WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world. It’s fast, easy to use, highly customisable and there are thousands of great plugins that enhance its functionality.
I’ve been using WordPress for at least 10 years across numerous websites and blogs, and during that time I have used most of the decent WordPress plugins that are worth installing out there. But here are the 8 plugins that are essential for any website or blog, at least in my experience.
If you’re going to be accepting public comments on your blog, then you must be aware of, and be ready to combat, the savage levels of comment SPAM that WILL be coming your way.
Clueless SEO ‘experts’ use software to find blogs and post their links on them, and if you don’t get it under control you’ll quickly lose the will to live. Akismet is the perfect plugin to combat this sort of comment SPAM, and it catches a very high percentage of them. USE IT!
Yoast SEO is the only plugin to install when it comes to enhancing the on-site relevancy of your blog and its posts, which is one of the things that Google’s algorithm takes into consideration when rating your blog to decide where where to rank them within their search results.
Please bare in mind that this plugin won’t magically make you rank higher in Google’s search results. There is more to SEO than this, but this is definitely useless and will help you.
Here are some things to do with Yoast SEO:
- Manually write titles for posts and pages with variations
- Use archive title templates, and remove “Archives”
- Disable author archives to avoid duplicate content (if only one author)
- Verify Google Search Console
- Insert breadcrumbs into your theme
- Strip the category base /category/ from category URLs
Broken Link Checker
Broken links aren’t good for anyone – not humans, and not search engines. Google frown upon sites with broken links as they lead to a bad user experience so it’s important that you have a plugin like this in-place and pay attention to it to avoid any potential issues arising.
Broken Link Checker is highly customisable. You can tell it how often to check your links, where to check (posts, pages, comments, published, drafts, and so on). It’s a must-have plugin.
Contact Form 7
Every website and blog needs a contact page. You could use a naked email address for people to get in touch, but that’s how your inbox gets hit by evil SPAM ninjas and results in you screaming in the middle of Starbucks. To avoid this issue, use a simple contact form.
Contact Form 7 is perfect for the job. It’s easy to use, you can make as many forms as you like and easily insert them into pages or posts using shortcodes. Contact Form 7 will also make use of Akismet, reCAPTCHA and comment blacklists to keep any potential SPAM from getting through to your inbox, potentially wasting a lot of your time. And remember – time is money!
MailChimp for WordPress
Building and growing email lists with subscribers is essential to any blog. It’s a great way of keeping your readers connected, and bringing them back time and time again for new content.
The MailChimp for WordPress plugin makes the process of creating and adding email subscription forms to your website very, very easy. Simply sign up to MailChimp, enter your API key, select a list to build, create a form and you’re done. Now you just need to add them to your blog.
Tips for using MailChimp for WordPress:
- Add a form in your sidebar using the provided widget
- Use the Contact Form 7 integration to get subscribers from emails
- Use the Comment Form integration to get subscribers from post comments
This is my favourite WordPress plugin at the moment. It’s absolutely brilliant.
PublishPress is marketed towards blogs with multiple authors, or content teams. But for single author bloggers like myself, it’s a fantastic way to stay organised by planning and scheduling content using the brilliant drag-and-drag content calendar that PublishPress provides.
I have a list of blog ideas and at the start of each month I look at my calendar and plan my content for the entire month. You could do weekly planning, too, however.
WP to Twitter
Keeping your Twitter followers up-to-date and engaged is important, but manually tweeting each new post is a thing of the past thanks to the WP to Twitter plugin.
You can set the plugin up and use templates to automatically tweet your posts upon publishing, which is perfect if you’re scheduling content as it will be tweeted out instantly. It works with multiple authors, and you can turn tags or categories into hashtags automatically.
Tips for using WP to Twitter successfully:
- Use the automatic URL shortening feature, Bit.ly is the best
- Untick “Update when a Post is edited” – this can be VERY annoying
- Untick “Update Twitter when you post a Blogroll link” – it’s just not neccesary
- Tick “Strip nonalphanumeric characters from tags” for obvious reasons
YARPP, or Yet Another Related Posts Plugin as it’s officially called, is a very handy plugin that inserts a list of posts from your blog which are related to the one somebody is currently reading. If you scroll down below this post, for example, you’ll see an example of this plugin in action.
You can choose where the plugin looks for relatedness, for example post titles, content bodies, tags and categories. And you can also choose how closely related they must be.
YARPP is not only great for search engines, but also users and increasing pageviews.
Got any of your own WordPress plugin suggestions? Let me know in the comments section below.