I get a lot of questions about what I think are the most important WordPress plugins for every blog, and lemme tell ya, I have a lot of opinions on the matter (not to mention like 10 years of experience, testing, and trial & error. Like so. much. error.). I know a lot of bloggers DIY it at first, which is awesome, but a lot of important factors get lost along the way, like security. A pretty site is great, but a secure pretty site is WAY better, right? Right. I mean, what good is growing your list, making a beautiful site & brand if it’s just going to run slowly, get lost because of a crappy host, be infiltrated by hackers, or be otherwise unshareable?
Now usually when I build a site, I incorporate a suite of plugins I love and trust to make my clients’ sites run like a whip-cracking, secure, ultra-usable dream. Out of the box, I want my client’s sites to be powerful growth tools, and I think if you’re here reading this, you want that for your site, too. To that end, here is my list of WordPress plugins every blog should be using.
- iThemes Security*
iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security) is my go-to for thorough, intensive security features, including the ability to change your login URL, change admin user numbers, block users who try to use the login “admin,” lock down site files & data, perform security scans, and more. I truly can’t recommend it enough for sites of any size.
Akismet is installed on every WordPress site by default, and for good reason: it gets the job done. Akismet blocks spam commenters and integrates smoothly with most contact form plugins as well to reduce spam entries. It’s also a significant time saver, since you won’t have to sift through hundreds of spam comments per week to see what’s good and what isn’t.
Back. Dat site. UP. Blogvault automatically backs up your whole site – files and database – at intervals of your choosing. They also include an easy-to-use migration and restore tool. It’s $14/month and 100% worth it to protect your hard work.
Sucuri is another line of defense for your site, and what I like about it is the Malware Scan tool – it lets you see if and where any problems exist within your site, and paired with the Hardening tool, it’s the secret to stopping a hack in its tracks.
SEO & Analytics
- The SEO Framework
This is a lightweight alternative to Yoast SEO that covers all of Yoast’s top features, but is streamlined to run faster. It is important to load in Google XML Sitemaps alongside The SEO Framework, though.
- Google Analyticator
This isn’t necessarily to boost your SEO, but it IS a really great tool to see your traffic, most popular pages, and keyword searches right on your dashboard. Google Analytics can be a bit of a pain to navigate, so this cuts out all the complications and puts your most important stats right there for you. Easy peasy!
- Google XML Sitemaps
Generate your Google-ready sitemap automatically and easily. It’s necessary if you’re using The SEO Framework (but not if you’re using Yoast).
- WP Fastest Cache
- Use Google Libraries
Google has its own libraries of scripts that your WordPress site is probably already using, and the likelihood is that these same scripts are already cached in your users browser (read: they’ve visited sites that use those same scripts). This plugin makes sure that when a user visits your site, those scripts are loaded from the browser cache or from Google’s libraries. What does this matter? It makes your site run faster for those users, plus it reduces the load on your server.
- Swift Performance*
I’m not saying it’s a silver bullet, but it’s kind of a silver bullet for site optimization. Like seriously. I’ve tried them all, and WP Fastest Cache came closest, but I still had to use WP Smush for image compression, I couldn’t use certain settings without breaking my stylesheets or losing my dang forms, and good Google PageSpeed scores were still elusive. This brought me from like a 63 to 100%. No joke. 3 clicks and bam. And not to neglect speed, because it’s totally possible to have a perfect PageSpeed score but still have a slow load time, my site speed went from like a 23 second load to 3 seconds. There’s a 3 day trial period to test if it works for you, and I didn’t even wait until the end of the first day because it’s worth every penny at $42/year.
Content Sharing & Marketing
- Pin It Button for Pinterest
This is the easiest way to get a Pinterest save button on your site’s images. This way, when you hover on an image, a little pin-it button appears in the corner of your image. It’s a subtle, but effective, way to encourage your readers to save & share your content.
SumoMe is a treasure trove of list-building, site-growth tools, like timed opt-in forms that pop up in the corner of the screen instead of the center, a welcome mat that opens as a full-bleed hero as you enter a site, a heat mapping tool so you can see where your readers are looking, clicking, and leaving your pages. It’s really a fantastic toolkit for any growing business.
- Simple Social Icons
Simple Social Icons is an easy, clean way to share your social media accounts. It’s super easy to use – you just pop it into your widget area, pick your colors, put in your links, and you’re done.
- All-in-One Favicon
All-in-One Favicon makes it super easy to change your favicon (the icon that shows up in your browser tabs next to your page’s name).
- Dynamic Widgets
Dynamic Widgets allows you to show or hide widgets on certain types of content, be it specific pages, post categories, or even custom post types.
- Gravity Forms
Gravity Forms is like the be-all-end-all of contact forms. I use it for my contracts, client intake, one-off payments, quizzes, subscription boxes, you NAME it. It is. AMAZING. The developer license includes add-ons to sync your forms up with your project management systems, payment systems, bookkeeping software, and a slew of other options. It’s crazy and amazing and absurdly easy to use.
- Lightbox Plus
So I should start by explaining that a lightbox, at least in webspeak, is a larger or full-sized version of an image that opens as a kind of pop-up within the page. So basically, you can click on a thumbnail and see the bigger picture. And that’s what Lightbox Plus does. Pretty sweet, right?
- Genesis Simple Edits
This is the easiest way to change your footer credits, the meta data in the header of your posts,
- Genesis eNews Extended
This is an absolute bare-minimum must for anyone who hopes to grow their site and readership. It’s a free, super easy-to-use widget for list growth that looks great in your sidebar or in whichever other widget area your theme has to offer.
- Genesis Simple Share
This is a sleek, lightweight way to incorporate sharing buttons before and after your posts, pages, and various other custom post types.
So there you have it! My favorite WordPress plugins for blogs (and the secrets to SO many bloggers’ successes!). Which plugins would you add to the list?
* These are definitely affiliate links and I definitely wouldn’t make these recommendations if they weren’t excellent.
Courtney B says
As a new blogger this was so helpful!! Love how you laid it out too!
I’m so glad it was helpful! Thanks for reading. 🙂
Elizabeth Brico says
This is a great list. I am absolutely saving/sharing this page. Thank you so much for taking the time to compile it.
Heck yeah! Hopefully they’ll make your life and site management easier 🙂