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10 WordPress plugins we can’t live without

Written by Rob Johnson | Jul 6, 2015 6:01:07 AM

THREE THINGS YOU'LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE

1. The best plugin for stopping spam on your WordPress site

2. A couple of handy plugins for saving you time in updating your site

3. A general overview of the extra functionality your WordPress site will need.

Back in the earliest days when we started our sites, my Monday mornings presented a depressing pattern. At the start of each week, I’d sit down at my desk, turn on the computer, check my email… and sigh.

As I sat there, hundreds and hundreds of comments would flood in from the various WordPress blogs we had set up. And even though the content matter of each blog was radically different to all the others, the comments were all the same—congratulatory messages from Christian Lacroix Shoes or Cheap Nikes, or requests for blogging advice from Generic Cialis.

You know what’s really embarrassing? Back in the earliest days, I’d actually read them. Well, not all of them, but I hadn’t always registered the name on the comment, and my mouse would hover over the ‘approve’ button before realising that no, this person was not complimenting my blogging prowess. In fact, I would realise sadly, this isn’t even a person. (Although some of them were oddly poetic in their radical approach to grammar and random word patterns.)

By the time we were spending an hour a day just deleting spam comments, we had discovered one of our all-time favourite WordPress plugins: Akismet, the super-duper anti-spam machine.

If you’re new to the world of WordPress, or have just been ignoring your site (or if you’re still secretly flattered by all the praise your blog gets from Cheap Nikes and his friends), plugins are apps which you can either buy or download for free via WordPress, which will extend and expand the functionality of your site (WordPress’s description, not mine). Last time I looked there was nearly 40,000 of them available, some of which have become a vital part of our toolbox. Now we have nine different WordPress sites, and our favourite plugins are the ones that we quite literally could not live without.

We do use some plugins to solve unique problems with particular sites or themes, but here are our top ten we use across all our sites.

1. Akismet

As I wrote earlier, Akismet is anti-spam software that works! What it does is check all comments that come into your site against their own servers to figure out whether or not they’re spam. It’s vitally important, not just for saving time, but for maintaining the integrity of sites. Spam comments are easy to detect if you’re a human being, and potential readers of your site are not going to be impressed with those dodgy comments flooding the bottom of articles.

Akismet also lets you outright block a lot of spam, which saves you time, disk space, and lets your site load quicker. Akismet can also filter feedback received via forms on your site.

Get it here.

2. Jetpack by WordPress.com

For something that is so vital, Jetpack is oddly difficult to describe. To really appreciate it, you have to appreciate that all the stuff it does used to be really complicated, even for WordPress users. By accessing all these features through the Jetpack plugin, it takes the load off your site, and it’s designed to work seamlessly with WordPress. Once you turn it on, you get access to 27 extra features free-of-charge—we use their Protect, Monitor, Related Posts, Stats and a pile of others on a daily basis.

Get it here.

3. WordPress SEO by Yoast

The cartoon face of Yoast (known in the real world as Joost de Valk) is familiar to anyone who has looked for plugins that help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). When it comes to WordPress SEO, he’s da man.

When you activate the plugin, it gives you a snippet preview which you can use to figure out what you’re getting right and wrong with your SEO, analyzing keyword density, readability, and many other metrics which you probably won’t understand (I didn’t, anyway). Then it uses an easy-to-understand traffic-light system to tell you whether you’ve done OK or not.

Get it here.

4. Google Analytics by Yoast

You need Google Analytics to track what’s happening on your site, and make the good tings happen more. This plugin applies the Analytics code to your entire website. It makes tracking visitors to your site very easy, as well as error pages, outbound clicks, downloads and more.

Get it here.

5. Easy Google Fonts

So you’ve found the perfect theme for your site, but there’s only one things you don’t like about it—the fonts. Changing the typography on a WordPress site would normally involve some coding skills, but this plugin makes it all really simple. It gives you full control over your fonts, and gives you more than 600 Google fonts to choose from which will all render the correct way, no matter who is looking at your site. We’ve found it only works on compatible themes, although their own page claims it works on all themes.

Get it here.

6. Manage WP

Unlike the previous plugins, this is a paid subscription, but essential if you manage more than a few sites. In our case, we’re juggling nine of them for different products, and it’s really useful to have the one, central place where you can take care of upgrades, plugin updates, backups, bulk content management (if you’re into that sort of thing) and lots more.

Get it here.

7. Ninja Popups

Even if you’re not acknowledging it, the number one reason for you to go to the effort of having a site, and blogging on it, is to build an audience and communicate with that audience. To do that, you need to make it easy for people to subscribe to your site. Ninja popups is another paid-for plugin that lets you lock sections of your site down if folks keep visiting but not leaving their details. It also integrates with your major email marketing and social network platforms. And it lets you turn up or down how intrusive they are to find the right fit, and gives you great analytics and conversation rates to help you find that right mix.

Get it here.

8. Autoset Featured Image

It’s funny how the simplest plugins can save you an enormous amount of time. Once a week we’re posting between eight and ten items a day to various sites, and while it’s not that mentally taxing, anything that saves you a few seconds in the posting process starts to add up and buy you time later in the day. This plugin just auto-sets the first image of your new post to the Featured Image section. Which means you don’t have to think of the featured image and manually set it. One less thing to remember makes life better.

Get it here.

9. Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades

When a plugin or, worse still, a theme needs upgrading, the process of doing it is time consuming and a little scary without this plugin. Before we got it, we had to deactivate the theme or plugin that needed updating, delete the old one, upload the new one, and reactivate the whole thing. Each time you did it you ran the risk of losing all your settings and customization. This plugin makes the process simple, and makes a backup of everything beforehand anyway so if something does go wrong it’s not a disaster.

Get it here.

10. Google Analytics Dashboard for WPl

This plugin loads a widget into your dashboard which gives you detailed real-time analytics data on the number of sessions, number of visitors, page views, bounce rates and more right their in front of you on the dashboard. Saves you the hassle of looking that stuff up. You can also get page reports and post reports of your traffic, and automatically inserts the latest version of the Google Analytics tracking code in every page of your site.

Get it here.