In this post I will show you the most helpful plugins you should use when starting a WordPress blog or website.
Now that you have a website or blog started and have installed your WordPress theme, it’s time to install all the plugins you need. I will show you the best WordPress plugins to get your blog functioning so it does exactly what you want it to.
Plugins can do lots of different things, from making your content more shareable to making your website load faster and improve search engine ranking. See those social media icons at the top of this post, those are from a plugin.
Before you start publishing content, take a look at the following plugins that I recommend.
Best WordPress Plugins – Anti-Spam
You are probably familiar with email spam. There’s also a high chance of receiving spam on your website.
To help combat this, use the plugin Akismet. It automatically filters out spam from the comments people leave on your post so you don’t need to delete them manually.
Akismet actually comes installed with WordPress, you just need to activate it by following the instructions from this post.
Best WordPress Plugins – Contact Form
A contact form is needed to allow your visitors to contact you. The plugins below range from simple to advanced, depending on what you need to accomplish.
Fast Secure Contact Form
You have many options when it comes to contact forms but my favourite is Fast Secure Contact Form. It looks intimidating at first, but most of the default options are fine and it’s easy to modify. One thing I really like is how flexible it is. It also has Akismet spam protection support built-in to combat spam in your contact form.
Best WordPress Plugins – SEO and User Experience
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and user experience are both very important. You want search engines like Google to generate traffic to your website.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast helps drive traffic to your website from search engines like Google. It helps search engines easily find the important items on your website, making your website rank higher in Google search results.
Google Analytics by Yoast
You want to be able to track how many visitors you have to your website and Google Analytics is one of the best ways to do so. Google Analytics by Yoast allows you to easily have your Google Analytics code in every page of your site. This will show you important statistics on how people interact and find your website.
W3 Total Cache
A fast website is great for SEO and user experience. W3 Total Cache optimizes your site behind the scenes to make it load faster and boost your SEO. It’s truly a must have plugin.
Best WordPress Plugins – Social Media
Social media plugins are important for promoting your website. They give your website visitors an opportunity to easily share your content, helping to drive more traffic to your site.
Jetpack is one of those plugins that keeps getting better. More and more features are being added to Jetpack and now it is a “must have”. It has many different features: 36 at the time of writing. My favourite is the “Sharing” module – a customizable way to add buttons to your posts or pages that your visitors can click to share your website to social media.
- Simple Share Buttons Adder. If you don’t want to use Jetpack (you really should at least try it), this plugin is another way to easily add all the social sharing buttons you need.
- Digg Digg has many different options, including floating and static buttons.
- Social Warfare is a premium plugin, but with this you get what you pay for. It has a lot of options, including floating and static buttons, link shortening, analytics, click to tweet, and frame busting. It is relatively cheap for all the features you get.
Simple Social Icons
Simple Social Icons puts links to your social networks on your website. This gives your website visitors an easy way to find all of your social networks. On my site they are on the top right with icons that link to Twitter, Google+, etc. Some themes have this feature built-in, but if the theme you use does not, then use this plugin.
Best WordPress Plugins – Security and Maintenance
WordPress Security isn’t a very exciting topic, but you can’t ignore it. With WordPress being such a popular platform, many people will try to take advantage of easy ways to get into your website.
Plus, along similar lines, you need to have backups of your WordPress database and files. This is just in case a hacker gets in, or in case you need to rollback a change.
iThemes Security and/or Wordfence
These are the standard in security plugins. They offer many features that are considered security best practices for WordPress.
iThemes Security can do many things, from removing the admin account to renaming your database table prefix. You can uninstall this plugins after it does its magic.
Wordfence offers firewall protection along with scanning the files on your website for any changes compared to the original files. It also scans for any malicious looking files.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox or WP-DBManager
Backups are a must. There are two things you should backup: Your database and the files on your website (including pictures). Keep in mind when backing up your files, the backup can get pretty large, so email doesn’t work for that.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox will back up your database and files directly to Dropbox. Once in Dropbox you can move them to a local file system (to free up some space on Dropbox).
Limit Login Attempts
People will try to get into your WordPress admin panel. To slow them down, use the Limit Login Attempts plugin to ban them after X number of failed log in attempts.
Alternative: Jetpack also offers a “Protect” module. Also, Wordfence has a similar option. Both help against brute force attacks on your WordPress log in page. So if you decide to use one of those options, then this plugin isn’t needed.
Keeping your WordPress database running quickly helps with the overall speed of your website. WP-Optimize is great for database cleanup and as a database optimization tool. It can be scheduled to clean up all your post revisions (which takes up a lot of space), remove comment spam and make your database faster by optimizing it.
Optional: P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
If you have a lot of plugins your website can run sluggish and cause slow loading times for your website visitors. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) can help to identify which plugins are slowing your website down.
WordPress has many plugins available to do pretty much anything you want on your website. Just keep in mind that it is always better to add the desired functionality inside a theme (or better yet a child theme) if possible. Having too many plugins can cause performance issues, and they can also have security implications.
You need to keep your plugins up-to-date, since often the author will fix security vulnerabilities. Having many plugins means a bad guy has more ways to get into your website. Also, keep in mind that if a plugin hasn’t been updated in two years, it might be abandoned by the author and would no longer be getting the needed security fixes.