Adding plugins to a WordPress blog adds functionality, but can cause slowdowns in website load time. Which WordPress plugins are best for bloggers on a budget? Which WordPress plugins are essential for a smoothly-functioning blog? In this post, we will explore the absolute best WordPress plugins for frugal bloggers. You will find out which plugins you need if you are just starting your blogging journey, and which ones you will want to add as you grow. If you have a specialized niche and are looking for plugins that are used for specific purposes, we will explore those as well. Let’s get started with the list of top WordPress plugins for bloggers. The good news is, many of them are free!
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Best WordPress Free Plugins
Free WordPress plugins are plentiful. Which free WordPress plugins actually work well? Which free WordPress plugins are truly valuable? In this post, you will learn about the best free WordPress plugins for different purposes. Depending upon your needs, you might choose a free version or a paid version. Whichever you choose, there are some basic, necessary functions you will need plugins to perform.
Must-Have WordPress Plugins for Bloggers
When you get started with your blog, you will want to have some plugins to perform basic functions. Here are the priorities you might want to consider plugins for:
- Social sharing
- Creating forms
- Site speed (caching)
- Image compression
- Specialty plugins for your niche
You should look for plugins that are compatible with your version of WordPress. Check to see when the plugin was last updated. Ideally, it would be reasonably priced, or even free. When you’re a beginning blogger, chances are you don’t have a huge budget. Let’s take a look at which WordPress plugins in these different areas give you the best bang for your buck.
Best WordPress Plugins for Security
When many bloggers start out with a WordPress hosting company, like Bluehost (a bargain), the free version of Jetpack, which has many security features, is often included automatically. The Jetpack plugin, which was created by WordPress, requires you to create a WordPress.com account, which some people find to be inconvenient. The Jetpack plugin has many components, including site backup and spam blocking, but many features are not free. Some people are big fans of Jetpack, but others warn that it might slow down your website. If you decide to uninstall Jetpack (I did), you can get the Akismet anti-spam plugin for a very reasonable monthly price.
What about backing up your website? Yes, backups are essential. Updraft Plus is a free website backup plugin, but you might want to use it sparingly, on an as-needed basis. The website backups take up a lot of memory, so knowing where to store the backup files can be a challenge. I ended up uninstalling it after the files began to fill up the storage in my Google Drive. When I want to make a backup, I just reinstall it. Some people might disagree with my method, but so far this frugal strategy has worked well for me.
Best WordPress Plugins for SEO
When bloggers first start out, the free version of the Yoast SEO (search engine optimization) plugin can be very useful. If you know how to configure it correctly, it can be very helpful with structuring your website and getting your sitemap submitted to Google. For a long time, I didn’t know how to configure the settings. When I finally figured it out, my analytics made a lot more sense. Although there is a lot more to learning SEO than just using Yoast, the Yoast SEO plugin helped train me to write concisely and helped me be mindful about using keywords. I was pretty clueless, so I’m grateful for all of the reminders about readability, which I still keep in mind. Recently, as part of an ongoing effort to speed up my website (it’s paying off), I switched to a plugin called The SEO Framework, which claims to load faster than Yoast. It’s a minimalist SEO plugin, but it does keep me on track with SEO basics.
Other Useful Plugins for SEO
In order to avoid broken links, I have installed the free Redirection plugin. I made some mistakes early on in my blogging career, and one of them was including the date in my post URL. I changed my URL setting, and many of my URL addresses changed. It’s been awhile, so the longer URLs only show up occasionally on Pinterest, but I keep the redirect plugin installed just in case. If you want to avoid making the same mistakes I did, read all about the SEO secrets I wish I had known when I started blogging. Had I known those things, I would have saved a lot of time. One other SEO plugin I sometimes use is the free Broken Link Checker plugin. I have read that it may slow down a website, so I only install it when I am doing a website checkup every few months.
Best WordPress Plugins for Google Analytics
The free version of Monster Insights is the best Google Analytics plugin I’ve found. I tried to uninstall it at one point. I was just going to rely on my visits to the Google Analytics website for my data. When I uninstalled Monster Insights, my analytics took a nosedive. You know the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That is my motto when messing around with my website analytics now.
Best WordPress Plugins for Social Media
The best WordPress plugins for social sharing offer flexible settings as well as optimum functionality. Shareaholic, Grow Social by Mediavine, and Social Warfare all have free versions. I ended up going with Grow, because I didn’t care for the way the other plugins required some sort of a share count to show. I’m at the point now in my blogging career where my posts do get social shares, but for an absolute beginner, the low share count might be discouraging and even a bit embarrassing. I get a lot of my traffic from Pinterest, so a social sharing plugin was an essential plugin for me.
Another social media aspect to consider is having a plugin that links website visitors to your social accounts. I use the free Floating Social Media Icon plugin. I have opted to have my social media icons remain stationery. Floating icons (icons that move as you scroll) are sometimes a distraction to me, and I appreciate that I had the option of keeping them anchored in place with this plugin.
Best WordPress Plugins for Creating and Integrating Forms
From the beginning, I’ve used the free WP Forms Lite plugin. It’s simple to use, and I get a usage report sent to my email inbox monthly. Since I use Mailchimp for my email subscriber list, I also use the free Mailchimp for WordPress (MC4WP) plugin to streamline the mailing list subscriber process. I want to make the subscribing process as simple as possible, and have had always had smooth sailing with this free plugin.
Best WordPress Plugin for GDPR Compliance
Most bloggers are familiar with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. It basically means that residents of the EU who visit a website must give consent in order for their user data to be tracked with cookies. You have probably seen a wide variety of cookie consent forms, including the one you saw (I hope) when you began your visit to this website. Not sure if you need a cookie consent banner? Read this article to find out. To make sure my bases are covered, I use the free cookie consent plugin by Web Toffee. It’s sleek, simple to install, and doesn’t interfere with the viewing of content of my page.
