15 WordPress Plugins No Content Marketer Should Live Without

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When it comes to websites, you’ll agree with me that WordPress is one of the most popular choices for blog content marketers and general bloggers like us. I use it and many of the most successful marketers, bloggers, and business owners I know use it, too.

In fact, the usage statistics for WordPress might surprise you. They certainly surprised me.

Here’s an example of what I mean: Did you know that over half of all sites using a known content management system (CMS) are powered by WordPress?

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According to statistics, WordPress powers 24.8% of all websites – or roughly 75 million sites total by some guestimates. And it’s not just individual bloggers who rely on it – 48% of Technorati’s top 100 blogs are built with WordPress.

That’s a huge market share. It makes sense to me.

When you consider the many advantages of WordPress, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular:

  • It’s easily customized  and changeable by installing new WordPress themes to change your site’s appearance.
  • It keeps blog content well-organized and managed.
  • For most users, it’s pretty easy to use and has a fairly short learning curve.
  • It has a large, generous and truly helpful user community.
  • Lots of WordPress developers are available to help with more complex tasks.

I think one of the biggest reasons behind WordPress’s popularity is its extendibility. In other words, it’s easy to add tons of functionality to a WordPress site by simply installing plugins.

WordPress plugins are basically small bits of code that are easily added to the installation of core WordPress files and which add specific functions to your site, either for your users or for you (i.e., in your Dashboard).

In many cases there are external webmaster tools, apps and other solutions that can accomplish the same goal or function.

For instance, you can create landing pages with Leadpages.net – so why would you choose a plugin instead?

Of course, the answers depend on who you ask. But like many bloggers and marketers, I often find plugins easier to use, since they’re specific to WordPress, which I’m already familiar with.

Also, you can generally tell how well-tested, well-developed, and well-supported a plugin is by looking at the user feedback it’s received. Some bloggers and site owners simply find it more convenient to stay inside the WordPress Dashboard.

The choice is yours. But if you’re one of the many who find WordPress useful and user-friendly, this article was written with you in mind.

Below, you’ll find a list of 15 types of plugins that make your job as a content marketer easier and your blog content more effective.  I’ll tell you which plugins can take care of each job and why they’re important for content marketers.

Some of these plugins work by increasing your conversion rate, while others may reduce your bounce rate, improve search rankings or create more engagement with your readers.

Learn how I grew my search engine traffic 51% in 3 months by leveraging some of these WordPress plugins.

Most of these WordPress plugins are free, though some have premium versions available for paid subscription or purchase. They’re part of an essential toolbox that, in my opinion, no content marketer should be without.

1.  Security Tools

Why It’s Important: Your website or blog is a valuable business asset that deserves to be protected.

Hackers can cause a lot of damage. While WordPress itself is secure, WordPress sites can be vulnerable to hackers for a number of reasons.

According to one set of statistics, more than 70% of all WordPress installations are vulnerable. That’s pretty frightening.

These statistics have been questioned by many WP experts. But, it’s a fact that WordPress sites are frequently targeted by hackers.

Of course, “targeted” doesn’t mean “insecure.” But no site is 100% secure, regardless of how well it’s built.

I know that one of the easiest ways WordPress hackers gain entry to your site is through outdated core files. That’s why you should always update core WordPress files after a new release is issued.

Believe it or not, though, plugins are actually the major source of all vulnerabilities in WordPress.

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I think we can all agree that hacked sites are bad for business and do all kinds of damage to your site, your brand and your bottom line.

For instance, one popular aim of WordPress hackers is to insert spam links for counterfeit luxury goods, medications, or “performance-enhancing” substances.

Other hacks take control of the domain and redirect all incoming traffic to porn sites.

Even if a successful hacker doesn’t cause damage your visitors can actually see, your site, brand and reputation can still suffer.

One of the worst forms of “invisible” damage that hackers do results in your pages becoming blacklisted entries in Google search engine results pages (SERPs).

