Eight Must-Have Plugins For Your WordPress Blog

I had a couple of spare hours today so I decided to do what any self-respecting blogger does and check out a few plugins. Now I know that’s not everybody’s idea of fun but I reckon it’s something that is essential for every blogger to do from time to time.

Those of you who have been operating your own site for a while will most likely already have a deep appreciation for the wonder of plugins but if you are a new site owner or you haven’t taken the time to really explore the benefits of plugins on your site then you need to read on. Because plugins are extremely easy to use and when used correctly can do things for your site that not only make the user experience a lot better, actually improve how your site ranks on the search engines. Yep, they’re that good.

Now here is the tricky part: there are so many weird and wonderful plugins out there that it is easy for a newbie to become overwhelmed by all of the fancy gadgets (a bit like being kid in a toy store).

So, just for you, I have compiled a list of what I consider to be the most essential plugins for your site, some of which are paid and some are not but all of which can drastically improve the performance of your site.

1) SEO Pressor: Wouldn’t it be great if there were a plugin that actually allows you to score your own on-page optimisation performance? Sounds cool? Well it is, and that is exactly what SEO Pressor does. Once this plugin is installed on your blog, it provides you with a handy ‘scoreboard’ that takes into account every aspect of on-page optimisation from images to keyword density. All you do is press save and it rates your performance.

So not only does it give you a score, it tells you exactly WHAT you can improve on. For example in this post the keyword density is too high and the article probably doesn’t read that well. There are also a couple of other issues such as not having internal links etc. so there is no excuse for me not fully optimising my page. So as long as I have done the keyword research, my post should perform well on search engines.

The thing I like most about this plugin is that you don’t have to be an SEO expert to make it work. Anyone can use it. And experienced bloggers will love the way it takes all the guesswork out of SEO.

SEO pressor costs $47 for a single-site license or there is the option to get a multi-site license for $97 and I do believe it is absolutely worth the money.

2) Google XML Sitemap Generator: You’ve all heard about the Google search engine spiders right? Those little creatures that trawl around your site looking for content and decide whether to rank your site at number 1 or number 100 for any given keyword phrase. Want to be in their good books? All you have to do is make it easier for their little spider legs to crawl around your site by giving them a map. This plugin will create a Google sitemaps compliant XML-Sitemap of your WordPress blog, which makes the little spiders’ job so much easier and they will reward you for it with better ranking. Simple.

3) Google Analytics for WordPress: This plugin allows you to track and analyse activity happening on your blog by giving you feedback in the form of actual statisitcs and graphic data. It’s great for when you are serious about getting results and you need to know what is attracting visitors, clickthroughs etc. and what isn’t.

Installation is simple and done using an API key. Simply authenticate and select the site you want to track and let the plugin do all the work.

For those of you who are into split testing, the plugin gives you the option to test according to variables such as category, author and post type so you can focus your efforts on what gets the best results and not waste your time on what doesn’t

This is for sure one of my personal favourites. TIP: make sure you watch the instructional videos made by the plugin’s creator so that you maximise your usage of it.

4) W3 Total Cache: Where other plugins may focus on the content of your site, W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your blog by improving your server performance and caching every aspect of your site. This is the go-to plugin for reducing download time and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. You may not know this but site performance and usability affects the way that Google views your site so things like how long your pages take to download can actually affect your rankings and this nifty little plugin takes care of all of that. And it’s freeeeeee. Definitely worth installing!

5) Comment Luv: One thing I love as a blogger is when people leave comments under my posts. But not everybody takes the time to do this so what to do??? Well one of the best things you can do is to install this great plugin. Basically, it encourages people to leave a comment by allowing them to place a link to their latest blog post under their comment.

Now I know that when I see CL on someone’s site I reckon I’m about 10x more likely to leave a comment than on non-loved sites. This creates great rapport with your readers as you are actually rewarding them for their feedback. The more comments, the more social proof and the more popular your blog looks. And, as you can see, it looks really friendly once it’s installed.

There is a free basic version but if you want to take advantage of all of the features, then I would go for one of the paid versions ($67 for a single site and $97 for multiple sites).

6) Shareaholic: This is the one that you can see at the bottom of a lot of posts which has all of the different social media sharing options under it. This is free and dead easy to use and basically encourages people to share your posts and well, it doesn’t get much better than that! You can use ‘sharing is caring’ bookmarks but there is classy and sassy as well.

7) Akismet: I think just about everybody knows about this one already but if you don’t then this is the plugin that keeps all of the spam comments out of your queue. I f you have ever woken up in the morning to discover that your inbox is full of notifications that there are comments waiting for your moderation only to discover that you are the victim of large amounts of SPAM then this plugin is your new best friend. This is a subscription plugin but saves you so much time it is absolutely worth the fee. You will need to get an API key to install but it’s very easy to use.

8) All In One SEO: This is one of the most-used plug-ins. Bloggers just love and why not as, just like SEO pressor, it takes much of the guesswork out of the whole SEO experience. Actually, this plugin goes further than SEO pressor because it helps to optimize the title, meta description, meta keyword of your blog and individual post and articles. Customize in your own way to yield maximum results. Some people only use this and don’t worry about SEO pressor but in my opinion, they are two very different plugins and yes, they can be used side by side without the script crashing.

There is a paid version of All In One but by most reports, it doesn’t seem to do very much so if I were you don’t be sucked into paying the $39 asking fee. The free version is all you need.

So there you have it – eight plugins that will improve the performance of your site and make the user experience much better.