WordPress is a very powerful and flexible content management system (CMS) and is used on over 18 million blogs and websites, making up over 29% of the whole internet.
Whilst WordPress comes with your basic content system and plenty of settings and features to get you up and running, it also provides a way to integrate third-party plugins to enhance those features.
Here at seven of the best WordPress plugins that are essential to improving the speed, reach and security of your website.
Compress JPEG & PNG images
The Compress JPEG & PNG images plugin is made by the guys at www.tinypng.com who specialise in image compression.
This clever plugin takes any image that you upload to your WordPress Media, and uses smart lossy compression techniques to reduce the file sizes of the images without impacting the quality of the images. This can help to bring a significant improvement in page speed as the pages are less heavy to download, especially to mobile devices.
To use this plugin, you’ll have to get a free API key from TinyPNG’s website, and you can optimise around 100 images for free every month. If you’re likely to be uploading more images to WordPress than that, you can do so for a small fee.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi is one of the more famous WordPress plugins and I’d be very surprised if you’re not using it already.
The plugin uses a simple interface to build forms to place in your website utilising the WordPress shortcode system. This can be anything from simple contact forms, to complex surveys or order forms. You can then enter the email address at which you would like to receive the entries from the form – it’s really as simple as that!
There are also a variety of extra plugins you can download to extend Contact Form 7 even further – add a honeypot field, integrate with MailChimp, add a datepicker, integrate with PayPal.
Download Contact Form 7.
Google Tag Manager for WordPress
DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress is a simple way to include Google Tag Manager (GTM), Google’s free tool to help manage code snippets on your site, into your WordPress blog or website.
Download Google Tag Manager for WordPress.
iThemes Security is the most used security plugin for WordPress, installed on over 800,000 blogs and websites. It has a vast array of settings so you can customise the security on your WordPress site to suit you.
The plugin includes settings to handle 404 errors, to protect against brute force attacks, to block specific IP addresses, to schedule database backups, to enforce strong passwords and much more. The plugin is free to use, but you can upgrade to the iThemes Security Pro to gain access to even more advanced features.
It’s also worth taking a look at the iThemes Sync feature which is very handy if you manage multiple WordPress installations. iThemes Sync keeps track of the version numbers of WordPress and WordPress plugins and notifies you of any updates that need to be done, all in one central location.
Download iThemes Security.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is an absolute must if you want to have a fast website. Whilst WordPress as a platform is relatively speedy, it can slow down as you add more and more content to your website. This is why a caching plugin such as W3 Total Cache is so important.
The plugin has hundreds of settings and integrations to help you tweak your installation to meet your needs. From page caching and file minifying to utilising a content delivery network (CDN) and tracking analytics in Google Page Speeds or New Relic, this plugin really does it all and much more.
Download W3 Total Cache.
Yoast SEO is a beautifully designed plugin, allowing you to think about search engine optimisation (SEO) for every single page and post you write in WordPress. It comes with it’s own settings section and configuration wizard to help you set up the basics of SEO for your website, and also has a built in widget on the post and page editor.
The widget in the post and page editor provides some excellent analysis and pointers as to how to improve your content. You can choose a focus keyword and Yoast will assess how your content applies your keyword. It will also judge the readability of your content, allow you to change your meta data and Facebook OpenGraph data.
Download Yoast SEO.
WP SEO Structured Data Schema
Following on from Yoast, WP SEO Structured Data Schema is an excellent plugin to help with search engine optimisation (SEO). If you’re not sure what Schema is, you can read more about it here, but it’s basically a way of search engine bots finding out more information about your company or website without it being displayed in the content.
This plugin provides you with a simple form to fill in on each post to provide as much information about the post or page as possible, which is then converted in JSON-LD to help search engines to understand more about your content. It also provides a main settings section to tell search engines details about your company or website.
Download WP SEO Structured Data Schema.