7 Essential WordPress Plugins

‘There’s a plug-in for that’ is so often the call when developing a website with WordPress, and that of course is one of the great things about WordPress. But what are the essential plug-ins any new site needs? Here’s a look at my favourites.

  1. Contact Form 7
  2. WP Cerber Security
  3. MetaSlide
  4. Updraft Backup
  5. All in One SEO pack
  6. Google Analytics
  7. GWT
Not just a Stranglers song, Golden Brown is a cool Contact Form 7 Skin
Not just a Stranglers song, Golden Brown is a cool Contact Form 7 Skin

Contact Form 7 lets you easily set-up a simple – or more complex – form to capture and process enquiries. As to be expected from a long-standing plug-in, there are other add-ons to it, so you can also skin the form using something like Contact Form 7 Skins.

You’d be surprised at the level of attempts to hack into even a newly launched site. So I always install Cerber Security to ‘harden’ a new site. It lets you track and block multiple failed attempts to log-in to your site. You can set all types of conditions for blocking; a good start of course is never have a user of ‘admin’ or ‘administrator’.

Looking for a simple slider for a photo gallery? Look no further than Metaslide. It has the added benefit to being very SEO-friendly.

You’ve probably never ‘lost’ your WordPress installation, but one day you’ll need to restore, migrate or backup, and Updraft Backup will save the day. Think of it as insurance.

Every site needs SEO, and while there are a host of SEO plugins out there, All in One SEO Pack is the one I prefer. Does the essentials without distraction.

These next two plugins address the unseen side of SEO – the need to collect and analyse website visits. The GA Google Analytics plug-in does one thing – implement GA tracking – and does it well. The Google Webmaster Tools plugin implements GWT (now called Google Search Console). Don’t forget to link the two from within the GA admin section so that you can see GWT data in GA.

Jump-start your SEO: improve your user experience

new study on ranking factors has some interesting results. While it reinforces the critical importance of link building for your rankings, it also suggests other areas can carry a great deal of SEO weight – areas that can be actioned in the short term (because we all know how long link building takes).

SEMRush study on ranking factorsWhat the study revealed was just how much weight Google seems to give to site performance. Specifically, how engaging your site is may well significantly influence how your site ranks in Google’s search results. Yes we’ve known Page Speed is an increasingly important ranking factor, and you might also help your site rank better if you make it secure (https://). But Bounce Rate (BR), Time on Site, and Pages Per Session?

And yet, if we look at it from the POV of the user, these metrics are everything. Does the site match their search intent? Is there content they find useful and engage with? Or do they leave immediately? Does your shop window (what people see in the search results) match what they get in the store (what they find on your site).

That Google can rank for BR is slightly scary. On the other hand, it is simply the time between a click on a link in the SERPs and a click back to the search results.

What this really means is that so much SEO potential can be gained from a close examination of your site’s (organic) traffic & behaviour. This should go beyond just looking at analytics. You can easily see those crucial metrics like BR and Pages per Session. But why are the metrics what they are? You need to closely examine the user experience.

Get that heatmap tracking service installed now and start collecting data that you can action. Where are people clicking when they reach your site? How far are they scrolling down your pages? Do you have clear calls to action? There’s no need to radically change your site – A/B testing is an ideal solution to try out your changes that can impact the user experience.

Look at ways to reduce friction, drop-offs and of course, bounce rate, and you’ll get a leaner, more effective, more useful website that may well rank better.

Accessibility & SEO

Good SEO equates to good accessibility. So many of the elements of SEO are about ease of access within a site: clear headings (especially H1s, H2s) define what sections are about; Breadcrumbs help people navigate; and let’s not forget why we use ALT tags, and why they (and links) are supposed to be descriptive!

It’s the Little Things, Part I: SEO your PDFs

Sound & solid SEO is often all about The Little Things. Dull and boring they may be, they are still essential elements of the successful SEO toolkit. ‘Ducks in a row’ I call it.

Some times overlooked, optimising PDFs just adds extra content that Google can find and index. I’ve just identified 200 PDFs on a site that were all showing in Google as a one-word page title. Soon I’ll see 200 PDFs in Google with varied and SEO-strong Titles. Regardless of what else Google will pick up from the documents, it’s a massive improvement.

For Google’s take on PDFs & SEO, see this article.

SERPs undercurrents

All search results carry implicit as well as explicit keywords. The trick is to realise those implicit words, and work them into your SEO efforts in order to rank better for the explicit words.

For instance, search for ‘River amazon’ and it’s clear Google pushes the keyword ‘facts’ in the SERPs. This is an obvious and simplistic example, but illustrates that with a bit of digging, you can find hidden gems – second or third keywords to think about adding to your metas.