If you’re a blogger, chances are you’ll either be using Blogger or WordPress. At the beginning of this year, I switched over to WordPress from Blogger with Bluehost and I haven’t looked back since. When I first used WordPress – around 10 years ago now, ugh I am OLD – one of my favourite aspects of the platform were the plugins, and even now these remain the top selling point of WordPress for me.
Essentially, WordPress plugins are little add-ons for your blog to help you customise your website and make the most of the platform. The best bit is that they’re pre-coded by developers (a little bit like apps for your phone) so you don’t need any technical knowledge at all to install them. They cover everything from SEO to sidebar widgets and everything in between.
So, what are the top seven essential WordPress plugins to use if you’re a blogger? Here are my favourites that have made a big difference to my blog.
Spam comments are a huge problem for bloggers, but the Akismet Wordpress plugin takes care of this. It catches virtually all spam comments and screens them to make sure they’re junk rather than real comments. You can even review the spam comments just to double check they aren’t legitimate (but I’ve never had any problems with this – I usually just let Akismet get on with it!).
The Yoast SEO WordPress plugin is a fantastic tool to help you make sure all your posts are search engine optimised. Once it’s installed, when you go to write a post you’ll see the Yoast SEO box underneath with a “traffic light” analysis of your post. The aim is to get as many green points as possible, and the plugin will guide you on how to do this – using a focus keyword, adding images with alt tags, adding a meta title and description and so on. This makes it really to SEO optimise your post without having to understand the technical aspects behind it.
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin which includes a whole host of useful tools for organising, managing and analysing your blog. You can view visitor stats, install related post widgets, add contact forms, add security protection, let visitors subscribe to your site, add photo carousels or galleries, customise CSS, add extra sidebar widgets – and lots more! It’s definitely worth installing Jetpack to fully explore all the features and activate the ones you want to use on your blog.
By installing the Google Analytics WordPress plugin, you can access your analytics stats right from your dashboard. You can keep an eye on the number of visitors to your blog, traffic sources and referrals, and popular pages and posts. This is really helpful when it comes to analysing how your content is doing – and if you want to track custom insights you can upgrade to the paid pro version of the plugin.
The Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin is a must-have if you like to plan out your posts in advance. Set out like a traditional calendar to give you an overview of the whole month, the plugin allows you to add in draft posts and schedule them in for a future date. My favourite feature is that you can drag and drop posts to move them around. This is really helpful if you end up not having time to write a post and want to move it to next week, or you can add it to the unscheduled drafts section at the side if you want to keep the idea for later, but don’t have a specific date in mind for posting it yet.
If you’re not a fan of the standard WordPress commenting system, you can install the Disqus Comments WordPress plugin to make commenting even easier for your visitors and managing comments even easier for you. Disqus sets out comments in threads, making it easy to reply to people and keep comments grouped together. Users can also log in with Disqus accounts or their social media accounts, and it’s really easy to subscribe or get reply notifications by email.
Pinterest is one of the best ways to share your blog posts, so making it easy for visitors to save your images to their boards is always a good idea. The Pinterest Pin It Button adds a small button to the top of all your images on hover, and in the settings you can customise the colour, size and places the button appears.
What are your essential WordPress plugins for your blog?