WordPress is an extremely vast platform with a lot of different options in terms of configuration. There are thousands of plugins on the market and many of them are pretty good. But how do you find the ones that are “pretty good”? And then, once you find them, how do you know which ones you need to install?
In my experience, the best thing you can do is listen to someone who has tried and tested different variations and has found a great working combination of plugins. That is to say, the combination of WordPress plugins I have installed on this site is mainly focused on marketing. So if you are an SEO, this article is perfect for you. After you finish reading it, you will basically know how you can make your WordPress site far more effective in terms of everything – speed, leads, conversions, user signals, user interface, etc. Shall we?
What You’ll Learn
- The 15 WordPress plugins every SEO should have installed on their website – a quick look at each of the plugins on the list, what they can do for your website, how they will improve your website, and vital functionality provided by each of them.
- Important notes about each of these plugins – simply installing the plugins is not optimal. You have to know the best way in which you can utilize them.
- Summary – wrapping the 15 WordPress plugins up.
The 15 WordPress Plugins Every SEO Should Have Installed On Their Website
Basically, what I will share with is the set of WordPress plugins I have installed on this site (currently), which have helped it get to where it is in just about 4 months – both traffic-wise and email-subscribers-wise. Now, when I was developing this website back in July 2015, I didn’t have all of these plugins installed since I had yet to discover many of them.
What I’m trying to say is that if I had all of them installed right from the get-go, the site would have grown even faster than it currently has. So, if you are just starting out with your WordPress website, this article will help you grow it phenomenally fast.
I know what you’re thinking right now – “how much is this going to cost me?”. While most of the plugins on this list are completely free, there are those that are paid and will cost you a few bucks. But, all of them are more than well worth it and in the end, you have to give in order to get back right?
Without a further a due, let’s start with the promised list of the 15 plugins you should install on your WordPress site – ordered alphabetically.
#1: a3 Lazy Load – Free
a3 Lazy Load is the best plugin, in my opinion, for implementing a lazy loading for your site’s images. This will not only speed up your WordPress installation but will also create a much better user-friendly environment on both desktop computers and mobile devices as the plugin supports smartphone lazy loading. Now let’s get into a bit more detail.
Why You Need To Install a3 Lazy Load On Your WordPress Site
- Site speed increase – the website will load much faster as images are one of the biggest resources that tend to slow site speed, especially if you have a lot of them throughout your content and layout.
- Bandwidth reduction – the plugin will significantly decrease the bandwidth generated by your website. If you are using a more advanced WordPress hosting provider such as WPX Hosting, you need to be careful with the bandwidth generated by your website since the more it generates, the more you will have to pay in monthly costs. a3 Lazy Load will lower your bandwidth tremendously since the images on the site will only load if the visitors are actually viewing them.
- Lazy load images everywhere – you can lazy load images everywhere on your website including in-content, sidebar, widgets, featured post images, gravatars (if you have a lot of comments on your posts, gravatars can significantly increase page load times, but this plugin solves that problem).
- Lazy load videos and iframes – a3 Lazy Load also allows you to lazy load videos and iframes if you have such media on your website.
- Set an image load threshold – the image load threshold setting basically allows you to create a transparent experience for your website’s visitors as the images will load a bit earlier before the visitor scrolls down to them.
#2: Akismet – Free
As of January 2015, about 23.3% of the top 10 million websites in the world use WordPress as a CMS. And that means a lot of automated software targeting these sites a.k.a. the “spam background noise”. If you don’t have something to filter this spam out, which comes mostly in the face of blog comments, user registrations, and inactive email subscribers, your WordPress site will be blasted into oblivion.
Why You Need To Install Akismet On Your WordPress Site
- Filtering spam blog comments – if you have blog comments enabled on your website, you pretty much can’t go without Akismet, It will basically filter out all spam comments and leave only the real ones that actually deserve your attention.
#3: Anti-Spam by CleanTalk – $8 Per Year
While Akismet is great in the fight against WordPress-targeted spam, it filters only spam blog comments. However, as I mentioned a bit earlier, there are also bots that will try and register accounts on your website as well as try and subscribe to your mailing list via common newsletter forms. Oh, and there are those bots who will send you spam messages via contact forms as well, so you need to take care of those too.
