The Ultimate List of Must Have Plugins for Bloggers
The biggest mistake I made when I setup my blog was installing too many plugins. Since I obviously had no idea what I was doing, I did not realize how important plugins were for my blog but also how using the wrong ones or using a slew of them would slow my load time down. If someone said I needed 5 specific plugins, I would install them. Suddenly, I ended up with 60 plugins and didn’t even know how to utilize them effectively. I have had many questions about what plugins to use or how I have certain features on my website. I have developed this list of plugins that will ultimately set you on a path to success. My goal is to give you a complete list so you can quickly install them and be on your way of designing your site. The best part, they’re all FREE!
The plugins I list on this page are all plugins I am currently using. I have installed these plugins on my WordPress blog. I’m sure most of them will work on other platforms as well. Of course, there are many more plugins you can use depending on what features or functionality you want on your blog. Hopefully this will give you a great big head start!
Must Have Plugins
Must have plugins are those that either keep your site secure or are needed for your theme. The plugins that are needed for your theme will change depending on which theme you are using. I use the Evangeline Theme by Lovely Confetti which is a Genesis child theme and requires certain plugins to work properly. If you have not decided on a theme yet, make sure to check out 5 WordPress Themes for Bloggers. This is a list of my most favorite themes and it also give you a list of other reputable resources to find quality themes.
This plugin checks your comments and contact form submissions to make sure they are coming from reliable sources and there is no malicious content. Askimet has blocked so many spammer comments from my site and I would be in deep water if I did not have this plugin. I am able to block or approve each individual comment (this can be changed in settings) to make sure malicious content does not end up on my site.
This is basically a firewall to keep hackers from gaining access to your site. I read about a lady being hacked and she worked all day trying to stop the hackers. She had a hard time logging into her site and the hackers were changing her entire site. Thankfully, I have not had to deal with this and hopefully with Wordfence Security, I will not have to.
I did find a little quirk to this plugin. It sometimes conflicts with other plugins. For example, it will conflict with the insert headers and footers plugin (we will talk about this plugin in just a bit). If you are trying to place code in your header or footer you will get an “Error: Whitelist” screen. I have found a work around though and it works just fine. When you find there are conflicts, just deactivate the Wordfence plugin while you are changing the other plugin. So when I want to place code in my header or footer plugin, I simply deactivate Wordfence, place my code in the header and footer plugin, save my code, and go back to activate the Wordfence plugin. If you do this, ALWAYS make sure to go back and activate the Wordfence plugin. You do not want to forget this step!
Another security software that protects against hacks. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
A program that will backup your entire site, including your content! This is an absolute must have because once you have lost it, it will be gone forever. So make sure you backup your site!
The plugins listed below are plugins that my theme requires in order to work properly. You may or may not need these plugins depending on which theme you go with. Most of the time, you get a list of necessary plugins when you purchase a theme so it takes the guess work out of it!
My theme is designed for Mailchimp and Aweber email platforms. If you use either of these for you email lists, you will need this plugin in order to collect subscribers. Since I switched to ConvertKit, I no longer need this plugin.
If you are wanting a featured slider on your page you will need this plugin. You can choose how many slides you want featured and choose which posts and post images you want featured. I wanted a responsive slider on my website because I think it helps bring attention to my most important posts. The responsive slider is placed on my home page and is the first thing you see.
If you need to always give your readers another way to connect with you. This plugin does just that! It allows for you to place icons that link to your social media sites so your audience can follow you and stay up to date with the blog. In my opinion, this plugin is a must have and is super simple to setup. I utilize this in my sidebar and also my footer area.
I have to be careful and selective in which plugins I choose to list in this section and which I choose to list as optional. Of course I recommend them all since each one is necessary for my blog. However, I have carefully selected the below plugins as recommended for your blog simply because I feel that they can fit most any theme and is very beneficial to you and your blog.
Oh how I adore this plugin. I ran across this plugin multiple times when I was designing my blog and even installed and activated it. But again, since I did not know what I was doing, I had know idea what this awesome little plugin was capable of so I never used it. Eventually I deleted it. Boy was that a mistake! I recently completed Michelle’s Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course and she explained it so well! I immediately installed, activated, and started using it.
The two biggest reasons I love this plugin is because it creates “no follow” links for you automatically and you can create links that are easy to remember. If you have not heard, adding “no follow” to your links is extremely important. There is a way you can do it manually and I am sure if you google it you will have a ton of instructions at your fingertips. However, I was never really comfortable doing that so that’s why I love, love this plugin. Also, if you are on Facebook and want to post your affiliate link, you do not have to login to your affiliate program to get some long, random link. You can just add your Pretty Link. I actually created one for the affiliate program I just told you about. See below how easy it is to create the link!
