There are so many free WordPress plugins you can install on your new blog, with over 60,000 plugins available in the WordPress plugins repository (source). But which plugins are the best for new blogs? That’s what I’m going to cover today.
WordPress Plugins FAQ
What is a WordPress plugin?
Plugins are software that can be added to your blog to enhance its functionality. Plugins add new features and let you customize and optimize your blog.
For example, if you’re a photographer and want to add an image carousel on your homepage, you would need a plugin for that.
How do you install a WordPress plugin?
To install a plugin, log into WordPress and head over to Plugins > Add new.
Search for a plugin, such as “image carousel”. Once you find one you want to install, click Install, then Activate.
For some premium plugins, you have to download the actual plugin source code (in a zip file) and manually add it to your blog.
To do that, go to Plugins > Add new > Upload.
Click browse, select the zip file, then Activate the plugin.
Which WordPress plugins does my blog need?
Your blog doesn’t “need” any plugins. WordPress is fully functional from the jump!
However, if you want to create a more powerful website, you’re going to need a few plugins for that.
But before you go installing every plugin under the sun, you don’t want to make a common blogger mistake: installing too many plugins.
The end result is a sluggish blog that struggles to load them all! Blog speed is a huge factor, not only in ranking your website in Google but with the overall user experience as well.
So in this list, I’m only going to list well-coded plugins that boost the functionality of your blog without hurting your page speed.
Best WordPress plugins for blogs
1. Elementor – Best page builder for WordPress
To create the best user experience you need a page builder to create visually-rich blog posts and pages.
Blogging is evolving and you can’t get away with boring plain text anymore. Now more than ever it’s important to keep readers engaged with our content.
They are more popular than any other page builder by far, powering over 2.5 million websites (source).
They are popular for a reason. With Elementor, you can build well-formatted content with elements like highlight boxes, pros and cons, reviews, styled lists, click-to-tweet, contact forms, and built-in lead generation for your email list.
With a page builder like Elementor, you can visually build not only your blog posts but to create high-converting sales and landing pages. Pair Elementor with a blog theme like Astra Pro and you’ve got all you need for a well-designed blog.
2. WP Rocket – Best caching plugin for WordPress
You’ve heard me mention blog speed a few times throughout this list. There’s a reason for that. Having a fast loading blog isn’t just good for your readers, it’s one way you can improve your Google ranking too.
You’ll notice that most of the plugins I mention on this page don’t slow down your site at all. Some run on the back-end and don’t load on any page-view.
But this next one makes major changes to your blog on the front-end, but trust me you will notice a drastic difference in site speed with WP Rocket.
The fastest way to speed up your site is to switch to a faster host. Most shared hosts, whether it’s Bluehost or Siteground, overload their servers with far too many customers.
First, the plugin generates fast-loading static html files of your slow-loading PHP-heavy blog posts. Then when a visitor lands on your blog post, your web server will serve the fast html file instead of processing the original PHP-heavy one.
Other features of WPRocket include:
- Lazy load your images
- Optimize your database
After activating this plugin, test your before and after speed score on this page and see just how much you improved your page speed.
3. Akismet – Best WordPress plugin to stop comment spam
Akismet protects your blog from comment spam. This plugin is a must-have for any new blog.
Akismet will automatically delete spam comments so you’re only notified of authentic comments from your readers.
Here are instructions on how to get your free API key and activate the plugin.
Upgrading your comments section could be the key to spurring Facebook-like engagement on your blog.
Look at my blog comments and compare it with the typical WordPress blog comments. With the Thrive Comments plugin, my comments now have added functionality like upvoting/downvoting, badges and featured comments.
4. Yoast – Best SEO for WordPress
SEO (search engine optimization) is what you do to optimize your content to rank in search engines.
What the Yoast SEO plugin does is help you make sure your blog posts are Google-friendly. For example, in every blog post you can:
- Choose your target keyword phrase to get the keyword density.
- Edit the meta description, which is the text readers see on Google search results.
- Get a readability score to make sure your content is easy to read.
