In our recent guides, we showed you how to create a WordPress Website for your hotel, how to choose a hotel WordPress theme for your website, and how to collect email addresses from your website visitors to add to your marketing list.
Today, we’re going to show you the top 23 plugins that every hotel website should use*. These plugins give your hotel website added functionality that improve guest experience, and help your website run better.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin
The following plugins can all be found found from WordPress’ plugin marketplace, unless otherwise noted. To install any of these plugins, log into your hotel website’s WordPress dashboard. In the left-hand menu, hover over Plugins and select “Add New”. On the following page, type in the name of your desired plugin into the “Search Plugins” field. When you find a plugin you want, click the “Install Now” button to install it on your website.
Once installed, click “Activate Now” on the resulting page to turn the plugin on. You can then fiddle with settings for plugins individually.
We will have an entire post dedicated to SEO and WordPress later this week. Right now, let’s go over the various plugins you should install to improve your hotel website’s SEO.
Yoast WordPress SEO
Yoast is, in my opinion, the best SEO plugin for WordPress. With Yoast, you can set up rules that auto-generate meta titles and descriptions for all your content. You can generate content-specific sitemaps that help Google index your website. You can alter your permalinks to make them shorter, readable, and Google friendly. Also, it comes with many social media settings to optimize the way your content appears when shared on social media.
All in One SEO
This plugin is a good second-place SEO plugin, compared to Yoast. I list it here because some hosting providers do not allow you to use Yoast and Yoast-related plugins. In those cases, All in One SEO is a good substitute.
Note: Do not use both Yoast and All in One. Choose only one.
Simple 301 Redirects
If you have an old website with lots of content, and if you are moving to a new domain (or are changing URL structure in any way), then you need to use what is called a 301 redirect to maintain your existing search rankings on Google. If you don’t, then Google will lose track of your web pages, forcing you to start earning rankings from scratch.
Simple 301 Redirects allows you to easily create and manage your website’s 301 redirects without you having to open up system files.
Note: Only install this plugin if you are changing domain names or changing URL structure for an existing website. New websites do not need this plugin.
Video SEO by Yoast is a great compliment to Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. With Video SEO, you can generate a video sitemap for Google. It helps videos appear in Google’s video search, and makes videos look better when shared on social media. This plugin is not free.
Note: You can find this plugin directly on Yoast’s website, here. This plugin does not work unless you also use Yoast WordPress SEO, mentioned above. You don’t need this plugin unless you have many videos you want to promote, and if you you plan on making much more video content.
Social Media Plugins
Many plugins exist to help your content look better when shared on social media, and improve social sharing metrics on your website. Here are our favorites:
This plugin add a variety of buttons to your website, encouraging your users to share your content. It includes an optional drop-down social sharing bar, large buttons at the beginning and ends of your blog posts, as well as an aggregate social sharing counter. You can change button styles and colors, and you can make it mobile responsive. This plugin was inspired by the popular social sharing buttons on Mashable.com.
Note: This is not a free plugin. You can download it here. Only use this plugin if you have a blog that you frequently contribute to, and that you use as part of your hotel or inn’s content marketing strategy. To see it in action, scroll to the bottom of this blog post. We use it on the Cloudbeds blog.
Social Locker is a plugin that let’s you “gate” content. For example, let’s say that you published a PDF of local hiking trails. You can use this plugin to hide the PDF behind a social media “gate”, forcing your visitors to like, tweet, or +1 your page on their favorite social media network before they can download your PDF. This is a great way to get more positive social metrics for your content, and to expose it on more social profiles.
Alternatively, some users are turned off by gates. Decide for yourself if this is something you think your visitors will tolerate or happily use.
Note: This is not a free plugin. You can download it from their website, here. This plugin is only useful if you produce lots of quality portable content like PDFs, infographics, and so on. It can also be used to gate videos, recipes, and other pieces of “exclusive” content.
Click to Tweet
Click to Tweet is an attractive free plugin (with a paid version) that places a handy button wherever you want in your content that says “click to tweet”. This is a nice way to improve Twitter interaction on your website.
Note: This is primarily useful for blog content. It will not look good on primary landing pages like photo galleries, booking engines, or your homepage.
Flare is a free social media hoverbar plugin (with a paid version). It produces a nifty hovering bar that shows off the social interactions your pages have earned. It supports dozens of different social networks, making it highly flexible for your needs. It aggregates all social metrics into one number called “flares”, which is an unusual term for social likes that may confuse some users. This is an optional part of the plugin.
Note: This plugin can compliment Mashshare, but it may be overkill on your website to use both plugins. You should choose either Flare or Digg Digg–not both–since they are too similar. This plugin is good for blog content pages, and may not be suitable for your homepage and other primary landing pages.
This plugin is very much like Flare, only it is not quite as slick-looking. However, it may be more compatible with your website, and you may just like it better. Like Flare, it shows viewers how many social metrics individual pages have earned, and allows them to easily like, tweet, and +1 a page.
Note: Use this or Flare–not both–since they are too similar. This may be used in conjunction with Mashshare mentioned above, but this may be social media overkill for your website.
Because WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), hackers and bad people have developed all sorts of exploits for getting into your WordPress website. Install the following security plugins to keep your website safe.
This plugin is the king of WordPress security. It is insanely powerful. Please read a detailed installation guide like this one after installing it on your website, to make sure that you enable optimal settings.
Among other things, this plugin backs up your databases, makes it harder for hackers to guess your username, keeps website files up-to-date, hides administrative parts of your website (like your dashboard) from the public, searches for and quarantines any changes to your website that you did not make, and more.
