Anyone and everyone can recommend the best WordPress plugins — as SEOs with a number of clients on WordPress we probably couldn’t live without Yoast SEO (see!) — but we’re sure you have those covered by now wading through the millions (OK, 846 thousand according to Google) of “best WordPress plugins” articles out there.
Instead, we’re looking at hidden gem WordPress plugins that need more love and attention! Our list unearths a collection of 33 lesser-known WordPress plugins that the Salience team have either personally put to action on our own WordPress installations or fine-tuned for client sites.
Scarcely seen, but they always gleam!
Comments & Social
Though it’s gaining traction, wpDiscuz simply isn’t well known enough considering what you can achieve with it under the native WordPress comments system. The similarly-named Disqus is arguably the go-to comments solution, one that probably already came to your mind reading our first hidden gem, but with Disqus you’re relying on a third party resource which is responsible for a significant hit in page speed performance. Out of the box, wpDiscuz, this hidden gem, can look visually stunning and offer instant usability improvement over the standard WordPress comments. Premium extensions can take it even further.
2. Disqus Conditional Load
…but if you do use Disqus (let’s face it, it seemed so attractive at the time and now we’re far down that rabbit hole), Disqus Conditional Load can help give a boost to the aforementioned page speed concern, and you’ll notice the difference. Amongst other features, this freebie features lazy loading and the ability to disable scripts that aren’t in use on your WordPress website.
3. Lazy Load for Comments
Maybe you’d rather we didn’t “Disqus” this at all because neither the third party comment system or fancy comment plugin are for you. That’s OK, but if you have comments enabled and have users engaged, the Lazy Load for Comments plugin will instantly set up lazy loading of WordPress’ default comments – in a few clicks you’ll save on some page speed performance.
4. Swifty Bar
The Swiftybars are on me! The next gem of a plugin, and also free, is Swifty Bar, aka Sticky Bar by WPGens, one that you won’t have realised you needed until you have it. It adds a sticky bar at the bottom of WordPress post, with elements like: post category, post title, author, share buttons, share count and links to other posts. You’re worried about page speed again now, aren’t you? This one’s fast, well coded and lightweight so worry no more. It may even outright replace what you currently use for social sharing.
5. Better Click To Tweet
We’ve heard the tweeting of Twitter-related WordPress plugins for years and many have come and gone, including Click To Tweet which this recommended plugin is based off. Better Click to Tweet is kept up to date while some alternatives are not, and offers an easy solution to display tweetable content that encourages users to share your work on Twitter with both a quote and, crucially, a link back to the post. For the author, this is done using a simple shortcode or Gutenberg block.
News & Content
6. Require Featured Image
We’ve encountered news sites that naturally depend on having multiple authors at work delivering content. Each author will have varying experience with WordPress and technical know-how. A featured image is often needed whether it’s a news site or not – for the likes of social sharing or just to make the frontpage of a site look more complete, but when publishing a post this image could easily be missed by those not familiar, or just about anyone on a particularly stressful day. Require Featured Image does what it says on the tin; a featured image must be set before the post can go live.
7. Pre-Publish Post Checklist
Like the above, with Pre-Publish Post Checklist there’s no accidental publishing of posts before the time is right, and this plugin takes it a little further should you require more than a featured image. With this little gem you create and set a checklist of rules that must be set before a post goes live, and enable it on specific post types where you want it to apply. We’re not at our SEO section of plugins just yet but there’s certainly SEO benefits here, since your checklist could include elements like an search friendly URL/permalink, and checks on a title tag or meta description.
8. Video Thumbnails
Videos will be huge in 2020, said Salience in an SEO predictions post, and it’s already proving true (blush). Embed a video in the content of your post and the Video Thumbnails plugin will automatically take care of a video thumbnail, which can be saved to your Media library and set as a featured image as per your requirements.
9. Featured Video Plus
Often a WordPress template will by default display a featured image at the beginning of a post. With Featured Video Plus, with a quick paste of a video link into a box on the editor screen, that featured image can turn into a lightweight video embed complete with lazy loading. So, you can mix it up with video some of the time, and featured images the remainder.
10. Content Views
There’s a plethora of plugins to help create grids/lists of WordPress posts, but just go with the diamond in the rough: Content Views. This one allows you to get creative with it while maintaining mobile responsiveness, leaving you free to create grids of recent posts, those in a certain category, those by an author, etc. On this wrestling-themed site below, Content Views is displaying recent posts marked as ‘Exclusive’:
11. Trending/Popular Post Slider and Widget
Similarly, Trending/Popular Post Slider and Widget gets your most popular posts on display in a variety of formats like grids and carousels, selecting between number of posts views or comments. We particularly like this one as an alternative to a traditional slider/carousel on a blog homepage. Instead of manually updating a carousel with your latest content, why not use this gem to automatically display posts that are not only recent but trending with your audience? Smack down this one into your plugins list!
