13 Essential WordPress Plugins

Six months ago, I decided to create a new affiliate site, OfficialCouponCode.com.  After spending a number of years in leadership roles at leading retailers including Proflowers, Guitar Center, JCPenney and Fossil, I decided that there was a better way to approach affiliate marketing and couponing, so off I went.

Through the journey, I’ve been working as an army of one as a “digital nomad” with a couple of key partners, and have tried a number of plugins which have made the process much easier.

Having come from companies where I had every resource imaginable at my fingertips to building a nimble and scrappy startup in a hyper competitive industry means that I’ve had to quickly discover the best tools out there.

Here’s my list of tools that have proven invaluable.  These are great tools not just for affiliate sites, but for any site out there that is built on WordPress.

13 WordPress plugins and tools that are great for every site:

Relevanssi Premium – What it does:  One of the most important things on any site is site search, but the default site search on WordPress leaves a bit to be desired. Relevanssi Premium allows you to control the weighting of your different types of posts and articles, helping you provide better results to your users.

Pods Content – What it does: Any affiliate site out there needs more content than just what gets spit out of CJ, Commission Junction and the other networks and you need to be able to control where that content goes.  Enter Pods content.  In effect, you create additional zones that will house your content and can either set those up as stand alone, or assign them to an existing taxonomy. In plain english, you can create a zone on your store, category or other pages and customize your content in each of these.

WP Forms – What it does: I’ve tried a few different form providers, and I like WP Forms’ UI, plus you can integrate them with Mailchimp or another email provider so that your email file gets built quickly.  I have had some issues with the captcha and honeypot features, where users end up clicking submit more than once, but it’s a good product and better than some of the others I had tried.

404 Error Logger – What it does:  One day, I had my Google Analytics account open and noticed someone hitting an awful lot of 404 error pages.  They were also typing in URLs that looked like something that someone who would crawl your site be typing in (stuff with /all/, etc).  I quickly installed the 404 error log plugin and used this to find their IP address.  Once that was in place, I was able to block them and keep an eye on others doing the same thing.  Of course, it’s also helpful for finding broken links on or off of your site, as well.

Redirection – What it does:  If you have a lot of pages on your website, you’ll inevitably end up with some broken links or even with bad links pointing to your site.  You can use Redirection to easily route those to the correct URL and can also use it to help with page moves or site migrations.

Collapse-o-matic – What it does: Ever wonder how sites create the “read more” links within long content and then have content expand? I tried a few things, and this worked really well… but I had to use their raw javascript in posts rather than using the shortcode. Either way, it’s been very helpful!

Google Tag Manager – What it does: Rather than placing pixels throughout your website, just add GTM and manage your multitude of pixels that way.  While you don’t really need the plugin to help, it does make it easy to include the tags and manage events and scroll tracking.

Imagify – What it does: If you’re an affiliate site, you likely have thousands and thousands of images/logos. Every K counts, and imagify allows you to compress your images, which in turn helps your site load faster.

WP Rocket – What it does: Having a fast site is essential, both to providing a great customer experience, as well as to SEO.  I’ve tried a few of the caching plugins and WP rocket seemed to provide the best experience.  You may need to tweak the mobile settings to ensure that your site loads, and loads quickly.  This works well in conjunction with a CDN, such as Max CDN.

Loginizer Security – What it does: You’ll inevitable have people trying to hack your password. Loginizer makes it super easy to set up a rule to lock people out after a certain number of attempts.

Wordfence – What it does: As I mentioned, you’ll have all sorts of people trying to scrape your content or do other troubling things to your website.  I use wordfence to block out the IPs that I identify using the 404 error log tool, but I also set up rules within Wordfence to throttle traffic or blacklist IPs when they detect naughty behavior.

Yoast SEO – What it does: One of your primary jobs if you run a website is to ensure that people can find it.  SEO can be brutally tough, but the Yoast SEO plugin (both free and premium) can help you set up title & description templates, add breadcrumbs and more.

WP Rollback – What it does: Have you ever installed a plugin only to find that it’s breaking something? You then panic and wonder the safest way to go back to an old version and are afraid to lose your work? This happened to me with a version of Yoast and I was terrified to lose a bunch of custom content. I used the WP Rollback plugin to go to my previous version and it worked like magic!

Other cool tools & services

Sumome – What it does: They offer a variety of tools, but if you’ve seen the little social icons floating on the side of a website, they’re likely powered by Sumome.  I also use their email capture bar, which integrates with various email service providers.

Mailchimp – What it does: This is an ESP (email service provider), but the best part is that you don’t have to pay when you’re starting out.  You only start getting charged once your file gets to be a certain size. It integrates with some of the other plugins I use.

Hosting Companies

Liquidweb – Liquidweb provides the best support of anyone I’ve tried. When I’m doing fun things like moving from http to https, they’re invaluable and extraordinarily helpful!  Ready to sign up? Here are some Liquidweb coupons.

Dreamhost  – I worked with these guys for many years and it was fine when I just had a low traffic blog, but their support team tends to point you to wiki articles rather than actually helping you solve the issue directly.  I still use them for some sites, but not for anything requiring a higher level of support.