Since WordPress is so popular and now powers at least 25% of the web it’s pretty nice to build affiliate sites with it. But not all WordPress plugins are great and you don’t want to risk security or performance problems with any of them. So to help you make the best plugin choices, here is a list of 14 popular WordPress plugins I recommend you try out if you haven’t already.
Drag and Drop Page Builders
These work nicely with themes that already come bundled with this functionality. Some good and popular ones are Divi or Salient but if you want to have more control over it or pair them with yours or some other free theme, you may get into some trouble making them work.
Bloat is the main issue with these plugins. If you aren’t already using Bootstrap, the plugin will add it to your site. And sometimes even if you are using Bootstrap, the plugin will add it’s own on top of it. The markup gets pretty messy too.
Two that work pretty ok are:
Visual composer has been around for a while and there are tons of themes using it. It’s good for beginners but also gives a lot of options for advanced users. And if you know php you can even create your own parts for it. I don’t really like it because of the bloat and how it works (in the backend it actually puts out tons of shortcodes) and if you remove the plugin, your content will break. That’s a problem with most of these plugins.
Beaver builder is the newer kid on the block and does things nicely – it’s popularity is going up quite a bit so it’s well worth a go.
For advanced users:
Go with ACF PRO and create your own modules/fields and templates. The flexible modules are not really drag and drop but do the trick. You will have total control over each part and the output/markup will be as clean as you make it. Or check this massive comparison list of similar tools to see what your needs are.
I dislike most cache plugins as you want this to be taken care of by the server side and not from the application. The plugins won’t work well or at all if you don’t have the server setup to use this technology. Also, you need to test it since some settings like minification can break your CSS/JS.
Two of the most popular and easier cache WordPress Plugins to use are:
Really easy and simple to use, WP Rocket is pretty amazing. It works out of the box with the best settings. The CDN option is also quite handy so you can offload all the images/css/js files to make less load on the server.
This is another popular one with some more settings but it’s also easy to use and gives nice results.
For more advanced users:
This one is a beast and you would need to know and understand each of the hundred settings it has to really get the most out of it. If you don’t, you may have problems or even have your site perform worse so be careful. There are some guides and default settings to use if you want to try it out.
A good thing to note is to check your hosting provider and ask them which cache they offer or support. If you have a WP only hosting they will probably have guides and tips already on which cache will work best on their servers.
Image Compression Plugins
Photoshop or other image compressions take you just so far. ImageOptim is not a plugin but works nicely on your computer. Before you upload you just drop the image into it and upload the result to your site. But it’s pretty manual work so plugins are good as they do this automagically for you. But the problem is that it eats server resources. But some nice services let the plugin upload the image first to their services, do the processing there and send the result back.
Made by the makers of the WP Rocket plugin, this is an amazing service – very clean and fast. It’s a good idea to test the compression settings a bit as the Ultra setting may be too much. This also depends on the kind of images you have and what’s actually on them so results may vary.
This one works with the TinyPNG service where you sign up to get a free API which will let you compress 500 images per month for free.
In having lots of plugins you may also get lots of php errors, or even a white screen of death. So it’s good to have a plugin on hand for checking any errors, to monitor performance and to see where you can improve things. While it’s good to have these plugins on hand, you shouldn’t have them turned on all the time as that would decrease performance.
One of the best Debugging tools out there, Query Monitor adds a dropdown in the admin bar with details like how long it took for the php to load. Any errors will show in red. It’s really advanced but can find most of the problems you have or where the bottlenecks are.
Debug bar is another alternative and can be extended with additional addon plugins. It’s also nice for debugging SQL queries as it shows you the full list.
If your theme isn’t optimized for SEO already, you can use some of these WordPress plugins to extend the features which may help a bit with ranking or CTR.
Yoast SEO plugin is the most popular one but it also seems to be one of the most problematic ones. It’s said that it’s a performance hog and that it breaks quite a bit, so the community isn’t that happy about it. Nonetheless, being the most popular, it’s still worth giving it a go to see how you get on with it.
A lot of people are migrating from Yoast to SEO Framework and for good reasons. It offers great improvements, is lightweight and fast and handles all the major things. You should also pair it with Google XML Sitemaps to add some of the functionality it’s missing. Both these WordPress plugins are amazing at what they do and are made with high quality coding.
Social Share Plugins
Today’s site should have social sharing and liking functionality and there are some plugins to help with this.
Popular, clean and with nice functions, this plugin has some limits but overall, does it’s job very well.
A fairly more advanced option would be Monarch which has tons of features. You can display the share buttons at different times with popups or on the side as fly-ins and all are mobile responsive. A great option if you want to tweak it to your needs.
Email subscriptions are also a must have on your sites to grow your email list. There are a lot of these plugins out there, but only a few do it right. Also note that it may be easier for you to use the embedding features or third party services to take over this instead of having WordPress and the server to work these things and requests.
Bloom offers nice optin options like automatic popups or fly-ins. If you want to be more elegant and not so in the face, online or widget optin forms are there as well. It even offers a Subscribe to Unlock feature so you can hide content or a download link and show it in exchange for the signup. It also integrates with all the major email list providers like MailChimp and other marketing tools.
There are tons more options for each of these types of WordPress plugins, but all of the above work well for majority of people and all are safe, secure and lightweight so the server performance shouldn’t hurt you. Keep in mind that the less plugins you have the better, so using third party services or servers for some requests may help you out with the speed of your site. Taking some time to test these WordPress plugins and play with the settings should be one of the tasks on your to do list.