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With the thousands of plugins out there, it is sometimes hard to narrow down which ones you need when starting out. These ten essential WordPress plugins for bloggers are all you need to get up and running. Stop wasting your time downloading crappy plugins, and just get these!
When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't know what WordPress was, and sure as hell didn't know what a plugin was. Once I started to understand how this little blogging game worked, I downloaded SO MANY PLUGINS.
I had no idea that these plugins could slow down your site. I never did any research to find the best ones and determine the impact it would have on my site. If I needed something done, I downloaded the first plugin I could find.
I wish I had had a comprehensive list of the essential WordPress plugins back then. I could have saved myself a lot of heartache. When you're first starting out, you don't need ALL the plugins. You need to be focusing on creating content.
However, there are a few of the essential WordPress plugins for blogs that you definitely should be using. Some of these are free, some are premium plugins (costing a small amount of money), and ALL of them are used on my site Went Here 8 This. I absolutely love all these essential plugins and have been using most of them for years now.
What are WordPress Plugins?
I guess we should probably talk about this first. A plugin is basically a piece of software written in programming language that has a specific functionality. If you are familiar with code, you can write the code into your blog instead of using plugins, however, plugins are far more convenient. Plugins are very similar to the apps you have on your phone. There are WordPress plugins available for almost anything you'd like to put on your website.
**If you haven't started your blog yet, head on over and check out How to Start a Blog. It's easy and the opportunities are endless guys! You can also learn how I used Food Blogger Pro to grow my blog.
Ten Essential WordPress Plugins for Food Blogs
Some of the links below contain affiliate links. Although I work as an affiliate for some of these companies, I personally use and highly recommend every one of these plugins.
Yoast has both a free and a premium version. Personally I use the free version and am quite happy with it. While Yoast is not the end all be all of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices, it is a great place to start and ensure you are optimizing your site for SEO. Not sure what SEO is? Read more about it in this post from Food Blogger Pro.
WP Recipe Maker
If you are going to be posting recipes on your site, a recipe plugin is a MUST. And you need one that has JSON-LD structured data. There are a couple out there, but WP Recipe Maker by Bootstrapped Ventured is the best one in my opinion. They have a free version as well as a premium version. The free version offers everything you need to get started. If you want to add a nutrition label, recipe links (for affiliates), user ratings, or premium templates, they have a premium version available for only $49 for a year long subscription.
Social Warfare by Warfare Plugins
There has been a lot of controversy about this plugin lately. They have had a few issues with the plugin updates that have affected people's sites. However, I believe they still offer a great product and have not had any issues with them for quite some time now. Social Warfare is a social sharing plugin that makes it easy to share your posts on all social media platforms.
It also performs forced pinning for Pinterest pins, so you don't have users trying to pin random images from your page. This is a great way to improve your Pinterest performance. It also has a neat, clean look and offers a multitude of sharing buttons (even though I only recommend using a few). It is a very light plugin, so it won't slow your site down, which is incredibly important.
Imagify Image Compression
Speaking of site speed, you definitely want to be using image compression software for your food photos. Otherwise, your site will quickly become slow and bogged down, causing users to leave. Imagify is a great option as it compresses your photos with very little quality loss. I use Imagify for every one of my images. It starts out as a free plugin, but you will likely need to purchase a paid version if you are uploading a lot of food photos. I use the 1GB plan and it has been plenty ($4.99/month).
**Note - you also need to be resizing your photos before you even import them into WordPress. Make sure you are exporting your images from your photo editing software (I use Lightroom) no larger than your theme will allow. For instance, my theme allows photos 680 pixels wide. So I export all my photos no wider than this. I then run them through Imagify to further optimize them before adding them to my post.
WP Rocket Caching Plugin
Not to keep harping on site speed, but it's very important guys. Which is why you need a caching plugin. I've tried a couple different ones and have always had issues with them. WP Rocket has been amazing, and my site has never been faster. This is a premium plugin - it is $39/year but totally worth it in my opinion.
Askimet for Spam
You will undoubtedly get spam as your blog starts to grow. Askimet is a paid plugin, but you will definitely want it so you don't have to sort through all that spam yourself. One day, I got over 600 spam messages overnight. Ain't nobody got time for that. Askimet got rid of all those for me, and automatically marks spam as spam so I don't even have to see it. It's very affordable and even has a set your own price option.
Simple Social Icons
When users come to your site, you want them to be able to easily go out and find your social media profiles. These social icons are very easy to place on your site, can be designed to match your theme, and make it very easy for people to find you. And you want people to find you! This is a free plugin.
