WordPress Plugins You Need

English: WordPress Logo
WordPress Logo

There are tons cool of WordPress plugins out there, both free and paid. If you’re using WordPress without plugins, you’re missing out on what makes WordPress awesome.

Though not all of them are currently updated and maintained, there are an astounding 35,777 plugins on WordPress.org, as of my writing this!

Most of them are specialized, and lots of them are cool, but fundamentally just extra things. There are a few I’m really fond of that I’ll bring up on another day, but this post is all about the ones you need. They offer you options vanilla WordPress can’t, or fix weaknesses in the system.

Basically, every plugin on this list, you should install right now.

Yoast SEO

yoast seo
Yoast SEO

Look, take it from someone who writes a lot of website content: SEO is BS. Mostly. Keyword density and that sort of thing is a waste of time and effort. Doing it right takes time and effort, which is better spent elsewhere. Yoast gives you control over everything. From XML to meta tags, Yoast’s got your back. On top of that, it carefully explains all the complicated bits, and takes care of them if you don’t feel like learning it all.

The other thing it does is provide simple feedback on how your posts are doing in terms of SEO for a specific keyword. It’s great!

Akismet

Akismet anti spam
Akismet

Do you have some sort of obnoxious CAPTCHA plugin, or that little button asking readers to click to prove humanity? Ditch that right now!

The only thing you need to kill all spam dead is Akismet.

Download the plugin, get your key (it’s free for everybody through Jetpack), and never, ever, think about spam ever again.

Lorraine over at WordingWell recommends using Anti-Spam instead. She has more day-to-day traffic than I do, rather than my occasional burst of crazy traffic punctuated by silence, so they may have their own strengths. The good news is that they work through entirely different methods, so you can install either or both.

Zemanta

zemanta editorial assistant
Zemanta Editorial Assistant

Zemanta is cool. It slips itself into the side of your post/page edit screen, and provides links to related content, various pictures that are free use (mostly it scrapes Wikipedia, but it does it well) and you can even add related content from lists of preferred sources (such as your own blogs, or friends’ blogs).

Now, it does need to be said that Zemanta is an ad server, so it gives you related content, but it pushes paid content up higher. It marks sponsored content as sponsored content, which is good enough for me, especially considering how much of a time saver it is, but some folks might want to know that before they use it. So now you do.

Wordfence Security

wordfence security
Wordfence Security

Security is important. Like, really important. If your admin password is “admin” then change it. Right now. Don’t even finish reading this, go do that, and come back. I’ll wait.

Now, Wordfence is no substitute for using a sensible username and password, but it will track security problems, scan your site for malicious code (think of it as an antivirus/firewall for your website).

Now, here’s why you want it. Check out another feature of the plugin, the login live log:

WordFence

On average, someone tries to hack into my website every ten to fifteen minutes. These are almost certainly automated programs that go along adding /wp-admin to every URL they find, and then entering the username “admin” and the top twenty passwords (before they get locked out).

You can even have Wordfence send you an email every time someone logs into your site, which I do.

WP Do Not Track

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I debated including this, and eventually decided to add it. Did you know your plugins are reporting data on your and your visitors to their developers? If you run software to check for it, you’ll see your site is installing cookies, even if you don’t use them. I didn’t until I stumbled onto this plugin. I was skeptical that it was enough of a problem to make a difference.

When I activated it lowered my server’s memory usage by almost 10% per user. In other words, one tenth of all the info coming into or out of my site wasn’t my stuff, it was the plugins sending back info. That’s a lot of unnecessary traffic, and just the sort of underhanded crap that annoys me.

So I’m officially recommending this plugin.

Quick Cache

wp quick cache
WP Quick Cache

Honestly, it doesn’t matter which of the big three caching plugins you use, as long as you use one. What they do is make it so that your site only has to render new content, and the rest is stored as-is, which really, really, increases page load time for visitors.

Page load time is one of the biggest factors determining whether people stick around to actually read your material.

WP System Health

They don’t have a logo, and I’m not going to make one. Their site is here.

This plugin’s a little more “advanced” than the others, but it’s wonderful. It tells you the name of your server, how much memory your site is using (and how much is available), how much storage your site is using (and how much is available), your My SQL server, load average . . .

And a lot of other things.

Basically, if you know (or want to know) a bit about how to run a website, it tells you all the little things you want to know. If you don’t know how to run or fix a site, it puts all the stuff whoever is doing the running/fixing for you will want to know, right in one place.

Did I Miss Any Plugins You Can’t Live Without?

First Site Guide did a similar, but much longer article, where they asked several established WordPress bloggers which plugins they recommended. I don’t agree with all their choices, but there’s always more to learn . . . do you have advice for me? Some plugins you consider irreplaceable? Leave a comment below, and I’ll look into them!

What's the Best WordPress Plugin?

  • Yoast SEO (100% Votes)
  • Akismet (0% Votes)
  • Quick Cache (0% Votes)
  • Wordfence (0% Votes)
  • Zemanta (0% Votes)
  • WP System Health (0% Votes)
  • WP Do Not Track (0% Votes)
  • Other (0% Votes)
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6 Thoughts on “7 Plugins Your WordPress Site Needs”

  • Donna Carol Is it All-in-One SEO? I used to use that, and found Yoast better. The general opinion seems to swing that way. Definitely don’t use both. You’re probably okay with either.

  • Connor Rickett lorrainemariereguly But the thing to note with Akismet is that you don’t have to sift through your spam folder to “rescue” people who inadvertently land in there. Anti-spam is the better option. Trust me. I experimented with both on Wording Well and even wrote a post about it. 

    You might want to check it out.

    • I haven’t had any issues with that at all, but you have a lot more comments and a different comment system, so it’s worth highlighting! Thanks for the feedback, it really does help make these guides so much better.

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