I have been regularly sharing my own experiences using WordPress plugins to run this business blog to help you make your own website more social media optimized, SEO friendly, and even help convert more of your visitors into new leads. I say “website” because WordPress is not just for blogs: As a CMS or Content Management System, it is estimated that WordPress powers 35% of all websites on the Internet.
Those of us running WordPress websites often wonder what type of plugins and tools are useful for making our jobs easier without overloading the site itself. After all, it’s a well-known fact that too many plugins can slow down our websites. At the extreme end of the spectrum, slow websites annoy our viewers and potential customers while they wait seemingly forever to read our content. But sometimes the issues aren’t as obvious.
In particular, we must worry that slowed websites will do poorly on Google rankings. As the old saying goes, if your website’s on page two of Google search, it’s effectively buried. On the other hand, some plugins are important to our ability to keep the site running well. Knowing the balance between too much and too little is key to having a fast-loading, attractive website that keeps customers interested.
Everyone’s particular experience with WordPress will be different, but since I’ve always run a content-heavy site, I’ve become obsessed with increasing the performance of how quickly this website runs for the average user. Speed is important for many reasons: In the words of one SEOMozer:
“In my world, if you really care about SEO, you need to care about how fast your pages load. Speed may not be the most important ranking factor, but it’s a factor nonetheless. As long as Google’s search algorithm remains a mystery, you’ll never know what type of optimization tipped your site from page 3 to page 1. For some sites, faster pages could be that tipping point.”
Speed has been a factor in Google search rankings since 2010. While some might question how important of a factor it is, there is a greater purpose for having a faster website as detailed by Geir Ellefsen in his WordPress Performance And Speed Optimization Tips post:
There are lots of benefits of having a blazing fast site:
– Better user experience
– People spend longer time on your site if it loads fast
– Search engines can crawl your site faster
The problem, and the oxymoron of writing a blog post about WordPress plugins while seeking faster speed, is that it is commonly known that WordPress plugins can slow down your website. That’s why I’ve been trying to follow the advice of someone I have high respect for, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers, who says in his What WordPress Plugins Are Vital To The Success Of Your Blog? post:
When you use more plugins, your website loads slower.
And when your page loads slower, you’re killing your conversion rates, and your search engine rankings.
(Google recently announced that it uses page load times in their search algorithm. Additionally, countless studies have shown that if you increase your page load times by as little as 0.1 second, you can lose a huge amount of sales).
So how many WordPress plugins should you use?
The answer is FEWER.
But it’s not just WordPress plugins that slow down your site. It’s also the quality of the code in which each plugin is developed.
Since the last revision of this blog post, in order to further increase speed, I have made two key decisions:
- Completely removed my dependence on the JetPack plugin, as it has become a very bloated piece of code that undoubtedly is slowing down my site. While I don’t have the data to prove it, I am blindly following the advice of The Blogging Millionaire – and if you don’t him, you can find him on my list of recommended social media marketing podcasts.
- I have moved my WordPress hosting to a site that is dedicated at providing high speed at a reasonable price, and for this reason I have chosen BigScoots and couldn’t be happier.
With all of the above in mind, below is my current list for the best WordPress plugins for business blogs. Note that where appropriate I have also tried to provide you some popular alternatives for comparison.
- Ad Inserter
- AddToAny Share Buttons
- Beaver Builder Plugin
- Broken Link Checker
- Featured Images in RSS
- Link Whisper
- LuckyWP Table of Contents
- Monarch Plugin
- OneSignal Push Notifications
- Q2W3 Fixed Widget
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer
- WP Rocket
- Yoast SEO Premium (the paid version)
This list begins with a plugin that might seem irrelevant, but considering how my people might end up on your 404 page, this one plugin might have great impact to bring people deeper into your website. 404Page is a WordPress plugin that is used to create a customized 404 page, in order to let visitors know what your site is about, rather than visiting a generic error page. 404Page is one of the most frequently used WordPress plugins. This is a boon for WordPress users, as it means that the bugs for the plugin have been worked out, and users an expect to see consistent use in creating and maintaining their sites’ custom 404 pages.
404 pages are typically considered a significant misstep in a website, but customizing the 404 page can turn an unfortunate misstep into an opportunity for additional interactions with potential clients and visitors.
Although sites will automatically redirect to a 404 page, 404 pages that have been customized can more effectively grab visitors’ interest and let them know what your site is about. Having an arresting, customized 404 page can mean the difference between securing a new customer, and losing out on consistent traffic or business.