In other words, a search user looks for pages just like yours in Google. But instead of seeing a compelling description and enticing headline, the user sees a big, frightening warning to stay away from your site.

Over 40% of all U.S. small businesses have been hacked, according to a 2013 survey conducted by the National Small Business Association, with average remediation costs per company of $8,700.

“Soft costs,” such as lost profits and the damage to your brand are much harder to put a pricetag on.

The bottom line is this: You and I can’t afford to leave our sites open to hackers. While WordPress itself is fairly secure, there are lots of things we can do to “harden” that security.

A solid security plugin is a must. Add to that a WordPress plugin that limits login attempts, and you’ll have a secure webmaster tool that makes it much harder for hackers to take over your valuable website and ruin all of your hard work.

Specific Plugins:  Limit Login Attempts is a plugin that protects against brute force attacks by limiting the number of attempted logins and making it harder for hackers to guess your password on the login page.

However, Limit Login Attempts hasn’t been updated since 2012, so it may not play nicely with recent WordPress updates.

Instead, look at WP Limit Login Attempts, which does the same thing but is current and updated through the most recent core file update. As of the time of this writing, it enjoys a positive rating of 4.3 out of 5 possible stars.

Wordfence is a comprehensive plugin that manages all of the critical site security issues. It can ban IPs and IP ranges as well as scan your files for problems, on a schedule or on demand. A premium version is available and offers more control and security, though the free version may be all you need.

iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) is another comprehensive security plugin. It has both free and premium “Pro” versions. It also provides two-factor authorization, which experts agree is a security “best practice” and a strong password generator. You can even create temporary sign-in credentials for developers you hire to do specific contract work on your site.

2. Caching

Why It’s Important: A cache plugin can significantly decrease your page load time, which boosts your conversion rate and delivers a better user experience.

Paying attention to your site speed will help you rank better in SERPs and grow your business.

It’s no surprise to most marketers and bloggers that today’s web users make snap decisions about the websites they visit. In fact, statistics tell us that the average person today has an 8 -second attention span  – shorter than that of the average goldfish!

Your users’ attention spans aren’t nearly as long as you might think.

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Your users also have certain expectations of you and your site. In fact, a recent research study says that 47% of users expect a site to load in two seconds or less.

That’s not just for sites they’ve never seen before, by the way. Radware says that over half of all U.S. web shoppers agree that they’ll abandon a purchase – even if they’re in the middle of the checkout process – if the site is too slow.

Over time, that can really put a chokehold on your sales and revenue.

As I’ve said before, page load time is also one of the ranking factors used by search engines such as Google in ranking your pages in SERPs. Amit Singhal, Principal Engineer with Google’s Search Quality Team, says that a page’s relevance is more important, but your site’s speed is definitely one of the ranking factors.

The good news is that even small improvements to your site speed can result in huge benefits. In fact, speeding up your site by only two seconds can actually double your conversion rate.

One of the best things that you can do for your content marketing strategy and business is to speed up your site. That’s where a good cache plugin comes in.

Here’s how it works: Like many CMSs, WordPress is powered by a database, which can get pretty large if your site’s been around for any length of time and if you’re consistently publishing fresh content on it.

Every time a user comes to one of your pages, the content is generated dynamically. When the same user comes to the same page later on, the page gets generated fresh again – even if there’s been no change to the page.

That’s an unnecessary drain on resources.

You can cut that page load time significantly by creating a static version of the page – i.e., a version that doesn’t make a new request to the database every single time a visitor lands on that page.

Caching plugins create those static versions of your pages, which can help speed up your site overall. In fact, a good cache plugin can actually speed up your WordPress site by a factor of ten.

Specific Plugins: The two most popular caching plugins are W3 Total Cache and  WP Super Cache. Both of these plugins deliver a crucial boost of speed to your site’s pages and either of them will help decrease page load time.

3. Analytics

Why It’s Important: If you want to make the right decisions for your brand and your business and master online marketing, then you need data.

