First things first. What are WordPress plugins?
WPbeginner.com gives the perfect definition of a plugin. A plugin is a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website. They can extend functionality or add new features to your WordPress websites.
You would think that when it comes to plugins, more is better. This in fact isn’t true. The more plugins you have installed on your blog the greater is the effect it has on user experience by increasing your page loading times.
The plugins you eventually install should be chosen with precision. Here is a list of the most essential WordPress plugins every blog needs:
Jetpack by WordPress.com
With over 1 million active installs as of now, this is the number one WordPress plugin that your blog needs. It consists of a pack of features that you need to make a success of your blog.
These features include Traffic and SEO Tools, Security and Backup Services and Content Creation.
Traffic and SEO Tools:
These tools include: a dashboard where you can view in depth statistics and analytics of your blogs traffic, automatic social sharing after posting new content to your blog (it even gives you the option to share content more than once which is a good method to increase traffic to your blog), the last tool is a SEO optimizer to help your blog rank higher in all major search engines.
Security and Backup Services
Security of your blog should be priority number two, after the content of course. Jetpack by WordPress.com equips you with everything you need to be sure your site and its content is secure. The plugin schedules and automatically updates your content at regular intervals. This will help you to restore your site to its prior glory, as well as help with the migration of your site to a different hosting server when needed. On the security side of things, Jetpack automatically scans and removes malware and malicious code.
This isn’t as necessary as the previous two benefits but it helps optimize the layout of your site to your liking. This gives you the option to customize your sidebars, even add extra sidebar widgets and many more.
What is the one thing every person hates about the internet?
Probably the increasing number of spammers giving you a negative online experience.
Spam is irritating and when you start your own blog you can be sure to have your fair share of encounters with these spammers. Whether it is on your social media platforms or even in the comment sections of your blog posts.
This is why Akismet is important. It helps filter your comments and contact form submissions to prevent posting spam to your site.
Akismet gives you the ability to review your comments before it gets posted to your blog. You have the choice of accepting it, editing it, trashing it or marking it as spam for future references.
Yoast SEO plugin
This is my personal favourite plugin to use on my blog. The simplicity of it is one of the factors which helped it land a spot on this list.
We all know how important it is to optimize your content for search engines to get organic traffic to your blog. This plugin will answer all the questions you have regarding what to do to increase your search engine rankings.
My personal favourite tools it provides are the keyword density checker (it indicates the amount of times your keyword appears in your text and the percentage it makes up of the entire post), the SEO checker (it indicates the level of optimization with red, yellow and green as well as gives you a checklist of all the things you need to do before posting to increase the SEO of your post) and the readability checker.
The Yoast SEO plugin comes with its own Sitemap Generator which makes submitting your content to search engines that much easier. Submitting your content to search engines will help crawlers (bots) to index your content to get ranked.
Scroll triggered boxes
We all know the importance of the call to action on your blog. This plugin gives you the ability to add a call to action popup window which gets activated when someone scrolls around on your page.
The thing I like most about this plugin is not necessarily because of its ability to help you increase the size of your mailing list, more of the fact that you can customize it to your liking. Therefore you can use it for a lot of different reasons. The main one still being capturing reader emails, while you can promote a product or two as well.
W3 Total Cache
The more posts you upload to your blog the more information needs to be processed every time a user clicks a link on your site. Because of this increase in information and an increase in the processing ability the site needs to function properly your blog gets slower and slower.
This is where the W3 Total Cache comes into play. It helps to increase the overall performance of your site, thus increasing user experience. This is done by reducing download times via features like content delivery networks (CDN) integration. In short, by using CDN you migrate most of the processing work from your blog to that of an off-site server. Because the content isn’t managed directly on your site your site performance and user-experience will increase.
The greatest benefit of using this plugin is that it guarantees an increase in visitor duration on your site. Mainly due to the minimization of page load times by using cache’s. It even lets your visitors view repeat pages instantly.
Yet another site performance enhancer. But this widget has a view different perks that the W3 Total Cache don’t offer you. Don’t get me wrong. This plugin isn’t better in than the previous one in any way, but that is because you can’t compare their individual functions. Used in conjunction with each other they will increase your sites performance substantially.
The main benefit of using the WP-Optimize plugin is that it is an effective tool for automatically cleaning your WordPress database so that your site can run at maximum efficiency. The individual functions of this widget can be separated into 3 dfferent categories:
If you are like me and you are never 100% satisfied with the quality of your posts then you probably have a lot of previous revisions piled up in ‘storage’. These revisions take up valuable space on your websites server. The WP-Optimize plugin works to delete your oldest revisions to help you clear up space.
By now you probably know that the amount of available space on your server determines the speed and the smoothness at which your blog runs. The less space you have available the slower your blog starts to run, and vice versa. WP-Optimize helps you indicate which factors of your website use the most space and which factors waste the most of it. This can help you determine where to start cleaning up your servers.
