10 Plugins I Can’t (and Won’t) Live Without

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Essential Plug Ins for Food Bloggers

This is my list of “must have” plugins. I would happily delete every other plugin I use if I could keep these 10.

Note: I use WordPress with the Genesis Framework and Foodie Pro Theme for both Food Bloggers Central and my blog, RecipeTin Eats. I did a lot of research before I decided on these and I’ve never regretted the decision. :-) So all these plugins are for WordPress blogs.

Some of the links are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. It does not cost you more, the commission is paid by the seller. 

SECURITY and BACK UPS

I have to start off with the boring but CRITICAL plugins. Even if you don’t use these plugins, I really hope you have one installed that covers off on hackers, SPAM and back ups.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.48.44 am1. Word Fence (free) – this protects your site from hackers. I used to use Limit Log In Attempts, but that hasn’t been updated in 2 years which is why I switched over. Word Fence is lightweight and has a great reputation in the blogosphere.

Get Word Fence here.

Akismet2. Akismet to block SPAM (free) – I don’t need to go into why SPAM is evil. :) Akismet protects your blog from comment and trackback SPAM. It’s free, and an absolute must for your site. Get it here.

As a side note: sometimes, non SPAM message do get caught up in the “SPAM nets”. If you are so inclined, you might want to scan your SPAM folder occasionally. It is very easy to pick out which are not SPAM comments. It is a question of whether you have the time and energy to do this – depends on how much SPAM you get!

3. VaultPress – Back Up and Restoring  I’ve destroyed my entire site with a single stroke of a key. I really did. I collapsed into a puddle of frustrated tears and had no idea what to do to fix it. I ended up having to use a freelancer to fix it.

Vaultpress

Vaultpress – for $5 a month, you can rest easy knowing that your site is securely backed up off site.

I am not a tech geek and am terrified of doing anything on my site when I am not 100% of what I am doing. Even if it is something as simple as a plugin upgrade can cause problems. For example, it could conflict with another plugin.

So immediately after deleting my entire site, the first thing I did was research to find a reliable plugin to do back ups and restore of my blog.

I used to use a free plugin (see below). But now I use VaultPress which costs a measly $5 a month which is peanuts for the security and assurance you get for the services of this best-in-class back up service. A quick Google is all it will take you to confirm that it’s the industry standard.

And further proof? It’s made by the creators of WordPress itself, Automattic. They are smart fellas. I trust them. :-)

Get the Vaultpress plugin here (you can use a free trial) and you can find out more information about Vaultpress here.

3 b) Updraft Plus – Back Up and Restoring (free option) – this is the plugin I started out with until I decided I wanted that extra assurance for back ups and moved to VaultPress. This plugin is easy to use and you can even back up your blog to Dropbox.

Get the Updraft Plus plugin here.

Why pay?

I know you’re going to ask – why should I pay when I can use a free back up? Here’s the thing. There is a reason why the free back up plugins are free. Because there is the chance of a failure, whether it be due to human or plugin error or a problem with where you are backup up to.

Vaultpress is a fully managed backup service. Which means there are humans and lots of computers to make sure the backups are happening and stored securely on servers that are also backed upAND you can be confident that the plugin will always remain up to date.

In my simple mind, $5 a month is measly for the peace of mind I get. Because my blog is a valuable asset to me. :-)

PS The Vaultpress link is NOT an affiliate link.

GROWING YOUR BLOG

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.12.05 am4. Mail Chimp for WordPress (free) – I useMail Chimp to manage my subscribers and send out new post notifications. It’s free for up to 2,000 subscribers. So I use the Mail Chimp plugin to embed a sign up box in my sidebar.

Get the Mail Chimp plugin here.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.47.06 am5. Simple Share Buttons Adder (free) – I tried alot of social media sharing buttons before I found this one. I love it because it is lightweight, plays nicely with other plugins and it does exactly what it says it does – makes it easy for people to share your content. The biggest problem I had with other share button plugins was that they weighed down my site.

I also love the developer – he’s really responsive and happily added the Yummly button when I told him it was a popular recipe sharing site.