In my experience, hard, reliable data about your users and how they behave on and interact with your site is critical to making smart marketing decisions. Everything you can think of that concerns your online marketing strategy and tactics depends on accurate user data for your site.

Without that data, you can’t tell what’s working on your website – and maybe even more importantly, what’s not working. Good, reliable data is one of the most important webmaster tools in the content marketing toolbox.

Analytics tell you so many useful things about your site, your blog content, and your users:

  • Where your users are located and other demographic data
  • What devices they’re using to access your site
  • What pages they land on most
  • What pages make them leave your site quickly

As WordPress users, you and I have lots of sources to choose from when it comes to analytical data about our sites and users. Google Analytics is one of the most popular choices for content marketers and bloggers and I think it’s surprisingly robust for a free service.

It’s fairly simple to install on your WordPress site, but it’s even easier with a plugin. You’ll also find the basic data that Google Analytics provides is easy to access, use, and understand.

Beyond the basics, you’ll get a wide variety of data – link tracking, conversion rates and goal setting, A/B testing and even real-time insights from your users.

You don’t need to sign up for multiple accounts if you want to track data for more than one website. A single dashboard lets you add and track multiple sites.

There are some perceived drawbacks. It’s from Google, so you’ll be sharing your data with Google. Some folks don’t want to do that, for a variety of reasons.

Moreover, because of the depth and breadth of what it can do, there’s a bit of a learning curve you’ll have to master if you want to get the full benefit from the more advanced functions of Google Analytics.

However, for basic data such as bounce rates and traffic source data, most new Google Analytics users have few problems getting started.

Specific Plugins: Google Analytics by Yoast,  Google Analyticator, and  Google Analytics Dashboard are all popular choices for bloggers and site owners who want to tap into the powerful data that Google Analytics provides.

4. A/B Testing

Why It’s Important: Let’s take a short quiz. Answer the following questions, if you can:

  • What’s the best background color for your call to action buttons?
  • Do your users prefer how-to articles or more in-depth, thought leadership pieces of content?
  • Where’s the best place to put your email subscription form on your home page?

If you’ve read any of my in-depth articles about content marketing before, you probably already know that these are all trick questions. The answer to each is pretty much the same: “The only way to know for sure is to test.”

Split testing in a thoughtful, strategic manner helps you to know for sure which of two or more options produces the best result.  If you’re testing two options, it’s called an A/B test. If you’re testing three or more options against each other, it’s called multivariate testing.

Split testing isn’t as simple as many bloggers and marketers seem to think that it is. In fact, it’s easy to make mistakes with A/B tests or multivariate tests that, if you’re not careful, can result in design alterations that don’t really change your conversion rate or grow your business at all.

Plugins make the process of A/B testing easier on WordPress blogs, so you can concentrate on the strategy and the specifics of your test.

Specific Plugins: Nelio AB Testing is a premium WordPress plugin that routinely gets mentioned in “best of” lists by WordPress bloggers. A full list of its features is available on the company’s website.

Simple Page Tester has both free and premium versions available. The premium version offers full conversion tracking and statistical analysis.

Title Experiments Free only tests article titles. The company does have a premium version, WP Experiments Pro, that gives more advanced testing for your content.

Marketing Optimizer for WordPress is especially useful for those who subscribe to the Marketing Optimizer software service but you don’t have to be a subscriber to enjoy its benefits. It integrates with Gravity Forms and is compatible with all the major caching plugins.

5. Email Subscription Form Management

Why It’s Important: How many times have you heard The money’s in the list” or some version of that statement? Well, there’s a reason that it’s a cliché – and that’s because it’s true.

According to HubSpot’s marketing statistics, businesses that nurture their leads through email generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a reduced cost of 33%.

Your job, as a smart blog content marketer, is to ignore vanity metrics and focus on getting your prospects into your sales funnel. The beginning of that funnel is your email list.

