If you’re completely new blogging or WordPress (or both!), you’re probably asking: “What the heck is a plugin?”
Basically, a plugin is like an app that adds a replacement functionality or feature to your WordPress blog. Knowing how plugins work and what to concentrate to when selecting those to use can prevent plenty of time and money. You’ll avoid those nasty surprises when a crappy plugin crashes your entire blog and you can’t access your WordPress dashboard to recover your content.
In this post, I’ll show you what plugins you would like for WordPress, what are the simplest WordPress plugins for blogs, and the way to put in a plugin on your blog.
Why do you need to know this?
I get it – plugins can feel a bit too technical and complicated when you’re just starting your blog. But here’s why you need to understand the basics of WordPress plugins:
- Few plugins are great.
- Some plugins are bad.
- And MOST plugins are downright rubbish.
And since there are THOUSANDS of plugins to choose from, finding the best plugins can easily feel confusing. Yet, you MUST find the best ones out there. Otherwise you’re going to run into problems with your blog. Making a bad choice with a plugin can:
- slow your blog down,
- cause security threats, and
- even crash your entire blog.
But don’t be afraid of all plugins! I’m here to help you get started and find the best must have WordPress plugins for bloggers!
Let’s get started!
What are WordPress plugins?
If you’ve never used WordPress plugins before, no worries!
You can consider WordPress plugins being almost like what applications are for your smartphone.
You know, you’ll add new features and functionalities to your phone by installing an app, right?
In a similar way, you’ll add new functionalities to your WordPress blog by using plugins.
Simply put: plugins are extensions that give your blog a functionality it wouldn’t otherwise have.
For instance, you’ll use a plugin to feature a contact form to your WordPress blog. otherwise you could add social sharing buttons to your blog posts employing a plugin.
Plugins are one among the most important benefits of using WordPress as your blogging platform. When you’ve blogged for a short time , you’ll feel more and easier with finding and selecting the simplest WordPress plugins for bloggers.
Must-have WordPress plugins for bloggers in 2020
By now, you’re probably asking:
“What plugins do I need for WordPress?”
“What are the best plugins for WordPress?”
Let’s look at some of the best plugins for WordPress and for blogging you can start using right away:
11 best free WordPress plugins for blogs 2020
Even though you need to be a bit careful with plugins, there are a few that are just necessary for blogging.
These are plugins that I recommend you to install right away (or in the next days) when you start a blog.
All of these plugins are free to use. For some, you can upgrade to a paid premium version if you feel like you need the extra features. But when you’re just a beginner, it’s perfectly OK to just use the free version first.
Tired of seeing spam comments on your blog? Me too.
Akismet will filter out and block all spam comments for you. This saves you heaps of time and helps you keep your blog clean. It’s the #1 anti-spam plugin in the market – and it’s free for non-commercial sites.
Akismet analyses all comments you get and knows exactly which ones to block.
You can sit back and relax, and focus on creating awesome content for your readers without having to worry about spammy comments.
2: Jetpack by WordPress.com
Jetpack will help you get more out of your blog with a bunch of awesome features like:
- Spam filtering and security though brute force attack protection
- Faster page speed for mobile users with lazy loading images
- Powerful customization tools for the design of your blog
- SEO tools for Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Bing
- Tools for managing multiple blogs using one single dashboard
Needless to say, Jetpack is a real powerhouse that will take your blog to the next level. It’s a proper all-in-one solution for a number of helpful tools you need to start a successful blog from scratch.
And you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues with WordPress, because Jetpack was developed by Automattic, the company behind WordPress itself.
Oh I almost forgot: Jetpack also allows you to create backups of your blog. And should your blog go offline for some reason, Jetpack will send you an email notification so that you can look into it.
To save you from spending sleepless nights trying to get your blog back online, make sure you choose the RIGHT blog hosting from the beginning. I use Bluehost for my blogs (including this one), and my uptime is around 99.99%. If you’re just starting out, check out my step-by-step tutorial on how to setup your blog on Bluehost. It only takes 10 minutes (even if you’re a complete beginner!)
3: All-in-One WP Migration (Backups)
With All-in-One WP Migration, you can create a backup of your blog in just ONE CLICK. Your backup is stored in a single file, so you don’t have to deal with a number of files and database backups simultaneously.
If you’re only using one single plugin for your WordPress blog, this one should be it!
I can’t stress enough how important it is to create backups of your blog regularly. I really mean it.
Trust me, I’ve seen bloggers and website owners lose everything because they didn’t backup their work. Even if it’s very unlikely to happen, your blog may get hacked or your hosting company might lose their entire database.
And let me tell you, losing your work will make you cry. A LOT.
I know backups may feel a bit technical, but All-in-One WP Migration makes it easier than you’d imagine. It’s really the best backup plugin for WordPress for beginners.
One more thing: remember to store your backups in two separate locations. I always keep one backup on my computer and another one in Dropbox. Safety first!
4: Yoast SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
To help you generate more traffic through search engines, Yoast SEO offers a user-friendly tool for creating content that search engines love.
Even though SEO might feel like a world of its own with an endless number of technicalities to remember, it’s surprisingly simple once you start learning the basics.
When you’re writing a new post, Yoast SEO will automatically make suggestions for improving your writing and the potential to rank higher in search results.
I use Yoast SEO for every blog and website I’ve created for myself and my clients. No other SEO plugin comes even close to this one!
5: Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
I’ve been using Google Analytics Dashboard for WP since the very first day I started blogging.
Once you’ve optimised your content for search engines, you’ll surely want to see how your effort is paying off, right?
