It’s been a while since my last post about WordPress plugins, so I thought it was about time to write another as I have found a few gems for you to use. One of the reasons I love WordPress so much is because there are literally tens of thousands of great, free WordPress plugins to choose from (26,015 at the time of writing this). You can find a plugin for just about every website aspect that you would want, and more are being added all the time.
Let’s take a look at some that I’ve been testing out recently.
Top Free WordPress Plugins
Allow REL= and HTML in Author Bios
An important part of any blog is the Author ‘Bio’ section at the end of each post. This is where you can sell yourself and include links to your website and social links. Now, as far as I’m concerned, all external links (i.e. links to your Twitter profile, Facebook page, etc.) should open in a new window, but for whatever reason WordPress doesn’t allow you to add HTML to your author bio, making this impossible. This is where this plugin comes in!
‘Allow REL= and HTML in Author Bios’ lets you add HTML to your author box, making it easy to add the ‘target=_blank’ markup (open in a new window) to your external links. It will also let you add the ‘rel=”nofollow”’ markup (stops search engines following the link) if you want.
Admittedly, the plugin hasn’t been updated in a while, though it still works perfectly. Why WordPress hasn’t got around to fixing this themselves I don’t know, but until they do, this plugin will serve you well.
BJ Lazy Load
This is a plugin that I have talked about a couple of times already on the blog, but I thought it was only fair that I mention it again in a ‘WordPress Plugin’ post.
One of the biggest factors for slowing down a website are images, particularly when you have a lot of them in a post. Every time someone opens up one of your posts/pages, ALL the images on that page have to be loaded. That’s not necessarily a problem if the person is going to read right down to the bottom of the page (remember the comment section has pictures), but most people don’t.
The ‘BJ Lazy Load’ plugin simply stops images from loading until you scroll down to them (you may have noticed this whilst reading this post). This can vastly improve page load times, as only the visible images are loaded. Add in image optimization and you will have your website loading lightning fast!
Floating Social Bar
The ‘Floating Social Bar’ is a fantastic plugin that (unsurprisingly) adds a floating bar at the top of your page that includes all your social sharing buttons. This is great for a blog, as it encourages people to share your posts by keeping the buttons on the visible page. Again, you can see this working on this post.
Currently, it supports all the major social sharing buttons (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest), though I’m sure more will be added in future updates.
The added benefit to this plugin is that it has been built for speed! Normally when you open up a post/page, all the social media buttons need to be loaded (a bit like images), which takes time to load each script. This plugin displays a replica image of each button with social counts (updated every 30 mins), meaning no script has to be loaded. Only when someone goes to share your post and moves their mouse over a button will that button’s script be loaded. This is another great way to boost your site speed.
Fluid Video Embeds
Another plugin that I mentioned fairly recently, ‘Fluid Video Embeds’ allows you to add responsive videos from YouTube and Vimeo to your site. This way, when people browse your site on their smart phone, they will be able to view it perfectly. As it stands at the moment, videos that you add aren’t responsive, so they won’t shrink to fit a smaller screen. This plugin fixes that problem really easily, allowing you to concentrate on making the actual videos themselves.
Hikari Category Permalink
If you are like me, you may have included your category string in your URL (e.g. example.com/CATEGORY/post-title/). This is fine if you only add posts to a single category, but what if you want to add them to multiple categories?
At the moment if you select multiple categories, WordPress will select the category string at random. This can be rather frustrating if you want a specific category string to be displayed in your URL, perhaps for a series you are doing.
The ‘Hikari Category Permalink’ allows you to select your main category manually, so that you can control what your URL looks like. Admittedly this plugin may not be needed by everyone, but for me it is very useful.
P3 Plugin Performance Profiler
WordPress plugins are great, but too much of a good thing can be bad for you! The more plugins you have running on a site, the slower it can be (depending in the plugin). The ‘P3 Plugin Performance Profiler’ lets you analyse all the plugins that you are running to see which are slowing down your site the most.
I have used this quite extensively on a few sites and have been surprised to learn that some plugins are REALLY slow, and not the ones that you may have expected. I’ve tested most of the ones mentioned on this list and thankfully they are all pretty good, but you should check your site. Try to remove any plugins that are causing significant load times, or at least try to find a better alternative.
Oh… and just remember to remove the ‘P3 Plugin Performance Profiler’ once you have finished with it. You don’t want that slowing down your site when your aren’t using it.
Ultimate Coming Soon Page
If you are starting a new website or doing a site redesign, it can be good to set up a ‘Coming Soon’ page to let people know, which looks much better than just taking your website offline. You (and your team) will still be able to log in and access the rest of the site, whereas your visitors will just be shown the ‘Coming Soon’ page.
The ‘Ultimate Coming Soon Page‘ plugin works with all WordPress themes, is really simple to setup and you can fully customise the look of the page to suit you (i.e. add branding, custom background image, etc.)
You can also add a Feedburner subscription box for potential visitors who are interested, and add your social media links for people to find you. Check out their Demo Page to see an example yourself.
WP Google Maps
Lots of websites these days are making use of maps on their sites, especially local businesses. After all, it pays to make it as easy as possible for people to find you.
The ‘WP Google Maps’ plugin allows you to add custom maps with quality markers that include images, descriptions, links and directions. This is great for contact pages. The plugin can also be added as a widget, is compatible with Google Maps Streetview and you can adjust the size of your map to fit your page.
There is also a ‘Professional Edition’ ($14.99) that includes even more features for you to use.
Another plugin to help with site speed, the ‘WP Smush.it’ plugin helps to reduce the file sizes of your images that you use. Like I said before, images are one of the worst offenders for a slow site, so it pays to optimize them properly.
‘WP Smush.it’ simply tries to remove as much excess information from your images that it can, without reducing the image quality. It may only slightly reduce the size of your individual images, but if you use the ‘Bulk Smush.it’ function and run it for all your images, you may be surprised.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
I bet you can’t guess what this is? ‘Yet Another Related Posts Plugin’ (or YARPP for short) is a great way to display related posts at the end of your articles. For me, what makes this stand out from the countless other related posts plugins is that it is actually good at showing relevant posts.
I’ve used a few of these types of plugins and most seem unable to show related posts at all. It can be quite frustrating to write a post about a subject, let’s say yellow objects, only to then see that posts about blue objects are being displayed, even though you’ve written plenty of yellow posts (a daft example I know).
What YARPP does is it grades your posts to find which are the most relevant and displays them. This can work really well when you have built up a nice back catalogue of posts to refer to.
So there we have it! A few quality WordPress plugins for you to have a play with on your site. If I could only pick one to recommend, it would be the ‘P3 Plugin Performance Profiler’ so that you can test your existing plugins and see which are slowing your site down. It’s such a great tool to use.
Do you use any of these plugins? If so, what do you make of them? What other great plugins have you found recently? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below!