The hands-off solution I found to all these problems is the Anti-Spam by CleanTalk plugin. All it requires from you is to install it and that’s it. From there on, you need not worry about anything else anymore. It will filter out all the aforementioned spam requests out-of-the-box so that you can focus on the growth of your website as opposed to defending from spam software.
Why You Should Install Anti-Spam by CleanTalk on Your WordPress Site
- Blocks all types of WP spam – blog comments, fake registrations, spam messages via contact forms, and fake email subscribers will all be prevented with this plugin.
- Eases the load on your server – the plugin has the option to preemptively block subsequent spam requests which will put an ease on your hosting server.
- Hands-off – you don’t need to set up any captchas, options or anything – the plugin goes to work as it is installed.
#4: Better WordPress Minify – Free
A big part of WordPress website optimization is speed. So, I have several plugins just for the purpose of decreasing the page load times of my website. Better WordPress Minify is one of them. It’s really easy and simple to use and the best part is that it allows you to connect it to your CDN. So right after it minifies and combines your CSS and JS code, the end files can be uploaded to your CDN servers thus further improving your site speed.
Why You Should Install Better WordPress Minify On Your WordPress Site
- Decreases page load times – the plugin minifies your JS and CSS code and then combines a user-defined number of files into bigger files, thus further optimizing your website for speed.
- Allows customization of scripts and styles load order – you can specify which JS scripts and CSS files you’d like to be loaded in the header, and which ones in the footer. By default, the plugin will build this automatically and it will work out-of-the-box, but sometimes, you might want to move some JS files to the footer, so that your site won’t have to wait for them to load before it gets to rendering the HTML code.
- Minifies inline styles – Better WordPress Minify can also exert its effects on inline style code.
#5: Google XML Sitemaps – Free
I can’t stress enough how important having a good sitemap is for SEO. Search engines crawlers are not mind readers, so they have no idea how you have structured your website. Having a sitemap will easily aware them of exactly that, thus enabling them to easily crawl and index all of the pages on your website. Enter Google XML Sitemaps.
Why You Should Install Google XML Sitemaps On Your WordPress Site
- Improved sitemap – the plugin generates a special XML sitemap that is designed for search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
- Faster indexation – it will also significantly help with the indexation of all pages on your website.
- Search engines notification – when you create a new post, the plugin will notify all major search engines of it, so that they can crawl and index it right away.
#6: Social Share & Locker Pro – $15
Nowadays, having a website that doesn’t generate social signals is like going all-in pre-flop with two Jacks – you have a good hand, but you can’t escape the feeling of someone else hitting 2 Queens, Kings, or Aces post-flop and “outranking” you in the tournament/SERPs.
Now, there are countless WordPress plugins that will help your website get those vital social signals that it needs and many of them are free, however, I am always looking for an all-in-one solution when I need something. And so, I found the Social Share & Locker Pro plugin which basically can turn your WordPress site into a social shares generating machine.
Why You Should Install Social Share & Locker Pro On Your WordPress Site
- Social shares generating machine – the plugin allows you to insert social share buttons almost anywhere on your website – at the beginning and end of an article, in a fixed container either on the right or left-hand side, in a slide-in container, in a pop-up window, in the sidebar, on the images, and more.
- All major social networks included – allows you to include social share buttons for all the major social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
- Social share counters – counts and displays the number of shares for each post for each social network including total number of shares.
- Caching – caches the aforementioned numbers to boost site speed as opposed to checking the number of shares on every single page load.
- Statistics – displays in-depth stats about the shares that are occurring throughout your website on a daily basis.
- Content lockers – includes content lockers which you can use to further boost the social signals to your website.
- Beautiful templates – I’m not particularly a fan of the design of the default share buttons that each social network generates as aesthetics run in my blood. So, I do enjoy the beautiful templates that come with this plugin.
#7: Inline Related Posts – Free or $27
If you are looking to reduce the bounce rate of your website, as you should since user signals are starting to influence the rankings algorithm more and more, then Inline Related Posts is just perfect for you. Basically, this plugin inserts links to related articles in between the paragraphs of a certain post.