Best WordPress Plugins for Ecommerce
If you are thinking of selling products online, WordPress has some great free plugins. WooCommerce is the top choice for anyone selling a physical product. The basic plugin is free, and extensions may be added to customize the shop to the specific website’s needs. If you only sell digital products, Easy Digital Downloads (also known as EDD) is a popular free option. Like WooCommerce, EDD allows for customization with the addition of extensions to fit the needs of the shop owner.
Best WordPress Plugins for Speeding Up a Website
With Google’s upcoming algorithm update based upon user experience, improving website load time has become more important than ever. WordPress does offer some plugins for improving site speed. One free plugin that is very easy to install and use is WP Fastest Cache. It creates files from posts or pages a website publishes so that the images don’t have to be rendered each time the post ror page loads. Using WP Fastest Cache will definitely speed up your website load time. If you want to have the best of the best WordPress plugin for improving site speed, investigate WP Rocket. After I installed WP Rocket on my website, I was able to eliminate a few other plugins because WP Rocket has so many features. My favorite is the built-in lazy load feature for images and videos. I like to include video tutorials in my blog posts, but I don’t want them to slow down my site. With lazy load enabled, the video will not load until a reader clicks on the play control. Until then, there is just a static image. After activating WP Rocket, my scores improved on site speed tests and my traffic increased. The yearly subscription fee is well worth the price.
Best WordPress Plugins for Compressing Photos
Since I post DIY projects, recipes and travel posts, I use a lot of photos. In order to keep my images from slowing down my website, I reduce the file size before I ever upload them to my blog. For even faster loading time, I use an image compression plugin. When I didn’t have much traffic, I was able to use the free version of Optimole. It worked great. Then my traffic increased beyond the 5K monthly pageview limit, so I switched to ShortPixel. I’ve been very pleased with the results, and the price is very reasonable. I purchased a package that will last me a long time, and it’s been worth every penny. If you get more than 5K pageviews a month, it might be a great solution for you as well.
Best WordPress Plugins for Food Bloggers
If you create recipe posts, one plugin you might want to try is the free WP Recipe Maker. It increases the word count of my recipe posts, which helps with Google SEO, and it makes it easy for readers to print the recipe if they choose. I do spend a bit of extra time inserting the information when I create the recipe form, but makes my recipe posts look more professional and polished. I wish I had started using it much sooner.
How to Install WordPress Plugins
Where do you find WordPress plugins? If you look on the left sidebar when you are in WordPress, you will see Plugins listed. Just click on the Add New option, then search for what you need. Do you download WordPress plugins? If he plugin is free, you can just install and activate it within the WordPress site. Many plugins have settings you will need to configure and customize. If you are paying for a plugin, you will need to follow the instructions listed on the website where you make your purchase. Learning how to download WordPress plugins isn’t complicated. It’s almost too easy. I have to restrain myself from getting overloaded with plugins because there are so many to choose from. Important: Test your site speed before and after installing any new WordPress plugin to see how it affects your site load time. Not sure how to test your site speed? Learn how to test website speed and how to improve spite speed quickly.
The Essential List of WordPress Plugins for Beginning Bloggers on a Budget
After doing my research and knowing what I know now, here is my summary list of the absolute best wordpress plugins for beginning bloggers on a budget. These useful WordPress plugins are not going to break the bank. We have explored a lot of plugins today, including some unique WordPress plugins that you may or may not need. How will you ever choose? Here’s a WordPress Plugins list, simplified and pared down to the basics.
Permanently Installed Plugins for all Niches
- Akismet anti-spam plugin
- Yoast SEO or The SEO Framework
- Monster Insights
- Shareaholic or Grow Social by Mediavine plugin for social sharing
- Floating Social Media Icons or another plugin to connect your social accounts
- WP Forms Lite plugin for communicating with your readers
- WP Fastest Cache or WP Rocket to speed up website load time
- Optimole or ShortPixel for compressing images
Plugins to Install Temporarily or for Specialized Niches
- Updraft Plus for periodic website backups
- Broken Link Checker for periodic website health checks
- WP Recipe Maker (for food bloggers)
- WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads (for online shops)
- Cookie Consent plugin (if your site gets traffic from the EU)
Some Additional Plugins to Consider
To increase my word count, which helps my Google SEO ranking, I use a free Table of Contents plugin. I also use the free Classic Editor plugin because I work more quickly in the Classic Editor version of WordPress for most of my posts. I do have some pages created with the Gutenberg WordPress editor. I like being able to toggle back and forth when needed. Notice all of the buttons in this post? I have a free plugin for that called Forget About Shortcode Buttons. If I create more posts with the Gutenberg editor, I hope to eventually be able to insert buttons with that. In order to keep website visitors on my page longer, I’m considering adding the free Catch Infinite Scroll plugin. I’d also like to add a plugin for related posts called Yet Another Related Posts Plugin. As long as these plugins don’t slow down my website load time, I’m all for keeping visitors on my website longer.
Which WordPress Plugins are Essential for You?
Have you added any of these top WordPress plugins for bloggers to your blogging to-do list? Which WordPress plugins are your favorites? Did I leave any essential WordPress plugins off of the list? Let me know! I’m always open to feedback, ideas and suggestions.
Optimizing and Maximizing Your Website
Like what you’ve read today? Having effective WordPress plugins is one way to optimize your website. Driving traffic to your website with Pinterest is another way to make the most of what you are creating. To help that happen, get my free Pinterest SEO checklist summarizing essential Pinterest SEO tips to maximize Pinterest traffic potential plus access to a library of free printable resources.
Have fun customizing your plugin list. May your efforts be met with success!