At some point you will inevitably need to redirect links due to 404 errors (as well as others). This is a free plugin for those who don't understand coding (me, me me!!!!). It makes it incredibly easy to set up redirects when necessary.
Mailerlite Email Service Provider
You should all be working on building your email list! If you're not, hop to it. it's important. We do not want to solely rely on social media. Anyways, I use Mailerlite as my email service provider (ESP) to build my email list because it is incredibly easy to use, comes with great templates for the design-impaired (me again), and is free if you have under 1,000 subscribers. If you choose to go with Mailerlite as your ESP, you will want to download the free plugin which makes it incredibly easy to integrate your forms (list signup, pop-ups, opt-ins, etc.) with your site.
**Note - many, many bloggers out there use Mailchimp and ConvertKit, both of which are extremely popular. I have never tried Convertkit, and tried Mailchimp for a short period of time and was not a fan. But these are both wildly popular email service providers, so check them out before making any decisions.
Vaultpress WP Backup and Security
You know that feeling when you forget to save something and have to start all over again? Well imagine that, but with your ENTIRE BLOG. I don't know about you, but that is my worst nightmare. I know stuff like this is boring and tedious, but it is incredibly important to back up your site. I use Vaultpress, which is a premium plugin, but totally worth it. I've used a number of free plugins, including Updraft and BackUpWordpress, but find Vaultpress to be hands down the best. I always had issues with my site not backing up using the free plugins, so took the leap to Vaultpress and never looked back. It's $39/year - your blog is worth it guys.
I would highly recommend downloading all these plugins to get started. Now there are thousands and thousands of plugins out there, and you will most likely download more as you grow, but these are a great place to start.
Also, recently WordPress implemented Gutenberg, which is a new dashboard for creating blog posts. For us people that despise change, there is a free plugin called Classic Editor (you can search the WordPress plugins for it) where you can keep the current layout of your WordPress editor.
Want to know some of the other popular WordPress plugins I use on my site?
Google Analytics - I download this plugin so I can see my analytics right in my dashboard. However, I find myself out on the Google Analytics dash board far more often.
Relevansi - You want user to be able to search your site. I use Relevansi and find it does a great job at returning accurate search terms.
Broken Link Check - You want to know when there are broken links on your site so you can fix them or un-link them as necessary. This reduces the number of 404 errors your site will return.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded - This plugin allows users to be notified when you replay to their comments on your post. It opens the dialog between content creators and users.
How to Install WordPress Plugins
Open WordPress and go to the plugins dashboard. Up at the top left, you will see a button "add new." Click it.
You then have the option of searching for a specific plugin, or at the top left corner you can "upload." For most premium plugins, you will have purchased it and downloaded the file to your computer. In this case, you will want to click the "upload plugin" button.
You have the option to go out and find your file, then click "install now."
Once you've installed it, you will need to Activate it (there is an easy activate button) and then your plugin should be available in the menu bar on the left side of your screen. Note that sometimes it is downloaded in the "tools" or "settings" sections.
Are WordPress Plugins Free?
Some of them are free and some of them are paid plugins. As explained above, there are many free plugins that work just fine, but in some cases it pays to use the premium plugin such as Social Warfare or WP Rocket.
Can WordPress plugins contain viruses?
Yes, a WordPress plugin can definitely contain a virus, or if poorly written can open your site up to attacks. It is very important to use reputable plugins; ones that have been downloaded many times and are being used on a regular basis. In addition, to be extra safe, download the plugin to your computer first, scan it with virus scanning software, then upload it through the plugins dashboard.
WordPress plugins to increase site speed
A good caching plugin (see WP Rocket recommendation above) can help speed up your site. If you are running a site with photos, you will also need an image optimizer like Imagify to keep your site from getting bogged down.
**NOTE: using too many plugins can negatively affect your site speed as well. You want to be careful to use only the plugins you need. You can run a plugin called the Plugin Performance Profiler to check the speed of your current plugins (delete the plugin once you're done using it). However, be cautioned that this plugin has not been updated for over 2 years and could possibly cause functionality issue with your site. I used it recently with no issues, but everyone's site is different, so use caution.
A note to the reader
When I was first starting out, I had no idea what I was doing. A few months in, I joined Food Blogger Pro, and they had so many amazing resources for beginners. While it's not free, they do offer month-to-month options if you want to sign up for just a month or two to get all the resources. If you're interest in what Food Blogger Pro has to offer, you can read my post here.
Was this article helpful? Do you have anything tips you'd like to add, or see anything I missed? Leave me a comment and let me know!