No matter how long have you experienced WordPress, selecting an optimal plugins among thousands of available one requires a lot of time for researching and even testing. In the following article, I would suggest a list of best free plugins you should have to optimize your WordPress website for better SEO and Speed improvement.
1) Thumbnail Upscale — this allows you to over-ride the stupid WordPress bult-in function to “disable” your servers natural capability with ImageMagik of “enlarging” your images to fit featured blocks/sliders.
2) Auto Post Thumbnail PRO — paid plugin which allows us to have some of our network content automatically pull from “first image in post” even if from our main hub, and make it the featured image. Awesome if converting to theme from OLD theme which used the TimThumb plugin.
3) WP-Optimize — awesome for regular optimization of dbase to clean house, on spam comments not deleted, trashed posts, and normal database clean up.
4) YOAST WordPress SEO — while we used to have an inhouse plugin for this, Yoast has done great job of putting it all together for managing meta data on global and per-post basis, setting up SEO for home page, and also OG tags for social media.
5) Awesome Weather Widget — we use this on our “state” and local news portals to add a nice local weather box to home page.
6) Limit Login Attempts — this should be built-in to WP, frankly. It helps stop people from sitting there and guessing user passwords or using a bot to hit it over and over. With IP blocking and tracking. Essential!!
7) WP External Links — in our case we need to make the majority of outbound links “rel=nofollow” and this does that automatically.
8) Auto-hyperlink URLs — we use this to control auto-linking of URLs in text, since we pull in a lot of content with visible but not anchor linked URLs in news text from our main hub. This makes all the links live, but also makes them rel=nofollow and open in blank/new window. Can also add external link icon if desired.
9) Simple Local Avatars — already noted in my optimization notes; this awesome little plugin allows you to load/cache GRAVATARS locally, as well as use local images for author pix, which will work on sidebar author blocks, author page, and in author box bottom of posts as it hooks into the main “author image” gravatar hooks; so anything which can read the normal WP gravatar image will work with this.
10) *lazy loading disqus” (not actual plugin name…) — we’re testing a recently launched plugin which uses Disqus API but loads element async and deferred and optimized to load after content and not slow down page.
Hope that helps somebody!!