10 essential WordPress plugins for 2016
With over 42,000 free WordPress plugins available from the wordpress.org Plugin Directory, plus an unknown number of non-registered and premium plugins available from around the web, it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to improving your WordPress website.
In this article, I’ll outline the 10 essential free plugins that every WordPress admin should be using in 2016.
The 10 chosen plugins all relate to your site’s backend and making your website faster, more secure and optimised for search. These are the plugins that every WordPress website should have regardless of the aim, function and layout of the site.
Wordfence Security is a free enterprise class security and performance plugin that makes your site up to 50 times faster and more secure.
It starts by checking if your site is already infected by performing a deep server-side scan of your source code comparing it to the Official WordPress repository for core, themes and plugins. Then Wordfence secures your site by blocking known WordPress attackers and pops up a firewall. It offers Two Factor Authentication and forces users to use strong passwords. The plugin reports to the site admin via email; informing them of possible attacks, required updates and changes to core files.
Wordfence is easy to set-up and configure with most features needing little knowledge. It’s security and reporting system is very good. That’s why we’ve added it as our essential security plugin.
In a world where WordPress websites are targets for hackers, creating a back up of your website is essential and should be performed regularly if you make regular updates. Many hosts now perform back ups of your website, but we like to keep our own so we can choose when they are taken and how they are stored.
BackWPup allows us to do just that. It allows you to create complete WordPress backup for free and store it on the cloud, FTP, email, or on your computer. It is extremely easy to use and allows you to schedule automatic backups according to your site’s update frequency. Restoring a WordPress site from backup is also very simple.
All WordPress themes are not created equally; even a brand new theme may not support the latest WordPress standards. These standards cover the quality of coding, support for features and security amongst others.
The Theme Check plugin is an easy way to test your theme and make sure it’s up to spec with the latest theme review standards. With it, you can run all the same automated testing tools on your theme that WordPress.org uses for theme submissions. This is very handy when using a theme acquired or purchased from an external source or when using old themes you may have saved locally.
Nobody likes a slow website. It’s enough to make a visitor go elsewhere, never to return; page speed is also key to Google’s algorithm. WP Super Cache is a very fast caching engine for WordPress that produces static html files to make your pages load faster.
Once a cached version of your page/post it will serve that version to your visitors instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts. 99% of your visitors will be served static html files. Those users who don’t see the static files will still benefit because they will see different cached files that aren’t quite as efficient but still better than uncached.
Continuing with the subject of page speed Better WordPress Minify combines and minifies your CSS and JS files to improve page load time. It improves compatibility with other plugins and themes by using WordPress’s enqueueing system which respects the order of CSS and JS files as well as their dependencies.
BWP Minify is a superb and underused WordPress plugin that will speed up every WordPress website.
Here’s another plugin relating to load speed. GZip is an algorithm that compresses the data on your site before sending it to the user, where their browser then decompresses the data locally before displaying the page. The result is that less data is transferred, resulting in faster page load speeds.
GZip Ninja Speed Compression does this for you simply by installing and activating it. Why wouldn’t you?
Another page speed related plugin, this time WP Smush which strips hidden, bulky information from your images, reducing the file size without losing quality. It scans every image you upload and your existing media library and cuts all the unnecessary data for you. The resulting compressed images load faster, resulting in faster page load times.
Your database contains all of your website content including blog posts, pages, revisions, comments, form entries and settings. If you update your website regularly, your database will grow larger and slower over time. By removing unnecessary data, you can improve the efficiency of your database and make your web pages load quicker.
With one click WP Optimize can clean up and optimize your database. It can clean up post revisions, spam comments, and other unnecessary info. The result is a cleaner, slimmer database that performs quickly and improves page load times.
Dealing with spam comments is a time consuming chore that no WordPress website admin enjoys. Spam comments can also slow your website by clogging up the database.
Akismet identifies spam comments using its own servers and database of spammers and stops it from reaching your database and website. If it is uncertain, it will queue the comment for you to decide.
Simple, yet brilliant.
Yoast is in (our opinion) the best and most intuitive SEO plugin available. It forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then instructs you to use it in all the key places for maximum search engine impact through its page analysis.
It can tell search engines which pages to display and which not to show, it can create dynamic xml sitemaps for all your content and allows you to adit .htaccess and robots.txt files
Brilliant for new and old WordPress users.
OK, I said 10 Essential WordPress Plugins. Consider this the bonus ball.
Google Analytics provides the best visitor data available for your WordPress website, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP brings all this data directly into your WordPress admin panel. In addition to a set of general Google Analytics reports, in-depth Page reports and in-depth Post reports allow further segmentation of your analytics data, providing performance details for each post or page from your website.
Having this data side-by-side your content allows for a quicker workflow when analysing and optimising your content for search engines, saving time and improving out comes.