Most people will probably find that the free version is enough but the Plus version is packed full of extra features for a mere $10, including tracking and analysis and retina ready icons. Get the free version here or get the Plus version here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 8.19.13 am6. Opt In Monster ($49 and worth every cent) – this is the plugin I use to encourage people to sign up to my blog. I only use the popup and as soon as I started using it, the number of readers subscribing to my blog doubled. I know that might not seem like a huge improvement but I think my sign up rate was already pretty good (I think because I have freebies). When my friend Amanda from Chew Town started using Optin Monster, her sign up rate quadrupled.

Why I love Opt In Monster so much: It took me ages to use a pop up because I was very concerned that having pop ups that appear the moment people arrive at my site (even before the page loads) would be very annoying. And even more annoying if that pop up kept appearing every single time someone returned to my site.

Opt In Monster lets you control when the pop up appears for first time and returning visitors. So for example, I have it set so the pop up:

  • appears on the second page view of each new visitors; and
  • appears again for returning visitors after 3 months.

This is based on my judgement of pop ups that don’t annoy my readers. (Note: 3 months might seem like a long time but I figure I also have the sign up on my sidebar and embedded in posts as well to encourage return visitors to sign up).

This is the single biggest plugin investment I have made to date, and it was worth every cent. I’m going to write a longer post on growing your mail list ad why it’s so important. And in that, I’ll cover step by step details of how I have Opt In Monster set up.

Get Opt In Monster here.

STUFF FOR YOUR BLOG

7. WP Recipe Maker (free for basic or $24.95 for the Plus version) – if you’re a food blogger, a good recipe plugin is a must. It’s not just so your recipes look neat and professional, easy to read and print. More importantly is that it is SEO ready which means your recipes are optimised to appear in Google search results (all other things being equal).

I choose WP Recipe Maker because it’s the best for SEO, and it’s the one that Casey Markee, SEO Guru, has personally reviewed and recommends. I can’t stress enough how important SEO is for the recipe plug in.

The free version gives you the core features you need but upgrading tothe Plus version is highly recommended for the extra customisations and flexibility with use.

Bonus: There’s a “Jump to Recipe” and “Print Recipe” plugin that comes with WP Recipe Maker so you can pop these at the top of your posts. Lord Google gives a big thumbs up for this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.52.51 am8. Jetpack (free) – this is a really useful plugin that has a whole host of features I use on my blog (rather than installing separate plugins for each feature I want). The main thing I used it for is traffic analysis. There is a dashboard which makes it easy for you to see traffic, top posts, referral sources and click throughs. It’s really lightweight so it doesn’t slow down my site (which some traffic analysis plugins do). Other things I use it for include:

  1. Widgets for the sidebar – like images and social media (e.g. recent tweets), and your profile;
  2. Setting Notifications for comments I receive; and
  3. Easy to use blog subscription (note – I have since moved to Mail Chimp but when I started out, Jetpack was all I needed).

There are A LOT of other things in Jetpack which I won’t continue to list out, including Custom CSS which is a feature that lets you make edits to your blog theme without touching the theme files. Tip: Turn off features you aren’t using so it doesn’t impact your site speed.

Get Jetpack here.

Contact Form to contact me on my blog is powered by Contact Form 7

9. Contact Form 7 (free) – this is the plugin I use so people can send me an email from my blog by filling out a form, rather than providing my email address. It’s simple, lightweight and easy to use.

10. WordPress SEO by YOAST (free) – I’m not a tech geek. So basically, I had to find the easiest way to make sure my blog is SEO optimised without having to dabble in codes or worrying about schema mark ups. Wordpress SEO by YOAST is by far the market leader for Wordpress when it comes to SEO plugins. Turn it on, write your posts and know that your content is SEO optimised.

Once you install the plugin, you will have a new section beneath each post which looks like the screenshot below. This is where you can add keywords and descriptions to help with SEO, and how it displays in Google search results.

Get the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin here.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.44.47 pm

****

That’s it! That’s my top 10 “can’t live without” plugins for my food blog RecipeTin Eats.

What have I missed?

