I realize there’s hundreds, if not thousands, of listicles regarding which WordPress plugins bloggers should have. For a time I seriously considered not adding to the noise but I decided to go for it because most of those give you some crazy awesome plugins – but they don’t give you the essentials, those “must-have” plugins. I honestly believe you can have these five plugins, and these five plugins only, and run a great blog. But if you are missing these five plugins? You could be in trouble.
Not sure how plugins work or what WordPress plugins are? Read this post: What are plugins and how to add them
1. Spam Blocker
I love, love WordPress but holy moly, THE SPAM. It’s a serious issue on self-hosted WordPress. I will never, ever set-up a client on a new WordPress site without a spam blocker. The cheer volume of spam can be overwhelming – both for you the blogger and your blog’s host.
The best way to combat spam is by installing a WordPress plugin that will sort through all the comments as they come in. Then, automatically put spam comments in your spam folder. Ideally, those comments would then be automatically deleted. However, with some plugins, you’ll have to go into your spam folder and delete the spam comments.
2. Cache Plugin
A cache plugin stores “lighter versions” of each blog post / page. Then when someone a reader goes to one of your blog posts, they’ll see this lighter version which takes a lot less time to load. So if having a fast loading blog is important (and it should be!) a cache plugin is a must!
Recommendations: WP Super Cache is my go-to but check with your host first. Some hosts and cache plugins don’t play nice with each other so it’s always best to check with your host’s support.
3. Limit Login Attempts
One issue that simply comes with having a website, on any platform, is that hackers will try to get in. It’s simple a (sad) fact of life online. The main way they do this, especially on WordPress, is by launching brute force attacks. The basics of it is this: hackers run a program and they try to log into your site with known default usernames. Over and over and over again, trying new passwords hoping they’ll somehow get the combination right.
So what’s the easiest way to combat these attacks? Limit login attempts. The ways these WordPress plugins work is if an user (as defined by the IP address) fails 3 (or more) attempts in a period of time, the plugin will block them from trying again. The block can last for a period of time – anywhere from 15 minutes to days to weeks.
Note: if you have a security plugin, you might be able to skip this one since they tend to include this functionality. Be sure to double check!
4. Security Plugin
There’s a hundred things to worry about when talking about WordPress security – limiting login attempts is only one of them. Things like stopping username searches, locking out IP addresses, ensuring you have a strong, secure password, blocking countries, etc are all things you can do to up your blog’s security… but unless you are a developer a lot of these tasks can sound pretty complicated. Thankfully, there are plugins out there that take care of all this for you.
Note: Always check with your host to see if they have a preferred security plugin. Some hosts will have some set security settings that can conflict with certain plugins. For example, my host doesn’t recommend having a security plugin installed such as WordFence. The reason? Everything WordFence does, my host’s security already does so having both is redundant.
5. Backup Plugin
Last, but not least make sure you’re backing up your blog – and the easiest way to do this is with a backup plugin. Truth is, no site is ever 100% safe, no host is ever 100% safe. Hacks can happen, servers can do down and be wiped out… that is not the moment you want to think “oh hey! I should back up my site”. Nope. You want to have those backups BEFORE those things happen. The beautiful thing about backup plugins is the ability to set them up to run and save backups automatically. Hear the angels sing.
Bonus – Social Share Plugin
One is not like the others! I realize everything I’ve listed up until now are pretty essential, back-of-the-house, non-flashy plugins. But if you’re a blogger, you have got to make easy for your readers to share your content.
Build it and they will come does not work in blogging. And let’s face it – you could never do all the sharing yourself, so facilitate sharing by your readers. At the very least you should have share buttons at the end of every post.