After you decide on a framework and/or theme to add to WordPress, the next thing on our list is plugins. I like to add my plugins before I do any customization work to my theme, just to make sure that the plugins I want to use are compatible and play nicely with the theme that I’ve chosen.
The easiest way to add a new plugin by going to the Plugins tab of your WordPress dashboard, clicking on Add New, and simply searching by name or function of the plugin you’re looking for.
Plugins give you added functionality and additional custom elements on your website. This might get lengthy, but I want to go over a handful or two of plugins that I’ve found really useful for service business websites.
It’s tempting to load dozens of plugins because they do such fun and interesting things, but remember they need to be kept updated so the more plugins you have the more work it is to update them. They can also turn into resource hogs that slow down your site’s load time. Less is more when it comes to plugins, so choose the ones you really need and skip the fluff.
First, let’s look at a few security plugins.
No one wants to get hacked or have a ton of spam to deal with, so adding extra security is always a good idea.
This spam filtering plugin comes preloaded with your WordPress installation, you just have to activate it. This plugin filters out spam comments, so it’s something you’ll want if you’re going to have comments turned on. (Or you could just leave comments turned off, in which case you can skip this plugin entirely.)
I install this plugin on every website I manage. It basically locks out anyone who tries to login more than a set number of times and fails to enter the information correctly.
Brute force attacks on WordPress happen all around the web every day. Hackers go to the login panel and try random username and password combinations until they get in.
Always use a secure password with a combination of numbers, letters, and even symbols, but add this plugin for an extra layer of protection to lock out hackers who try multiple login attempts.
More protection from spammers and hackers with Wordfence. It has a lot of settings to it and they are always making updates and improvements. This plugin adds antivirus protection, firewall protection, and a high speed cache to the mix for a nice tight “fence” around your website.
This plugin updates frequently to stay on top of potential issues and threats. Be sure to keep it up to date for the best protection possible.
There is an optional paid upgrade for this plugin. I like to start off with the free version, it offers a lot of protection for a new website. If you find later that you’re getting an unusually high number of brute force attempts or you’re getting a lot of traffic and want to add additional security layers, then you can always do the upgrade when you come to that point.
Denies automated spambots from leaving comments all over your website. If you’re leaving comments turned off, you probably don’t need this one. If you’re going to be blogging though, it’s a good one to have and will often catch the spammers that Akismet misses.
Next, let’s look at a few functional plugins.
Some of these are also handy plugins to keep in mind if you’re managing websites/blogs for clients.
Jetpack for WordPress
Gives you stats right on your dashboard, plus lets you easily add custom widgets, image carousels, customized contact forms, and about 100 other cool things.
It includes easy to use settings for things like Google Authorship and social sharing buttons too all your posts without needing additional plugins. Jetpack is one of my favorite plugins for that reason; it incorporates so many things into your Dashboard that it eliminates the need for a lot of other plugins or custom coding.
On top of all those cool features, it includes website traffic stats right there in the WordPress Dashboard for you, so you don’t have to go hunt around your cPanel or go to Google Analytics for them (unless of course you want to compare those or if you just prefer those.)
Pretty Link Lite
This plugin is handy for creating redirect links that use your domain name as the beginning part of the URL. The plugin can also track how many times a link was clicked. You can use this for affiliate and referral links or just to make something easier to say out loud.
My affiliate referral link for the New VA Advice Ultimate Planning Blueprint looks like this:
I created a Pretty Link version so that I can use this version instead:
There is an upgraded version of Pretty Links available, but for what I’m showing you in this example was done using the free “Lite” version.
Google XML Sitemaps
Later we’re going to talk about pages that search engines look for as signals that you’re a real website offering real services. One of those signal senders is your XML sitemap and this plugin takes care of it for you automagically.
Sitemaps are used to help search engines crawl your pages and index your website so that people can find it when they search for things you talk about. This plugin will create your sitemap and keep it up to date, easy-peasy and automatic.
Once your sitemap is generated you can submit the URL inside of Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools if you have those set up. They’ll notify you if there are problems on your website that might change the way your site is shown to searchers.
Broken Link Checker
This plugin keeps tabs on the things you’ve linked out to from your website. Depending on whether or not you decide to blog, this plugin can be a huge help. Google looks at links going in and links going out as part of your overall profile when deciding where to rank you, if you have a ton of broken outgoing links they think you’re not keeping your site updated.
Great for scheduling content if you decide to blog. Gives you a visual calendar to look at inside your WordPress Dashboard with drag & drop function to move and reschedule posts as needed.
Don’t Forget to Add an SEO Plugin
There are a handful of choices for SEO plugins. (SEO = search engine optimization) some are free and some are paid. Most small websites get by using the free ones just fine.
The two most popular free SEO plugins are All-in-One SEO Plugin and Yoast SEO Plugin. These two plugins do most of the same things, so choosing one is just a matter of preference. The Yoast SEO plugin has a few more features than the All-in-One, but they both cover the basic fields and settings that you’ll want.
It doesn’t matter which one you choose, but I do recommend that you pick one to help you get the basic SEO done on all of you pages and posts.
Adding Other Plugins to Your Website
If there’s something you want your website to do, there’s probably a plugin for it. You can search the WordPress Plugin Directory right from your WordPress Dashboard, just click on Plugins, then click on Add New and a search box will pop up (like the example at the top of this page.)
We’ve covered a lot of info here, so I’m going to stop for now. If you have questions about plugins, let me know in the comments below or send me an email.
Homework and Action Steps for This Section:
- Install a framework and/or theme for WordPress.
- Install security plugins.
- Install additional plugins as desired.
WP Security Lock for everything about security on WordPress websites.
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