Can you imagine a smartphone without apps in it? No, I don’t think so.
Can you imagine a wordpress powered blog or website without plugins? No, I don’t think so.
BY BRIGHT OCHUKO
Plugins are just like apps for WordPress. Without plugins, WordPress is just like a smartphone without any installed apps.
I guess a smartphone without any apps can’t be called smart anymore. Can it? Since it can only be used for making calls.
WordPress without plugins have very few functions. It will be difficult to customize, slow, and worst of all vulnerable to security attacks.
Every day, I receive site lockout notifications of attempted login attempts on my blogs from iThemes Security, which is a security plugin I use to secure my site from hackers.
The plugin helps me to lock out anyone who’s trying to hack or login to my wordpress blog without my permission.
All, I have to do is install the ithemes security plugin, then I have to specify how many times someone should enter a wrong password on my blog before he’s locked out.
If I specify 3 times, once the attacker inputs the wrong password the third time he’s locked out, and itheme security notifies me of the lockout.
I receive lots of these lockouts notifications every day, because people are constantly trying to login or hack my blogs.
Ithemes security makes sure their efforts is futile. It makes sure I don’t wake up one day, and my wordpress blog is gone, taken over by someone else who did not labor to create it.
Ithemes security is just one of the plugins I use. As the name implies, it’s for securing your wordpress powered site.
There are over 54 thousand other WordPress plugins that you can use to perform other functions on your wordpress blog or add more functionality to your blog. These you can find in the official wordpress plugin repository.
However, it’s not a good practice to install many plugins on your wordpress site. In fact, too much plugins can actually harm rather than help your wordpress blog.
Plugins can conflict with each other and slow down your blog, or even worse crash your wordpress site. So, when it comes to plugins, you need to make sure that you’re using what you absolutely need, not what you want.
Trust me, you don’t want too much. If you have a wordpress site with up to 50 plugins installed and activated, then you most certainly are doing something wrong.Hence, in this article, I’ll be revealing some of the essential wordpress plugins I personally use on my wordpress blogs and what I use them for, so that you can use them as well.
1. Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
The Yoast SEO plugin is actually the first plugin I install when creating a new wordpress blog. Immediately I finish installing wordpress, I go ahead and install Yoast SEO plugin.
As the name implies, it’s an SEO or search engine optimization plugin. In other words, it helps you optimize your site for the search engine, so that your site can rank properly in the search engines like Google, Bings and Yahoo, which allows more people to find your site.
The reason you create a website or a blog is that you want people to visit it and see the content or products you have there.
When you install the Yoast SEO plugin, you’re already one step ahead, in making your site visible in the search engines. Installing it automatically creates an SEO snippet below each of your post in the post editor.
With the Yoast SEO snippet, you can configure the post on-page SEO settings such as the SEO title, the post slug and the meta description for that post.
You also get a place for you to enter the focus keyword for that post. The focus keyword is the main keyword that article is about or the main keyword you want to rank for in the search engines.
When you enter the focus keyword, it shows a green smiley face if the on page SEO settings for that post is good, red for bad and orange to show it needs improvement.
The Yoast SEO plugin also signals and shows you changes you have to make to the article for it to rank properly for the focus keyword you’ve chosen.
For instance, if the smiley face by the focus keyword is not green, you can scroll down, and you’ll see a set of dots with the same color codes that shows you what improvements you need to make to the post for you to get a green on-page SEO score.When creating a new wordpress blog, be sure to install the Yoast SEO plugin, as you can use it to configure the on-page SEO settings for all your blog posts and pages.
2. Google Analytics Dashboard For WP By Exactmetrics
How would you measure the progress or growth of your blog if you don’t know the number of visitors it gets in a day? It would be almost impossible, right? Absolutely.
That’s why I install the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by Exactmetrics each time I create a new wordpress blog.
With it, you can see the traffic stats of your blog right from your wordpress dashboard. All you have to do, is create a Google Analytics account for your blog or website, and connect it to the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin you installed.
Just give it a few minutes, and you’ll be able to see your blog traffic stats right in your dashboard when you reload your wordpress dashboard.
3. WP Super Cache
The speed of your wordpress blog is very important. If your blog or website loads fast, it will make your blog visitors happy because they don’t have to wait long for your blog to load.
Secondly, it increases your search rankings. Your website ranks higher because Google can detect that your website loads very fast.
A caching plugin like the WP Super Cache makes your blog faster. How? Each time someone visits your blog, the caching plugin stores a copy of your blog known as cache on their browser, so that whenever they try to visit your blog again, they don’t have to load the site all over again. The browser just displays the one in its cache.
This makes your blog or website load faster as it reduces the load on your server.
4. WP Smush WordPress Plugin
WP Smush is another important plugin you need to have on your wordpress blog. Its overall function is also to make your website load faster by compressing the images you have on your site.
