What is a plugin?
A plugin is a bunch of code, that, when added (plugged in) to your WordPress site, gives it a ton of functionality it did not have before. The great thing about WordPress plugins, is that they take an already amazing site, that you created, and make it better without you having to know any code.
People are often concerned that there is a “too many plugins” threshold. The truth is, what matters is what plugins you have. This article by Austin Gunter over at WP Engine called, Plugins and Fast WordPress Sites – It’s Not the Number of Plugins, It’s the Quality explains why you can be running 80 plugins and still have a safe, fast site! So, whether you have 2 or 20 plugins (or 80!), these are WordPress plugins you should know about.
Jetpack by WordPress
Jetpack is an amazing WordPress plugin built by the folks at Automattic (the people behind WordPress). The great thing about Jetpack is it offers you a ton of functions that used to only be available in individual plugins. Some notables are Social Media share buttons, blog follow widget, easy blog icon (favicon), custom CSS module, simple contact forms, related posts, even grammar and spell check and so so much more. Use Jetpack and only activate the modules you use.
Akismet is the single most effective spam reducing plugin. On my personal blog Akismet catches 500 spam messages a day.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast has surpassed all other plugins as the definitive SEO plugin. As a matter of fact, this plugin also eliminates the need to have a plugin that generates XML sitemaps because it generates new ones every time you write a new post and submits them for you!
One of the best features of this plugin is that it has a simple red light, green light system alerting you when you’re SEO is not good. You scroll to the bottom of your page and can see a live page analysis. Just click on the Page Analysis tab and get an explanation of how to improve the SEO on your post.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache What is cache? Caching is when your data is stored in a way that is easier for your site to access then to go to your server and request it. It makes your site run much faster with fewer errors. It is really important for page load time. All hosts recommend you use one, most recommend you use this one.
As far as free security goes, Wordfence Security is probably the best. With over 4 million downloads and an almost perfect rating of 4.9 you can’t go wrong. If you choose to go with Wordfence, you won’t need a caching plugin – Wordfence takes care of that. It has a firewall that blocks common forms of attacks and has a unique way of blocking known attacks. If any other WordPress site is being attacked it blocks that same attack on every site that uses it, simultaneously!
Simple Social Icons
It doesn’t get any easier than Simple Social Icons, this plugin allows you to drop clean-looking social icons into any widget. And you can customize the color and size.
Better Click to Tweet
Better Click to Tweet is a plugin that everyone who wants more twitter shares needs. It places a little twitter icon in your tool bar, so while you are creating a page or post, you just click the icon and a window pops up. Enter your tweet and it shows up as a nice bit of pop out text in your post. It makes it really easy for your readers to click on it to tweet your personalized tweet.
Social Media Sharing Plugin
When I originally wrote this post, #8 was Shareaholic. Since then, I have had to fix more sites with that plugin than any other. And so, it lost it’s spot. In my quest to find a replacement, I have come up with these options.
You can use the built in functionality of Jetpack. If you don’t want floating buttons in your sidebar, Jetpack is a great choice that is guaranteed not to effect how your site functions.
SumoMe This comes with a HUGE caveat. I have never used SumoMe. That being said I have tons of clients who use it, and no one has ever needed me to fix their site. So that’s saying a lot.
Social Warfare premium plugin. This plugin is going to get it’s own post soon. It is by far the most amazing social media plugin I have ever used. I have been using it on the blog I publish, Break the Parenting Mold, and it is so amazing that I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. Here are some functions:
- Choose specific Facebook Images, titles and descriptions. (I know you can do that with Yoast, but wait)
- Choose specific PINTEREST Images and DESCRIPTIONS! Yes I am yelling. This way when someone clicks Pin, the image YOU want is pulled, it doesn’t even have to be in your post!! And it pulls YOUR description which you can load with SEO. This plugin has increased our Pinterest traffic!
- Click to Tweet (this would eliminate your need for click to tweet) and you can choose from multiple styles.
- Customizable sharing buttons.
- Many sharing platforms not available everywhere.
- Customizable counts. For instance, if you don’t want people to see a post has only been shared twice, you tell the plugin, only show share counts after x amount of shares.
Yes that link is an affiliate link, but I would NEVER recommend something I didn’t love. The customer service is very responsive, since it is a new plugin there have been a few hiccups, but they have fixed them very fast. I have been thrilled with the amount of customization I can do, and attribute our rapid growth in part to that plugin.
In my opinion, WordPress plugins are part of what makes WordPress fun. Plugins are the tools you need to make your blog do the things you always wished it could do! Read the post I mentioned above, get over your fear of plugins and start looking at how plugins can make your blog more unique.
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