What are the plugins that YOU can’t live without? :-)

– Nagi

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The Food Photography Book by Nagi from RecipeTin Eats

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Nagi
    Thank you such a great website :-) Quick question, are you still using easyrecipe? I’m seeing complaints about this plugin not being supported anymore and I was wondering what is your current experience with it… Thank you and keep up the good work

    Telma

  2. says

    Syed here, I’m the co-founder of OptinMonster. I wanted to drop by and say thank you for including OptinMonster in this list. Truly honored.

    Also VaultPress is a solid service. We use them ourselves and highly recommend everyone else to do the same :)

    • Nagi says

      Hi Syed! This is just the beginning :) Based on FBC readership demand, I have a series of posts coming up on mail lists, one of which specifically is using Opt In monster and how to best optimise it for food blogs. I’ve been doing tests and the results have been very interesting! :)

  3. says

    I’m glad to see that I’m already on the right track with this. I did, however, just install the free version of EasyRecipe. I’ll check it out for a bit and see if I like it before upgrading. Opt in Monster is sooooo appealing, but I think I’ll wait on that one for a bit. Great advice again, Nagi! Thank you!

    • Nagi says

      No worries Byron! Try SumoMe if you want a free version of a pop up. It’s not quite as good in terms of design options, performance and tracking, but it’s free!

  4. says

    Nagi… I too use genesis/foodie pro. I can’t seem to get the tabs/links like you have on the top bar (about, increasing traffic, resources etc) Did you find how to do that somewhere public like youtube or did you hire a professional to set it up for you?

    • Nagi says

      Hi! It’s just under Appearances > Menu. You just create your own menu by dragging categories or pages into the menu field and you can reorder them, create sub levels etc as you please!

  5. Michele says

    I wish I would have found your site sooner. I too am not a techy and and muddling through. What great information. Thanks!!

  6. says

    Awesome! I recently just signed up for Optin Monster, so good to know I made the right choice. For e-mail, I’ve always been a fan of Aweber and Mad Mimi. I could never figure out mailchimp, lol! For the $10, I might upgrade the Simple Share Buttons. I had never heard of that app until I came to this site. Thanks!

  7. says

    Love it! I use most of these plugins and wouldn’t want to live without them either. VaultPress is really awesome, I had to do a full restore once and it took literally just three clicks in VaultPress and everything was back to normal.

  8. says

    Thanks, Nagi!! :-) Moving to Mail Chimp has been one of the best bloggy things I’ve done this year, and that is all thanks to you!
    Reading this has made me think about the fact that I STILL don’t have a contact form on my blog. Ooops … so thanks for the plugin recommendation. That is going on my ever-growing list of bloggy things to do soon!

  9. Charlene @ That Girl Cooks Healthy says

    Thanks Nagi. There’s a few which I need to incorporate into my own blog.

  10. says

    GREAT post Nagi! I use most of those plugins, but I really need to look into MailChimp, I just can’t figure out how to move my existing subscribers over to their database. I’m seriously technology challenged lol :)

    • Nagi says

      Hey Amanda! I’ll write up a post on it soon, I’ve had quite a number of people saying that!! :)

  11. says

    Thank you Nagi! this is a great post! I also am concerned about plugins getting along together and really in one keystroke it could all go poof. Yikes! A post on how to set up Mail chimp and migrate our current users would be great.

  12. says

    Oh Nagi it’s like you read my mind!!! Today I had on my list of jobs to research a better back up plugin (I currently use Updraft!). Thank you so much! It’s 7.30am and that job is now ticked off!

  13. Robyn says

    Oh my gosh, Nagi, I can’t tell you how much I needed this reminder today! I’ve been putting off dealing with the tech end of things for so long because I’m just not techie but today I switched to your sharing buttons and installed Wordfence and UpDraft and I’ll be back for more!
    I love Easy Recipe Plus and have used it from the beginning. Time for me to switch over to Mail Chimp, too. Now if I could just have a full time virtual assistant, life would be great!
    Thanks so much!

    • Nagi says

      Can you prod me to remind me to do a post on how to migrate to and set up Mail Chimp?? I keep meaning to do it! I just set it up for FBC so it’s fresh in my mind :)

      • Robyn says

        I definitely will, Nagi, because I’ve tried to do it before and gave up, lol. I’ve set up a reminder on my phone to shoot you an email next week :). Thanks, again!

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