WordPress is undoubtedly the most popular and ubiquitous content management system (CMS). It’s been estimated that a quarter of all websites are powered by WordPress. The popularity of this CMS has spawned a lucrative trade in WordPress plugins that have been downloaded over 200 million times.
With the wide selection of plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Directory, it’s easy to get confused and frustrated. It’s also tempting to just download and use every plugin that catches your fancy.
However, it’s not good practice to use each and every WordPress plugin that you think you need. For one, some plugins are resource hogs and can slow down your site. Some plugins are also not well-maintained and have vulnerabilities that can make your website susceptible to attacks from hackers.
That is why it’s advisable to download and install only the important and essential plugins that can help your site. It’s just a waste of your server resources to use 30 or more plugins when only 10-20 are absolutely necessary.
So I have come up with my own list of essential WordPress plugins that a new blogger should install. I have tested these plugins and I can confirm that they are not resource hogs and will not bog down your site.
Akismet stops spam from infesting your blog and has been doing a fine job since its release in 2009. It comes bundled in with every new WordPress installation so all you have to do is to activate it.
It requires an Akismet API key, though. You can get one from WordPress.com for free.
I don’t think I have ever seen a website without a contact form. It’s absolutely essential for a blog to have a contact form, so that your readers can send you a message quickly and instantly.
There are dozens of free contact form plugins available but Contact Form 7 is arguably the most trusted.
You don’t need to know any programming to set up your site’s contact form, since a sample form is created instantly after activation. All you have to do is to insert the form into your page.
When WordPress was just new to the scene, you don’t have to worry about hackers because the software does a great job of keeping away the bad guys. But with WordPress sites becoming a favorite target of malicious attacks, it’s no longer enough to rely on your default WordPress installation to keep your website safe.
I had a client who failed to install a security plugin on her site. It didn’t take long for hackers to infect her site with malware.
Wordfence Security scans your site for vulnerabilities, hardens your website’s security, protects it from malicious attacks and even notifies you if some stranger tries to log in. I don’t want to delve deeply into the details but this plugin is a must-have in today’s dangerous world.
Although WordPress is one of the best blogging software around, it is still lacking in the search engine optimization (SEO) department.
Luckily, there’s Yoast SEO plugin to pick up the slack. This powerful plugin helps you optimize your website for Google and other search engines. It allows you to configure the titles of your posts and pages, add Facebook meta data, generate a sitemap and many more.
Unless you don’t want people to discover your site, Yoast SEO is an important and essential plugin that you’ll be stupid not to have.
It’s essential to keep backups of your site. You’ll never know when your web host accidentally deletes your files or when some evil hacker destroys all your hard work.
A good backup plugin is an insurance against these unforeseeable situations. And I find UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration plugin powerful yet simple enough for all my backup needs.
What sold me on UpdraftPlus is its ability to store backups in Dropbox, Amazon S3 and other cloud storage services. It can also send the backup files to your e-mail. You can tell the plugin when to perform backups and it will do its job diligently without fail.
I don’t really want to promote a paid plugin in this article because this is aimed for beginners (who I think are not yet willing to spend money). But I believe that WP Rocket is really an essential plugin, knowing how important it is to have a blazingly fast website.
WP Rocket is a plugin that stores a “cache” of your website so that future requests for data can be served quickly — making your website load faster. Not only that, it can also compress your files to save on bandwidth. It can be used in conjunction with a content delivery network (CDN) such as MaxCDN.
WP Rocket costs $39 for one site. I think it’s worth the money though as it has features that other caching plugins don’t have. It is also way easier to set up than W3 Total Cache, which can be a pain in the neck to set up and configure.
Reduce the size of your blog’s images with WP Smush. This plugin “smushes” your site’s images, reducing the file size by stripping away hidden information.
Most readers are impatient and don’t want to wait for your large images to load. Save them time by reducing the size of your images using WP Smush; it also drastically reduces the load on your server.
I’m sure that I have failed to include many awesome WordPress plugins such as Jetpack, TinyMCE Advanced, AddThis Share Buttons, and of course, the much maligned Hello Dolly. I just don’t feel that they are really “essential” or absolutely necessary for bloggers who are just getting their feet wet with WordPress.
I might add more plugins to this list in the future, so stay tuned! If you have any suggestions and recommendations, please don’t hesitate to comment below.