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Plug & Play

Whether you’re a WordPress veteran or a newbie, there are always things to learn and digest. I started using WordPress for my own personal blog way back in 2005. While my friends and colleagues were piddling around using Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad and other word processors, I was creating Pulitzer-worthy content (disclaimer: subjective) with an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly platform.

Fast forward 14 years later and WordPress is still king.  

An estimated 60 percent of all websites with a Content Management System (CMS) use the open source and uber-flexible WordPress platform. Let’s say/hope your business is one of them. How confident are you that you’re taking full advantage of all the rich goodness that WordPress has to offer? Or are you basically using it as a one-dimensional content machine with no real business strategy behind it?   

Obviously today’s WordPress is much more than just a simple blogging platform. It’s constantly improving and evolving with every new, customizable, updated—even free!—plugin. Plugins and tools are key to maintaining and increasing your site’s functionality. 

Speaking of plugins, there are more than 50,000 of them. None of which makes espresso. They update on a regular basis thanks to a team of developers who work round the clock because they are dedicated/passionate/ignoring their families.   

You don’t need tens of thousands of plugins. But depending on your company’s goals and aspirations, well, there’s a plugin for that. 

The 4 S’s: Search, Security, Stats & Social

Search

SEO is top of mind for most agencies, assuming you want your target audience and potential customers to actually find you. A website should be anything but coy. So make sure it’s easy to find.

Yoast, the #1 WordPress SEO plugin today, boasts many features centered around SEO analysis, readability, related keyword/keyphrase analysis, and help with overall content creation. The plugin also allows you to add tags to improve your search ranking. There are typically basic plugins and premium versions. For example, Yoast Premium costs $89/year for additional cool features like the Insights tool and social previews.

Squirrly SEO is another crowd-pleaser. It reviews and analyzes every page on your website in order to improve their rankings. You also don’t need to be an SEO expert to use this. Leave that to the… SEO experts. 

Security

The Akismet plugin is one of the most popular security plugins, and for good reason: It catches spam. (You know, like those “safe online pharmacy free Nikes” comments.) The tool essentially protects your website from malicious content, including contact form submissions. If someone’s trying to Trojan Horse your site, they’ll have to get through the mighty Akismet to do it.

Sucuri is another security plugin that detects and fixes malware and hacks while preventing future attacks. You’ll receive website monitoring through daily updates. Also, since WordPress sites can be targeted for security breaches and hacks due to any vulnerable plugins and weak passwords, be sure to check out iThemes Security.

Stats

Interested in stats? Of course you are. Everyone likes numbers, unless the numbers are bad, and then you try and bury the numbers. But that’s another story. 

MonsterInsights is a plugin that leverages Google Analytics. It comes with its very own dashboard and provides you customized analytics reports regarding audience demographics, content performance, Google ranking and more. The best part? You don’t have to be able to code. So you can totally stop pretending every time a developer walks by.

You can also go a little more old-school and use Google Analytics Dashboard for WP which employs the latest Google Analytics tracking code to view your stats. Finally, aside from being another security layer, Jetpack is also a plugin for site stats and analytics, related posts and really getting to know your audience. But not in a creepy way.

Social

Social plugins are fairly important if you want your site to be social and popular versus anti-social and totally forgettable. (Welcome back to high school.) You can broaden your audience by reaching out to them with everything you’ve got, making sure that all your social posts are accessible anytime, anywhere.  

One of the best social sharing plugins is Social Warfare, which provides the sharing buttons for all the top social networks. Social Warfare doesn’t slow down your website the way that some other share buttons do and the buttons themselves are actually attractive. I’m sure you’ve seen those unsightly Facebook and Twitter buttons on other sites. It makes you not want to share. Ever. 

Other fun and exciting social plugins include:

  • Instagram Feed: Easily pulls in mobile-friendly posts from your Instagram account to your website and includes handy “Follow on Instagram” button. 
  • YouTube Embed: The YouTube wizard makes embedding a video effortless, as opposed to toggling back and forth between the classic and Gutenberg block editors. You can also create playlists and YouTube Live streaming. 
  • Revive Old Post: Otherwise known as, how do I repurpose that blog post I wrote that singlehandedly altered the content landscape as we know it? People must see it again!   
  • Sassy Social Share: Let your users do the work for you by sharing your content over their social media channels. You can pay them in excellent prose. Simple, straightforward and, apparently, sassy.  

To check out even more amazing plugins that will no doubt change your life and the lives of those around you, visit the WP Engine Solution Center as well as this handy guide to plugins, which will walk you through the various types of plugins out there and recommend some of the best ones.

Although the number of plugins multiplies every day-—both free and premium—-the best ones have impressive staying power. But don’t take our word for it. (OK, take our word for it.)