Choosing the Best Plugins for a New Wordpress Blog

Don’t want to read my thoughts and ramblings? Simply head down to the list of important plugins for a new blog right away!

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One of the first tough questions I was faced with when I started to work on the relaunch of WPscoop just a few days ago was, which plugins I should add to the brand new blog. “Which are the best and most important WordPress plugins for a new blog?” is an important question to ask yourself when building a new site but unfortunately also one without a clear answer. The WordPress plugin market has exploded in recent years and the WordPress plugin directory now lists over 20,000 of them! And searching Google for something like “top WordPress plugins” does not make the choice much easier either because many plugin toplists have now started to list the top 80, top 100 or even bigger numbers of plugins – more than would do good for any blog. This overwhelming amount and the high number of recommendations for free and easily available plugins everywhere can quickly lead into a trap: Instead of working on your new blog and producing valuable content you waste time browsing for plugins and in the end clutter your site with way too many of them!

Because of this trap it is maybe necessary to look at this question in another way first of all and ask ourselves: Are plugins actually necessary on a brand new WordPress blog? Does WordPress not include everything you need to get to work in its core already and should plugins not stay out of the picture until an actual need for them arises later on?

While those are both valid questions I would argue against them because:

  1. Some plugins help you create better content. It makes sense to install them immediately on a new blog to make use of their benefits.
  2. Some plugins improve your content or require you to provide information with each post you make. If you don’t install them in the beginning you would have to go back later and edit old posts.

In the end the keyword, as so often in life, in finding an answer for this issue is moderation. Don’t install any plugin you don’t really need on your blog and only look for plugins that solve a specific problem you actually have. Don’t make the mistake of starting to just “browse” around the WordPress plugin directory and installing everything that sounds cool or looks shiny and you will probably fine. Of course I won’t leave you hanging here with those vague ideas … read on for just a minute and we finally get to my actual plugin recommendations!

What helps me personally is to think of the huge list of plugins in categories or in solutions for a specific task. In that sense you will notice that the quality and focus of recommendations immediately improves by a lot if you search Google for “top WordPress contact form plugins” instead of just “top WordPress plugins”.

With all that out of the way I would like to present you what I think are the best plugins for a new WordPress blog. First I will list the categories of plugins which I deem important for a fresh weblog and which you should install right away and after that a few categories which (while in general being useful) don’t belong on a new site. For each category I will list my favorite plugin as well as give a few other popular alternatives. For most important purposes there is a long list of well-rated and popular plugins which all do the job equally well and often which one you want to use comes down to personal preference.

Important plugins for a new WordPress weblog:

  • A SEO plugin: While a plugin does not beat writing good and keyword-rich content it can still help you with it or provide some useful analysis on the articles you are writing. The de-facto standard plugin here, which gets the most praise is “WordPress SEO” by Yoast. And deservedly so: The huge number of settings it offers are easy to set up and well explained for non-SEO users and Yoast also has a very good SEO guide for WordPress on his site, which is a must read.  The runner up is the “All in One SEO Pack“.
  • A contact form plugin: Adding a contact form to your website right at the beginning is a good idea because if you don’t it might get forgotten later and it is just something a good site should have. I use “Custom Contact Forms” which is good and relatively simple to set up. Good alternatives are “Contact Form 7“, which is also the most popular, as well as “Contact Form“. And then there are many many more – the trick here is to just go with one, set it up and be done with it for good.
  • An anti-spam plugin: It won’t take long for the first comment spam to find your new WP weblog, so it makes sense to be prepared and get your guns ready. If your blog is a personal one and not for business you can use “Akismet” for free, which is without doubt the leader of the pack of spam prevention plugins and developed by Automattic themselves. Two worthy and free alternatives are “Growmap Anti Spam” and “Antispam Bee“.
  • A backup plugin: While losing a new site with only little content might not hurt as much as losing an established blog with lots of articles it still hurts a lot! Creating backups to restore your blog in case of an emergency is just a necessary evil which you can’t start early enough with. For the beginning I recommend the excellent and free “BackWPup” plugin, which will offer you lots of options including what to backup, where to save the backup (e.g. to your Dropbox account) and when to backup automatically. I am not aware of any good free alternatives in this category but there are lots of premium backup plugins on offer (including my CMS Commander).
  • An analytics plugin: Even if your new site has no traffic yet starting to collect traffic and visitor data right away is important and since setting up an analytics plugin is not much work it is definitely worth it. Which plugin you install depends on the Analytics software of your choice as well. Since I use Google Analytics I chose the popular “Google Analytics for WordPress” plugin by Yoast. Yoast has a good plugin for Clicky web analytics as well and for Piwik there is WP-Piwik.
  • A social bookmarking plugin: Whether it is worth to include a plugin that adds social bookmarking buttons to a new site is debatable and having all those “0 likes” next to your posts at first can be a bit embarrassing but since it is the latest craze you will probably want one anyway and since they are very easy to set up why not? My personal favorite social bookmarking plugins is “Digg Digg“, which adds the buttons as a cool floating bar next to your posts. “Sharebar” is an alternative which uses the same floating bar and then there are lots of other choices to add the buttons below your posts instead, for example  “Shareaholic“.

Unnecessary plugins for a new WordPress weblog:

  • A caching plugin: Is generally only necessary once your site gets really popular and you have problems with your server reaching its capabilities. Especially since caching plugins are known to cause problems with other plugins I would not install one until you absolutely need to (and then choose “Quick Cache“).
  • A related posts plugin: You won’t have too many posts at this point when you are starting a new weblog, so there is simply nothing a related posts plugin could display yet. Once you were busy and wrote a lot of articles “nrelate” would be the related posts plugin of my choice.
  • Sliders and other design gimmicks: There are lots of plugins which add cool effects or animations to your site but ask yourself, do you really need them? Often your WordPress theme will already include options for a slider and installing several jQuery-heavy plugins can often cause compatibility or load issues.

I hope the list of the best WordPress plugins for a new weblog was of use to you and could help you with your choices. In general my guideline is that 10 plugins should be the maximum for a new WordPress weblog. Finally, I would love to hear your opinion in the comments! Do you disagree with a plugin I chose in my list or do you have another plugin that should not be missing on a new WordPress blog? Let me know!

To conclude the article I would like to answer one more question about premium plugins, which I have ignored until now in this post:

Many plugins photo

Should I look for premium plugins to install on my new WordPress weblog?

In my opinion that is not necessary. Premium plugins are great ( I should know, I write them) but you can’t simply yet know which ones you will need with a new weblog and might end up wasting lots of money. For almost all premium plugins there exists at least one free plugin that does the same thing, which you can use in the beginning. After a few weeks or months of writing your blog you will then realize which free plugins fall short of your expectations and in which areas it can make sense for you to look for a premium solution.


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About Thomas Höfter

I am a WordPress plugin developer from Germany. Some might know me from my WP Robot plugin or one of my free plugins but most don't know me at all. To change that you can write me a message or find me on Google+.

1 Comment

  1. Hi,
    I have been working on moving an Amazon autobloging site to the Stallion theme which has very good SEO qualities but not too good presentation facilities for autobloging sales. Can you recommend an excerpt plugin suitable fro Amazon posts?

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