We Love and Hate WordPress Plugins

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WordPress, being the go-to CMS (Content Management System) for both personal and corporate use, does have limitations when it comes to its core functionality. When we want to add features to a WP site, a plugin can supplement the core features of WordPress without extensive coding and server settings.

When they work well, plugins can be an incredible boon to your website. When they don’t, you may feel like nuking the entire site. Plugins add to the overall versatility of WordPress, but when misused can overload your server and visitors.

Why We Use WordPress Plugins?

WordPress is built as a system for processing information, and maintains its stability by sticking to a few specific purposes:

  • Making it easy to display your content on a website
  • Helping that website content looks consistent across multiple pages and posts

Beyond that, there isn’t very much built-in functionality. Selling items directly on a base WordPress website? Not possible. Collecting leads and putting them in a funnel? It would take a lot of custom coding and integration of the MX (mail) server as well as the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.

Even something as seemingly simple as adding Google Analytics tracking to your website can be problematic – you can add it, but it may be overwritten if there is a theme update.

Wordpress theme header html being edited

Plugins are an extremely effective way to add and segment different functions of your website to make a better experience for both yourself and your visitors.

The best plugins should be updated on a regular basis, both for feature additions, as well as stability within the constantly updated WordPress platform. When you find a recommended plugin that has not been updated in years, be sure to test it with your WordPress installation. Older plugins rely on old code that will probably have been updated since it was first released.

Custom WordPress Modifications Instead of Plugins

Let’s make this clear; every functionality that is performed by a plugin can be added to your WordPress installation by a skilled developer by editing the core files. The only limitations are experience, coding, time, API access, server requirements, and…well, the list goes on. This does not include the fact that every time WordPress receives an official update, customizations to the core files may be overwritten, or in the worst cases, completely break the website.

Customizing WordPress modifications

Plugin developers are focused on one thing, and that is making their plugin’s specific functionality work with WordPress. Instead of trying to replicate the way someone else’s plugin works with your own development, it will normally give you a better ROI by “outsourcing” and using a plugin.

Issues With WordPress Plugins

Since plugins are generally made by third parties outside of WordPress, many times we have to take it on face value that the plugin will work as intended within the WP platform. When errors occur, as they do in most pieces of programming at some point, the plugin developer is the only resource we have to help us make our sites work again.

Page Speed and Plugins

Most plugins make a website slower in one form or another. Every time you add a plugin to a WordPress installation you are injecting additional code. This can add loading time to a web page when the plugin affects the front end, or create a slow admin interface when additional server/database load is added to the back end functionality.

PageSpeed Insights sample results

The most obvious effect on page speed occurs when a plugin adds a large amount of JavaScript every time a page or post loads in the browser. When a plugin is poorly configured, this code will hold up the loading of the page content until all of its script is parsed. Since Google considers the speed in which a page loads as an SEO ranking signal, it is important to keep the loading time down.

Some plugins also make calls to their own servers. This can slow down page loading speed because of the availability of a server that you have no control over. This can cause frustration not only from site visitors, but also from your development team.

Recommended Plugins and What They Offer

There are certain features that most web developers or marketers want their website to have, and WordPress plugins are generally the way to enable them. While users may argue that these options should be a part of the basic WP functionality, keeping them separate makes the WordPress CMS more agile and stable, while also not having to dedicate resources to new “features.”

We have collected a small number of plugins that we find add required functionality to websites, or help us perform repetitive tasks that would be difficult without them.

WordPress Plugins for Sales and Marketing

WordPress Plugins for SEO

  • Yoast SEO – The most popular SEO plugin. It offers excellent features without making any edits to the settings, but you may need to pay for some extras.
  • All in One SEO Pack – A ton of SEO options, but the configuration takes more time and knowledge than setting up Yoast. If you use WooCommerce, it integrates with it out of the box.
  • SEOPress – While the free version is very limited, the paid version bridges the gap between Yoast and All in One. The pro version offers extensive options with an easy to use interface.

WordPress Plugins for Speed

  • WP Rocket – A paid plugin that is worth every penny. It has the ability to cache files, combine JavaScript files so they all load at once, load files asynchronously, minify HTML and CSS, and more. Highly recommended.
  • ShortPixel Image Optimizer – Reduces the image file sizes of images you have already uploaded, as well as reducing sizes on the fly.

Plugins Are Here to Stay

Without the benefit of an entire development department to create and update modifications of the WordPress core files, the best option is to turn to feature-specific plugins to make sure that your website performs exactly how you want it to. This applies to the UX (User Experience) for visitors, marketing features, and WordPress maintenance.

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Jared Bauman

Jared Bauman is the Co-Founder of 201 Creative, and is a 20+ year entrepreneur who has started and sold several companies. He is the host of the popular Niche Pursuits podcast and a contributing author to Search Engine Land.