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When you’re just starting your blog, there are lot of choices you have to make. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the different functionalities, including what you need and don’t need. Don’t know where to start? No problem! We’ve created this list of all of the absolute must have plugins to help get you going.
What is a plugin? Essentially, they’re pieces of software written to word with WordPress. They’re like little WordPress programs! Plugins will greatly enhance the functionality of your site, or in some cases, even add functionality.
Take a look through this list and see for yourself how many amazing plugins there are out there. This is just a small sampling of all of the different plugins available, too. The best part is that we’ve chosen only plugins which are free or have incredible free versions alongside a premium paid option.
How to install a plugin
If you’ve never installed a plugin, here’s a quick overview:
Go to the lefthand side of your WordPress admin panel, and click on “plugins,” then click “add new.”
In the search panel, type in the name of the plugin you want. If you don’t know a good plugin to try, you can search by keyword. In the list which comes up, you can either open up the plugin to read about what it does, or simply click “install.” Once it’s installed (it should only take a few seconds), click “activate,” and follow the prompts from there to get set up (if it doesn’t prompt you, you should be able to click “set up” after it’s activated.
1. Rank Math – plugin for SEO
When you do a search for must have WordPress plugins, typically you’ll find Yoast SEO in the top spot. We’ve tried it, and while it is extremely powerful, we recently tried Rank Math instead, and liked it so much better.
The thing is that SEO (search engine optimisation) is one of the most important and powerful tools in having a successful blog. SEO is the most consistent way to drive traffic to your blog – thus helping you make more money.
The reason we prefer Rank Math to Yoast is that Yoast gives you an unhelpful checklist that they say ‘determines’ your SEO score which isn’t very realistic. You can score a 98 with Yoast and may never rank because of outside factors. While Rank Math also scores your site, it has a whole host of far more powerful built-in tools which don’t cost you anything.
Features of Rank Math:
- Optimize Unlimited Keywords
- Google Search Console Integration
- Google Schema Markup aka Rich Snippets Integrated
- Google Keyword Ranking built in
- Optimal SEO Settings Pre-Selected – to take the guess work out of setting up your site
- Advanced SEO Analysis Tool
- 34 Detailed SEO Tests
- Deep Content Analysis Tests
- Internal Linking Suggestions
2. Jetpack – plugin for site security
Nothing is more important than the security of your website. With Jetpack, you can easily get setup, and it goes to work to ensure hackers cannot get into your site. It also speeds up your site’s load time through image optimisation as well as your mobile site to reduce bandwith.
Features of Jetpack:
- Brute-force attack protection, spam filtering, and downtime monitoring.
- Backups of your entire site, either once daily or in real time.
- Secure login, with optional two-factor authentication.
- Malware scanning, code scanning, and automated threat resolution.
- A record of every change on your site to simplify troubleshooting.
- Elastic search-powered related content and site search, for relevant results with no drain on your servers.
- Lazy image loading (which means images load as you scroll rather than all at once) for a faster mobile experience.
- Advanced site stats and analytics for understanding your audience.
- Integration with the official WordPress mobile apps, to manage your site from anywhere.
There are even more, and more in-depth, features with the paid version.
3. Akismet – Anti spam plugin
Akismet is the only plugin (on this list) which will come automatically installed with WordPress. What this plugin does is filters out spammy comments and prevents bots from contacting you through your site. If you think, “I have a brand new / tiny blog; spam and bots probably won’t find me.” They will. It is incredible the amount of spam you can receive; in fact, it may all seem like spam. Akismet is easily one of the single most helpful plugins you can have.
Features of Akismet:
- Automatically checks all comments and filters out the ones that look like spam.
- Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were caught or cleared by Akismet and which were spammed or unspammed by a moderator.
- URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links.
- Moderators can see the number of approved comments for each user.
- A discard feature that outright blocks the worst spam, saving you disk space and speeding up your site.
