The 15 Most Important WordPress Plugins For SEO, Speed Optimization, Backups, Security And Website Optimization

WordPress Plugins

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 Pingdom. 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:

  1. Yoast SEO
  2. W3 Total Cache
  3. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets
  4. Imagify
  5. iThemes Security
  6. UpdraftPlus
  7. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
  8. Quick Page/Post Redirect
  9. Anti-Spam
  10. Widget Logic
  11. TinyMCE Advanced
  12. Google Analytics
  13. TablePress
  14. Broken Link Checker
  15. Heartbeat Control

 
While there are 15 plugins in this post, the top 10 are listed here:

top-10-wordpress-plugins-infographic

 

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.

Yoast General Settings

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.

Google Autocomplete Keywords

moz-keyword-explorer-research

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.

Yoast Content Analysis SEO

Yoast Extensions

 

2. W3 Total Cache

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 PageSpeed 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…

GTmetrix WordPress Speed Report

 

3. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets

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.

rich-snippets-markup

 

4. Imagify

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.

imagify-wordpress-image-optimization

 

5. iThemes Security

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.

ithemes-security-plugin

 

6. UpdraftPlus

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.

UpdraftPlus Backup

 

7. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)

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.

P3 Performence Profiler

 

8. Quick Page/Post Redirect

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.

Yoast-Google-Search-Console

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…

301 Redirect Example

 

9. Anti-Spam

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.

anti-spam-plugin

 

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.

widget-logic

 

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.

tinymce-advanced

 

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.

At Glance - Google Analytics dashboard

 

13. TablePress

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.

tablepress-wordpress-plugin

 

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.

broken-link-checker-plugin

 

15. Heartbeat Control

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.

WordPress Heartbeat Control

 

See Also:

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 :)

Cheers,
Tom

How To Improve SEO Through Sitewide Optimizations (Things That Affect The Performance Of Your Entire Site)

Sitewide Optimizations SEO

Sitewide optimizations are factors that improve SEO for every page/post on your website.

They can be especially helpful for large websites, for example, improving your page load time by 3 seconds (for 100 pages) can cause a noticeable traffic increase in your Google Analytics. These are basically scalable ways you can improve your website and search engine rankings.

I listed helpful links and resources for each item but if you have any questions, I’m glad to answer them in the comments. I hope you find my list helpful and please share if you did!

 

1. Website Speed
Website speed is both a ranking factor in Google and it improves conversions. It’s a great way to hit 2 birds with 1 stone. Some speed optimizations are sitewide, some only help individual pages load faster. Below are the speed optimizations that are sitewide. For full instructions on making your WordPress site load faster, see my speed optimization guide.

  • Upgrade to faster hosting (I use SiteGround)
  • Configure the W3 Total Cache plugin with Cloudflare + MaxCDN
  • Bulk image optimization
  • Optimize images that appear on multiple pages
  • Clean up database using WP-Optimize
  • Delete unused plugins
  • Find and delete largest plugins using P3 Plugin Performance Profiler

 

2. Mobile Responsiveness
If your theme isn’t responsive, it’s probably time to find a new one since Google’s recent Mobilegeddon update now uses responsiveness as a ranking factor. Your site can still have mobile issues even IF you’re using a responsive theme. That’s why it’s a good idea to run your site through Google’s mobile test as well as check your website on major devices.

Google Mobile Test

 

3. Security Issues
If you’re signed up for Google Search Console they would have already sent you a message informing you of security issues. You can double check this by running your site through Sucuri. WordPress sites have become a major target for malware so it’s a good idea to at least get the basics down. Change the generic “Admin” username, use a strong password, and install the iThemes Security Plugin to run the one-click security optimization button.

Sucuri Website Security Checker

 

4. Google Search Console Optimizations
When you first sign up for Google Search Console they provide you with a list of sitewide optimizations (numbers 1, 2, 3, 5). Find instructions for each Search Console item below…

Google Search Console Recommendations

Add all your website versions – you’ll want to verify both your www and non-www version, as well as the HTTPs version if applicable. You’ll want to do numbers 2-5 for each version.

Select your preferred version – choose whether you want the www to appear in your domain, or not. This is preference and it doesn’t matter for SEO, just make sure the version you set in Google Search Console is the same version as the one set in WordPress (find this under Settings –> General –> “WordPress Address URL” and “Site Address URL”).

Select target country – if your website is targeted to a specific country, set that here.

Submit a sitemap file – Yoast automatically generates a sitemap for you, but you’ll still need to submit it to Google. In WordPress go to SEO –> XML Sitemaps. Click the XML Sitemap button and copy the last part of the URL (https://x7r6b9v3.rocketcdn.me/sitemap_index.xml). Paste into Google Search Console, test, and submit. If you see errors, check Yoast’s post on common sitemap errors.

 

5. SEO Plugin Settings
I assume you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin since it’s the best out there, but have you gone through it’s different SEO tabs on the left of your dashboard? These are where you configure sitewide SEO settings by filling out information about your website. There’s a lot to it, but you can use my Yoast tutorial to download the same settings I use and import them to your Yoast plugin, or use the instructions from my tutorial to learn how each field affects SEO.

Yoast SEO Settings

 

6. HTTPS + SSL
HTTPS should be used for all websites (I’m currently in the middle of doing this for my site) which makes the communication between a website and a browser secure through encryption. SSL should be used for all eCommerce websites. Both HTTPS and SSL are used as ranking factors in Google, and you can use this tutorial by WP Beginner to setup each one.

 

7. Permalink Structure
Permalinks (URLs) should be used to organize content. Here are some common ways to setup a “pretty” permalink structure which not only helps people navigate your content, but helps search engines learn the architecture of your website (site architecture affects SEO)…

  • website.com/services/web-design/
  • website.com/products/skateboards/
  • website.com/locations/chicago/
  • website.com/team/tom-dupuis/
  • website.com/reviews/macbook-pro/

 

8. Keyword List
The content on your website (and blog) should align with keywords people are searching in Google. While keyword research isn’t an “optimization” it does help you build out your site with those phrases in mind – making keyword research a critical part of sitewide SEO.

I like to start by writing down each product, service, and topic I want to rank for. Use Google Autocomplete to learn what people are actually searching. If you’re a Chicago Photographer you might have Chicago wedding photography, Chicago newborn photography, etc. You would simply research a keyword and create a page for each photography service you offer.

Google Autocomplete Keywords

 

Other “Kind Of” Sitewide Optimizations
Rich snippets – this is what gets videos, review stars, and other “extra information” appearing in search results. This can make you stand out in Google and get more click-throughs and traffic. You can add rich snippets with All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets (free) or WP Rich Snippets (premium plugin but has more customization and design options). View my tutorial on adding rich snippets to WordPress for the premium method.

Internal links – when writing your content, it’s a good idea to link to related pages/posts you have already written. This is a natural way to build links while at the same time, providing helpful resources for readers who want more information about a specific topic. Just remember to use descriptive anchor text for your link text… never use “click here.”

 

That’s all I got for now! If you have questions about sitewide SEO or SEO in general, leave me a comment – I’m here to help. And if you thought this was useful, please share.

Cheers,

Tom Signature