So it stands to reason that one of the most important things that you can do is to convert visitors into email list subscribers.

Email marketing ROI is pretty spectacular. In fact, the Direct Marketing Association found that, on average, email marketing nets $40 for every $1 spent.

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Email outperforms display advertising and social media advertising. It even does better than both combined.

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You can only grow your email list after you make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your list.

Specific Plugins:WP Subscribe Pro is a highly recommended plugin that integrates with and supports MailChimp, Aweber, and Feedburner. It offers popup animations and color controls, doesn’t add to page load time and is responsive on all platforms, including mobile, with no additional coding required.

Bloggers and marketers who use the default WordPress comment form will especially like Newsletter Sign-up, which prompts users to opt into your mailing list while leaving a comment. Newsletter Sign-up works with most third-party email marketing services, like Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, Aweber, iContact and more.

6. SEO & Sitemaps

Why It’s Important:  Put simply, search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial for blog content marketers who want any traffic from organic search results.

As a smart marketer, you have to pay attention to current SEO best practices and separate the search optimization myths from the reality.

Much of your SEO efforts will take place on the page itself – i.e., “on-page SEO.”

Even though some on-page techniques that used to have a huge effect on SEO are no longer quite so important, they may still have an impact on your search traffic.

For instance, meta tags have a number of uses, some of which will affect your users. The page description is pulled into SERPs. That’s a great opportunity to attract search users and persuade them to click over to your page!

According to Survey Monkey, 43.2% of people click on a given result based on the meta description alone. Title tags are likewise important.

WordPress by itself doesn’t give you an easy way to control these and other aspects of on-page SEO. Some premium WordPress themes add SEO controls to the new post page, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need an SEO plugin.

Site and search optimization led to a 15% increase in average order value for Café Britt, a specialty coffee and chocolate B2C company.

You’ll also want to take advantage of sitemaps. Sitemaps won’t actually help your pages rank more highly in SERPs. But, they’ll help make your pages visible more quickly to search users.

Think of sitemaps as a guide that give more information about your site to Google and in the process helps to ensure that all of your URLs are properly indexed for easy crawling.

Casey Henry experimented a little to find out exactly what effect a Google sitemap had on search indexing. He installed Google XML Sitemaps plugin on a client’s website, then compared the time it took Google to index new pages before and after the plugin installation.

Surprisingly, it was a significant difference.

Before installation, it took Google 1,375 minutes to index a new page:

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But after, it took only 14 minutes for Google to index new pages:

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The faster Google indexes your pages, the sooner it can start sending search traffic your way.

Specific Plugins: Without a doubt, the two biggest players in the WordPress SEO plugin game are Yoast SEO and All In One SEO Pack. You don’t need both, but either one is almost sure to satisfy your needs as a content marketer and blogger. Both Yoast and All in One are free.

Squirrly offers both a free version and premium version. The free version is sufficient for blogs publishing about five articles a month. If you publish blog content more frequently, you’ll need the premium “Pro” version, which offers more for a monthly subscription fee.

Google XML Sitemaps is the choice of many bloggers and WordPress site owners for sitemaps. It automates the process of sitemap generation with just a few clicks.

LinkPatrol monitors all outgoing links to let you know if a site you’re linking to is spammy, which can in turn damage your own SEO efforts. There’s a one-time fee for its use, which includes one year of support and updates.

7. Mobile Responsiveness

Always on the phone.

Why It’s Important: If mobile is the future, then the future is here, right now.

An impressive 65% of Americans own and use smartphones. Those numbers aren’t much different all over the world. A We Are Social study shows that 50% the world’s population has a mobile phone and that there are 9 new mobile phone users added every second.

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People with mobile devices aren’t just browsing. They’re also shopping. Mobile e-commerce is also on the rise.

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With numbers like that, it’s no surprise that Google led the charge towards encouraging the entire web to get “mobile friendly.” Earlier this year, it announced that beginning in April 2015, it would start giving a boost to sites that were mobile-ready – or “responsive” – in search results.

