One of the most common questions I see is bloggers asking what WordPress plugins they should use! While part of this is determined by the individual needs of a blog, and any special functions they require, there are many plugins that any blogger can benefit from using. These plugins are my MUST use plugins (and some optional ones) and I install many them with every new WordPress installation I create! These plugins will help keep your blog safe from hackers, your comments free from spammers, your blog loading fast, and help you build traffic and email lists.
Back-end & Utility Plugins
These plugins are the ones that run behind the scenes. They help make your blog fast, safe, and run well. You might not actually physically see what they do, but if you don’t have them you will certainly miss their effects!
Updraft Pro (Free + Paid Option)
This plugin will backup your blog automatically for you! It’s customizable giving you the options to back up your files and database on a schedule that works for you. It will then save a copy of your blog to the server or even email it to you! Trust me, you NEED this plugin. The only time you wish you had a backup is when you need it most! Don’t lose your hard work because you forgot to back up your blog regularly!
Akismet (Free + Sliding Scale Paid Option)
This is hands down the best plugin to keep your comments free from spam! It comes with your WordPress installation so all you need to do is activate it and sign up! This plugin automatically scans your comments for known scammers, you can also customize it to look for certain words or urls. If you have comments enabled on your blog, you need this plugin!
WordFence (Free + Paid Option)
WordPress is the most popular CMS on the internet, that also means it’s a popular target for hackers! WordFence gives you added security by preventing hackers from accessing your site, and alternating you when your site has issues. If you chose the pro version you get access to more advanced features like full featured IP blocking. You never know just how many brute force hack attempts are actually impacting your site until you install a security plugin. WordFence also includes a built-in cache feature, so if you are looking to speed up your site and keep the number of plugins on your blog down, it’s a great option.
WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache or Easy Cache [formerly known as Zen Cache] (Free)
You NEED a cache plugin. Your blog’s speed matters. From Google to your visitors if your site is slow you are losing traffic! Cache plugins help to improve the speed of any site! I don’t have one particular favorite cache plugin, in my experience they all work about the same. Some may have compatibility issues with other plugins, so you may need to use one vs. another for that reason. If you want a really easy to use cache plugin, I recommend Zen Cache (now known as Easy Cache). It’s the easiest to use!
WP Smush (Free w/ Paid Option)
This plugin is another weapon in your arsenal to create the fasted loading blog around. This is a must for any blogger with an image heavy site! This plugin automatically compresses your images so that they load faster and help improve the load time of your site.
Broken Link Checker (Free)
Do you have broken links on your blog? No one wants to go through and check all the links in all the posts you’ve ever posted right? This plugin does it for you! It alerts you to links that are broken and gives you options to help you fix it. It’s a great way to ensure that your SEO is up to task, as Google doesn’t like it when your site is full of broken links (and neither do your readers)!
Optional: SEO Redirect (Free)
This plugin is a must if you’ve ever done anything like change your permalink structure, or change your category names or structure. It will let you redirect all links that are currently giving 404 errors to their correct location. This will help keep more traffic on your site and make Google happy! If you are a new blogger you probably don’t need it, but it’s a great tool if you’ve moved your blog,
SEO, Newsletters & Social Media
Plugins to help you encourage your readers to share your posts on social media, get more email sign ups and improve your blog’s SEO!
Yoast SEO aka WordPress SEO (Free + Paid Options)
This is hands down the best SEO plugin that I’ve used. It gives you everything you need, plus has great tutorials to walk you through setup and usage. I highly recommend this as your SEO plugin. It’s a necessity!
SumoMe (Free + Paid Options)
SumoMe is a powerhouse of a plugin. It has almost everything (and that’s probably only because they haven’t added the rest yet!). The best thing is the most valuable features are all free! You get easy Google analytics integration & dashboard, social sharing icons, customizable banner bars & newsletter or call to action pop ups plus tons more on site analytics data that tells you how your real visitors are using your site! It’s very customizable and offers an array of paid options to further help you customize it’s features!
I can’t recommend this plugin enough!
