There are currently over 29,000 plugins available for you to download on the WordPress Plugin directory, and when you think of the vast numbers of paid plugins or custom plugins too it soon adds up to a lot of information for new bloggers to take in.
As you can imagine there are hundreds if not thousands of reviews out there on all the different plugins but how can you be sure that the plugin someone has recommended is not due to a business affiliation.
We decided to poll a wide range of people who are running a professional blog as to which plugins they would recommend a blogging novice to use.
“If you were to recommend just 3 WordPress plugins to a novice blogger which would you choose, and why?”
The top 3 Essential Plugins for Blogging Novices were:
- Yoast’s WordPress SEO – 15 Votes
- W3 Total Cache – 6 Votes
- Flare – 4 Votes
Below are all our panels answers in their glory!
Jacob King – JacobKing.com
1. Yoast SEO Plugin – Sorry as this is probably the 100th time this plugin has been mentioned. Even if you’re a novice, learn this baby inside and out. You’ll thank me later. There are tons of great tutorials and walk throughs on how to use Yoast so there’s no excuses to have /page/2 indexed!
2. Redirection – An easy way to redirect old urls or any screw ups you might have that require a redirect. And you don’t need to mess around with the htaccess file and potentially screw things up big time.
3. Gravity Forms – This is a paid plugin but definitely worth the price, especially if you’re a novice since form building won’t be your forte at first. It is so important to capture everything possible from your beginning traffic, use G forms and a compelling offer to do so.
Jon Cooper – Point Blank SEO
1. All in One SEO Pack - I might get shunned for not recommending Yoast’s SEO plugin, but I’ve found this one to be the most simple and perfect for a novice. I use it on my own blog and been quite satisfied with it.
2. BWP Google XML Sitemaps - There are other XML sitemap plugins, but this is the one you should be using because of how lightweight it is. It’s not a deal breaker for the majority of small to medium sites, but if you plan on eventually having 1,000s of pages on your site, then stick with this from day one.
3. Flare - this is the social sharing plugin I use for my own blog, and I like it quite a bit. It allows for a floating sidebar on the left or right of your post with different sharing buttons. It’s also highly customizable, so you can tailor it to your audience (i.e. if you have little to no audience, don’t show share counts; if your audience is more professional, add the LinkedIn share button; etc. )
Stephanie Martel – Vibrant Living Project
1. I use Madmimi for WordPress to connect to my newsletter service. I would say no matter what you use, it’s important to have a way to capture emails so you can use them in the future to engage your following and send them newsletters, announcements, etc.
2. WordPress SEO from Yoast. I’m still in the hazy phase of SEO and find it perplexing most of the time. This plugin takes the mystery out of it and makes it simple! Just plug in what they’re asking and voila–it’s done for you.
3. Updraft Plus. It’s a back-up/restore system that I use–unfortunately, I discovered it the hard way when I upgraded my theme and lost a lot of my settings. I now have it automatically back up my site everyday; this way I always have a version to refer to if anything happens. It puts my mind at ease that I’m not going to lose all of my hard work!
Kathryn Aragon – KathrynAragon.com
1. Yoast WordPress SEO - This is, by far, the best SEO plugin on the market.
2. WPtouchPro - This allows you to have a responsive website, no matter what theme you’re using. It’s super easy to set up and looks really professional.
3. Crazy Egg Heatmap - Building a website isn’t enough. You need to make sure it’s achieving your business goals, and there’s no easier way than with Crazy Egg.
Loz James – Content Champion
I’ve been using WordPress for my own and client sites for over 8 years now – and in that time it’s become an indispensable asset to my business.
I started with Chris Pearson’s themes and then moved on to use Brian Gardener’s Genesis platform, which I still use on Content Champion today.
The great thing about WordPress (apart from being free), is that it has a relatively short learning curve – so it’s quick and easy for newbies to master the basics and publish a fantastic looking site they can blog on virtually straight away.
There are so many superb themes available as well, once you get the hang of things there’s really nothing you can’t do with it.
And that brings us to plugins. Obviously, much of this great functionality comes from third party plugins – some free and some paid. I’ve used hundreds over the years but by far the best ones to start off with are:
1. All In One SEO - Easy to install and use – and if you follow a few simple instructions and leave most settings on default – your WordPress pages will be well set up for on-page SEO out of the box. I know there are other SEO plugins out there that do more – but this is the one I keep coming back to for ease of use, and the fact that it just works. This plugin has a premium option – but I’ve always got everything I need from the free version.
