Enter WordPress plugins to the rescue.
In this post I’ll examine and discuss what I’ve found to be the best WordPress plugins for use on my own blog.
Depending on your niche you may well find other plugins to be more useful, though many of the following will prove themselves to be extremely useful additions to any blog or website.
14 Best WordPress Plugins for 2018
If your site isn’t loading rapidly it can have a seriously negative impact on both your site traffic (‘bounce rate’) and SEO. Fortunately there are several excellent plugins available to help you improve your site loading speed, and one of the best is Autoptimize.
You can test the speed difference by using a website speed tester such as Pingdom.
An email list is widely tipped by successful bloggers as their most valuable asset – Commenter Emails is a tool that lets you quickly compile them from comments left on your blog.
Anyone who’s been blogging for at least a few months probably has a large number of comments on their blog. Here’s a plugin that lets you easily extract all the related email addresses so that you can add them to your all-important email list.
Just make sure that you’ve included some text in your comments area that advises commenters that by commenting they’re consenting to receive email correspondence from you.
Content Views is a great plugin that allows you to display thumbnails and brief excerpts of your posts in a convenient grid format.
You can choose the number of columns you prefer as well as the number of rows (too many on a page can slow down site loading times.)
To see how it looks in action view my Blogging Tips posts page.
Jetpack is one of the most popular WordPress plugins (millions of downloads), containing dozens of different modules.
It’s constantly being updated and can save you the bother (and potential site slowdowns) of installing many different plugins that perform similar tasks.
Some of it’s more popular modules include:
- Mobile Theme – make your blog mobile-friendly.
- Google Authorship – quickly integrate Google Authorship for your blog.
- Jetpack Comments – Jetpack Comments have more features than WordPress Comments.
- VaultPress – backup tool.
- WordPress.com Stats – view blog analytics.
- Subscriptions – let’s blog commenters know when they’ve been replied to.
- Auto-Publicize Feature – auto-share your post on social media.
- Website Uptime Monitor – check your website’s uptime.
- Carousel – view your images in a great full-screen mode.
For a comprehensive overview of Jetpack, check out this review.
Pretty Links is a very useful link management plugin that allows you to create shortened, branded links. This is particularly useful for affiliate links, as readers are more likely to click a short, ‘clean-looking’ link than the standard long and rather spammy-looking affiliate link.
For example, this is my SiteGround affiliate link:
And this is what a reader sees after optimizing with Pretty Links:
Both links take you to the same address when clicked on, but the second one looks much less intimidating and obviously more user-friendly.
Smush is a very popular image compression plugin, which automatically compresses images as they’re uploaded to your website.
This is important since large images are one of the main factors in slowing down a site, and a fast site is important for both traffic and SEO reasons.
Smush is free unless you upload unusually large images, for which you’d use the Pro version. Smush Pro has a 30-day free trial, after which it’s $49 per month.
Social Warfare is a great social sharing plugin that lets you add colorful social share buttons to your site.
Since social media is usually one of the biggest traffic drivers for a blog (many times the biggest) then it’s important to make sure you have a good quality social media sharing plugin installed.
Social Warfare is free but has a more powerful version Social Warfare Pro which offers many more features (I also use it on this site.)
I chose the Pro version primarily for the Twitter count, the ‘Click to Tweet’ option and the Twitter Cards feature. Also available in the Pro version ($29/yr for a single site) :
- Popular posts widget
- Share recovery
- Link shortening
- Custom share text
- Pinnable Images
- Minimum Share Count Display
The WordPress default visual editor can be rather limited when more advanced editing is required. TinyMCE Advanced makes up for this deficiency, with many more user-friendly controls more commonly associated with sophisticated editors such as Microsoft Word.
The interface for TinyMCE is a simple drag-and-drop one that allows you to add and rearrange buttons, and create up to four extra rows if you choose to use a large number of them.
Some of the most popular features are:
- Text search and replace
- Text justification (also left- and right-align and center)
- Disks or squares (instead of bullets) for lists
- Ability to set font family and font sizes
- Support for creating and editing tables
Wordfence Security is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins, available in both free and paid versions.
Among its many security features, Wordfence comes with a powerful scanning tool. It will check your site for malicious and suspicious code, backdoors, viruses, MySQL injection etc.
Some of its main security tools are:
- Malware scanning
- Spam and ‘Spamvertising’ checks
- IP and country blocking
- Login monitoring
Once a reader arrives on your site you want to encourage them to stay a while longer after they’ve read the post which enticed them there in the first place. A ‘popular posts’ list is the perfect way to achieve this.
Of the many choices available, WordPress Popular Posts is one of the best and most popular, with over 300,000 active installations at the time of writing.
The plugin is very versatile, allowing you a choice of:
- text or thumbnails
- a time range (eg. last 24 hours, last 7 days, last 30 days, etc)
- Statistics dashboard – See how your popular posts are doing directly from your admin area
- Sorting options – Order your popular list by comments, views (default) or average views per day
- Multi-widget capable – You can have several widgets of WordPress Popular Posts on your blog, each with its own settings.
WP Fastest Cache is a great plugin that helps speed up your site’s loading rate – use it in conjunction with Autoptimize (see above) to deliver your content to readers at blistering speeds.
It works by creating rapidly rendered HTML files that are stored and accessed by subsequent visitors. With a cache system, the page is rendered once and then stored as a static file, thus reducing the loading time for every new visitor.
As with most plugins, there are multiple competitors to choose from, but I like WP Fastest Cache the best as it’s tested speeds are similar to the fastest performers, while also being very simple to setup. This also makes it a great choice for the less technically inclined blogger.
Enabling comments on your blog is a great way to encourage interaction and feedback on your posts. Comments even (so I understand) add to the overall word count of a post, so they help with your SEO as well.
Thus my biggest problem was deciding which commenting system to use (the default WordPress one was too feature-poor for my taste.)
Some of the most popular options are Jetpack, Disqus, wpDiscuz, and CommentLuv, but after reading reviews and speaking to bloggers I eventually went with wpDiscuz. (CommentLuv sounds great but hasn’t been supported for nearly two years – avoid!)
Some of wpDiscuz’s best features:
- Clean, simple and easy user interface and user experience
- Live update of new comments with notifier buttons
- Comment list sorting by newest, oldest and most voted comments
- Multi-level (nested) comment threads, with maximum levels depth setting option
- Comment voting with a positive and negative result
- Notification to comment author when a comment was approved
If your readers are reaching the end of one of your posts and not finding an option to click on another relevant post on your site then you’re costing yourself pageviews.
Having a good ‘related posts’ plugin is a proven way of getting those extra pageviews and reducing your overall bounce rate.
One of the most popular related post plugins, with millions of downloads, is Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP).
YARPP displays pages, posts, and custom post types related to the current entry, allowing readers to jump quickly to another relevant post.
Standard features include:
- Thumbnail or list view of related content.
- Related posts, pages, and custom post types.
- An advanced and versatile algorithm
- Display related posts in RSS feeds with custom display options.
Yoast is easily one of the most popular SEO plugins. Apart from being extremely powerful, it’s also very beginner friendly, offering a comprehensive solution for all your SEO needs.
Many bloggers consider Yoast a must-have plugin, as it makes the majority of their SEO tasks quick and easy.
- Add SEO title, meta description, and meta keywords to every post and page
- Built-in readability score analysis
- XML Sitemaps and Search Console Integration
- Built-in content analysis
- Meta keywords and description management
- Manage duplicate content
- Social features
Those are my tips for the best WordPress plugins – do you have any recommendations for plugins of your own? Let me know in the comments.
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