WordPress is a fully flexible out-of-the-box blogging platform. What helps WordPress dominate the market is its API that lets developers create plugins for various functionality. It's rare to find a WordPress site without at least a few plugins to customize its features. Here are some plugins and themes that dominated the market in 2016 and that you should consider installing for 2017.
1. Yoast for SEO.
As search engines continue to advance, the world of SEO becomes more complex. SEO isn't what it was 10 years ago or 5 years ago, and it won't be the same in a few more years. Search engines such as Google and Bing continuously change in terms of coding and "understanding" of your website content.
For new webmasters, SEO is intimidating and confusing. Luckily, Yoast is a very effective WordPress plugin that you can use on your site. It gives you tips on improvements and flags your posts if something is wrong with the SEO. It also lets you see what the post will look like in search engines, so you can tweak your title and post description.
2. BackupBuddy for Backups.
Every site should have backups. Your hosting provider will do backups for you if you have fully managed WordPress hosting, but you should still take the initiative to perform your own backups.
BackupBuddy takes care of the whole backup process for you. With just a click of a button, you can back up your posts, content, code and database of configurations and updates. This is critical if your site is corrupted, and it can be a way to recover from malware should your site be compromised.
3. W3 Total Cache for Speed.
Speed is always an issue for search engines and users. If your website takes too long to load, you lose your search engine rankings as well as your user base. One way to handle performance degradation on big sites is to cache certain elements that never change dynamically. These are usually navigation and footer elements.
W3 Total Cache handles the caching of site elements, so you don't need to. Caching significantly increases performance on your site, but most webmasters have no idea how to implement the feature. With W3 Total Cache, just choose what you want to cache and that's it.
4. Sucuri for Security.
WordPress is common on the web, so it's no surprise that hackers often target websites that use it. You need to protect your site, and Sucuri is one way to do it. You can scan your site with Securi and find malware that you might not know is on it.
Sucuri has several other options including the detection of security flaws and improvements you can make. They also have a blog and keep up with the latest threats, so you know you're getting the latest in virus protection.
5. WordFence for Security.
WordFence is another security plugin. If you don't like Sucuri, you need an alternative. WordFence is a great alternative and it protects you from brute force attacks on your admin login page. You can review a list of IP addresses detected as malicious, and permanently ban them to protect your site.
It also has some other basic protection such as backups and additional security detection. Some of these benefits are behind a paywall, but it's worth it to protect your website.
6. Disqus for Comments.
Bloggers need a way to engage with users without constantly worrying about spammers. Disqus gives your users a way to comment on an article, and then the owner can comment. The system is a plugin, so technically you included an external commenting section on your blog. The advantage is that the Disqus system handles login requirements, comment spam, and organization.
7. WP Mail SMTP for Mail
Most WordPress mail functions use the default SMTP settings. An SMTP server is a mail process that sends outgoing emails from your site to either you or your customers. With some hosting, you might find that emails don't always go through.
WP Mail SMPT lets you send email through alternative options such as Gmail if you have a G Suite account. Using an alternative source could increase mail distribution efficiency.
8. WPTouch for Mobile Design
Responsive design is a coding technique that makes your blog compatible with mobile devices. The layout is altered to fit the screen, the image size is reduced, and the speed at which your site loads is improved.
You can hire a developer to make your site responsive, or you can use the WPTouch plugin. You still might need some tweaks here and there, but you can make most of your site responsive without any coding.
9. Jetpack for Social Sharing
Social media is important for marketing, but there are so many of them that every time a popular one is developed, webmasters are forced to implement a new one on their sites. With Jetpack, all of the social media plugin code is handled for you.
You have a choice of social media outlets that you can use, but most people at least include Facebook and Twitter. Other social media options are Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and G+. If you add them to your site, just remember to keep them up-to-date and post to them frequently.
10. Gravity Forms for Site Input
You need a way to take input from your users, and Gravity forms can help you build forms for any page you need. You need a form for user signups, contact forms, and any other input you want from your users.
Normally, you'd need to code your forms directly into your pages, but Gravity forms let you easily create a form using your own input and form design.
After you install all of the plugins you want, for security reasons always make sure you keep both the plugins and the WordPress software itself updated with the latest patches. These patches protect your site from being vulnerable due to the latest attacks on these plugins. WordPress also provides patches that protect from the latest attacks.