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If you’re a new blogger using WordPress you’ve probably realized there is A LOT OF STUFF INVOLVED, the least of which is knowing which plugins are the best and most useful.
Yeah, I know. There are a ton of blog posts out there that led you to believe it was simple to come up with a name, get a domain and hosting and launch your blog. Overall it is simple but where many of those tutorials stop is at the “up and running” part. There’s more to running a blog than just cranking out great content and promoting your stuff to increase your traffic. Plugins are an important part of a well-functioning blog.
Basically, a plugin is a small piece of software that you can download and add to your site. You can install plugins to extend the functionality of your theme or perform critical tasks. It can be overwhelming because there are so many plugins available to download both through your WordPress dashboard and the internet. But there are a few core categories of plugins every blogger needs to have on their site.
I would group them into the following:
Most people don’t get into blogging because they have mad programming skills they’re dying to put to use. You can include some pretty advanced functionality without having to be a developer and that’s what makes plugins so appealing. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a techie, most plugins are simple to download and install. I’m not an expert blogger by any means but in the short time I’ve been at it I’ve amassed a pretty good collection.
Here then, for your consideration, is my list of essential plugins that every blogger needs in their toolbox.
To break this up into a more consumable format, right now I’m focusing on the workhorses – SEO, backups, maintenance, and security. We’ll get into their more sexy counterparts for social media and appearance in a later post.
SEO, Backups/Maintenance, and Security Plugins
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is one of the most critical components of a successful blog.
Getting found in search engine results is going be a major factor in driving traffic to your site. However, SEO is a pretty complex thing, especially if you’re first starting out. Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugins and with good reason. It simplifies SEO and easily helps you optimize your site for better search engine visibility. It will grade each post, giving you a red, yellow or green indicator depending on how well optimized it is along with suggestions for improving the score. Their site is also a great resource for the mystical thing that is SEO.
You need to back your site up, no question about it. It’s insurance for your blog in case of a catastrophic failure.
The only threat isn’t external either. Take it from someone who was trying to modify some code and ended up making such a mess the only option was to restore. UpdraftPlus allows scheduling of backups at whatever interval you choose and supports cloud storage options like Google Drive, Dropbox or Amazon S3, among others. I’m using the free version and have had no complaints. This is super easy to use. Just fill in your choices for scheduling and storage locations and UpdraftPlus takes care of the rest.
WP Super Cache
WP Super Cache improves the performance of your site by serving up cached HTML files 99% of the time. This means files do not have to be fetched from the server each time a page request is made. Slowly loading pages can be a killer for your site. Users are likely to back right out if a page takes too long to load. One annoying thing about a caching plugin is that changes you make to the appearance of your site are not immediately visible. Before changes take effect the cache must be cleared from within the plugin interface. This slight annoyance is minor though in return for the increased performance in load time.
Here’s another plugin that helps with performance. WP-Optimize keeps the database that runs behind your WordPress site cleaned up and performing well. You do not want to mess around with your database unless you are very confident you know what you’re doing. That’s why a plug-in that takes of it for you is a smart choice. There are a variety of settings you can choose to determine how optimization occurs as well as a scheduling feature. This is another “set it and forget it” plugin that helps your site run smoothly. WP-Optimize is now developed and supported by the team from UpdraftPlus.
Now we’re getting into the important security plugins for your site. Wordfence provides best in class security protection for your site and is 100% free. Wordfence’s firewall keeps you protected by keeping attackers out and even blocks IP address of bots trying to ram your site. If your site has been comprised you can customize an alert that will notify you right away. Wordfence will also scan your site for any potential malware and monitor your traffic.
Askimet comes standard with a new WordPress installation and protects your site from spammed comments. Askimet will scan incoming comments and flag any that look sketchy as spam. Spammers are inundating sites with spam comments and who wants to manually review every single one for legitimacy? Not me. Technically, Askimet is a free plugin but there is an option on their site to pay any amount you determine. If you’re just trying it out, by all means, use the free option but if it’s something you’re going to continue to use, I would recommend ponying up a few bucks and supporting the developers.
Jetpack is another plugin that comes with a WordPress installation. There are a few components of Jetpack that are really useful to have.
- Stats – You can get high-level stats for the traffic to your blog. I also use the Google Analytics plugin for advanced traffic stats, but I like the easy to use Jetpack version as well if I just want to quickly see my traffic
- Publicize – Again, there are other plugins that will allow you to publicize your posts once they’re published, but with Jetpack’s Publicize feature, you can set it up right in your post. It automatically posts once you hit publish. So for a quick hit, you can’t really beat this.
- Shortcode embedding – I use this one frequently in conjunction with other plugins and widgets. Embedding a shortcode can be a real time saver if you need to insert slider of images or embed something in a widget
Be sure to pin this post on Pinterest and check back for any updates. I’m continually researching new plugins and if I come across a better one than what I have listed here, I’ll update the post! I mentioned in my productivity post that blogging takes up a lot of time. Plugins that work for you while you’re doing other things are real lifesavers.
Is there a workhorse you use on your blog that you can’t live without? Share the love and let us know in the comments so we can check it out!
RELATED: Essential WordPress Plugins Part 2