The 404Page plug in allows you to insert your own photos, links, and text, to more effectively redirect and capture your site visitors. Customizing 404 pages through 404Page means that you have more control over your page redirects and you have some recourse if a link on your site has been broken.
Want to monetize your website without constantly updating the code or inserting every ad yourself? Ad Inserter is one of those advertisement tools that allows you to easily perform a variety of ad-related tasks. This plugin works with all types of ads: Google Adsense, Amazon, banner ads, media.net, and more. In fact, you can even use Ad Inserter to perform analytics functions and ensure compliance with various terms of service agreements.
Need more features? There’s a paid professional version, too. Features include the ability to set limits on the number of clicks, and protection from advertising fraud. Click detection and geolocation are premium features, too. Also, if you’re an agency then the right license will allow you to add the plugin to client websites.
Note that because of the flexibility of Ad Inserter, you can use it to display any graphic anywhere on your website. This is the plugin that I use, for instance, to display lead magnet images that you see in the middle of blog posts.
I’ve tried lots of social share plugins over the years, and I’ve come to the conclusion to place priority on speed and simplicity rather than anything else.
This lightweight plugin is really simple: it adds social sharing buttons to your website. Not just for WordPress, AddToAny can be used to add buttons anywhere you need them without an account. Just download and install the code. I like the fact that you can insert any of several share button styles for your website: a floating bar, fixed buttons on each piece of content, and more. There’s even an email share button, for those who would enjoy the convenience. Overall, a great plugin for “keeping it simple.”
This is the plugin that is powering the social share buttons on this website.
This plugin is an absolute no brainer as it allows free protection against spam comments. Akismet is a spam-blocking plugin. To make sure your site is not publishing spam and potentially harmful content, Akismet combs through comments and contact form submissions to make sure no red flags are raised for standard or common spam items. Akismet will record any issues it comes across and send them to your administrator account for review. Sending any flagged items to you allows you to review your incoming comments, should you wish to publish any content that may have been mistakenly flagged.
Although Akismet is designed to limit potential spam, prior to being published, it is also made to automatically block and refuse to publish any comments or contact form submissions that are outright offensive, harmful, or clear indicators of spam, in order to save time and energy for WordPress users. Akismet is a must-have for any WordPress user who has been inundated by spam or unsolicited marketing materials.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to build a complex page depending on the templates that come with your WordPress theme. That’s where Beaver Builder comes in.
Want an easy, drag-and-drop Web design process? Try Beaver Builder, a WordPress plugin and site builder that allows you to save hours of time. You don’t have to do any coding with Beaver Builder, because that work is done for you. Basic features (Builder lite) include prebuilt modules and layouts, backgrounds, mobile optimization, widget compatibility, and more. Builder lite is free from the WordPress website. There are also a few premium versions available. These all include premium templates for greater customization, the ability to use Beaver Builder on multiple websites at once, and product support. Need white labeling? That’s available too. Keep in mind, if you’re not sure what version you need, there’s a demo of the pro version available. Since you’re using this plugin to build your site, it won’t slow your site down.
Beaver Builder is what I used to build both the Homepage and Blog page of this website.
If you’re like me, few things are more annoying when visiting a website than clicking on a number of broken links. We all assume it’s going to happen occasionally, but if it happens frequently on the same site then this really gives a bad impression. Don’t be that site. Broken Link Checker allows you to easily detect bad or broken links on your website. It’ll also tell you when a link is about to be broken due to a website being taken down. Even the blogroll is checked for defunct blogs, missing images, and other problems. No more manual checking needed.
Note that if you are always running this in the background, it might slow your website down. That’s why I only activate it and run a check once a month for 24 hours.
How’d you like to keep all your social and blog post scheduling in one place? That’s the basic idea of CoSchedule. If you’re busy like me, this is a wonderful way to save time and collaborate with others on your team. CoSchedule for WordPress allows you to keep a complete content calendar, integrates with other marketing and social tools, and even schedule email campaigns. In my opinion, this is a complete bargain starting at $80 per month.
This blog uses CoSchedule to coordinate our editorial calendar with our 20+ contributors.
Need to add images to your RSS feed? Featured Images in RSS is a great way to get potential customers to click through. Best of all, this plugin is compatible with a large number of email clients, to make your life easier. In fact, it’s purpose-built for content marketers who need to cut through the noise and be heard. There are two versions: free and premium. The free version lets you choose image size, create adequate space padding for content, and get help on the product forums. Premium includes dedicated tech support, enhanced customization, and media tags.
