The recommended platform for blogging is WordPress (meaning WordPress.org rather than WordPress.com). When you use the self-hosted version of WordPress, you have more control of your site by using plugins.
However, you don’t want to go crazy and add anything you find. Start with the basics. Make sure you have these must-have WordPress plugins installed before you do create too many posts.
If you have ever researched plugins, you will fund thousands of options out there. But, how do you know which ones you should have and those you do not need?
The websites and lists can be overwhelming. Not only that, but how do you know if they work or not? Let me break this down for you.
ESSENTIAL WORDPRESS.ORG PLUGINS BLOGGERS NEED TO USE
WHAT IS A PLUGIN?
A plugin is a code that contains additional functions. They are added to your WordPress website. These plugins can add new features to your site or add additional functionality.
They work because they are written in the correct PHP programming language, which allows them to work well with WordPress.
Plugins allow you to add features to your site without knowing how to write a single line of code.
WHERE DO YOU FIND WORDPRESS PLUGINS?
WordPress has a directory filled with thousands of plugins. You can search to find the plugin you want so you can add it to your site.
If you see a function on a website, you can e-mail the owner and ask them which plugin they use. You may also find people talking about them in various Facebook groups.
They are everywhere, but you don’t want to use one without first researching it. Not all work well. Read the reviews and check to ensure the version of WordPress you run is compatible.
CAN YOU HAVE TOO MANY PLUGINS?
Absolutely. When you have too many WordPress plugins on your site, it can slow down your site. That, in turn, can make readers lead and can even lower your advertising income!
Slow sites = death.
If you must have all the plugins you have installed, you may need to upgrade your server through your host. That will provide more memory and can help with your site speed. If that is not an option, it will be time to figure out which you need and those you can live without
THE BEST PLUGINS FOR WORDPRESS
With the massive lists of plugins and articles saying what to do, it can be overwhelming. You don’t need everything out there. However, there are some plugins that I believe are an absolute must on every single blog.
You need to protect your site from spam comments. Akismet identifies those that are spam and/or come from bots. If you did not have this, you would end up with thousands of comments filled with nothing but awful links and phrases that made no sense.
If readers see these and end up clicking, you could send them to a site you would never recommend. That can make them lose trust.
Cost: Name your price (can be $0, or you can pay what you feel you want), but if used for a commercial site charge is $5/month
You must run regular backups of your site. Even if your host says that they do backups. Why?
If you ever need to restore a backup, they may not have what you need to be included in the files, or it could take time to get it to you.
Backing up your site weekly (if not daily) is necessary. You should also run a quick backup before adding any new plugins. That way, if there is a compatibility issue and it “breaks your site,” you have a way to get it back to where it was before you did the install. You want to do it yourself rather than pay someone to do it for you.
There are many other options out there, but this is the one I recommend because WordPress created it. I never have to worry about compatibility when there are new platform updates.
Cost: As low as $0
Yoast is your SEO plugin. SEO means Search Engine Optimization. That is how your site and post can be found on Google. While this is not a guarantee that you will rank, it reviews your post and lets you know when you have done the right thing to help your ranking.
Each important task is given a colored light. Red means you have a possible issue; orange means you could have one, and green means you have taken care of that item. While it is great to have “everything green,” it does not mean that you should chop up your post so much that it makes no sense.
For example, Yoast does not like some words such as of, the, how, etc. But, those may be necessary for your keyword. You would not want to edit that just to get a green light from YOAST.
The most important thing to keep in mind with YOAST is to realize it is only an SEO guide – and getting green lights does not mean you are guaranteed you will rank.
Cost: $0 for the basic (no need to get premium)
GROW SOCIAL PRO
You need to have a social sharing plugin on your site. That is how your readers will share your post with others. Without this, no one will know about your fantastic article!
Readers love to share. They like to bookmark and refer back to the things they love. Your social sharing plugin allows them the opportunity to do that.
There are many different plugins available, and while they all work, they aren’t all the same. The one I recommend is Grow Social Pro.
Using this plugin allows you to create the correct image for each social sharing platform. For example, I use one size on my posts. That is not the same one I want to have when I share on Facebook or Pinterest.
The plugin allows you to indicate which image you want on Facebook and Pinterest. It also forces the reader to use the image you want rather than use what they want.
The plugin will allow you to add the Pinterest title and description quickly. It even allows you to upload multiple pinnable images and hide them until the reader clicks the share button!