If the size of your images are too big, it takes a long time for the page to load, because each time someone visits your website, it’s like his browser downloads the content of that page he/she’s trying to visit. So, images on that page that have a large file size takes more time to download, hence longer loading time.
What WP Smush does is to compress those images to small file size so that they can easily be downloaded by browsers, making your website load faster.
5. Thrive Architect
I’ve said time and again that the wordpress theme I use is Astra. However, the beauty of Astra comes when it’s paired with a suitable page builder like Thrive Architect or Elementor.
Personally, the page builder I use on this blog and my other blogs is Thrive Architect. It’s a premium page builder which comes as a plugin when you purchase it.
So, if you want to build a really beautiful and user friendly blog, you need a page builder like Thrive Architect to get things going.
A very good alternative to Thrive Architect is Elementor.
6. Pretty Links WordPress Plugin
Have you ever tried to create a download link for your eBook using Google Drive? The download or shareable link which you generate from Google drive is kind of long and ugly-looking. Right?
What if you want to make that link look shorten the link and maybe cloak it to look like it’s your native blog link?
When you can install the wordpress plugin called pretty links. It’s a link cloaking and shortening plugin which allows you to cloak and shorten ugly looking links like links you get from the affiliate program you’re using to monetize your blog or maybe social media links.
For instance, if I want a link that I can use to direct people to my Facebook page. I just need to go to my profile and copy my Facebook profile link.
However, that link is not a very shareable link, and it looks ugly with a lot of numbers in it. To fix it, all I have to do is use pretty links to create a shareable link that looks like my native blog link.
As seen from the screenshot above, I just have to copy the facebook profile link and paste it in the “Targe URL” box, then I need to choose my pretty link slug.
For my facebook page, I just entered “fb-page” in the slug, then I hit create to create the pretty link.
Now, if you visit https://bloggerstream.com/fb-page, you’re going to end up on my facebook page. Also, to share my facebook page, I can just use the bloggerstream.com/fb-page url instead of the ugly-looking one that I copied from facebook.
You can use the Pretty Links plugin to cloak and shorten other types of links including affiliate links. If you’re using it for affiliate links however, you have to make sure that the affiliate program you’re using allows shortening of their links.
For instance, shortening Amazon Associates affiliate links can land you in hot water if you don’t signify or show users properly that clicking the link will take them to Amazon.
7. Insert Headers And Footers WordPress Plugin
If you register your blog for certain services online such as Google Analytics, Google webmaster tools or maybe you want to install Facebook pixels, most of the time you’ll be given a piece of code to insert into your website header or footer.
The first time you’re told to do that, you may be confused about where to put that code, especially if you’re not a web developer.
If you’re not a developer like me, then all you need is a plugin called Insert headers and footers. When you install and activate the plugin, you’ll have 2 boxes where you can insert header and footer scripts respectively.
After inserting the plugin, just head to settings > insert headers and footers, then you’ll find the two boxes. First one for header scripts, second one for footer script.
So, whenever you’re given a code or script to insert in your website header, just copy and paste it in the box for scripts in header, click save, and you’re done with that.
8. Tablepress WordPress Plugin
If you’re looking for a means to create beautiful styled tables in wordpress, then tablepress is the plugin you need.
I personally use it to create styled tables on my blogs. Especially for creating Amazon product comparison tables.
Whenever, I write a top 10 Amazon product article, I use Tablepress to create a comparison table for the 10 products I’m comparing.I’m not the only one that does this, if you look carefully out there, you’ll see many other blogs and websites using the Tablepress plugin to build their tables.
9. Q2W3 Fixed Widget
Sometimes, you need a widget to stick at the sidebar of your page as you scroll through the page. If you’re using a Thrive Architect, you can create custom page layouts and make items sticky on the page.
On the other hand, if you just want to make widgets sticky on your sidebar, the plugin you need is the Q2W3 Fixed Widget.Before installing the plugin on your blog, when you go to widgets and click on any widget in your sidebar, you’re not going to find any option to make it sticky as show in the screenshot below.
However, when you install and activate the plugin, it creates an option in your sidebar widgets to make them sticky.
When you tick the fixed widget option and save any widget in your sidebar, that widget will stick to sidebar as you scroll through the page.
10. Easy Custom Sidebars WordPress Plugin
The Easy Custom Sidebars plugin allows you to create different sidebars with different widgets for each of your posts or pages.
Without Easy Custom Sidebars, it’s the same sidebars that displays for each of your posts on your wordpress blog. But when you install the Easy Custom Sidebars plugin, you get the option to create different custom sidebars tailored to the content of your posts.So, you don’t have to display the same sidebar for each of the posts on your wordpress blog.