The difference between the free version and the paid version is that the paid one allows you to insert unlimited related links inside posts and also comes with premium themes of the related posts boxes including a theme that includes the featured image of the relevant article – which is one of the main reasons why I purchased the paid version.
Why You Should Install Inline Related Posts On Your WordPress Site
- Decease in bounce rate – showing relevant posts to your visitors is one of the easiest ways to keep them engaged with your website and reduce bounce rate.
- Relevant posts by tags and categories – showing irrelevant inline posts ain’t gonna cut it. They have to be tightly related to the current article that your visitors are reading otherwise, they won’t be efficient. This is why Inline Related Posts shows only relevant posts by making use of both categories and tags.
- Appearance customization – you can fully customize the way your related posts links appear by configuring options such as number of related posts boxes per article, number of words between said related posts boxes, and the theme of the related box itself. The plugin comes with several beautiful options in terms of design of the related posts boxes, so you don’t have to worry about styling.
#8: iThemes Security – Free
As we already saw, WordPress is an extremely popular CMS. In being such, it is not only the target of a lot of spam software, but also the target of hackers looking to exploit not-so-well secured websites. However, there is a plugin that solves this problem as well – iThemes Security.
The good news is that even though the plugin is focused on security, you don’t have to be an expert in the field in order to install and configure it. Quite on the contrary actually since iThemes Security will basically tell you where your site might be vulnerable and then allow you to solve said vulnerabilities with the click of a few buttons.
Why You Should Have iThemes Security Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Basic security – the plugin can easily secure common WordPress vulnerabilities by changing the default WordPress dashboard URL, renaming the default “admin” account username, changing the default user ID from 1 to something else, changing the prefix of the tables in your database, etc.
- Two-factor authentication – the plugin allows you to implement a two-factor authentication process to further secure the logins to your website.
- Malware scanning – you can schedule malware scans on a daily basis.
- Brute force protection – iThemes Security has taken this to the next level as it bans users who have tried to break into other sites as well as report failed login attempts and block them from trying again for a certain period of time.
- Recovery – in case of trouble, iThemes Security will have a backup of your database so that you can quickly begin the healing process.
#9: BizPanda – $48
This plugin is probably one of the best investments I have made for this website since it has brought in so much leads in terms of both social shares and email subscribers. Basically, BizPanda is made of two parts – Social Locker ($25) and Opt-In Panda ($23).
The first one allows you to create social lockers that will significantly boost the social activity of your website while the second one allows you to create email lockers and social sign-in lockers which focus on growing your mailing list and social media following.
Email lockers are one of the most effective ways to build up your email subscribers following phenomenally fast as portrayed in our email marketing 101 article. And I’m not sure if you are aware, but having a lot of mailing list subscribers is a huge advantage for your website.
Why You Should Have BizPanda Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Social signals generation – the social lockers provided by the plugin will significantly help in terms of the social sharing of your posts.
- Mailing list growth – as we already said, BizPanda is one of the best ways to grow your email subscribers following phenomenally fast. Those in-content email lockers just work and that’s that.
- Social following growth – in addition to the email lockers, BizPanda also provides social sign-in lockers that will require people to follow you on a social media of your choice in exchange for viewing the content that is locked. This plugin is just the perfect solution if you are looking to grow your Facebook page following, Twitter following, and Google Plus subscribers.
- Statistics – the plugin also gathers data for all the lockers used throughout your website so that you can easily see what works and what doesn’t. The data includes impressions, leads, conversion rates, engagement, and more.
- Beautiful designs – BizPanda has a bunch of beautifully-designed default locker templates for you to play with. For those that want to know, I have customized the ones here not because I don’t like the default ones, but because I wanted the lockers to be in tone with the theme of the website.
#10: Q2W3 Fixed Widget – Free
The sidebar of a website is one of the most under-appreciated parts of its layout. While it is certainly not as engaged with as the main content area, it is still a great place for a lot of different visitors retention activity such as a popular posts widget, latest posts widget, opt-in forms, etc.
However, as your readers scroll down to read more and more of a particular page, the sidebar elements remain forgotten somewhere above. Enter the Q2W3 Fixed Widget plugin. This useful addition to your WordPress site will allow you to fixate any sidebar widget you want so that it moves down as your website visitors scroll down.
