Updated: February 14, 2020
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Quality journalism brings readers to independent news websites, but the technology behind the scenes is what keeps top publishers in business. As the most popular content management system in the world, WordPress powers more than 75 million sites, from personal blogs to major news outlets. Successful publishers have taken the platform a step further by adding WordPress plugins for additional functionality.
Designed for the publishing community, these small bits of software expand WordPress’ functionality in ways that help increase revenue and improve the user experience. From creating events calendars and business directories, to selling subscriptions, WordPress plugins are vast and varied. And as entrepreneurial publishers look to diversify their sources of revenue beyond traditional advertisements, these plugins are playing a more central role.
Here are the best plugins publishers should be using to accelerate the grow of their sites.
The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe offers publishers a way to add fully responsive calendars to their websites. In addition to a professional look, which can be customized to reflect more of a publisher’s existing theme, calendars have advanced functionality. For example, events can be organized and labeled by category. Events, venues, and organizers can also be bulk imported to the calendar as a time saving feature. When coupled with the Events Calendar Pro add-on, the WordPress plugin provides additional functionality like recurring events.
Looking for a new way to monetize your WordPress website? With Event Publisher PRO, from Web Publisher PRO, you can add event listings to any website. Event Publisher PRO utilizes self-serve tools, so local organizations and readers themselves can submit their own event listings. Publishers have the option to charge for event listings or keep basic listings free. Numerous upselling opportunities are available for businesses that want to highlight their event listings with larger images or bolded text. Individual calendar events can also be linked to related content, which promotes engagement and keeps readers organically moving through the website.
The Memberful plugin integrates WordPress websites with the Memberful platform, making it especially easy for publishers to sell memberships to their audiences. The plugin automatically syncs Memberful membership data to WordPress, and it generates a website widget with links for members to sign-in and manage their accounts. A single sign-on feature is also a useful way for publishers to enhance the online experience by keeping their members automatically signed into WordPress when they sign in to Memberful. Memberful works with Stripe and Mailchimp, in addition to WordPress.
Broadstreet makes it easier for publishers to deliver value to their advertiser clients by adding business directories to their websites. Using the company’s WordPress plugin, existing Broadstreet users can generate portable business directories. Broadstreet’s plugin crawls the web to fill in basic details and photos from local businesses. Once they’re setup, these directories serve as additional sources of revenue for publishers, as businesses are willing to pay to post messages or add images to their profiles. Publishers who are already using Broadstreet can integrate their Broadstreet adserver zones with this plugin, as well.
For independent publishers looking to give their publications the look and feel of a larger news outlet, Co-Authors Plus offers a number of solutions. Using the WordPress plugin, publishers can assign multiple bylines to individual posts and add bylines for guest writers without creating separate user accounts in WordPress. Co-Authors Plus relies on template tags to list co-authors anywhere normal authors are listed on a site, including co-author archive pages and feeds. Custom post types are also available with a search-as-you-type input box. Co-Author Plus can be activated on a site-by-site basis or network-wide.
Diversifying revenue streams often means selling goods online. With WooCommerce’s free plugin, publishers are able to sell both physical and digital goods through their existing WordPress sites. WooCommerce handles the heavy lifting, with automated tools for uploading product variations and sizes, along with shipping calculators and the ability to integrate with more than 140 region-specific payment gateways. Publishers who’ve downloaded WooCommerce’s premium extension can also sell monthly subscriptions, and they can offer their readers discounts on digital downloads.
Google Analytics has become a must-have tool for online news sites. With the Google Analytics plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights, publishers can quickly connect their sites to Google Analytics from inside their WordPress dashboards and see how readers are interacting with their content. Traffic spikes are revealed in real-time, and page-level analytics help publishers discover exactly which stories, sections, and even writers on their websites are generating the most interest at any given time. The Google Analytics plugin also tracks how readers are finding a site and which outbound links are being clicked most frequently.
Publishers who rely on Facebook as a marketing tool can utilize the Instant Articles for WP plugin to distribute content efficiently. Instant Articles for WP adds support for Facebook’s self-hosted Instant Articles, which loads content up to 10x faster than the typical mobile web. Instant Articles preloads articles in the Facebook mobile app, so they load immediately for readers. With the plugin in place, publishers can quickly publish to Instant Articles with valid markups from their articles’ metadata and see the status of each submission as it makes its way through Facebook’s review process.
Created to meet the needs of top digital publishers, Directory Publisher PRO is a proprietary product developed by Web Publisher PRO. WordPress publishers use Directory Publisher PRO to sell directory sponsorships and run display advertising alongside their own unique directories. Directories can be setup to showcase top restaurants, doctors, lawyers, and schools. Publishers have the option to manage directory listings themselves or setup a self-serve portal where business owners and individuals can publish their own content and submit payments for enhanced directory listings. Directories setup with Directory Publisher PRO are mobile responsive, with user-friendly designs.
Webpages published in the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format are more likely to receive prime placement in Google’s mobile search results. The AMP WordPress plugin ensures that the articles on a publisher’s site have dynamically generated AMP-compatible versions, so they’ll load instantly on any device. The plugin creates AMP content by appending /amp/ to the end of post URLs. The AMP WordPress plugin is an open source initiative. Although it comes with a default template, publishers do have the option of adjusting aspects like colors via code.
Having a loyal audience is key to a publication’s growth. The SumoMe WordPress plugin automates reader retention with free tools designed to encourage online visitors to join email lists and share their favorite content. Publishers can create popups or floating bars along the top and bottom of their sites to increase email subscription rates and welcome new visitors. They can also use highlighters to allow readers to quickly tweet popular parts of any article. The SumoMe plugin includes a heat map feature and scroll tracking, which show where people are clicking on a site before they click away.
Publishers interested in improving their search engine rankings can add the Yoast SEO plugin. The plugin handles all technical aspects of search engine optimization to improve the chances of content ranking highly in Google and Bing. A snippet preview feature lets users see renderings of what their pages will look like in search results, while a page analysis feature checks whether alt tags contain focus keywords. Premium users have access to advanced features, like internal link suggestions, content insights, and a redirect manager. Yoast has also developed a News SEO plugin that optimizes sites for Google News using XML News Sitemaps, editors’ picks RSS feeds, and meta news keywords tags.
Hotjar’s WordPress plugin records what visitors are doing on a website to help publishers better understand how their content is being received. Recordings track every click, tap, and move of the cursor as visitors navigate through a site. Heatmaps uncover new opportunities for improvement in site design. Hotjar’s recordings can also help publishers improve the quality of their forms and feedback polls by tracking when and why visitors abandon those forms.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.