Plugins are add-ons that give WordPress (self-hosted, not .com) sites extra functionality. They’re basically apps for your sites, and whatever you want, there’s a plugin for that. But just because you can use plugins for whatever doesn’t mean you should. Every plugin you add to your website is one more thing that load every time someone visits. So they can slow down your site (some more than others).
If you have more than 15 plugins, you’re doing the most. I had a client who had me optimize their site because it was acting funky and when I logged into their dashboard, they had 50 plugins. FIDDY!!! I was like “NAWL.”Having 50 plugins is like having to introduce yourself with 50 names. By the time you’re done saying your name, I won’t even be interested. Same thing. Loading 50 plugins on your site and having people wait for all of them to be done is going to drive them away. Ain’t nobody got TAHM for it.
Ennehweighs, there ARE five plugins that I think every WordPress site should have.
* Akismet – This plugin comes with every WordPress installation, and it manages your spam comments. It places the junk ones in the spam folder automatically, puts the ones it isn’t sure of into moderation (for you to approve, trash or mark as spam) and lets the good ones through. It’s about 99% accurate most of the time and is a lifesaver. There’s so much junk on the interwebs that if you do not activate Akismet (or another catcher), you might find your site overrun with these comments in no time. I once had to delete over 32,000 spam comments from a client’s website because they had never activated Akismet.
Alternate: Anti-Spam. I’ve never used any other spam plugin besides Akismet but this is another option.
Also: Hello Dolly comes with every WordPress installation. Please delete it as it is useless.
* WordPress SEO by Yoast – SEO is search engine optimization, which is the process of making your website more visible in Google, Yahoo!, Bing etc. More visibility comes from higher rankings which will send you more traffic. It’s something every blogger (or site owner) should be familiar with, especially if your site is currently:
Anywho, WordPress SEO by Yoast is hands down one of THE BEST plugins out there. It’s really powerful and the control it gives you control over what your site’s content looks like in search engines. For example, I can name this post anything I want to grab your attention as readers, but through WordPress SEO, I can have the post’s title be different when it is read by the search engine robots. Cool, right?
The plugin also helps you activate Twitter Cards, which allows people to view your site’s featured image and description without leaving Twitter. These are just a couple of the great features that it has, but it’s highly recommended.
Alternate: All in One SEO Pack. It does the job but isn’t as powerful or feature-rich. The main pro for AIOSP is that it’s easier to set up.
* WP Super Cache – When you load WordPress, everything that is a part of the specific page loads. Every PHP code, every extra tag, every plugin, every picture. So on one page, 150 things might need to load when someone lands on it. That’s a lot. Some things take more time than others but they all add up.
Think of a cache (pronounced like cash) as the picture of a site. When a site is cached, it means its been stored as it is at that time, to save time and resources. A caching plugin takes your site’s content and periodically caches it so that when people load your site, instead of it reloading everything and pinging all the different parts, it serves them the last “picture” it took.
Caching plugins are great because they can make your site run twice as fast and enhance the performance.
But the con of caching plugins is that sometimes when you make a change to your sidebar, or header, it might take some minutes for those changes to be reflected on your live site. Since the cache still has the old picture and hasn’t checked to get the new one.
WP Super Cache is easy to set up and does the job well. Most sites won’t need more than this plugin because they aren’t handling heavy traffic.
Alternate: W3 Total Cache. It is heavier than WP Super Cache, has more functionality and can connect to CDNs. It’s a bit more complicated to set up and can be daunting to those who aren’t technical. You can choose different types of caching for it to do. If you don’t know what to pick, you can go with the defaults or Google “setting up W3 Total Cache” for tutorials.
* Contact Form 7 – Every site should have a Contact page and that page should have a contact form. Make it easy for people to reach you and allow them to send you an email directly from your site. A great plugin for that is Contact Form 7, which is light and compatible with most themes. It’s nothing fancy but it’s all you need, and it won’t slow your site down.
Alternate: Gravity Forms. I’ve never used it but folks show it love. And it costs money so there’s a con.
* LinkWithin – At the end of your blogposts, give people the option of reading more of your work. LinkWithin pulls in 3-5 posts from your site and puts them at the end of all your posts, with pictures and their titles so those who really enjoyed what you just wrote are just one click away from more! This will help increase your pageviews and site’s stickiness (“making people stay” factor).
Alternate: Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP). I’ve used this and just recently deactivated it. It’s good though and works with most themes.
So go forth and blog well! And remember: DO NOT GO PLUGIN CRAZY. And backup your site before you install a new plugin. Also, check out a plugin’s rating too. Super important.
What are your 5 most essential plugins? Are you using any of these already? Lemme hear you say YEAH! *hypes up the crowd*