In order to use Akismet, you have to get an API key by registering on their website. You’ll be automatically prompted to do this when you active the plugin. If you have a personal blog, Akismet is free to use — rather, it’s a ‘name your own price’ model, but the price can be $0/month. More likely than not, though, your blog would be considered a business, in which case Akismet will run you $5 USD/month. It’s worth it, we promise.
4. Monster Insights – plugin for Google analytics
Google analytics is arguably the single most powerful tool a blogger — or any website owner — can have. Monster Insights allows you to see all of your Google analytics tracking right from your WordPress dashboard. You can customise all of the data you want to see, create reports on demand, and see your stats in real time.
Through Monster Insights, you have the ability to to set up Google analytics right through Wordpess. At one time, this would have required you to hire a developer, but now will only take you about 15 minutes.
Features of Monster Insights:
- Audience Report
- Which country your visitors are coming from
- What are they most interested in
- Which device are they usings
- Their age, gender, and a whole lot more
- Behavior Report (Pro) – how people find your website, which keywords did they search for, who referred them, what did they click on your site, and more. You can use these useful stats to identify low-hanging fruits, new partnership opportunities, and promotional areas to focus on.
- Content Report (Pro) – which content gets the most visits.
- Ecommerce Report (Pro) – total revenue, conversion rate, average order value, top referral sources, and more.
- Forms Report (Pro) – conversion stats for various contact forms and lead forms.
- Search Console Report (Pro) – how well your website is ranking in Google, so you can further optimize your SEO to grow your organic traffic.
- Custom Dimensions Report (Pro) – who are your most popular authors, what are the best publication times, which are your most popular categories or tags, and more.
Simply put, Monster Insights is hands down one of the most helpful plugins you can have to be able to grow your blog. The only features included in the Monster Insights Pro Lite plan, which is free, are the ones through the audience report. For most, this is going to be all that you need. But going into the paid plan opens up a lot more insight which could be extremely valuable for you.
5. Updraft Plus – plugin for site backups
Short and sweet version of why you should be using Updraft Plus — protect your data. Nothing could be worse than losing your site. While your web host should be providing site backups for you as well, having a backup for your backup is always a good idea, especially when it costs you nothing.
Features of Updraft Plus:
- Restores, as well as backing up
- Backs up to more cloud options than any others
- Allows you to set up automatic backup schedules, for the ultimate in convenience
There is a paid version as well, which includes things like database encryption and incremental backups, it’s not likely you need that, especially if you’re just starting out.
6. GROW by Mediavine
Formerly known as Social Pug, GROW by Mediavine is the go-to source for allowing your posts to be shared via social platforms. GROW is not to be confused with Mediavine itself, which is a coveted ad management service for which you only become eligible after achieving 25,000 page views per month on your site.
Rather, GROW is a completely free plugin which allows you to have the little social share buttons automatically show up on all of your posts. Another no brainer — you need this.
GROW by Mediavine features:
- Before and After Content Social Share Buttons
- Floating Sidebar Social Share Buttons
- Social Share Counts and Total Share Counts
- Editable Button Labels
Note that you’re going to need to edit the settings to really make this as useful as it could be. For example, neither the before/after or floating sidebar social share buttons are automatically turned on for mobile devices. You’ll definitely want to enable that, amongst play with other settings. If you want to give users the ability to share on more than just Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, you have to manually enable it in the settings.
GROW is a completely free plugin, and the free version will do what you need. For less than $35 USD/year, you can opt into the ‘pro’ version, which has some really cool features like expanded sharing to more platforms, customise the look of your share buttons, place share buttons anywhere in your posts through the use of shortcodes, track sharing via Google analytics, social media follow buttons, and more.
7. ConvertKit – plugin for growing your email list
ConvertKit has been lauded as the best way to grow your online community and subscriber list because it offers you the ability to incentivise your readers to sign up. You can offer freebies to your readers like a white sheet or ebook, and upon entering their email, they will be sent an automatic download.
For all of its incredible functionality, ConvertKit is now a freemium service, and the free version offers incredible functionality. ConvertKit is free until you reach 500 subscribers, and then you have to move into a paid plan which incrementally increases in price as your list grows.
There are no fancy features for the plugin; it simply is an extension of their service. If you don’t use the plugin, to insert a form into your site, you will need to go into your ConvertKit dashboard to find a form, open it, and use the sharing tools to copy and paste the HTML or Java code. If you change the form, you will have to go back and copy and paste the new code as it won’t auto update, which could be a real pain.
WIth the plugin, you can save a lot of headache by simply using a shortcode. The even nicer feature with using shortcodes is that your form will automatically incorporate edits made to it, so you don’t have to do it manually. With the plugin, you can also edit and create new opt-in forms directly in WordPress.
8. WP Fastest Cache – plugin to speed up your site
Not only is having a slow loading site annoying, but it will also hurt your SEO. While caching plugins can typically cost you, WP Fastest Cache gives you a ton of functionality at no cost. (More than a million people are actively using it, so you know it’s legit.)
There’s a lot of technical jargon that goes into explaining caching, how it works, and why you need it. Ultimately it comes down to: this plugin will speed up your site by automatically creating a static HTML file
WP Fastest Cache features:
- Mod_Rewrite which is the fastest method is used in this plugin
- All cache files are deleted when a post or page is published
- Admin can delete all cached files, minified css, and js files from the options page
- Block cache for specific page or post with Short Code
- Cache Timeout – All cached files are deleted at the determined time
- Cache Timeout for specific pages
- Enable/Disable cache option for mobile devices and logged-in users
- SSL / CDN / Cloudflare support
- Preload Cache – Create the cache of all the site automatically
- Exclude pages and user-agents
That might all seem like a different language, and that’s okay. What’s important to note here is that after you install WP Fastest Cache, you’ll have to go into the settings and manually enable the features you want. You may not really understand what you need to turn on. Again, totally okay. Try not to overthink it and just look at what the options are. Turn on what you think would be important. If you’re overwhelmed, go ahead and simply enable everything with the default settings. You don’t necessary need everything enabled, but it can’t hurt anything.
It’s worth noting that far more features, such as lazy loading (where your site loads as the user scrolls rather than all at once), image compression, and a whole lore more, are only useable with the paid version. WP Fastest Cache’s paid features will run you less than $50 for lifetime access, which is pretty great. If you’re going to look at paying for a caching plugin, though, WP Rocket is considered to be superior, but it’s $49 per year. The free version is more than sufficient as you’re starting out, though!
9. TinyPNG – plugin to compress your images
Another plugin to boost your site speed (and thus your SEO), but with focus solely on reducing the file size of your JPG / JPEG / PNG images. This plugin runs in the background and will automatically reduce your image sizes by 40-80% when you upload them. If you’ve got a pre-existing site with media already uploaded, TinyPNG will automatically compress what’s already there, too.
If you’re paying for a caching plugin, you don’t necessarily need this, but having an extra compression plugin isn’t the worst idea, and it doesn’t cost you anything.
- Automatically optimize new images on upload.
- Advanced background optimization to speed up your workflow.
- Optimize individual images already in your media library.
- Automatically resize huge image uploads by setting a maximum width and/or height for more reasonable browser display.
- Display JPEG images more quickly with progressive JPEG encoding.
- Chose to preserve copyright metadata, creation date and GPS location in your original images.
- Select which thumbnail sizes of an image may be optimized.
- Convert CMYK to RGB to save more space and add compatibility.
- No file size limits.
Note that TinyPNG can be used for up to 500 compressed images per month. After that, the plugin will stop working unless you enter a credit card, and the cost is $0.09 per image for up to 9,500 images, then $0.02 after that. E.g. if you’re uploading 1,6000 images per month, which is a lot, it would run you about $10.
Also important to note is that while 500 images sounds like a lot — more than you’ll ever need — each compression performed is counted as an image, so at the end of the day, you only get like 50 (or half that if you don’t go in and manually edit your settings).
10. Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed – plugin to display your Instagram feed
If you’ve got a blog, there’s a good change you have an Instagram to go along with it. And your Instagram feed is probably gorgeous! Show it off very easily and directly on your site through the Smash Balloon plugin. It will help increase your social media reach and engagement, too!
Smash Balloon features:
- Completely responsive and mobile ready – layout looks great on any screen size and in any container width
- Customize the width, height, number of photos, number of columns, image size, background color, image spacing and more!
- Display thumbnail, medium or full-size photos from your Instagram feed
- Infinitely load more of your Instagram photos with the ‘Load More’ button
- Includes a Follow on Instagram button at the bottom of your feed
- Display a beautiful header at the top of your feed
- Display your Instagram photos chronologically or in random order
Once you activate the plugin, you will have some legwork to connect your Instagram. The easiest way to do it is through Facebook, but you have to have a business / creator Facebook page linked to your Instagram account in order to do that.
The paid features of Smash Balloon are nice, too. If Instagram is your main focus, you may want to consider it just to be able to display your images in a popup, show likes and comment counts, and more. Otherwise, just the basic plugin works very well!
11. jQuery Pin It Button for Images – plugin for Pinterest sharing
This is a no frills plugin which gives you the ability to create a Pinterest pin for literally every image on your site. When a user is on your blog, all they have to do is hover over an image, and the little Pinterest “P” will appear. They click it, and they will automatically be prompted to create a new pin. Super straight foward; super helpful.
Features of jQuery Pin It Button:
- Choose from where the pin description should be taken
- Choose which pictures shouldn’t show the “Pin it” button (using classes)
- Choose which pictures should show the “Pin it” button (all images, post images, images with certain class(es))
- Choose if you want to show the “Pin it” button on home page, single posts, single pages or category pages
- Disable showing the button on certain posts and pages
- Choose transparency level depending on your needs
12. Easy Affiliate Links – plugin for affiliate linking
At some point, you will likely start using affiliate links — if you haven’t already — to earn passive income from your blog. Now just to be honest, this is a plugin which will require some work on your part, but it will be worth it.
For starters, Easy Affiliate Links provides link cloaking and shortlinking, so instead of having some crazy (and suspicious) looking link like https://www.amazon.com/product/AJ824LBASLK84ULSGKJS83ONNGHIW71, you can create yoursite.com/recommends/product. This looks so much better, and your users will be a lot more likely to trust clicking on it.
If that doesn’t sell you (“sell”… since this is free), there’s a way better reason to download this and put the work into using it. Lets say you’ve linked Tailwind all over your site with your affiliate link. Then one day, your affiliate link changes. Or you’ve got a really great product through your Amazon affiliate link, but one day, that item goes out of stock. Typically, you would have to go back thought your whole site and every single post to update each link individually. With Easy Affiliate Links, you’d just have to go into the link manager, update to the new URL, and the plugin would automatically go through and update every dang link. <insert mouth hanging open wide enough to drive a semi truck through it here>
And remember, that unbelievable time (and sanity) saver is free. You just have to put the work in up front.
Easy Affiliate Links features:
- Create shortlinks to optionally cloak your affiliate links
- Leave specific links uncloaked for Amazon compatibility
- Easily access your links in the visual and html editor
- Assign categories to your links
- Tracking of monthly and lifetime clicks
- Import affiliate links from XML and CSV
- Ability to export your links to XML
If you want to upgrade, the paid version is about $35 per year (it’s advertised for much cheaper, but there is a 21% tax added at checkout). The paid version gives you some nice features, such as a broken link checker and a full host of analytics and performance tools.
13. WP Affiliate Disclosure – plugin for automatic disclosures
Hey, speaking of affiliate linking! FTC guidelines require that any page on your site which contains affiliate links must have a visible disclosure that you will be paid through their use. If you are promoting products from companies within the USA, Canada, or the UK, there are major penalties for not disclosing. This is not legal advice, and you should review the FTC guidelines yourself.
