WordPress currently powers 26.6% of the web and as such we’ve worked on a large number of WordPress sites including our own (the current version and a new site that’s currently in development). Of course the majority of plugins on any given WordPress site are situation-specific in that they have to do with the design itself so I won’t be covering my preferences regarding sliders, etc. and am going to focus on five plugins that every WordPress installation should have in almost every situation. Where there are exceptions I will note them. And since this series is five quick tips let’s just dive right in.
5 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Have Installed
UpdraftPlus – UpdraftPlus is easily my favorite of the backup plugins. With the free version alone you can schedule daily backups that are uploaded to a remote location (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) and/or kept locally (not recommended). It can even be set to backup all relevant files prior to updates in case something goes wrong. The paid version (ranging from $70 to $145 depending on all the functions you want) has a lot more options but isn’t necessary. This includes functions such as encrypting your backup or migrating your site to a new domain.
If you’re a WordPress developer the Migrator add-on is $30 for unlimited use so it’s not even really a question.
If you keep them hosted remotely, in the event that your entire host goes down getting your site back up-and-running again is as simple as getting a new hosting account, installing WordPress on it, installing UpdraftPlus, restoring your site from the backup files and changing your DNS. The functional part of the process takes about 30 minutes.
Markup (JSON-LD) structured in schema.org – Initially I’d listed Schema Creator by Raven in this list and you can still use it but Raven Tools co-founder Jon Henshaw mentioned to me that it’s being discontinued though they’ll be revisiting some new options soon. Because of that I toyed around with a couple he’s recommending and this one, while not as flexible as Raven’s plugin, is a solid contender. Jon and I agreed on recommending Schema App Structured Data though it’s not free so it’s not my primary recommendation. You do need Schema however and the plugin here automates the process of getting it on posts and/or pages and is fairly customizable. I’m still looking forward to seeing what Raven comes up with next though. 🙂
AMP – You’ve likely heard about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and if not there’s a great piece over on Search Engine Land that describes it well. If you’re not up for redeveloping your entire site this plugin does a decent (though not perfect) job of creating an AMP version of your posts (not pages). If you’re a publisher or even if you just have a blog this is a great plugin and will greatly speed up mobile access to your content.
W3 Total Cache – I’ve tested a lot of speed tools and in the majority of scenarios W3 Total Cache fares the best. The plugin can be used to enable everything from browser caching (though I still find greater success doing it manually as describe in our previous post on improving PageSpeed), page caching (which can have a significant impact on your time to first byte) and minification. Worth noting however, this plugin isn’t allowed on WPengine (and I assume a few other hosts) but that’s only because their servers do the majority of this already. If you’re with such a host Autoptimize does a lot of these jobs and is allowed as it doesn’t duplicate what they’re already doing.
Broken Link Checker – Also not supported by WPengine but a darn good plugin is Broken Link Checker. The plugin reports on broken links on your site by frequently scanning all the pages. It then provides an interface to edit or delete the links as you see fit. Easily the fastest way to find broken links and images on your site and fix them.
The 6th Essential WordPress Plugin You Should Have Installed
I’m including a 6th here because it needs to be mentioned but you probably already have it installed and so I didn’t want to include it in the 5. It’s obviously …
Yoast SEO – The Yoast SEO plugin does everything from easing the customization of titles and descriptions to providing tips on how to improve your page (though admittedly not perfectly as it misses a lot). It creates XML sitemaps for you, adds breadcrumbs to your site if you like and allows you access to your .htaccess file to edit it if you’re not excited about going in via FTP (though I don’t know if I’d be touching the .htaccess file if you’re not comfortable with FTP). The free version is sufficient for most but the Premium version includes some awesome features including a simple redirect manager that alone makes it worth the $59. It also pulls in your Search Console data to show you broken external links to your site for redirection to gain back all that wasted link equity.
Installing all these plugins is obviously a matter of minutes but the configuration of each will take time. How long will depend on variables such as how many broken links are found on your site and whether you decide to add schema to your past posts or just new ones. Either way, the more time it takes the more value you’ll be getting out of each. Think, if you had to take hours to repair hundreds of broken internal links how much lost PageRank do you think you’d have recovered? That’s a lot easier than trying to build links to gain it back that way.
If you have any great plugins you’d like to share that are good for virtually any WordPress install or any comments on the ones listed here do feel free to leave a comment. If you have any questions about any of them you’re also welcome to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them.