When buiding a website, your choice of CMS (Content Management System) and your choice of theme (that's the "skin" of your website) can have long term impact on the success of your business.
If you're a beginner, it's hard to beat WordPress as a choice of CMS: it offers a ton of flexibility, and millions of customizable themes both free and premium.
The only downside, not that there are many, is the functionalities missing from its core software.
Enter the fabulous world of plugins.
So what exactly are plugins you ask? Well, let me put it this way: a website without plugins is like a car without basic features. Sure, it's still a car, and it might even be a nice looking one, but you won't get far if it doesn't have a horn, side mirrors, head lights, tail lights and windscreen wipers.
Plugins are just that: there are functionalities that you can add to your website to allow it to perform tasks it otherwise couldn't. Some plugins offer obvious advantages like the ability to take bookings online while other plugins run in the background, performing tasks such as optimising images size, clearing your cache or warding your site against malware and intruders.
There are also plugins which are completely useless, but very fun to use like this one which create falling snowflakes on your homepage. Basically, there's a plugin for everything.
In this article, we are going to cover 10 great plugins any WordPress website should have. Obviously the nature of your business will determine what plugins you need, but the following list is generic enough that it addresses the most common concerns of every website owners.
AKISMET is a default plugin developed by the people behind WordPress and comes with every WordPress installation. But don't discount it as a cheap welcome gift, it's actually quite useful. It's an anti spam plugin which monitor all your comments and gets rid of the spammy ones.
There's a bit of installation involved, but it takes minutes and it's dead easy to register. Just follow the instructions and you're set.
2. WP SMUSH
If content is king, then images are queens! Nothing conveys an idea or concept more efficiently that a great picture or clever infographic.
But while images can grab your readers attention and make your website look more attractive, they also take up a lot of space and heavy graphics slow down your website considerably.
WP SMUSH optimises your images by compressing them into smaller size files. The plugin works on JPEG, PNG and GIF formats, allowing you to save a lot of space and increase your pages' loading time without sacrificing your images quality.
3. WORDFENCE SECURITY
Security is not something that many new website owners think about at first. At least not until they wake up one day to find that their beautiful site they've spent hours working on has been hacked into and blacklisted by Google (speaking from experience here).
Security isn't something that you can afford to overlook. There's a lot of plugins available that do just that, but none come close to the level of protection afforded by WP WORDFENCE. The plugin allows you to monitor your website activity in real time and protects it from malware, viruses and robots.
4. NINJA POPUPS
From a user's perspective, popups can be a pain in the behind. We've all been nearly driven insane by the constant onslaught of popups popping left, right and center when visiting certain sites.
The thing is, popups can be incredibly effective when you use them well and in moderation.
NINJA POPUP is a nifty plugin created by Code Canyon that allows you to create a variety of popups for your website. There's different options available, such as email sign ups, social shares and promotional offers. You can also create fully customisable popups from scratch.
For £20, no other plugin even come close to the creative freedom granted by this plugin.
5. WP FASTEST CACHE
Caching is a term you might not be familiar with if you're building your first website. To boil it down to a simple concept, caching is the process of temporarily storing data in a "cache" somewhere on the user's hard disk.
This allows the page to load faster when the user decides to visit your website again. Basically, the process makes for faster loading, and a faster loading time makes for a better, more enjoyable user experience.
WP FASTEST CACHE will cache your posts and pages as static HTML files and serve them to the user, rather than load all the PhP scripts from WordPress everytime they use the refresh button.
Learning everything you can about your users is vital to the success of your business. Analytics plugin can help you gather data and provide insights into visitors' behaviour on your website.
The MONSTERINSIGHTS plugin can tell you where your visitors are coming from, on which page they spent the most time, what links they click on the most, etc... All of which is very useful data to help you determine what your customers want!
7. BEAVER BUILDER
Themes are great, but sometimes they lack flexibility and can hinder your creativity. That's where BEAVER BUILDER comes in handy.
This plugin is a premium drag and drop page builder that lets you create, edit and customize your site layout without having to write a single line of code.
The plugin's interface only takes a few hours to get used to and once you master it, the only thing holding you back is your imagination!
Just drag the elements you wish to add from the right sidebar and drop them into positon on your page. There are simple and advanced modules available to add sliders, images, text boxes, backgrounds, buttons, and many other things.
The ability to customise every last detail makes it perfect for a beginner WordPress user.
8. SIMPLE 301 REDIRECTS
Every now and then, you will need to create temporary pages on your website, like for example around Christmas time, to advertise your seasonal offers. But what happens to that page's url once it is no longer needed? You just redirect it.
SIMPLE 301 REDIRECTS is a plugin which lets you redirect requests to another page on your site or elsewhere on the web.
By setting up 301 redirects from your old pages to your new pages, any incoming links will be seemlessly passed along, and their pagerank will be passed along with them.
Setting up redirects is child's play and only takes seconds. Simply install and activate the plugin then visit your WordPress settings to add links.
9. YOAST SEO
Regular traffic to your website is the lifeline of your business, especially if it isn't brick and mortar. Search engines remain the main source of traffic for websites, which is why your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is so important.
YOAST SEO is this amazing plugin that guides you on your step-by-step journey to improving your SEO and your ranking on search engines. There's also a tab for readability to help you create better content.
From picking the right keywords to editing the snippets and url of your posts for better results on search engines, YOAST provides a complete set of tools to make your site easier to find.
Many businesses require their clients to be able to make and pay for appointments and bookings online. The BIRCHPRESS plugin creates booking forms that can be embedded to pages and posts via simple shortcodes.
It also syncs with the calendar you already have and allows you to import and export existing bookings and availability automatically.
You can also create custom booking forms using the built-in form editor and accept online payments via Paypal.
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