What does having a responsive site design really mean? Let’s allow Google to provide a definition for us:

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So, a responsive site is one that displays well on a variety of mobile devices with a minimum of adjustments (e.g., resizing, scrolling, panning, and zooming).

Why did Google make this change to its algorithm? Well, Google knows that user experience on mobile devices suffers without responsive design and we already know that Google is all about its users.

What that means for the owner of a non-responsive site is ultimately a higher bounce rate and a lower conversion rate, which will eventually lower SERP rankings and decrease search traffic.

Increasingly many WordPress themes, both free and premium, are designed to be responsive. Thankfully, it’s pretty simple to check and see if your current WordPress theme is one of them or that you’ll need some help from a good WordPress plugin.

First, go to MobileTest.me, and choose one of the images to select a mobile device.

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Next, plug your site URL into the search box and click on the “go” button.

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If you pass the mobile-friendly test, you’ll see a page like this:

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If your site fails the Mobiletest.me challenge, don’t worry! There’s a very simple fix and it’s called WPTouch.

WPTouch is a plugin that gives you a fast, simple way to make your site responsive on a wide variety of mobile devices and improve your mobile user experience.

There are free and premium versions available, with the main difference between them being a greater degree of control over the aesthetic elements of your site with the premium version.

Specific Plugins: WPTouch is the way to go if your theme isn’t responsive already.

8. Editorial Calendar

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Why It’s Important: One of the most important things you can do to turbo-charge your marketing and increase engagement is to create a blog content strategy.

According to Content Marketing Institute, only 27% of B2C content marketers have a documented content strategy. You can start that documentation process by creating and following an editorial calendar.

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An editorial calendar is just a document of some kind (e.g., spreadsheet, actual calendar, plain text file, etc.) that lets you know ahead of time what blog content you’re going to publish on specific dates for a certain length of time – i.e., a week, a month, or more.

It tells you what topic to research and which facts, data and case studies you need to gather for that piece of content.

An editorial calendar is a good way to ensure you’re publishing the right kind of blog content in a deliberate, thoughtful and strategic way

Remember that the more content you can publish on a consistent basis, the more opportunities you have to reach your target audience and persuade them to buy from you. Editorial calendars actually increase your productivity and your impact by imposing deadlines and structure.

A good editorial calendar that’s consistently maintained and updated gives you a bird’s-eye-view of all your content marketing efforts and helps you visualize all your blog content at a glance.

Garrett Moon from CoSchedule put it best:

A content marketing editorial calendar gives you a framework for being deliberate and intentional about how you are reaching and building trust with your audience. In part, it is a strategic marketing tool. In another way, it is a place to keep your team organized and on top of things. Both of these things are going to be very important as you move ahead.

In my opinion, better content comes from being thoughtful and intentional about meeting your audience’s needs and desires. Smart tools, including editorial calendars, can help you achieve those goals.

Specific Plugins: Editorial Calendar is the WordPress plugin I’d recommend for those bloggers and content marketers looking for a full-featured solution that works in the WordPress environment. It’s well-reviewed with a rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars on the WordPress Plugin Repository.

Editorial Calendar lets you drag and drop items to move them around in your calendar and even lets you edit blog content right from the calendar interface. You can see the plugin in demo form at Zach’s WordPress Sandbox.

Another option, Content Scheduler, helps you determine when content “expires,” what events take place when that happens and what happens with the content after expiration. You can also use Content Scheduler to notify team members and content contributors when blog content expires.

9. Social Sharing

Why It’s Important: Did you know that 76% of US web users say that social media impacts their purchasing decisions?

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Even if you’re a complete beginner to social media marketing, you probably already know you’ll need a social media strategy that works.

That means you can’t ignore social media and hope to achieve the kind of online presence that will grow your brand and improve your bottom line.

