Obsessed with WordPress plugins like me?
Here’s a list of plugins for SEO, speed optimization, design, security, backups, and other plugins for optimizing your site. I use all these on my own WordPress site and they all have a 4+ star rating. I wrote tutorials on many of them including how to configure the Yoast settings, optimizing content with Yoast, and configuring W3 Total Cache to improve load times. Most tutorials have tons of comments as many people have found them helpful – I hope you do too.
All these plugins are lightweight as I’m also obsessed with WordPress speed optimization. I use nearly every plugin in this list and my site still loads in under 1 second in GTmetrix. Still, if you don’t use plugins at certain times and only need them once in a while, it’s a good idea to delete it, then only reactivate it when needed. Here’s my list of important WordPress plugins:
- Yoast SEO
- W3 Total Cache
- All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets
- iThemes Security
- P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
- Quick Page/Post Redirect
- Widget Logic
- TinyMCE Advanced
- Google Analytics
- Broken Link Checker
- Heartbeat Control
While there are 15 plugins in this post, the top 10 are listed here:
1. Yoast SEO
I know most of you already have Yoast, but you probably have not configured the proper settings, researched the best focus keywords, or optimized content to it’s full potential. Use my guides below to sharpen your skills and start ranking pages/posts higher in search engines.
Configure the Yoast Settings – fill out your business information, configure Google Search Console and other Webmaster Tools, set the ideally structure of your SEO titles, prevent duplicate content in your sitemap, fix broken pages (crawl errors), and tweak all your Yoast settings to be optimal for SEO. My Yoast settings tutorial has been used by 50,000+ people.
Researching focus keywords – use Google Autocomplete and Moz Keyword Explorer (the two best keyword research tools in my opinion) to build a list of long-tail keywords and make sure you don’t miss out on ANY phrases. Google each keyword using the MozBar Google Chrome Extension to learn the competition of each keywords. Use that data to filter out competitive phrases, leaving you with high-opportunity keywords you should be able to get on page 1 for.
Content / Green Light Optimization – people obsessed with getting green lights in Yoast don’t fully understand the big picture of content optimization. Yoast only detects exact keyword matches so green lights are not always possible, plus there are TONS of ways to optimize content outside of Yoast (videos, rich snippets, adding a table of contents, and more). Use that tutorial to get ideas for optimizing YOUR content instead of obsessing over Yoast green lights.
The most popular tutorial on my site is my recommended W3 Total Cache settings which has helped multiple people reduce their page load time to under 1 second (read the comments). It includes a pre-configured zip file you can upload directly to your own W3 Total Cache plugin.
This is one of the best cache plugins out there and will improve your speed scores in tools like GTmetrix and Google Page Speed Insights. However just like Yoast, many people don’t configure the settings properly. Use my tutorial to configure the difference “performance” tabs on the left of your dashboard W3 Total Cache is installed. This plugin integrates with Cloudflare (free) and MaxCDN ($6.75/month with my 25% off MaxCDN coupon) which you can use the Cloudflare and MaxCDN section in my tutorial to further improve your load times. When you’re done configuring W3 Total Cache (and hopefully read my entire WordPress speed optimization guide), hopefully your GTmetrix scores will look something like this…
Adds rich snippets to your WordPress site which helps you stand out in search engines by adding “extra information” to snippets in the form of review stars, recipe information, events, and other supported data. You can do this using the All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets Plugin (free but very minimal and has many limitations) or the WP Rich Snippets Plugin (premium and has way more features). This improves click-through rates and traffic so if you haven’t done this yet, read my guides on those plugins which shows you how to add them.
Losslessly compress images to load faster (in bulk). Imagify is free until you hit a monthly quota of 25MB per month or it’s $4.99/month for 1GB (which you can usually use one-time for all existing images during the first month, cancel, then just use the free account). This plugin is MUCH better than other completely free plugins since these can often break images, not actually compress them, or they can have bugs. With Imagify you just sign up, install the plugin, enter your API in the settings, go to your “media” section to bulk optimize all your images.
You probably heard iThemes, WordFence, and Sucuri are 3 of the top security plugins for WordPress. I like iThemes Security because you can run the 1 click security check and go down a simple checklist of vulnerabilities. Click the “fix it” button and each should be pretty easy.
UpdraftPlus lets you take backups manually or automatically. It has a 5 star review and is very easy to use and configure the settings. Don’t be the person who loses their website because you didn’t take a backup. UpdraftPlus could save you from losing hundreds of hours of work.