2. Contact Form 7 - For newbies, setting up contact forms that do what they’re supposed to can be a nightmare. That’s why if we’re keeping things simple when starting out, deploying this user-friendly contact form plugin is a must if you want to look professional and effectively handle those all important leads and customer/visitor conversations. Again, this plugin is totally free and you can be up and running in about 5 minutes flat.
3. LeadPages Connector - This plugin is available as part of a paid membership of the LeadPages system from Clay Collins. What it does is seamlessly connects all the landing pages and opt in forms you create in LeadPages with your WordPress blog – meaning you can build your email list without any technical knowledge.
This plugin and the Leadpages system behind it have been a recent discovery for me, but the results I’ve got from using them have been amazing. I’m getting ridiculous sign up rates to my email list as compared to other similar plugins I’ve used in the past, and you can easily implement coding from any of the main email marketing software providers to make your connectors work (such as aweber in my case).
As mentioned, there’s a monthly fee for using this plugin as part of the overall platform – but for newbies it’s well worth it because of the easy set up and great results. I spent hours fiddling around with opt in forms when I got started, so this is definitely a solution all newbies should have in their toolbox of WordPress plugins – as are all three of them.
Brian Dean – Backlinko.com
1. Yoast SEO Plugin – Like any tool, it’s all about how you use it. But Yoast’s legendary plugin makes executing good SEO a breeze.
2. Backup Buddy – You can never backup your site often enough. Backup Buddy isn’t free, but it’s a great plugin that you’ll want to kiss if disaster ever strikes.
3. WP Smush It – One of the least hyped page speed plugins. But in my experience it tends to make the most practical difference to loading times.
Adam Connell – Blogging Wizard
1. BackupBuddy ($) - Losing all of your hard work is a horrible experience. I use BackupBuddy to keep my blog backed up and send my backups to a cloud storage service. Most hosts should backup your site but don’t rely on them. I worked with one company that had their blog deleted by their web host along with their entire account – simply because someone at the host made a mistake.
2. Editorial Calendar (free) – Organisation is important and this plugin helps you to keep organised visually using an editorial calendar right on your blog.
3. Shareaholic (free) – There are plenty of social plugins available for WordPress and I’ve used a lot of them. Shareaholic has a modern feel with plenty of customisation options and also adds a recommended content widget below your content.
Daniel Scocco – Daily Blog Tips
1. W3 Total Cache – because it will speed up your blog considerably, and both search engines and human visitors will appreciate it
2. YARPP – because it will increase the average number of page views you get per visitor.
3. Akismet – because spam can kill your blog if you don’t control it!
Matt Woodward – matthewwoodward.co.uk
1. Yoast SEO – This is without a doubt the best SEO plugin for WordPress period. Make sure you take time to setup all of the social data like Open Graph, Twitter & Google+ markup.
2. BBPress – This will allow you to add a forum to your blog. It integrates nicely with most themes so you can provide a smooth user experience throughout the blog.
3. Comment Redirect – Another plugin by Yoast – it allows you to rediret people to a page of your choice when they submit their first comment. Sounds pretty boring, but I send people to a page like this to funnel people into my list.
Rohit Palit – Tech Tage
1. Contact Form 7 - is a very simple and easy to use plugin that helps you setup contact forms across your site. As contacts forms are very necessary practically in every niche except (maybe) porn, so is Contact Form 7.
2. WordPress SEO – the revolutionary FREE plugin by Yoast, single-handedly takes care of the entire SEO of your site. Do I need to say more? It’s absolutely vital for any site unless you have no affinity towards free-to-have organic search traffic.
3. W3 Total Cache – handles the performance side of things of WordPress blogs. It’s actually capable of doing more things (such as integrating a CDN) than an ordinary caching plugin would be able to do. Even if you don’t use some of the advanced features and rely on the stock settings, it’s still very effective in making your site faster, the experience better for your visitors, and the load on your server less.
Richard Marriott – Clambr
1. Hybrid Connect – I wish I’d known about this plugin sooner. In a nutshell, Hybrid Connect gives you the ability to transform your ugly Aweber optin forms into Godly things of beauty! As well as optin forms, you can also use it to create cool light boxes and slide ins. There are many ways you can customise them to make it exactly how you want it to look.
This will save you having to install various different plugins to achieve each different purpose, or paying a coder $$$$ for a custom solution. Since swapping my Aweber optin forms for Hybrid Connect I’ve seen a 225% increase in sign ups each month.
Hybrid Connect integrates with most email autoresponders and only costs $49 for use on a single site which is very affordable when you consider how much of a game changer it is.