Any workable social media marketing strategy should include ways to make it as easy as possible for your users to share the blog content you create.

Forcing users to open up a new tab or window in their browser, hunt for your Twitter handle or Facebook page, copy and paste the URL, etc., will only decrease your social shares.

Those social shares – or social signals – are crucial to developing your brand and reaching your target audience. They may not pass direct link juice to your pages, but they do serve a critical purpose in your overall content marketing strategy.

Of all the social media tools that experts recommend you use in social media marketing, the most crucial is a set of attractive, functional social sharing buttons on each of your content pages.

Specific Plugins: WordPress bloggers and content marketers have a host of plugins to choose from when it comes to social sharing. Each of them have their share of fans and critics. You may have to experiment a bit to find the plugin that works best for you.

Share Buttons by AddToAny allows you to display share buttons in the sidebar as well as above and below every content piece. Within your WordPress theme, you can also customize the number of social networks you want to show your visitors.

Floating Social Bar lets you display buttons for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. It has a minimal impact on your page load time since it doesn’t actually load the social media scripts from the start, showing instead only a “replica image” initially.

 

10. Social Account Buttons

Why It’s Important: Smart content marketers who are savvy about social media marketing know that it’s not enough to just enable social sharing.

You also want to give new readers easy access to your social profiles, so they can find more of your blog content.

Ideally, you want to give them that access at the moment where they’re most likely to want to take advantage of it – that is, after reading your longer content pieces and presumably finding them useful.

Adding to your fan base on Facebook or your follower count on Twitter, for instance, extends your reach dynamically, by exposing you to their audiences.

That in turn gives you more opportunities to engage with your community and create those social signals that drive more traffic back to your “home base” – your website.

Specific Plugins: The Social Links covers the main networks – Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram. You can also purchase access to about 20 more social networks for $5 via The Social Links Pack.

Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget boasts dozens of supported networks. It also has a color picker to customize the background color of the icons. You can even change the color on hover for an eye-catching special effect.

Social Profile Linking integrates with about 20 sites, including the “Big 7” (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn). You can add the buttons via  shortcode, PHP, or a widget anywhere a widget is supported by your theme.

11. Comment Management

Why It’s Important: I guess that commenting system plugins aren’t required for content marketers, strictly speaking, since WordPress already comes with a perfectly adequate commenting system right out of the box.

But I think it’s important to mention them because they can provide two highly valuable assets to a content marketer: more user insights and a better user experience.

Commenting systems operate on the basis of accounts – not just yours, as the blogger or site owner, but also on those of your users/commenters.

So with Disqus, for example, you can find out comments that they’ve left on other sites. If any of those sites are related to your niche, you might want to reach out to them for a guest blog post opportunity.

Another WordPress plugin that provides extra value is in a special subcategory of “commenting plugins.” CommentLuv is the well-known adage of “the Golden Rule” in action.

We all know the Golden Rule, right? It simply tells us to treat others as we’d like them to treat us. That’s great advice anywhere, but it’s especially good advice for content marketers.

As content marketers, we want people to share our content. CommentLuv gives a nice little bit of exposure to those users of yours who go to the trouble of leaving a comment, by sharing their own new post in your comment section. In turn, it also encourages other users to leave useful comments on your content pages.

This takes up very little real estate on the page, while at the same time adding value to your commenters and to your users overall, exposing them to other bloggers, content creators and new posts they might not have heard of otherwise.

It’s a nice way to give a little recognition back to the people who go the extra mile and leave a useful comment on your site, increasing your engagement and social proof, and helping you attract a more loyal audience in the process.

Specific Plugins:

The two best-known commenting system plugins are Disqus and Livefyre. Both plugins sync all comments back up to your database, so they won’t disappear from the archive of your WordPress theme if you decide to deactivate the plugin or try another option.

CommentLuv is developed by Andy Bailey and has both a free and a premium version available.

12. Related Posts

Why It’s Important: One of the biggest problems many bloggers and content marketers struggle with is the challenge of the lost reader.

