WordPress is one of the most widely used content management systems.
Its ease of use combined with an extensive range of features make it the preferred platform for millions of content publishers. And with most web hosts providing one click installations, you don’t have to write a single code to build a professional looking site
Here’s how WordPress compares to the top million sites that use a CMS:
There’s simply no comparison.
Where WordPress truly shines is with its considerable library of plugins—Extensions that offer even more functionality. Plugins offer all kinds of customisation that completely transform your site. Whatever you can think of there’s likely a plugin for it.
Want to turn your blog into an ecommerce store? Want to make a new course available only for paid subscribers? There are plugins with those exact functionalities and more.
The WordPress plugin directory alone has over 55,000 plugins. And with that many it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. Here we’ll look at some of the top rated WordPress plugins for each of the following categories.
● WordPress plugins for SEO
● WordPress plugins for selling online
● WordPress plugins for site performance
● WordPress plugins for list building
● WordPress plugins for site security
Let’s get started.
1.0 WordPress Plugins For SEO
Whether to research an upcoming purchase or to catch up on the latest news, people turn to Google. The following shows search engine market share in Australia:
If you want to be found online you need to optimise for Google.
But here’s a harsh reality:
Just building a WordPress site isn’t enough to rank in Google.
It doesn’t matter how much you’ve invested in your site’s design or how good your content is. If your site is poorly optimised it stands little chance of ranking. It might as well be invisible.
Here are the plugins we recommend to better optimise your site for search:
1.1 Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is a robust plugin that makes it easier to optimise your pages. It allows you to add a title, meta description, and keywords for each post. But its best feature is providing suggestions based on a content analysis.
Simply enter in a focus keyword and the Analysis section will show the following:
The content is optimised but there are helpful improvements I can implement to make it even better. The plugin also includes a snippet preview so you can see how your post will appear in the search results.
Other features of the plugin include:
● Advanced XML sitemap functionality
● Control over site breadcrumbs
● Canonical URLs to prevent duplicate content
● Flesch Reading Ease readability score
● Integration with Google Search Console
Your site stands a much better chance of ranking for target keywords the better optimised it is.
1.2 Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps builds a sitemap of your site with a list of pages on your site.
This makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages. Once you install and activate the plugin, you can find the sitemap to your site by appending “/sitemap.xml” to your domain (e.g. yoursite.com/sitemap.xml). Google and Bing will automatically be notified of new changes any time you add new content.
Be sure to add your new sitemap to Search Console. Login to your account and click “Sitemaps” under “Crawl”:
Click the red “Add/Test Sitemap” button on the top right. Then add “sitemap.xml” to the box and click “Submit”
Now Google will be able to crawl and index your pages more easily.
2.0 WordPress Plugins to Sell Online
E-commerce sales continue to see exponential growth with no signs of slowing down. Just look at this chart from Statista that shows global online sales:
The chart makes one thing immediately clear: Consumers are increasingly shopping online.
Small to medium-sized companies are already jumping on the ecommerce bandwagon. If you’re looking to drive more product sales, your site needs to have shopping cart functionality.
Here’s how you can start selling online with WordPress:
WooCommerce comes with an extensive array of features to build a fully functional ecommerce store.
Even with little technical expertise you can start selling physical and digital products today. Just like with plugins for WordPress, there are hundreds of extensions that add even more functionality to your site from generating customer invoices to allowing appointments online.
Over 28% of all online stores rely on WooCommerce for their business.
And it’s completely free too.
Once you install and activate WooCommerce, the plugin will take you through a step by step wizard to help you setup your store:
Simply follow the instructions and you’ll be on your way to creating your first online store.
2.2 WP Courseware
WP Courseware comes with a ton of functionality to easily build an online course for your most loyal customers.
● Drag and drop functionality
● Course restrictions for users
● Integration with e-commerce plugins
● Flexible payment options
● Content scheduler
● Quiz creation tools
And much more.
Unlike the others on our list, WP Courseware is a paid plugin starting at $129 for a 2 site license. The plugin also doesn’t accept payments to sell your course but it does offer integration with e-commerce plugins like WooCommerce.
Not sure if WP Courseware is right for you?
Be sure to check out the demo to try the different features:
If you’re creating an online course, you definitely want to be rewarded for your efforts. WP Courseware offers one of the easiest ways to make your course accessible to paid customers.
