It can be a daunting but exciting prospect when you decide to take the plunge and begin the journey of starting a blog or site for the first time. There are many little helping hands out there to make the experience better, safer and quicker. Here is a handpicked bunch of plugins we’ve researched to get you started:
1. GOOGLE XML SITEMAPS
As a budding new kid on the block you’ll want to be working hard on getting the word spread about what you’ve got to say. You can make your life easier by using this plugin. Google XML Sitemaps generates a special XML sitemap to help search engines (e.g. Bing, Yahoo, Google, Ask etc.) to index your blog for the better.
It allows for the crawlers (those auto bots browsing the web to index it) to gain a better insight on the structure of your site in its entirety and thus allowing it to retrieve information for the better.
Google XML SiteMaps is free, and accepts donations for continued support via PayPal.
2. ALL IN ONE SEO PACK
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a must to give your new blog the best chance of expanding its reader base. It also supports the XML Sitemap support (previously described here) as well as Google Analytics. It’s the only plugin to support SEO integration for ecommerce WordPress sites, so if you intend to have an online shop presence this could quickly become useful.
You can upgrade from free to pro version for additional support and features, including a feature manager that gives you control over what appears in search engine results. It covers custom post type options and comes with additional control for categories and tags.
All in One SEO Pack comes in both standard and premium additions.
3. WORDFENCE SECURITY
As a new blog looking to grow you need to ensure you are adequately protected from all the bad guys out to get you on the World Wide Web. This plugin starts straight away by checking if you already have an infection. The developers claim that it will also improve your site’s speed by up to 50 times.
Open sourced and free to download, you have the option to upgrade to a premium API key that offers you direct support, scheduled scans, country blocking and password auditing.
Wordfence Security is free and premium subscriptions start from $3 a month.
You’ll no doubt want to start getting into more depth when it comes to customising your blog as soon as you get the hang of maintaining it. This plugin offers the “wp_pagenavi() template tag”, producing decorative pagination links.
The plugin changes out default WordPress pagination with more functional and customization-rich options that includes next and previous links and page numbers. Feel free to set a drop-down menu (via settings) or customize the text of your pagination per component.
WP-PageNavi is available for free and the developers accept donations through PayPal.
5. WP SUPER CACHE
This plugin is all about giving your readers a great experience and maximizing the chance they’ll return for more. It’s no good having a super flashy site with great content if it runs like an arthritic snail. Super Cache works by generating static HTML files from your blog and delivering a lighter, less expensive experience to all visitors who are not logged in, or left a comment on your blog.
Logged-in users still benefit by seeing a different cached file which will be faster than the relatively more heavy un-cached PHP scripts.
WP Super Cache is free to use
This plugin has a little bit of all sorts for you to take advantage of, all accessible via the centralised dashboard management; and with it being open source you can jump in and get support from an active community or start contributing yourself. Traffic growth and insights inform you of how many visits your site gets and actively helps to get more traffic using publicise, sharing, enhanced distribution and related post tools.
It reduces hosting costs by cutting down on bandwidth, as the plugin automatically optimises images. Basic security is featured, protecting you against unauthorised logins and brute force attacks.
Jetpack is open source and free to download.
7. ADVANCED CUSTOM FIELDS
For those that have got to grips with a new blog and want more flexibility, you can take better advantage of custom field data and edit screens using this plugin. After installation, you’ll be able to create a field group, add your own fields and then define the location rules. You’ll have then created your own fields that are ready for data.
Field types can be chosen from over 20 users submitted, premium, and free, making your custom data management better and easier for you to get what you want out of your blog.
Advanced Custom Fields is free to download.
When doing your WordPress research you might have come across this name once or twice. It is one of the most popular ecommerce plugins available for free installation on the market. It’s an online shopping cart solution that gives you complete control to begin an online store selling from your own blog, turning a hobby into a money making business.
It gives you the flexibility to sell pretty much anything (subscriptions or physical products, for example) and choose where you ship to and for how much. It also supports various payment methods (from PayPal to cash on delivery) and best of all, data is regularly audited and kept secure by industry leaders.
WooCommerce can be downloaded for free.
9. CONTACT FORM 7
If you intend to be in contact with readers of your blog then Contact Form 7 is a very popular solution. Its tagline is “just another contact form” but its understated marketing is deceptive. Its simple layout is very flexible, supporting Ajax-powered submitting and will be able to be modified by you using simple mark up.
It will be able to manage multiple forms, which can be customized to suit your needs (e.g. a subscription email or perhaps an inquiry form from a reader). It supports many other plugins such as Akismet spam filtering and CAPTCHA.
Contact form 7 is free to install.
If you have not already got something like Akismet installed, you’ll quickly see the benefits once you do. Akismet functions by checking any user comment at the end of blog posts and determines whether they look like spam or not. You’ll then be able to review via the admin screen anything it catches to give the final say on whether you think the comment is acceptable or indeed spam.
