Best back-end plugins for your WordPress site
As a theme provider, we’re all about making things look good. With online visitors forming opinions in less than two-tenths of a second, we can’t overstate the value of visually appealing design. But standout images, slick icons and a sweet grid layout only go so far: without an equally strong back end, any immediate success you have will be tough to sustain.
The web is full of articles about useful front-end plugins. Their back-end counterparts, while often overlooked, are no less crucial in terms of design and functionality. Today we thought we’d focus on the workhorses of WordPress — the behind-the-scenes heroes that make your site better, faster, stronger.
Database and file backup
Everyone knows the horror of having a program crash, freeze, or unexpectedly log out when you haven’t clicked “Save” in a while. The rise of autosave has gone a long way toward mitigating such catastrophes, but it won’t protect you from hackers. A few lost paragraphs won’t seem so bad once you’ve had your site splashed with Wingdings or your entire client database spammed.
Fortunately, there are a number of WordPress backup plugins out there, including some that come bundled with hosting services. VaultPress, BackupBuddy and Duplicator are all popular options that get the job done, but for our money Updraft Plus is the best. It lets you schedule automatic backups of your WordPress site files, encrypt data, and upload to your preferred storage location. It also makes quick work of restoring or migrating a WordPress site. The free version is pretty feature-rich, and there are plenty of paid add-ons that give you even more functionality — and peace of mind.
Speed and performance
Page load speed is the single most important factor in creating a satisfying user experience. Still, many website owners ignore it in favour of “better” design, features and content. Don’t make the same mistake. Slow load times limit traffic, impact your Google search rank, and frustrate users.
Installing a cache plugin is the best way to speed up your site and keep visitors clicking something besides the back button. Cache plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache create static HTML copies of pages and temporarily store them until they’re needed. The next time a user accesses your site, they’ll already have a good portion of the files stored in a cache, meaning their browser will require less “fresh” information and be able to load the page exponentially faster.
SEO and analytics
Anyone with a website knows at least vaguely what SEO is. It’s that curious combination of keywords, content and backlinks that would launch you to the top of Google’s search rankings if only you could get it right. Many website owners are attracted to WordPress because it’s said to be SEO-friendly right out of the box. While there’s some truth to that, there’s a lot more you can do to improve upon whatever existing SEO capabilities the platform might have.
SEO by Yoast is a great plugin for many reasons. It lets you configure meta-descriptions for posts, pages and social media, as well as create XML sitemaps, bulk titles and description editors. You can also add Open Graph metadata Twitter Cards and opt to ping search engines whenever you update your site. With such a long list of features, there’s little wonder Yoast is one of WordPress’s most downloaded plugins.
Spam and security
Online security threats run the gamut from comment spam to crawlers and bots to serious targeted attacks. Activating Akismet and adjusting your comment settings should eliminate lesser threats, but to fully protect against spammers and hackers you’ll want install a security plugin like BulletProof or Sucuri Security. Both use .htaccess security protection to block attempts at code interjection and SQL interjection, which hackers use to add content to your site without permission.
Think your site’s too small-time for a major security threat? Think again. Of the 30,000 websites that are hacked daily, the majority belong to small businesses and personal bloggers. Don’t assume your website is secure just because it hasn’t been hacked in the past. When it comes to online security, you’re better safe than sorry.