In Tips for a Happy and Healthy WordPress Site, we looked at easy ways to trim your plugin list. While my previous advice about limiting the number of plugins on your site still stands, there are a few must-haves that will help your site load quickly, work better, and be easier to find.
Jetpack by Automattic
Jetpack is a workhorse of a plugin. Among its many features are off-site image hosting that helps your site load more quickly (especially for those of you on shared hosting), traffic statistics and analytics, and brute force protection to lock out anyone who tries to break into your site by randomly guessing passwords.
My favorite feature Jetpack offers is uptime monitoring. If your site goes down, you’ll get an automatic email letting you know. If it stays down, you’ll continue receiving status updates until it’s back up. This one has saved my bacon a few times when a web host has dropped the ball or a plugin update went awry.
The best thing about Jetpack is that it’s developed by the same people who make WordPress. So you know it’s standard, secure, and will continue to receive updates over time.
WP Super Cache by Automattic
Another Automattic plugin! I promise I’m not playing favorites – these plugins are just extremely powerful. WP Super Cache speeds up your site by saving more efficient copies of your website’s code. Content Management Systems like WordPress are notorious for creating big sites that are slow to load due to the way they generate pages. WP Super Cache helps by storing and serving a copy of your pages, rather than generating it anew for each visitor.
If all that sounds a bit complicated, all you need to know is that this plugin will make your website load faster. It’s also super easy to set up (especially if you use the slightly slower PHP-generated caches over the Mod_Rewrite rules).
Yoast SEO by Yoast
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key for helping new visitors discover your site. With good SEO, your site will appear higher in Google’s search results when someone searches for you, or even when they search related terms.
This plugin helps with both the simple and more complex parts of improving your search engine rankings. From automatically generating sitemaps that help Google’s crawler bots figure out your site’s layout to helping you get an idea of how your page will look in Google’s results, Yoast SEO makes it super simple to implement changes that add up to a huge SEO improvement.
My favorite feature in this plugin is the Page Analysis. For every page, you’ll be able to check how well you’re incorporating important keywords, write meta descriptions, and confirm that you’ve added alt tags to all of your images.
iThemes Security by iThemes
While Jetpack offers some security features, iThemes Security is my go-to for keeping my site out of the hands of hackers. Due to insecurities cause by outdated plugins and themes, and bad admin passwords, WordPress sites are often prime targets by hackers. iThemes helps with keeping your site secure in a bevy of ways.
Some of the best things iThemes offers are the ability to move your login page from wp-admin to something more difficult for hackers to guess, better brute force protection that locks out not only people who try too many failed passwords but also those who try to go to pages on your site that don’t exist, enforcement of strong passwords and password expiration, and even a way to restrict log ins during a particular time, so no one can mess with your site while you’re away.
This plugin’s multifaceted approach to security will really beef up your site’s ability to stop hackers.
Display Widgets by Steph Wells
Have you ever wanted to change the content that shows in your sidebars, but only on certain pages? Perhaps you want social share buttons in your sidebar, but only posts. Or maybe you want to show testimonials in the sidebar of your portfolio page, but not the about page. This plugin makes it easy to show and hide widgets on every page of your site.
Display Widgets adds checkboxes each widget that let you choose to show it only on certain pages, only to users who are logged in (or not logged in), or even control visibility on certain categories of posts. This plugin is easy to use, simple to implement, and really helps you customize your site.
Members by Justin Tadlock
If you’re sharing a site with others, but want to be more granular with the permissions individuals have, Members is the perfect plugin. This plugin allows you to edit the capabilities of existing user roles like “Author” and “Editor”, as well as create new roles that can act as steps between the five traditional WordPress roles.
I use Members all the time to allow my Editors to add or remove plugins, but not change themes, or to allow Authors to add and edit their own pages. It’s really useful for delegating work on your site without compromising security. There’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing your users have exactly the access they need to do their work – and not a bit more.
I love that it lays out all of the individual capabilities in easy to understand language and makes changing them as simple as ticking a checkbox.
These six plugins help make WordPress speedier, stronger, and more secure. Are there others that are must-haves on the sites you create?
Photo credit: wocintechchat.com
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