If you are a member of my email list, this is the plugin that allows me to add images to the blog posts when I send them out.
Of all of the WordPress plugins, this is the ninja tool that I recently discovered and love.
As our websites or blogs get bigger, it becomes more difficult to ensure we’re doing an adequate job of internal linking. Link Whisper is intended to combat this problem with an AI solution that suggests links as you write new posts. The plugin does more than just this, however. It’ll tell you if there are pages on your site that don’t have any backlinks, and gives screenshots in the dashboard that let you quickly insert a link after determining it is appropriate. There are two versions: a free one from WordPress, and a paid deluxe version you can find here.
I use Link Whisper to add internal links to previously published blog posts every month.
Want a table of contents on your blog? The LuckyWP Table of Contents plugin is an easy way to make one, with both manual and automatic insertion options. Besides being easy to use, the plugin is compatible with a wide variety of other widgets. It’s also compatible with Google snippets, Gutenberg, block insertions, and other features. You can even use this with multilingual WordPress support, if appropriate for your website. There’s no paid version of this one, so everyone can maximize its potential.
The table of contents right above the first plugin in this list is using this plugin to easily display it.
Disclaimer: This is a rich plugin for which I only use a small fraction of its functionality.
The Monarch Social Sharing Plugin is all about helping you Maximize Your Social from your blog. Named after a beautiful orange and black butterfly, the monarch plugin can be used to create popups and fly-ins that encourage readers to share your content on social media. Why not take advantage of their rapt attention to create some engagement? I prefer the simple AddToAny Share plugin above for my social sharing functionality, but if you want something fancier, Monarch is the way to go.
There are other features of this plugin, as well. You can set it to catch reader attention with a fly-in when inactivity is detected, or ask for an email opt-in after a purchase.
So how do I use the Monarch Plugin? Monarch Plugin also allows you to add social media buttons that share your usernames, for easy following. You don’t even have to keep the default colors, but can customize them. This is the widget that you see on the top of the righthand sidebar that displays my social following numbers by social network.
Your purchase price includes other tools, as well.
Do those “Receive notifications?” notices at the top of websites you visit bother you? They bothered me, but I kept on reading about how they actually drove traffic. I just started using this plugin, and so far I am honestly impressed with the number of people who have opted in. It’s all about giving people the content on the platforms and the ways in which they like to consume it! OneSignal Push Notifications allow you to send notifications to your site’s visitors, to alert them to new posts in order to drive visits and engagement. OneSignal partners with WordPress to encourage visitors to come back to your site even after they’ve gone, allowing you to support visits to your site without having to reach out to visitors and clients manually.
OneSignal is a large-scale plugin, allowing you to contact 30,000 visitors at a time. You can customize the opting-in process, select how frequently or at what pace notifications are sent to subscribers, and select what prompts a new notification, whether that be going without a visit for a few days, or having a new post published. Alternatives: PushEngage
How’d you like your widgets to “stick” in the viewable area of your website? If you’ve ever had to scroll up and down to find the share widget you want, then you understand how hunting disincentivizes click throughs and social engagement. Don’t be the website that struggles in this manner. With Q2W3 Fixed Widget, making a “sticky” or fixed widget is a snap. Your readers will be able to see those widgets all the time as they browse the site, and you’ll gain an increased click through rate. You never know when this is just what you need to turn a customer into a brand promoter, or cause that dynamic content to go viral. Even better, your website will look all the more professional this way.
This plugin is what allows you to see my sticky opt-in widget on the right of this blog on a desktop as you continue scrolling down.
Simply throwing any old picture or document onto your website without optimization is a surefire way to slow your load speeds. As we’ve said before, slower load speeds really kill your search engine rankings. Fortunately, there’s a better way. ShortPixel Image Optimizer is a Freemium plugin that allows you to optimize pictures and documents for use on your website. Not only can you compress files with this plugin, but you can also convert them to more SEO friendly formats. Featured images, thumbnails, and even photographs are made data-usage friendly. It’s a great way to show off your work, without putting a heavy burden on your potential clients and their internet connections. If they’re on mobile, of course, this is even more important. Freemium: heavy users buy “optimization credits” to keep using the software for anything beyond 100 images monthly. Overall, a nice tool for a fair price, especially if you’re starting out.