Google Analytics is the best website analysis tool out there. It tells you everything you need to know about your blog visitors, what they are doing on your website, and which posts they love.
This plugin allows you to monitor your traffic and see what your visitors are actually doing on your blog. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP is very easy and quick to setup, and you’ll save tons of time when you can track your traffic directly in your WordPress dashboard.
6: Wordfence Security
Wordfence Security is a powerful tool to protect you from the bad guys out there. Trust me, you don’t want to wake up one morning and find out that your blog has been hacked.
Wordfence will guard your blog even when you’re sleeping. Should anything seem unusual, the plugin will send you an email notification about it.
The best part about Wordfence Security is that it’s super easy to setup and configure. There really is no reason to have a blog that’s vulnerable to online threats and attacks – so just try it out (before it’s too late)!
7: W3 Total Cache (Page Speed)
W3 Total Cache makes your blog load at lightning speed! This plugin improves page speed and performance using a myriad of ways, like:
- reducing loading times of contents and scripts
- using CDN (Content Delivery Networks)
- caching your pages into static files
- using browser caching
Caching might seem like a complex, technical thingy, I get it. But hey, even I don’t understand everything that’s happening in under the hood!
You’ll just have to trust me on this one – it’s the best caching plugin available. I use W3 Total Cache for all my blogs and websites.
8: Social Warfare (Social Sharing Buttons)
Time to pull out the big guns! Social Warfare is THE plugin to make your blog posts easily shareable.
Social Warfare allows you to add beautiful and easy-to-use social sharing buttons to your posts and pages. I’ve tried a handful of social sharing plugins in the past few years – this is the best you can get.
You can start with the free version, but I’d recommend upgrading to the premium version right away. If you’re serious about growing your blog through social media (which we both know you are!), investing a few bucks in a solid sharing plugin will pay itself back in no time. I mean, it’s like $2.42 per month.
9: a3 Lazy Load (Page Speed)
a3 Lazy Load is another awesome plugin to improve your blog’s page speed. If your posts take too long to load, your readers will grow impatient and simply leave your blog. Ouch!
With a3 Lazy Load, the images on your blog will not load until your reader actually scrolls over them.
Lazy Load > Faster page speed > More time spent on your blog > More happy readers > Higher opt-in rates, higher conversions, etc.
Everyone hates those 404 error pages, right? You, me, everyone.
Redirection is a plugin that helps you turn every 404 into a proper page view. If you ever have to change the URL of a specific page or post, you can easily create a redirect from the old URL to the new one.
For example, let’s just say that you want to improve the Google ranking of a post from last year… You do some keyword research and notice that you should use another focus keyword in your URL. If you’ve shared that article on Facebook or pinned it on Pinterest, you can’t change the URL that those shares are linked to.
And that’s bad: your readers will land on a 404 error page, because the original URL is gone. Not only does Google hate this, but Pinterest won’t be too amused, either.
All you have to do is use Redirection to create a redirect that forwards all traffic to the new URL.
Also, if you want to delete a post, just create a redirect from its URL to a related post. Easy peasy!
11: Pretty Links
If you want to start a blog to make money, you will need Pretty Links to make your affiliate links more readable and… well, pretty.
So, if you’re planning to use affiliate marketing to make money with your blog, Pretty Links helps you create more readable links to use on your blog.
This plugin also saves you tons of time if your affiliate links should change for some reason. Instead of going through each post and EVERY link manually, you can simply change the root link using Pretty Links in just a few clicks.
How do I install a WordPress plugin?
First off, let me tell you this: Installing a plugin in WordPress is NOT difficult.
Bur first, you will need a self-hosted WordPress blog to have access to all plugins available. Self-hosting means that you will buy a domain name and sign up for blog hosting first, and install WordPress on your hosting account and start blogging.
Trust me, starting a self-hosted WordPress blog is not as difficult or technical as it might sound. I’ll show you exactly how it’s done in my step-by-step tutorial on how to start a WordPress blog in just 10 minutes right here.
Ok, let’s get back to our plugins…
How to install a plugin in WordPress:
There are two ways you can install a WordPress plugin directly in your admin area:
- Using the plugin search tool
- Uploading the plugin directly to WordPress
Using the search feature is a bit easier, but some plugins can’t be found directly in the plugin directory. But don’t worry, uploading a plugin directly to WordPress is super easy, too.
How to install a plugin from the WordPress plugin directory:
First, find your way to your WordPress admin area. In the vertical menu on the left hand side, simply click on the “Plugins > Add New” link.
This takes you directly to the WordPress plugin directory. In the search field on the right, you can type in the name of any plugin you want to install:
To install a plugin you need, click the “Install Now” button in the plugin description box.
While the installation is running, make sure NOT to leave the page!
Once the installation is complete, the button now says “Activate” – go ahead and click it.
If you can’t find the plugin you’re looking for using the search feature, you probably need to upload it manually.
How to upload a plugin manually to WordPress:
Most premium plugins, like the Bloom email marketing plugin or the Monarch social sharing plugin, must be uploaded manually to WordPress.
To get started, you first need to download the plugin from the website you purchased it from. The plugin MUST be a ZIP file, so make sure you don’t unzip it. This is just the format it needs to be in for uploading it to WordPress.
Again, navigate to “Plugins > Add New” in your WordPress dashboard. On the top of the page, click “Upload Plugin” to open the upload tool:
Click “Choose file” and find the plugin ZIP file you downloaded earlier. Then, click “Install Now” to start the installation – and you’re all set!