This can get tedious to remember to do on every single post — because in all likelihood, once you start affiliate linking, you will have them within every post. But with WP Affiliate Disclosure, you can have them automatically inserted every time and never have to worry about it.
WP Affiliate Disclosure features:
- Show the disclosure statement at the beginning and/or the end of a post.
- Easily customize statement content, including adding in links, images, as well as HTML elements.
- Only show the disclosure statement on certain posts.
- Only show the disclosure statement based on its taxonomies ( categories / tags )
14. Contact Form by WPForms – plugin to create email forms
If you want a form on your website — any form, be it a simple contact form, a survey, or a large submission form — you need this plugin. It gives you so much functionality and such ease of use. You can also create one form and use it in multiple places throughout your site, which will make your life so much easier.
Contact Form by WPForms features:
- Drag & Drop Contact Form Builder.
- Surveys & Polls.
- Easy to Customize and Extend.
- Spam Protection.
- Instant Form Notification.
- Smart Form Certification.
For most users, the free version is all you will ever need. But if you want to create subscription forms, multi-page contact forms, have users upload files, integrate payments, you will want to go into a paid version, starting at $79/year (though they often run 50% sales!)
15. Easy Table of Contents – plugin for table of contents
There are two minds about having a table of contents (like the one at the top of this post). On one hand, Google really likes them, so it helps you out with SEO. On the other, it can make it easy for readers to skip over content, therefore decreasing the time they spend scrolling through your articles, and that doesn’t help your SEO.
In the long run, having a table of contents is probably a smart idea, and Easy Table of Contents lives up to its name — it makes it super easy.
Easy Table of Contents features:
- Automatically generate a table of contents for your posts, pages and custom post types by parsing its contents for headers.
- Supports the <!–nextpage–> tag.
- Optionally enable for pages and/or posts.
- Optionally auto insert the table of contents into the page, selectable by enabled post type.
- Many options are available to configure how the inserted table of contents appears which include several builtin themes. If the supplied themes do no meet you needs, you can create your own by choosing you own colors for the border, background and link color.
- Multiple counter bullet formats to choose from; none, decimal, numeric and roman.
- Choose to display the table of contents hierarchical or not. This means headings of lower priority will be nested under headings of higher priority.
- Selectively enable or disabled the table of contents on a post by post basis.
- Easily exclude headers globally and on a post by post basis.
- If you rather not insert the table of contents in the post content, you can use the supplied widget and place the table of contents in your theme’s sidebar.
16. WooCommerce – plugin for online stores
We saved this one for last because it’s the only plugin which may not be applicable to everyone. By which, we mean not everyone is ready to have an online store. If you’re not there, just keep this in mind for later.
If you’re monetising your site to the point of needing a store (offering presets, an ebook, etc), WooCommerce is the way to go. It’s an open source platform that makes it super easy to create and launch a store.
- Product, Cart, and Checkout pages.
- Secure payments by credit card and alternatives.
- Integrate content and commerce across your site via modular blocks.
- Automated tax calculations.
- Google Analytics, MailChimp, and Facebook integration
- Central store dashboard with key metrics, and more.
- Choose a design to suit your brand and industry.
You also have the ability to enhance your store with free and paid extensions. You can add features and integrate with local and global eCommerce web services.
Wrapping up the must have WordPress plugins
Whether you’re new to the blogging world or have run your site for years, we’re hoping you’ve found some new resources with this post. All of these resources will greatly enhance your productivity, save you time and energy, and make you a smarter business blogger and entrepreneur in the long run.
It should also be noted that while we have the mandatory affiliate link disclosure, because we do have a couple throughout this post, the vast majority of plugins are noted simply because we love them. They really are the best resources out there for you, and we’re not just saying that in hopes of making money. So hopefully this is helpful for you!
Go forth and prosper, young grasshopper!
Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments! And also let us know any other plugins you absolutely love!
PS We’d love to be friends on Instagram 🙂
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