I've been using WordPress since 2008, and it's one of those tools that enables writers to make a living, reach more readers and make a living online. But although the framework can be set up easily and quickly, there are plugins (like little apps) that can make your author website work more efficiently and with more functionality.
In today's article, Nate Hoffelder outlines some of the most useful plugins for your WordPress site.
You might know Nate from publishing news site, The Digital Reader, but he also provides WordPress help for authors. He helps me with my sites and I can highly recommend his services if you need a hand.
As any person with a WordPress website can tell you, plugins are one of the best parts of WordPress. They let you add new features like forms or custom sidebars, improve your SEO, reduce your work load by blocking spam, and automate important operations like backups.
But which plugins should you install?
There are tens of thousands of free plugins you could use on your site, and it can be hard to choose just one from that blizzard.
When I got into WordPress years ago, I often had to try a half-dozen plugins just to find one that worked the way I wanted, but over the years I have built up a list of useful plugins. I keep adding to that list as I find new plugins, but I also have a shorter list of plugins I always install on almost every site I build.
The following plugins will make your site more secure, faster to load, and easier to find in Google's search results.
But before we get to my recommendations, a few caveats and warnings.
- These plugin suggestions are intended for self-hosted WordPress.org websites and for users of the WordPress.com business tier service plan. Most WordPress.com users won't be able to install these plugins because that option is disabled.
- Installing a plugin may result in a site slowing down, crashing, or becoming vulnerable to hacking. The plugins might also interfere with each other's operation.
- If you encounter a problem, deactivate the plugin. If the problem persists for more than a few minutes, contact a doctor, er, tech support.
Don’t install a plugin if it more than a few years old. This is usually a sign that the developer is no longer maintaining the plugin.
With those concerns in mind, here are my top plugins.
Jetpack – This plugin combines many of the services offered on WordPress.com, all bundled into one plugin and offered for free to self-hosted WordPress websites. It offers contact forms, sharing buttons, stats, downtime monitoring, and more. And if you pay to upgrade you can also use it for backups and security scanning.
WordPress SEO by Yoast – A website might as well not exist if it can't be found in Google, and this plugin can help. This plugin is like having a free SEO expert looking over your shoulder, optimizing your site's metadata, titles, snippets. and even the URLs for each post or page.
All In One WP Security – Websites get hacked every day, but you can protect yourself by installing this plugin. It will block DDOS attacks, close back doors, and make sure that you are following basic security practices.
WP-SpamShield – This is a free spam-blocking alternative to Akismet. It works great, and you don't have to feel guilty for using the free setting.
AMP – Google wants your site to supply mobile search visitors with fast clean pages, and that's what this plugin does.
Send Images to RSS – Do you like it when the images in your blog's RSS feed are formatted correctly? I do, and that's why I recommend this plugin.
Social Warfare – My preferred social share buttons plugin. There are many alternatives, but I like this one for the Pro features – including for the way it can recover your share count after you change your site’s address, or add SSL, or move pages around.
Revive Old Posts – If you have old posts that you want to share on social networks, this plugin can help.
MailMunch – This plugin lets you build mailing list signup forms which integrate with any one of a dozen mailing list services.
WP Smush – Optimizes images so the files are as small as they can be without visitors noticing a decrease in image quality. (And if this plugin conflicts with your site, here are a dozen alternatives.)
A few other useful plugins
WP-Mail-SMTP – WordPress will automatically send emails to notify you that a visitor has left a comment or filled out a contact form – or at least it is supposed to. With some hosting companies, the email feature doesn't work, and that is when I install this plugin.
Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP – Makes sure your AMP pages have all the necessary keywords, etc, for SEO.
AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages –This plugin gives you all the features you expected from the official AMP plugin. It lets you add a site logo, menus, comment sections, and other enhancements to your site's AMP pages.
Relevanssi – WordPress has a search feature built in, but it tends to be slow on larger sites. You can fix the slow response time by replacing the standard search box with either Google Custom Search or Relevanssi. The latter builds an index of your site's content and searches that index, and best of all it can also log the search queries.
WPRocket – This caching plugin does not come cheap, but I have found that it is the best option in a crowded market. It helps your site load faster by caching web pages so visitors don't have to wait.
Do you have favorite website plugins or questions? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Nate Hoffelder has been building and running WordPress sites since 2010. He blogs about the book publishing industry and helps authors connect with readers by customizing websites to suit each author’s tastes. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group. You can reach him on Twitter, or through his site The Digital Reader.