WordPress provides basic functionality for building blogs and websites. One of the most powerful features is that you can extend WordPress by installing plugins. You can think of these as small applications that give you additional features beyond that provided by WordPress.
There must be hundreds of thousands of plugins available for WordPress. In fact, you can find plugins that let you do almost anything with WordPress.
Sometimes finding the right plugin can be a bit of a challenge. This is because:
- Some plugins haven’t been supported in a long time, which means they are most likely rife with security and performance issues. You should avoid any plugin that is not current.
- Sometimes plugins are not completely compatible with the underlying PHP version installed on your web host. WordPress doesn’t give you any warnings if obsolete code is installed. Instead, PHP errors can result, which causes performance and reliability issues.
- Anyone can write a plugin, and sometimes those programmers are not the most skilled at their craft. Their plugins are often filled with security problems, perform poorly, and cause problems with other plugins.
- Because anyone can write a plugin, and they are not validated, they can be used introduce malicious code into your WordPress blog.
There are some techniques you can use to improve your chances for success with plugins.
- Only install plugins that you need. If you don’t need them, either disable them or delete them entirely.
- Carefully look over the reviews of any plugin. People tend to be pretty vocal about plugins that don’t work or create problems. Remember that sometimes the plugin will receive bad reviews, and then fix the issue so keep in mind the date of the reviews before making a decision.
- Don’t install plugins that aren’t at least compatible with your major version of WordPress.
- The best practice is to only install plugins that have been tested on your version of WordPress.
- Once you’ve installed the plugin and let it run for a while, go into your cPanel and check the PHP log files. If you’re seeing errors reported, then submit an error report to the plugin support group. If the problem is infix, the get rid of the plugin.
- Install the most recent possible version of WordPress and PHP. If the plugin requires a lower version – especially a lower major version – of WordPress or PHP, then don’t install it.
- When you look over the reviews of plugins, validate that the developers are answering questions and problem reports quickly. A lack of answers could indicate a lack of support.
- Only install plugins that are currently supported because you’ll want new versions as security issues are found and corrected. If the plugin is not supported, then security patches will not be created, which could leave your site vulnerable to being hacked.
- Keep your plugins up-to-date.
- Always keep backups of your database so you can recover is a plugin causes a problem.
With quite a bit of experimentation, I’ve found the following set of WordPress plugins performs quite well, seem to be well supported for the most part (with some exceptions), and do the job with good performance and reliability.
AMR Shortcode Any WIdget – Sometimes there are widgets that are very useful but don’t fit into the functionality provided by the customizer and WordPress. The customizer only allows you to use widgets in sidebars and other areas defined by the theme and occasionally by plugins. The AMR Shortcode Any WIdget plugin allows you to use widgets using short codes, so that you can put them directly onto pages and posts. I needed this plugin because SEOPressor supports a widget to show local SEO in footers, headers or sidebars, but not a short code. This allowed me to display the local SEO information on a page which is where I wanted it.
Antispam Bee [free] – If you’re like most people with blogs, you’ve got forms to get information from your visitors. Most sites have at least a contact form and many allow for comments to be entered by visitors. Unfortunately, spammers have found that they can detect these forms and use them to spam site owners directly and search engines in the form of comment spam. This spam tends to clog up a website with useless comments and inboxes with frivolous emails and messages.
There are quite a few antispam plugins out there, and after trying a few, I settled on Antispam Bee. this plugin has many different options and is extremely configurable. Unlike Akismet, Antispam Bee doesn’t use the cloud to evaluate comments for spam. Because of this, it does not require a login or an API key, making it simpler to set up.
I found Antispam Bee seems to catch more spam and doesn’t load down my web host as much as other options.
Disable Gutenberg [free] – The new Gutenberg release of WordPress is pretty awesome. However, it can interfere with some plugins and themes. Use this plugin to disable the new Gutenberg interface.
Duplicate Post [free] – This handy little plugin led to duplicate the post. It creates a copy which is virtually identical to the original. I find it very useful for creating posts that are similar to others.
Email Encoder Bundle – Protect Email Address [free] – For security reasons, it’s very unwise to put your email address in plaintext on the Internet. If you do, spammers can pick it up and send you massive amounts of spam. Email encoder is a plugin that lets you put email addresses that are visible to visitors but invisible (for the most part) for spam robots.
