WordPress is one of the most well known blogging platforms. In recent years it has evolved so much that people like myself use it as the CMS of choice for all their websites. As well as this you can install a wide range of plugins, acting like extensions/add-ons to the WordPress platform, that can really help your site or blog in many ways. Here are 8 plugins I make sure I have on all WordPress sites:

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast

Joost de Valk is a genius when it comes to WordPress, and this plugin illustrates that. The WordPress SEO plugin helps you with many aspects of optimising your site including editing META data (page titles and descriptions), inserting breadcrumbs, enabling an XML sitemap to help search engines find all the pages you want indexed for people to find, and lets you add information within your RSS feed so that other sites don’t just steal your content and put it on their own site.

2. Google Analytics

Another plugin by Joost de Valk, which helps you connect your WordPress site to a Google Analytics account. If you are interested in analytical data this is a great plugin as it lets you segment data directly from the plugin settings page so you don’t have to learn code yourself!

3. W3 Total Cache

Google doesn’t like websites that take a long time to load. In fact, they actually use page load time as a factor on where to rank your site in their search results. This plugin helps this by using a number of methods to reduce page load time.

4. WP Smush.it

smush.it is a service owned by Yahoo! that lets you compress your images to the lowest filesize without reducing any quality whatsoever. Simple really! If you already have a bunch of images on your site that’s fine – there is an option to “bulk smush.it” which will go through each image already uploaded and compress them for you.

5. Facebook Comments

I developed this one :) This plugin inserts the Facebook Comments system into your site and places it above the native WordPress comments form. Once installed and configured you can then manage all comments within your Facebook account. I use this for a few reasons:

  1. There is less spam activity as you need to be logged into your Facebook, Yahoo!,  AOL or Hotmail account.
  2. The comments are now indexed by Google, which means they are more SEO friendly than they were a month ago
  3. When someone comments on a post or page, the comment can be posted to their Facebook profile. This adds a social aspect to your site as the comment will appear on their friends’ news feed with links back to your site

6. Twitter Feed

Another one I developed. This feed is a more SEO friendly way to output your latest tweets, search results, hashtags, mentions and favourites into your site. Using a simple shortcode is all you need to do to insert the feed and is highly configurable.

7. Gravity Forms

This last one isn’t free but I use it all the time and is, in my opinion, well worth the money. This plugin takes contact forms to a whole new level! This highly versatile plugin helps you insert forms of any kind into your site from a simple contact form and questionnaire to a fully fledged entry form to create new posts within your own site. Everything can be configured from what is asked, whether new questions should be asked based on what has been entered already, and your thank you message once the form has been completed.

8. Simple URLs

This plugin lets you manage outbound links and track them by clicks. So, for example, your blog site is at myblogname.com. Your link to somewhere you want to track outside of the site is abc.com. Instead of directly linking to abc.com you can make a Simple URL like myblogname.com/go/abc. This is good for a number of reasons. The main reason I use, is to use them for affiliate links. This way they are easier to give out to people, they’ll be tracked and you can keep them within your own domain and change where they link to at any time.

This article was written by Alex Moss, partner at Manchester SEO agency FireCask. He provides freelance SEO for all kinds of businesses as well as developing WordPress Plugins. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.
Follow @alexmoss

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