If you’ve spent more than ten minutes configuring a WordPress site, you know that finding the best WordPress plugins is a headache and a half.
In a perfect world, we would install every single WP plugin out there, but this would cause some serious problems.
- As your active plugins increase, your site’s page speed can decrease.
- With more active plugins, the greater the security risks.
- A higher probability of conflicts between plugins and theme.
So how do we find the right balance between necessities, site performance and everything in between?
What separates the best from the rest?
The answer is simple:
What good is a website if it’s not working for you?
Sifting through thousands of plugins to find one golden nugget is a waste of time.
So here’s what I did:
I asked thousands of WordPress website owners for their advice and curated a list of the 14 top WordPress plugins that will work for you to get what you want in 2015:
- Social shares
- Adsense clicks
- Content consumption
Whether you’re running a blog, corporate or eCommerce website, there’s some love in here for everyone to start getting results fast.
Here are your 14 must have WordPress plugins to boost your conversion rate sorted by objective.
1. LowerMedia Sticky.js Menus
What’s wrong with this picture?
Websites are not using white space effectively.
As your visitors scroll through your content, the sidebar disappears with it.
Basic conversion rate optimization (CRO) practices say to keep your call to action “above the fold”.
What if you can keep the fold running with you throughout the entire page without looking tacky, obtrusive or spammy?
Here’s where this sticky little widget comes in play.
LowerMedia Sticky.js menus allow you to create sections that will float with the scroll rather than having them disappear into thin air.
Here are a few actionable uses for this gooey plugin:
- A sticky sidebar to send users to your opt-in, sales, product or lead capture page.
- A table of contents for optimal navigation.
- Get Facebook page likes.
Setting it up is simple:
- Install the sticky menu plugin.
- Go to settings -> Sticky.js menus.
- Set a sticky object like “.sticky-menu” and disable the plugin on a screen width of 359 (px) if your website is mobile responsive.
- Add this HTML code into your sidebar.
<div class=”.sticky-menu”>Your sticky menu content</div>
A simple 5 minute setup and some tact will get you more leads and get your money page seen.
Let’s be real:
The money is in the list.
If you haven’t started collecting a list of email subscribers, then you need to start.
An email address is a very personal thing. When someone is willing to give it to you, they are showing interest in your product, service and content.
Don’t deprive them of getting good news, promotions and developing a personal relationship with you.
OptinMonster is a paid service, but it is well worth the money. In fact, it has helped me to generate a whopping 43% conversion on one of my opt-in pages.
OptinMonster allows you to build a variety of high converting forms without any coding knowledge. Some of my favourite features include:
- Exit intent lead capture
- A/B split testing
- Detailed analytics
This WordPress plugin gives you total control of generating leads in every possible circumstance with integrations for email marketing services like Mail Chimp, AWeber, Constant Contact and the list goes on.
They have a 14-day money back guarantee and monthly subscriptions can be cancelled at any time.
3. Custom Sidebars Plugin
This WordPress sidebar plugin allows you to create as many sidebars as you want and customize them through your widgets page.
Custom sidebars allow you to give relevant content, an applicable call to action and appropriate menus to your visitors.
Having the same call to action for my case study about selling on Amazon would be irrelevant. Chances are, if people are reading an Amazon case study, they will be more interested in the Amazon marketplace over creating their own web business.
Providing relevance with this nifty custom sidebar plugin will improve conversion dramatically.
4. WordPress SEO by Yoast
SEO is not dead.
But here’s the cold hard truth:
No plugin is going to send you a flood of traffic.
Search engine optimization is multi-faceted and requires both on-page and off-page work.
Fortunately, WordPress SEO by Yoast covers the technical side of the on-page factors without editing the WordPress core code.
Wordpres SEO by Yoast has numerous features. The two that help me convert traffic are:
- Meta titles and description optimization.
- Customizing social sharing meta tags for Facebook, Twitter and Google plus.
Although there are more features to this plugin, let’s cover the basic foundations for on-page SEO.
Optimize Meta Titles and Descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions aren’t going to get you search rankings.
Getting found in Google is >90% of the battle. The other <10% is in getting the click through.
Meta titles and descriptions have the power to sway a click when you’re not the top ranked search result.
Let me explain.
If you search for “when do babies start talking?”
Here are the top four results:
Now what kind of people would be searching for when babies begin talking?
Most likely a new parent.
The Quick Answer Box solves the mystery immediately, but the user will likely want to learn more about their newborn’s developmental milestones.
Although Baby Center ranks fourth on the list, they earn my click through from their meta title alone.
They fulfill the user’s intent.
Why stop at talking right?
Here’s how you can create awesome meta titles and descriptions with Yoast’s SEO plugin.
1. Click on any page or post in your WordPress admin.
2. Scroll to the bottom of your post and you’ll find a box that looks like this:
3. Enter your SEO title and meta description.
Create attractive social sharing messages
When I launched Money Journal I asked some friends to share my site with their networks.
But I made a mistake…
…I forgot to optimize the share settings.
