WordPress is a brilliant tool to help you build and run your own blog or website. There's WordPress.com, which lets you host a customisable but limited blog for free, or WordPress.org, which lets you download and install the WordPress software script to help you build, customise and maintain almost any self-hosted website or blog you can imagine.
If you use the WordPress script for your website, there are thousands of plugins that you can add to the site to add extra functionality. Here, we've listed eight of our favourites to help you improve your website and attract more readers.
The first is Jetpack, which brings loads of functionality that was previously only available to Wordpress.com users to your self-hosted WordPress website. These features include stats, email subscriptions for your readers, a social networking-enabled comment system, the ability for readers to 'Like' your posts, automatic social network sharing, a recent tweets widget, Carousel for galleries, compatibility with the brilliant WordPress mobile apps, universal search, and lots more.
Jetpack is absolutely worth installing for any WordPress-based site. You might not want to use all of the features it offers, but it's an all-round package that is bound to help you out with many tasks and help give your website a quick boost.
Yoast SEO for WordPress
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the most important things to practice in order to help readers find your website. The WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast aims to help you improve your SEO, by encouraging you to choose focus keywords to help you rank higher in search engines like Google.
There's a snippet preview that'll show you how your post is going to look in search results to help you refine it, as well as Page Analysis functionality that checks for images, alt tags, post length, meta descriptions and more, all of which are important for SEO.
Once you've attracted readers to your WordPress website thanks to brilliant SEO, you'll probably want to make sure that they come back again when you add new content to the site. One way to help entice those readers back is through newsletters, and that's where MailPoet comes in.
It's a brilliant plugin that helps you build and send newsletters, post notifications and automatic response emails for your readers using a simple and easy drag-and-drop system.
Not only that, but you'll also be able to see statistics for the newsletters you send, including opens, clicks and unsubscribes, so you can find out which emails work and which don't.
Disqus Comment System
It's important to offer your readers a way to offer feedback and interact with your website, and the Disqus Comment System can do just that. Many websites already use Disqus as their comments systems, so that means lots of readers will already have a Disqus account that they can use to comment on your website.
Broken Link Checker
Something you certainly don't want to find on your website is broken links. That's why the Broken Link Checker plugin is so valuable. It helps you monitor your blog and keep those broken links at bay.
If you're looking to improve the search function on your WordPress website, Swiftype Search is ideal. Not only does it give you search analytics for your site, but it also improves the relevancy of search results so your readers will find what they're looking for quickly, particularly thanks to the autocomplete search suggestions.
If you're not happy with the order of search results for a particular popular search term, you can re-order them using the Swiftype Dashboard's drag-and-drop feature.
With any website, you'll come across spammers, who comment on your articles and clog them up with all sorts of rubbish that you don't want other readers to see. Akismet helps eliminate those spammers, by catching suspicious-looking comments and displaying them for you to moderate. It also highlights hidden or misleading links – those spammers are getting smarter so they're sometimes tricky to spot.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
One of the best related post plugins for WordPress is YARPP, which helps keep your readers on your website for longer by directing them to other content you've published.
The plugin displays pages, posts and custom post types in a thumbnail or list view to help your readers discover other articles on your website that they might enjoy. It uses a customisable algorithm that intelligently chooses related posts based on titles, content, tags, categories and more.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
WordPress offers some limited site stats, and you can expand those a bit with the help of the highly recommended Jetpack plugin (see above), but if you really want to dig deep into who your readers are, how they find your site, and what they like, you want to get Google Analytics.
This free plugin lets you use the Google Analytics tracking code to break down your site's performance in detail, looking at the site as a whole or individual pages and posts, seeing how readers get to your content, how they move around the site, and how long they stay. It's powerful, flexible, and pretty much the industry standard for web analytics.
If you get much traffic to your site from search, then you might want to set up AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project) compatibility for your site. This project, spearheaded by Google, aims to speed up the way pages load for mobile users by serving content in a streamlined form directly from the AMP servers. What it means for you is that users will be able to get to your content faster on their phones, and so are less likely to give up and look for what they want elsewhere.
This plugin gives some pretty barebones AMP support, so you'll want to supplement it with the Yoasts Glue plugin, which gives you some extra SEO and styling options for your AMP pages.
Oh, and if you get lots of traffic from social media too, you may want to try Facebook's Instant Articles plugin, which does about the same thing for mobile users who access your content from Facebook.