Why You Should Have Q2W3 Fixed Widget Installed On Your WordPress Site
- More visitors engagement – while most of the action will be happening in the main content area, you’d still want to have something in the sidebar area wherever the user scrolls down to otherwise you are basically wasting pixels. Maybe insert an opt-in form, maybe suggestions for other relevant posts on your blog, discount deals, trending posts, etc – the idea is to always use that sidebar space to keep people engaged with your website in one way or another.
#11: ThirstyAffiliates – Free
Since we are talking about websites focused on marketing, there’s a good chance you will be including affiliate links throughout your content. However, it is better to cloak said links (see why here) as opposed to using the direct affiliate links themselves. The plugin that takes care of this process for you is called ThirstyAffiliates.
Why You Want To Have ThirstyAffiliates Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Affiliate links cloaking – ThirstyAffiliates allows you to enter the name of the product/service your are affiliating for and then add in the direct affiliate link. The end result is a cloaked link that will basically redirect people who click on it to your affiliate link.
- Affiliate links control – because the plugin allows you to use shortcodes instead of hard-coded links, you can change an affiliate link at anytime and it will update everywhere on your website without you having to go to each post and update it manually.
#12: Thrive Leads – $67
We already looked at the plugin that can turn your website into a social signals generating machine, now let’s look at the one that turns it into a lead generating machine – Thrive Leads. My only regret with this plugin is that I didn’t start using it right from the get-go as I would have grown my mailing list so much faster.
Why You Want To Have Thrive Leads Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Phenomenal mailing list growth – Thrive Leads will help you grow your email subscribers following phenomenally fast thanks to the Nature of the plugin – an all-in-one lead generation solution.
- Insert opt-in forms anywhere – allows you to insert opt-in forms with your lead magnets in all of the best positions on your website – in-content, sidebar, after the end of an article, above the header, lightbox popup, full screen popup, slide-in and pretty much anywhere else since it also generates PHP code for you to insert wherever you want.
- Reports and insights – Thrive Leads keeps a record of all important statistics that will help you further improve your lead generation efforts – impressions, conversion rates, leads, URLs from where your leads are coming from, etc.
- Advanced A/B testing – one of the best ways to make sure that you are squeezing the absolute maximum from your opt-in forms is to split test them. Thrive Leads makes it extremely easy to do just that by allowing you to easily set up split testing campaigns with the click of a button and will then track the stats for you until you decide who the winner is.
- Amazing design – Thrive Leads comes with a horde of aesthetic conversion-optimized opt-in forms which you can make use of. All you have to do is type in your copywriting words and you are good to go.
- Advanced targeting – the plugin allows you to show specific opt-in forms on specific pages, posts, categories, tags, etc. That way, you can make sure that only highly relevant opt-in forms are displayed to your visitors thus further boosting your conversion rates.
- Easy and intuitive editor – Thrive Leads comes bundled with Thrive Content Builder which is basically a drag-and-drop editor for your opt-in forms and other pages created with Thrive Leads. So, if you ever want to customize one of the default designs that the plugin comes with, you can quickly and easily do so without banging your head against the wall with CSS code.
#13: W3 Total Cache – Free
This is yet another plugin that I use for WordPress speed optimization. It basically allows me to cache certain resources and pages on the website so that it can load faster for subsequent requests. W3 Total Cache can also be integrated with your CDN which is another good reason to have it installed as having a CDN is, in my opinion, vital for lowering page load times if of course, your website is accessed internationally.
Why You Want To Have W3 Total Cache Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Huge boost in site speed – if configured correctly (very important), W3 Total Cache will make your website load phenomenally fast. That will in turn improve everything else on it including engagement and conversion rates.
- Page caching – allows you to cache your pages in memory or on disk (depending on your hosting environment), which decreases page load times significantly.
- Browser caching – the plugin caches resources from your website in the browser which makes subsequent views pretty fast.
- CDN integration – allows you to integrate the plugin with your CDN making it even more effective. For those who are interested, this website uses a combination of CloudFlare and MaxCDN for its CDN, which can both be connected to your website via W3 Total Cache – this WordPress speed optimization guide shows you how.
