A List of Resources (Tools and Plugins) I Use To Optimize My Clients Sites On WordPress

Here is a long list of tools and plugins I use to optimize my clients WordPress sites for SEO, speed, design and security. Most of them are free although a few of them are paid. They are in alphabetical order with tools I’m currently using highlighted in yellow. 

 

1. SEO Plugins

Wordpress Installation

All in One SEO PackDownloaded over 50,000,000 times since 2007 and currently has 2M+ active installations. This is a great SEO plugin although I still prefer Yoast Premium.  Its the #2 most popular SEO plugin on WordPress, but it could just as easily be the best.

All in One SEO Pack Pro – The Pro version includes WooCommerce support, Video SEO module (Video XML Sitemaps), SEO for categories, tags and custom taxonomies. It is advertisement free, community supported and always one upgrade cycle ahead of the free version.

Auto Image ALT Text – This is a great time saving tool automatically adding image ALT attributes based on the file name. This save you from having to manually type in each alt text attribute for every image.

Velvet Blues Update URLS – Another time saving tool that allows you to update URLs in embedded in content, excerpts, or custom fields. This bulk link updater is particularly useful if you have changed domains or added SSL.

Broken Link Checker – This plugin scans your website looking for broken links and missing images. There are also free websites you can use to accomplish the same thing. I recommend using this plugin annually and then deleting it after your broken links and images are cleaned up.

Easy Table of Contents – A well designed TOC provides users and search engines valuable orgranization and navigation. This is extremely valuable for SEO and user experience for long form content. Creating a HTML/CSS Table of Contents without a plugin reduces page load times. Using name anchors also gives you a better chance of receiving a “Jump To” snippet from Google search.

Google Site Kit – Still in beta development since December 6th, 2018 this tool aims to combine Google Search Console, Analytics, Adsense and Page Speed Insights into one tool.  It would also make sense to include Adwords, but maybe that is still coming. You can request early access to the WordPress plugin by filling out this form.

RedirectionYou can easily manage 301 redirection, log 404 errors and fix loose ends. You can find errors via Google Search Console, Yoast or Screaming Frog. Managing redirection reduces errors and provides a small SEO boost. This plugin has 1M+ active installations.

RankMathAnother quality SEO plugin that has a user friendly setup wizard and audit. The plugin has been described as the “swiss army knife” of SEO combining many tools into one plugin. schema, rich snippets, redirection, 404 monitoring. Best of all you can important most of your current settings from (Yoast, All in One) etc. I’ll wait for the bugs to be removed and give this a shot later this year.

Republish Old Posts – Refresh the dates of your posts to a current date with this plugin. Actually updating your content and manually adjusting the publish date is a much better option. I can’t help but think Google algos will eventually catch on to people gaming content freshness, but for the time being posts with recent publish dates get the benefit of higher click through rates.

WP Review – This plugin supports translation, WPMU and Google rich snippets. It has over 70k active installations and is supported by MyThemeShop. It is a lightweight (fast) and customizable way of creating star reviews for articles, products, recipes, organizations, software and restaurants.

Yoast The most popular (5M+ active users) WordPress SEO plugin for good reason. Its supported by a team of developers and SEO pros. The free version is pretty awesome already but the premium version includes redirect modules, context detection, internal linking, social previews, orphaned content filter and stale cornerstone content filter.

Yoast Premium – At $89 for a one time download and 1-year worth of premium updates the premium version isn’t cheap. For the casual blogger with low traffic its too expensive, but for the full time blogger it alright. You don’t have to have this plugin The automatic redirect module,orphaned content module and internal linking feature will pay for itself on a large enough site.

Yoast Local – Enhanced Google maps results and easy addition of Google Maps with route planning. Also allows you to easily embed Google Maps.

Yoast Video – This $69 plugin is a fair value for VLOGs and other Youtubers.  It helps increase the findability of videos and makes them responsive via javascript.   It adds scheme video object markup , allows you to change the thumbnail and adds a video sitemap.

Yoast WooCommerce– Adds a Yoast breadcrumb navigation option and cleans up your sitemap. Also makes pins richer by showing details like price, stock and link on Facebook and Pinterest.

 

2. SEO Tools

Table of Contents TOC Plugins CSS HTML

Google AdWords – Advertise your site on Google Search and Youtube with Pay Per Click (PPC) ads. You can also use the keywords tool to research various search terms to target. Don’t pay much attention to the exact search volume counts (Google doesn’t disclose those figures).

