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1. Introduction

In order to maximize your site’s potential, you need to have a solid understanding of what types of functionalities you require. WordPress plugins provide you with total customization and choice to do just that. One of the most pivotal aspects in understanding the importance of plugins is to automatically update your site’s blog. In turn, this comes with some degree of traffic increase. The XML Sitemap Feed will add on to the already solid SEO foundation, giving search engines an easier route to finding and indexing all of your site’s pages. At the same time, don’t underestimate the power of web searchers. The likes of Simple Tags and Similar Posts are fully customizable tagging and search engine plugins that allow users to click through on a past article or find something similar to what they’re looking for. While it’s great to have others click through your site, at times you may have a specific post that you’d like to direct people to. Emailing links to various posts can be an annoying task for both you and your subscribers. In this case, Email post is a plugin that allows you to send a custom notification to one or many posts by email. Social bookmarking is another huge marketing strategy that manual work simply cannot compete with. Creating a profitable situation for both you and your users, the Sociable plugin adds a feature box at the end of each article to suggest that users share the post via various social networking sites. These are just a few examples of how plugins can truly enhance the functions and features of any given website.

1.1. Importance of Plugins

There are plenty of different plugins out there that are useful for adding extra features to a blog. But before installing any plugins, always make sure that it is compatible with your version of WordPress. By adding extra features to the blog, it will make the visitors spend more time reading and clicking on your blog. Remember, the plugins installed should benefit the blog owner as well as the visitors.

A good WordPress blogger would also want to make the visitors enjoy while surfing the blog. They might want to add some Flash, Java, or online games to their blog, but not every blogger knows about coding and understanding the code written for that program. So, at this point, they would need a plugin to add the extra features.

Plugins are one of the key requirements in making WordPress the most powerful content management system (CMS) and blogging platform due to its versatility and simplicity of use. By using plugins, we can improve its functionality in terms of adding new features, making the blog more SEO friendly, secure, and most of all, it can easily be modified without touching the code.

1.2. Enhancing Functionality and Features

Website speed and performance is one of the most crucial factors today in light of the latest Google algorithm change. It is a confirmed theory that even a delay of one second can cost a seven percent loss in conversions from potential customers. This is what led to the development of the Google XML sitemaps plugin. It not only automatically creates a sitemap for search engine spiders to easily find your website, it also activates whenever you create a post, page, or update and informs all major search engines, thus saving the time it would take for their crawlers to find and index your site. This can be really beneficial if your website is new and you still have a low Google Pagerank. A similar site speed increasing functionality plugin is W3 Total Cache, which is known to improve the user experience of your site by increasing server performance, reducing the download times, and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.

The development of a WordPress website is not just about developing features and functionality. It is the little add-ons that make all the difference. If you truly want to take your website to a new level, you need to take into consideration the aspect of enhancing its functionality with the right plugins. Even though the quality and nature of plugins your website requires depend on its theme, target audience, and the main purpose of the website, there are some essential plugins that WordPress users often can’t do without. Whether it is to improve site speed, maintain a secure database, or organize your content in a way that appeals to the user, there is something for everyone.

2. Essential Security Plugins

A malware scanner plugin is like an antivirus for your WordPress. It scans for any malicious code implemented through plugins, email, and data leaks – anything which could compromise the security of your site. These sorts of plugins will automatically scan at set intervals and will provide a full report on what the scanner has found. This is an important plugin to have as it’s generally hard to tell straight away if your site has been infected, and the longer there’s malicious code on your site, the worse.

A firewall plugin acts to screen out any of the aforementioned security threats by acting as a filter before the malicious stuff reaches your WordPress. They will often use a whitelist approach, which means that it will only let certain traffic through, or a blacklist approach which lists certain security risks and disallows these. I have personally found these sorts of plugins to be very effective, and they provide a sense of security as they can log everything that goes on relating to the security of your site.

Security is a crucial aspect of any website, and the same applies to WordPress sites. Because of its widespread popularity, WordPress is more susceptible to attacks as it is an open source program. This means that the source code is easily obtainable and there are fewer restrictions on who can use the program and the creation of plugins. As a result, the back-end of a WordPress site (its admin) can be easily attacked – it’s happened to me on several occasions, on different sites. Just like spam is a part of life on a traditional website, there are always going to be individuals out there looking to hack into your site for malicious intents or deface it. At the more innocent end of the spectrum, someone might just be looking to add a link from your site to theirs. For these reasons, strengthening the security of the admin and site files is something that cannot be left alone, and it’s important to have plugins in place to provide a last line of defense.

