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Blogging Basics: 12 Essential WordPress Plugins to Install

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Just started a WordPress website and wondering which plugins you need to install? Here is a list of twelve essential WordPress plugins you should have on your blog to help with different tasks that you need to do.

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Essential WordPress Plugins

Below you can essential plugins you should have on your blog to cover your most basic needs. The good news is that all of the plugins I recommend below have a free version, which allows you to take advantage of their most basic features without paying anything.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Plugin

A screenshot of an SEO WordPress plugin
An example of the things you can control with an SEO Plugin

Before starting to write any blog posts, you should install an SEO plugin. This plugin can help you adapt your content to follow basic SEO guidelines, and hence increasing your chances of your content appearing under Google’s Results. They also help you with generating a sitemap.xml file which is required by search engines to find new content you publish.

If you are unfamiliar with what SEO is, our SEO tips page to find out more and the SEO section of the resource library to find out more.

In terms of plugins to use, I suggest using Yoast SEO. It is easy to use plus it helps you with other search engine tasks, such as sitemaps and schema. This plugin also helps you with your posts’ readability. Other SEO plugins to use with similar functionality are Rank Math SEO [AD] and All in One SEO. All three plugins have a free and a premium version.

Social Sharing Plugin

An important factor of your website success is social proof, i.e. your website’s appearance on social media. You should easily allow your blog visitors to share your content on the most used social media platforms, i.e. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. The most straightforward way to do this is to use a plugin. My go-to free social sharing plugins are Sassy Social Share and AddtoAny.

There are some more sophisticated premium plugins out there but if you are just starting I suggest saving your money for the moment. Nevertheless, if you want to have a look at the social sharing plugins with features worth paying for, consider the Grow Social and Social Warfare [AD] plugins. Note that both plugins have a free version to try out.

Tip: The only reasons I would consider paying for a social sharing plugin are the Pinterest capabilities that come with it, like optimising your images for Pinterest sharing. Not all plugins offer these features in their premium versions. The ones I found out that do are the two premium plugins I shared above and Tasty Pins. Tasty Pins is a paid tool that you can use alongside your existing social sharing plugin to enhance the plugin’s Pinterest sharing capabilities.

However, before paying for any of these tools, I suggest first familiarising yourself with Pinterest by looking at the Pinterest section of our resource library.

Screenshot of a cookie notice box
Your blog should have a cookie notice box like this to cater to EU visitors

Personal data regulations appear in different countries, and if you are based in Europe you will understand them as GDPR. So you will want your blog to be compatible with the relevant regulations, no matter if you are running it as a hobby or a business. There are a few things to do to make your blog compatible with these regulations, and one of them is getting consent from your readers to use different types of cookies. So, it is essential to show a cookie notice box to every new visitor.

If you just started a blog, you may not have set any cookies to your website yet, but as you start to develop your blog, you will inevitably need to add some cookies to have access to analytics and various monetisation streams. Therefore, it is important to set up your cookie notice box from the beginning.

A free plugin to help you create your cookie notice box depending on where you are based in the world and even provide a ready-to-use cookie notice is the Complianz [AD] plugin.

Security Plugin

A screenshot of a security WordPress plugin dashboard
The dashboard of a security plugin

It’s no secret that the internet is full of threads and your website is no exception. So, you should shield your website as effectively as possible. Sometimes your host may be offering some security add-ons, and it’s up to you if you want to take them. Alternatively, you can use a security plugin. A good free plugin you can use is Wordfence (there is a premium version available too if you want to get serious about it). If you are using Jetpack, you may have already seen that Jetpack offers some basic security features available, but Wordfence adds a few more.

Backup Plugin

You shouldn’t avoid downloading a plugin to back up your website. Website backups are important as they can literally save you if the unexpected happens. And if you are wondering what unexpected can happen consider a failed software update or a malware attack. In either case, you will want to have a copy of your website, that you can revert to.

Your host may already offer some backup options, so it is worth checking with them, but if not, there are many free plugins you can use to do basic backups. I recommend using UpDraft [AD].

Code Additions Plugin

The word coding may sound scary but don’t worry! This type of plugin doesn’t require you to code anything. In contrast, it helps you add additional snippets of code on your website that may be required, such as to confirm that you are the owner of your blog. For this kind of task, I recommend you download Insert Headers and Footers.

