WordPress plugins are essential to any proper blog makeup. The content management system itself is great, but what makes it stand apart from the rest is the endless supply of add-ons that truly make a good blog shine. The general framework of any theme includes a handful of bits that are required for proper functioning, but the majority still need some help. That’s where plugins come in.
A plugin is a bit of software that is meant to expand and/or extend your WordPress website’s functionality. They come from a variety of sources, some free and some at a small cost.
There are literally THOUSANDS of different WP plugins to choose from; so many that it can be difficult figuring out just which ones you need. But trust me, you need them. Here are 5 WordPress plugins that are essential for any blogger, beginner or experienced:
Akismet is great for all bloggers, but it is especially beneficial for blogs receiving a ton of traffic. The purpose of the plugin is to field and filter spam comments, and to let you, the blogger, review and either deny or approve them before they go live on your blog. While this plugin is automatically installed in your CMS, you still need to activate it and register a new account in order for it to operate. The most basic plan is free and for personal/non-commercial uses, but there are options to upgrade for more support and protection if you so choose.
2. Yoast SEO
Yoast is easily the most user-friendly SEO plugin, and the most widely used. Any blogger that wants to gain a decent organic following needs proper SEO optimization. When you install Yoast, it adds a section beneath each new blog post that asks you to fill in your focus keyword and a meta description. From there, it will gauge your SEO score based on your title, content, slug, etc. For example, if your focus keyword does not appear in your title, or it isn’t used enough in your content, you will likely have a lower score, and thus lesser chances of getting good traffic. It will give you suggestions for improvement until your SEO is in the green (“good”), and will also grade your content’s readability. Good SEO will help increase your Google search rankings. The plugin is also free, which is obviously a plus.
3. Share Buttons by AddThis
AddThis is a very commonly used social sharing plugin that allows you to plop a segment of social media icons onto your blog post for your viewers to use if they want to share your content. It also makes it easier for you to share the posts on your own platforms. It’s a no-brainer. Free organic traffic? Yes, please!
The most common social sharing locations are above the post content, below the post content, or a floating sidebar that follows you as you scroll. I typically opt for the sidebar because it’ll always be available to the reader, no matter where they are in a post.
4. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
While you should also utilize the full Google Analytics platform (analytics.google.com), the WP Dashboard plugin is great for a quick overview of how much traffic you are getting, which content is performing well (or not-so-well), and where your guests are coming from. Learning who your blog visitors are and how they found their way to your page is KEY, especially if you are spending a lot of time, money and resources on getting traffic.
What if you are dropping a bunch of cash on Facebook advertising, but your CPC is not as low as it should be? What information do you need to figure out that you should slow spending, reconsider your target demographics, or put your money elsewhere? GOOGLE ANALYTICS. Or, what if you are getting a sudden influx of traffic but you don’t know where they are coming from? GOOGLE ANALYTICS. There are so many ways to utilize this platform that it could use its own post!
Anyone who writes knows how much it sucks to lose the work you spent so much time on. Now, imagine losing an entire blog’s worth of content. Yea, doesn’t sound so pretty, does it? The UpdraftPlus plugin makes backing up and restoring your work easy. It’s the most used backup plugin there is, and the highest-rated. It’s free and easy to use! You seriously will not regret it!