Plugins are tools or utilities that serve a specific purpose for your blog. There are over 50,000+ plugins in the WordPress directory. Here I’ll list down essential plugins for WordPress to help you get started.
We’ll also cover how to install a plugin. You already saw how we can upload and activate a plugin when we activated the premium Generatepress theme plugin in our How to start a Blog article.
Follow along to install and activate them one by one.
Please Note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links. When you purchase using the links I get some commission with no additional cost to you.
YOAST SEO is arguably one of most essential plugins for wordpress. As the name suggests, it is vital for your search engine optimization needs.
Before you start writing your article, you need to do Keyword research for your article. Keywords are the words or phrases that people are already searching for and you want your article to rank against those keywords.
This is where Yoast SEO comes in very handy.
This plugin will let you enter your focus keyword and then analyse your article against that keyword and let you know if you have done the SEO right.
It basically has a checklist of actions that you need to follow if you want to get your SEO right.
To install, login to your admin dashboard.
Go to Plugins and then Add New option. In the Search plugins bar, enter Yoast.
Now when you create a new post, when you scroll down, you will see a Yoast SEO section.
You can enter the Focus keyphrase (more on how to identify keywords in the next article).
Update the SEO title, slug, and meta description to include the focus keyword. These steps are essential to let Google know about the intent of your article which is based on your keyword.
SEO Title – the title for the search engine
Slug – URL of your post. Keep it short. If it can be just your focus word, it is better.
Meta – A short description explaining the intent of your article.
The SEO Analysis section mentions the key points to consider for your ON-page SEO. In case you missed to follow them, it will be highlighted in red.
There are many additional benefits of using Yoast SEO like automatic creation of sitemaps, connecting to search console, social media post optimization, and of course readability score.
W3 Total Cache / WP Rocket
One of the best ways to improve user experience is to improve the page load and performance.
Thankfully to help us improve the performance and site speed we have plugins like W3 Total Cache and WP Rocket to help us achieve the same.
You can check your current page speed insights using google pagespeed tool
Install the W3 Total Cache plugin by visiting the Plugins options in your admin dashboard and clicking on Add New.
Enter W3 Total Cache and then install and activate.
Once this plugin is activated, you should see a Performance option generally towards the bottom part of the menu.
i. Enable Page Cache as above with page cache method as Disk: Enhanced.
What this does is that it will show a cached version of your page rather than making a new network request and parsing and showing the page. This reduces the load time.
ii. Browser Cache
The settings here allow browser to cache resources for optimum page load.
iii. Minification of resource files
You can optionally choose to minify HTML. CSS and JS files to reduce network load time. This helps to further optimize the performance but make sure to test your site after doing this change.
I have not faced any challenges yet after minification but few users mentioned that it might be a risky affair.
Here is my setting for minify resources.
You can skip the Database and Object cache as they have not been found to be very effective.
Third in the list of essential plugins for wordpress is UpdraftPlus.
This plugin is a life saver as within few clicks you can take backup of your entire site.
I used it when I was trying few different theme templates for my blog and I did not wanted to mess up my exiting content or styling.
Within couple of minutes I was able to connect this plugin to my Google Drive and take a backup.
I played around with different theme and when I wanted to restore it to the original version, I was able to conveniently do it in few clicks.
You don’t need to be an expert to get it working.
When you activate this plugin, it will take you through a guided tour to complete the setup.
This again is a very useful plugin for your wordpress blog.
Images will be a major part of your website content. This tool helps to optimize these images and help you achieve savings in terms of image size.
It auto detects images that needs compression and allows you to bulk smush them.
It comes with other handy features like lazy load of images and CDN integration.
Insert Headers and Footers
This is again one of the essential plugins for WordPress blog which allows you to insert custom code in your blog.
The need will arise later when we learn to add Google Analytics code to track the visitors, our website rankings for keywords, search appearance, etc.
Also, we will use this plugin to add Facebook pixel code so that we learn to run Facebook Ads for our blog, we can track the conversion and referral audience.
Though not one of the essential plugins for wordpress, it is actually a very cool plugin and helps you to understand your audience.
Basically, it captures how visitors interact with your website and shares it with you in form of a playback video.
You can actually play different videos of different user and see how they use your blog and make changes accordingly.
I changed color of my heading text for a different website when I saw that couple of user confused it to be a link and were clicking it repeatedly.
You can later uninstall it once you do not feel the need for it.
Next few tools are not wordpress plugins but they play a very important role in shaping your content for the blog.
You must have heard about this plugin.
This is a must have plugin as it helps you fix grammatical and typo fix in real time.
If there is a grammatical error or mistyping, it will highlight the wrong word and when you hover over it, it will display the right option.
If you install it once, you can use it when you type emails or write any form of content.
Since I use chrome, I installed this as a chrome extension. You can check for your browser too.
You can check their website Grammarly for more options.
If there is one tool you should seriously consider for your content marketing, it is Canva.
I love this tool. I use it for my blog feature images.
If you have been part of this series since beginning, and enjoyed the strikingly beautiful images, they are all from Canva.
As you progress in your online journey, you will need a Facebook page, an Instagram page, Pinterest presence, YouTube account, and of course a logo to begin with.
This tool will single-handedly cater to all your needs.
I was only able to realise its true power when I purchased Canva Pro subscription.
There were times, when I was looking for images for my blog and like many others I used to search for free options from Pixabay, Pexels and other image sites.
I even purchased few images when I could not find a free option.
But, this tool solved all my frustration as it provides me with thousands of high-quality images, animated videos, video templates, Fonts, and Styling.
Literally, the only limit is your imagination.
I would highly recommend getting a Canva Pro version for all your content creation needs.
These essential plugins for wordpress should be enough to get you started.
We will go through others on a need basis.
Do let me know in comments if there is any confusion in any step.