All of my images have been and continue to be optimized by this plugin which works in synch with WP Rocket (see below).
Alternatives: Smush Pro
There are many plugins for WordPress security, but Sucuri is a cloud solution for which you don’t even necessarily need to use a plugin for. Sucuri is a WordPress security plugin. Regarded as one of the best WordPress security plugins, Sucuri monitors activity, incoming files, malware, firewalls, and more. Although all WordPress sites come equipped with some degree of security, Sucuri’s goal is to heighten all security measures, in order to avoid loss of privacy, hacking, and other issues with personal and business accounts on WordPress.
Sucuri works in the background of your WordPress site, and requires little more intervention than simply installing the plugin and allowing it to do its job. If any suspicious activity is noted on your site, Sucuri will alert you so you are able to tackle security issues as soon as they arise.
Alternatives: Wordfence Security
Whether you are monetizing your blog or not, don’t you want to know how many people are clicking on any given URLs across your site or on social media, especially if they are strategic links? Obviously if you are doing affiliate marketing this becomes more critical to understand your performance.
Rather than trying to do everything the hard way, check out URL Shortener Pro. The more famous WordPress plugin of this type is called Pretty Links, but I found it lacking in analytics. I switched recently to URL Shortener Pro and haven’t looked back.
This WordPress plugin automates much of the affiliate link placement process. It even helps you make these links shareable across other social platforms and even email, increasing the potential for revenue. Another plus is that use of URL Shortener Pro doesn’t depend on a third-party linking service, because the links are placed directly into your website. You’ll gain the opportunity to place redirects, and even benefit from analytics data that can really help you see what’s working and what isn’t, long before those checks arrive. This is a paid plugin, but it is priced very reasonably.
If you see a URL on my site or on my social media profiles that says nealschaffercom.bigscoots-staging.com/keyword, chances are it is using this plugin to track clicks.
My site currently does not offer any ecommerce products, but if it did, this plugin would be my choice. WooCommerce is an eCommerce platform that is designed to fuse existing WordPress sites with eCommerce, which allows you to offer services and products directly through your WordPress site, rather than having to use WordPress as a landing base before hopping to another site, or having to use several different platforms for all of your business needs.
WooCommerce is highly customizable, and lets you select from themes much in the same way that WordPress offers themes to choose from, in order to create a site that delivers both high-quality content, and a seamless, easy way to deliver on offered products or services. WooCommerce is similar to most eCommerce platforms of its kind, as it allows you to customize the types of payment you accept, and allows you to print USPS labels from your WordPress dashboard. WooCommerce also allows you to factor in sales tax, and manage all of your business needs from a single platform.
Does your website load slowly? Have a bunch of impatient fans who can’t wait to read the latest content you’ve prepared? WP Rocket is one of the most comprehensive plugins out there for improving WordPress website load speeds. Features such as sitemap and cache preloading allow your audience to begin reading sooner, and makes Google happy too. Mobile browser? With WP Rocket installed, the website will immediately know and load your Mobile-friendly version. Those of you with e-commerce sites will enjoy this plugin too, because optimization and compatibility interfaces are also available. Perhaps most importantly, this plugin is easy enough for even beginners to use it. Pricing depends on how many websites you’re running, with a low annual fee for each.
There are a few speed optimization plugins available, but I have found WP Rocket works the best and fastest for my site.
Yoast SEO Premium (the paid version)
Of all of the 15 plugins on this list, this one is the no-brainer plugin that you probably already have installed and love as much as I do. Here’s why:
All that hard work you’ve done creating content will have minimal effect on your engagement and sales numbers if you don’t do SEO right. After all, everyone else in your industry is probably clawing their way to the top of Google and Bing search. If you’re not doing the same thing, then chances are you’re going to end up at the bottom. Yoast SEO Premium is a great way to ensure your content has the best chance of reaching the top of Google search by a variety of methods.
Although the Yoast SEO free version is quite good, we marketers do better with the premium version. For one thing, it allows us to track multiple keywords in the same paragraph and content piece. Redirect and broken link management help you ensure that your visitors don’t get frustrated by 404 notices, and social preview features make content marketing optimization easier. Even better: Yoast premium will remind you when to update content, so it doesn’t get stale easily. For all these features, it’s just $89 annually, including support.
I hope you’ve found this list of WordPress plugins to be helpful. If you can think of another awesome plugin, let me know in the comments.
Hero photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash