Congratulations, you have created a new website. You are getting your head around WordPress and noticed, that there are millions of plugins available – hundreds of thousands are free – to customize your website and add functionality. You surely are wondering what are the must-have plugins for a WordPress blog, what are the important wordpress plugins that you need to add on Day 1.
In this post I am guiding you through a handful of essential WordPress plugins, so that you can rest assured that your new website looks and feels like a proper, modern website.
I am also giving you a few options to choose from. You will see that even if two plugins are supposed to do the same, it will come down to personal preference which one you end up using long-term.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Before we jump right in the middle, I must also add that some themes (free and paid versions) often come with functionality built in that would render some of these plugins that I listed below, useless. Social media icons, date remover and author bio are the most common functionalities that can be built into your theme, so besides the first one, I won’t talk about these.
As a general rule of thumb you are probably better off using the built-in functions, because they are quicker and more reliable than plugins that you add later to your WordPress. So unless there is a flaw with the theme, my advice is to use it to it’s full potential.
Optimal Number of Plugins
Again, just as a general advice, the less the better. Although most plugins are designed to be reliable and fast, every plugin that you add will decrease site speed ever so slightly, and will add to the risk of your site ‘misbehaving’.
This has the potential to affect your Search Engine Ranking, so – pointing back to why you were better off using the theme rather than a plugin for the same feature – avoid using plugins unless you really need them.
Having said that, there are a few that are worth adding to your website, and these won’t affect negatively the performance of your site.
Search Engine Optimisation Plugins
Probably one of the most importan plugin you can add, despite the fact that WordPress itself does 90% of Search Engine Optimisation.
The two main players are All-in-One SEO and Yoast!, both have a free and a premium version.
I used both (and tried a few others), and I can understand why both are really popular.
All-in-One SEO’s free plugin is a feature rich yet hardly noticeable plugin. You set it up right after installing it, and then you can forget about it. You can easily link your Google Search Console and Google Analytics account, link up with Bing! Pinterest, Baidu or Yandex.
It supports Schema.org markups however, the it is very basic in the free version.
Yoast is slightly different. It has the same functionalities as All-in-One SEO, but there are a lot more features that many bloggers could not live without (any many others would die if they had to use Yoast again).
Yoast has as an on-page SEO checker built in that analyses your post as you write it. You can select a keyword or keywords you target, and Yoast would tell you if your post is written optimally to have the best chance to rank. It looks at post lengths, paragraphs, number of images, headers, grammar, keyword density and a lot more other factors.
To be honest with you I hated using Yoast. The posts I wrote using Yoast did not rank any better than the ones I wrote without, yet I spent hours on top writing the post re-writing it for Yoast. It was very frustrating and I wished Yoast to hell after a few months, so I removed it.
Others – as I said – love this feature and would not post anything without the green light from Yoast.
I found that it was killing my creativity and I felt I was writing for the algorithm rather than actual human beings. Those who don’t like Yoast swear they can recognise a post aided by Yoast on any website, because of the weirdness of text.
I don’t know, it’s not black and white so it is probably best if you try Yoast first, get the crack of what is ‘SEO friendly’ writing and than you can remove it if you want to and replace it with another SEO plugin.
Image Optimization Plugins
Image optimizers will increase your page speeds by way of optimising the size of the images on your website to the viewers screen. As a result, only the necessary image size will load, so large images won’t take up unnecessary bandwidth and won’t slow down the loading of your website. Increased page speeds can result in better search engine rankings, and will also improve conversion rates (increased sales and signups).
It will also save you storage space and bandwidth. These plugins automatically optimize new images that you upload, as well as all the images that you have already uploaded
On of the popular ones. Not really spectacular but does the job seamlessly. I used EWWW for over a year and I never had a crash, a flaw or anything that would negatively affect user experience.
If you need a decent image optimiser, EWWW is a good choice.
On a longer post, where it takes 5-10 minutes for a person to read it from the first character to the last one, the page normally loads at once. It means that pictures, videos, text – everything – will load before the page appears in forn of the viewer. If there are large pictures or videos in the article, this may take quite long. This delay may result in the viewer clicking away. Even if one person out of ten clicks away, that’s 10% reduction in your visitor-numbers.
