WordPress is a popular and easy-to-use online publishing platform designed for content heavy websites and blogs. It allows users to add articles, photos and all manner of content to a website without coding intervention from IT departments. It is infinitely customizable and can accommodate a large number of contributors.
A basic WordPress installation has some very nice features, but is missing some crucial under-the-hood functionality. Luckily, the WordPress platform allows for the installation of add-ons called “Plugins” which allow users to modify a WordPress installation to suit their particular needs. There are thousands of plugins available and almost all of them are free or have free versions of their paid counterparts. In this short article I offer up a few of what I consider to be essential WordPress plugins. Each of these are popular and well respected plugins with 100,000+ installations and regular updates.
Most WordPress hacks are performed by software packages which are designed specifically to scour the internet for WordPress powered sites and hack into them. The simplest among them will simply look for the standard WordPress login page and try to “brute force” their way into the standard admin account.
Wordfence, Sucuri and BulletProof Security are a few of the more popular and well supported plugins available to help protect your site. All three offer enhanced services for a fee, but their basic free plugins offer some decent protection from wandering bots. There is a lot more that can be said about WordPress security and no solution can guarantee a problem-free WordPress experience, but the these security plugins are a good place to start. You can read more here, here and here.
Comments and discussion features are a good way to engage users, but can also be problematic. If you allow comments you’ll likely be inundated with tons comment spam. If you restrict commenting to registered users or hold comments for moderation, visitors may not bother to engage.
One of my favorite solutions is the Disqus Comment System. Disqus is a popular commenting and discussion platform which allows users to post on any Disqus-powered site from a single login. Website owners can also moderate comments on their site from a single control panel. Essentially Disqus allows you to outsource the discussion features of your site. You can read more here.
Social media is an essential part of website and brand promotion and there are a number of great WordPress plugins to help make social sharing of your articles and content easier. Some of these plugins will add share buttons or share counters to your articles, while others will help make it easier for you to post your content to social networks.
One my favorites is NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster (SNAP). SNAP allows you to automatically share your new content with dozens of networks. Twitter, Facebook and many others are enabled in the free version, but you’ll need the paid version if you want to post to Google+ and LinkedIn. You can read more here.
While relevant content will go a long way towards helping your target audience find you, there are a few tools that can give you that little extra boost. There are a number of important SEO features not included with a basic WordPress installation, but finding the right plugin can be a little tough to nail down since there are so many. One of the more comprehensive SEO plugins is SEO Ultimate. This plugin has a huge list of features and 24 separate modules that can be activated or deactivated depending on the level of control you want and your depth of knowledge. It also includes a 404 monitor which can be helpful in security monitoring and for locating dead links. Read more here.
Another SEO-related plugin is Google XML Sitemaps. As it’s name suggests, this plugin will create and update a properly formatted XML sitemap which allows major search engines to find the content in your site. Find it here.
Need some help optimizing your WordPress powered website? Please e-mail [email protected].