Here’s what it looked like when my friend Jesse shared my home page:
My share image showed as one of my blog post featured images and had no message…
*Face to Palm*
Here’s how you can avoid making this mistake:
- From the bottom of your post, click on the social tab.
- Edit your social sharing titles and descriptions.
- Add an image.
- Update your WordPress post.
And here’s the final result:
Having an attractive title, description and image will increase your click throughs from your favorite social networks.
5. Social Locker
Social lockers might seem annoying, but they’re ultra effective.
Here’s how they work:
You create an offer such as a checklist, downloadable document, video, content or anything of value to your readers.
In order for a reader to “unlock” the content, they must pay you with a “like”, “tweet” or other form of social currency.
Want to see it in action? Click one of the share options in the fancy box below.
And that is how they work ;-)
The plugin has multiple customization features, but here are the most basic ways to use it:
- Install the plugin.
- Add the shortcode Your hidden content.
The social locker plugin sends you some social signals in exchange for your mystery content.
6. Cookies for Comments
This plugin isn’t going to convert traffic, but it will help stop the “bad guys” from interfering with your great commenters.
If you’re using the default WordPress commenting system, then you’ve witnessed the power of Ray Bans bot and of course a penile enhancement bot.
I have some bad news for you:
These guys don’t think your website is great and they certainly have no good intentions.
The bots programmatically leave comments on thousands of websites hoping to gain some shady backlinks to their money page.
Cookies for Comments to the rescue.
This is a 100% free plugin that blocks WordPress spam. I’ve had great success with this plugin on all of my blogs.
Here’s how it works:
- After installing the plugin, there will be an “invisible” 1 x 1 pixel image on your website.
- When the browser loads, a cookie is loaded with the image.
- If a user leaves a comment, the plugin checks to see if the cookie was loaded.
- If it wasn’t loaded then the comment is automatically sent to spam.
This plugin has reduced my comments spam by over 85% on my niche sites.
Just install the plugin and let the Cookie Monster do the dirty work for you.
7. Facebook Comments
Getting people to leave a comment isn’t always easy.
They have to type in their name and an email address which most people won’t do.
The massive advantage with Facebook comments is that you can get far greater exposure than any other commenting system out there.
Most of your visitors already have Facebook and there’s a good chance that they’re logged in when reading your blog.
All they have to do now is leave a comment.
Having fewer steps to your conversion process will heighten the chance of a conversion – comments and engagement.
And it gets better:
The Facebook comments plugin allows people to share their two cents on their Facebook profile with the click of a mouse.
Although some may feel uncomfortable posting to their profile, others will gladly send traffic your way.
Setup is a little more complicated than cookies for comments, but this video from WP Beginner breaks it down in under a minute.
8. Disqus Comments
Disqus seems to be “the bloggers’ choice”. It’s a neatly organized network of people who read blogs, and leave comments.
Here are some key advantages and reasons why I use Disqus:
- Disqus comments are read by the search engines.
- Disqus has a tightly knit community of bloggers.
- Spam is never an issue.
- Disqus sends newsletters with top and relevant content to others who may be interested in your content.
- Seamless one-minute integration.
And of course the disadvantages:
- New users have to create an account.
- It is well known that blogs have lost some active commenters when switching to Disqus.
Although the size of the network does not compare to Facebook, the people who leave comments tend to show genuine interest in your content.
Disqus members create an account with the sole purpose of leaving comments.
Facebook connects people, while Disqus connects content.
Get Disqus Comments
9. Quick Adsense
Adsense revenues are based on numerous factors.
- Ad placement
- Ad type
- Traffic source
- Ad cost per click (CPC)
Here’s some good news:
This Adsense plugin is all you’ll ever need for your WordPress configuration.
Here’s how you can get started:
- Install the WordPress Adsense plugin.
- Navigate to the Quick Adsense settings and paste your various ad block codes in the text area (up to 10 ad units).
Now to the best part:
Quick Adsense uses default positions to automate where your ads show and where they don’t.
Although this is a great feature, it may not be the most profitable in all situations.
Let’s say your blog post is ranking great for the term “credit card debt”. You’ve done your keyword research and you’re seeing a massive suggested bid/CPC of ~$19.85.
Having a default ad set to the beginning of your post may not be your most profitable avenue. Ad placements with high CPC bids will likely perform better in context.
So here’s the solution to maximize your Adsense revenues:
Place the ad in context after your keywords have been used effectively.
Quick Adsense gives you the flexibility to insert the ad block anywhere in your blog with a little snippet of code.
Add the “<!–NoAds–>” tag at the beginning of your post to disable your default positions. Then find the best spot for your ad placement and insert “<!—Ads(number of your ad block) –>” to your post.
You should be well on your way to higher converting ad clicks and enjoy the greater revenues with this one-minute fixer upper.
This is by far the best Adsense plugin for WordPress that I’ve used and has saved me endless hours of raw editing.
Get Quick Adsense
10. Table of Contents Plus
The time on page metric that you see in your Google Analytics is more than just a number.