Finally, it is a light plugin. That means it does not use many resources when it loads, allowing your site to load more quickly. Some plugins I’ve tried in the past are resource hogs, and they harmed my site speed.
If you want to recover share counts, add multiple images, custom descriptions, and use additional sharing platforms, you will need to pay for it. But that cost is nominal at just $29 a year. Very affordable.
Cost: Up to $29/year
Hackers are everywhere. And, even though you think your site is not something they’d love to hack, you’re mistaken. Protect your site by limiting the login attempts.
The plugin you need is Wordfence. If someone tries to hack your site, they will get only three tries and are locked out. You can also get an alert if someone tries to hack your site (if you want to go in and update your password to something new and strong).
You need to have a caching plugin on your site too. The cache is when individual images and settings get remembered by your browser not to have to reload every single time.
When visitors come to your page repeatedly, items such as your header, menus, etc., will be remembered and will load from the last visit they made. It makes your site load more quickly, resulting in positive user experiences.
We all want readers to sign up for our newsletter. That is a direct line between you and the people who love what you have to say (and can increase your income). Most e-mail providers have a plugin or add-on that allows you to include a link to sign up.
However, these are usually small boxes that may, or may not, really have a look you want. Also, these are options that are placed only in your sidebar or within the post. You may want to have a welcome bar at the top of your site or even show an exit pop-up. That requires a plugin.
This is where ThriveLeads can help. You can create different opt-in pop-ups and even test them against one another, so you use the one that has the most conversions (or sign-ups). You can create custom sign-up forms to place within your posts to increase engagement and opt-ins.
Cost: $19/month (paid annually – but they offer a 30-day guarantee)
When you upload your images to your post, you must make them the size you want them to appear. That means you should not upload that 2000 x 2000 image and then use WordPress to downsize it to 500 x 500. That requires a lot of resources and can slow down your site. Resize it properly before uploading.
You want your images compressed. That way, they can load more quickly every single time a visitor is looking at your site. Image compression does not sacrifice the image’s quality but rather allows it to load much more quickly.
To comply with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules, you need to let your readers know that you use them. Even if you do not live in the EU, you may have visitors who do, which means you need to comply.
THE PLUGINS YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE ON YOUR SITE
Just like some plugins are helpful, there are a few that you may want to consider dropping. Use only the plugins that make sense for your site, and don’t add anything without doing your research.
This plugin can slow down your site. You also do not need to use this for the functions they offer, as other plugins do as good if not even a better job than this one does.
You can find much better alternatives and remove Jetpack from your site.
I get the appeal, but it takes a lot of resources. That, in turn, can slow down your site load time. You don’t want that. Stick with other social sharing icons that work better.
You may like the look of a slider on your home page, but most of them are not programmed to run efficiently. And, most readers never land on your home page anyhow. Stick with static images to make sure your site loads as quickly as possible.
Google Analytics Plugin
Never use a plugin to connect your site to Google Analytics. The only exception to this is the headers and footers plugin (which is not a plugin that causes any load time issues). To find out what your site is doing as far as referrals and traffic, log in to Google Analytics.
You can easily connect your site to Google Analytics and Google Search console without using any heaving plugin.
HOW TO ADD A PLUGIN TO YOUR SITE
If you are new to WordPress, the idea of adding a plugin to your site can be a scary thought. After all, you do not want to make it crash!! It is straightforward to add a plugin. Just follow these steps:
Back up your site. You can use the plugin I shared above, but even if you do not, make sure you perform a backup of your entire site before installing a new plugin. There can be compatibility issues, and that may crash your site. Having a backup will give you insurance that you can restore your site to the way it looked before the plugin was added.)
Download the plugin. It will downloadas a zip file. Do NOT open it. Just download and leave the file zipped shut. Go to your dashboard and click on Add New.
Upload the plugin. Select Upload Plugin.Select Choose File. That will open your computer directory. Find the zip file and select it. Then, select install.
Activate the plugin. Once uploaded, press the Activate Plugin button.
You may need to go into your plugin and adjust the settings. You can find that on your dashboard. It may be under tools or listed separately. Consult the plugin landing page for details on settings you may need to adjust (or reach out to your tech for more information).
There you go! A simple guide to understanding plugins, those you need, and even installing new WordPress plugins to your website!!