One of my favorite things about WordPress is the ability to use WordPress plugins. Plugins may seem daunting at first but, once you get used to them, they open up a new world of functionality for your blog.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
Before we get into my favorite WordPress plugins, let’s discuss what a plugin is.
As defined by WP Beginner, a plugin is “ a piece of software containing a group of functions that can be added to a WordPress website.” In layman’s terms, it expands the options for what your blog can do and how it can look.
Need help figuring out all the blogging terminology you’re running across as a new blogger? Check out this amazing resource called Blogcabulary [eBook]. It takes you from the very beginning of blogging into the more advanced stages and terminologies and can be used as a reference to supplement other courses or read straight through as a book.
Below, I review each of my favorite WordPress Plugins. Some are free and some are paid but almost all come with a free version so you can at least test them out.
As mentioned before, learning WordPress can come with a bit of a learning curve. Check out this FREE tutorial to Blogging on WordPress [Course] to help you set up your account, add security, and learn the basics of how to use WordPress in detail.
Maintaining WordPress Plugins
For the most part, WordPress plugins are easy to maintain. Simply upload, follow any start up directions, and go. But occasionally they will require updates.
I know WordPress makes it nice and easy to select all of the plugins that need updates at once and select ‘Update All’ but avoid doing this. On rare occasion an update will be incompatible with a theme and crash your page which is enough to make anyone’s heart drop.
If you update one plugin at a time, you will know which plugin is incompatible and you can simply remove that plugin. However, if you update them all at once you won’t know which one broke your site.
You also want to keep an eye on your plugins and remove the ones you aren’t using. Outdated plugins often have old code which hackers can use to gain access to your site. Keeping plugins updated and deleting unused plugins can help limit your websites vulnerability.
Uploading Plugins to WordPress
If you decide to buy the pro version of a plugin, you will often have to manually download the plugin from the site of purchase. It sounds complicated but it’s pretty easy to do.
After downloading the plugin, go back to WordPress and follow these directions:
- Go to ‘Plugins’ in WordPress and select ‘Add New’
- At the top of that page click ‘Add New’ again (redundant, I know)
- Select ‘Upload Plugin’ at the top of the page
- Upload the file you want and click ‘Activate’
After you activate the plugin, most will have simple directions for getting your new plugin setup and running. If you ever have any issues, go to the ‘Settings’ for that plugin and verify you don’t need an API (a special code from the plugin) for it to work.
Now that we have the boring stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the best plugins for your blog. Click on the title to access the plugin.
Unlike most plugins, activating Jetpack takes a few steps to activate because it works by bridging the gap between WordPress.com and WordPress.org – you actually need to sign up for a WordPress.com account and activate Jetpack using that login info.
Jetpack is a huge plugin with tons of features listed below:
If you are switching over from WordPress.com then Jetpack is definitely a plugin you will want. They have 3 different plans with the lowest being 3.50/month so it’s affordable.
However, on occasion, I have heard people complain Jetpack slows their sites down. So far I haven’t had any problems with it but, if my site starts to slow down I may look into turning some of the features off for awhile. If you want to read up more on Jetpack before deciding whether or not to install, head over to WP Superstars for an in depth analysis of Jetpack and all its features.
Akismet does exactly what it says it does- it protects your site from being spammed with comments. Spammers will use your page to try and place backlinks to their (sometimes) malicious products so this is a great plugin to have.
Don’t forget to activate it by getting the API key code though. This allows your website to share information with Akismet so they can identify and block spam. To get started, click on ‘Activate’ and follow the steps down the rabbit hole to create an account and link it to your page. Don’t forget to click ‘save’ once it auto-inserts the API- key code for you.
Hello Dolly is a waste of space. It gives you a different hello message or something every time you sign in and I found it completely pointless so I deleted it. I have enough cluttering up my plugins and using up my memory.
13 WordPress Plugins You Need
Yoast is the “Gold Standard” of SEO (search engine optimization) plugins. It is a great first step in setting yourself up to succeed long term with SEO. When you post a new blog, it will analyze how easy the post is to read and if help you have take the first steps in setting up SEO for the post.
There are both Free and paid versions but for beginners free is more than enough.
I don’t upgrade often but after several people praised this plugin, I upgraded and will definitely continue my subscription when it’s time to renew.
Social Warfare is hands-down my favorite plugin. The free version is good but the paid version is AMAZING and it’s easily the best money I have spent on my blog.
It has made social sharing and tweeting a snap and it can be set to display or hide your Pinterest image with a hover button (those are all individual plugins you would normally have to have and manage). Click on the link to get a list of everything Social Warfare has to offer.
