Like there aren’t already a million of them out there.
Oh – excuse me – a million? Try over 39 million… and counting.
But people keep writing them because there are new, helpful plug-ins being created every day, and it can be really tempting to install a whole bunch of ’em on to your blog. Some of them are REALLY cool!
Unfortunately, every plug-in you install slows down your blog. And slow blogs suck, because when people click on a link to your blog, they expect it to BE THERE NOW. According to Kissmetrics, as many as 25% of people will leave a page that hasn’t loaded in 4 seconds! Personally, I think people are a lot more patient with blogs than they are with commercial sites, but slow speeds are always going to be the enemy.
So, there’s the dilemma – there’re all kinds of great plug-ins that you can use to improve your reader’s experience, BUT, use too many of them and your page loads are so slow they leave.
That’s why I want to share what I think are the absolute MUST HAVE plug ins. Once you’ve got these installed, take a look at your site speed. Then, add other plug-ins as fit your needs. With each new plug in, run a website test – at the appropriately named WebPageTest.org – and see how long it takes your site to load. If you find a plug-in that slows it down considerably, then you may want to reconsider using that plug in.
I hear people ask “How many plug-ins are too many?” and that’s really not quite the right question. You can have a lot of simple plug ins that don’t have much effect at all on your site speed. But other are resource hogs and should really only be used if absolutely necessary. So let’s just start with the basics, the plug-ins you must have – and then you can go from there, deciding what works best for your blog.
WP Super Cache
Since we’re talking about speed, let’s talk about caches first. A caching plug-in like WP Super Cache actually helps your site load faster for you readers. How it does that is a little bit technical – if you’re interested you can find out how here – WordPress Support. What’s important isn’t how it works, but that it does! By installing WP Super Cache, your readers will get faster page loads, and that makes everybody happy.
Getting it set up can seem a little complicated – but there’s a great tutorial walk-through over at WPBeginner – Set-up and Install WP Super Cache.
By the way – you may have already installed a caching plug in to your blog; W3 Total Cache is another very popular one. If you have one installed that is working – you’re golden. Don’t worry about switching to Super Cache just because it’s my favorite. The important thing is that you are using some sort of caching plug in that works.
Basically, Akismet kills spam dead. It checks each and every comment that gets submitted to your blog to see if it’s good or if it’s spammy spam. It’s easy to set up and use and gets about 99% of the spam that comes to my blog – and I don’t need to use any Captchas or other nuisances that stand in the way of my readers leaving comments!
Google XML Sitemaps
An XML sitemap is basically a roadmap of the site structure of your blog that helps the search engines find their way around your blog more efficiently – that helps your search engine ranking. Google XML Sitemaps automatically generates a sitemap for your blog.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
If you were only going to use ONE plug in on your blog, it would have to be WordPress SEO. It does so much to help improve your search engine optimization, ensuring that you correctly use social sharing tags, meta descriptions and more. Correct use will definitely help you in the search engines.
Contact Form 7
One of the things I always look for on a blog is a way to contact the blog owner. When there’s not one, I have less confidence in the blog. Contact Form 7 is what I’ve been using for this since my very first WordPress blog. It’s so simple to use and is a great way to let your readers (or potential customers) contact you without having to put your email address out in the open on your blog.
Jetpack is an absolute must for WordPress in my opinion. I know there are people who dislike it for a variety of reasons, but it’s great for me. I love using the stats tracking – it has all the basic information I need right there on my dashboard, in real time. I also love their simple to use social sharing buttons. I’ve heard some people say that Jetpack slows down their blog, but that hasn’t been true in my experience, and with Jetpack I was able to uninstall a bunch of other plugins.
This WordPress plug-in allows you to make backups and restore your blog if necessary. Your host may be keeping backups, but never depend on that solely – always have your own. With UpDraftPlus, you can save the backups to DropBox, Google Drive and others – or have it emailed to you.
Bonus Plug-In – WordFence Security
Nothing will make a blogger’s stomach drop to floor faster than to find out their site has been hacked, and it happens WAY more than you think it does. WordFence helps keep you safe so it doesn’t happen to you. My blog isn’t all that big, yet WordFence is blocking out people trying to force hack their way into it every single day. The free version is probably all you’ll ever need, but the premium version does have some neat functions that can help you stay even safer.
So there you go – my list of the absolutely must-have plug-ins for your WordPress blog. Once you’ve got those tasks taken care of, you can look at other plug-ins and decide what you need to create the blog that you want!