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WordPress has many upsides, but having everything a webmaster could need out of the box isn’t one of them. Enter the plugin gallery, with some less-well known entries you can find out about below.
WordPress, on whose technology around one fifth of the entire internet is based, is an excellent Content Management system, although its famous user-friendliness sometimes comes at a
cost in terms of flexibility compared to raw HTML. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of plugins have been created to allay this particular weakness, allowing wordpress to function in ways that it
is otherwise unable to.
With the dearth of plugins available, some have risen to the top-W3 total cache, the now very widely-used Yoast SEO, contact form 7, and so on. However, several plugins, less well known than those outside the top 10, can nevertheless make a great difference to the quality of a wordpress-based website.
The WordPress Backend, site maintenance and speed plugins
For those self-publishing or running a website alone without coding knowledge, small things like being able to add a favicon might be ignored. Not so with this plug-in which will take a 16 x 16 image and uploaded into the main WordPress index file in such a way as to display its as a favicon correctly. Although small aspect of conversion optimisation branding, of a icon is nevertheless a useful thing to have.
The databases containing the complex technical data of your wordpress site will inevitably get larger over time, and with that added data comes problems-post drafts and revisions that you don’t need, spam comments, trashed posts and pages, un-optimised SQL databases, and so on. Naturally, if this unwanted data piles up it can affect your site’s performance, but with WP-Optimize doing the housekeeping is easy.
If you have recently acquired a domain and are in the process of constructing it, the last thing you want prospective visitors or clients seeing in a blank page or a default hosting page. WP maintenance mode gives you numerous options for offering prospective visitors a unique page to visit if they arrive at your domain before it’s ready; you could also use the opportunity to create a particularly memorable, shareable page that will give you additional momentum in the run-up to the launch of the website.
With such a bewildering array of excellent plugins available for wordpress, it’s easy to get carried away and install dozens or even hundreds of them, and then find out that your site won’t load as quickly as it used to because of the extra processing power needed to load the plugins. What P3 performance profiler does is analyse all the plugins you have installed and then give you a detailed pie chart breakdown of exactly how much each affects page loading speed, to assist you in removing performance-breaking additions.
Aside from ensuring that your WordPress site doesn’t get hacked, backing it up is the most important aspect of running a blog or website. BackWPup simplifies the process and helpfully lets you choose from specifically which aspects of the site you want to be backed up. The job will then run in the dashboard, allowing you to work on wordpress on another open tab.
Embedding youtube videos into your site can be a great way of adding additional, diverse media. However, directly embedding can dramatically increase page size and loading times, and that is what Smart youtube aims to resolve. By forcing youtube videos to load from youtube itself rather than directly from your own page, you can make youtube itself do the legwork and leave your own site much smoother as a result.
Image compression is an excellent way to reduce the size of images when adding them to your site, and WP-smushit makes this easy to do via the media gallery; it will eliminate ‘lossless’ data from pictures in bulk, which includes useless data such as the date a picture was taken, EXIF data, what type of camera took the picture, and so on. Used in combination with other compression methods, this makes optimising your images easy.
Security and copyright
Although wordpress is constantly updated, it remains potentially open to malicious attacks and spambots if not correctly secured. Ithemes security gives users a vast array of options to make wordpress installations far more secure and safe, from hiding wordpress version numbers, the admin username and login URL, to stopping suspicious search queries within the inbuilt wordpress search functions. It even includes advanced features such as allowing the user to completely disable the login function between set times and enforcing/generating strong passwords for all approved blog users.
Although this is a ‘freemium’ plugin in that you are required to pay to unlock the additional features, the basic version still provides a sufficient degree of protection against the most common content theft (i.e. copying and pasting) which will prevent the majority of manual efforts to steal your hard work.
Sometimes, getting statistics from WordPress itself is easier than going between it and Google analytics. Plugins such as statpress give you the information you need all from within WordPress, and although it is obviously highly advisable to use either Google analytics (or the excellent, open-source Piwik analytics) as well, these plug-ins can still be useful for quickly checking statistics while you’re blogging or updating your site.
User experience is becoming an ever-increasing role in Google’s algorithmic deliberations, and this plugin simultaneously improves the experience that users will have on your site and also improves this vital aspect of your search optimisation. When a user clicks on an external link on a website, they will often be taken to the target URL in the same tab as your own site-which means that they will potentially not be able to find your site again, potentially frustrating them and costing you traffic and business.
With this plugin you can set external links to open in a new tab in the user’s browser (this is otherwise known as having external links open as target=”_blank”) which means your site will stay open in their browser, making it easy to find again. Time on site is also one factor google uses to establish if a page or domain is worth ranking, so all the time a user is browsing another webpage your website will still be open in their browser, feeding valuable information to google that on the basis of the tab not being closed they can view this as a positive user experience metric.
Content and Social
Sometimes planning several month’s worth of blogposts can be a daunting task-not so with this handy addition, which allows you to create, plan and manage your content within WordPress itself, with no additional software required. You are able to go to any of your posts and start editing them from within the calendar, which makes it very easy to plan out a month’s worth of content and then go straight into creating it.
Along with email opt-in popups, ‘share to unlock’ content is among the most popular features of modern websites and blogs insofar as conversions and social media is concerned, and social locker makes setting up these easy. Most internet users will be happy to share your content is they perceive it to be engaging and useful and if the benefits of sharing the content in terms of rewards outweigh the effort needed to do so, particularly if the process is painless and prominent throughout the page or post in question. A correctly formatted and well-laid out piece of content might surprise you with its ability to generate twitter, Google+ and Facebook shares if you make it easy and beneficial for the user to do so.
In a similar vein to Social locker, shareaholic gives you the ability to add attractive, easy-to-use social sharing buttons throughout your site, without having to create bonus content. Although you can use both this and social locker in tandem, using either one will be very helpful in boosting your social media efforts.
Although the most famous of WordPress plugins such as Yoast and W3 total cache are essential to running a successful website from an SEO perspective, it’s always worth taking the time to look into the more specialised plugins in order to ensure you aren’t leaving any holes in the setup of your domain.
A note on plugin dependency and overload:
Generally speaking, installing large numbers of wordpress plugins won’t harm your site, and it is possible to have scores of them installed without page loading problems. As a rule of thumb, the more database queries, scripts, and complex operations that must be performed by the plugin, the more processing power it will use. Yoast SEO, for example, well-developed and coded though it is, has so many features that it by necessity takes up a reasonable amount of processing power. By contrast, if a plugin that did something simple (creating a sitemap or letting you edit robots.txt, for example) was made sloppily and there was a large amount of unnecessary code in its source, it might conceivably end up causing problems (in which case the aforementioned P3 plugin will help you identify them and remove troublesome plugins)
Plugins are an excellent way of expanding the functionality of WordPress, and no site running it should be without them. Because there are so many plugins (36,475) and counting, even if you have a very specific function that you need to achieve, chances are that you will be able to find a plugin that will do it. Insofar as choosing a good one is concerned if you have to choose between several, bear in mind that most wordpress plugins are free. Therefore, there isn’t any great disadvantage in simply installing similar, high-rated plugins and testing them, to find out what works best for your website.
Charlotte is chief whip when it comes to making sure words are in order at ICS-digital. You can get in touch with her directly at email@example.com