As a blogger, plugins add functionality (and usability) to your blog, making life MUCH easier for you and your readers. Whether you need a way for your readers to easily share your content or to protect your site from spam, there’s a plugin for almost anything!
While there are thousands of WordPress plugins to choose from, here are the list of recommended plugins that this blog actually uses (or has been recommended) with WordPress plugin tutorials for installation.
Let’s jump right in!
Plugins add more functionality to your blog, like keeping your posts safe (backing up your data), add social sharing buttons, help you track your analytics and more.
A note of warning! Using too many plugins can slow down your site! So, pick and choose the best plugins that work for YOU.
Let’s look at some recommended plugins and functionality:
How To Add Plugins
All you need to do is go to your dashboard and click on Plugins > Add New.
You can either search the WordPress database and download them from there (the easiest) or you can go to the plugin site and download the .zip file.
To upload a new plugin you have downloaded on your computer, just go to Plugins > Add New and click on “Upload Plugin” at the top.
If you experience any issues with the upload (WordPress may send an error if the .zip file is missing something), contact the plugin creator.
Make sure that once you have downloaded or uploaded a plugin you activate it from the screen that appears after download or by going to Plugins > Installed Plugins (there will be a small button on the plugin listing to click).
Backing Up Your Site
Backing up your site should be a high priority! Essentially, setting up backups will save that current state of your blog. In essence, you are taking a snapshot of your blog in case of any issues (and you need to revert to an older version).
Once your site is backed up, you can “restore” an old backup if something goes wrong on your site.
There have been many bloggers who either switch themes or updated a plugin and it causes their site to crash (errors cause the site to not load). And, if your site is ever hacked or attacked, you will have a saved version from before the activity started.
Check your host plan to see if free backups are included (contact your host with any questions). If your host does offer backups, check to see how much storage space they offer – some bloggers (in this mama’s Facebook groups) have reported their storage filled up within a month.
If your plan does not include free backups, here are a couple plugins you can use:
- Updraft Plus (free): you can set up automatic backups and push a button to manually back up your site (which is great if you want to update your theme). They do offer a Premium (paid) version that provides backups hosted on their own servers. But, you can set where your backups are stored, like on Dropbox or Box.com.
- ManageWP (paid): while this mama has not used this service, there is a small monthly fee to gain access to all the functionality the plugin offers. The services range from updating info on multiple sites from one place to backing up your site. This plugin is posted from a recommendation from a couple successful bloggers in this mama’s Facebook groups.
Although you can (and should) resize all your images for your blog, there are ways to further save on file size, which leads to faster site loading times.
It cannot be stressed enough how much page loading time can affect your traffic – if your site takes too long to load, your readers will likely leave and find another source (which also affects SEO).
- ShortPixel offers a free plan of up to 100 images a month. There is no max file size restriction, so all images will be compressed regardless of the uploaded image size.
- Smush is a completely free plugin that optimizes your images but does have a max file size restriction. So, if you don’t resize your image for your site first, the image may not be compressed and will remain huge (slowing down your page load).
It’s highly recommended to provide easy ways for your readers to share your content and connect with you on social media (even if you are not active on all the platforms).
Here are some plugins to help your readers share your content AND some to help you control what your readers will share:
- Social Pug (free and paid): the share buttons are customizable and the free version comes with 5 share buttons included. It can also display share counts (though Twitter and now Facebook are notoriously hard to track).
- MiloTree (paid): Provides a pop up asking users to follow you on social media (as opposed to others that ask you to share content). The pop ups include an actual view of your social accounts like Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- Pinterest Pin It Button (free): allows your readers to hover their mouse over an image (or tap) to pin it to Pinterest. Note that some other plugins (like Social Pug listed above) comes with this functionality.
- WP Tasty Pins (paid): While this is NOT a plugin for your readers to use directly, this plugin allows you to write pin descriptions without using the alt section (which you should avoid), disable images from being pinned and hide multiple Pinterest pins on your post (to save on visual real estate and provide a better user experience when you have multiple pin images for a single post).
Every plugin offers a different look and feel. Check them out and see what fits your theme and blog the best.
Broken Link Checker
Using a plugin to check for broken links on your blog is amazing. The plugin will check your site every day for broken links in your posts, pages and anywhere else links are found.
Basically, if the plugin finds a link that receives an error code (404) when followed, you will receive a notification to fix it (and where).
- Broken Link Checker (free)
Do you plan on accepting comments on your blog? Here are a couple plugins that can help filter out spam comments:
- Anti-spam: (free): blocks spam comments.
- Akismet Anti-spam (free): blocks spam comments and potentially spam emails through your contact form(s).
No matter how great your password may be, your site can still be hacked, infected with viruses and spammed by bots (automated computers trying to gain access to your site or spam your comments, etc).
