Essential WordPress Plugins
With a growing list of over 20,000 plugins, it’s sometimes a bit tricky to figure out which plugins to use. This is a quick overview of 12 essential WordPress plugins every WordPress blog should have. The good news is that (at the time of this writing) they are all completely free. The following essential WordPress plugins relate to improving WordPress functionality, security, SEO, and social marketing.
#1 – Secure WP
Security should always be your first concern when anything is publicly accessible on the Internet; this is why I rank Secure-WP as one of the most essential WordPress plugins out there. Don’t get me wrong: WordPress natively does a great job of protecting your blog, as long as you keep the version up to date.
However, Secure-WP further strengthens that security by removing reams of information that could be used by hackers and deleting some sensitive material from user accounts, while keeping this information in the admin account. Good material!
#2 – Spam Free WordPress
Spam is a HUGE problem with WordPress blogs, which makes an anti-spam plugin one of the most essential WordPress plugins. I use Spam Free WordPress, which seems to work quite well. Over the course of a 6-month period, he has blocked over 8,000 spam comments, a number that seems to be growing exponentially. Now imagine having to go through 40-50 spam comments per day! One of the key reasons we use plugins is to save time, and Spam Free WordPress certainly does that!
Essential WordPress Plugins #3 – W3 Total Cache
After fixing security and spam, the next thing that comes to mind is site speed. No one will wait 30 seconds for your web page to load, so site speed is critical. I will now mention a couple of essential WordPress plugins that help boost your website.
The first is W3 Total Cache. This plugin is hugely popular, having been downloaded almost 1.2 million times! It helps speed up your site by improving server performance, caching all aspects of your website, reducing download times, and providing seamless content delivery network (CDN) integration. In short, it makes your WordPress blog faster!
#4 – WP Optimization
WordPress is database based. The more efficient the database, the faster pages can be accessed from the database, the faster your site loads for your visitors. However, over time, a WordPress database can become polluted with unnecessary information (such as deleted content, spam comments, old page reviews, etc.). This increases the overall size of the database and increases the access times for that database. The bottom line: your pages take longer to open.
WP Optimize cleans your database automatically and keeps it optimized by continuously removing unnecessary information.
#5 – WP Database Backup
In terms of essential WordPress plugins, backing up your data is up there. It’s something we all leave until it’s too late, and then wish we hadn’t. WP Database Backup makes core backup simple. The key here is that you can easily backup your site with WP DB, and if needed you can hire a freelancer to restore your sites, I imagine who would charge around $25-50, much less. headache to rebuild your site from scratch!
The only downside to this plugin is that it’s a bit of a hassle to restore if something happens to your site. There are alternative plugins that are much easier to use, such as Backup Buddy, but sadly this is not a free plugin, priced at $75 for 2 WordPress sites.
#6 – Broken Link Checker
There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a link and getting a “page not found” error. While this is frustrating for the visitor, it also usually has the effect of driving that visitor (and potential customer) away from your website. Broken Link Checker can monitor links in your posts, pages, comments, blogroll, and custom fields and report broken links to you via your WordPress dashboard or via email.
Essential WordPress Plugins #7 – Google XML Sitemaps
There are hundreds if not thousands of plugins related to SEO. Only a handful of these I would consider essential WordPress plugins. The first is Google XML Sitemaps. A sitemap is basically a roadmap of your website, describing all the individual pages and how they link to each other – its structure. Google and the other major search engines use such sitemaps to crawl and index your site more efficiently.
Google XML Sitemaps automatically creates such a sitemap and keeps it updated as you add new content. In addition, it also notifies the major search engines every time you create and publish new content.
#8 – All-in-One SEO Package
All in One SEO is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress blogs. It helps you optimize pages and posts by automatically generating meta tags and helps you optimize web page titles. The great thing about the all-in-one SEO package is that it is fully functional and requires very limited setup, making it ideal for those who are new to WordPress and SEO.
#9 – Follow Me Ultimate
Perhaps my “favorite” of the essential WordPress plugins listed here. Ultimate Follow Me is actually a WordPress sidebar widget that links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. It now also includes Google +1, which is generally considered a very prominent way to increase your search engine ranking.
I have demoed some of these social marketing plugins. While they all do pretty much the same thing, Ultimate Follow Me generally renders the social media icons a little “prettier”. There are various sizes to choose from and they look great in the sidebar – your visitors will surely not miss them!
#10 – Shareaholics
Another one of the essential WordPress plugins I can’t do without! The plugin automatically creates a beautiful little social marketing bar at the bottom of your posts where people can like your post on Facebook, tweet it on their Twitter account, or share it on many, many social bookmarking websites.
As of this writing, Shareaholic supports 85 sites! It also comes in 3 flavors, classic markers, sexy markers, and bold markers. Once you’ve decided which social sites to use, Shareaholic automatically posts the links to the bottom of every page or post, though you do have the option to override the plugin per page so it doesn’t show.
#11 – Google Analytics Dashboard
The Google Analytics Dashboard tracks visitors to each of your pages from within your WordPress dashboard, so you don’t need to log into your Google Analytics account! You can also embed parts of the analytics directly into posts or as part of your theme. One caveat for this plugin is that it doesn’t display the full information you’ll get from your Google Analytics account. It gives you the basic information you need to see who’s visiting what, which is mostly what I’m looking for in my Analytics account anyway.
#12 – Page Links
For me personally, this is one of the most essential WordPress plugins I use. I use it mainly in relation to the content that I use on the main page. Blog home page descriptions usually take the first 200 characters of the actual article page and display them as ad words.
The problem is that sometimes I don’t want to use the first 200 characters of my articles as the text displayed on the front page, relative to that article, so what should I do? I create an additional page, with the words I want to use, and use the Page Links To plugin to redirect that page to the actual post.
Summary of essential WordPress plugins
The general idea of plugins is to make your job easier when running a WordPress blog, but from personal experience, finding a plugin that does what you want it to do can often be a frustrating task in and of itself!
I can’t begin to imagine how many plugins I’ve tried over the years. The above 12 essential free WordPress plugins have managed to prove their worth time and time again.