On WordPress, a plugin is like a tool to extend the capacity of your blog. Some are designed to add functionalities to your blog, while others help you filter spam comments and access your stats quickly. Here’s a list of the most useful free plugins you should install on your WordPress.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more information, please read the disclaimer.
Locate the plugin section
In your WordPress dashboard, go to the left-hand menu, then click on Plugins. You will get a list of the plugins already installed. To install new plugins, click on the Add New button next to the title at the top.
Before we get started…
Don’t go crazy with plugins. You must know that you shouldn’t download all the available plugins in the world; install only the ones you need. Plugins can slow down your website, and you don’t want that.
Also, make sure to update your plugins as soon as an update is available to avoid any security breach and ensure it works properly. If a plugin hasn’t been updated in 12 months, uninstall it. It’s most likely been abandoned and it could pose a risk of a security breach.
To check the date of the latest update, in the plugin page, simply click on View Details under the description of the plugin. The date is located on the right side of the pop-up window.
My favorite plugins (in alphabetical order)
- Grow by Mediavine
- Insert Headers and Footers
- Pretty Links
- Site Kit by Google
- Updraft Plus
- W3 Total Cache
- Wordfence Security
Grow by Mediavine
If you want your readers to share your posts, you have to make it as easy and effortless as possible for them to do it. Grow by Mediavine adds sharing buttons to Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter under your featured image, and you have other options, such as the floating sidebar.
When I started my blog, I was using Shareaholic because it was the most recommended social media sharing plugin. However, I recently learned that it slows down your site speed. As I am trying as much as I can to get these performance results higher, I had to switch to Grow by Mediavine.
Insert headers and footers
Some platforms, like Pinterest, will ask you to copy-paste HTML code in your header. Where in the world can you even find this? Do I look like a programmer? Yeah, this is why I use this plugin. This saved my life a few times! Learn more here.
Pretty Links is a useful plugin when you want to create or shorten links to affiliate products, without having all the confusing characters.
For instance, let’s say I want to post my affiliate link to the Work at Home Bundle 2020 from Ultimate Bundles on my Facebook page. Which one would be more appealing?
- Get your Work at Home 2020 Bundle here: ultimatebundles.com/sale/wahmb2020-main?a_aid=5ebc941306c0b&a_bid=25807dad
2. Get your Work at Home 2020 Bundle here: agrammarnerd.com/WorkAtHomeBundle
This is also a useful tool for Pinterest marketing because you need to link to your website if you are posting an affiliate pin.
One of the major elements in your site speed is the picture size. Photos can slow down your website more than you think. ShortPixel is an image optimization plugin that can bulk-process your images and reduce their size, without losing their quality.
The free version allows you to bulk-process 50 images per month (including thumbnails). It is definitely not enough. For $9.99, I got 10,000 credits, which represents 10,000 images. They have monthly plan but I don’t post enough for it to be worth it. This is why I prefer their one-time plans. Check out their plans here.
Site Kit by Google
Google offers so many great tools for free to optimize and monitor your blog. Why not take advantage of it? Site Kit gives you access to your Google Analytics, the Search Console, and AdSense, if you use it on your blog, through your WordPress dashboard.
UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
You must have a backup of your blog in case something bad happens, like getting hacked. UpdraftPlus backs up your blog for you. You don’t need any knowledge in coding. If your website gets hacked, you will be able to restore it, thanks to this plugin! I’m using the free version, but they also offer a Premium version with many more useful functionalities.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is plugin strongly recommended by Mike Pearson, from Stupid Simple SEO, to “dramatically improve the speed and user experience of your site” (according to the plugin description). It improves your rankings in search engines (yeah, like Google), and your overall site performance.
Protecting your blog from hacker attacks is crucial. I am currently writing a blog post in collaboration with my friend Gina from Texas Kids Adventure because her blog was attacked by hackers, and she is still recovering from it.
Make sure to protect your blog with Wordfence Security. You can take an extra step and buy the security package offered by your website host. For my other blog, hosted on Bluehost, I purchased the SiteLock Security solution to add an extra layer of protection.
Would you like to get started with Bluehost? Read this blog post!
Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to put your blog on the map. It’s not always easy to do when you don’t know where to start. This is where Yoast SEO comes to the rescue.
At the bottom of your post, you will be able to write your focused keyphrase, your slug (for the URL), your meta description, and you’ll see an analysis of what you need to improve. You also need to pay attention to the Readability score (which can be improved by adding headings).
If you want to work on your SEO, make sure to follow Mike Pearson’s Stupid Simple SEO. It’s worth every penny!
Go through your plugin list to make sure you are not using plugins who do the same thing. For instance, when I installed W3 Total Cache, it took me weeks to realize it served the same purpose as another plugin that I had already installed, Hummingbird.
Having similar plugins could create problems with your blog, so make sure to delete one of them.
Finally, as I said before, you don’t need to use a thousand plugins; this will slow down your site, and if you don’t manage them properly, you could be exposed to potential security risks. Cate Rosales, from Sweet and Simple Life, told me in a Facebook post on her group to not “use unnecessary plugins for things when it’s so easy to do it manually”. She is 100% right.