2. Hello Bar – I discovered Hello Bar from Quick Sprout. It is an unobtrusive, thin bar, that drops down from the top of your blog to promote any article of your choice. Here’s how I’m using it to nudge people to my latest expert roundup about promoting your blog:
You can choose fonts and a colour scheme to suit your blog and when you want it to drop down. (I’ve set mine to drop down after 15 seconds). It’s a free plugin until you exceed 30 clicks, then it’s $4.95/pm with a maximum of 100 clicks.
I highly recommend it since it really works at directing new visitors to your most important content.
3. Flare – After spending hours searching for a smart looking social share bar, Flare bar just did it for me and I think it does it for many other people too ;) It’s free, has a slick design and most importantly – makes it easy for people to share your content. Giving people an easy way to share your content is key to getting more social shares. You can set Flare bar up on the top, bottom and lefthand side of your posts and pages.
Chris Dyson – TripleSEO
1. Yoast WordPress SEO – this is the first plugin I install on any site I create. It has a wide range of features which make it very easy to set up and optimise WordPress. I really like the fact it gives you an easy way to edit your htaccess and robots.txt file so you don’t need to be using FTP.
2. Digg Digg – Is the social media bar from the folks at Buffer. It makes it very easy to select which social sharing buttons you want to display e.g. Pinterest if your site is image heavy. It also comes with a nice scrolling sharebar too.
3. Better WP Security – sadly there are a lot of people out there who will try to exploit insecure WordPress sites to either create links back to their websites or use your site to infect other users with malware. Protect your investment!
Gregory Ciotti – Help Scout
I’m the kind of guy who lives and dies by the KISS principle, so I like to keep WordPress plugins to a minimum. That said, these 3 are must-haves for me:
- Yoast’s WordPress SEO: No-brainer if you want to make on-page SEO a cinch and get back to making things.
- GrowMap Anti-Spambot: Even new blogs are susceptible to comment spam. Akismet is a good start, but this plugin will basically ensure that most folks who are leaving a comment are the real deal. Sorry Mr. ‘Very Cheap Rolex’, I haven’t heard that birthname before. This plugin is even better when combined with Disable Comment Author Links, people should comment because they want to, not for the link.
- Digg Digg: You can hard code social sharing, but this makes it easy to adjust on the fly. Pick a few networks that your readers are most likely to use (tech = Twitter, B2B = LinkedIn, etc.) and test.
Mike King – ipullrank
It really depends on the goals of the blog. For example, if it’s a small business looking to generate calls I’d include CallRail on my list. If they’re trying to build a mailing list I’d say MailChimp. However if we’re talking generic things that all blogs should have I’d say:
1. WordPress SEO by Yoast – It’s most of the things you need for SEO right out of the box.
2. Floating Share Bar – for setting up sticky social sharing.
3. EditFlow – for creating a content calendar and easily collaborating with other writers on the site.
I’d also suggest hosting on WPEngine for speed, backups and pretty good customer service.
Venchito Tampon – Digital Phillipines
1. WordPress SEO Yoast - One of the main issues for novice bloggers today is to have their sites optimized for search engines which we know will require some codings to perform.
Well in WordPress you don’t have to worry about on page SEO since the SEO plugin from Yoast can do the job of optimizing the important pages content, image titles, descriptions and other optimization needed for the site to improve its visibility on search.
2. WordPress Related Posts - This can increase your reader’s engagement on your site’s other blog posts since related posts can now be seen in the footer of your content. You heard it right, relevant content that can give your visitors more time to consume your blog posts.
3. Flare - Your content would not be quite as king as it should be if it does not give its readers an opportunity to share it. Flare allows you to configure multiple share icons for your desired sharing services (Twitter, Facebook, etc..) and help you decide which part of your post content would you like the buttons to be seen (top, bottom, left, right).
I covered another plugin created by SEER Interactive in my post about free SEO tools. Just check out the post if you want to learn on how to use it.
Kristi Hines – Kikolani.com
The three plugins I always recommend are GASP, Comment Redirect by Yoast, and CommentLuv.
1. GASP is a plugin that will add a simple checkbox captcha to your comment form. It’s easy to use for real comment authors and reduces the amount of spam comments from bots in conjunction with Akismet.
2. Comment Redirect by Yoast will send new comment authors to a thank you page on your blog after they leave a comment. This a great page to use to capture subscribers to your mailing list and to get people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
3. CommentLuv is a plugin that allows comment authors to leave a link to their latest post along with their comment. It’s great for the blog owner because they can learn more about the interest of their readers quickly through their latest posts.
