Must-Have WordPress Plugins – The Plugins We Actually Use!

Once you sign up for a WordPress site, tour the WordPress dashboard and choose your theme, you’re ready to start making the site truly your own by adding the functionality you want and need! With hundreds (thousands?) of plugins to choose from–how do you know which ones you need?

This post will not only show you what plug-ins all three authors on this site use and love, but it will also let you know what each plug-in does and what it is for.

Of course it’s important to remember: while these are the plugins we consider must-haves based on how we blog, you will have to decide what works best for your blog. Keep in mind: having too many plugins can actually slow your site down, so make sure you only use plugins that provide a clear benefit.

We are currently using each of these free plug-ins on a self-hosted WordPress site using a Voice theme. There is a section of plugins at the end that are specifically designed for Genesis themes. If you don’t use Genesis, you can ignore that section.

If you have other plugins you would recommend, we would love to hear about them in the comments!

SEO – Search Engine Optimization

WordPress SEO by Team Yoast

This plugin makes it easy to optimize your posts for SEO. Use it to:

  • Make sure you’ve included a keyword
  • Write your own meta description
  • Create XML sitemaps
  • Make links “no follow” or “no index”
  • Set which image, title and description will be shared on Facebook.
  • Set up 301 Redirects and more!

Don’t let all of these tasks overwhelm you! WordPress SEO makes the process very easy–just fill in the blanks and check the boxes. And you can just use the functionality you understand for now until you learn more.

Spam Filter Plugins

Akismet by Automattic

This plugin will catch the majority of your spam comments and put them in a spam folder instead of letting them go through to your pending comments, saving you TONS of time, especially as your blog begins to grow. Akismet is automatically included when you first install WordPress, and most bloggers use it. You just need to follow the instructions to get an API key to activate.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P) by Andy Bailey

G.A.S.P. helps catch the spam comments that Akismet may miss by adding a check box for readers to click when they leave a comment on your page. There are no annoying captcha characters to type.

Enhance Blog Comments

Send Email Only on Reply to My Comment by Yasir

WordPress doesn’t automatically let commenters know when you respond to their comments. With Jet Pack you can send notifications, but it sends a notification every single time someone comments on a post rather just when someone responds to his or her own comment. That is super annoying! This plugin only sends an email notification to a reader who has received a response to his own comment on your blog. This is a great way to keep the conversation going!

Comment Luv by Andy Bailey

Comment Luv encourages other bloggers to leave comments on your posts. You get more comments and the other blogger gets a link to her most recent post displayed with her comment on your post. It’s a win-win! Choose if you want the links to be “no follow,” or “do follow.”

Social Media Plugins

Simple Social Icons by Nathan Rice 

This plugin adds links to your favorite social media sites so your readers can easily find and follow you. It is easy to customize. Just change the size and color of the icons to match your site!

jQuery Pin It Button For Images by Marcin Skrzypiec

When a reader hovers over one of your images, this plugin will add a Pin It button and link so the reader can easily pin your image without having to scroll to find your sharing icons. In the settings, I would recommend setting the minimum image size to at least 151 pixels so you don’t have Pin It buttons showing up on your social media icons and thumbnail images. (This would really annoy your readers!)

Editorial Calendar Plugin

Edit Flow by Daniel Bachhuber and others

An editorial calendar built into your WordPress dashboard makes planning and scheduling your blog posts so much easier. We chose this particular plugin because it works well for running a multi-author site.

Features include:

  • Editorial comments: Authors can leave messages, feedback and questions for other authors on their posts.
  • Post notifications: Authors can get notifications when someone assigns them a post, modifies their post, or leaves them a comment.
  • Custom Post Statuses: Authors can mark unscheduled posts with custom statuses such as “needs image” or “please review” so everyone can see at a glance how the posts are doing.
  • Easy Filtering: Authors can easily sort through posts in calendar view by author or status.

Alternate option: WordPress Editorial Calendar  by Colin Vernon and others

For a single-author site, Brittany uses and loves the WordPress Editorial Calendar Plugin. This plugin allows you to see all of your posts in a calendar format, easily move posts around with drag-and-drop scheduling and begin and edit posts right from the calendar screen.

Other Plugins We Use

Jet Pack by by Automattic

Jet Pack comes pre-installed with WordPress. To use the features, you will need to sign up for a account.

Jet Pack has a ton of features, but you certainly don’t have to use all of them. I like Jet Pack for its site stats that show up right in the WordPress dashboard. These are not the same as Google Analytics stats and I like having this different source of stats for comparison purposes. I also like the Jet Pack Publicize feature for auto sharing new posts directly to Google+ and Twitter. Another useful feature is short links that allows you to get a shortened URL right from your post edit screen for easily sharing on social media.

WP Super Cache by Automattic

A caching plugin helps your site run faster. This plugin is really easy to set up. Once installed and activated you will get a message in your WordPress dashboard with a link to configure settings in the admin page.

UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore by

It is a great idea to back up your content regularly. This plugin can be used to back up your site to a location you choose. We use this plugin to back up to Google Drive.

No Self Pings by Michael D. Adams

This plugin keeps WordPress from sending pings to your own site when you link to your own posts within a post. Bloggers frequently link to other posts within their own site. Those links show up as pings in the comment section of the post that has been linked. These added pings can clutter up the comments area of your posts. If you prefer to not see your own pings, this plugin will keep them from showing up in your post comments.

All in One Favicon by Arne Franken

This plugin allows you to easily change the little icon that shows up next to your blog name in a new browser tab. When a reader has multiple tabs open, your site becomes easily identifiable when you customize it with your logo.

This plugin has not been updated in over two years, but we have not had problems with this plugin on any of our sites.

Genesis Plugins

These plugins are specific to the Genesis platform and allow you to more easily customize the look and feel of your Genesis theme. If you do not use the Genesis platform, these plug-ins will not be appropriate for your site.

Genesis Simple Edits by Nathan Rice

Allows you to easily add date and post author to top of posts and categories and tags below posts.

This also makes it easy to update the content that shows up in your site’s footer. This is the area that typically includes a copyright notice and shows what theme the site uses and if on outside developer set up the theme.

Genesis Simple Hooks by Nathan Rice

With this plugin you can add code to designated spots within your site. This can be helpful for placing ads in spots where you don’t use widgets.

Genesis Post Navigation by Iniyan

This plugin allows you to add navigation at the end of a post to let readers see the title of the previous and next posts so they can continue reading from your blog. Some themes have this functionality built in. Genesis does not. You can easily make the links match your blog colors within the plugin settings.

This added navigation keeps readers from having to go back to the home page to read another post. This could help keep readers on your site longer and improve your bounce rate. 

Do you have any plugins you absolutely love that we didn’t include on this list? Please share in the comments!

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