I’ve been using WordPress for a long time — since long before the start of this blog. I used to freelance as a WordPress designer and developer so I’ve had the opportunity of working with plenty of plugins. With so many years of experience, there are certain plugins that I have come to trust and use more than others.
The list of WordPress plugins I’m about to share consists of the ones I’ve personally used (or I’m still using) and consider to be important for most WordPress users, and especially so for bloggers.
These WordPress plugins are created by reputable plugin developers and are always kept updated. They also work well with each other resulting in minimal to zero conflicts, at least at the time of writing this post. I use them confidently, and now you can too 🙂
In this post:
WordPress Plugin Basics
Before sharing my recommended WordPress plugins list, allow me to give you a primer on WordPress plugins for beginners.
In short, a WordPress plugin can attach codes that work like small pieces of software to your existing WordPress site and allows you to do things you weren’t able to before adding the plugin.
Who can use WordPress Plugins?
Anyone who uses self-hosted WordPress as their website CMS can use WordPress plugins. If you’re not on WordPress, here’s what you need to do:
Pre-requisites to using WordPress plugins:
- Sign up for a hosting company (I recommend SiteGround)
- Set up WordPress (Takes just a few clicks on SiteGround.)
- Install a theme of choice (I recommend Astra)
Once you’ve done all that, you’ll be able to start adding WordPress plugins. If you need help in doing so, here’s a complete guide to starting your blog with WordPress on SiteGround.
What can WordPress plugins do for your website?
This blog, for example, is made with WordPress, and by adding certain plugins, I’m able to accomplish many more tasks. Some examples of tasks I accomplish with plugins are:
- The ability to design individual pages and posts outside of the limitations of my WordPress theme.
- Sell digital products and securely collect payment from buyers.
- Create beautiful forms to collect email list subscribers.
- Easily optimize my content for search engines with structured data and metadata.
- Create custom content types beyond “pages” and “posts.”
- Optimize my site and assets for better and faster performance.
And much more.
How to find the right plugin for your need
The cool thing about plugins is that no matter what your need is, somebody out there has built a plugin for that purpose. But that doesn’t mean you should blindly start using just any plugin you download from some internet rando.
Unverified plugins can often do more harm to you than you realize. I’ve heard horror stories of people adding malware via bad plugins. In some cases, site owners were locked out of their sites, sites were taken down by hackers or bots, or sites broke entirely.
To avoid these things, do the following:
- Make sure the plugin you’re using is available within the WordPress plugin directory.
- Or, if it’s not available there (some premium plugins aren’t available on the directory,) then make sure to research the developer well. Only download plugins that are created by reputable developers. (Some of them include: WP Media, Brainstorm, etc.)
- Look at plugin reviews and ratings to ensure enough people are using and enjoying the plugin.
- Check out the date of the plugin’s latest update. If a plugin hasn’t been updated in over a year, I’d steer clear.
How to add a WordPress plugin
For most WordPress users, adding and using WordPress plugins can be as simple as clicking a few buttons. Some savvy coders may even build their own. But, assuming we’re all beginners here, let’s see how you could add a plugin to your WordPress site.
First things first, you have to know what the plugin is called. Assuming that you have done your research and you know which plugin you would like to add, follow the steps below:
- Log into your WordPress dashboard.
- On the left menu, find “Plugins” and click it.
- Click “Add new.”
- Type the name of the plugin in the search box and click the Enter key.
- You should see all relevant plugins in the search results, including the one you’re looking for.
- Click “Install now.”
- Once it’s installed, you should see another button called “Activate.” Click it.
- And you’re done!
Alternate method: Download the plugin zip file directly to your WordPress site
Oftentimes, you may come across a plugin that you won’t find inside the WordPress dashboard using the search function. This can happen for many reasons. One common reason that we’ll come across a lot is this: It’s a premium plugin and is only available on the plugin developer’s website upon purchase.
When that happens, the plugin file will be delivered to you as a zip file (it will have a file name similar to this: pluginfilename.zip) which you’ll need to upload to your WordPress site.
This is simple enough to do. Just follow the prompts:
- First, make sure to save the zip file on your computer from the developer’s site (or, if you purchased the plugin, then you may also receive it in an email from the developer.)
- Next, go to your WordPress dashboard > Plugins page.
- Click “Add new.”
- Then click “Upload plugin.”
- This will prompt you to upload the plugin file. Upload the zip file.
- Then click “Install now.”
