You can view reports on your analytics and track your ecommerce activities inside WordPress with no coding or specialist knowledge needed.
Autoptimize makes optimizing your site really easy. It can aggregate, minify and cache scripts and styles. This can improve your site’s performance even when already on HTTP/2! There is extensive API (Application Programming Interface) available to enable you to tailor Autoptimize to each and every site’s specific needs.
Better Search Replace is a plugin that comes in handy when you’re moving your WordPress site to a new domain or server. It lets you run a search/replace on the database. The Pro version offers a number of time-saving benefits including enabling you to backup and import your database while running a search/replace.
Redirection is the most popular redirect manager for WordPress, letting you easily manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have. This can help reduce errors and improve your site ranking. Redirection has been a WordPress plugin for over 10 years, so it has withstood the test of time, and better still it is completely free!
Gravity Forms allows you to build amazing opt-in forms for your website in just minutes. Professional contact forms enable your business to expand your reach and email list very quickly. Gravity Forms costs $59USD for its low-end option and is available as an instant download. The reason I recommend this tool so often is because of its seamless integration with a range of other tools that many businesses use including PayPal, Freshbooks, Zapier, Stripe, Campaign Monitor, AWeber, MailChimp, DropBox, Slack, Trello, Agile CRM and many, many more. The plugin writes extendable code for actions and filters so takes you beyond just a simple form. Gravity Forms also offers a free demo if you want to test it for yourself before you commit.
Formerly known as Better WP Security, iThemes Security works to lock down your WordPress site to remedy security vulnerabilities. This includes identifying and fixing common holes, stopping automated attacks and strengthening user credentials. With, on average, 30,000 new websites being hacked each day, WordPress sites can be an easy target for attacks because of plugin vulnerabilities, weak passwords and software that can become obsolete quickly. But with iThemes Security, you can help make your website more resilient to malware, unauthorised logins and changes and brute force attacks. The Pro version offers advanced features like two-factor authentication, WordPress salt and security keys, automatic malware scans, reCAPTCHAs and user action logging. The Pro version also gives you the ability to manage your site’s security from the command line, scan and monitor file changes and ban or escalate users and their privileges. In a nutshell, it does many of the jobs of a Chief Information Security Officer without you actually having to hire someone and pay for their salary.
UpdraftPlus is a complete, general-purpose backup and restore plugin. Although there are many similar plugins for WordPress, UpdraftPlus offers more features and advanced tools than many comparable plugins. It has an easy to use interface that lets you backup and restore at a time that suits with a single click of the button and has been rigorously tested on multiple servers.
If you’re hosting with WP Engine, you’re already on a winner, however this takes it further and takes care of server-level optimisations for you automatically. This includes handling the caching instructions sent in headers on your site. Caching headers is the action of storing a “snapshot” or “copy” of the file which enables the search engine to retrieve it faster the next time. A header served from cache can be returned as quickly as just a couple of milliseconds, compared to a few seconds for a page that has to be created as new each time. WP Engine helps you to serve many pages and files from cache in order to improve your page loading times and search engine rankings.
So, there you have it! My top 10 WordPress plugins to improve SEO, automate some key tasks and improve user experience and conversions. These have all been personally tested and used by me so if you end up trying out any of these tools, I’d love to hear about your experiences.