Have you just got started with your blog on WordPress? Then you know all about just how easy it is to get started. You are also probably wondering what plugins you need to use to take it to the next level. You are right to ask that question; the right plugins can elevate your blog to the next level. These are the 12 WordPress plugins every starter blog needs.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #1: Jetpack
For a long time, one of the biggest drawbacks for those using a self-hosted WordPress blog was that it lacked much of the functionality that came built-in to a WordPress.com blog. Automattic, the creators of WordPress, solved this problem by creating a plugin that mirrored the best features.
As a starter blog, you will get the most use out of are the high-speed CDN, uptime monitoring, basic WordPress stats, basic social sharing buttons and the brute-force protection that comes built in. You can even use it to connect to the WordPress mobile app, which means you can get notifications from your blog to your phone.
One of the best things about using Jetpack is that you can turn features on and off as required. It is a plugin that can grow as your blog grows, and those premium and professional features you will access during that growth will supercharge your blog.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #2: Akismet
There comes the point when the spamming of comments to their site becomes an issue for any blog. It is not just big blogs that suffer, even a starter blog will experience it soon enough. Akismet is the premier way of stopping this on a WordPress blog; it is designed purely to stop spam comments reaching your blog.
Akismet works by automatically checking every comment made on your blog against the ‘Akismet Web service’ – which is essentially a massive database of spam collected over the years. It works in real time and is (allegedly) constantly evolving and learning to protect your site.
Akismet is a free package for non-commercial and starter blogs (donations are optional) with the option to upgrade it and increase functionality as your blog grows. Interestingly, Akismet is another plugin developed by WordPress creators Automattic, and it comes as standard with the paid versions of the Jetpack plugin.
Akismet is one of the few plugins that can be described as ‘truly essential’ for any blog, whether starter or established, Spam is the enemy. An enemy that it is essential to stop at the gates if I may use the analogy.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #3: Wordfence
WordPress is inherently a secure platform, it is built with best practice in mind and is fundamentally safe. However, nothing is perfect, and the fact that it is used by so many people make it a constant target for those who would exploit any potential vulnerabilities that it may have for personal gain.
As such one of the most important things any blog, let alone a starter blog, needs to do is secure itself from those who would attack it. Wordfence is the most comprehensive of all the WordPress security plugins – combining a firewall, malware scanner, login protection, live traffic monitoring and more into one, easy to use plugin.
Wordfence has the bonus of being 100% free and open source to start with, but with a premium option available to support larger blogs. It is another example of a plugin that can grow with your blog, with features such as premium support and country blocking becoming available in the premium offering – meaning you will not have to change plugins to increase blog security.
Wordfence, like Akismet, is one of those few plugins that can be labelled ‘truly essential’. Every blog and site must be secure, and sadly there is an almost never-ending stream of attackers always probing and looking for weaknesses that they can exploit. Do not let them find those weaknesses on your blog.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #4: Yoast SEO
Great SEO is an essential part of being successful with your starter blog. It is SEO that will allow search engines to find and rank your website, and getting it right is to go a long way to being successful online. As such, a plugin that helps with this is an essential addition, and they do not come any better than Yoast SEO.
Yoast SEO is more than just another Search Engine Optimisation plugin; it is the ultimate SEO package for your WordPress blog. Apart from the obvious like allowing you to edit page titles and descriptions Yoast allows you to drill down into the guts of it all and edit as much, or as little, as you are comfortable doing.
One of the big benefits of Yoast is its ‘traffic light’ system of rating the work you are doing. The plugin analyses what you create in real time and assigns a rating based upon the key components of great SEO – either green, amber or red depending on how effective it is. It also advises you how to improve it, which makes it an ideal plugin for those starting out and who need help getting it right.
If you harbour real ambitions of turning your starter blog into something special, you are going to need to get to grips with and master SEO. Yoast is the perfect plugin for allowing you to do just that; it walks you through the processes and guarantees best practice on your blog.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #5: Yet Another Related Post Plugin
As your starter blog grows, you will have more and more content to show users. However, a lot of that content will increasingly require the user to go and look for it, and that is something most internet users do not do. That is where a plugin like Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) becomes essential.
YARPP works by linking to relevant content from within your blog and displaying it, introducing the reader to your other content without them having to go looking for it. There is also a pro version, one that allows you an ideal way to make a little extra money by showing sponsored results within your related posts.
However, the biggest benefit of YARPP is that it introduces your readers to your content with absolutely zero effort on their part. What started as a quick visit can turn into a lengthy stay where they consume multiple pieces of content before departing – all because you showed them content that was relevant. An action which will boost your site in the eyes of the other search engines.
Whether or not you take advantage of the option to make a little extra money with YARPP, you will need to display related content to your visitors. As your blog grows, and the number of posts grows, it is easy for old content to get overlooked – using this plugin goes a long way to ensuring that even your oldest posts will get read and interacted with consistently.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #6: Contact Form 7
Every blog needs a way for it readers to contact the owner directly other than through the comments. The most common way to do this is to include a contact page with a contact form, and out of the multitude of plugins to do just that Contact Form 7 stands out as the very best.
The plugin allows you to create and edit multiple contact forms without the need for extra code added to your blog. Couple that with Ajax-powered submitting, built-in CAPTCHA and support for Akismet filtering to help with spam and you have a very powerful plugin indeed. One which remains easy to use for the beginner.