Jason Mathes – AvgJoeGeek.net
1. Yoast’s WordPress SEO – Because it is THE plugin to use when setup your blog properly for SEO. It includes a great sitemap, ensures you have all of your Google Authorship/Twitter Cards/Pinterest markups, and of course setup your blog with the correct titles and meta data. Not to mention the benefits of using it’s SEO tools when writing a new post!
I still think its one of the best SEO plugins out there – as others seem to try and get you to stuff keywords into your post. Yoast’s offers a more reasonable approach that is used more as a guideline rather than forcing you to do stuff that could actually hurt your site rather than help it.
3. CommentLuv Premium – I know its considered ‘old school’ now. But it truly is a full-featured comment plugin system. If you want engagement from other bloggers on your site this is still the best way to attract them. I have the links set to No-Follow now as it doesn’t benefit either party due to Google’s recent SEO changes. Still it is great as it is more like 6 plugins in one. I’ve tried using others and keep coming back to CommentLuv to manage all of my Commenting needs on my website.
Spencer Haws – Long Tail Pro
With so many great WordPress plugins, its hard to narrow it down to just 3! However, here is a list of 3 plugins that I use on every site that I create including Niche Pursuits:
1. All in One SEO Pack. This is a great plugin because it allows to you to get you to think about your on-site SEO right away. WordPress comes great out of the box, but the All in one SEO helps you polish up the on-page SEO.
2. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin. This is another great plugin that helps with both SEO and user experience. Essentially, the plugin automatically poplulates up to 5 related posts at the end of your content. That way readers can easy navigate to similar posts. In addition, this helps build an internal link structure that Google likes.
3. W3 Total Cache. This plugin caches pages and objects, to help improve the overall speed and performance of your site. A fast loading site is critical to readers and search engines; and W3 cache can help do that.
Patrick Hathaway – Hit Reach
1. WP Ultimate CSV Importer – automates post/page creation from CSVs, pretty bloody useful
2. Posts in Page – solves a constant problem that beginners have when they want to make a ‘website’ (rather than a blog) and they want a separate page to be their blog channel
3. Genesis Simple Edits – allows you to remove those fucking annoying footer credits and write your own one instead
Mike Thomas – Mike From Maine
1. Leadpages: You can install it on your website or use it on theirs. It’s definitely the best way to create squeeze pages to build your list.
2. Leadplayer: Another product from the same company, I use it on all my videos to have call to actions popup and optin boxes.
3. Thrive Content Builder: This is a tool that will help you make sales pages with drag and drop usability. It was beta-launched a couple months ago and will be available on the market soon.
Mauro D’Andrea – Blog Growth
1. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin, which is a plugin that shows related articles at the end of your blog posts. If you want to engage your visitors, you’ll want them read as many of your posts as they can…this plugin will help you do that.
2. Hybrid Connect - a plugin that allows you to place optin forms everywhere in your blog, and also gives you the chance to optimize them, so that you can increase your subscription rate. As you know “Money is in the list”. A bigger list of subscribers means you’ll earn more, so this plugin will make you earn more given that it will help you grow your list faster.
This is a premium plugin, so it will cost you a few dollars, but it’s well worth it.
3. Flare, a plugin that will insert buttons for social sharings on your blog. You want people to share your stuff so that you’ll get more traffic. Put it together with the two plugins above and you’ll increase the number of your avid readers and subscribers even more.
Tom Ewer – Leaving Work Behind
1. Jetpack, which I’ll admit is a bit of a cheat, because it includes a number of different “modules” that could be plugins in their own right. That one plugin covers everything from social sharing buttons to contacts forms.
2. Akismet - arguably the biggest function that Jetpack doesn’t include is spam protection, which is why my second recommendation is Akismet. It’s the industry standard for spam blocking.
3. TablePress – a wildcard as it’ll be of no use to you if you never intend to include tables on your blog, but if you do, it is by far the best plugin available. Plus the developer is one of the nicest guys in the WordPress community, which always helps!
Kane Jamison – Content Harmony
1 – Yoast SEO & Analytics - No question about either IMO, and I’m lumping them into one because they’re default installs for us. For analytics side – automatic event tracking for file downloads and outbound clicks are key for bloggers trying to figure out what works. It’s not ready for Universal analytics but most blogs don’t need to switch yet. For SEO side, well, there’s no contest.
