Make your WordPress site work for you
If you have a WordPress website, you are serious about blogging. You spend a lot of time writing blog posts and content, and you want to get as much traffic as you can from Google Search and other search engines.
What you do not want to do is to waste your valuable writing time on site maintenance, performance enhancement, security and backups and especially, social media posting.
For these tasks and many more, the WordPress plugin directory is full of useful and practical solutions.
However, you should check the number of downloads, the reviews and the support forum before deciding on any new plugin.
Quite often a free plugin can do the job. But it pays to be very selective, and you should always thoroughly test any free version before you activate the plugin on your live site.
Setting up a WordPress sandbox site is by far the best way for you to safely test and evaluate new plugins or WordPress themes.
Whether you choose free or paid WordPress plugins, you should always make sure that they are going to do the job for you.
Additionally, you need to be sure that any new plugin for WordPress will not negatively affect your site speed.
To help you make decisions about which tools could improve your blog, here is a list of free and paid plugins that I have been using on my WordPress sites for a long time now. So they are all very much tried and tested.
My 7 Essential WordPress Plugins
1. Akismet Anti-Spam
No site should be running without comment spam protection. Akismet is always the first plugin I install on any new site.
It is installed on over 5 million sites and is the number one security plugin for WordPress. There is a premium version, but the free version offers more than enough protection for almost all bloggers.
Setting up is quick and easy. Once you have installed the plugin, you need to get your free API key and then check the few basic settings.
After that, you will probably never look at it again. But it will protect your site day in and day out.
One more setting you can make to counter comment spam is in your Discussion settings.
With these settings, you can moderate every comment and be 100% sure that no spammers get onto your site. But if you do not choose to moderate, Akismet will catch between 95-98%.
I have used it for long enough to know how well it works.
2. All In One SEO
Every site needs an SEO Plugin.
The two best choices are Yoast SEO and All In One SEO. I have used both of them extensively over the years.
However, my preference is All In One SEO because it is effective, efficient and most of all unobtrusive.
I use it on all my live sites. Without any fuss, it looks after my sitemaps, social media metadata and most importantly, SEO titles and meta description tags.
Another reason I can recommend it is that the support from the developer Michael Torbert and his team members is fantastic.
3. WP Rocket
Cache plugins are essential for site speed, and especially now that there is more and more mobile traffic.
Google has a mobile-first policy for site ranking, so it is vital that your site loads as fast as possible.
Until recently, the best way to reduce page load times was to use a combination of plugins to do the work.
W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache for browser and page caching, Autoptimize for minification and A3 Lazyload for image deferring.
It involved a lot of settings in each plugin and especially with W3 Total Cache, which can be a difficult plugin to set up for an inexperienced WordPress user.
However, WP Rocket solves these problems because it is an all in one solution to make sure your site loads as fast as possible.
Here is a side-by-side comparison chart of what you get and how it makes your site load faster.
With WP Rocket there is no need to use a bundle of plugins to do the job for you.
4. Revive Old Post
I have used Revive Old Post for years.
It is the best way to automatically leverage social sharing for your all blog posts, night and day.
You can share to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr on your selected schedule. You can also immediately share when you publish a new blog post.
Revive Old Post will save you so much time compared to manually posting to all your social media networks.
I have it installed and running on all my sites, and I can add that it is super reliable. It is a fantastic tool for content marketers and for authors for book promotion because you can also integrate Google Analytics.
Another option from the same developer is Revive Network.
You can share content from other relevant websites on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. It is a great tool if you don’t have a huge quantity of your own blog posts to share.
5. Social Pug
You should be very selective with social sharing button plugins.
If you want to have sharing buttons on your posts and pages, Social Pug is one of the best choices.
It is super lightweight and has zero effect on your site loading speed.
It is very user-friendly and comes with a host of features, and you can customise the sharing buttons to suit your post types, site design and placement.
6. Updraft Plus
You only appreciate the value of a backup plugin when something goes wrong.
The rest of the time you forget you have it installed.
One of the problems with a free solution for backup plugins is not with making backups. It is with the ease of restoring when you have a problem.
It is useless to have your restore files stored within your WordPress installation, because when it goes down, so do your restore files.
Updraft Plus solves the issue perfectly. All your backup data is stored outside of your WordPress installation. You can send your backups to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon S3 and a host of other services.
You can schedule your backups, and even set incremental backups to be 100% certain that your site is totally secure in case of emergency.
While there is the possibility of your site being hacked, the more common situations are a file corruption, coding error or plugin conflict.
Having a quick and easy way to do an instant restore is an invaluable asset to protect your site. It has saved me many times.
7. Ninja Forms
I changed back to Ninja Forms quite recently.
The reason I changed was that Contact Form 7 removed the option to use Google reCaptcha V2.
The new V3 reCaptcha is awfully invasive as it appears on every page of your site. It is not logical that a contact form plugin inserts code onto every page of a WordPress site.
With V2, reCaptcha only appears on the pages where you need it. Most often it is your contact forms.
I had used Ninja Forms in the past, and because it gives you the option to use either version of reCaptcha, I went back to it. It is easy to use, and you can create custom forms with a good choice of custom fields in minutes.
In all honesty, a contact form plugin should be reliable, simple to set up and use. Ninja Forms ticks all these boxes.
Also Recommended for WordPress
I know it is not a WordPress plugin, but it feels like one.
I use the Grammarly Chrome extension to integrate with my WordPress editor when I write blog posts.
Because I use it day in and day out, it really does feel like it is part of WordPress for me.
It makes writing so much quicker and easier with one-click corrections in the editor, or I can open the Grammarly editor for more detailed analysis and correction.
Themeisle WordPress Themes
The quality of your WordPress site is based on how fast and efficient your theme is.
Choosing a theme is not only about appearance, but it is also a vital part of a site’s functionality.
Always choose a fast loading responsive theme to ensure that your mobile visitors get great user experience.
Themeisle has a huge range of quality free and premium WordPress themes that are all designed to be fast, but at the same time, offering a lot of features and options.
There are thousands of WordPress plugins. You can set up an online shop with a payment gateway, start membership sites, add 301 redirects or install a page builder.
But no matter if you select free, premium or paid plugins, you should always test and check to make sure it will do the job efficiently, reliably and without slowing down your site.
Most of all, it will need to do a set task that will work for you around the clock.
I use all of the seven plugins I have mentioned in this post. They are all working away in the background right now doing their job, while I am doing mine.
Writing this article.