There is also a discard feature that will block the most obvious spam, speeding up the site and saving you disc space. Approving comments will quickly mean your blog stays spam-free.
Akismet is free for personal blogs, and paid subscriptions are available for commercial use.
11. NEXTGEN GALLERY
If you know your site is going to feature image heavy content, then you’ll no doubt be researching plugins to make uploading and managing as easy as possible. This plugin is one of the more popular in use to date, providing an engine that can batch upload, manage and edit images and thumbnails as well as import the metadata to go along with them.
It has two display styles that themselves come with lots of choice for presentation. Transitions, timing for fades and lightbox effects are available to name a few.
NextGEN Gallery has both free and premium pro options for installation.
If you’d like to see a detailed review of NextGen gallery – CollectiveRay has created a thorough article comparing all of the different aspects of it, including pros and cons, how to use it and pricing, if you get the pro version.
12. DUPLICATE POST
This plugin does what it says on the tin. It gives you the opportunity to clone a post or page with just one click, speeding up your blog production time considerably. The “template” tag can be used to clone pages from the front end, and using this function creates a new template draft ready for you to edit.
You can choose what to copy, and also have the choice to set suffix/prefix on the title of the clone. Translations are available for this plugin, and the developer is looking to further expand on this from community contributions.
Duplicate Post is free to install.
13. DISABLE COMMENTS
This is a useful global function that gives admins the option to disable comments for any post type, which will not be superseded for individual posts. Comment-related fields will be removed from edit as well as quick edit screens. Any sort of comment-related facility can be removed from the dashboard and admin menus.
This is really useful if you just don’t want the option to have readers commenting on your site at all, and if you want to contribute the GutHub repository is open source for development.
Disable Comments is free to download.
14. ITHEMES SECURITY
With thousands of blogs being hacked each day, you want to weigh up your security options. iThemes is a popular solution, giving you plenty of ways to protect and secure your WordPress site. It works to stop automated attacks, strengthen the site and fix common vulnerabilities with WordPress blogs.
Whilst the standard plugin is free to use, there is an option to go pro. With the premium subscription you’ll take your support to the next level, tracking user actions, deepen authentication and schedule planned scans for malware to name a few things.
IThemes Security has both standard and premium packages available.
15. GOOGLE ANALYTICS DASHBOARD
Love them or loathe them, analytics are a vital source of information for you to grow your blog. You’ll see exactly what’s popular and what could be improved. This plugin allows you to track your analytics in real time from the dashboard with the latest Google tracking tech, and gives you the opportunity to see key reports.
Break the information down further with the in depth page and post reports, segmenting data bit by bit. Customise what you want to see by adding your own hooks and options.
Google Analytics Dashboard is free for downloading.
16. PAGE BUILDER
Page Builder is a fantastic solution for first time bloggers and site creators. If you have yet to begin the journey of site building, or you’re struggling to get to grips with it, then research into this plugin. It’s developed for people that don’t have coding experience, and the content creation is put together by using a simple but efficient “drag and drop” method.
There’s still tonnes of flexibility with how you want you site to look and how you need it to work, because it will work alongside any WordPress theme you choose. The content will come along with you to any theme.
Page Builder is free for standard use .
17. META SLIDER
This is a really handy and popular plugin for creating slideshows on your homepage. You can use the slider by selecting the images from your WordPress Media Library (just drag and drop into place) and then set any captions, SEO and links all from the same page. You are then free to embed the slideshow into your blog with the shortcode provided.
There are 4 to choose from, which include the Coin Slider, Responsive Slider, Nivo Slider and Flex Slider. Each has its own functionality and perks.
Meta Slider is free for basic download, and there is a paid pro support option.
You’ll want peace of mind that your site is backed up and can be restored should the worst happen. This plugin simplifies the process, giving you chance to back up to the cloud of your choice. Restoration is then made easy with just one click. You can organise separate schedules for backups, and if you go premium you’ll have even more choice on which cloud to use.
If you find yourself with a growing site, larger files can be split into multiple archives, and you can choose which files to upload if you don’t want to do everything.
UpdraftPlus can be downloaded for free, and the premium choice starts at £54.
If you have an existing blog and you think you want to migrate pages from an old website to your new one, or the WordPress installation directory is changing, then this will be a good plugin for you. It successfully manages 301 redirections and it will also track any 404 errors. It’s useful for cleaning up any loose ends your site could have.
It is fully translated in many different languages, and you can manage redirections depending on login status, per page or indeed based on the original referral.
Redirection is free to install.
20. BREADCRUMB NAVXT
Just like the fairy tale, where Gretel uses breadcrumbs to remember her path, this plugin means a better user experience for site navigation. For sites that have lots of pages, breadcrumbs reduce the amount of actions the blog reader needs to make, and ultimately improves the find-ability.
