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As any WordPress user knows, plugins are an important feature to any site, and finding the right ones can be a chore.
For those not familiar, WordPress is the most popular content management software (CMS) on the market, and nearly 27 percent of all websites are powered by it. Plugins are extended pieces of code that can be added to these sites and are used to add specific additional functions that weren’t present before. This includes social media sharing buttons, spam filters for comments, search engine optimization tools, photo gallery functionality, and much, much more.
The best part about all of this is that WordPress, for the most part, is free to use, and there are about 50,000 free plugins available to the public. For any entrepreneur who’s on a startup budget, this is a very attractive feature of the CMS tool.
But how do you know which plugins you need?
Which ones are best for busy business owners who need a website that can (almost) run on its own? For every client that we manage WordPress sites for, we make sure that these eight plugins are installed and activated.
1. The anti-spam plugin
Almost every WordPress installation comes with a blog commenting feature and this free plugin pre-installed. However, it isn’t already activated, and sometimes many users don’t bother to activate it. If your site invites users to engage with the content on the site, the Akismet plugin is definitely a necessity. Spam, just like germs in your house, are just a fact of life, and having Akismet running in the background helps to remove some of that spam before it goes live on your site, giving you more time to create content rather than cleaning it up.
2. The content optimization plugin
Who doesn’t want to rank high in search results? If you have a website, you’re likely also gunning for the front page of Google. The All in One SEO Pack, a free plugin that helps you nail down the basics of SEO (search engine optimization) for the content you’re putting up on your site, letting you edit the metadata without ever touching the source code. While truly effective SEO isn’t as easy and simple as a plugin, this tool helps to at least maintain some semblance of it while you’re busy building your business. Also, it speeds up the work for SEO experts you may hire later to help optimize your site for search engines.
3. The online security plugin
Hiring a dedicated IT professional is difficult for most early stage business owners, so Wordfence helps to fill in those gaps until you can find someone who can protect your site from cyberattacks. Wordfence is likely the most trusted security plugin available for WordPress, as it is also the most popular. This means there is a large community of users and experts ready to assist when you have a question or need.
4. The page-loading optimization plugin
How fast a website loads is often overlooked by many entrepreneurs. Load time affects the user experience and ultimately, your SEO as well. Caching is the process of temporarily storing internet files on your device so that it helps to reduce load time, making future requests for that data faster. WP Super Cache not only does the dirty work of handling this for you but ensures a better experience for your site visitors as well.
5. The image optimization plugin
Your site speed is greatly affected by the content you put on your site, and the heavyweight in all of this is usually the imagery. With our phones capturing high-quality images and storing larger files, many website owners are simply taking the original file and embedding them onto the site, only resizing the appearance of the image, and not the image file itself. The problem here is that while the image may look optimized on the page, your site is still storing the original, large file on the server, meaning, when your page loads, it’s pulling the original, large file. Image Optimizer is sort of like your in-between image editor, helping you to store the optimal file size of that image.
6. The social media plugin
You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t have any social sharing buttons on your site. Social media is the close-to-free way to increase exposure for your business and your website visitors. These platforms act like pollinating bees to a flower, helping to spread your message across the internet. Encourage more pollinating by adding AddThis to your site.
7. The contact and lead-generating plugin
The essential function of any website is to provide your business’ contact information for a potential customer. Some may prefer to call you, but others will want to message you instead. Create a simple and free contact form on your site with this plugin. Take it to the next level with Gravity Forms and turn your forms into a lead generator by offering a newsletter sign-up or free downloads of a white paper.
8. The data plugin
There’s obviously already a standalone dashboard for accessing Google Analytics, but the Google Analytics plugin brings the data to your WordPress dashboard for easier access. Now, you can quickly view your site’s performance while accessing the back-end of your site to post new or edit existing content. You’ll see your top articles, traffic to the site, site referrers, and much more in one glance thanks to this plugin.
So, now that you have the basic set of plugins installed and activated on your site, don’t forget to update them regularly. Plugins, just like WordPress itself and its themes, need to be kept up-to-date to manage and prevent new online threats from hackers. Over 85 percent of hacked WordPress sites have not been updated.
Fortunately, when you log into your site’s backend, you’ll be notified when a new version is ready to be installed. All you have to do is click “update.”