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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
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.
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.
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 up. AND 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
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
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.
8. 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:
- Widgets for the sidebar – like images and social media (e.g. recent tweets), and your profile;
- Setting Notifications for comments I receive; and
- 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.
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.
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?