- Caching of search results – if your website includes a lot of searching on it, then you certainly need to have W3 Total Cache installed as it can cache SERPs.
- Code minification – W3 Total Cache allows you to minify CSS, JS, and HTML code to reduce the bandwidth generated by your website. Now, the CSS and JS minification will be taken care of by Better WordPress Minify, but you can still use the HTML minification option to save up on a little bit more page load times and bandwidth.
- Compatibility – W3 Total Cache is compatible with any type of hosting environment including shared hosting, VPS, dedicated servers, clusters, etc.
#14: WP-Optimize – Free
We already talked about the legions of spam that target WordPress sites and the plugins that will help you prevent them from ever seeing the light. However, some of it will still find its way to your database – marked as spam. Not only that, but since it is a WordPress site, there’s a good chance you will build up a lot of post and page revisions pretty fast. Those can also clutter your database, so they have to be cleaned regularly as well.
The plugin that takes care of all that is called WP-Optimize. It basically allows you to cleanup and optimize your database with the click of a button. Yep, you just click it and it will remove all the spam blog comments, post and page revisions and other data that you simply don’t need anymore.
Why You Want To Have WP-Optimize Installed On Your WordPress Site
- Cleanup and optimize your WordPress database – WP-Optimize allows you to, with the click of a button, remove spam and unapproved comments, trash posts and comments, trackbacks and pingbacks (which you should have disabled by the way), and transient options. All this data clutters your database and needs to be cleaned up on a regular basis.
- Site speed improvement – removing all of the aforementioned resources will slightly reduce page load times as connections to your database will be executed a bit faster.
#15: Yoast SEO – Free
The last WordPress plugin every SEO should have installed on their website is Yoast SEO. It is basically an all-in-one SEO booster for your website. WordPress is pretty good, SEO-wise, out of the box, however, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Why You Want To Have Yoast SEO Installed On Your WordPress Site
- On-page optimization – the Yoast SEO plugin makes it easy for you to write SEO content since it reminds you of fundamental on-page optimization stuff such as inserting alt tags in your images, length of your posts, custom meta description, headings, etc.
- Meta data optimization – Yoast SEO automatically inserts meta tags and link elements that search engines like to read to know what a certain page is about.
- SERPs optimization – by default, the plugin will help your website with the indexation of all pages including posts, category pages, tags, etc. However, you wouldn’t want the latter to rank in the SERPs above your posts and real pages. Yoast SEO makes sure that doesn’t happen.
- Social integration – the Yoast SEO plugin implements all necessary data on your website so that it can be social sharing friendly. This includes Facebook’s Open Graph, Twitter meta data, Google Plus sharing tags, etc. You can also easily set up those beautiful Twitter Cards that will boost your engagement and impressions on the blue-bird platform by quite a lot.
- XML sitemaps – while the sitemap generated by this plugin is good, in my opinion, the one from the Google XML Sitemaps plugin is better. So, if you have those two plugins installed as I do, you need to disable the sitemap generated by the Yoast SEO plugin.
Important Notes About These 15 WordPress Plugins
While most, if not all, of these plugins that I have featured in this article will work out-of-the-box, there are things you can do in order to optimize them not only individually, but as a whole configuration. As you saw, we have plugins that have similar functionality as other plugins, so we need to account for that as well. Now, so far I have shared with you the plugins that are installed on this website, but I also want to share my personal tips and tricks that I have applied to each of them in order to make them work better (together).
- a3 Lazy Load
- I have set an “Image Load Threshold” of 1,000 pixels so that the experience my visitors have with the website is completely transparent i.e. the images load 1,000 pixels before the reader actually scrolls down the the image. I have played quite a lot with this number and have found 1,000 to work the best.
- While this plugin is simply the best in terms of filtering spam comments, you will get the occasional mistakes i.e. comments that are not spam, but land in the spam queue. So, I recommend going through the spam comments once or twice a month (depending on the amount of comments your site gets), and quickly look for real comments that might have gotten there. The easiest way to do that is to scan the usernames and website URL used for each comment – if those don’t look like something a real person would use, but rather, like a keyword and an URL, then that is really a spam comment built by some automated link building software.
