Regular readers will know I am a great fan of WordPress. It offers so much for ‘real-world’ web development where you are looking for premiership functionality on division 2 budgets. You can do pretty much whatever you want with WordPress and a great deal of focus is put on the amazing functionality that you can build in, often at remarkably modest cost. Where people sometimes put less thought is making sure the site is really usable over time. Content management is a given, it is at the heart of the WordPress platform but there are some back-end add-ons which, in our experience, can really help make your site work for your business. Here are 4 key (and Free!) plugins we recommend for every site:
1. Simple Google Analytics
Knowing how your site is performing is vital if you are to get real marketing value and Google Analytics is the de facto standard for site stats. It’s free and powerful and with this plugin, adding it to your site is straightforward. Once installed you can track how people engage with your site and monitor the impact of your marketing activity.
2. Better WP Security
Online security is an important consideration and a high-profile system such as WordPress will always attract unwanted attention. This said, the sheer number of WP users and developers mean that there is always somebody with a solution to any vulnerabilities that may be found. It is important that you do keep your site current with the regular core updates issued from WordPress (all free!). Often installation is a single click. Better WP Security is a great plugin that enables you to add an extra layer of security that you control. We now install the plugin as standard on all new sites.
We have covered Yoast in a previous post (here) but I have included it again because, despite all the media hoo-ha about SEO and Google algorithm changes, getting good search engine ranking is pretty much everybody’s goal and rather than relying on the talents of the seo industry, there are some key steps you can take yourself. Yoast is designed by SEO specialists to be used by non-specialists. It is simple and effective. If you follow the advice from the Yoast plugin, you can have a real and positive impact on your site search rankings.
Askimet anti-spam is so important that it is included by default (but not activated) with every new WordPress installation. I strongly recommend you switch it on! It protects your site from annoying and pointless (but in my experience harmless) spam. You will need to register to get an activation code but it is well worth it. All of the above are plugins that we use every day and have found to be effective. In all cases there are alternatives, both paid-for and free. If you have a favourite we’ve not mentioned let me know – we are always learning!
A couple of other things to consider….
Not a plugin, but if you want to explore and keep track of the technical heart of your website, webmaster tools are a great resource. There are several service providers but Google is the biggest (again!). I’m not planning to look at webmaster tools in detail here but you can add them to your site through the Yoast plugin where there are links to lots of background info. Finally a small, but critical, point. We all want search engines to list our website but only once a site is launched. Often we want the site to be hidden while it is being developed. This is easy in WordPress. Under Settings-Reading, there is a tick box: Tick this box and your site will be (virtually) hidden from search engines. Just remember to remove the tick when you publish your site! Until next time……