This happens every time a new user comes to your site, reads your content, likes it and finds it useful – and then leaves your site without commenting, subscribing to your list, browsing the rest of your content or buying anything.

This is a bounce rate problem and it happens when you don’t give that user anywhere else to go.

To put it simply, a related-posts plugin gives those users somewhere else to go on your site.

The longer you can keep those users on your site, the better your chances of converting them into email list subscribers and customers or clients. That makes sense, right?

It’s sort of the same principle behind making sure you place internal links in your blog content that lead to your own pages. It provides additional exposure to the rest of your content, but it also does so much more.

Most importantly, related blog posts help reduce a high bounce rate.

Bounce rate can be defined as “the percentage of single-page visits” out of all visits.

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In other words, it’s the number of visits in which a user comes to one of your pages, then leaves without visiting any other pages on your site.

Or as Avinash Kaushik colorfully put it: “I came, I puked, I left.”

Google sees a high bounce rate as an indication that your users aren’t finding relevant information on that page, which could then reduce your search rankings.

There are a number of ways to reduce your bounce rate but one of the simplest is to give them somewhere else to go at the end of the article they’re reading.

These WordPress plugins add a handful of suggested blog posts at the end of your article, based on the content of that article, on the theory that if the user was interested in that topic, they might also be interested in other articles on that same topic.

It’s similar to Amazon’s “customers who bought this item also bought….” carousel and operates on the same principle.

Did you ever wonder why Amazon does that? Sure, it’s because they want to be helpful to their users – but it’s also because giving their customers other related options increases their sales and revenue.

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The match of “related posts” to displayed post isn’t always perfect, but if you take the time to write the best, most clickable headlines you can, each and every time, you’ll encourage the user to stick around and read more.

Specific Plugins: Yet Another Related Posts Plugin was updated last in May 2015, not as recently as others on this list, and has a rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars. However, it also has a number of 1-star reviews, so you’ll want to test it out thoroughly within your WordPress theme to make sure it works for you.

Contextual Related Posts enjoys higher ratings, more positive reviews and has also been more recently updated.

Editorial Assistant by Zemanta is definitely worth a look. It pulls related posts from your own blog and also from its network, so be aware that some of the results on certain pages could go to sites other than your own. However, it does feature some added benefits that could prove useful, including sharing your links on other people’s blogs as well as providing a library of free-to-use images that you can include in your content.

13. Rich Snippets

Why It’s Important: It’s no secret that Google is always looking for new ways to provide the best, most helpful, and most authoritative content for its users. Rich snippets definitely fit that category.

Introduced in 2009, rich snippets are little pieces of markup code for your web pages that get displayed on search listings as extra information.

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They can enhance your listing and increase search traffic by drawing the search user’s eye to your listing and instantly establishing that your page is a better “fit” for their needs.

Rich snippets are currently supported for the following kinds of content:

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The plugins I’ve listed below will take care of the coding part of the rich snippets equation. However, the final decision as to whether the rich snippet displays for your pages is entirely up to Google, so the plugin isn’t a guarantee.

Specific Plugins: Three rich snippets plugins you can try out are WPReview, Rich Snippets WordPress Plugin, and Google SEO Pressor for Rich Snippets.

All three can take care of the markup code, although you should be aware that Rich Snippets isn’t free (it currently costs $12), and Google SEO Pressor has very mixed reviews.

14. Calls to Action

Call to Action

Why It’s Important: It’s estimated that somewhere around 70% of all B2B small business websites don’t have a single call to action on the homepage. They’re really missing the boat, I think.

Calls to action (CTAs) aren’t optional for business anymore. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do whether that’s subscribe to your email list, sign up for a free trial or make a purchase.

The most effective way to include a CTA on your site’s pages is by creating clickable buttons with clear, succinct copy telling your reader what to do next.