12. SEO Optimized Images
When we think of SEO, we think keyword optimised content and title tags, adding internal links, acquiring backlinks, etc, but images may be way down that list and as a result images are so often overlooked. For one, SEO Optimized Images can be used to automatically add optimised ALT tags to images. Often we’re seeing existing sites with naturally a large bulk of images, but where there’s been no real consideration for image SEO, and tackling all of these images manually can prove tricky. This plugin gets back control of images in the archive and puts you in good stead for future uploads.
13. External Links in New Window / New Tab
Here’s another that does what it says on the tin, and another gem you may not have even given a thought to previously. In one swoop, External Links in New Window / New Tab will ensure external links open in a new tab or new window (only internal links stay in the same tab), and you can set which URL types will be forced into this behaviour and those to be ignored. This is achieved in a search friendly manner as the plugin handles links client-side. Result: users aren’t immediately leaving your site, and post authors need not worry about missing the link attributes when adding links.
14. Auto Menu from Pages
The structure and accessibility of a site is crucial to your SEO efforts and user experience, they go hand in hand. Your existing WordPress navigation menu may not necessarily reflect your site structure accurately. Auto Menu from Pages takes your existing page hierarchy and generates a WordPress menu that matches the existing page structure across your site. Once generated, it can be checked and assigned to any of the WordPress menus set up. With a bit of tweaking to the plugin, the menu created can be synced up to any changes you make to your site’s pages over time.
404 pages can often be overlooked too, and believe it or not they do have an impact on SEO. 404page – your smart custom 404 error page (a long winded name, but a pretty honest one) is a solution to most default 404 error pages in WordPress being a “dead end” that don’t provide useful information for users on what to find on your site and where to go next. This gem helps you set up a custom 404 error page. We suggest making it a really useful resource, and adding a bit of humour in there too!
16. Slick Sitemap
Your go-to SEO plugin (Yoast, All In One, etc) probably has your XML sitemap sorted, but are you missing a HTML sitemap? The introduction of an HTML sitemap by Slick Sitemap may prove useful as they enable human users to find a page on your site that they are looking for. Yeah, a HTML sitemap isn’t going to be all that strong of an SEO signal but search engines reward sites that are easy to use, and often you can improve your site’s ranking by improving your user experience.
17. Co-Authors Plus
When one author just isn’t enough! Google is placing more importance than ever on signals related to E-A-T (Expertise, authority and trust), with tweaks to their algorithm to reflect this, which as we know has led to the ranking of sites deemed authoritative and webpages authored by those seen as having strong credentials. In industries where that matters the most (medical, YMYL, etc) there may be a need to show that expertise with multiple authors. That isn’t available in WordPress by default, but Co-Authors Plus makes it possible to add multiple author bylines to posts even if the author doesn’t have an account. Then, these co-authored posts appear on a co-author’s archive page and in their regular feed.
18. Smart Google Code Inserter
One of the first port of calls with a fresh WordPress installation is getting your Google Analytics code in and beginning to track user behaviour. Editing theme files isn’t for everyone and in most cases isn’t the smartest decision. Smart Google Code Inserter might be the simplest and most lightweight solution to dropping in the appropriate code, hitting Save, and that’s it – especially good if you don’t need the extra bells and whistles offered by a fuller Analytics plugin.
19. Code Snippets
As a WordPress site owner, there will come a time where you’ll need to add to your functions.php file, a more daunting task than adding tracking scripts like above, quite frankly. Code Snippets is useful in multiple ways; it offers an simple interface within WordPress to add PHP code snippets on your site without actually touching the functions.php file. If anything goes wrong, the plugin offers two “safe modes” to overcome any errors and get back to your site, than what you’d be faced with editing the PHP file. We’ve been through both!
20. Better Search Replace
A client has re-branded and changed their domain. Everything’s gone smoothly, but wait, all of the internal links to other pages of the site in WordPress posts and pages point to the URLs on the old domain. 301 redirects are in place but they should really be updated to their canonical URL… and there’s hundreds if not thousands of these posts and pages to go through! Panic! Actually, not really. Try out Better Search Replace to update everything is one swoop. There will inevitably be other scenarios where this gem comes in handy, too.
21. Relevanssi – A Better Search
Remember we said SEO and user experience go hand in hand? Relevanssi – A Better Search will have your users thanking you, as it’s a handy solution to replace the not-so-great, standard search built into WordPress with an improved search engine experience – in a nutshell it returns more accurate results, and those results are presented nicer! Try the free version, which will probably suit you just fine, but check out the premium features if internal search is really important to your site.