3.0 WordPress Plugins For Site Performance
Online users today expect a fast browsing experience. If your site takes longer than a few seconds to load, most will not hesitate to click back. Optimising your site’s performance needs to be a priority. Otherwise you risk users bouncing out in frustration.
Data from Google has found a strong correlation between loading times and bounce rates.
Bottom line: Every second counts.
Here are the plugins we recommend to enhance your site performance:
3.1 WP Smush
Unoptimised images are one of the biggest culprits for slow loading times. Images can really weigh down your site if they are uploaded without any optimisation beforehand. Software like Photoshop can be used but it can rather tedious to optimise each image.
WP Smush strips unnecessary information from your images and reduces file sizes. All without sacrificing image quality. The plugin also works its magic for unoptimised images already uploaded to your site.
The dashboard shows a quick overview of the number of images compressed and total savings:
Even a one second improvement can translate more to your bottom line. So install and activate this plugin to compress your images.
3.2 W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is one of the highest rated performance enhancement plugins.
Each asset on a page has to be loaded before the browser can display them. Caching reduces loading times by storing static files locally. Those files are then served the next time a user visits the same page instead of having to load again.
Install and activate the plugin. There will be a new tab titled “Performance” added to the navigation menu on the left side. Click on “General Settings” and click “Enable under the “Page Cache” heading:
4.0 WordPress Plugins For List Building
Even as new marketing channels emerge, one continues to stand above the rest: Email.
A key finding from Ipsos found that 85% of online users regularly send and receive email. In contrast, 62% communicate through social networking sites. What’s more is that email delivers far better returns than other channels.
Email offers a direct line of communication. That kind of engagement is invaluable as a well crafted email sales funnel translates to more conversions.
The first step is to build an email list.
Here are list building plugins you’ll want to check out:
MailChimp is a popular service to create email marketing campaigns. Users can get started for free and manage up to 2,000 contacts or upgrade their accounts and access more features with fewer restrictions.
The MailChimp plugin integrates with WordPress and lets you add user friendly subscription forms anywhere on your site. To get started you’ll need to enter in your MailChimp API key to connect your account. Note that there’s a paid version of the plugin that lets you unlock additional features like the Styles Builder.
Additional features include integration with WooCommerce and reporting that shows which sign-up methods and pages are converting best. To build a substantial list you need to make it easy for visitors to subscribe.
OptinMonster takes your list building efforts to the next level with new ways to collect emails. The idea of adding a popup to your site may be enough to make you shudder. But there’s a reason why some of the top sites continue to implement them: They convert.
The OptinMonster plugin offers an easy to use form builder to create optin forms including:
● Fullscreen welcome mats
● Slide-in scroll boxes
● Floating header bars
● Lightbox popups
● Exit intent popups
OptinMonster offers a ton of other features from advanced page level targeting to A/B testing to test different layouts and more. If you’re serious about growing your list then this is a must have plugin.
5.0 WordPress Plugins For Site Security
WordPress powers more than 27.5% of the top 10 million sites. Unfortunately, those figures make this platform a prime target for hackers. Successful hacks can inject malware into your site and steal personal information for nefarious purposes.
The following chart from Wordfence shows the number of brute force attacks just in one month alone:
One successful hack is all it takes to bring a complete halt to your online sites.
Here are the WordPress plugins we recommend to enhance your website security:
VaultPress creates automated backups of your site and performs security scans daily.
In the absolute worst case scenario, you can easily restore your site to an earlier backup in a single click. The plugin is powered by Jetpack which includes even more security features like:
● Brute force attack protection
● Comment spam filtering
● Secure logins with two-factor authentication
● Malware and code scanning
● Automated threat resolution
The dashboard makes it easy to manage your settings and monitor daily backups:
Note that a personal license runs $39 a year but is well worth it for peace of mind.
Wordfence Security offers an additional layer of security to keep your site safe.
There are a countless number of malicious bots on the web. Preventing access is one of the best ways to protect your site. Wordfence features firewall protection and comprehensive malware scanning that blocks any requests that include potentially malicious code.
The dashboard provides a quick snapshot of your site’s security:
Additional features like real-time IP blacklist blocks and firewall rules are also available but require a paid subscription. Wordfence deserves a closer look as you can never be too safe.
This list is by no means definitive.
But it offers a great starting point to optimise your site SEO, improve loading times, harden security, and sell to a wider audience. No two businesses are alike so experiment with different plugins to see which works best for you.
What are your essential WordPress plugins?