WordPress is a favorite of web professionals and novices to website development alike because of its ease of use. The wide array of plugins ensures that you’re able to find pre-made tools for common administrative tasks.
Unfortunately, many of the plugins listed on the WordPress Plugin Directory overlap with each other in functionality. Need a contact form? Running a query on that topic yields 775,000 results. How about SEO? You’ll get 802,000 results.
Fortunately, choosing the right plugins for your site is easier thanks to an article from HackerTarget.com. The article provides readers with a listing of the most popular WordPress plugins being used on the Alexa top 500K sites. We’ve also covered the most popular WordPress plugins by number of downloads in a previous article on SitePoint, the results are similar to what’s listed on the HackerTarget.com article.
Below is a summary of the top plugins broken down by category so you can make an informed decision when adding content to your website.
Caching is a vital component to improving WordPress’s speed because it converts posts and pages to static content. Without caching, WordPress pulls content from the database on the fly and assembles it for the visitor.
Even on small sites, the delays caused by this process can be fatal since Google factors page speed as part of search rankings. Most users also judge websites within the first few seconds of arriving. If the site isn’t snappy, they aren’t likely to return.
WP Super Cache
With over one million active installs, WP Super Cache is a solid solution for anyone looking to optimize their website. This plugin however only focuses on one type of caching – converting posts and pages from dynamic to static pages.
This is an older approach to caching, and while it is still useful, it is somewhat limited compared to other solutions.
W3 Total Cache
If you require more advanced caching capabilities, W3 Total Cache is the tool for your site. This plugin has over 900,000 active installs and is recommended by many large hosting companies such as Page.ly and MediaTemple. It also is used by major websites such as Mashable, Yoast and many others.
W3 Total Cache provides a wealth of features such as support for content delivery networks (CDNs), reverse caching integration (e.g. Varnish), and minification of HTML and CSS.
As far as standard caching capabilities go, W3 Total Cache offers support for database object caching, memory/disk caching, search results caching (based on query string), and numerous other settings for the server and end-user to improve your speed.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
WordPress SEO by Yoast
A favorite of many websites such as The Next Web and Mashable and over one million active installs, WordPress SEO by Yoast is the leader of search engine optimization tools.
Most notably the tool makes it easier to customize key components of your content, such as title and description tags. WordPress SEO by Yoast also provides users with content analysis capabilities which helps writers improve their writing abilities over time.
WordPress Popular Posts
One component commonly overlooked by many content professionals is the importance of interlinking content. It helps to drive traffic to evergreen content while also improving link popularity.
By using WordPress Popular Posts, you can drive traffic to content your users find the most interesting.
Website Promotion and Marketing
MailChimp for WordPress
Although there are many email marketing tools on the market, MailChimp for WordPress takes the lead in this space with over 200,000 active installs on WordPress sites.
Their free plan offers users up to 12,000 emails per month for up to 2,000 subscribers without any credit card required. This is a great way to test the waters with email marketing without having to worry about the technical end of it.
Simple Social Icons
One of the best ways to improve your article popularity is by making it as easy as possible for users to share your content. This is where Simple Social Icons can help you out.
While social sharing plugins are a dime a dozen, this plugin stands out as it is used on over 100,000 websites. Unlike most plugins which simply insert pre-made icons into your website, Simple Social Icons allows you to customize the icons to fit your exact design needs.
The Swiss Army Knife of WordPress, Jetpack was created by Automattic to integrate features from WordPress.com hosted sites into self-hosted WordPress installs. Installed on over one million websites, the tool is a favorite of the WordPress community.
Notable features of Jetpack include: anti-spam protection, uptime monitoring, single sign-on, and a variety of tools to improve the user experience and engagement. Jetpack continues to improve and add new features, here’s a handy guide to Jetpack if you want a more detailed overview.
Having immediate access to your website statistics is essential to maintaining a competitive edge over your competition. Google Analyticator has over 400,000 active installs and allows you to enable Google Analytics on your website by allowing you to add the Google Analytics script from a central location.
Aside from streamlining your analysis integration, this plugin also provides you with an analytics panel, site speed tracking, hiding of administration visits from your site statistics, and advanced customizable controls.
Plenty of Choices
Just because a plugin didn’t make this list doesn’t mean you should change the tools you use on your site. In general, unless you’re experiencing significant issues with your existing systems or are looking for more advanced capabilities, then making the switch might be worth a shot.
Before switching any plugin, you should ensure that you know how to properly configure them to minimize negative side effects.