There is not much more that can be said about this plugin, to be honest. You will need a contact form, and the one you choose needs to be Contact Form 7; there is not anything else available for free that comes even remotely close to its functionality or ease-of-use.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #7: Header & Footer
As your blog grows, there will come a time when you need to add custom code to the header or the footer of your blog. This is especially true if, like most starter blogs, you are running a basic free theme which perhaps lacks the customisation options that come with a premium theme.
When that time comes, you have two real options. First, you can mess about with the code yourself but this is risky, and unless you have a child theme you will lose it anyhow when the theme updates itself. Second, you can use the Header & Footer plugin as a way to add custom code as needed, but without requiring any coding skills of your own.
The most likely code that you will need to add will be related to tracking and analytics. All the main search engines require you to validate your site, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to inject a small bit of custom code.
Out of all the plugins available to do this action, Header & Footer is the easiest to use. You just insert the code, and that is that. The newest version even has support for code that requires injection into a particular section of the header. You just copy the code in an alternative box within the plugin, and it injects as it needs to.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #8: Regenerate Thumbnails
As your blog evolves, there may be an occasion for you to change the default media settings or for this to be done automatically, for example, if you decide to change theme. However it happened, you will now be in the position of needing to adjust the size of your thumbnail images.
Going through each and every single image would be a laborious task, to say the least, and an impossible one on a blog that is well established and packed with content and images. That is where Regenerate Thumbnails comes in; it allows you regenerate all your thumbnails at your new chosen dimensions at the click of a button.
The Regenerate Thumbnails plugin even offers a level (albeit basic) of customisation for you to play with – you can alternate between regenerating all of the images or selected images. Then you simply set the process in motion, and your thumbnail images get resized. It is easy to use, and a very useful plugin that no starter blog should be without.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #9: Google XML Sitemaps
Another must have WordPress plugin, this Google XML Sitemaps plugin works by automatically generating a sitemap for your site. A sitemap is essential in helping the search engines better index your blog, and in alerting the search engines when you add new content to your blog.
The top rated plugin of its type on WordPress, Google XML Sitemaps has over one million active installs and still manages to maintain a positive rating of 4.9 on WordPress.
While it is true that the Yoast SEO now offers sitemap creation as part of that plugin many people (myself included) still prefer to use Google XML Sitemaps due to the specialisation and options that it offers.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #10: UpdraftPlus
Whether your blog is a starter or at the established phase, one undeniable fact is that you do not want to lose all the work you have done. WordPress is a very stable system, but no matter how stable the system the fact remains that things like that do happen.
Like Google XML Sitemaps, UpdraftPlus is a best in class plugin. It has over 900,000 installs and maintains a 4.9 rating on WordPress, which is impressive for a plugin with that many active installs. It simplifies the backup and restoration process and allows for the automation and scheduling of the process.
What sets UpdraftPlus apart though is the sheer scope of the backup locations available to you. The standard plugin backs up to one of nine locations and if you upgrade to the premium version that increases to one of nineteen possible locations. That is enough choice to satisfy even the fussiest of people when it comes to storing your data in the cloud!
UpdraftPlus is another plugin that falls into the ‘truly essential’ category. Take it from someone who knows the pain of losing a complete site; you do not want the prospect of having to rebuild everything over from scratch. UpdraftPlus makes it so that everything gets restored with the click of a button.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #11: WP Smush.it
Everyone knows that using great images on your blog is a surefire way to get the attention of your reader. The downside of all those images is that they do take up space and increase the loading time of your pages – which is awful for the SEO of your site.
The way to get around this is to compress your images, and no plugin does this better than WP Smush.it. WP Smush has been benchmarked as the best image compression plugin currently available, due in no small part to the fact that it manages to compress your images without reducing the quality. It works by stripping out the unnecessary data in a photo, of which there is a lot apparently.
Like the Thumbnail Regeneration plugin, you can choose to do it en masse or individually. The option to compress images en masse is a handy feature to have, especially if you have not been compressing your images from the start and you need to do them all in one fell swoop.
WordPress Plugins Every Starter Blog Needs #12: WP Super Cache
Following on with the topic of making your site into a speed machine to help with the search rankings, WP Super Cache is another WordPress plugin that every starter blog needs. The plugin works by converting your dynamic blog into static HTML pages, which are essentially a ‘lighter weight’ version of the page and that will get server up to the vast majority of users.
The WP Super Cache plugin allows you some degree of control over your settings; you can determine which pages get cached, you can compress your pages for quicker download, and you can create a content delivery network for those static files.
With speed now playing an ever increasing role in the algorithms that determine search engine rankings, plugins that speed up your site in this way are becoming more and more important. Out of the current batch available, and out those affordable for a starter blog, it is hard to look past WP Super Cache, and it is a plugin that you do need to install.
I hope you have found real value in here today. This list is by no means a definitive list of the plugins a starter blog could use, but they are the WordPress plugins every starter blog needs. Each and every one of them is available for free, and many of them come with the scope to increase the functionality on offer as your blog grows.
Moreover, your blog will grow with the help of these plugins, it goes without saying that they cannot do it alone, but what the enhancements they bring to your blog will help you achieve that success you deserve.