Now that WordPress is installed and setup and a theme has been installed, it’s time to install some plugins. I’ve found from building different blogs for myself and clients that there is a set of base plugins for blogs that everyone should really have. These plugins will help your site grow, keep it running efficiently, keep it secure and make it easy to use for your visitors. Here they are, in nor particular order:
Updated 8/14/2013 – A few plugins removed and a few added.
Akismet is a plugin to fight comment spam. As your blog grows, gets linked and becomes more popular, you will inevitably begin getting comment spam. Comment spam are comments left on your articles that promote products and generally contain links to incredible sights. Maintaining and removing them is tedious, but the good news is that for the most part, Akismet does this for you.
Akismet is also really easy to install, as it comes pre-installed with WordPress! All you have to do is activate it by obtaining an activation code and entering it on the Plugins>>Akismet Configuration page in your admin console. Once complete, your blog will be 90% spam free. If one sneaks through, you can help Akismet and other bloggers from getting the same spam by going to your Comments page in your admin console and marking the comment as spam.
Contact Form 7
One of the most important things you can do for your blog is to make it easy for your readers and potential advertisers to contact you. One big mistake that many new bloggers make is placing their email address on their blog. The consequences of doing this are generally nothing more than an inbox full of Spam. A far better option is to create a contact page and use a contact forms plugin. There are numerous contact form plugins each offering varying levels of functionality and features.
The one I’ve found that has the features I need and yet is still light and fast is Contact Form 7. After installation, all you have to do is create a Contact Page, and insert the Contact Form shortcode into your contact page. The short code can be found on the Contact Form 7 settings page under the Contact Menu. There are numerous options you can set-up and use, but in most cases I just use the defaults. Contact Form 7 also supports additional forms, so if you need to have multiple contact forms or other forms on your site, you can create those as well. It’s simple and easy, just the type of plugin I like.
You can see it in action on my Side Income Blogging contact page. Let me mention though that I did a lot of custom styling to make my page look the way it does, if you know CSS it’s easy, if not I’d suggest just going with the default page or engaging me to style it for you.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
On page SEO is critical to getting valuable search engine traffic to your blog. The WordPress SEO plugin makes this process really easy by providing a large amount of automated SEO and clear instructions and visual clues for optimizing your articles.
The WordPress SEO plugin additional generates an optimized XML sitemap. A sitemap is a file located on your web server that contains a listing and URLs for all of the pages on your site. The purpose of the sitemap file is to make it easy for the Google bot (Google’s software than scans your site for content) to locate and index your content.
The WordPress SEO plugin automatically generates a sitemap file for you, containing all of your content. There are a number of settings available to customize the file and it’s accessibility. 99% of the time, the default settings will be fine.
Once the sitemap file is created, it’s important to head over to Google Webmaster tools and tell Google that you now have a sitemap.
I very infrequently recommend “paid” plugins, but BackupBuddy is one that I highly recommend and personally use on all of my niche sites and blogs. This site is backed up every single day at 4:00am by BackupBuddy.
You can read all about how I use BackupBuddy to backup my sites in this article: Backup Buddy – How to backup your WordPress blog automatically
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache isn’t for the faint of heart, but once configured and working, can make a huge positive difference in your site performance. I run this plugin on every site I own along with installing and running it on most of my client’s sites. This plugin stores your page content locally on disk rather than having to regenerate it each time it’s viewed. This is called caching.
W3 Total Cache is not easy to set-up, but can be incredibly valuable in increasing the speed of your site. Site performance now effects your search engine rankings with Google, so you need to have your blog as fast as possible.
If you have some technical background, I’d encourage you to give it a try. If not, I’d be more than glad to get it set-up for you through Side Income Services.
If you would like to try a caching plugin that’s easier to install and set-up, but not as effective, give Hyper Cache.
Security is often a big issue with blogs, especially newer and less experienced bloggers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to help a client clean up their site after being hacked, either due to not having an updated install or due to not having proper file system security settings.
The WordFence Security plugin will audit your site, recommend security changes, and notify you when new versions of WordPress, your theme, and your plugins are available. Additionally, it will watch for any unauthorized changes to these files and notify you if they are changed.
You definitely want to run this! You can read more about WordPress security here.
Of course these are only a few of the thousands of plugins available at WordPress.org. One word of caution though, plugins can slow your site down and can cause security issues, so I always recommend using the absolute minimum number of them. Plugins also frequently cause issues when WordPress or your theme are updated. Keeping the number of plugins you use to a minimum just makes the upgrade process easier.
Have a plugin you use frequently and think is worth mentioning? Add a comment and make sure you include a link to the plugin location.
Photo by: Samuel M. Livingston