WordPress is a highly robust platform for one reason above all others; the sheer range of plugins available to expand functionality. If there’s a feature you want on your WordPress blog, chances are there’s a plugin available to give it to you. Some of these plugins are nearly essential – Akismet for spam prevention, the various firewall and security plugins come to mind – while others are more cosmetic. Some, like the ones listed below, are incredible tools to help you grow your traffic.
What it is: WordPress SEO and All-In-One SEO are the two major competing SEO plugins for WordPress. Yoast is by far the more robust and valuable of the two. Yoast makes several other plugins that add additional features as well, all of which work together seamlessly. WordPress SEO by Yoast contains dozens of SEO optimizations, turning your default WordPress installation into a search powerhouse. You can do everything from automate title tag generation to see keyword densities and optimize your images for search.
How it helps you grow traffic: Yoast’s SEO plugin is second to none when it comes to search optimization. Having a site show up in Google results is essential for growing traffic organically. Every optimization, no matter how minor, helps to put your site ahead of the competition.
WordPress SEO by Yoast has the added benefit of high quality ongoing support. There’s even an excellent guide to WordPress SEO on their site. It contains basically everything you could ever want to know about search optimization, complete with instructions on how to make those optimizations using the plugin. When WordPress or the plugin updates and changes something, the guide is updated.
What it is: Google Analytics is Google’s powerful tracking code. By adding a snippet of code to your site, Google can track and record a huge amount of information about your users, your site performance and various important search metrics. The problem with using it on WordPress is the difficulty in properly adding that snippet of code to WordPress itself. Google Analyticator is a plugin that quickly and easily adds Google Analytics to WordPress, complete with a dashboard that allows you to see some analytics information without leaving your admin control panel. It supports both the old Google Analytics and the new Universal Analytics by default, and it’s very easy to install.
How it helps you grow traffic: Where SEO helps you optimize your site for search engines, Google Analytics helps you optimize your site for users. You’ll be able to see who they are and what they do on your blog. What content is most useful or brings in the most engagement? What are users searching for when they find your site? What are they trying to locate, and are they finding it?
By answering these questions, you can work to streamline the user experience on your site. Further, you can use Google Analytics to get a good idea of who your traffic is. For example, maybe a sizable portion of your traffic comes from mobile users, but they have a much higher bounce rate. This would be a sign that something in your mobile site is unsatisfying, and gives you an opportunity to fix it.
With the demographic and audience information you find through Google Analytics, you can create highly targeted advertisements on both Google AdSense and Facebook. This will further help bring users to your site, ideally converting them into regular readers.
What it is: Once upon a time, Sociable was the go-to plugin for integrating social sharing functionality with WordPress. Eventually, the original creator abandoned the project and it was taken over by Joost de Valk, guru of Yoast. The Yoast version of Sociable was updated, but eventually abandoned as well, when other social sharing plugins with more dedicated teams appeared. AddThis is one of those replacements, and it’s one of the best.
How it helps you grow traffic: Social sharing is essential for growing traffic today. The vast majority of your users can be found on some social network or another, and you need to be able to visit them there to attract their attention. AddThis offers a wide range of social sharing buttons and styles to help your users post your information to social networks.
AddThis has pretty much every style and configuration of social linking buttons out there. Want a sidebar, with images or with site names? Want small icons or larger logos? Want a top bar to scroll with users, or do you prefer static buttons at the bottom of a post? Want buttons configured to follow your page, and other buttons that share individual posts? AddThis does all of this, and more.
Part of the power of AddThis is the sheer range of social networks it supports. Do you run a real estate blog and want to include links to BiggerPockets? How about a site focusing on gaming, with a large following on Gamekicker? Maybe your business is bilingual and you want to cater to the Russian audience on Vkontakte? AddThis includes the ability to link with these and over 300 other social networks, bookmarking sites and blog platforms.
What it is: A sitemap is essentially a table of contents for your website. It shows, in basic link form – or in this case, XML form – a directory of every post and major page on your site, including category pages and navigation. The layout of the sitemap typically follows a logical order, showing pages and their subpages in a distinct layout.
The power of a sitemap comes in discovery. Google can’t index a page on your site if they can’t find it. An XML sitemap is a quick and easy way for Google to find every important page on your site.
How it helps you grow traffic: The Google XML Sitemaps plugin does two things, and two things only. First, it generates an XML sitemap of your site in a format that’s absolutely ideal for Google to crawl and discover your page. You’ll never have a blog post mysteriously fail to be indexed. Second, the plugin automatically pings Google and the other search engines when you post new content. This tells them to come in and index the new content, ensuring that you have as fast an appearance in search as possible.
What it is: Pop-ups have been an annoyance to web users for over a dozen years, and thankfully the most obnoxious have long since gone away. The modern form of pop-up is actually an excellent tool for increasing conversions, when it’s used properly.
Gone are the days of the new window pop-up, which is not only blocked by default in most web browsers, it’s easily ignored or closed before the content fully loads. The modern pop-up is a script that runs on the website itself, displaying a window with a call to action for an ebook download, newsletter signup or anything else you choose to put there.
How it helps you grow traffic: The best way to use a modern pop-up is to trigger it on an exit metric, such as focus loss or motion towards the browser X. This way, it doesn’t get in the way of reading and works as a conversion facilitator. Catch users when they’re intrigued but not quite ready to convert normally, and encourage them to convert quickly and easily.
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