2.1. Firewall Plugin

The second type is a Network Firewall. It is not installed on the web server (it could be installed on a different server). It is a service that is capable of redirecting your site traffic to its server and giving a response whether the traffic is allowed or blocked. However, a network firewall is less recommended for small-medium sites because it is more complex to configure and sometimes requires a server with higher specifications to run it.

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a plugin that is installed on a web server (server-based), and this is the plugin you need. Why? Because WAF has the purpose of monitoring and filtering HTTP traffic between a web application and the internet. This plugin analyzes data and helps to protect your site from any type of injection, such as SQL Injection, Cross-site Scripting, Remote File Inclusion, and others. WAF is also capable of reducing server load because it can block bad bots or content scrapers. An example of a Web Application Firewall (WAF) for WordPress is All In One WP Security & Firewall.

A firewall is a key element of any security system. It controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on an applied rule set. This is very helpful to prevent your site from being attacked by malware or hackers. There are two types of firewalls: the first is called a Web Application Firewall (WAF), and the second is called a Network Firewall.

2.2. Malware Scanner Plugin

The “Anti-Malware and Brute Force Security by ELI” plugin protects from URLs being rewritten with malicious queries. Plus, it adds another layer of security by renaming crucial file folders to hide them from predators. It comes with a default of “Auto Scan” daily, which is a basic setting designed for those with a minimal understanding of malware and how to remove it. The more experienced user can take advantage of the “Custom Scan” feature. This plugin automatically scans downloads for links to malware and viruses and is regularly updated to keep you on top of the current security issues. The Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall by 404 is the most advanced and effective malware scanner, firewall, and security plugin for WordPress. This plugin automatically scans your website for malware and promptly alerts you if your website is under attack from any threat. This plugin is the best thing you can do to protect your website from malicious attacks!

Malware is a software with annoying, disruptive, or harmful software code. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, scareware and more. Malware can cause many problems for the user or website administrator. It can steal sensitive data, execute a form of cyber crime, and act as an annoyance with constant phishing attempts or redirects. Malware can be acquired from a number of sources ranging from infected external storage devices, software downloads, and even various forms of internet communication such as email and internet relay chats. It is said that 9% of websites contain malware at some point during a year according to Symantec’s Website Security Threat Report (2012), and a study by Dasient found that 1.3% of searches for a search engine results in visiting a website that has malware. These statistics are only to increase at an alarming rate, so website security is more important than it has ever been.

2.3. Login Protection Plugin

It is absolutely essential that you protect your login form to ensure that no one is able to gain access to your website. A brute force attack on your site can cause irreversible damage and even ultimately lead to your content being destroyed. A login protection plugin will lock out users after a certain number of failed login attempts. This will prevent any bots looking to force their way into your site by repeatedly trying to guess your password. We recommend using the Login LockDown plugin. This is a simple plugin that records the IP address and time of every failed login attempt. If more than a certain number of attempts are detected within a short period of time from the same IP range, then the login function is disabled for all requests from that range. This helps to prevent brute force password discovery. Login LockDown is an extremely effective plugin and provides an additional layer of protection on top of your .htaccess file. To further protect your login page, access to the wp-login.php and wp-admin directory should be limited to only your IP address or a range of IP addresses. You can do this by creating a separate .htaccess file and .htpasswd file to your wp-admin directory. We also recommend that you do not use an easily guessable URL for your WordPress login page. By default, your login page can be accessed easily by going to /wp-admin/ or /wp-login.php. Using the plugin Stealth Login Page, you can create a custom URL in order to access your login page. This will make it much more difficult to find the login page as it will be at a URL known only by you.

3. Performance Optimization Plugins

Databases can become cluttered over time, and this, in turn, will slow your website down. Cleaning and ensuring your database is running efficiently can improve load and search times of your website. Scheduled or manual cleanups can be performed with the use of a plugin such as WP-DBManager. Optimize Database after Deleting Revision is a useful plugin allowing for optimization after revisions have been removed.

The majority of load time, which is seen for many websites, is as a result of excessive image sizes. Serving images that are scaled appropriately with an optimized file size can dramatically improve loading times. Plugins such as CW Image Optimizer, EWWW Image Optimizer, SEO friendly images,, and WP are a few which can be used for image optimization.

Caching creates an ultra-fast load time, essential for improving on Search Engine Optimization and increasing conversion rates. This plugin generates static HTML files from your dynamic WordPress. After an HTML file is generated, your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.

