One of the most significant advantages to using WordPress is the incredible range of options you have when it comes to plug-ins.
Need help integrating a calendar feature? Try a plug-in. Applying sales and discounts to your online store? There’s a plug-in for that, too. But let’s start with the basics, and take a look at the 10 most useful plug-ins for any blogger.
Top 5 Free WordPress Plug-Ins
Although free versions of plug-ins might come with ads or less tools than premium versions, they are a great way to get a feel for the plug-in and how well it suits your needs. These are the most useful (and wallet-friendly) plug-ins for bloggers.
1. Ninja Forms – Help Potential Collaborators Contact You
Most readers will engage with your content and links without reaching out to you directly, but it is still important to have a contact page on your site. Potential collaborators interested in working with you need a way to get in touch, and a simple contact form is the best way to tackle this.
However, you’re a blogger, not a coder, so creating something functional yet stylish might not be the easiest task. This is where WordPress menu plugins and contact form creation tools like Ninja Forms lend their service. Create detailed and easy to use contact forms, and all without needing to reload the page, which can sometimes result in people abandoning their efforts midway through filling out the form.
Along with being free, Ninja Forms is also a popular choice due to its security measures. Your site will be protected from spamming. Less time deleting useless emails means more time to create content and manage your site.
2. WooCommerce – Get Comfortable with e-commerce
WooCommerce is the go-to when it comes to incorporating an e-commerce side to your blog. Almost 94 percengt of WordPress e-commerce sites use the WooCommerce plug-in, so it’s safe to say it comes highly recommended.
Creating an e-shop is difficult enough but with a global readership, bloggers also need to account for different tax systems and logistics like shipping. Rather than waste time stressing about whether your high school math is good enough, install WooCommerce, and let it do the work for you.
Another bonus is that WooCommerce is now integrated with other platforms like Facebook and MailChimp, so bloggers can communicate information around sales or special events quickly and efficiently.
3. MailChimp For WordPress – Newsletters Made Easy
Managing newsletters can be a little tricky for blogging newcomers. It is one thing to accumulate readers and sign them up for regular updates, but how do you create different mailing lists for different topics or even regions?
The obvious – and surprisingly budget-friendly choice – is MailChimp. This plug-in is already used on millions of WordPress sites and is a great support in keeping you connected with your readers.
4. Smush Image Compression and Optimization – Improve Page Speed and Your User Experience
Another important thing to keep in mind when working on your site is to keep it accessible. Not all of your readers will be browsing your content on high-speed internet or may have data-restrictions on their mobile browsers. Compressing video and image content is a great way to make sure your pages load fast without sacrificing the effort you’ve put into your visuals.
As many people know (and have experienced themselves), a slow loading page is often the reason a user will click away and abandon their attempt to check out your blog. Prevent this by keeping your site permanently optimised and browser-friendly.
This is where Smush comes in. As a free plug-in, Smush automatically compresses your images when you upload them, so you know exactly what the compressed file looks like and can make adjustments if needed. It’s the perfect sidekick for any bloggers with image-heavy content.
5. Yoast – Simplify Your SEO
SEO sounds relatively simple, right? Pick some keywords, make some carefully-worded titles and descriptions, and you’re done! If only it were that easy.
Yoast not only offers support in the basics like structuring your content correctly, but also reviews each page individually. Armed with an SEO page analysis, you’ll get advice on how many internal and external links you should be using, and whether or not your keywords are placed where they should be.
Yoast even helps you prepare your metadata, so no stone is left unturned. Once you see a green dot at the top of your page, much like a traffic light, it means you’re ready to go live – and secure your place at the top of the Google search results.
Top 5 WordPress Subscription Plug-Ins
As the saying goes, you get what you give. In the case of plug-ins, it is sometimes worth investing in a subscription in order to get the best service possible. Your readers (and site traffic) will thank you.
1. EasyAzon – Monetise Your Content and Maximise Your Time
With your content schedule and reader numbers, it can feel like you don’t have a lot of free time to manage the admin side of your site. This can be especially true when you are creating sponsored content or participating in an affiliate program.
If you’re an Amazon Affiliate, you’re in luck! EasyAzon simplifies the process when it comes to monetising your content and even helps with the trickier tasks like assessing commissions from international readers.
Additionally, this plug-in helps you create fun displays like pop-up product information texts and even optimises the way your readers shop on your own Amazon page. While there is a free version, the premium version offers a few more features and, with those increased conversions, pays for itself.
2. Wordfence Security – Keep Your Site and Your Subscribers Secure
Cyber crime isn’t just the plotline of bad 90’s movies anymore, it’s actually a real everyday issue facing bloggers. While you might think your newly started blog on antiquing wouldn’t be a target, your mailing list often is one. Hackers look for vulnerable sources of data, and without the proper protection, your blog and its healthy amount of readers might look like an attractive prospect. In fact, WordPress is an increasingly popular target for hackers for this very reason.
While the free version is good, the paid version of WordFence Security is worth the subscription fee. It keeps your site safe and offers an incredible range of tools like virus and malware scans, firewalls, and a proactive email alert system that will grab your attention as soon as anything suspicious is detected.
3. BlogVault – Back Ups Without the Bother
We’ve all experienced the nightmare. The essay is due tomorrow, and suddenly your computer crashes, and you have to start all over again. Now imagine this on a much bigger and costly scale.
If your WordPress site crashes or is hacked, you stand to lose a lot – in content, effort and, most importantly, time. For this reason, it makes sense to invest in a premium plug-in that will back your content up and keep it safe from disappearing into the online ether.
While there are a few free options floating around, it really is worth the money to give your blog the back up it deserves. BlogVault comes highly recommended and not only offers the essential off-site back up, but also supports in website recovery and migration to help you get things back online.
4. Thrive Leads – Reach More Readers
For a new blogger, the range of choice when it comes to presenting content can be a little overwhelming. While creating newsletters and updates for your readers seems simple enough, there is good reason to invest in a plug-in that will make sure your communications are as effective as possible.
Thrive Leads is a drag and drop form builder that offers you templates to choose from and even customize. If you’re looking to build up your subscriber list, why not try out a few different options and see which has better results? There’s no need to add Google Analytics to WordPress. With Thrive Leads, A/B testing is a simple process and will help you refine the way you communicate until you are confident that you are hitting the mark every time.
5. Broken Link Checker – Keep Your Links and Your Reader’s Interest Active
The downside to creating a lot of content is that it can sometimes mean that older posts don’t get the technical TLC they deserve. While linking to fellow bloggers sites is a great way to network, if their site changes, you might end up with broken links that send your readers to an error page.
With 88% of online consumers less likely to return to a page after a bad user experience, broken links can also have a negative effect on your site’s overall health. Broken Link Checker is a great support in continuously assessing the links on your site and helping you stay on top of any issues.
Which plug-in is right for me?
With well over 50,000 plug-ins currently available for WordPress, it is fair to say that new bloggers are spoiled for choice. How do you know which is right for you? Firstly, check out the reviews. On WordPress there are not only star ratings for each plug-in, but users also have the chance to write in and share what issues or advantages each plug-in offers.
Secondly, take advantage of trial periods and free versions of each plug-in. If you are unsure whether a plug-in will really be useful on your page, test it out and only invest if you feel it adds something the competition doesn’t offer.
Lastly, check out the numbers of active installations. As with choosing a restaurant, a long line of patrons is usually a good indicator of quality. The more active users a plug-in has, the better.
Now that you’re armed with this overview, it’s time to start exploring the plethora of WordPress plug-ins for yourself!