WordPress would be nothing without plugins. They’re extra bits of code, ranging from just a few lines to add some fun text to your admin screen, to a vast plugin with many files such as an e-commerce plugin.
Every site needs a few plugins at least. But which ones should you install?
In this guide, I’ll give you an overview of the top 5 plugins that I believe every author website should have – and they’re all free.
tl;dr – if you want a quick list of my top five plugins with links, scroll to the bottom of this post.
1. A Mailing List Plugin
Whichever mailing list provider you use, the chances are that they provide a free mailing list plugin. I use MailChimp, and they offer a free plugin that lets people sign up to your mailing list without having to leave your site.
The main purpose of your author website should be to gather email addresses for your mailing list, so that you can keep in touch with people, build a relationship with them, and let them know when you’ve got new books out.
If you’re not using a mailing list with your site, you are missing out – big time.
Here are the plugins for the major mailing list providers:
- Constant Contact
- AWeber (not a dedicated plugin for AWeber but works with the platform)
2. A Backup Plugin
Keeping your site backed up means that if something happens to it, you can restore your backup quickly and easily.
Your hosting provider will tell you that they keep backups (and they should), but I would beware of relying on these. A few years back, my hosting provider’s server failed and they lost all my backups. I had to rebuild all the sites I was managing for my clients with a new hosting provider. It would have been impossible if I didn’t keep my own backups.
My favourite free backup plugin is UpdraftPlus. It will schedule backups for you and store them on your server or on a service like Dropbox or Google Drive – which is better, because you can access your files if your server goes down. And it gives you an easy restore option for when things go wrong.
3. An SEO Plugin
You want people to find your author website, right? Then you need to do some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
An SEO plugin will let you configure the title and description for every page and post in your site, so that search engines are more likely to find them. It will also check each new post you write and tell you how it does for SEO.
The most popular free SEO plugin is SEO by Yoast. However I’ve had problems with this plugin when updating it – it often makes my site crash. So I prefer All In One SEO Pack. It gives you all the SEO options you’re likely to need and more.
4. A Security Plugin
People used to worry about having a WordPress website because of security concerns. That’s not much of an issue anymore – a quarter of the internet is powered by WordPress now, including major media outlets and government websites. So you can be confident that WordPress is a secure platform.
But it’s a good idea to add extra security to your site. The Defender plugin will let you configure your site to be more secure and will monitor your site for breaches or downtime, so you can fix things as soon as they go wrong.
I run Defender on all the sites I manage and since I installed it, I’ve never had a security breach (touch wood).
You can also increase security by using a secure password and only downloading plugins and themes from reputable sources. Never download a free theme or plugin from anywhere other than the official WordPress directory.
If you’ve ever had a site via wordpress.com, the Jetpack interface and features will be familiar to you. The plugin gives a self-hosted WordPress site all the same functionality as a wordpress.com one, with the extra benefits of having a self-hosted site.
It includes lots of social media features such as auto-posting and sharing buttons, extra post types like testimonials and portfolios, SEO options, a related posts list, site stats and more. It’s worth installing it for the social media features alone.
Roundup – My Top Five WordPress Plugins
Here’s a quick list of my top five plugins:
- A mailing list plugin like MailChimp
- The UpdraftPlus backup plugin
- The All In One SEO Pack plugin for SEO
- The Defender security plugin
- Jetpack for social media and lots more.
Install these on your site and you’ll be off to a great start in building and managing an effective author website. Good luck!