This is an important one. When you upload a picture to your page it can take up a lot of data and significantly slow down your site. However, if you compress your images you can often save over 50% of the data you were originally using.
I love this particular image optimization plug in because you get the first 500 optimizations free each month. If you are kind of late to the game and already have a lot of pictures on your page you can use the “bulk optimization” option to get all of your current pictures optimized.
Elementor free is more than enough but paid Elementor is amazing with all of the extra features for lists, videos, and included themes and page layouts. I love the drag and drop features which make publishing posts really easy.
You can watch a tutorial for how to use Elementor here. Fair warning, it’s long and meant for building a home page on a website which is more indepth so use the fast forward button. You can also drop in pre-set themes and modify it with your text and images.
If you have questions about Elementor, contact me and I’d be happy to help you out.
A broken link happens when a page moves or is inactive for any reason but your link is still pointing to it. The broken link will often end up causing a 404 error and can negatively impact your Google ranking. This plugin monitors your site to detect broken links, notifies you of them, and then gives you suggestions on how to fix them. A lifesaver!
Check out this article by Shout Me Loud for a full tutorial on how to use Broken Link Checker.
In fall of 2017, Google had everyone in a panic because their next update would essentially punish anyone with a pop-up on their page. Come to find out, this wasn’t technically true. They were punishing pop-ups that made for a bad user experience- especially on mobile. MOST pages with a pop-up on their page got pushed further down in the Google search results but those with a compliant pop-up did not.
Milo Tree is Google Compliant because it doesn’t take up an entire mobile screen. It’s small on both mobile and the computer and can easily be exited. You can use it to gain subscribers by connecting it to your email provider for email campaigns or use it for growing a following on a social network. Mine is set for my Pinterest account and I have noticed a bump in follower numbers since activating it on my page so for $9 a month it is definitely worth it.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that anyone who places affiliate links on their site disclose to their readers they may make a commission off of the links within their post. The problem is, adding the same phrase before every article can be a pain in the you-know-what. Plus, if you manually add it, it will also show up in your post previews.
This plugin allows you to set your disclosure and automatically adds it before every post and it’s not be visible in previews. It’s a very simple plugin but a must have.
An on-site contact form can seem outdated but people will look for ways to contact you and a contact form makes it simple. It also allows you to keep your direct email off of your site so bots can’t find it and start sending you spam (not fun).
One of the best things you can do for your site is to have off-site backups. Vaultpress comes with Jetpack and automatically backs-up your site daily so that if it ever crashes you have a file copy of your website that’s within 24 hours old. You may lose a comment or two but not your entire site.
If you have Siteground then it comes with automatic caching which means it saves bits of information when someone visits your page in order to allow the page to load quicker the next time they visit.
However, if you don’t have Siteground, then this is a great plugin which will help improve your site’s speed and your visitors experience.
Pretty links does exactly what is sounds like- it makes your links look pretty.
Just to give you an idea of how it works: I promote Thrive Market on my other blog. When you promote Thrive Market, the link someone clicks will look something like “Thrvmrk.com/a379823480.”
Instead of a reader seeing that link pop-up, I can set the link to say “BloggingEnthusiast.com/ThriveMarket”. Much nicer and it helps your audience have a little more trust in the products you are promoting.
*Side note: Make sure the company you are promoting does not have an issue with link cloaking (for example, this is a big no-go for Amazon links and a big no no if you are posting affiliate links on Pinterest).
Post Gopher is a new plugin but I love it so far. It allows you to place a button at either the top and/or bottom of the page to allow people to download a PDF version of your post with no extra effort from you.
I personalized the email my readers receive to be the first of my email welcome series. It’s a really simple way to collect more emails and it works great in this busy world we live in.
This plugin allows you to customize the header and footer of your site without touching code. This is a great option for bloggers who feel intimidated by code and who don’t want to risk crashing their site (no judgements here- I’m still intimidated by code and can’t wait for the new Coding Course to come out by my favorite tech guru).
Plugins & Your Reader's Experience
Hopefully you find the above plugins as helpful as I have. They have been indispensable when it comes to providing a great reader experience when people visit my blog.
Were all of your favorite plugins mentioned? Let me know if there’s a plugin you have used and loved that you would add to the list.
New to blogging and all of the terminology and lingo? Check out this awesome new reference called Blogcabulary Plus. It’s great for new to intermediate bloggers and can be read all at once or used as a reference guide to help you get used to this thing called blogging.