This is a leader post. We will add links to reviews and more content as other posts are written.
1. Backup Plugin
Whatever else you do, you need to have regular backups of your site to restore from any possible problems. From Hackers to server breakdowns.
Firstly, look at what your hosting company provides. Do they provide a backup often enough and accessible for you. Could you restore the backup they provide onto a new site on a new host? – If not, then its is not doing its job.
Does your host backup everything you need. That means
- The WordPress database that contains the settings and your content
- The contents of your uploads directory where media is stored.
- Copies of all your plugins. If you update them, you need the latest available to restore to.
- Any other folders you upload files to.
If any of these are missing from your host, you can either add a backup service to replace what they do, or to fill in where their service is lacking for you.
I enhance our backups from SiteGround by doing a database backup every 8 hours. Busier shopping sites may want to backup every couple of hours.
Is the main plugin we use for key sites. We use the premium migration options which allows us to take a copy of the live site and migrate it to our local testing server to verify updates and theme changes before we go live.
SnapShot Pro and Cloner ( WPMU )
We use these plugins when dealing with multisite installations. Snapshot pro is good for full backups and Cloner does the staging and moving of sites.
2. Security Plugin
Once you have backups, you need a way of checking your site, protecting it from harmful attacks and being able to identify when something has gone wrong and you need to secure or return to a backup.
This does not have to be a plugin, siteground hosting has some verification tools available in the admin.
If an attacked changes the content on your site then you need to know about it fast and be able to take action quickly. You know how quick that response needs to be depending on the number of visits your site sees and how many of them you are prepared to see a hacked message before your site’s reputation is damaged.
Defender ( WPMU )
Performs regular security scans. It monitors for changed files and checks google’s blacklist. It is quite a sophisticated package and also delivers some SEO.
iThemes Security Pro
Is also a great plugin for locking down your website and can even run its own backups.
3. SEO Plugin
Most Themes do not put enough effort into SEO settings and so you often need to invest some time and maybe money in a good SEO solution. A good plugin adds all the required fields and entires to satisfy Google search, Twitter, Facebook etc. It should also help you with analysis of your content to optimise the use of all your keywords and phrases.
As I hinted at the start, I believe that a good theme should deliver most of this functionality out of the box, but few do. Otherwise, it is a case of using plugins to fill in the gaps.
Is a good all round plugin for providing SEO related content, it has premium upgrades to help with Woocommerce sites. However, it is not so good for analysis.
4. Social Interaction
When people are impressed with your site, you hope that they will then feel the need to share this great information with their friends and contacts. Therefore adding social buttons and having the site best configured for social sharing is very important.
Again, I would love to see Themes play a bigger part on this, it would help with the better look and integration of sites if the theme developer built this feature in.
Remember there are two types of social interaction. You want visitors to follow and like your facebook pages nad twitter feed. You also want them to share links to your site on those and other social media sites. Such shares spread your message AND add to the search engine reputation fo your site.
Easy Social Share Buttons
Is a powerful social share plugin with plenty of options on who to share and where to put the buttons.
Floating Social (WPMU)
Also adds social, media buttons on a floating share bar
Social Marketing (WPMU)
Not only adds shares for Facebook, Goole+, Twitter and Linkedin but also can offer coupons, discount or downloads for a share.
Once we have traffic on the site, we really want to know what it does and which pages it goes to. The best solution is to add Google Analytics. Your Theme would be best placed to add the code for you, but you may want to use a plugin. many of which now offer more features by bringing some of the Google Analytics data back into your site to display within the dashboard.
Bear in mind that all the analysis is available for free from the Google analytics dashboard, so much of the plugin features is just putting data in the dashboard.
Google Analytics Plus (WPMU)
Is a good plugin for taking the data and then delivering reports right there in your dashboard.
Google Analytics by Monster Insights
The free version has the highest use from WordPress users. The Pro version is worth looking at for bringing data back to the admin dashboard.
6. Site optimisation
Once your site is busy or starting to see Google page listings, you will start worrying about the speed at which is responds to customers. My site can average under 2 seconds for UK users, but it is slower for the US market.
many plugins can help speed up the execution of your site content, but this does not fix the whole picture. You need a quality hosting service that will deliver good response time and that may include optimisation tools. Siteground have their own Cache plugin designed to work with their infrastructure.
To increase worldwide speed you need to consider CDN support and site caching service outside your host. So let’s look at a few tools we have used.
Suggested Plugins and services
WP Cache, W2 Total Cache, Hummingbird (WPMU)
These are all good cache plugins to deliver your content faster. I would suggest you check if your host has a specific preference or a tool of their own.
This service will cache your content outside your hosting provider. We have seen busy sites offload 20-30% of their bandwidth to such services. The busier your site, the bigger the possible benefits.
You can also use CDN services to move your static content of images etc to a CDN service that could have multiple servers around the world to deliver this content more locally to each visitor.