Akismet helps protect your website from comment spam. A sad truth about the Internet is that people use robots to mass-post comments on blogs and websites like yours. This can hog your server’s resources and bloat the size of your database, decreasing website load performance.
Note: Use Akismet only if you have comments enabled on your website. If disabled, there is no need for this plugin.
Jetpack is a handy jack-of-all-trades plugin by Automattic, the makers of WordPress. It adds many new functions to WordPress. We suggest installing Jetpack and then enabling the following optional functions:
- Enhanced Distribution – Sends your new content to search engines.
- Jetpack Comments – Makes your comments field look better. Allows users to subscribe to comments.
- Mobile Theme – Gives your website a mobile-friendly theme, making your website work on mobile devices.
Note: Only enable Mobile Theme if your website is not already mobile responsive. If it is mobile responsive, then leave this turned off.
- Photon – This option is a free content delivery network (CDN). It takes your images and hosts them on WordPress servers. This makes pages load more quickly, and reduces burden on your server.
- Site Verification – This option makes it easy to verify your website on various 3rd-party services, like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Search Console, and so on.
- Subscriptions – This handy feature creates a sidebar widget that allows your readers to subscribe to your email list. We cover more email list options in our blog post here.
- Tiled Galleries – This creates 4 new gallery options within the native WordPress photo gallery. Some of them are very nice, but they do not work with all themes. Enable it and experiment with it to see if it works for you.
- WP.me Shortlinks – This feature produces a shorter link for every page that you can use to share your content. This is useful for sharing pages with long URLs on Twitter.
- Widget Visibility – This feature allows you to turn some widgets on or off on some pages. This is great for having unique sidebars for your blog and your content pages. For example, let’s say you have a booking engine in your sidebar, but you only want it to appear on your primary landing pages, not your blog. Use Widget Visibility to turn it off on all blog posts.
- WordPress.com Stats – This gives you lots of useful information about your website visitors, including where they came from, which content they viewed, how your traffic is improving over time, and more.
- Vaultpress – This is a paid service that backups your WordPress website. Use it if you do not already backup your website automatically.
Every website needs images, but images are heavy and slow down your website load times. The following plugins help optimize your images to keep your website snappy.
Unveil Lazy Load
Typically, when you visit a web page, your browser loads the entire page, even the stuff at the very bottom that you haven’t seen yet. This plugin hides images that have not been scrolled to yet. When a user scrolls down, the image “reveals” itself by fading it. This causes your user to load images only as he or she needs to see them, which improves website load speed.
EWWW Image Optimizer
This is a powerful plugin that compresses all images on your website, and future ones that you upload. It significantly improves the load speed of all images on your website–especially for images you did not compress before you uploaded them.
Note: Some hosts, like WP Engine, do not allow this plugin because it consumes lots of server resources. For those hosts, there is a paid version called EWWW Image Optimizer Cloud.
Klix Image DimSum
This plugin resizes images to the sizes they are displayed on your website. Sometimes a theme will use a large image, but artificially resize it using code to make it appear smaller. The problem is that you still have to load the larger image, even though you visually see a smaller version. This plugin finds all cases where this happens, and simply resizes the image to fit what is shown, saving space and improving load times.
Caching & Performance
Caching is an important part of keeping a website loading fast. When a user visits your website, your server looks for all the files and code the user requested, and delivers it to him or her. This process takes time and system resources. The problem is that the server does this every time for every person who visits your website. Often, the content each user wants to see is the same. For example, you can get 1,000 different people who visit your homepage in a day–but that homepage doesn’t change at all. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for the server to fetch the same images, content, and code 1,000 times.
This is where caching comes in. Instead of generating a new page for each visitors, the server will generate the page one time and then “cache” the page–which basically saves a snapshot of it. Your server then shows this snapshot to future visitors. This saves your system loads of resources and makes your website load faster for many more visitors.
W3 Total Cache
This plugin is the world’s favorite WordPress caching plugin. It is powerful and complicated. Please find a detailed guide on how to install this correctly for your host, or call your hosting provider and ask them which settings you should enable. This is a handy all-purpose guide for getting this plugin activated correctly.
WP Super Cache
Some hosts like WP Engine do not allow W3 Total Cache because it uses many system resources to work. If your hosting provider does not allow W3 Total Cache, then use WP Super Cache, which is a nice alternative.
Note: Do not use more than one caching plugin. If using W3 Total Cache, do not use WP Super Cache as well.
Quick Cache is a less powerful but much less complicated caching plugin. It gets the job done without you having to worry too much about complex settings. Use this if you are intimidated by W3 Total Cache.
Note: Choose only one caching plugin. Do not install Quick Cache if you are using W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache.
This plugin cleans up your database. Over the course of time, as you install and delete themes and plugins, some entries get left over and just take up space. This plugin cleans your database of unused information that is just taking up space. This improves website load speed. This plugin is compatible with all other plugins.
I hope this comprehensive list of WordPress plugins was helpful. Use it yourself if you’re the type who likes to tinker, or send it to your website admin to implement. These plugins will give your hotel website the added functionality and improved performance it needs to compete in today’s noisy Internet marketplace.
*Note: Every plugin changes the way your WordPress website works. Not all plugins work well together. I have personally tried all of these plugins. They are quality plugins and, for the most part, work well together unless otherwise noted. However, bear in mind that any time you install a new plugin, you might break something. This risk is small, but present. If you do not feel up to the challenge, then please talk with your developer or web host before making any change to your hotel’s WordPress website. Thanks for reading!