Update: 7/28/2016: As some SumoMe users may have discovered the hard way, myself included, they no longer pass along your collected email addresses to your newsletter list unless you have the paid version. DO NOT USE THIS PLUGIN TO COLLECT EMAILS FOR YOUR LIST UNLESS YOU WANT TO USE THE PAID VERSION.
This is a great, easy to use plugin to collect email addresses and create a nice popup. It gives you a good amount of design options for a free plugin so you can make it match your blog’s theme and design.
Jetpack is another of my favorite plugins. It has a ton of awesome services. I particularly like to use its stats as a backup for Google Analytics, it’s related post options, and social sharing options. It also has a great image CDN option that will help your site run faster.
Optional: CommentLuv (Free)
This plugin isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is a nice thing to do! I think it’s a nice way to support your commenters, it allows them to leave a link to their most recent blog post (or if you decide to allow it, let them choose a post).
Contact Form 7 (Free)
This is my favorite contact form plugin. It’s easy to use, and flexible. You can easily create contact forms without any coding knowledge and add them to your blog with short-codes.
Optional: Jquery Pinterest Button for Images (Free)
This plugin lets you customize the image that is displayed when you hover over an image to pin it to Pinterest. It’s a great way to add to your blog’s branding.
Plugin Conflict Warning: I’ve been unable to use this plugin on some of my sites due to plugin conflicts. It conflicts with Jetpack, causing images to not load properly when the Jetpack lightbox option is enabled. If you have that issue and have Jetpack installed, this is the troublemaker. As an alternative I use SumoMe. It’s not customizable, but also includes other social network sharing options on your images.
Simple Instagram (Free)
This is a very easy to use plugin that will add your Instagram feed or profile to your site. Just authenticate your account with the plugin and you are ready to go!
ABG Rich Pins (Free)
This plugin makes adding the information for various types of rich pins easy! While you are creating your post you can add the rich pin type, anything from recipe to move! It will then give you the fields to fill in with the information that the Rich Pin will show. It’s a super easy way to get your blog ready for Rich pins!
Optional: IQ Block Country (Free)
This is a great free option to help you keep your site secure and spammers away. This plugin will let you block whatever countries you want from both the front and back-end of your blog and redirect them to a page of your choice (or just display a message).
These are miscellaneous plugins that can be quite useful. You might not require them, but they can help make your life or help you out.
Editorial Calendar (Free)
It does what it says! It’s an easy to use plugin that gives you a calendar view of your posts. It makes it easy to drag & drop your blog posts to set up the perfect editorial calendar.
Recipe Card (Free)
This plugin makes it easy to create great looking recipes that include pictures, ingredients and the methods you need to make those yummy recipes. It’s easy to use and customizable so you can make it match your blog’s brand.
This plugin makes it easy to find out what plugin is slowing down your blog. If your blog is slow, and you aren’t sure why, give this plugin a try. It will show you exactly which plugins ares slowing you down.
These plugins were made to work with the Genesis Framework and most Genesis themes support them and were made with using them in mind.
Genesis Responsive Slider (Free)
Need a responsive image slider? Using the Genesis framework? This is a no-brainier! It’s easy to use and customize to meet your needs. It’s a simple image slider that you can place in any widget area, no coding required!
Genesis E-News Extended (Free)
This plugin is frequently, if not always, recommended by most Genesis themes. It will help give you a professional looking newsletter sign up form with no coding required on your part. It’s a great asset to any Genesis blog.
Simple Social Icons (Free)
This plugin makes adding stylish social media icons to your sidebar (or any widget area) easy! You can customize the colors of the icon and even the shapes! It doesn’t have all social networks, but it has the most popular ones, including Facebook and Bloglovin as well as Email and RSS feeds.
PLUGIN ALL THE THINGS!
Good news: you don’t need ALL of the plugins I’ve mentioned! A good rule of thumb is to only use the plugins you absolutely need. This helps keep your site running fast! For the bare minimum I’d recommend the following plugins:
- Jetpack (enable Forms)
- WordFence (Cache enabled)
- Yoast SEO
- Editorial Calendar
- Simple Social Icons
- Updraft Pro
There are lots of great and useful plugins out there. There are many more I didn’t mention, and some that I probably don’t even know exist yet! All of these plugins are available to add to your WordPress blog right now, head on over plugins > add new to get started!