- After the plugin is successfully installed, click “Activate.”
How to create your own WordPress plugins
As I mentioned earlier, some savvy coders can often build their own plugins. I’m not “savvy” per se, but I have, with help from the internet whizzes, created a couple of my own plugins in the past.
To create your own plugin, you should have sufficient knowledge of WordPress plugin standards and the PHP coding language. I’m not that great at PHP, but I know other coding languages which helps when it comes to creating my own plugins.
In any case, here’s a simple guide to using your own plugins.
- First, open a plain text file and add the following code snippet (see below).
- Next, write your plugin functionalities (codes) right below where it says “/* Plugin functionalities */”.
- Then, save the file with a .php extension. For example, it should say something like “myawesomeplugin.php”
- Now, save this .php file as a zip file somewhere on your computer. It should be named something like “myawesomeplugin.zip”
- Then, repeat the steps of adding a plugin using the download method (Go to Dashboard > Plugin > Add new > Upload plugin) to upload, install, and activate your custom-made plugin.
<?php /* * Plugin Name: My Awesome Plugin * Description: This plugin performs this amazing task. * Version: 1.0 * Author: Author Name */ /* Plugin functionalities */ ?>
If you’re curious to learn more about creating your own plugins, then check out this guide to help you get started.
Please note that some plugins need only that: Installation and activation. Others may require further action via plugin settings. But that’s outside of the scope of this blog post because each plugin differs in its features, functionalities, and settings. Ideally, the plugin’s official site will have all the relevant user documentation.
A List of WordPress Plugins I Recommend to All Bloggers
And now, let’s look at the list of my recommended plugins! Some of these are totally free, while others are premium plugins. Also, please understand that there are more than one plugin for a certain feature or functionality. What I’m sharing below is a list that I’ve compiled based on what I’ve used myself. Many other bloggers or WordPress experts may have their own take on recommended plugins.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Anybody, especially a blogger, who has a self-hosted WordPress site should have the following essential plugins in my honest opinion.
Antispam Bee (Free)
Antispam Bee is a free plugin that protects your site from spammy comments. I get a ton of those, and this plugin has been time-saver. It automatically filters most spammy comments and holds other comments for approval before they’re shown to your site.
An alternative to this plugin that many people use is Akismet. That’s a great plugin too, but it’s not free (not if your blog is a business site and you make money from it.) So, to entry-level bloggers with a budget, I recommend Antispam Bee because it’s free.
Antispam Bee is available for free from WordPress’s plugin directory.
Edit Author Slug (Free)
WordPress automatically creates an archive for every registered user. If you’re an admin to your WordPress site, you have an archive, and by default, this archive has the following URL structure:
Basically, anyone can find out what your username is from your public archive URL. This is great news for folks with malicious intent. So, to hide your username, I recommend adding the Edit Author Slug plugin. With this plugin, you can create a custom slug for your archive page.
For example, my archive page on this blog is: https://www.thesideblogger.com/author/maliha/
Note that the “username” portion of the URL slug is “maliha,” which is my name, but guess what? “maliha” is NOT my username!!!
So yeah, get that the Edit Author Slug plugin. It’s free!
Insert Headers and Footers (Free)
This plugin helps you to add codes to your header and footer areas without having to mess with core WordPress theme files. This comes in handy when you’re trying to add verification codes, analytics, pixels, etc.
For example, to track your website traffic with Google Analytics, you’ll need to add the analytics codes to your website’s header. With this plugin, you can add the code within the plugin’s settings, without ever tweaking the actual header file of your WordPress theme.
There are many plugins that can help you add header and footer codes, but I personally like the Insert Headers and Footers plugin by WPBeginner. It’s pretty lightweight and user-friendly.
Optimole (Free and Paid)
Often, some of the biggest culprits for slow websites are huge image files. Ideally, you should upload optimized images that are small (no more than 150 KB, in my opinion) yet high-quality. You can achieve this by compressing your images with Photoshop or Canva or some other image optimization tool.
However, I recommend that you optimize images not only before uploading them to the WordPress media library, but also after. And that’s where Image Optimization Services by Optimole comes in. Optimole will not only optimize your images further, but it will also serve your images to your visitors via a content delivery network (CDN) for faster performance.
This plugin has a free and paid version. If you’re a beginner blogger with less than 5K monthly visitors, then you should be fine with the free version. Go pro with higher traffic.
