One of the biggest draws of building a site with WordPress is its customizability. WordPress is perfectly suited for a personal blog, a higher education website, or a full-fledged e-commerce site.
Where does all this flexibility come from? One answer is plugins. And there are tons of free plugins available that can boost your site’s performance and security. Better performance can mean better search rankings, better conversions, and better sales. Here are the plugins and tools we recommend for each step of improving your website.
Make sure your site is secure.
Wordfence is by far the most comprehensive security plugin on the market. It does pretty much everything you could ask for, such as identifying malicious traffic, scanning core files, blocking brute force attacks, and much more. It also sends you email notifications if there are issues with your site so you can stay on top of security.
Vulnerable Plugin Checker
One of the most common ways sites get hacked is through outdated themes or plugins. Vulnerable Plugin Checker uses WP Scan’s API to check your installed plugins for known vulnerabilities. You can also configure optional email alerts to ensure that your site will be secure.
Optimize your website for speed.
EWWW Image Optimizer
As the name implies, EWWW Image Optimizer well…optimizes your images. The plugin will automatically optimize new images that you upload, and can also optimize all the images that you have already uploaded. Furthermore, you have the option to convert your images to the best file format and choose compression that is pixel perfect or visually lossless.
W3 Total Cache
Speaking of faster speeds, there is no reason not to be running a caching plugin in this day and age. Sure, search engines like better load times, but so do users. W3 Total Cache boasts features such as browser caching, file compression, and content delivery network (CDN) management. It’s a powerful plugin that can increase your page load speeds by 10 times, meaning visitors stay on your site longer and view more pages.
Though this plugin is geared more towards the developer as opposed to a content manager or webmaster, Query Monitor is extremely useful for debugging. Essentially, Query Monitor allows you to filter queries by component or calling function, making it easy to see which plugins, themes, or functions are making the most (or the slowest) database queries. From there, you can clean up the necessary code to improve your site speed.
Increase visibility with search engine optimization.
This is a plugin that absolutely every WordPress site needs. Yoast SEO allows you to easily alter your SEO title, meta description, and focus keyword. It also provides you with key on-page analysis like meta description length, keyword density, alt text on images and much more. It even gives you readability score so you can gauge how likely users are to stay on the page. With Yoast, you know all the boxes you need to check before publishing your new page or post.
Close leads with contact forms and deliverable emails.
Contact Form 7
Once visitors have reached your website, you want to turn them into a lead, and the best way to do that is with a contact form. Contact Form 7 allows you to easily build out contact forms with dropdowns, radio buttons, file uploads, and anything else you might need. It also features CAPTCHA options and Askimet filtering to prevent spam.
WP Mail SMTP
If you send emails through your WordPress site, there’s a chance that your email will be blocked by certain providers. That’s because an email coming through [yoursite.com] is less reputable than an email service like Google or Yahoo. WP Mail SMTP essentially sends your emails to an email provider and then to your audience to increase deliverability. It’s really easy to set up and comes with optional SSL encryption.
Track user activity and behavior.
Understanding user experience is perhaps the most important aspect of maintaining a successful website. To gauge user experience, connect your website to Google Analytics. From the dashboard, you can see your page views, average time on site, bounce rate, and a lot more. Google Analytics has a seemingly endless stream of data, so it’s definitely a tool you want to spend time learning.
Alongside Google Analytics, Hotjar is an extremely powerful tool that helps you see what your users are doing. Hotjar provides a heatmap and recording tool to show the exact activity and behavior of your users. The heatmap shows where users are clicking the most, and recordings display their exact mouse activity while on a page. Hotjar allows you to really visualize user activity and make changes accordingly. All you have to do is add a tracking code into the <head> tag of every page you want to track.
So there you have it. These are just a handful of free tools and plugins you can use to improve site security, optimize speed, and boost rankings & leads. Get in the habit of utilizing these tools and you’ll be well on your way to increasing web traffic.