Lazy load plugins get rid of this delay by loading pictures and videos gradually – as they become visible for the viewer.
Kraken.io Image Optimizer
Just like EWWW, Kraken.io is a decent image optimizer that compresses images ‘on-the-fly’ – as you upload them – using a lossless compression method. Kraken.io is a bigger name amongst business users, quite a few large international companies work with Kraken.io.
The reason I use the full version of the Kraken.io image optimizer plugin is because it comes built in with any SiteRubix site you make (or any site that you host with Wealthy Affiliate) – subscription prices range from $5 to $79 a month.
Update: I only use SMUSH now, as it performed better in optimizing images and improving overall site speed. Read the full story here: 5-Step Easy Method To Boost WordPress Site Speed
Social Media Plugins
Just to remind you, if you have social media icons and sharing with your theme, I recommend you use those. Unless, you don’t like the buttons etc.
Ultimate Social Media Icons
My favourite social media plugin, I add this to all my sites. Not because I am too active on social media, I only have a Pinterest account anyways, but because Ultimate Social Media Icons has a huge variety of icons that fit any theme.
Even the free version is packed full of features and settings that are very straightforward to set up. If there’s one thing I wish they had included in the free version is the Pinterest ‘Pin it’ button over the images. If you don’t have a Pinterest account this probably won’t bother you.
Update: I swapped USMI to Sassy Social Care, as Sassy worked better together with my other plugins (ie. site performance).
Good-to-have WordPress Plugins
Really just to mention a few. I don’t have all of them on one site all the time, but probably these are the ones that I eventually add to all my websites.
Buttons – MaxButtons
It does what’s on the tin. If you need decent Call-to-Action buttons, MaxButtons is an easy one to start with. I don’t always use it because with some themes I just can make it look integral to the rest of the site. There are probably better ones out there, but MaxButtons is free and easy to use.
Anyways, just as an idea of what plugins are ‘good-to-have’, a plugin that gives you ‘Buttons’ is certainly one.
One of the simplest yet most brilliant plugins…or am I just a freak? You can add a shortcode to your WordPress post and you can make entire paragraphs or sections appear and disappear. I wanted it for my F.A.Q page but I end up using it all the time because it just makes any page look free of clutter.
It does not affect SEO, because the text / image / everything is still there within the code of your page, you can simply make it disappear for the viewer.Click here to see how Collapse-O-Matic works!
I just simply added the shortcode ‘expand’ and I made this line go away. I used ‘/expand’ to tell this plugin the end of the section that I want vanished.
Another brilliant plugin that is simple yet effective. Again, its name speaks for itself. You can slide pictures (as a carousel), posts, text, anything.
I love it because it is easy to create a ‘slide-show’ for every page, and I can insert the ones I alreade made with one click. It looks like this:
A must-have plugin for online marketers, a good-to-have for everybody else. It is basically a URL shortener and a plugin to manage your re-directs. For example, you have a page that you have removed, but the URL is everywhere on social media and is about to going viral, you can simply set up a redirect from that ‘non-existing’ page to any other page on or off your website.
The same principle applies when you make links look pretty. Instead of inserting an ugly affiliate link on your page, you can simply create a pretty mywebsite.com/product link. Whoever clicks on this link will automatically be redirected to either to the affiliate link, or to another webpage on your site (ie. a product review).
The benefit of Pretty Links is that people more likely click on links that look clear and tell where they take them (rather than a random string of letters and numbers), so it can increase click and conversions.
But also, it just looks prettier.
So as you can see, there aren’t a lot of plugins the you actually ‘Must Have’, and almost every one of them are free (and have decent features while being free).
You don’t really need much more plugins to have a decent website, and I believe that too many plugins would have a negative effect on site speed.
The plugins I use on this site;
- Classic Editor (WordPress built-in)
- All-in-One SEO (comes pre-loaded with hosting)
- Sassy Social Care
- Slide Anything
- Pretty Links
- Optin Forms
Is there anything else I need?
I will need to add Schema.org mark-up – I am trialling RankMath right now.. The one I used to use before, caused serious troubles with Google Search Console so I am yet to find another one and implement it on every relevant page…duh…
But I think that’s it…
What do you reckon?
Have you had any issues with finding plugins?
Yoast! or NO Yoast?? 🙂