The primary goal of performance optimization is to increase the speed of your website. This will in turn improve your visitors‘ experience, increase page views, and help with your SEO rankings. Speed increase can be achieved through plugin utilization. The following are a few quality plugins which can be used to optimize the performance of your WordPress website.

3.1. Caching Plugin

This plugin requires PHP 5.6, not tested on PHP 7, hence why there may be no compatibility shown. Make sure to back up your site/plugin before installing batcache as errors may occur with other plugins/themes. Static file, its definition, and how to install super cache. WP Super Cache Configuration on GH Pages – it’s very easy to use and disabled half-on broken plugins and don’t include Vary Accept-encoding header option for a Cache-Control header bug. This plugin is good to secure static files. However, “Reference” consumes large memory, so we need to disable super cache when changing to “Use mod_rewrite to serve cache files”.

This caching plugin for WordPress will not slow your website like many other normal caching plugins. It is a hybrid system and it only caches the portions of your page that are static. It will definitely improve page speed and score on all speed testing services. The setup is fairly easy – no need to mess with complex settings, just install, activate, and you’re done. But the best thing is that the batcache is enabled, which will give your website/server extreme high performance. This plugin has been improved and tested for several years and is now stable. Highly recommended.

There are many spectacular caching plugins available, but it’s hard for the author to go past WP Super Cache. It’s one of the most downloaded WordPress plugins of all time. WP Super Cache is a static caching plugin for WordPress. It generates HTML files that are served directly by the Apache server without processing comparatively heavy PHP scripts. By using this plugin, you can serve cached files over 300% faster than before. This plugin has served this blog well over the years and has really stood the test of time. It’s recommended.

3.2. Image Optimization Plugin

The image optimization plug-in is essentially what you need when your website has many images. It helps your site load speed by optimizing image sizes before anything gets published or updated. The plugin will also be able to resize enormous image files to sizes which are more suitable for a web page. This will help you save enormous amounts of your server disk space. This particular plugin can compress 50 images at once which is time effective and it might be enough to cover your media library. There is no possibility of this plugin damaging your original images because it saves a copy of the original image. A particular image size you choose may be edited with the ability to restore to original. This plugin currently only supports JPEG, however it is still a very good way to optimize your images in bulk.

3.3. Database Optimization Plugin

Because your website relies on a database to function, any leftover data from the past can start to weigh your website down. This is why the Database Optimization Plugin is crucial to your website’s performance (and is part of the reason it comes in at number 3). As said in the plugin’s own description, “It allows you to remove post revisions, comments spam in the trash, unapproved comments within a few clicks. It allows you to run optimize command on your WordPress core tables (use with caution), create an individual backup file for each table, and a lot more.” A step in the right direction to fully understanding the effects of this plugin is to simply go to your phpMyAdmin, look at how much space your WordPress tables are actually taking, and then run the optimize command. This is a scary thing to do for someone who doesn’t know what it actually does. What it actually did was defragment the data and index pages for your tables, and made them smaller and more efficient. Now, unless you know how to do this yourself without causing a catastrophe, your best bet is to run this through the plugin and let it do the work for you. Moving on, the “lot more” that was mentioned earlier is quite a few features that invoke the use of simple SQL queries to accomplish. These include deleting all trashed comments, removing spammed comments, removing post revisions, removing auto draft posts, and finally removing unapproved comments. Now, although one could do these things themselves, why take the time if there is a plugin that can do it in one click? Now, clearly you may not want to activate all of these features due to the fact that it may delete something you didn’t intend for it to, so it’s best to take it slow and possibly backup your data. But all in all, this is the key to keeping a well-optimized database. The ability to get rid of excess baggage from the past without harming the present.