- Wordfence (free and paid): This plugin helps protect your site by blocking malicious activity on your site. The free version has prevented tons of potential intruders (in all their forms) on this mama’s sites. There is added functionality like blocking specific IPs (computer addresses) for the paid version. You will ALSO receive emails when the plugin detects issues like a plugin or your theme needs updating (which is SUPER helpful!).
Basically your site (and computer) will cache (store) information to improve performance by making your site run faster.
Using a plugin to help your readers have a better experience on your site is up to you.
A great benefit of having this plugin is the ability to clear your cache with an easy click of a button after you have installed a new plugin or made a major change to your site. Sometimes, a change may not appear on your computer since it has cached the previous state of your blog.
Note: to meet GDPR requirements (info on this later), this is a plugin you will need to list in your legal pages.
- W3 Total Cache (free): Boasts a 10x site performance for your readers. See the link for more technical details.
Here is where there is a HUGE debate on the best SEO plugin to use.
SEO = Search Engine Optimization
Basically, SEO is a way to help you rank (meaning the spot your article will appear in search results based on search terms called keywords or long tail keywords) better in Google search results for more traffic/readers.
The goal for every blogger is to rank in the top 10 on Google, which means your article appears on the first page of search results.
Both of the plugins below offer the ability to update your meta description (what appears in Google search results – this field will be below your post when you are editing it) and help you track how well your post or page is doing when it comes to SEO.
Each has it’s own challenges and parameters it used to test how well you are doing on SEO.
Learn what you can about SEO outside of a plugin!
Lots of bloggers get caught up in making sure they meet the recommendations of the plugin and their posts can 1) take forever to write and edit, and 2) may not be that easy to read.
The biggest and most important pieces you should worry about is picking great keywords, providing relevant content and ensuring you are writing the BEST piece of content on the subject possible.
Nobody knows everything about the Google algorithm (the metrics by which they rate and prioritize content in search results) except a few of those that work at Google.
This mama has taken many courses, a few specifically around SEO. Each one of them had contradicting information about best practices.
But, here are the two plugins that are recommended to check out to help you on your way to determining what works:
Want to learn more about SEO? Click here!
While you can just go straight to Google for your analytics, there are a few plugins you can use to get your data right from your blog (and, hopefully, in a more user friendly format):
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP) (free)
- Analytify (free and paid)
- MonsterInsights (free and paid)
If you want to provide a way for your readers to fill out a form to contact you, there are lots of plugins out there to choose from for free (or paid).
While it isn’t user friendly for us bloggers, here is a commonly used form:
Sometimes you decide to delete a page or change your settings to remove the date from all your existing posts. This plugin allows you to provide the old URL and redirect readers to a different URL.
- Redirection (free): Not only does this plugin allow you to redirect URLs, but it will also show you any URLs that are receiving errors (the dreaded 404 error when your page doesn’t exist or other error codes). However, unlike the Broken Links plugin mentioned earlier, this plugin requires you to look in the plugin to view the results rather than receive an email when a link is broken.
Most of us are not web developers or coders. Make your life easier with a plugin that allows you to enter code in one place.
For example, you will need to enter code “before the <header>” of your blog for Google Analytics and ad services.
A plugin like the one below will also help with things like ads on your site:
It’s funny that the plugin is perfectly descriptive of it’s usage:
- Pretty Links (free): Create URL links to your site that are short and easy. This is especially great if you choose to use Twitter and have limited characters to use! You can use this plugin to track the actual link usage as well. There is a paid version, but this mama has never needed the added functionality. You can also use this plugin to tidy up your affiliate links (though make sure “masking” affiliate URLs isn’t against the rules of the program, like Amazon’s affiliate program) AND you can add “no follow” to your link without needing to add code every time!
You can also use sites like tinyurl.com or bit.ly to shorten your links. But, it is great to have the functionality right in your blog (and easily accessible right on your Dashboard!).
An example of this is an Amazon affiliate ad you want to use multiple times. All you do is add the code in one place, give it a name and then add the shortcode (will look like “[shortcode name]”) in your post or page.
This plugin has saved this mama sooooooo much time and effort!
The greatest benefit of using this plugin is the ability to change an ad or other code from a single place and have it update throughout your site: for example, change the shortcode you have named “Seasonal Amazon Banner” (would appear as [Seasonal Amazon Banner] in your post or page) to the different offerings at the time like a banner for Christmas highlights or a banner for Mother’s Day.
You can even designate if the code should appear and display on desktop, mobile or both!
- Shortcoder (free)
Note that when you are in your editing mode you will only see the shortcode. You will be able to see the executed code by previewing or publishing your post or page.
If you have purchased an SSL (meaning a secure connection that is encrypted – https: rather than http:) and it is installed on your site:
- Really Simple SSL (free): forces your site to use SSL.