Google Mobile-Friendly Test – You can certainly accomplish this by visiting your website on a cell phone. Otherwise you can see if your site is responsive with this tool.

Google Structured Data Test – Type in your website url and Google will test for the presence of rich snippets providing error and warning notices.

Google Autocomplete & Related Searches – When you start typing in a search query into the google search bar a list of suggestions drops down to click. Then at the bottom of your search results a list of related searches show up. Both of these features can be used to generate an outline for your articles (subtopics).

Siteliner – Google penalizes sites with high percentages of duplicate content. Use this tool to get a percentage score of duplicate content as well as other metrics like broken links and word count.

SEM Rush – At $100 per month for the entry level (pro version) subscription this awesome tool is far too expensive for the average blogger. Its geared towards marketing agencies managing large Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.  The free version allows you 10 searches per day and allows you to track metrics like page rank, keyword phrases and backlinks.

Screaming Frog – This is a SEO crawler that scans your website searching for various errors like broken links, redirects, and missing meta data. You can scan up to 500 URLs for free by downloading their software – a great option for small sites. The paid version is ($175) £149.00 per license per year. The scan accesses a 500 URLs in a brief period of time so be sure to adjust your firewall settings.

AhrefsMuch like SEM rush they provide keyword research tools, content analysis and rank tracking. The service is priced inline with SEM rush at $99 month. If you have a lot of articles needing analysis this wouldn’t be a bad option using it until you are blue in the face for 30 days. They also offer a free 7-day trial period.

 

Speed Plugins

Speed Optimization

 

W3 Total Cache– This is arguably the best free caching plugin available, but it has a lot of settings that will need to be properly configured. Several of my clients with small websites use W3 and have load times of around 1.5 seconds. One thing I dislike is the  ( Whenever settings are changed – a new query string will be generated and appended to objects allowing the new policy to be applied.) under “Browser Caching” seems to re-enable itself after I uncheck the box. This flags on speed testing sites like GTMetrix for query strings. Overall, I think this is a great plugin for a free caching solution. Download & Import My Exact W3TC Settings

WP Rocket – If you are looking for a premium caching plugin ($49 annually) with minimal configuration this is your answer. It is by far the easiest plugin to use out of the box. It has unique features like cache pre-loading, regenerate critical path CSS and separate caching for mobile. I found that is does a particularly good job speeding up sites using WooCommerce. Download & Import My Exact WP Rocket Settings

Optimisation.ioWordPress comes with a lot of excess bloat that can easily be disabled with this plugin. A few of the important features include disabling the wordpress password strength meter javascript on non-related pages (.zxcvbn), disabling embedded content and heartbeat control. Some of the other features are are useful as well,but can be doubled with by other plugins like WP Rocket – be careful not to overlap.

PerfMatters – The same type of plugin as Optimisation except it has script management. This allows you to control what scripts are loaded on every individual page. Disabling site wide javascript loads is a valuable feature that increases page speed, especially for WooCommerce sites.

WP SuperCache

WP Optimize

 

Speed Tools

Time To First Byte TTFB Server Response

Stackpath Max CDN – Stackpath bought Max CDN and Cloak back in 2016 more than doubling their total capacity – now over 45 data centers. Monthly fees are pretty much inline with Cloudflare at $20 monthly for the Content Delivery Network (CDN) / Web Application Firewall (WAF) combo plan. You can also use one or the other separate for $10 per month.They also have an affiliate program, but only accept extremely high volume partners.

Bunny CDN– There are plenty of CDN providers out there, but 99% of the people who read this blog don’t need to pay more than $20 month. Bunny is the cheapest reputable CDN provider available in a “pay as you go” fee schedule. They have a $10 minimum annual billing regardless of how little traffic you have. Do you really need a CDN? – No, but if you can spare $10 / month extra you can have your site load fast globally (not just near your host server location).

CloudflareMost of my friends with high traffic websites are using Cloudflare for the CDN / Firewall combo at $20 / month. It is the most popular CDN provider with over 155 data centers and counting. After your site has significant traffic you will probably want to upgrade from Bunny / Key to Cloudflare.

Key CDNAnother quality pay as you go CDN provider with 34 data centers. They have a minimum $49 per year billing and no credit card required trials. Key also offers a referral program that can earn you free traffic credits (sorry no payouts). I discovered them through their performance testing tool that measures TTFB from locations around the world. Very useful for before and after implementing their trial CDN.