It is a metric used in calculating dwell time and directly affects your search engine rankings. Time on page is a direct reflection of user engagement.
Here’s a little plugin that might help your visitors stay on for a wee bit longer.
Introducing Table of Contents Plus.
The name says it all…
This plugin automatically creates a table of contents for your blog posts by using your heading tags (h1, h2, h3) as “chapters”.
It helps create a smooth user experience when reading through long(er) pieces of content.
Here’s an example of what it looks like in action:
There are a few customization options like where it is placed, how it is styled and adjustable parameters to generate a TOC.
What if you don’t want this on every post?
All you need to do is insert the shortcode anywhere in your blog post. The table of contents disappears and you’re ready to go into free write mode.
This plugin gives your readers an outline of your content and a simple “skip to” function for returning visitors.
It has helped me to get some great results for time spent on page.
11. Contextual Related Posts
Bounce rate is another GA metric that measures the percentage of visitors that view only one page before leaving your site.
A high bounce rate isn’t the end of the world, but it’s an indication of the users’ next intent being fulfilled. It is also another factor contributing to “dwell time”.
Fortunately, this related posts plugin helps decrease bounce rate and increase the average time on site.
Here’s how it works:
Instead of leaving your readers with a “thanks for coming”, the plugin analyzes keywords from your article and recommends other relevant posts within your blog.
For example, if a visitor is reading about creating the perfect balanced diet, you may have a keyword phrase like organic food embedded in the post. The plugin will likely recommend another article on your site like: “10 tips to pick the freshest organic food “.
Since “the perfect diet” article recommends organic food, your readers may want to know how they can create the freshest shopping experience.
- Decreased bounce rate.
- Longer time spent on your site.
- Greater chance to snag up subscribers.
- The users’ intent is fulfilled beyond what they had originally come to you for.
From my experience, this plugin is best suited for mass content producers.
12. W3 Total Cache
A solid page speed doesn’t convert visitors into customers. It creates a convenient experience for visitors to become customers.
But here’s the deal:
Horrific page speed will kill your conversion rate.
A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
He follows that with this example:
If an e-commerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year.
The simple solution to faster website speed is caching.
W3 Total Cache is hands down the best caching plugin for WordPress.
This caching plugin uses a simple user interface to control the hard backend coding to make your site load more efficiently.
Before you set up W3 total cache you can get a benchmark from Pingdom to measure your current page speed.
Here’s a video tutorial that walks you through optimizing your W3 Total Cache settings.
- Page cache
- Minify CSS, JS and HTML
- Database cache
- Object cache
- Browser cache
Here’s the history of Money Journal’s page speed after installing the W3 Total Cache plugin.
We live in a world of speed and convenience.
If your website’s load time is going to give you an extra edge to convert more visitors into paying customers, then why not improve your site’s performance?
13. WP Smush
If you’ve made it this far, then you know that I use a lot of images.
You’ve seen more than 30 images and they should have all loaded before you arrived here.
WP Smush optimizes images for WordPress and it’s super easy to use.
Once the plugin is installed, Smush.it compresses your images to make the file size smaller without compromising the quality of the image.
No further set up is required.
But you might be wondering:
What about all of the existing images on my blog?
Smush.it has a bulk image optimization feature.
Just hover over media in your WordPress admin and select “Bulk Smush.it”. Then run your images through the smushing machine.
14. Better WordPress Minify
Yet another page speed plugin, but one that shouldn’t be ignored.
If you’ve run your site through Google’s PageSpeed Insights, then you’ve seen the word “minify”.
Minification removes all of the unnecessary characters from the website’s source code allowing it to process requests quicker without compromising function.
Here’s what minified CSS looks like:
Pretty ugly right?
But here’s the good news:
The Better WordPress Minify plugin does all of the work for you.
You can fully customize exactly which scripts get minified and which files are ignored.
Here’s how it’s done for optimal performance:
- Install Better WordPress Minify.
- Navigate to the new menu in your WordPress admin (BWP Minify).
- Check the boxes “Minify JS files automatically” and “Minify CSS files automatically”.
- Test your site for functional and aesthetic errors. You will likely see some, so not to worry.
- Find the files that are causing the problem. For example, if you notice that your site’s CSS is broken, it is likely from your main style sheet.
- Go to the “Manage enqueued files” tab.
- Find the file. Click select. Choose “not minify”.
This plugin can take some time to configure perfectly, but the rewards are well worth it.
After toying around with the plugin, my site’s page speed dropped 0.5 seconds. It doesn’t sound like much, but the extra boost in performance helps convert visitors into subscribers.
Time to Boost your Conversion Rate
I’ve given you my best WordPress plugins that help me convert visitors into sales, leads and long term evangelists.
But let’s be real:
There isn’t a single plugin out there that’s going to hand results to you on a silver platter.
Conversion rate optimization requires testing, measuring and data analysis.
So here’s what I’ve done:
I’ve put together an exclusive video just for this post to give you the in depth step-by-step procedure on how I create perfect cohesion using my favorite plugins.
Click the image below and enter your email to get access to this exclusive video.
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