There are a ton of plugins that will allow you to place a Pin It button on your images in order to pin theme to Pinterest. However, everybody I talked with recommended this one. Since I have been using it for a while now, I recommend it as well. I have not had any problems with it at all!
Notice on my home screen my sidebar has a welcome, follow us, newsletter subscription, Pinterest pinning, Instagram sharing, and advertisement widgets. However, the sidebar on every other page has a follow us, most popular post, advertisement, newsletter subscription, and advertisement widgets. I did not want the same sidebar that was on my homepage on every other page or post of my site. This is where Custom Sidebars plugin comes in. You can create a separate sidebar for every post or page. The sky’s the limit with this one!
I really wanted to list this plugin as an absolute must have because if it were not for this plugin my SEO would be atrocious! The only reason I included it in recommended is because your site does not need it in order to function properly and your site is not in any danger without it. Your traffic very well may be though! This plugin makes it super easy and quick to make sure your posts are doing well with SEO. It even highlights parts that you need to change and gives you a red, yellow, and green light to let you know how well you are doing. Another really cool feature about this plugin is that it allows for you to upload a different image for Facebook and Twitter than the one you have on the post. I post images that are vertical and long so that they can easily be pinned to Pinterest, however it would not look good on my other social media sites. This plugin takes care of that for me :-).
Optional plugins are just that. Depending on what features you want on your blog you can opt to use them or not. These are listed in alphabetical order, simply because one is not any better or more important than the other.
This is a neat little plugin I use with Google AdSense. Instead of having to include html codes in each and every post to have ads in my post, I use this to insert ads at the top and bottom of every post I write. I set it one time and never have to touch it again.
If you want to allow comments on your blog I suggest using Comment Luv because it allows for other bloggers to leave a link back to their blog or post. This helps you and helps them. If you were leaving a comment on another blog, would you not wish they were using Comment Luv :-)?
You can really use any contact form plugin if you want to have a contact form on your site for your readers to get in touch with you. I just went with this one because it had good reviews. I have not had any trouble with it at this point.
I love this plugin! This will allow you to insert buttons within your post for people to click on. You can link it to any other post or another website. I use it to link a lot of my affiliate links. The reason I highly recommend buttons is because it helps you get more clicks. Some people may not know to click something you’ve linked in just a text format. Buttons really help make it stand out.
This is a great plugin to have if you need to add html code to your website and are not really familiar with coding. I am an affiliate with the VigLink Network (sign up to earn money, it’s free). In order for it to work on my site, I could either install the VigLink plugin (this would be great if it worked) or I could add the html code above the </body> tag. For some reason the VigLink plugin would not work (still have not figured that one out) and I have no idea how to add code at all. This plugin was helpful to place the html code right where it needed to go! You could also use this plugin to place ads at the top of your blog.
It places my latest Instagram post in a widget in case my readers want to view them. I only allow two images, but you can have up to twelve. This is on my sidebar on my home screen.
This is the same thing as the Instagram Slider except it is for your latest pins on Pinterest. I only allow two images, but I believe it will let you add up to four. This is also on my sidebar on my home screen.
This plugin has so many useful tools that is included with it, however I utilize most of what it offers with other plugins. However, I love to be able to quickly view my page views and clicks within WordPress with this Plugin. I highly recommend Google Analytics for more accurate and detailed stats.
If you use MailChimp for your email subscribers, I highly recommend this plugin. When I used MailChimp I loved this plugin.
I accidently published my blog before it was ready and I needed something quick to hide it from the world. This plugin was a neat plugin I used to let visitors know that we would be launching soon. You can even collect subscribers that want to know when you launch. I kept this plugin because it can be customized to any reason you want to place you blog on hold. So if I ever need a few weeks downtime to revamp the design, I can do so.
There is a free version of SumoMe and a paid version. I only use the free version and it is such a great asset to the blog. The hello bar you see at the top when you first come to the website, no matter which page you land on is through this plugin. The share buttons (left hand side if on desktop, bottom if on smart phone) are also through SumoMe. I used several other plugins for share buttons and like this one the most. You can also connect your Google Analytics account and see your stats within WordPress. The only thing I do not like about this plugin is if you are not using a paid version, it does not integrate with your email marketing platform and you have to manually transfer subscribers. This is not hard with ConvertKit, however. It is a simple export, import through CSV file and you’re done!
If you are using ConverKit, see why I highly recommend ConvertKit here, you will WANT this plugin. It will let you place any of your subscriber forms on any page or in any post with a simple click of a button. Instead of having a generic sign up form for subscribers you can make it work for each post and simply place it where you want it with this plugin.