Don’t Overthink It: Get These WordPress Plugins

Don’t Overthink It: Get These WordPress Plugins

There are over 50,000 WordPress plugins, and countless articles from other content marketers on which plugins are “best.” So when we decided to do our own article on our most recommended WordPress plugins, we wanted to list the ones most crucial to your website’s success.

Keep in mind, these aren’t necessarily plugins that we think are the coolest or most clever. They’re the ones you need for the most common use cases.

When you’re just getting started, it’s most important to focus on what will enable you to publish well. For beginners, we recommend taking a couple of minutes to set up website analytics, getting an SEO assist with a helpful plugin, and activating a handful of plugins that will overall make your site safer, faster, and more reliable. 

Read on for our list.

For Analytics Made Simple: Site Kit

When your website is new and doesn’t yet have much domain authority or content, you’re probably not expecting much traffic. Plus, if you’re new to website analytics, Google Analytics will look overwhelming. But it’s worth taking a few minutes to set this up because when you eventually do care about analytics, you'll be glad to have the data from the very beginning.

You can get a free Google Analytics account with your tracking ID and add it to your site in under five minutes.

Once you do that, download Site Kit by Google.

There’s a bit of a learning curve with using Google Analytics and Google Search Console, so with this plugin, you can quickly see information like:

  • How people are coming to your site
  • How many people find your site through Google Search
  • Most popular content
  • Page load speed

As you dig into sections in your Site Kit dashboard, you’ll find more detailed metrics like bounce rate and session duration, as well as a line chart of trends over the past month.

For Easy Website SEO: Yoast 

Yoast is the easiest way to double-check your blog posts against overall SEO best practices. It’ll remind you to:

  • Optimize your keywords
  • Fill in your metadata (for the snippet in Google Search)
  • Add internal and external links 
  • Avoid duplicating content
  • Write readable content (it calculates a Flesch Reading Ease score)

It’ll also help you with a couple of other quick SEO best practices. But this plugin isn’t a replacement for gaining SEO knowledge. Think of Yoast as a guide, not a strict manual.

As you continue to publish content and gain more SEO knowledge, you might run into issues with Yoast. You may be creating a blog post as a valuable asset that you’ll link to from a couple of your other blog posts, instead of trying to rank for a new keyword. (Think: A long, detailed list of Whole30-approved nut milks within your health and wellness-focused blog.) In that instance, Yoast might give you a red light for having sections that are too long or having a keyword that’s too similar to a keyword in another post.

We’ve also seen the Yoast plugin frown upon instances where you don’t use exact keywords. Your key phrase might be “how to improve credit score,” but you wouldn’t write that exact phrase in your blog post because it would sound awkward. In these instances, stick to proper grammar. Google’s algorithm respects good writing. 

For a Secure Website: Wordfence Security 

No one wants to have to think about website security. But there are a few quick measures you can take to make your website more secure: use a unique, strong password for your WordPress site, and enable 2-factor authentication (or 2FA). 

Several plugins will help you set up 2FA, and one we like is Wordfence Security. It has a firewall that identifies and blocks malicious traffic and code, and it limits login attempts to help prevent brute force attacks. It also checks your site for security vulnerabilities and verifies the integrity of your core files, themes, and plugins. It’s especially important to keep themes and plugins current, as outdated software is one of the most common reasons WordPress sites get hacked.

For Quick Website Optimizations: Autoptimize

Autoptimize speeds up load time by minifying (or removing unnecessary or redundant data) and compressing your site’s scripts and styles.

Once you enable the plugin, go into the settings to set up optimizations across your site. Generally, we recommend going into the settings and checking the boxes for optimizing JavaScript, CSS, and HTML code. If you’re comfortable, try A/B testing your site with and without the boxes checked to see what’s optimal for your site. For more information on using Autoptimize, there’s a good resource on the Kinsta blog.

But you should also know that Autoptimize doesn’t cache your pages. There’s another plugin for that...

For Improving Website Speed: Super Cache

Super Cache by Automattic (the parent company of WordPress) speeds up your site by generating static HTML files from your blog and serving up the cached files to your visitors. A single cached file can be served thousands of times.

What’s particularly nice about this plugin is the flexibility for beginners and experts. Beginners can use Super Cache’s recommended settings. But if you’re comfortable editing PHP files, you can use this plugin in expert mode.

Though it’s not the leading SEO ranking factor, page speed is important. It also makes for a good user experience. If you want to geek out on page speed, Google has a bunch of tools to help you analyze and optimize your site.

For Image Resizing and Compression: Smush

While it’s a good idea to upload correctly-sized images into your content management system, you might not always have time to do that. Or you might run into an issue where you don’t know why an image is affecting your page load speed. Smush offers lossless compression, which means it will reduce file size without affecting image quality. Smush will also:

  • Allow you to set max width and height to help you scale your images
  • Locate images that are slowing down your site
  • Optimize up to 50 images in bulk

For Drag-and-Drop Website Building: Elementor

If you want a site with a more sophisticated design while still maintaining it all yourself, you may want to consider a drag-and-drop website builder like Elementor. It comes with more than 100 pre-designed templates and widgets so you can add elements like video, social media icons, Read More text, columns, tabs, toggles, and more.

If you really get into using Elementor or your website becomes more complex — like if you want to add email pop-ups or ecommerce — you can look into their subscription plans as well.

For Migrating Your Website to a New Domain: Better Search Replace

Whether you have an existing website that you’re moving to WordPress, or you’ve renamed your company or products, you’ll need to make sure that all your links are working correctly and that you’ve made any necessary name updates. The best way to handle this is to run a search and replace, which you can do with Better Search Replace. This tool helps you find all the instances where text needs to be replaced, and ensures your site is running correctly.

Better Search Replace also has a “dry run” feature so you can preview what changes will be made before you confirm them.

For Previewing Your Posts with Others: Public Post Preview 

Public Post Preview is a simple plugin that allows you to share a link to anonymous users — or people who don’t have a login to your WordPress account — so they can preview a draft of one of your posts. This is especially useful if you want a friend or colleague to review a post before you publish it.

For Automations to Help You Work Better: Zapier 

Zapier enables you to create automations to reduce your workload. You can use it to post to your social media channels and Slack channel, and to set up quick email campaigns. For extra help with this, check out our article on how we use Zapier to write the copy and post it to social media.

Look for Quality Plugins

As you continue to publish content, keep an eye out for more plugins that can help you streamline content creation and further optimize your site.

If you’re unsure about the criteria to help you choose a good-quality WordPress plugin, here are our suggestions: 

  • Number of ratings
  • Number of installations
  • When the plugin was last updated
  • What support looks like (will the developer help you troubleshoot if you run into problems?)

If you find a plugin you really like, or if you feel we missed out on recommending a great one, tweet at us at @growthmachine__.

Amanda Natividad

Amanda is the Head of Marketing for Growth Machine.
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