Diagnose slow loading WordPress plugins hurting your site speed so you can delete them or find alternative, lightweight plugins. Too many plugins (or just 1 large plugin) can kill your site speed. I also like to run the P3 Plugin whenever I install a new plugin to see how it affects my load time. If you haven’t run P3 before and have a lot of slow plugins, you will need to research alternative plugins that are lightweight but provide the same functionality as the old plugin.
If you publish a page/post and change it’s URL (permalink), you need to setup a 301 redirect to direct the old URL to the new URL. Otherwise it will become a 404 page and you will lose any links that used to point to that page. You can either do this using Quick Page/Post Redirect (the free method which I will show you) or the premium version of Yoast which is $69/year.
To find these crawl errors on your website, you will first need to setup Google Search Console in the “Webmaster Tools” section in Yoast using the HTML verification option. Then go to Yoast’s “Search Console” and authenticate Yoast with Search Console. You should see all your crawl errors. If you just setup Search Console it will take a few days for the data to populate.
To setup a 301 redirect using Quick Page/Post Redirect, install the plugin then go to Quick Redirects –> Quick Redirects in your WordPress dashboard. Enter the old broken URL shown in Yoast, then the new URL of the (most relevant page on your site) you want it redirected to…
I’ve tested numerous anti-spam plugins and this one is the easiest to setup since you just install it. More importantly, it works. Install it and watch your spam comments go away.
10. Widget Logic
Lets you control which widgets show up on different pages, posts, categories, and archived pages. This helps you show the most relevant content in your widgets depending on what type of content your reader is viewing. Once installed, you will see a “widget logic” section at the bottom of each widget where you will enter a conditional tag to control where it appears.
11. TinyMCE Advanced
Want more editing options in your visual editor? This nifty WordPress plugin adds additional features to your editor so you can further customize your content and make it look nice.
12. Google Analytics
While it’s always best to insert your Google Analytics tracking code manually into your footer, you can use this plugin to verify Google Analytics on your WordPress site. Just copy your UA code from Google Analytics and paste it into the plugin under Settings –> Google Analytics. Wait a couple days for activation, then head over to your Google Analytics account to get data.
You can download these free custom Google Analytics dashboards to segment traffic from SEO, social media, mobile, referral traffic, and other helpful data on your visitors. While there is tons of data in Google Analytics the first thing you should do is look at your low performing pages (pages with low avg. time on page + high bounce rates) and improve content on those.
Use this 5 star review plugin to create tables on your WordPress site. The CSS and styling can be completely customized to match the colors/branding of your WordPress site. This specific table show you why you shouldn’t remove stop words in Yoast because it can make your permalinks look weird. The plugin adds a “TablePress” option to your main dashboard tab on the left, you would create the table, then you will use a shortcode to add the table anywhere.
This plugin should ONLY be used every couple months to run a scan of your broken links. Otherwise it will use a ton of server resources and can cause your website to run slow (which is why this plugin is banned from hosts like Godaddy). However if you can run this plugin once every so often, fix your broken links immediately, then delete it, there shouldn’t be an issue. It is the best plugin for this and makes it very easy to fix broken links directly in it’s interface.
Once you installed the plugin it will immediately scan for broken links. Let it run and populate for a few minutes, then head over to Tools –> Broken Links to find a list of broken links on your site. Go through each one and you can choose to fix the link, unlink it, or dismiss it. Like I said you can fix all broken links in this dashboard without having to go through each page/post.
Leaving the WordPress dashboard up for long periods of time can slow down your website and suck up server resources from your host (potentially causing CPU overages). Heartbeat control lets you to manage the frequency of the WordPress heartbeat API which prevents this. You can change the frequency to 15-60 seconds, or disable it completely. Once installed go to Settings –> Heartbeat Control and change override heartbeat frequency to 60 seconds.
- How To Configure The Yoast SEO Settings
- The Ideal W3 Total Cache Settings
- Yoast SEO Premium Review
- WP Rich Snippets Review
- How To Add Rich Snippets To WordPress
- WordPress Speed Optimization Plugins
Genesis Framework Plugins – if you’re using the Genesis Framework by StudioPress and are looking for Genesis plugins for customizing your site (outside of the non-Genesis ones I just listed) I created a separate list. It includes some StudioPress plugins but also a few others.
These are all important WordPress plugins and I’ve modified this list several times so it continues to serve as a solid resource. If you found it useful, please share it. I appreciate it :)