You have to be really careful when it comes to WordPress plugins. As one of my blog programmers told me once, “any idiot can write a WordPress plugin” (this is what makes me love her, by the way). But really, it’s true. If you go to the directory of plugins on WordPress.org, the current count is over 37,000. So my caveat is this: just be careful. Whatever you download can break your site, and along the same lines, when you have a problem with your blog typically the first order of business is to disable all plugins. Then you see if the problem still exists. If it doesn’t, you re-enable each plugin one by one until you find the culprit. Nine times out of ten my blog problems have come from cruddy plugins.
Another issue with plugins? They can significantly slow down your site. That is another reason to add them to your site with care. You see, Google dings for slow page speeds, and of course you don’t want that. A really great plugin for letting you know what resources your plugins are using is the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). Don’t worry – you don’t keep it installed. You get the results and then remove it.
Now that I’ve given you all the warnings about plugins, I’m ready to talk about the positives and also what my basics and finally, my favorites are. If you are new to WordPress and haven’t used a plugin before, you’re in for a REAL TREAT. Plugins can really make your life easy – and encourage sharing from your readers – and build your mailing list – and make your website faster – and make you more money. They are really quite amazing.
I don’t want to bore you by telling you that my favorite plugins are ones that you already have. So I’ll start by giving you the basics. I feel like every site should have these.
Great spam plugins: Akismet and Antispam Bee
Social sharing: Shareaholic
Speed improvement: W3 Total Cache (check with your server here to make sure you have the correct settings/that this is compatible)
So these are the basics, right? Now it’s time for the top five. These are the ones you might not know about, but you should learn about immediately. These are my top five favorite WordPress plugins right now – and here’s what they do:
Broken Link Checker – I can’t stand having broken links on my blog – it drives me nuts. I want my users to have a great experience and always have every link go where it needs to go. This plugin checks ALL links in your blog (including images) and makes sure that all is well. You can keep it installed permanently but I don’t. I use it, then delete it when I’m done.
OptinMonster – One of my goals this year is to grow my email list, so this plugin is crucial for me. You can create attention grabbing forms that generate email list signups . . . but there’s one part of OptinMonster I really love – Exit Intent. I’m not a big fan of pop ups when I come to a site. They get in the way of the content that I want to see! But what Exit Intent does is wait to show a pop up until the reader is already leaving. So basically it’s waiting until they are already heading out the door, which I don’t mind at all. It isn’t a cheap plugin, but it’s worth it to me.
Pretty Link Pro – Pretty Link Lite enables you to shorten links using your own domain name (as opposed to using tinyurl.com, bit.ly, or any other link shrinking service)! But what I really love about it? I use the “Pro” version that allows you to affiliate certain keywords. Meaning that I can make any instance of “Mod Podge Gloss” become an Amazon affiliate link (or any affiliate program), for example. It’s a money maker, for sure.
Social Warfare – a good social plugin is REALLY hard to find, at least in my opinion. I feel like I’ve found an awesome one in Social Warfare. SW allows you to customize your social share buttons in the colors and shapes you like – and show total shares. You can place them where you like in your posts. AND you can specify the images you’d like shared (and the text!) for Pinterest and Facebook/G+! They have a popular posts widget and some other fun features like Google Analytics (so you can see what your shares are doing. I’m obsessed with Social Warfare and I think you will be too.
What Would Seth Godin Do – Displays a custom welcome message to new visitors and another to return visitors. It’s pretty simple, but it’s really great for getting visitors to do what you like (sign up for social media, visit your tutorials page, follow you on Pinterest). I love simple plugins that are very effective!
I hope this list helps you. I’d love to heard what plugins you can’t live without in the comments.