If you have a blog that runs on WordPress you probably already know that plugins make it easy to add new features and capabilities to your blog.
But with thousands of WordPress plugins to choose from, how do you know which ones you really need?
Well, I’m going to try to shed some light on which plugins you need to install on your blog, and which ones you should avoid.
First, let me explain which plugins you need to avoid, because that’s the really easy part…
My rule of thumb is this: Never install any WordPress plugin that doesn’t do at least one of the following:
1 – Make your blog more secure in some way.
2 – Add truly beneficial functionality to your blog that cannot be added some other way that doesn’t require the installation of an additional plugin.
3 – Make your blog pages load faster or be more responsive overall.
There’s a simple reason why I adhere to the above rule: Every plugin you install on your blog makes the pages load slower and potentially offers an additional avenue for hackers to break into your blog.
In short, if a plugin doesn’t add real value to my blog in a meaningful way, I won’t install it.
Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to talk about seven essential plugins that every WordPress blog should use.
Let me clarify something right off the bat. When I say seven essential plugins I really mean seven types of essential plugins.
There are thousands of plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Repository. Many of those plugins perform the same basic function, and you’ll likely find several in each category that work equally well.
Of course I have my own preferred plugins that I have used over the years and believe to be the best of the best, and I’ll be telling you why I use them as we go along. However, you are certainly free to choose any high-quality plugins that will perform each of the seven tasks discussed below.
Now, with all of the above being said, here are seven essential plugins that every WordPress blog needs to use:
1 – A good plugin to Back Up and potentially Restore your blog.
If your blog has ever gone down for some reason you surely understand why this is so important.
If the hard drive on your web server dies or a hacker defaces your blog, you’ll be in a world of hurt if you don’t have a backup of your blog and a way to quickly get it restored.
There are several great backup plugins available for you to choose from. Most of them work quite well, and some of them are free.
The one I use and strongly recommend is VaultPress. In my humble opinion, this is hands-down the best backup and restore solution for protecting your WordPress blog.
While VaultPress isn’t free, the Jetpack Personal plan is only $39 for an entire year of automatic daily backups and 1-click automated restores. In my opinion it’s worth every penny.
I’m known for using and recommending free software as often as possible, but this is one of the rare exceptions.
I prefer VaultPress over all the other backup plugins because it’s easy to install, it backs up your entire blog (not just the database) and you can restore a hacked or damaged blog with just a click of your mouse.
2 – A quality Caching plugin.
In general, the faster your blog loads the better, for several reasons.
First of all, most people are impatient when they’re looking for information on the Internet. If they click on your link to visit your blog they’ll leave in a hurry if the page fails to load within a second or two.
After all, it was easy for them to click the link to visit your blog and it’s just as easy for them to click “back” and visit another one.
A caching plugin will make your blog’s pages load a lot faster by storing static versions of your pages and loading them instead of the dynamically created pages from the blog’s database.
As with all plugin categories, there are several caching plugins to choose from. The one I use and recommend is WP Fastest Cache.
WP Fastest Cache is easier to install than some other popular caching plugins, making it a great choice for bloggers of all skill levels. Except for a tweak or two, it pretty much installs itself.
But don’t let its simplicity fool you. This plugin works extremely well and you’ll likely notice a huge decrease in your blog’s page load times after you install it. Independent tests have proven that it really does live up to its name!
3 – A strong, but easy to configure Security plugin.
Hackers are attacking WordPress blogs all the time. Their goals vary from defacing your blog to spread a hateful message to the masses to stealing the personal and financial information of your subscribers and visitors.
But regardless of their goals, the results of a successful hack are plenty of pain for you and your blog’s visitors.
A quality security plugin can help protect your blog from brute-force password guessing bots, plug inherent security holes in your WordPress installation and secure your blog in other ways as well.
As with all plugin categories, there are several good security plugins that you can choose from. And as usual, I have my own personal favorite.
