When setting up almost any site in WordPress there are a few plugins that I install right off the bat. In this article I cover the WordPress plugins for blogs that I install on almost all my sites. Some sites may require additional plugins for specific features but this article describes the base set of plugins that I use on almost any WordPress site, and why I have included them.
Starting new site can be stressful and you should be worried about your site’s content, not whether you’ve installed the right plugins. I usually keep this group of plugins in a separate folder on my computer so that I can easily upload my default plugins as soon as the site is live. Then it is just a matter of updating them to the latest version.
These default WordPress plugins for blogs provide me with peace of mind and security. I like to bake security in from the beginning in all my projects as it is easy to forget about later. Other plugins in this list are just must haves for social media sharing and site performance.
All of my sites are built from the ground up with security in mind. Any admin account always has multi-factor authentication enabled along with a strong password. I constantly see brute-force attacks in the wild attempting to gain access to admin accounts. A multi-factor authentication plugin lets me sleep at night as I don’t have to worry about some attacker getting lucky and guessing my password.
1. 2FAS Light — Google Authenticator
This is a super lightweight plugin that does one job and does it well. With this plugin you can select which user roles are required to use MFA. I typically restrict only the administrators to using MFA and allow the editors and authors to login with username and password only.
2. iThemes Security
The iThemes Security plugin offers numerous ways to lock down your WordPress installations all managed by a single unified dashboard. This is a
Brute force aside, attackers can wreak havoc on a site’s performance, even if they never gain access. Attackers commonly scan for known vulnerable files, sometimes with such intensity that they actually bring a site down. The iThemes Security plugin actively blocks and blacklists any hosts participating in less than savory activities.
The 404 blocking feature will very quickly shutdown any scanners looking for exposed files or directories. With this plugin you can stop most cyber attackers in the first phase of the cyber kill chain.
SEO and Analytics
When writing a blog you will inevitably want to see how it is doing. This allows you to track your progress over time and gauge your audience. I use GA Google Analytics for analytics (and much more) and Yoast SEO for search engine optimization of my sites.
3. GA Google Analytics
While you can insert your analytics code into your theme directly it is far easier to include it via plugin. This plugin also allows for customization of a few options of the included script but overall is a lightweight plugin with no bloating or other flashy options.
4. Yoast SEO
The Yoast SEO plugin truly does it all. From content analysis, sitemap generation, and even readability analysis. This is likely the only SEO plugin you will need.
Key Features of Yoast SEO Plugin
- Content analysis for keywords and synonyms
- Readability analysis using the Flesch reading test
- Keyword and key phrase optimization
When people consider WordPress plugins for blogs they often overlook performance. If you’ve ever run your WordPress site on a lightweight managed hosting solution, then I am sure you have encountered some dreadfully slow pages. This was my biggest reason for leaving behind traditional managed WordPress solutions and opted to host my own.
Hosting on my own systems gives me absolute control over every setting. I use W3 Total Cache as a caching layer, as well as general performance optimization. Drop this plugin on any site and watch your load times get cut in half!
5. W3 Total Cache
When I am looking to improve a site’s performance I install the W3 Total Cache plugin. This plugin packs quite a punch and can drastically improve a site’s speed and overall user experience. With this plugin you can configure page caching, database caching, object caching, and many other performance improvements.
Once you have your site up and running and the traffic pouring in, surely you will want to monetize. This plugin makes it easy to link your Google Adsense account and start displaying ads. Google does all the heavy lifting for you and will automatically optimize the types of ads shown on your site, as well as their location to maximize revenue.
6. Ad Inserter
As with the Google analytics it is much easier to install a plugin rather than including the ad code manually. I use Ad Inserter for placing Google ads through AdSense. Google takes care of most of the placement.
Social Media and Sharing
The Internet is all about sharing. If you right a blog, surely you will want to share it around. These plugins make it easy for people to get in touch with you when you’ve inspired them or allows them to share your great work with their friends. A share from the right person can even make your site go viral!
7. Contact Widgets
In today’s social media connected world it is important to have a social media presence. You will want to make it easy for your potential visitors to find you regardless of which platform they may prefer. With the simple Contact Widgets plugin you can make it easy for your visitors to find you on social media, or get in touch with you directly.
These plugins will help you get your base WordPress installation setup quickly. With these plugins you can improve your blog’s security, reach a wider audience, and even make money from your blog.
Having a pre-defined list of WordPress plugins for blogs specifically can help take some of the anxiety out of starting a new site. It also provides a checklist to ensure you don’t forget any must have plugins.
What are some of the first plugins you install on a new blog or site? Drop me a comment below if there are any plugins you think should be included on this list!