- Anti-Spam by CleanTalk – this really is the ultimate hands-off spam protection plugin as I have barely done anything with it since I installed it. There was one occasion when they let a few spam comments slip, but Akismet caught them.
- Better WordPress Minify
- I have integrated the plugin to store the minified CSS and JS files on our MaxCDN account.
- I have moved all JS files (that I could) to load in the footer, so as to not block the rendering of the rest of the code of the website. This will vary for each different installation of WordPress as different themes and plugins are used.
- Google XML Sitemaps – this plugin really works as it is installed, so I haven’t done anything custom to it. All I did in relevance to it was add my site to the Google Search Console and then let Google know where the sitemap generated by the plugin was.
- Social Share & Locker Pro
- Don’t forget to set your social profiles’ details in the “General Options” tab so that when people share, they will tag you in those shares.
- Enable stats tracking. It says that it can influence website performance, but I have never had a problem with that. When you reach the end of the month, simply clear all statistics data and that’s that.
- Inline Related Posts
- Configure the plugin to insert about 3 related posts boxes. I have found that to be the sweet spot.
- If you have the paid version of the plugin, use a theme that also includes the featured image of the relevant post. That really boosts CTR.
- Use colors for the related post box that contrast with the surrounding content.
- Make sure to set the “target” attribute of the link to “_blank”, so that it will open a new tab when clicked.
- iThemes Security
- Make sure to solve all “High Priority” items and most of the “Medium Priority” items, if not all. After that, your WordPress site will be quite secure.
- Make sure to set up regular backups of your database. You can go the extra mile and integrate a complete backup with your site with BackupBuddy, however, I haven’t because my hosting creates full backups of my website on a regular basis.
- Use the lockers only if the content they are hiding is really worth unlocking.
- Make use mostly of email lockers and sign-in lockers as opposed to social sharing lockers since the social shares will be taken care of the Social Share & Locker Pro plugin.
- Q2W3 Fixed Widget
- In my opinion, the best widget that you can set to be fixed with this plugin is either an opt-in form or relevant posts to the one that your website visitor is currently reading.
- ThirstyAffiliates – not much to say here. Basically, cloak all your affiliate links so that they are both protected and easily controlled by you if you ever wish to change something.
- Thrive Leads
- Make use of as many locations where you can place opt-in forms (provided they go with the flow of your website).
- Always split test various opt-in forms so that you know which one is working best.
- Keep an eye on the locations from where your opt-in forms are converting the most. For instance, if you know that a lot of people who sign-up to your mailing list come from a guest post on a certain site, then you should probably look to get more exposure on that same site.
- W3 Total Cache – the different variations that you can have with this plugin are virtually indefinite. I have talked about the settings that this website uses and you can check it out here if you are interested. Basically, you need to adapt W3 Total Cache to your hosting environment, your WordPress theme, and all other settings that are unique to your website.
- WP-Optimize – quite simply click that “Process” button every time you feel like there’s just too much junk in your database.
- Yoast SEO
- Disable the “Enable force rewrite titles” option as it can significantly slow down your website performance.
- Configure your website’s social presence and enable the metadata settings for Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, and Google Plus.
- Disable the plugin’s XML sitemaps feature if you have installed the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
- Keep an eye on the messages that are displayed when you are writing a new article.
Again, I want to point out that these are the tips and tricks that I have applied to these plugins on this website and by no means do I force anyone to do the same. All I wanted to do was to share my configuration and experience with them, which in my opinion, has significantly helped the growth of this website.
So there you have it. The 15 WordPress plugins that every SEO should have installed on their website. While there probably may be even better configurations out there (which I’d love to hear about), this particular one is working wonders for my website.
I mean, we have plugins for website speed, social sharing and engagement, mailing list growth, layout improvement, search engines friendliness improvement, WordPress database optimization, affiliate marketing, WordPress security, and spam protection. What more can you, as an SEO, possibly need right?
Now, I do have a few other plugins installed, but I didn’t include them in the list, because they are more into the category of miscellaneous plugins – not specific to a website owned by a marketer. That’s a wrap.