Even a simple change in the background color for your CTA button can make a big difference, as Performable discovered – changing their CTA button color from green to red led to a 21% increase in conversion rate.

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You don’t need to be a great designer to include a dynamic and attractive button within your WordPress theme which will look great on your site. Instead, simply install one of these WordPress plugins to craft your buttons for each page.

There’s no one single rule for crafting effective calls to action – just guidelines and examples you can try out. As I’ve said before, the only way to know for sure is to test out variations on your own site.

Plugins also have the advantage of enabling you to change colors and copy so that you can easily split test variations to find out for sure what works best for you and your brand.

Specific Plugins:MaxButtons is one of the more popular CTA plugin choices around. With it, you can craft attractive CSS3 buttons to be used anywhere on your WordPress site. It features a user-friendly button editor that makes it super easy to create beautiful CTA buttons in a snap.

Contact Form and Calls to Action by vCita isn’t as widely reviewed as Max Buttons, but it’s a solid choice. It helps you actively encourage your site users to engage with you, is fully mobile responsive, and can even double your number of generated leads.

WP Calls to Action not only helps you create calls to action on your site but also lets you monitor and track conversion rates, run an AB split test on your CTAs, and generate more leads.

15. Landing Pages

landing page

Why It’s Important: If you want to generate more leads that you can nurture through your email marketing and other parts of your sales funnel, then you need to create high-converting landing pages.

A landing page is simply any page that you publish that’s created specifically to “close the deal” – that is, persuade a reader to sign up for your list, agree to a free trial, or make a purchase.

In other words, landing pages are designed solely for conversion.

According to The Landing Page Course, “Landing pages live separately from your website and are designed to only receive campaign traffic. …  this separation allows them to be focused on a single objective and makes analytics, reporting & testing a simpler task.”

They help focus the user’s attention very quickly on a specific call to action by promoting a quick, positive first impression.

According to an eye-tracking study reported by ConversionXL, it takes 2.6 seconds for a user’s eyes to land on the critical part of your page design.

Ion Interactive says it happens even more quickly than that – 1/20th of a second.

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You don’t have a whole lot of time to convince them to take the next step. That’s why landing pages are so useful.

Landing pages are essential tools in your content marketing toolbox. If you don’t get those prospective customers into your sales funnel and convert them into actual customers, you’re wasting your time, no matter how useful your content is.

For instance, Conversion Rate Experts generated $1,000,000 million for Moz with a single landing page and a few emails.

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There are lots of WordPress theme tools available that can help you create, build, and improve upon high-converting landing pages.

Plugins can help you simplify this process and take care of the landing page creation process right from your WordPress theme dashboard.

Specific Plugins: Zedity lets you create pages of any kind without any coding whatsoever, perfect for those who are new to WordPress or don’t know CSS and HTML. You can also use Zedity to add boxes or call outs anywhere on any page, even if your WordPress theme doesn’t natively support these features.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that there’s some risk to adding plugins to your WordPress site, especially when it’s done carelessly.

For instance, there’s always the potential for conflicts between a new plugin and one you’ve been using. Additionally, WordPress plugins that aren’t consistently updated can break your site, creating ugly error messages that confuse and repel visitors.

Moreover, there’s always a risk of malicious code in a plugin. Spammers and hackers often use plugins to gain unauthorized entry to your site and do some damage to it via malware, spam links, or malicious redirects.

Plugins can also slow down your site, sometimes dramatically. What I do is simply check my page load time after I install a new plugin. That way I know for sure whether the new plugin is slowing my pages down.

All of these risks can be managed by simply doing your research and due diligence, reading unbiased reviews and only selecting tested and positively reviewed plugins that will work well within your WordPress theme.

Plugins that are actively developed and maintained by responsible developers, and that play well with other plugins and core files, are indispensable for content marketers.

The plugins mentioned here can help you increase your conversion rate, lower your bounce rate, and get more search traffic and social signals.

Do you have a favorite plugin that I didn’t mention here?

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