I use the awesome Wordfence Security plugin on all of my blogs, and I recommend that you install it on yours as well.
Once installed and properly configured, Wordfence will harden a number of weak spots in the core WordPress installation and block hackers from gaining access to your admin pages.
4 – An effective SPAM Comment Blocker plugin.
If you allow your readers to leave comments on your blog posts (and you really should), once your blog starts receiving a decent number of visitors it’ll also begin to attract SPAM messages in the “Comments” section of your posts.
This is bad for several reasons, the main reason being it just makes your blog look amateurish and prevents your readers from taking what you have to say seriously.
Luckily, there are several great SPAM comment blocker plugins to choose from but the one I like best already comes pre-installed on every new WordPress blog.
It’s called Akismet, and it works amazingly well.
The only problem is most new bloggers have no idea what Akismet does so they delete if from their blogs along with the totally useless “Hello Dolly” plugin.
If you deleted Akismet from your your blog you can easily add it back from within your WordPress Dashboard. Simply click Plugins>Add New and then type Akismet into the search box.
5 – A quality Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plugin.
While a good portion of your blog traffic is likely to come from social media sites, you’re probably getting even more from Google, Bing and other search engines. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your blog is optimized for search engines as much as is safely possible.
WordPress is very search engine friendly by its very nature, but there are several tweaks you can make to your blog pages to make them even more so.
You could make all of those tweaks manually, but that can be rather tedious and time-consuming. A good SEO plugin makes it easy.
I’ve used at least three different SEO plugins in my day, and the one I now use and recommend is Yoast SEO.
Yoast’s powerful plugin makes it easy to add a custom meta description and make other beneficial SEO tweaks to your blog posts. Those tweaks help ensure that your posts will be ranked as highly as possible in the search engines.
Another huge plus with Yoast SEO is how you can create your own custom snippets that will be displayed in the Google search results and on Facebook when you post a link on there.
Both Google and Facebook will pull in a short snippet from your blog posts to display to their users, but those automatic snippets often poorly describe the actual content of the posts.
The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to explicitly tell Google and Facebook what you want them to display as the snippet. Simple perfection!
6 – A quality Two-Factor Authentication plugin.
In a nutshell, a good two-factor authentication scheme will prevent anyone (even you) from logging into your WordPress Dashboard unless they have physical possession of your mobile phone – even if they know your password!
I use the amazingly effective Google Authenticator plugin on all of my blogs, and I recommend that you install it on your blog as well.
I love Google Authenticator because it’s so easy to set up and use.
Once the plugin is set up on your blog all you have to do is retrieve the access code from the app on your phone to finish logging in to your dashboard. You won’t have to wait for a text to arrive because the code will be waiting for you when you open the app!
Two-Factor authentication is awesome, and Google Authenticator makes it easy. No phone, no logging in. Period.
Note: If you select Wordfence as your security plugin you won’t need to install a stand-alone Two-Factor Authentication plugin because WordFence has 2FA built right in!
7 – A good Social Sharing plugin.
These days a typical blog can expect to receive a good percentage of its visitors from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular social media platforms.
While it’s wise to actively promote your blog posts via your own social media accounts, it’s just as important to encourage your blog’s visitors to help you promote them via their own social media accounts as well.
A quality social sharing plugin will make sharing your blog’s content as easy as clicking a button right on the blog’s post page.
You’ll find dozens of social sharing plugins in the WordPress Plugin Depository, and I’ve used (and like) several of them. The one I now use and recommend MashShare.
The benefits of choosing the MashShare social sharing plugin over the competition are too numerous to mention here, but you can read all about them right on the download page.
Well, there you have it. Seven essential plugins that every WordPress blog should be using (especially your blog!).
Bonus tip: Are you just getting started with WordPress? Would you like a handy hard-copy reference for all of WordPress’ many features and capabilities?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, I recommend that you check out WordPress All-In-One for Dummies! (#ad)
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