Ask a WordPress user what the best plugins are and you’ll get a lot of answers.
When I started my first WordPress blog, my relationship with plugins was mostly one of love at first sight. To all of a sudden have access to these marvelous things that bring extra functionality to the WordPress platform practically made me giddy.
I couldn’t wait to use all of them.
“Limit yourself to 10,” a web designer would plea. “Don’t use more than three!” a web developer would warn.
Obviously, I ignored their well intended advice. Instead I dove in.
Through trial and error, I learned a lot.
Some plugins don’t do what they say they will and come instructions that are too technical. Others do what they say they will, but slow your site down to a crawl.
Then there are those pesky ones that break everything. Occasionally out of the blue you stumble on a keeper.
Indeed all WordPress plugins are not all created equal. Contrary to what some people will tell you, they don’t all slow down your site.
Here are my recommendations for best plugins for those just starting with WordPress
Before you do anything else, get Jetpack. It may already have been installed as part of your WordPress installation. Jetpack isn’t so much a plugin as it is a functionality suite of plugins for WordPress sites.
The developers’ goal seems to be to exceed the new WordPress user’s needs and expectations, consistently adding both form and function. A few years ago any budding plugin addict on self-hosted WordPress could have only dreamed about having something as useful as Jetpack.
One of the best things about using Jetpack instead of other plugins is that you can rest assured that all of Jetpack’s plugins are coded to a high standard by WordPress developers. For the most part, Jetpack plugins are beginner friendly.
These are the options that I have recently switched over to in Jetpack: Social sharing at the bottom of posts, tiled photo gallery, and widget visibility. There are many others, so have at it! Just be sure to deactivate any that you don’t end up using.
In order to use Jetpack, those with self-hosted WordPress blogs will need to register an account with WordPress.com. Registration can be accessed through Jetpack and your WordPress dashboard.
The state of the art comment spam prevention plugin also comes preinstalled. If and when comment spam becomes a problem you can activate it. Askimet is free for personal sites and available for a reasonable fee for business websites.
Google XML Sitemaps
A sitemap plugin is a must for any website. This “map” is what “tells” the search engines what pages to crawl for indexing. This one is very simple to configure.
Simple Google Analytics
This Google Analytic’s plugin does what you need it to do without slowing down your website. You need to sign up for a Google Analytic’s account at the time of activation. Even if you don’t feel you need GA at the beginning, if you stick with blogging for any length of time, you will wish you added this at the start.
WordPress Editorial Calendar
Not everyone will want or need Wordpress Editorial Calendar. Many find it useful to see and schedule blog posts in the format of a traditional calendar.
Various Social Sharing Options
It seems there are endless social media plugins available in the WordPress repository. I am always amazed by just how great some are compared to others. In addition to the social media sharing options through Jetpack (for an example, see them at the bottom of this post), I suggest the following three plugins.
Pinterest Pin it Button for Images
Displays a “Pin it” button right on your site’s images. This one seems to run well, do what it is supposed to do, and is easy to configure.
The Facebook “Like” button, added at the bottom of each post makes it easy for readers to interact.
Simple Social Icons
Every blog needs a sidebar widget that give readers a way to connect with you. Simple Social Icons is a lightweight, easy to configure option. I especially like the elegant styling options that are available from inside the widget.
A few plugins to add as you move forward in your blogging journey
Broken Link Checker
Over time outbound links you or your commenters have created on your blog will lead to pages that no longer exist. Broken Link Checker runs quietly in the background and alerts you to them.
WP Clean Up
Each time you save a draft of a blog post, it creates a new copy. If you hit “save” a lot like me, this can lead to lots of information potentially slowing down your database. With one press of a button, WP Clean Up makes it very easy to delete those old drafts.
NRelate has several plugins available, including a related post widget that can display at the end of your posts, a fly-out related-post widget and a popular post widget. This is a good plugin to add after you have posted at least 5 or so posts.
Quick page/post Redirect
If for any reason you delete a page or post, or need to forward one page to another, this plugin is essential. It creates search engine friendly 301 redirects, helping you avoid having visitors stumble on an old page and getting an error. Routinely taking care of this helps preserve your site’s SEO.
Last piece of advice
For any plugin that you try out and decide you don’t like or need, be sure to deactivate it AND remove it.
Attention bloggers: Any plugins you have fallen head over heels in love with? Some you want to kick to the curb?