A go-to here for any WordPress site, and one that may initially be overlooked because your mind may naturally go to caching plugins for site performance – but here’s one to install and have at your disposal for regular maintenance and upkeep of your site. Primarily, put this gem to use to clean and optimise your database in a few easy (and not that scary) clicks. In recent updates to the plugin, WP-Optimize now compresses images of a WordPress site and has a caching system too, so you could potentially save on having additional plugins to achieve those functions.
23. SOGO Add Script to Individual Pages Header Footer
24. WP Activity Log
The Sucuris and Wordfences of the WordPress plugin world are great (definitely don’t forget to have one of those installed) but there’s another one to run alongside your security plugin of choice – WP Activity Log. Two use cases: you’d like to keep an eye on the activity of other users you’ve given a form of admin access to and see exactly the changes they make, or, and we wouldn’t wish this on anyone, your site has been hacked and you need to know exactly what pages, posts, theme files, plugins, etc, have been changed to see what the intruding cyberpunk has been up to!
25. Hide My WP
You’ve probably heard how easy it is for a WordPress site to be hacked, from outdated plugins to brute force attacks, even if you’re careful. In one case we’ve seen, the owner implemented all the right methods of website security, kept everything up to date, but fell short because their host wasn’t quite as secure as they were. Ugh. If security is important to you, consider the premium Hide My WP plugin with a host of handy features that begin with completely ‘hiding’ the WordPress CMS from onlookers, along with your theme, plugins, admin login path, and more.
Good security starts with a good backup. A backup isn’t actually Duplicator‘s primary purpose but it’s well worth a mention given how simple and effective the plugin is as a backup utility. And if your current host is letting you down, this gem, in a few clicks, can help migrate, copy, move or clone a site from one location to another. Backups and migrations in one. Peace of mind.
27. Old Core Files
Have you had WordPress for a number of years now? Here’s a little gem to install and run to see if it finds any obsolete core files in your installation. Old Core Files exists because, on occasion, when the version of WP is being upgraded, some existing files are no longer needed and set for removal – but if PHP has no permissions to delete these files, they stick around. This plugin will quickly scan for and remove any old files before there’s any chance for the cyberpunk from earlier to exploit them.
And There’s More!
28. WP Slack Sync
We’re all Slackers at Salience, in that we use the Slack communication platform. The WP Slack Sync premium plugin synchronises Slack channels and chats within a WordPress site.
29. Download Monitor
We like Download Monitor because it puts downloadable files into a familiar, manageable interface just how WordPress posts and pages look. You can upload and manage your files from here, insert download links into posts, log what’s being downloaded, and sell downloads too!
30. WP Customer Reviews
Back to those E-A-T and trust factors sought by website owners, and what Google is on the look out for, reviews are a must! Primarily, WP Customer Reviews allows easy creation of a reviews/testimonials page on your WordPress site in order to receive customer reviews.
You’ve built up a strong community of readers and chances are there’s some generous folk among them who would like to give back to you. For free, GiveWP brings about an online donation platform right in your WordPress in a pretty powerful interface that allows customisation of donation forms, management of donors, statistics and reports, etc.
32. Login Logout Menu
Can you tell we love the really simple plugins that just do the job with no fuss? Not available out of the box, Login Logout Menu lets you add login, logout, register and profile menu items in your WordPress menu.
AMP Made Easy
33. AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages
Okay, AMP itself isn’t exactly a hidden gem — you’ve heard a lot about it, and browsed a lot of AMP pages — but often it’s regarded as more complicated than it really needs to be, and so we give you AMP for WP – Accelerated Mobile Pages, which we would consider a gem at helping ease any headaches.
Here’s a quick solution to set up AMP functionality on your WordPress site, wherever you want it. Aside from the obvious speed improvements AMP brings, we like this plugin because of the vast number of configurations for your AMP pages, the pre-built layouts in the plugin that should be useful for most site owners to build around, along with the compatibility with Yoast SEO and its structured data options out of the box.
By the way, for news websites in particular, AMP is simply a must-have on WordPress posts for mobile traffic. It increases the likelihood of better placement at the top of Google in carousels, Google Chrome’s “Articles for You”, and the list of suggested articles shown in the Google app, known as Google Discover.
We know of a news website that tried out AMP a number of years ago, who were initially put off due to design/layout concerns and limited options to serve ads. However, after restarting their AMP usage this year, aided by the plugin and developments to it over the years, this site saw a nice uptick in traffic due to being featured by Google in more places.
Definitely not one to overlook if news is what you do!
Need a hand with WordPress SEO? Get in touch to learn about our services and give your WordPress website a much-needed boost!