WordPress plugins are a fast and simple way to customize your site’s performance or modify its look. It is common (and tempting) for new webmasters to load up their site with dozens of plugins, but this practice may actually be doing more harm than good.
I’m of the belief that less is more.
My team at DigitalTraffic.com has been doing eCommerce SEO for over a decade. When we optimize a client’s website, there are really only 3 plugins that we always use. This is not to say that certain desired functionalities won’t require other plugins, but for the vast majority of our clients, these 3 are sufficient to cover the bases.
All in One SEO Pack is the plugin that we always start with first. There are literally hundreds of SEO Pack related plugins available, all claiming to offer some feature that will boost your rankings. But the reality is that All in One SEO Pack offers the ability to create canonical URLs and modify title tags and meta-descriptions, while still being lightweight and not confusing the average user.
W3 Total Cache is the second plugin that we install on every new client’s site. This plugin has one goal, and that is to make your site render more efficiently on your users’ browsers. Site speed has been a focus of Google’s for a few years, but in the last year they have placed even more importance on it. They have added site speed as a metric that you can view within Google Analytics.
When Google goes to the trouble of adding a new toolset, it strongly indicates how much importance they place on the metric. With Google’s focus being on providing users with the best possible experience site speed is more important than ever.
Without going into the very geeky specifics, W3 Total Cache attempts to take your dynamic pages and store them as static pages for a predetermined amount of time. They do this so that whenever you are trying to access one of your pages some of the script and database calls that usually pace a heavy load on your website server are rendered null.
One word of warning: this plugin has dozens of boxes to check and fields that can be modified. Many users may be tempted to try to optimize every single part of this plugin, but this is not advisable for most users. What I recommend is to use the default settings; we rarely have to vary from these settings.
When you look inside the admin panel you will see all of the caching modules that you are able to toggle on or off; the biggest bang for your buck will come from Object Cache and Browser Cache. There are many technical tutorials available, and if you choose to go beyond the two modules that I pointed out, I would highly suggest reading up on a few of the tutorials on W3 Total Cache optimization.
3. SEO Redirect
SEO Redirect is one of my favorite plugins, not only for its usefulness but because of its simplicity. In the course of running a website, there will be times when your URLs will change either due to a site migration or URL reformatting.
Let’s imagine that you write a post about red widgets and that post resides at the URL mysite.com/widgets/01-01-2013/red-widgets. Let’s imagine that many websites link to that URL when referencing your great content, but you decide that in the interest of making your URLs more Google friendly, and shorter, you change them to something like mysite.com/red-widgets.
All of that authority that other sites and Google have given to the original URL would be lost unless you redirect to the new URL. There was a time where you would have to manually code that 301 redirect—but with SEO Redirect this is done for you automatically. There many different plugins available that perform a myriad of tasks. But before installing them I would ask that you consider a few things:
- The more plugins that you have installed, the slower your WordPress installation will run.
- Your plugins were made to work with certain versions of WordPress. When you decide to upgrade to a newer version of WordPress the plugins may stop working or break your site.
- Are your plugins installed from WordPress.org and did you read the authors’ notes about possible conflicts?
How do you optimize your SEO?
Chris Dendy has been the enterprise level SEO director at many e-Commerce firms since the early 90s. He continued his SEO education at AT&T and then GoDaddy.com. He’s now the managing partner at Digital Traffic where his team focuses on the ever changing world of enterprise level SEO, and website traffic acquisition.