Understanding Key Types of WordPress Plugins

Graphic of puzzle piece inside a web window.

WordPress plugins can be a bit controversial. You’ll often see people react negatively to a high number of plugins installed on a website, but this is actually very misleading. The factor that matters with plugins is quality and purpose.

Choosing Quality Plugins

Each plugin is code being added to your website. If it’s well-written and consistent with WordPress standards, it should be an asset to your site. The best way to identify this is to seek out plugin authors with a good reputation, read plugin reviews in detail, and note any patterns. Of course, Valet clients can always ask our Support Team about Plugins we recommend.

Choosing Plugins With Purpose

We often see several plugins for the same purpose installed on the same site; this is likely to create conflict and inhibit performance. We recommend identifying exactly what you are trying to accomplish, selecting a plugin that does ONLY that, and deleting any plugins you tried but were not a good fit.

SEO Plugins

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, a technical way of saying “getting your website to show up on search engines such as Google for the words and phrases you choose.”

One helpful tool in optimizing your website for search engines is an SEO plugin. This category of plugins focuses on the technical configuration of your website. They will assist you in configuring all the basic elements, such as crafting compelling metadata, providing readability analysis, setting up canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content, and integrating schema markup for enhanced search results.

Our preferred option is Yoast SEO. There are other options like Pathfinder SEO, WP Meta SEO, SEOPress, and RankMath. They each have advantages and differences in ease of use, so take a look and find which ones work best for you. Your website traffic will thank you!

Caching

If you’ve ever visited a website that seems to take forever to load, you know how frustrating it can be. The site could be slow because it needs a caching system or plugin in place.

A caching plugin essentially helps speed up your website by storing specific data so that the website doesn’t have to rebuild every page from scratch every time someone visits. It’s similar to giving your website a little energy boost, like a cup of coffee.

By installing a caching plugin, you can significantly improve the speed and performance of your website, which can help to reduce bounce rates and increase user engagement.

Several caching plugins are available, but two popular options are WP Rocket and PerfMatters. These plugins can make a significant difference in the user experience of your website. With a solid caching plugin, you can ensure that your website runs smoothly and efficiently, providing a better user experience for your visitors. A word of caution – website hosts have different technical configurations, and a specific caching plugin may be a better choice for a specific host.

Security

We totally understand that website security may not be the most exciting topic, but it is incredibly important. Think of a security plugin as a personal bouncer for your website. They help keep your site safe and secure by blocking harmful malware, monitoring suspicious activity, and even providing extra firewall protection.

We use and recommend Cloudflare, Sucuri, iThemes Security Pro, and Patchstack.

Backup

Have you ever experienced the frustration of losing all your website data due to a hack or lousy update? Hopefully not! It can be a nightmare scenario for any website owner. Here is where backup plugins come to the rescue. These powerful plugins can save copies of your entire website, from your posts and pages to your themes and plugins. They act as a safety net, ensuring that you are covered in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

One of the best things about these plugins is that they offer automated backups. Once you set them up, you don’t have to worry about them until you need them. These plugins are especially handy for busy website owners who don’t have the time or resources to manually back up their websites regularly.

A few of our favorite backup plugins are UpdraftPlus, WP Vivid, and WP Time Capsule. They’re all super easy to use, and each one has its own unique features. Once you’ve picked the one that’s right for you, remember to schedule regular backups. It’s like keeping a spare key under your doormat but for your website! (Note: if you are a Valet client, we handle all this for you.)

Contact Forms

Last but not least, you’ll want a solid contact form plugin. This handy tool will make it easy for your visitors to get in touch with you- whether they want to chat about business, ask a question, or just say hello! A solid contact form plugin should be simple to set up, customize, and use. Plus, it must be chock-full of nifty features like customizable fields and spam filters to keep those pesky bots at bay. Our top picks are Gravity Forms, WS Form, Typeform, WP Manage Ninja, and Ninja Forms. A great contact form plugin is a game-changer for connecting with your visitors.

A Few Bonus Recommendations from the Valet Team

WP User Frontend: User experience is a crucial aspect of any website. WP User Frontend significantly improves it by bringing the backend of WordPress to the front end, streamlining the user journey from start to finish. 

WP User Frontend Pro Hompage screenshot.

Some features we love: 

  • With the drag-and-drop form builder, you can create complex forms. No coding is necessary. 
  • You can limit who can see what on your website by using the content restriction option, enhancing security and exclusivity.
  • Users can submit posts, upload files, and even manage their accounts, all from the front end of your site.

If you are creating a website that relies heavily on user-generated content, it is essential to have this plugin in your toolkit. Whether you are designing a forum, a social network, or any other type of community-driven website, this plugin can help you build a secure, interactive, and collaborative platform for your users.

Smush Image Compression and Optimization: Large images can decrease the speed of your website. Smush shrinks and optimizes images without any noticeable loss in quality.

WP Smush Pro Hompage screenshot.

Some features we love:

  • You can bulk compress up to 50 images with one click.
  • There is an automatic optimization feature that will optimize new images upon upload.
  • Smush will convert PNGs to JPEGs where possible for further optimization.

This plugin is essential for any website, but particularly for any site that uses a lot of media and needs to improve page load times without sacrificing quality.

Amelia: Amelia offers automated scheduling services for appointments, cancellations, and payments. Amelia can help save time and money by reducing the need for back-and-forth emails or calls to arrange meetings.

Amelia Appointemnet Booking Homepage screenshot.

Some features we love:

  • Clients can book appointments based on real-time availability
  • Manage bookings across different locations and for different staff members from one dashboard
  • Accept payments online as part of the booking process

This is essential for any service-based business looking to automate and streamline their booking process.

Having these five types of plugins and a few of our recommendations is like having a Swiss Army knife for your website. Whether you need to boost your SEO or improve your site speed, these plugins will have you covered. Give them a try and make your life a little easier while enhancing your website.