Other Useful Plugins

There are a few more plugins that you can install to make your website more complete. I don’t classify them as essential, because they are not needed for all types of websites, but they are good to have in mind if you ever need them.

Comments Moderation Plugin

Moderating your blog posts’ comments is an important component of allowing comments in the first place. Apart from your readers, many automated bots can access your website and leave spam comments. You don’t want to have these appear under your blogs, as they make them look spammy and unprofessional. What you want to do instead, is to either manually approve comments before making them public, or have a plugin to do this for you. Akismet Spam Protection is the most popular one.

Form Maker Plugin

Screenshot of a drag and drop from creation WordPress plugin
An example of a drag-and-drop form creation interface

If you want to have a form on your website, let’s say a contact form, then you will want to install a plugin that will help you create it easily. Some popular plugins that use drag and drop components are WPForms and Contact Form 7.

Note that both plugins have a free and a premium version and in order to be able to access your form entries you need to have the premium version. I understand that you may not want to pay just to be able to see entries of your form, so what you can do instead is download another plugin called Contact Forms Entries, which will allow you to record your form responses from that moment on.

Screenshot of a privacy consent checkbox
Your EU visitors should select a checkbox like this before submitting a comment

If you are bound to EU law regarding GDPR, then you need to ask consent from your visitors every time you collect their personal details (e.g. name and email). Usually, this is very easy to do by adding a privacy consent check box with a link to your privacy policy at the end of every form you have using your form maker. However, this is not as straightforward for comments. So, you will need an additional plugin to help you with this.

A plugin that can add a privacy consent checkbox under your comments form is the WP GDPR Compliance. Note that the plugin has also the option to create a cookie notice box, but I found the plugin I recommended above better for that purpose.

An alternative way to collect privacy consents for comments is to stop using the default WordPress comment section and switch to another comment provider. A popular one is Comments – wpDiscuz.

Tip: If you choose to change your comment provider, ensure that your visitors don’t need to create an account or login using a social media platform to be able to comment, as this will refrain some people from doing so.

Email Marketing Plugin

An email marketing provider can help you register subscribers to your blog and send out newsletters. Some of these providers have plugins to go along with the tools to facilitate their form and email creation processes.

A little bit more thought is required before selecting an email marketing provider/plugin, compared to the other types of plugins. The reason is that each email marketing service has different features available, especially if you are only considering their free version.

Some popular email marketing plugins which also have a free version are ConvertKit [AD] and MailerLite [AD].

If you are unsure about how to approach the topic, then read this beginner’s guide to email marketing to find out more.

Website Speed Optimisation Plugins

Screenshot of Google Page Speed Insights with a green score
There are many WordPress plugins you can use to optimise the speed of your blog

If you are blogging for some time now, you will know that the speed of your website is very important. There are different factors that affect your site speed like caching and image optimisation, hence it is important to ensure that your blog is equipped with the necessary tools to run fast and smoothly.

Below I list some plugins which are useful to help you improve your site speed. All plugins below have free and premium versions, while if you want to get serious about your speed, then I suggest subscribing to a general performance optimisation tool, like WP Rocket.

If you just getting started and all these sound like too much jargon, then read this post, where I give a short overview of what site speed is, how to measure it and ways to improve it.

Image Optimisation Plugin

Use an image optimisation plugin to assist in delivering your images without causing much delay. Note that there are two types of image optimisation. The first one involves showing the same compressed copy of an image to all visitors. The second one involves delivering a different compressed copy of an image to each visitor based on the device they use.

The first approach requires optimising your images before putting them in your blogs and plugins like Short Pixel Image Optimiser can help with that, while the second one uses a CDN to optimise your photos on the spot based on your visitors’ devices. Optimole and ShortPixel Adaptive Images are two plugins that focus on this kind of optimisation.

Caching Plugin

There are many plugins that can help you with caching and other website optimisation factors, like database compression and file optimisation. Three plugins with a free version that you can try out are WP Fastest Cache, W3 Total Cache and Autoptimise. Keep in mind that each plugin offers different features available for free, and you may need to pay to use some of the most recommended speed optimisation features like browser caching and CDN.

Note that many caching plugins, especially those that try to offer a round-up website optimisation solution, may offer image optimisation options too. If this is the case, ensure that you only keep one plugin active. The same is true for other features that more than one plugin may offer. This is important to avoid conflicts and over-optimisation that works negatively on your blog.

Are there any plugins missing from this list? Let us know in the comments.

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