WordPress is the phenomenally popular website publishing software used by gazillions of small business websites all over the earth. And while WordPress is the core software for many websites, it doesn’t do much besides make your pages work. That’s where plugins come in. Plugins are software packages developed by programmers all over the world that add functions to your website.

Some plugins are tailor made for niche websites that need highly specialized tools. Other plugins are so widely applicable they’re used over and over again by millions of websites. WordPress.org keeps an updated list of these popular tools. Which plugins does your website use? Are you missing some you should have? Let’s explore five of these killer apps.

Disclaimer: This “popular” list is periodically shuffled and does not rank plugins outright, so what’s at the top today is a little different tomorrow. I’ve chosen five that generally appear near the top.

Popular WordPress Plugins

Most of the plugins I picked to write about are plugins we use at Roundpeg every single day. Some perform a dozen small tasks, others just one incredibly useful thing. In this article, you’ll get a quick introduction, my personal review and a pro tip for making the most of the plugin.

WordPress Importer

This is one of those plugins you hope to never, or rarely, use. It’s a truly basic utility that makes it easy to transfer the content and settings of one WordPress installation to a different one. You’d only do this if you were moving your website to a new hosting provider or doing some other kind of drastic shake-up.

My personal review? Avoid this plugin if you’re inexperienced manipulating WordPress. It’s only popular because WordPress makes the export/import process seem easy for everyone. Many website owners install it and assume it will just work. And it might, if your destination website is exactly like the original. Even then, I’ve had inconsistent results and had to redo work.

Just need to move a few blog posts, like 10-20? Need to get a bunch of text content from one WordPress installation to another? It works in those limited cases.

PRO TIP: Really need to migrate your whole WordPress website? Use All-in-One WP Migration.

Yoast SEO

Use Yoast SEO to score your blog posts and get tips on improving low scoring posts. Use Yoast SEO to customize your website’s appearance in Google search results. Use it to add Open Graph meta data and custom social media images. Etc. This WordPress plugin packs a ton of detail-oriented features.

PRO TIP: Yoast SEO isn’t a magic bullet for awesome search ranking. It’s power is in the keyword scoring system. Get your SEO strategy on solid ground and use Yoast to ensure you keep writing blog posts that advance your strategy.

Jetpack by WordPress.com

Like Yoast SEO, Jetpack is a big, happy bundle of goodness. This plugin is produced by WordPress.com, the free blogging network. Many of the social network features made for WordPress.com are great for business blogs too. Jetpack brings that coolness over to your own website.

Some of the highlights of Jetpack:

  • Site Stats is easier to read than Google Analytics
  • Protect assists in keeping out hackers
  • Custom CSS makes it easy for developers like me to quickly tweak the look of your site without risk of breaking it

PRO TIP: Install and activate Jetpack. Then make sure to connect it to WordPress.com. Just follow the instructions to quickly register. Once you’re registered, go to Settings and check to see which Jetpack modules are active. You don’t need all, or even most of them. Only activate the modules you really need.

Tiny MCE Advanced

When you start using WordPress, you might notice the text editor on the Edit Post screen is pretty basic. It’s about as powerful as the text formatting in Gmail. Bold your text, italicize, make numbered lists, change text color, and manage a few other basics.

These are not exactly professional graphic design tools. But you don’t need those anyway. That is, if your web designer’s done a good job setting up your website to match your preferences for font-size and color. These should be consistent throughout the website, so after your designer sets it up you shouldn’t need to go around making the same customizations all the time.

But if you want to go a little crazy, or maybe you just wish you can change the font size to 72 any time you feel like it, Tiny MCE Advanced adds in a ton of font customization options that no one needs but some people still look for.

PRO TIP: Use Tiny MCE Advanced to rearrange the whole editing toolbar to your liking, not just the new buttons. Ooh, and it lets you do superscripts and subscripts! Even non-breaking spaces!

Wordfence Security

Website security is a dense subject debated by WordPress nerds, hackers, and developers all over the world. There’s a thousand ways to protect your site and even more to attack it. What does a non-expert do without a dedicated security helper?

Install and activate Wordfence Security to take advantage of a free firewall service to block common threats, easily run scans for hacks and security issues.

PRO TIP: Wordfence will help you protect your site. But for most website owners, it’s still up to you to cleanup in the event of a hack. Take the next step and read up on security services from Sucuri. They run a similar firewall with the additional benefit of fixing up your site just in case something gets through. And of course, no website is truly secure without a regular backup plan.

What WordPress Plugins Are You Missing?

There’s nearly 45,000 free plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory. These are just a few of the most popular. And certainly popular doesn’t mean “the best ever”. But they’re a good signal of the must-have plugins chosen by millions of other websites.

Choose the WordPress plugins that fit your needs today and deactivate any you don’t use or use only rarely. And if you choose any on this list to install today, get Yoast and Jetpack. Set aside some time to explore their features and find ways you can immediately improve your WordPress site.

RP WebGuide Footer

Roundpeg is an Indianapolis web design firm.