WordPress is an amazingly powerful yet easy-to-use CMS (content management system). You can build everything from a simple blog to a complex ecommerce website on it. But it doesn’t come with every possible tool you may need “out-of-the-box”. That’s why there are a number of WordPress plugins available (some free, some paid). These tools can take care of quite literally every need you might have, from managing SEO to adding forms to eliminating comment box spam.
At AAC, we regularly use WordPress plugins. Here are just a few of my favorites, in alphabetical order (no playing favorites here!):
Advanced Custom Fields PRO
First, a warning: we don’t recommend casual WordPress users attempt to install this one on their own. Taking full advantage of it and its features into requires PHP knowledge.
What It Does: We use this plugin on just about every site we build, as it allows us to make our custom WordPress themes more flexible. It lets you customize fields to make your site exactly what you want it to be.
Will It Cost Me?: Free with some functionality limitations, but a paid option is available if you want all capabilities.
If you’re running a website with a blog, spam comments may something you have to deal with quite a bit.
What It Does: Akismet sifts through comments and emails, weeding out all the junky spam while leaving behind only legitimate comments for your moderation. It monitors millions of sites, using algorithms to compile lists of content that has been flagged on other sites. The plugin then applies that logic to your site to automatically remove spam so you never even see it. Genius!
Will It Cost Me?: This plugin is free for personal use and a paid version is available for commercial use.
Enable Media Replace
Enable Media Replace is a simple plugin that just works. There are no settings to configure and learning how to use it requires little effort.
What It Does: By default, WordPress doesn’t let you replace an existing file in the Media Library. You first need to delete the original file, then upload a new one and insert it back into the post or page. This becomes a hassle.
Using Enable Media Replace allows you to “Just replace the file” or “Replace the file, use new file name and update all links”. I’ve found that option 1 works reliably 100% of the time. The 2nd option doesn’t always update the links for you like it’s supposed to, so make sure you test afterwards. Even with that caveat, it’s still worth using!
Will It Cost Me?: This free plugin not only saves a couple steps, it helps keep your Media Library clean.
If you want to add forms to your site (and nearly everyone does – or should), Gravity Forms makes it easy.
What It Does: It provides a simple drag-and-drop form editor which makes building forms a breeze. Form submissions are stored and available in the WordPress admin, where entries are organized by form name. You can also receive an email notification of form submissions sent to any email address you want.
While Gravity Forms provides a lot of customization as-is, it also offers several add-ons that allow you to submit data to popular systems. You can integrate with other platforms such as HubSpot, MailChimp, AWeber, Paypal, iContact, Mad Mimi, Zoho and more.
Will It Cost Me?: This is a paid plugin, but it will prove to be worth the money by getting you the leads you want. We highly recommend this one if you’re considering adding forms to your site.
SEO (search engine optimization) can sometimes be taken for granted (or even forgotten). WordPress just doesn’t come with what you need out-of-the-box to easily make your content SEO-friendly.
What It Does: Yoast SEO is an ‘All in One’ SEO plugin. It provides fields that you populate to add a host of HTML tags to your content, letting you customize the meta title and other SEO elements. The plugin can even recommend or provide these automatically, by pulling from your site’s content. It also comes with customizable XML Sitemaps.
Yoast SEO will also scan your content and grade you in terms of on-page SEO and even readability. It couldn’t be easier!
Will It Cost Me?: The premium (paid) version of Yoast SEO also alerts you when permalinks change. It has a component for page redirects, which are critical in avoiding pesky 404 errors and broken links.
We take online security seriously. Every day, hackers find new vulnerabilities to exploit, and it is important to constantly monitor/update sites to ensure that they have not been compromised.
What It Does: Imagine having to visit every single page of your site or look at every file on your webhost to make sure nothing has changed. Or, manually keeping track of all of your WordPress plugins and when they were last updated. This type of maintenance can’t be easily accomplished if done manually.
With Wordfence, you can automate the maintenance process. It doesn’t visit every page per se, but it monitors all files to make sure no malicious changes have been made. This plugin monitors updates on your other plugins, and lets you know when one is needed. And it offers many other features that help to protect your site. The actual work of implementing updates is still manual, but WordFence helps make sure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Will It Cost Me?: There is a free version which give enough capabilities to protect a basic site, and the paid version gives access to more advanced features.
With all of this new WordPress plugin knowledge in mind, go forward and turn your site into exactly what you want it to be! If you feel like you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry – we’re here to help. Just contact us and I’ll make sure that the right plugins are installed and managed properly.