WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world, powering an estimated 30% of the sites on the Internet. One of the main reasons for WP’s ever-increasing popularity is the fact that it’s so customizable—it can be made to do almost anything, serve any purpose.
And plugins are the key to customizing WordPress.
So what is a plugin, exactly? Simply put, a plugin is just a bit of software written to work with WordPress to help it do something more than it normally does “out of the box”. In other words, it takes your existing WP installation and adds some new functionality that it didn’t have before.
Plugins let you do more with WordPress—and because there are literally thousands of them to choose from, they let you do almost anything you could ever want or need to do.
In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of some of the best plugins on the market that will help you develop better, faster, safer WordPress sites.
Development and administration
Web development used to mean learning arcane computer and database languages and mastering HTML and CSS. But over the past few years, WordPress has made huge strides in putting development into everyone’s hands.
In 2019, it’s safe to say that WordPress Development is now a discipline in its own right. As such, there are a range of plugins available for WordPress developers to make their lives easier and their work more efficient.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Say you want to really experiment with the layout of an existing page without actually committing to those edits. Or maybe you’ve got a custom post with a completely unique layout, and you’re looking to copy that for a new post.
Duplicate Post allows you to create a clone of any page or post on your site at the click of a button—after which you can edit and publish it as a new page, just like you would if you’d started from scratch.
Great for fast development and safe experimentation with new designs.
This plugin is a real time saver for developers. It adds debugging features to the admin area of your WordPress site which can help you to troubleshoot and optimize right from there.
This handy little plugin also has options to track and report on SQL and PHP issues that may be affecting your website’s performance. A nice way to keep an eye on your WordPress site in one convenient tool.
Sometimes when developing a WordPress site you’ll need to switch back and forth between different user accounts. All that logging in and out (not to mention trying to remember passwords) can be a real drain on your time.
User Switching is a plugin that allows you toggle between different user accounts with a single click—logging you in and out as different users quickly and safely.
A real lifesaver if you’re working on multi-user sites that require you to juggle multiple accounts.
Speed and performance
Fast websites are essential in 2019. If your site is slow to load, your visitors may navigate away. And maybe worst of all, it’s disastrous to your SEO. Ultimately, that translates to lost page views, opt-ins, contacts…and sales.
So you need to do anything you can to make sure your site is optimized for speed. Luckily, there are some great WordPress plugins that can help you do just that.
Oversized or poorly compressed images on a website can create a real drag on site performance. Smush will help you to take the images on your site and make sure they’re optimally sized and efficiently compressed—all while maintaining quality.
There are options to apply compression to whole directories (no need to go one by one) and to completely resize images as well. If you’re having speed issues but are not sure what’s slowing your site down—or if you just want to make sure that it’s running as fast as it could—Smush is a great place to start.
Another great way to improve site performance is through caching. This will increase page load speed and improve download times for your users.
W3 Total Cache is built to be a comprehensive solution to leverage the power of caching to improve site speed—no matter how large or small your website is. And beyond the obvious benefits to your end users, fast and optimized sites also do better in the search rankings.
An excellent way to improve both user experience and SEO ranking.
People love video. And if you have a WordPress site, chances are you may want to offer your users embedded YouTube or Vimeo videos. But there’s a problem here—because each video embed needs to be loaded from the hosting platform. And that can hurt page load speed.
Lazy Loading for Videos is a WordPress plugin that offers a way around this by automatically creating preview thumbnail images for the videos on your page without actually loading the videos. Videos are only loaded when someone actually clicks on one.
End result? Your page still looks great, but loads more quickly, because your users only get the video loading that they actually need.
Security and legal
Keeping a website safe from malicious attacks, roving bots, and annoying spammers is a never-ending task. And keeping up with the ever-changing government regulations that attempt to make the Internet a safer, fairer place for everyone can be challenging as well.
In 2019, security and legal plugins will be more essential than ever.
You put up a website. You enable comments. You can’t wait to hear from your interested readers, fans, or customers. Next thing you know, every post is full of dubious offers for hair-regrowth products or promises to help you make $10,000 a month from home.
