In this post I will go over all of the plugins that I believe you need to create a great blog.
Starting a blog can be a little intimidating.
Sure, you can purchase a domain and set up a WordPress blog in less than 30 minutes, but that is only the beginning.
In order to really secure the foundations of your blog, there are a number of plugins you should add.
You are probably dying to write your first post, upload your first image, and just hit the Publish button, but before you do, take a look at the plugins I recommend and more importantly “the whys”.
Make sure your blog is completely ready before you start writing…
One of the things you will learn when you run a blog (or website) is that you have to deal with spam.
With a website it is usually just spam via the contact form (or email address if you display one).
On a WordPress blog you will also get spam in the comments.
In fact if you really want to know why you should be using this plugin:
the amount of spam comments could get as high as 85%. This means out of every 100 comments only 15 are legitimate.
But don’t turn off comments just to prevent this, as they are a great way to meet and interact with your readers.
Instead, activate Akismet correctly by following the instructions in this post.
This plugin is automatically installed in any WordPress release later than version 2.0. So you should have it already.
**Note: As an individual you do not have to pay for this service (even if it seems like it when you go to their site)
Another option you want to add to your freshly created blog is a contact form.
You want your readers to get to know you via the About Page, and contact you via a contact form.
This hides your email address from spam, but still provides your readers a way to get in touch!
Place such a form on a specific Contact Page, using a simple form created with the Contact Form Plugin.
All you really need is a name, email address and a big text field for the “email” from your reader.
If you really want more complex forms you can check out my previous review of Contact Form Plugins.
In order to get found on Google, you need to make sure your SEO is correctly set up.
If you have no idea what SEO is, you can take a look at this post to get a handle on the basics.
And when it comes to SEO, the WordPress SEO Plugin from Yoast is one of the best things you can use on your blog.
It provides you will easy to fill in fields for great SEO on every post and page.
On top of that it provides you will all the social media tags to ensure your posts appear correctly when shared on social media!
One other feature that is an absolute must for any site is a proper XML Sitemap. This enables search engines to find all the pages.
This plugin takes care of that as well, but if you don’t want to use this plugin (for some odd reason), then you can use Google XML Sitemaps Plugin instead for just this functionality.
One thing that is really important with any website or blog is page load speed!
You and your readers want your blog to be fast.
And the simplest way to achieve this is to add a Caching Plugin.
One of the simplest and most reliable I have found is WP Super Cache.
Add it to you site, activate it and off you go. Your site will be a lot faster for your readers to visit.
The other main alternative is the W3 Total Cache plugin, but I (and a couple of other bloggers I know) have had plugin clashes with it. It has a lot more functionality though -like the ability to use CDNs, so take a look at both if you need more features.
**Note: The only drawback of this type of plugin is if you make a change to a page, sometimes you need to Delete the cache before you will see the change. Just so you know.
You want people to connect with you on social media. And one of the best ways to do this is with links to all your social media profiles.
I don’t recommend getting all the accounts under the sun to start with (just pick 2 or 3 platforms to focus on). But do get started with social media as soon as possible.
My original recommendation Social Media Share Widget IS NOT currently maintained and therefore not recommended.
The only other option I found was from Studio Press – Social Media Icons. (this is updated to WordPress 3.7 so please check it works once you install it).
Thanks to Cathy Larkin for the heads up in the comments!
One of the main ways to get traffic to your site, and new posts especially, is through social media.
So get those social media share buttons on your site as soon as possible.
There are loads of options for these kinds of buttons, and should you want other options I have written a massive post on wordpress plugins before.
However, I recommend Digg Digg or Flare Social Plugin for most situations. They both have lots of options for social sharing and the location of the actual buttons.
Many of you will be creating a blog or website with almost no technical (programming etc) knowledge. So it can be really hard to create just the right pages and add the right elements to your pages.
A new plugin called Thrive Content Builder is now available from Thrive Themes that allows you to take complete control of your website, without technical skills.
I have reviewed it (and their themes) in this post and for what it can do, it is quite a cheap plugin. Check it out.
If you want to skip the review you can find it right here: Thrive Content Builder.
Another option if you want to create amazing landing, optin, sales or webinar pages as well as popups, is to use Leadpages. It integrates amazingly with WordPress, and also Facebook pages and non WordPress Sites.
You can read my detailed review here.
Depending on the functionality of your theme, this plugin may not be necessary. But having a list of related plugins after your post is a perfect way to keep people on your site and reducing bounce rate.
At the moment I am using one of the most popular plugins for this – YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – Yes, there are a few of them).
This great little plugin gives you a few display options and filters to help show the best and most related posts possible.
Again, if you need other options, check out my post on 45 of the best WordPress plugins.
Probably not your biggest worry when you first start a blog, but the security of your blog is certainly worth considering.
There are more than enough plugins around to help protect your website, and below I have highlighted a few you should take a look at.
Better WP Security provides some great functionality to help keep the hackers away from your site. This includes hiding important pages (by giving alternative URLs), changing your database to make it more difficult to hack, blocking suspicious scans of your site, preventing too many logins and much more.
WordFence also provides a whole swathe of functions to help protect your site: site scanning, preventing login attempts, live traffic scan, password strength checker and much more. Take a look at Tim Bonner’s post on the topic for more info.
One of the biggest problems with WordPress sites is that they are everywhere, and therefore a target for hackers. People will try to crack your password.
Aside from not using the “admin” username (delete it when you first start out and create another user with admin rights) you might want to block users from trying to login too many times. Eventually they might get your password right!
This can be done with the simple plugin – Limit Login Attempts.
You were so excited when you got your blog that you really did not even consider a backup, right?
Don’t worry, it is a common mistake!
But now that I have reminded you about it, it is time to add a full site backup to your wordpress blog.
The plugin that I use is WP Backup To Dropbox.
It is simple and reliable. It makes a whole copy of your blog and sends it to your dropbox account – which ensures you have a copy in another location (other than with your blog). A must in my opinion.
Another option I have used is BackupWordpress, which is not bad, but it emails you the copy. And once your blog gets a little larger, this usually fails (due to email size limits).
The world of WordPress plugins is large and sometimes confusing.
However, with the above plugins you should have a great foundation upon which to start and build your blog for the future.
Of course, as time goes on you might want some more functionality on your blog, but for now you are good to go!
Photo credit: jakeandlindsay via photopin cc
Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).