 

 

 

 

Speed Metrics

 

Hosting

A2 Hosting Plan

A2 Hosting – As a newbie blogger in 2009 I used a small discount hosting company called Arvixe and experienced poor speed, service and security. My websites were constantly being hacked or taken offline. After my hosting contract expired I made the switch and couldn’t be happier. It seems like every blogger out there is pumping SiteGround (for good reason) hosting, but IMHO A2 should be your first host. Their hosting is very affordable if you sign up for a long term plan. My average TTFB went from 800ms to <400ms and my page load time went from 5.5 seconds to <2 seconds. A2 Hosting is arguably the best host available for shared hosting with performance – if you need a managed WP solution then Siteground is the answer.

SiteGroundAlmost all Facebook polls rank SG #1 for WordPress hosting. They have 3 plans: Startup, Growbig and GoGeek as well as Cloud hosting. Unlike A2 hosting, SiteGround is “managed” hosting provider so make sure you are comparing hosting relative to what you are getting. After reading through reviews (99% positive) there are 2 main complaints against Siteground. The first is CPU overage/throttling, so if you have bandwidth and CPI intensive plugins its important to select the right plan. The other is the price jump on renewal (although all hosts do this). For example, GoGeek goes from $12/month to $35/month after the introductory period is over – so make sure you lock in 36-month worth of service at that price!

WP EngineConsidered by many as the Lamborghini of WP hosting, WP Engine is as good as it gets for performance and customer support. They deliver top notch managed hosting for WordPress sites and have the best customer service available. Customers receive the Genesis Framework and StudioPress themes for free. ($2,000 Value). They also have a mandatory SSL and CDN included. At $35/month WP Engine‘s “startup” plan compares favorably to SiteGrounds GoGeek plan minus the $12 introductory price. If you run a high traffic WP site and can justify the high price tag WP Engine is arguably the best option.

InMotion

 

Cloudways

 

GoDaddy

LiquidWeb

Bluehost

 

Analytics

 

 

 

 

 

Keyword Research

 

 

 

Site Security

Security Optimization

Sucuri Checker – This free tool allows you to scan your site for malware and search engine blacklisting. Its paid Website Firewall (WAF) is used by some high profile WordPress sites and offers support for hacked sites.

UpDraft Plus – I promise you if your site gets hacked and you lose hundreds of hours worth of work you will cry like a baby. Having a backup on your computer and stored on Google Drive will prove to be a life saver. DO NOT depend on your host as your sole backup provider (although they do backups).

Lets Encrypt SSL – The most popular free SSL solution – hosting companies like A2 Hosting provide easy installation via Cpanel. This is a must for e-commerce sites and Google seems to provide a tiny SEO boost for secured sites in general. Tech savvy visitors will check for a lock icon in Chrome before making purchases online.

Wordfence

Ithemes Security

Really Simple SSL

Akismet Anti-spam

 

 

 

WordPress Themes

Astra Theme

Generate Press

Studio Press

Genesis Framework

Thrive Themes

Divi Themes

Flatsome Theme

OceanWP Theme

 

 

 

Membership & LMS

Memberpress

Restrict Content Pro

LifterLMS

 

 

 

Marketing

Newsletter Pro

Optin Monster

Thrive Landing Pages

Thrive Leads

 

 

Page Builders

Beaver Builder

Elementor

Thrive Architect

Divi Builder– A stand-alone drag and drop page builder plugin that works on most themes, but best used with the Divi Theme by Elegant Themes.

 

 

 

E-commerce

 

 

Affiliate

ThirstyAffiliate Link Manager – If you want to avoid the hassle of manually entering and changing affiliate links on all your pages and posts you can use this handy tool. You simply enter the keyword(s) targeted along with your affiliate links. Thirsty Affiliate automatically renders links after your content has loaded and inserts them based on the settings you select. This is particularly useful for updating old links automatically without having to go into potentially hundreds of posts. It also has other features like internal linking and link cloaking. With only 20,000 active installations of this plugin, it may be the most underutilized plugin on WordPress. The PRO Version is $49 annually and includes features geared towards analytics and automatic linking – Free vs Paid

 

 

Local SEO

 

 

 

Links

 

 

 

Outsourcing

Fiverr – I just started using this site to outsource logo and graphic design. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are great programs for designing illustrations, but the time involved for newbies like me just isn’t worth it. There are several affordable and reputable designers that can help you with logo and illustration design. That’s not all this site offers – coding, marketing, social media, audio and video services are also offered. This site is a growing community of freelancers and their is quite a lot of talent.

Themeforest

Freelancer

Upwork.com

Toptal.com

Elance.com –

 

 

 

 

Miscellaneous