Fanciest Author Box [paid] – iI you’ve got multiple authors on your blog, this plugin is a great way to show additional information in a very nice format. It lets you include information from the author social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google plus and so on. Note: there is a free version called Fancier Author Box but it hasn’t been supported in years and should be avoided.
iframe [free] – This is a great, simple plugin that creates a short code that you can use to embed full webpages or other objects on a WordPress page or post.
iThemes Security [Free and Paid] – Maintaining a secure word press website or blog is essential. Security issues can cause you to lose data or even result in the loss of your site entirely. The cool thing about this plugin as it includes many options, even in the free version, to give you complete control over security. one of the most viable options is the ability to automatically backup your database and email it to you on a scheduled basis. I don’t know about you, but I’m always forgetting to do backups manually so making it automatic so don’t have to think about it is a wonderful thing. For me, the most enticing thing about the paid version is the inclusion of two-factor authentication, which makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access if they get your password and username.
Landing Page Cat Free [Free] – this plugin is great for setting up gorgeous landing pages that load quickly and do the job well. The plugin interfaces with a number of email list providers such as MailChimp and aWeber. There is a Pro version which includes more templates and options, but I found the free version works just great for my needs. The main advantage of this plugin is it is very simple to make landing pages. Other plugins that do the same thing tend to be more complex.
NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster [Free and Paid] – This is a fantastic plugint hat lets you automatically post your WordPress posts and pages to your social media networks. after looking at quite a few different plugins to do this function, I found that this one was by far the best, the most stable, and the best performing. You can set it so that it automatically publishes your post to your social media when you publish your WordPress posts, and you can also post on a schedule. I have mine set up to publish a random post to my WordPress, Twitter and LinkedIn every couple of days. Set up is simple and easy to understand. Highly recommended.
Redirection [Free and Pro] – As your site matures, you’ll find that you rename and delete post and pages. You may even move them to other blogs from time to time. Anytime you change the name of any object on your blog, you should redirect to the appropriate new page. The redirection plugin makes this easy. You just put in the URL of the old page and the URL of the new page. The plug-in takes care of the rest. It even keeps a handy count of how many times the redirection occurs. The PRO version can import CSV files and .htaccess files, which is a very cool way to popular your redirect list.
SEOPressor Connect [Paid $9/month] – I looked at several different SEO plugins, including Yoast SEO. even though it’s highly recommended, I found that Yoast SEO performs extremely poorly, interferes with other plugins, and even makes the backend dashboard of WordPress run very slowly.
After some searching, I discovered SEOPressor Connect. It’s the only SEO plugin that understands LSI keywords and recommends them in an intelligent way for your post. It has all of the same features as Yoast SEO, but performs well and hasn’t yet interfered with any plugins on my site. There is a monthly fee, but it’s reasonable and well worth the cost.
Visual Form Builder [Free and Pro] – Many people use Contact Form 7 or other simple form plugins. I’ve found Visual Form Builder to be much better with so many options it’s difficult to list them in this short article. The free version is easily good enough for my needs, and the Pro version adds even more. Highly recommended.
Webcraftic Clearfy – WordPress optimization plugin [Free with PRO options] – Clearfy is one of the best free, out-of-the-box WordPress performance plugins on the market. It includes just about everything you’ll need to help your website perform better.
wpDiscuz – The best commenting plugin. It’s fast, efficient, and best of all, your comments are stored in your database. Highly recommended for a commenting solution.
Sometimes there are tasks that you need to accomplish on your server that are not handled by WordPress. Have no fear, because there are quite a few plugins that exist to fill in the blanks and give you added capabilities to help manage your blog. Keep these plugins disabled except when you need to use them.
Child Theme Configurator [Free and Paid PRO version] – if you make any changes at all to your theme, you want to create a child theme. That way you don’t lose all your configurations every time the theme is updated. This plugin makes management of child seems very easy yet still provides all the options that you might need.
Just install it when you need it, then disable it or uninstall it. I keep it disabled because it’s easier.
Export media with selected content [free] – When you export information from WordPress such as poster pages, the images are not included. This plugin includes the images. It’s very useful if you are moving poster pages from one blog to another. You can disable or delete this when you don’t need it and only re-enable it if you’re exporting information.
Plug-ins to avoid
I’ve listed a few popular plugins below that I’ve tried over the last few years and have found to be lacking in one way or another.
- Jetpack – Very high overhead, poor performance, and interferes with other plugins.
- Yoast SEO – Huge impact on website performance. interferes with other plugins.
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Richard is the Owner and Senior Writer for The Writing King, a bestselling author, and ghostwriter. He’s written and published 63 books, ghostwritten 20+ books, as well as hundreds of blog articles.