One of the reasons we love WordPress is all the plugins that are available to help enhance our sites — and we know you love them, too! In fact, we're most often asked about our favorite plugins for WordPress, so today we're sharing our top five — and they're all free to use on your site.
1. Yoast SEO
We consider the Yoast SEO plugin an essential addition to any website. If you're not familiar, SEO stands for search engine optimization — in other words, it helps Google and other search engines deliver your content to the people who are searching for your blog post topics. The Yoast SEO plugin adds a section to your post editor where you can enter a keyword, a search query your post would answer. Then it provides tips for optimizing posts. Keep in mind that you should write for humans first and foremost and the recommendations won't always work within your post, but implementing even just a few tips can help boost your SEO over time.
Of course, there are a number of plugins out there to help with SEO, but we love Yoast SEO, not only for its ease of use, but also for its extra features. In particular, Yoast SEO makes it easy to enable rich pins on your site.
Redirection is another plugin we consider essential for any website. For starters, it automatically creates 301 redirects for any permalinks you update. This is particularly handy when you have some time to improve your SEO for old posts, as one of the easiest things you can do is to update your permalink with an appropriate keyword. Redirection will ensure that any previous SEO work on that post will get transferred over to the new URL, and it also ensures that your visitors don't get a dreaded 404 error page when they try to access the old link, as it will automatically redirect them to the new link.
Another handy feature of the redirection plugin is that it allows you to create your very own branded links for affiliate links you use regularly, or even just shortened links for posts or pages you reference often. For example, let's say you receive a lot of questions on InstaStories about a lipstick you wear often. You can set up a redirect at yoursite.com/lipstick that either redirects to your affiliate link for that lipstick or to a blog post of your top 5 favorite lipsticks. An example from our own site is our help desk article on retina images, a question we're asked often. If you click through to the article, you'll see the link is rather long, so we set up a redirect at empressthemes.com/retina for easy reference.
The WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin has one simple purpose: it displays all of your posts in a calendar view. We find this much more manageable than the standard post list. We particularly love that you can see not only future drafts, but also previously published posts, so you can ensure a good balance of topics in your posting schedule. And if you change your mind about a publish date? Simply drag and drop your draft to a future date, and the plugin will do the rest. It also has a column for unscheduled draft so you can drop ideas on the go and add them to your calendar later.
The Column Shortcodes plugin helps you easily create columns in your posts and pages, without coding knowledge. Working with shortcodes can take a little getting used to, but this plugin comes with a handy button that does the heavy lifting for you. We use it on a few info pages on this site to make content easier to read, but it really shines on our co-founder Victoria's Napa Travel Guide post.
While you can implement the code for Google Analytics directly in your theme, we highly recommend using the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Monster Insights. For one, using a plugin to insert the necessary code ensures that your code is not tied to a theme should you make a switch in the future, and then you don't have to worry about transferring that code to your new theme. Also, using a plugin ensures that you are adding the code properly and staying up to date with any changes from Google. We particularly love this plugin because it adds a beautiful dashboard to the WordPress admin area, making the most essential stats easily accessible without having to login to your Google Analytics account.
Do you use these plugins? Are there any essentials you would add to our list? Let us know in the comments!