What you are going to learn in this section
Learning Level: Beginner
In this section, you are going to learn the essential WordPress plugins that you need to install with your WordPress to boost or power up your website. It assumes that WordPress is already installed on your site, technically in the web server that hosts your website. Some of these plugins are indispensable especially those that protect your site. Some plugins are optional but may be essential depending on what type of website you have.
If you are a beginner, you will be overwhelmed by the thousands of plugins available for WordPress, that in the end you clutch your head with choice-fatigue. Lucky for you now, you will be stress-free because I am going to explain here the some of the essential plugins that you need to install right after installing WordPress, or later as needed. This will save you plenty of time deciding which plugins are best for your website because you will skip the tedious and time-consuming process of plugin research and tests.
The plugins are labeled with the following categories: most essential, optional, and advanced.
Power: Website Strength
Akismet is an anti-spam WordPress plugin for your website. It comes pre-installed upon installing WordPress. All you have to do is activate it.
You must hate spams. You do not want your website to be spawned by hundreds of comments that are not related to your content; instead try to sell their products or services, or invite you to visit their websites. Even if you tick your WordPress settings to moderate comments, your dashboard will be flooded with spammy-comments that are awaiting your approval. So, what do you do? You need an anti-spam plugin on the defense, that before any spam hits your site, this plugin is on the front to defend you.
WordPress says, Akismet is
…used by millions, [and] … is quite possibly the best way in the world to protect your blog from comment and trackback spam. It keeps your site protected from spam even while you sleep.
This is true. Akismet is an indispensable plugin.
To activate Akismet, you need an API key, which will be given to you upon signing up for Akismet. You can get one key for your personal site. Keep this key written on your notebook because you will be needing this each time you activate Akismet. You enter the API key on the Akismet configuration page of your WordPress admin dashboard, which becomes visible after you have clicked Activate. If you already have your key, you may enter it manually. If not, WordPress will do it for you automatically after you have signed up.
Akismet is an advanced hosted anti-spam service aimed at thwarting the underbelly of the web. It efficiently processes and analyzes masses of data from millions of sites and communities in real time. To fight the latest and dirtiest tactics embraced by the world’s most proficient spammers, it learns and evolves every single second of every single day. Because you have better things to do. ~ Akismet.com
WordPress sites are attacked by hackers worldwide more than 19000 times per minute. You can view a map and a graph of real-time attacks on wordfence.com.
Wordfence Security is one of the recommended plugins you will find in the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard. In case, you do not find it quickly, on the plugins dashboard, search for ‘wordfence’ without quotes.
Wordfence Security is available free. The premium (paid) version of this WordPress plugin has more features like country blocking.
Wordfence is the Leading Cyber Security solution for WordPress. We provide a Complete Anti-Virus and Firewall Package for your WordPress Website including Two Factor Authentication, a Firewall incorporating Machine Learning and Tools to help Recover from a Hack.” — Wordfence.com
With too many WordPress plugins, complicated PHP codes, and heavy images that you upload on your site, your site may not upload fast. If in 10 seconds your viewer does not see anything worth reading or watching, he will leave your site and try another site. You wouldn’t want that to happen. So, to keep your website running fast, your site needs a plugin that does just that. And that is, WP Super Cache.
WP Super Cache is a very fast caching engine that produces static html files on demand, or something of that sort. Meaning, there are cases, depending on user’s interaction with your site, like writing comments, when your site needs to run the PHP scripts rather than just showing a static version.
For more info, go to wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/.
Power: Ease of Use
TinyMCE Advanced is a visual editor, something like your Word or OpenOffice Writer word processor that has editing toolbars to help you customize your text with regard to the type of font, size of font, alignment, etc. A webpage is constructed with HTML codes called <i>tags</i>. Each element is specific to its use. For example, there are 6 types of headings. When writing a numbered list, you use the right code for that. A link, i.e. hyperlink, requires a specific HTML tag in order for the link to work. So, if you are not familiar with HTML, then TinyMCE Advanced is going to help you compose your content without even having to know a single HTML code.
WordPress is built in with the basic HTML editing toolbar. TinyMCE Advanced extends and enhances that facility so that you can further control how your post or article is going to look like in the front-end, i.e. what your website looks like on the World Wide Web. For further reading about the features of this plugin, read it on its plugin page on WordPress.
TinyMCE Advanced is essential for beginners; optional for advanced users.
Jetpack is a handy all-in-one WordPress plugin. Instead of installing, say 20 plugins which may not be compatible with each other, install Jetpack instead. Jetpack has more than 30 plugins housed in a single plugin. All you have to do, after installing Jetpack, is to activate the features that you need. Some of its features that I find very useful are:
- Customizing CSS
- Installing and changing the favicon the quick and easy way
- Display carousels, i.e. full-screen slideshows
- Display tiled galleries instead of just the boring grid arrangement
- Auto-publish your posts on social media sites (very useful)
- Display sharing buttons
- Create contact forms
- Display related posts
Jetpack, however, is simple but complicated as a whole. What is annoying about it is the protection plugin. If it is on, it can block your own ISP that you yourself cannot login to your own website. To prevent this to happen, you must set your ISPs as an exception. Your computer uses a range of ISPs. You must know them beforehand. You must also know the ISP assigned to you by your Internet provider. I suggest that you do not turn this on because it is a bit of a hustle unblocking your own ISP.
To use Jetpack for your site, install it then sign up for WordPress.com to integrate the two. Then, activate the features that you need. Complete list of features is on jetpack.me.
WordPress SEO by Yoast Versus All in One SEO Pack
SEO means Search Engine Optimization. When you talk about SEO, it means that you do things to make your website rank on the first page of search engine results. For example, if someone searches for “love the second time around”, your site, if it is about love, should be the first on the list on the first page, or at least, in the top 10. The SEO WordPress plugins guide you on how you can do this technically. Technically, I say, because the other side of it is your own effort to promote your site.
You have 2 choices for this type of plugin. You can pick one.
Both plugins are good, popular, and well-recommended. What makes All-In-One SEO Pack different from WordPress SEO by Yoast is that the former provides SEO integration for e-commerce sites. If you prefer the Yoast version, you can install a separate plugin, also by Yoast, that integrates SEO for e-commerce sites. On the other hand, what makes WordPress SEO by Yoast more useful is that it pinpoints where you lack the SEO factors, then suggests on how you are going to improve your post or page.
For beginners, I would recommend All In One SEO Pack because of its simplicity. If you want to go deeper and wish to fully understand the techniques behind SEO, SEO by Yoast is what you need.
Simple Custom CSS allows you to change the plugin and theme default styles of your website without creating a child theme. However, some themes prevent you to overwrite certain CSS elements. In such case, you may need to use the theme’s own custom CSS, if provided; or create a child theme. Simple Custom CSS is a WordPress plugin that adds the styles to the head section of your web page.
For beginners, CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. It is where you write ‘codes’ to style the elements of your website. To style means to set the attributes of your website’s elements. Elements refer to HTML tags, text, images, and containers. Attributes basically refer to an elements type, size, position, color, among others.
You can learn how to use CSS on Codecademy.
OK. That’s it. If there are more WordPress plugins that I find useful for WordPress sites, I will add them to the list.