As a new blog, you won’t be getting much Google traffic. But it’s still important to optimize each post for Google right from the start. I have a guide on SEO for beginners here if you want to learn more.
When you install the plugin, you’ll go through an easy setup wizard to configure your blog’s sitewide SEO settings.
From there, go to the Social tab and set up Open Graph support, which lets you control how your content is seen on social media.
Finally, one of Yoast’s best features is their XML sitemap, which is created and updated automatically. You can upload this sitemap to Google Search Console to help Google find your latest posts.
5. UpdraftPlus – Best plugin to automatically backup WordPress
Back up your blog to the cloud on schedule and restore it with a single click. Yep, it’s that easy with this UpdraftPlus.
UpdraftPlus is the world’s highest-ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin, with over 2 million currently-active installs and a perfect 5-star rating.
While my host (WPX) already does daily automated backups for me, but I still like to keep an actual copy of the backup myself too, so I scoured WordPress and tried a bunch of WP backup plugins before landing on this one.
While other backup plugins may only back up the database, this one can back up anything – even back up items outside of WordPress.
You can (and should) set up weekly (or at least monthly) automatic backups to your Google Drive (or other cloud service) for peace of mind. Then in the settings, set it to only keep the most recent 1-2 backups so you don’t run out of cloud storage space.
Aside from backups, this plugin also lets you restore your website in just a few clicks, which can be helpful to do if your site’s been hacked.
6. ConvertKit plugin – Best plugin for email marketing
The ConvertKit plugin for WordPress lets you insert your ConvertKit opt-in forms directly inside of your blog posts.
While the plugin is free, you do need an account with ConvertKit first.
To use ConvertKit for free, use this link to unlock unlimited forms, landing pages, and to be able to send emails to up to 1,000 email subscribers.
Email marketing is the best way for a blog to make money because it’s really hard to sell directly from your blog posts.
Via your email list you can provide value and establish trust. And trust is important if you ever want to sell something or recommend affiliate products to your audience.
7. ConvertPro – Best list building plugin for WordPress
Once you have an email list set up, the next step is to get a lead generation plugin like ConvertPro.
With it, you can grow your email list faster with high-converting signup forms, exit-intent lightboxes, welcome mats, etc.
There’s also detailed stat reporting you get when you use a list-building plugin.
For example, I can see which form someone joins from (to see which type of form works best), via which blog post (to see which blog post converts best), and via what source that traffic came from (to see which traffic source works best).
8. Grammarly – Best plugin for writers
While Grammarly isn’t a WordPress plugin found in their plugin repository, it’s a tool that deserves to be on this list.
Grammarly is a free browser extension that works inside of the Gutenberg editor in WordPress. In the free version, bloggers will love the small grammatical and spelling fixes provided by this tool.
To take your blog writing to the next level, upgrade to Grammarly Premium, where you’ll get help with:
- Make your writing clear and confident
- Word choice suggestions to improve your vocabulary
- Strike the right tone for your blog post
9. Social Warfare – Best plugin for social media shares
Social Warfare is by far the best WordPress social sharing plugin I’ve used. Most WordPress social sharing plugins slow down your site but the Social Warfare share buttons are both lightning fast and beautiful.
See the Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter share icons below? Click on one to see just how easy it is for users to share this post on social media.
The free version of Social Warfare is enough for most bloggers. But if you want to customize their look and add additional icons – you need the pro version which is $29.
In the pro version, you can:
- Add sharing icons for Reddit, Tumblr, Pocket, email, and more.
- Add a Pinterest “Save” button over images for easy sharing.
- Add Open Graph tags so your blog posts look good when shared on Facebook and Twitter.
- Add a “Click-to-tweet” block to encourage sharing snippets of your article to Twitter.
- Add multiple Pinterest images so users can choose which one they want to pin
10. Thirsty Affiliates – Best WordPress plugin for affiliate marketing
If you’re going to do any sort of affiliate marketing on your blog, you need the Thirsty Affiliates plugin.
