I’ve been thinking about creating a list of what I’d call essential WordPress plugins for a while now. But I found a good reason to keep putting it off.
I knew I would eventually write a post about essential WordPress plugins. But I also knew I wrote one a while back. I feared that writing one too soon after publishing the earlier version might feel like a rerun.
I figured — without taking the time to look — that I wrote that earlier version a year or so ago.
When I actually did take the time to look, I saw I wrote that earlier post in December 2016.
It’s funny how quickly time goes by when you blog as long as I have.
In any case, I decided I’d take that earlier post, which featured five plugins, and expand upon it.
What makes essential WordPress plugins essential?
There’s no elaborate definition here. In my case, I call them essential if I feel like dropping them would negatively affect my blogging. In some cases, I’d lose organization or planning capabilities. A couple of the plugins’ deletion might result in unnecessary spam. Who wants to deal with spam?
There are a handful of plugins this theme requires to operate properly. I don’t count those unless I’d keep the plugins if I switched blog themes. “Essential,” in this context, shouldn’t include those that you only must maintain because your blog theme might break without them.
Another popular question is this: “How many plugins is too many?”
There’s no magic number. The best advice is to get by with as few as you possibly can. Each new plugin you add to your site could potentially help slow it down. So you want to avoid bogging down your site with dozens of them.
So here’s my list — and yes, I’ll start off with four of the five from the 2016 list.
1. WordPress Editorial Calendar
I write from time to time about the importance of maintaining an editorial calendar. This plugin makes that about as easy as it can be. This one gives me an at-a-glance look at what I have scheduled in advance and allows me to start posts on specific dates ahead of time so I can work on them as time permits ahead of schedule.
2. Yoast SEO
Even after all this time, many bloggers have heard of SEO but don’t know exactly what it is. SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s a process bloggers utilize to make sure that when someone Googles something, a post the blogger made on that subject rises to the top of search results. Yoast makes that process much easier. It gives me a “scorecard” of sorts to show me what I’m doing correctly. At least as important, it shows me what I need to improve before I click that Publish button.
3. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
The great thing about this plugin is that it keeps a watchful eye on all the other plugins. It monitors them to see which ones have the biggest impact on how quickly (or slowly) your blog loads. If you notice a major slowdown on your blog, you can run a performance scan. P3 will show you with an easy-to-read graph what’s causing the hold-up. From there, you can re-evaluate how much you really need that plugin or determine if there’s an alternative that might speed things up.
Akismet is a great tool at weeding out comment spam. I’ve found it doesn’t do as well as some people seem to believe it does, but it still kicks out at least 75% of comment spam that you’d otherwise be subjected to, and that’s still an impressive result.
5. Bad Behavior
Bad Behavior replaces the former fifth plugin on my 2016 list. It blocks spambots from accessing your site. When you combine Bad Behavior with Akismet, you eliminate — in my experience — about 95% of the comment spam you’d otherwise sort through.
6. Broken Link Checker
I installed Broken Link Checker to help me find links that no longer worked. It sounds simple enough, but you’d be surprised over the years how many blogs die (and disappear). You’d also be surprised by how many legitimate pages, like news sites, will kill pages after a certain period of time. Sometimes, they redesign their websites and that causes links to no longer work.
But Google could penalize a blog with broken links. So you should periodically check for links and either remove them or replace them. This plugin makes that easy. It will suggest alternative links — including archived versions of the original. If it can’t find one, you can remove the link with a click.
7. Complianz GDPR/CCPA Cookie Consent
Bloggers still argue whether they need cookie consent forms. The debate began with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation law as well as the California Consumer Privacy Act. Both laws set out to protect your privacy by requiring sites to ask your permission to store cookies when you visit. It also requires them to provide a disclaimer explaining what information they collect. This plugin looks at your other plugins and builds those disclaimers for you.
There’s also a premium version that covers multiple territories based on where your target audience is.
8. Really Simple SSL
I actually use the ‘Pro’ version of this plugin. It helps ensure that this blog shows as a secure site. Since I don’t collect credit card or bank account info here — I don’t sell anything — I don’t necessarily need to offer a secure connection. But web browsers like Chrome and Firefox flag sites that don’t show a secure security certificate whether they “need” to have one or not. So I felt it was a good idea to cover that base.
This website relies on visuals. In fact, I chose a theme that put images at the forefront to help illustrate my topics. Imagify steps in to reduce image file sizes without losing quality. This helps your website load faster and can even boost your SEO. When you have a media library as large as I do, you’ll take any help in reducing its size.
Shareaholic offers a few valuable options to bloggers. I particularly like the Social Share Buttons, which allow readers to share your posts to social media quickly. It also offers options that include related posts, content analytics, ad monetization, and more. But I find the easy-to-use share buttons valuable enough on their own.
So that’s my expanded list of 10 essential WordPress plugins. Maybe in 2024, I’ll do a new list of 15.