2 – Gravity Forms - I love soliciting UGC on Resource pages, and my site visitors help me with research work (like this example, although I need to add a form instead of “Know some that aren’t completed here? Let us know!“). Gravity forms supports quiz and survey formats which are other great & easy ways to build up community and UGC. And, Gravity forms integrates really easily with Aweber and Mailchimp, etc., so you can build out advanced email signups forms with checkboxes for specific lists way easier than in the default form builders provided by most email services.
3 – Any of the plugins on this list (but I’d pick the Columns plugin if I had to choose one). I gave this presentation for a Wordcamp in Vancouver, B.C., and it has about 30 plugins to help basic WordPress users create better content that goes above and beyond basic text posts. I think that’s key for bloggers trying to stick out nowadays – you need to step into other content formats than just text.
Paul Crowe – Spice Up Your Blog
I recently published a list of 35 Free plugins I recommend for bloggers, but here are my top 3:
1. Yoast SEO – I think a lot of people would have Yoast in their top three.For me Yoast is the best free SEO plugin and a must have.I think ‘newbies’ would actually learn about SEO just from using Yoast.
2. W3 Total Cache – Page speed has always been important but with mobile devices used more and more and even Google using Page Speed in their algorithms it’s now key.W3 total cache is one of many Cache plugins you might want to try but in my opinion it’s the best.
3. Shareaholic – I wanted to include a Social plugin and the options are countless.I choose Shareaholic as it provides sharing buttons and related posts.I was always a fan of the original ‘Sexy Bookmarks’ by Shareaholic but they have now added lots more styles for users to choose from.To link to your social profiles readers might want to look up the Metro Style Social Widget, bit of a cheat there adding a fourth
Jason Acidre – Kaiser the Sage
1. WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast – this plugin covers almost all the basic search optimization you’ll need when starting a new blog, and the team at Yoast always update it whenever something new comes up in the world of SEO (such as authorship markups, etc…).
2. W3 Total Cache – it’s probably the best plugin out there (right now) when it comes to optimizing for the loading speed of a blog.
3. Zemanta (both editorial assistant and related posts plugin) – I think that this one’s going to be really useful to novice bloggers, as it automatically suggests resources (from other publishers) that you can use as a reference for your own content, which is a great way to improve your writing and also in building relationships with other content publishers.
Matthew Barby – MatthewBarby.com
If I had to pick three plugins then the first would have to be ‘Subscribe and Download‘. This is a premium plugin that is worth every penny as it allows you to easily place a small form within your blog content that, once submitted, will allow a user to download something. This is great for downloadable PDFs or hidden extras because the plugin links directly with MailChimp and can add people directly to your subscriber list – just what you’ll need if you own a blog!
The next on my list would be a free plugin called ‘Q2W3 Fixed Widget‘. This handy plugin allows you to make any of your blog’s sidebar widgets ‘sticky’ (i.e. when you scroll down the page, the widget remains fixed in the browser view. This is perfect to display anything that you want to be clicked on by the user. For example, I use this for my newsletter subscription form or for any ebook downloads that I’m running.
Finally, I’m choosing another another paid plugin, this one’s called ‘Styles with Shortcodes‘. The plugin gives you a whole host of quickshortcodes to use within your posts to add extra functionality or improve the readability and design. For example, you can add in custom Twitter follow buttons, accordions, toggle drop-downs, Google +1 buttons and much more – all round, a really useful WordPress plugin.
Gaz Copeland – Stoked SEO
1. Jetpack – It does a lot of cool stuff which is good for beginners a real all in one.
3. Digg Digg – or some similar social plugin like Sharebar.
Lewis Ogden – Cloud Income
1. Q2W3 Fixed Widget – My first recommended plugin for a new blogger would be the ‘Q2W3 fixed widget’ plugin. Its function is simple, as the reader scrolls through your page, any item you place inside of this sidebar widget will scroll with them, making it always visible, when used together with a newsletter signup form, this plugin will help generate a substantial number of blog subscribers. Which is something any blogger, novice of veteran should be doing.
2. Magic Action Box – Sticking with the subscriber theme, the ‘Magic Action box’ plugin allows you to create items such as forms and boxes which can be placed before or after a blog post. I use this to introduce myself to the reader and ask them if they would like to interact further via social media. You can also suggest further articles for the user to read which can help to increase time on site and improve user engagement.
3. Akismet - I hate comment spam and anyone new to blogging will quickly hate it too. Despite trying many different plugins, I have yet to find an anti-spam plugin that can rival Akismet. Currently my blog has over 2,000 spam comments that have been blocked by Akismet. This plugin will save you hours of spam fighting, time that can be spent writing engaging content and building your blog.
What are your essential WordPress plugins? Do you agree with our panel?
Please leave a comment below.