3.4. Lazy Load Plugin

We think that the usefulness of this particular plugin can’t be expressed in words. In web media, pictures are an essential part in making the content visually appealing. This puts the site owner into a puzzle, whether he should reduce the number of images on site or compromise on the loading time. Lazy Load plugin delivers the solution. If this plugin is installed, it will replace all your post images, post thumbnails, gravatar images and content iframes with a placeholder and loads the content as it gets close to enter the browser window when the visitor scrolls the page. In simple words, it will make your site lightening fast as well as save the bandwidth and obviously server requests, since the content (images) are loaded as the visitor needs it. A visitor may not scroll down the page or might not even visit the next page, in such cases, why load all the images at once? This plugin is very handy for blogs having lots of images in their content or blogs having lots of images on the same page. By applying Lazy Load, it may reduce the page size by more than half and the loading time can be significantly reduced. Apart from solely increasing the speed of the site, there are several indirect benefits of Lazy Load plugin. You might have standalone galleries, which add to the page loading time, although the gallery is not a part of the visible area of your page. Lazy Load can improve your visitor’s perception of page loading time and the initial page loading is much faster. In case you are using third party content, such as Google AdSense, the ads by default are loaded before the page has completely loaded. Using this plugin can prevent this. Since all the images are not loaded at once, your site’s backup can be created at a much faster pace. Due to the above mentioned advantages, we consider this plugin to be very useful, in fact a must-have for the site owners whose site is image-rich.

4. SEO and Marketing Plugins

SEO and marketing plugins are fundamentally important when starting a new website. SEO plugins will help to gain targeted traffic from search engines. Once exposed to the targeted traffic, it’s easier to sell your product or take advantage of advertising clicks. This way, it’s not only short-term traffic, which is what most advertisements are, but also long-term traffic. Social Media Optimization is the newest and most innovative way to market your product or service. By utilizing social networking, business relationships, communities, blogs, and online media, SMO is a great way to increase awareness for a product, brand, or event. Email marketing is a proven method, with an average return of $42 for every $1 spent, of marketing a product or service. Email marketing is often reported as second only to search marketing as the most effective online marketing tactic. Imagine having all this being done automatically in the background while you’re creating content for your site.

4.1. SEO Plugin

There are a number of SEO plugins available for WordPress, but what makes Smartcrawl a “must-have” is its ease of use. The time commitment needed to optimize a new site can be overwhelming—especially for someone new to SEO. Smartcrawl aims to remove the complication from SEO by providing recommendations for improving content (like adding keywords, fixing readability issues), which can be applied with the click of a button. Its user-friendly interface and simple warnings and alerts make it an ideal solution for anyone looking to optimize their site with minimal time investment. Smartcrawl also offers features for creating and submitting sitemaps, connecting with Google Search Console, and setting up social media sharing images and descriptions, all of which are necessary for a new site to start ranking and gaining visibility. The sitemap feature is particularly useful for new and niche sites, which may lack the internal linking structure needed for Google to easily discover and index content. In addition to its ease of use, Smartcrawl is an all-in-one solution that is constantly being improved and added to, making it particularly future-proof for a one-time setup model.

4.2. Social Media Sharing Plugin

There are many social media sharing plugins available, and most of them do the job adequately. Some are better than others, and your choice of one over another may be down to the specific functionality you require on your site. Not many plugin authors give much thought to how their plugins’ output will appear on a blog. At Peadig, we’ve been using the Digg Digg plugin for a long time. It’s not perfect in many ways and there are lots of things we’d like to improve (we do have plans to eventually create our own), however, the one thing it does very well is output nice social buttons within the content of a blog post. Digg Digg has lots of options for where to place the social sharing buttons on your site. This includes the ability to show the buttons on the front page of your site, on archive pages, and the ability to specify any custom post types that you would like the buttons to show. This is particularly useful depending on the structure of your website. This plugin is probably our best recommendation. It’s very easy to use and has lots of functionality. We were so impressed we purchased the pro version after using it for a short period of time. The pro version gives greater control over the look and feel of the buttons and has support for various different languages. While we do really like this plugin, some people have reported various issues with it and there are, as with all social sharing plugins, alternatives that may be more suitable for your blog.

4.3. Email Marketing Plugin

When it comes to your new WordPress site, you may be skeptical about adding a new email marketing plugin. Many people may think that only big corporations can benefit from this type of plugin. This is simply not true. There are many benefits to adding an email marketing campaign to your new WordPress site. For example, with email marketing, you are reaching a targeted audience. If people are signing up for your newsletter, they are interested in your product and/or industry. This means they are already potential customers. Compared to advertising on the internet or TV, you are saving tons of money advertising to people who may not have interest in your product. With a targeted audience, you also have the potential to upsell your services to your current clients. Another reason to add an email marketing campaign to your new WordPress site is you will increase the professionalism of your brand or product. Automated emails can be set up for new subscribers, sending them a thank you email. You can also set up scheduled emails giving your subscribers info on your services and/or products. This kind of effort shows customers you have drive, dedication, and put time into your product. This will lead to a customer trusting in your product and brand and wanting to be a repeat customer.

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