Keep It Clean
As mentioned previously, this is a automated website enhancer. Yes, it requires some manual labor but the amount is completely up to you. WP-Optimize gives you the ability to set a (weeky, monthly, yearly, etc.) clean-up schedule according to your specifications.
I’m going to take you on a little trip. Imagine you own a house. It’s not necessarily a very expensive house but it is very valuable to you. You are an artist (a painter). Your workstation is in your house; therefore, all your paintings are scattered around the place. You aren’t a Vincent van Gough or a Leonardo da Vinci yet, but these paintings are very valuable to you. For the purposes of this story your house doesn’t have any kind of alarm system. Someone breaks in and steals your irreplaceable paintings. To other people it won’t matter because they weren’t worth that much. But to you they meant the world.
The house is your blog, the paintings are your blog posts, and the painter is you. Can you see the importance of having a “security system” in place?
The most important features that Wordfence Security offers are:
Stops your site from getting hacked, blocking attackers before they can access your site
Real-time blocking of known attackers. If another site using Wordfence is attacked and blocks the attacker, your site is automatically protected.
WordPress Login Security
Makes use of Two Factor Authentication (in other words, you will need your login details as well as a mobile phone authentication to login to your account.
Scans for all known WordPress threats as well as scans for backdoors, trojans, suspicious code and other security issues
Access to real-time analytics of your site traffic including the ability to identify the difference between bots and humans traffic
Broken Link Checker
Being redirected to error page after clicking on a link that doesn’t work is probably the most irritating thing that can happen when surfing the web. Broken links lead to shorter user visiting duration as well as an increase in your bounce rates.
Going through every link on your website/blog will take very long, if your blog is very big you might not even be able to do it completely. The Broken Link Checker plugin does all the work for you. It monitors your entire site and its links (internal and outbound). When the plugin comes across a broken link it will notify you immediately.
The biggest pro about using this plugin is that it lets you edit the broken link directly on its dashboard. This saves you the effort of going to the individual post to correct the link. The biggest con about using this plugin is that it sometimes flags normal links as broken links. It can easily be fixed by clicking the dismiss button after your first inspection of the link (this ensures that the “broken” link won’t be reported again).
An email catching plugin was bound to be a part of the list some time or another, especially after mentioning the Scrolled Trigger Boxes earlier in the post.
The Mailchimp plugin gives you the ability to increase the size of your email list using nice looking, customizable opt-in boxes. It is similar to the Scrolled Trigger Boxes in the fact that you can capture emails, the biggest difference between these two are the customization and functionality of each one. Mailchimp is different from Scrolled Trigger Boxes in the sense that it can only be used to capture emails whereas Scrolled Trigger Boxes can be used to promote anything of your choice. Mailchimp is much more customizable which gives it a better overall look.
Using the plugin lets you connect directly to your Mailchimp account from your WordPress dashboard. Not only is this more convenient in the fact that you can see all your stats in one place but it also makes it a lot easier to send out emails to your list.
Mailchimp can be used in conjunction with Contact Form 7, WooCommerce, the Default WordPress Registration Form and many more.
In my previous posts I have mentioned the importance of social media sharing for increasing traffic to your site. Those posts mostly focused on helping you optimize your site to get your visitors to share your content to their sites. This plugin helps with exactly that.
Social Icons is a plugin that allows you to edit social sharing buttons and widgets in your sidebars. The ease of using it is what got it to this list. All you need to do is drag and drop, and voila. Your blog is all set for social sharing.
Ever read a blog post and when you get down to the comment section you see a comment being accompanied by a link to a blog post. To most of you out there this might seem like a method to invite spammers to your blog. Since using it on my blog I have seen an increase in spam comments on my blog, but that is why you need to use CommentLuv in conjunction with Akismet (as mentioned previously, Akismet lets you filter out comments before they are posted to your blog).
Giving readers the opportunity to link back to their own blogs or websites will lead to an increase in the amount of comments each of your blog posts get. The amount of comments a post gets is one of the factors Google’s algorithm use in ranking the quality of your post. In short, more comments can lead to an increase in traffic to your site.
CommentLuv is a free to use plugin. If you are looking for more you have the option of upgrading to a CommentLuv Pro account.
CommentLuv Pro has even more amazing features that can bring even more traffic and comments to your blog by giving you the ability to fight spam, add keywords, integrate twitterlink, add a top commentator’s widget, social enticements and by having it installed on your site, you get advanced backlink features on EVERY CommentLuv blog when you comment (there are 10’s of thousands of CommentLuv blogs)
There are tens of thousands of plugins available to use on your WordPress hosted blog. There are good ones and there are bad ones. In this post I have set out the WordPress plugins that I personally use and which are the most valuable basic plugins every blog needs to function optimally. I hope these plugins help you and your blog as much as they help me. If there are any plugins that you think should have been listed in the above list which aren’t, let me know about them in the comments below.