Structured Content (Free)
Google loves microdata and often uses these to pull featured snippets for its search engine result pages. If you’re a blogger or small business owner, you should consider adding microdata according to Schema.org.
Using the Structured Content plugin, you can easily add FAQ sections, events, job postings, etc. if you’re a blogger, I highly recommend adding at least FAQ sections using this plugin.
Affiliate marketers, pay heed to what I’m about to say!
When you become an affiliate for a bazillion brands or companies, it is of extreme import that you use a link management plugin. Because guess what? Companies change affiliate links often. Imagine you’ve used affiliate links to a certain product in quite a few blog posts and pages. And then suddenly the link changes. And now imagine yourself trying to track down every single page or post where you’ve used your affiliate link and change them all.
Yeah… not fun.
Save yourself a lot of pain by using ThirstyAffiliates. This plugin creates custom links for each of your affiliate links. if you need to change an affiliate link, you do that by going to ThirstyAffiliate’s link settings. Easy-peasy!
But this plugin does even more cool stuff like automatically adding a no-follow rel-tag to all of your affiliate links, automatically making them open in a new tab, categorizing links, and much more!
They have a free and a paid version. The free version is good enough for most people.
Trash Duplicate and 301 Redirect (Free)
If you ever happen to change the link to a page or a blog post, this plugin will save you much headache. You can easily create 301 redirects with the Trash Duplicate and 301 Redirect plugin so that those old URLs will redirect to the new URLs.
WordFence Security Plugin (Free and Paid)
Website security is monumental for all bloggers (or any website owner.) Don’t take this lightly.
Website security starts with choosing a great website hosting. My recommendation? Go with SiteGround! They use Google’s cloud platform, so right off the bat, they’re more secure than many other hosting companies.
WordFence is my recommended security plugin that has been around for a long time, and I personally use the premium version of it myself, along with SiteGround’s built-in Site Scanner features.
If you’re a brand new blogger on a budget, you can go with just the free plugin.
SiteGround offers an in-house security plugin called SG Security, however, I personally prefer and recommend WordFence as it has more enhanced features and security settings.
Performance and Caching Plugin
Performance enhancing plugins help WordPress websites be faster and more secure. Consider this a crucial plugin.
The good news for SiteGround users is that they have an in-house performance and caching plugin that works seamlessly with their hosting to make your site super fast and efficient. It’s also completely free.
The other alternative (for non-SiteGround users) is WP Rocket, which is a premium plugin.
SG Optimizer (Free)
If you’re on SiteGround hosting, then I highly recommend making use of the SG Optimizer plugin. They work with all WordPress sites, regardless of hosting platform, but they’re most efficient when used in combination with the SiteGround hosting platform.
They have three levels of caching:
- Dynamic caching
- File-based caching, and
Together they make your site super fast.
But remember, your WordPress site must be hosted with SiteGround if you want to use this plugin.
WP Rocket (Paid)
Although I’m hosted with SiteGround, they didn’t have SG Optimizer back in the day when I first signed up. So, I chose WP Rocket for my performance-enhancing and caching needs. This is by far one of the best investments that I have made for my website.
WP Rocket is a premium caching and performance plugin that helps keep your website lightning fast. Well, not lightning, but let’s say pretty fast. I use WP Rocket and here’s what my website performance looks like on GTmetrix:
You can use WP Rocket with SiteGround too, as I do. But over the years SG Optimizer has come a long way, so I highly recommend using it if you’re hosted on SiteGround (which is my #1 recommended hosting company, no questions asked.)
But if you’re not on SiteGround, I highly recommend investing in WP Rocket.
I have a tutorial here on how I use WP Rocket with SiteGround to improve my site’s speed and performance.
Yoast SEO (Free)
Yoast is a necessary plugin for all bloggers. It can help you add meta titles and descriptions for your blog posts and pages, it will create a sitemap of your blog/website, which you can submit to Google Search Console, and much more. Here’s a guide to the Yoast SEO plugin if you need it.
If you sell products (for example, I sell Canva templates on this blog,) then you’ll need the following plugins too.
I make anywhere between a few hundred to over a thousand per month from selling Canva templates on my shop. And I do that using WooCommerce — the dedicated eCommerce platform for WordPress users.
If you’re like me and you want to sell digital products such as Canva templates, then here’s a guide to help you set up WooCommerce.
And, if you want to learn how to sell Canva templates, then sign up for my online course — Side Income with Canva Templates.
WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway (Free)
WooCommerce creates a database for your products and enables selling. However, to accept payment, you need additional plugin(s). If your country supports Stripe, then it’s the best way to accept credit/debit card payments. Install and set up Stripe payments using the WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway plugin.
WooCommerce PayPal Payments (Free)
PayPal is another popular payment system for many people. If your country supports PayPal, then consider having PayPal as another way to facilitate payments. This way, your customers can choose whether they want to pay by credit card or PayPal. To use PayPal, you’ll need the WooCommerce PayPal Payments plugin.
ConvertKit for WooCommerce
If you’ve ever shopped online, then you may have noticed that you’re almost always added to the seller’s email list too when you make a purchase. If you use ConvertKit for your email marketing, then there’s a super easy way to add all your WooCommerce customers to your ConvertKit email list. By using the plugin — ConvertKit for WooCommerce.
But of course, to use this plugin, you have to be a ConvertKit user. If you use a different email marketing platform, then check with them to see how you can add your customers to that platform instead.
Vanity WordPress Plugins
The following plugins aren’t essential but I love them nonetheless!
Elementor / Elementor Pro
Elementor is a page builder plugin for self-hosted WordPress users. It is by far one of the most powerful page builders that’s also super beginner-friendly.
Elementor has a free version which in and of itself is pretty awesome and has a lot of features that most entry-level bloggers will find sufficient for their needs. Elementor Pro is a premium add-on (available for purchase from Elementor’s website as a premium plugin) that adds many more features and functionalities.
In fact, Elementor pro has successfully eliminated the need for many other plugins for me over time. For example, I can now use Elementor Pro to create contact forms, email list opt-in forms (using seamless integration with my email marketing software, ConvertKit), popup forms, table of content sections, and much more.
Gutenberg, WordPress’s default block editor, has come a long way since its initiation. The current version is significantly better than the first iteration, but still, as a blogger who loves to type in the editor, I find the Gutenberg editor, well, clunky.
Hence, I have disabled it using the Classic Editor plugin. Basically, this plugin replaces the Gutenberg block editor with the classic editor that used to be the default before Gutenberg’s introduction with WordPress 5 back in 2018.
The classic editor has a cleaner interface which makes typing easy and distraction-free. I can also use some other plugins that work better with the classic editor.
Shortcodes Ultimate uses shortcodes to add fancy things to your posts and pages with just a couple of clicks. For example, I can add buttons, notes, pull quotes, YouTube and Vimeo videos, and much more using this plugin. Not necessary, but quite fancy, especially for classic editor users. Although, this plugin works with Gutenberg too!
Custom Post Type
WordPress comes with two different types of post types: Pages and Posts.
But what if you wanted to make more types?
For example, I have, essentially, two different blogs on my site: the regular blog (you’re reading one such blog post right now) and I also have a shortform blog. Two blogs on one site! And it’s possible thanks to the Custom Post Type plugin.
You can create different types of post types to categorize the content in the back end. For example, you may have a post type dedicated to creating landing pages, another type for podcast episodes, etc.
While not necessary, this plugin can help clean up your WordPress dashboard quite a bit, especially so if you have a lot of different types of content.
Simple Local Avatars
By default, WordPress uses Gravatar for its user avatars/profile photos. However, this isn’t always ideal.
Perhaps you don’t want to use Gravatar. Or perhaps you have multiple writers on your team and you want a better way to manage their profile photos. You can do that easily with the Simple Local Avatars plugin. It creates an additional field inside a user’s settings where you can upload a photo (using WordPress’s media library) and use that as the avatar/profile photo instead of Gravatar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are WordPress plugins free?
Many awesome and powerful WordPress plugins are completely free to use, while some others are free with paid options, and some with paid only options. The paid plugins are often complex with many features and functionalities that take a lot of effort to build and maintain.
How many WordPress plugins should I have?
There are no limits on how many WordPress plugins you can install and activate. That said, you should only have plugins that you actually use. Adding a bunch of plugins without knowing why you have them or if you use them or not can make your site vulnerable and ill-performing.
Do I have to update my plugins?
If there is an update available for a plugin, then you definitely should update it. Not updating a plugin can make your entire website vulnerable to threats and malware. To avoid security issues, always keep your WordPress plugins as well as themes and core WordPress updated to their latest versions.
And there you go; these are some of my most favorite and trusted plugins for boosting efficiency and productivity; especially for bloggers. What do you think? Any other recommendations you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments below.
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