The breadcrumb trails in this plugin are customisable to best fit your outfit. You’ll be able to see the location of a user in the websites hierarchy, adding context to analytics and landing pages.
Breadcrumb NavXT is free to download.
With information being viewed from mobiles and tablets as much as desktops, sites have become responsive to screen size, and scale and shape to attractively fit accordingly. With the WPtouch plugin, this will take your site one step further and make it proactive in its design for mobile device viewing.
Adding an elegant but simple interface instantly to your blog, it will not only make your site a better user experience but it will ensure it will pass the Google Mobile test and make it so SEO rankings stay high.
WPtouch is free and can be upgraded for further support and features starting at $29.
22. WP MAINTENANCE MODE
Add a bit of drama and anticipation to your new blog, building excitement to the launch arrival day with a “coming soon” page. Whilst you work on your sites launch, this sort of touch to detail adds professionalism and means you can still begin to advertise your blog without the fear that visitors will search for it and find it doesn’t exist.
You can also use this page to inform visitors that your site is down for maintenance once the site is in full swing. You’ll be able to add a countdown timer or insert a value on to the page to aid visitor information.
WP Maintenance Mode is free to download.
23. USER ROLE EDITOR
Perhaps you have a video game blog, or own an aspiring baby products review blog? Do you think you’ll have a few people writing posts? With this plugin you can change the user role easily, checking the boxes for the capabilities you want each user to have.
You can add new roles to the existing rostrum, with its own custom capabilities, alternatively you can add multiple roles to one user. If capabilities become redundant you can remove outdated roles very easily too, keeping your blog role plugin relevant.
User Role Editor is free to download.
24. THE EVENTS CALENDAR
If you are starting up a blog that could be monitoring regular events, or indeed you need to schedule one off events for visitors to browse through, then the Events Calendar plugin is a really popular choice for this sort of functionality.
You will be able to create and manage a visual calendar, and if you were wanting to add additional functionality to this calendar (perhaps selling tickets for events, for example?) there are a lot of extras supported to add on to boost the plugin further.
Events Calendar is free for standard and has a premium support upgrade for $89.
25. SITEORIGIN WIDGET BUNDLE
This happy little bundle is a great addition to boost functionality of your site all from one place. You can pick and choose what you would benefit from, and customise accordingly.
For newcomers starting a blog that needs to provide a location (perhaps a new yoga business for example?) you’ll be able to take advantage of the Google Maps Widget found here. There’s over 10 widgets to use, from playing videos to social links, to price tables for different subscription services.
SiteOrigin Widget Bundle is free for downloading.
In this day and age you’ll know how important social media is for spreading the word and getting visitors to market on your behalf via “sharing”. This plugin gives people the opportunity to share your posts and pages to various popular social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Tumblr, LinkedIn etc.
There are a few options to pick from when using this plugin, such as counters and floating share buttons. There are over 100 services to choose from so you’ll be maximising the chance to promote your blog.
AddToAny is free to install.
Disqus (“Discuss”) is a widely used service that many of your readers will already be signed up for. It allows people to log in to their Disqus user account and comment on your blog using their existing details. This means you’ll be able to tap into a better user experience whilst hooking up to an active discussion community.
Using the Disqus API the plugin will replace the WordPress comments, and comments will become index-able for Search Engines, existing comments can be imported, and backed up using the auto sync feature.
Disqus is free to use.
28. COOKIE LAW INFO
If you’ve visited the internet in the last decade you’ll have seen an increasing focus on what information you need to provide to visitors to your site. Make sure you’re up to date with best practices when it comes to the law with this simple but effective plugin.
A subtle banner can be customised in a way you want to demonstrate your compliance with the law, and you’ll also be able to list the cookies your site uses using the Cookie Audit module. You can choose whether the banner disappears or whether it has to be clicked to be dismissed.
Cookie Law Info can be downloaded for free.
29. HIDE MY WP
As previously touched on here, WordPress can be a beacon of opportunity for cyber-attacks and spam, despite it being a secure content management system. If you hide the fact you are using WordPress you could cut down the potential for attacks further.
This plugin alters your permalinks without changing locations of files, and is a general security plugin all round. It controls the access to PHP files and hides files from hackers such as readme.html files.
Hide My WP is a premium plugin priced at $23.
30. PINPOINT BOOKING SYSTEM
If you are aiming to have a blog that gives you the full functionality of a booking form online presence, you’ll want to invest in a plugin that is going to give you efficient functionality and an easy to use interface.
This plugin displays calendars, and gives access to visitors to see availability and book or reserve online directly through your blog. It works well with other plugins so you can turn the booking into an all-inclusive shopping experience. Users can reserve and pay for what they have booked by incorporating plugins like WooCommerce.
Pinpoint is a premium plugin priced at $50.
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