Spam is the dark side of WordPress comments. Akismet is the solution. This plugin automatically checks new comments to see if they appear to be spam, holding back likely offenders for review and even discarding the worst ones outright if that’s what you prefer.
With over 5 million active users, Akismet has helped people all over the world regain control of their websites’ comment sections.
Security is one of the most important aspects of actually running a website. It’s also one of the most confusing, since most people don’t know the difference between trojans, malware, and brute force attacks…let alone how to stop them.
Cerber offers a comprehensive approach to site security for WordPress users.
It monitors your site for suspicious activity, tracks bots and bugs, and blocks blacklisted IP addresses so the bad guys can’t get anywhere near you.
It also comes with features to eliminate spam comment and contact form submissions, limit login attempts so no one can guess their way into your site, and cloak certain key files and URLs to add an extra layer of protection.
A great one-stop plugin to keep your site safe and secure.
When the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation earlier this year, with stiff penalties for violators, people were understandably concerned about making sure they were in compliance with the new law.
In fact, some websites outside of Europe were so concerned that they might accidentally run afoul of the new regulations that they actually blocked European users from accessing their sites!
Thankfully, the GDPR plugin makes it easy for WordPress site owners to be sure that they’re following the law, so that they can continue to serve their European visitors with confidence (and avoid hefty fines from Brussels!).
With this plugin, you’ll be able to create consent banners and opt-ins, manage requests to access or erase user data, and allow users to choose different levels of privacy when they’re on your site: all core provisions of the EU’s GDPR.
A safe and simple way to make your site available to the EU’s 500 million citizens, without getting into hot water with the regulators!
SEO and analytics
The proliferation of websites nowadays means it’s more important than ever to make sure your site ranks high in search engine results—instead of getting buried by the competition. And the wide availability and growing sophistication of data collection and tracking tools means that having some way to manage analytics is an essential part of running an optimized website.
In 2019, SEO and analytics are more important than ever. And these plugins will help you succeed in these vital areas:
Ah, the good old days of search engine optimization. When you could just stuff as many keywords as possible into your site’s meta data and fill your articles with search terms until they were unreadable. Try that today and Google will penalize you so hard that even you won’t be able to find your site in the search results.
But what is good SEO in 2019? How does one optimize a site for the search engines in a way that avoids SEO-killing penalties?
Yoast SEO for WordPress is the answer. Install this on your WP site and each page will have a customized SEO report—with recommendations for how to improve SEO that are in line with the most up-to-date industry best practices. The plugin will also provide alerts to show you where you might be inadvertently hurting your site’s ranking.
The free version is a great way to improve the search rankings of your website today—and if you want to go pro for $89/year, the premium edition of Yoast offers even more ways to get to #1 in the search results.
An easy way to get more out of your website and navigate the confusing waters of SEO.
You can’t make improvements to your website without knowing how your visitors are interacting with it. Which posts are the most popular? What changes seem to have the biggest impact?
Jetpack offers WordPress site owners a way to get real insight into what’s going on with their website. This plugin provides detailed statistics on users and visitors to your website, as well as giving you a snapshot of your site’s overall trends.
For those who have monetized their websites, Jetpack also offers integrations with AdSense, Facebook Ads, Google AdX, and more.
Learn what’s really going on with your site—so that you can make it better and more profitable.
Google collects so much information that it’s a little scary.
But if we’re honest, it’s also incredibly useful. Because if you use Google Analytics on your site, you’ll be able to get an amazingly detailed picture of your users: who they are, how they’re getting there, what they do while they visit, and even what sort of devices and browsers they’re using to access your website.
Google Analytics Dashboard works with Google Analytics to create a simple interface that lets you access all of this information in one place. By getting a more detailed picture of your target audience, you can tailor content to their needs and interests, make better marketing and advertising decisions, and design your site to better serve your users.
Somewhat spooky but undeniably powerful, this plugin will give you a handle on the vast amount of data that Google Analytics collects.