Affiliate marketing is awesome because you can make money selling other people’s products. For new bloggers, it’s a great way to monetize your blog.
To get credit from sales coming from your blog you will need to use your unique affiliate link. It looks something like this:
Pretty ugly isn’t it? But when you use the Thirsty Affiliates plugin you can turn ugly links like that into pretty ones like this instead:
Plus, you can track outgoing affiliate clicks to see which blog posts users are clicking affiliate links from. Awesome-ness!
11. ExactMetrics – Best WordPress stats plugin
Google Analytics is a must-have for bloggers to see how much traffic you get (and how you got it).
To begin tracking your stats, you need to sign up with Google Analytics and add your tracking code. You need to insert the tracking code into the header.php page in your theme so it appears before the closing </head> tag.
The super easy no-code way to do this is to use the ExactMetrics plugin.
I use the pro version of the plugin specifically to see metrics like pageviews, average session duration, and bounce rates right on the WordPress dashboard.
12. ShortPixel – Best image optimization plugin
Ever save an image and notice the file size is HUGE? Well, big file sizes mean slow-loading sites and a bad user experience (source). Not only that, but slow sites won’t rank well in Google search, either.
The Speed Update, which enables page speed in mobile search ranking📱, is now rolling out for all users!
More details on Webmaster Central 👉 https://t.co/fF40GJZik0
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) July 9, 2018
One way to speed up your blog is to upgrade your hosting account to a faster host like WPX (who I use).
But another way is to simply have the browser download less data by reducing the file sizes of your images. The trick though is to reduce the file size so your blog loads fast without compromising image quality.
To make it happen, I recommend using the ShortPixel image optimizer plugin.
13. LinkWhisper – Great for building internal links
When you’re building a blog with the intention of getting Google traffic, you need to pay attention to your internal linking structure.
I use the LinkWhisper plugin to make the process of adding internal links really simple.
Here’s how it works. As you’re writing a blog post, the plugin will recommend internal link suggestions to your past content.
While that’s good, but where this plugin excels is the ability to add links to your new content from within older blog posts.
It also finds broken links (internal and external) and “orphaned posts”, which are blog posts that aren’t linked from anywhere.
You can also auto-link keywords throughout your entire website with your affiliate link. I recently did this when I signed up for the Canva affiliate program. Within a minute I was able to link all previous Canva mentions to my affiliate link across all of my content.
14. Modula – The best image gallery plugin
The Modula WordPress plugin makes it easy to quickly create beautiful-looking image galleries.
Here are the best features of this free plugin:
- Visually design your image gallery, it’s fully customizable
- Mobile responsible image gallery
- Lightweight plugin that won’t slow down your site
To create video galleries, sliders, and add image loading and hover effects, you’ll need the pro version of this plugin.
15. WPForms – The best contact form plugin for WordPress
Rather than publicly list your email address, you can instead use a contact form.
But this plugin does much more than provide a simple contact form, you can also:
- Drag and drop contact form design
- Host surveys and get feedback from your audience
- Offer file uploads, useful if you want to accept guest posts
- Multi-page forms with conditional logic
16. Editorial Calendar – Best editorial plugin
If you publish a lot of blog posts like I do, it’s helpful to visually see when your content is going to be published.
With the Editorial Calendar plugin, you can see your blog posts in a monthly calendar view. This helps you make sure posts are getting published on time.
Here’s what I like about this plugin:
- Get an overview of your blog content, both previous posts and scheduled ones
- You can drag and drop posts to change their publish dates
- It’s entirely free
17. Redirection – Best redirection plugin
After you’ve been blogging for a while, you’re going to need a redirection plugin.
Sometimes you have to delete a page or post. Rather than have it go to a 404 error page, set up a redirect to a relevant page.
With over 1 million active installations and no limits as to how many redirections you can have, Redirection is the easy choice for a redirection plugin.
Wrapping this up
If there’s a WordPress plugin you love that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments section.
If this post has helped you find some new WordPress plugins for your blog, I’d appreciate it if you could save it on Pinterest to your WordPress board.
Until next time,