Make the most of your WordPress site with these plugins.

It’s a measure of WordPress’s continuing growth that the number of available plugins has expanded from just over 30,000 to in excess of 42,000 within the last 18 months. This open source website building platform is much loved by its legions of beta testers and amateur developers, but the Lego-like nature of its plugins can seem bewildering to the uninitiated.

These are some of the plugins that everyone should be aware of when they venture into the world of WordPress…

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Accelerators

Since many internet users have developed the attention span of a gnat, rapid download times and spike-proof content accessibility are crucial. Plugins like Slide Deck 2 and MaxCDN speed up the provision of photos and static content, while WP Smush It provides batch compression of images.

Essential install: W3 Total Cache, which reduces server load and provides smooth page transitions with compressed and cached files.

Business packages

The inexorable growth of WordPress is reflected in the arrival of some big name brands among plugin providers. MailChimp has become the leading supplier of email marketing services, thanks in part to its user-friendly interface. WooCommerce belies its dubious name with excellent ecommerce functionalities including PayPal integration, coupon submission and inventory management.

Essential install: Google Apps for Work. From the ubiquitous Docs to Spreadsheets and email packages, this office suite is cheaper than Office; it also enables companies to use their business domain names when sending emails.

Comments

Many WordPress sites place communication at the heart of their functionality, and a wide variety of plugins have been developed to meet this need. Disqus is one of the better-known platforms, delivering integrated social media engagement and a more sophisticated commenting system than the standard WordPress platform. Akismet can sift out those inevitable spam messages, and BuddyPress allows WordPress users to interact with each other within the site.

Essential install: Contact Form 7 allows multiple forms to be installed, with CAPTCHA and Ajax support built in. It’s also compatible with Akismet, mentioned above.

Search engine optimisation

Google Analytics has launched a dedicated plugin for WordPress, though SEMRush offers a less complex method of establishing which keywords your competitors rank highly for. Polylang provides near-universal translation for SEO results in foreign languages, while All in One SEO Pack pretty much does what it says on the tin.

Essential install: Yoast SEO. Few people have a bad word to say about Yoast, with its meta tag functionality and site optimisation tools helping to boost search engine ranking results.

Security

There has never been as much focus on protecting websites from hackers or malware providers as there is today. WordPress has responded with Login Lockdown fighting off bots and Wordfence Security fending off hackers and malware with deep server-side scans. The rather ungainly sounding All in One WordPress Security plugin provides firewall functionality plus a points-based grading system, and BackupBuddy offers data backup and restoration with a few clicks.

Essential install: Sucuri Security. From malware scanning and blacklist monitoring to firewall provision and protection against DDoS attacks, Sucuri is a one-stop security shop.

Social media

Another area of rapid growth in WordPress involves provision  for sharing website information across social media platforms. YouTube Embed is vital for embedding video clips, Simple Social Icons allows the customisable insertion of social media widgets throughout your site, and Buffer can fire out pre-prepared tweets and status updates at specific moments during the week.

Essential install: Floating Social Bar allows administrators to include only the social media icons they have accounts with, giving a polished and professional appearance.

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