If you are setting up your first WordPress site then congratulations on choosing this platform for building and managing your website. WordPress can be very easy to use, but it can also be quite overwhelming when first viewing the admin dashboard and seeing all the different functions that this tool can handle.
To help you get your site up and running as quickly as possible, this list of essential plugins for WordPress will help you easily add to the core functionality of WordPress. Most sites will end up using many more plugins than this. However, this list takes care of the basics and helps ensure your site is ready to go and correctly setup, allowing you to focus on the early stages of establishing your site.
Essential WordPress Plugins
These are the first WordPress plugins you should install on a new site. I actually use a few more than this each time I setup a new WordPress site, but this list covers the basic needs of any type of site. For a follow-up, browse our plugin reviews section to find the best options for enhancing WordPress to match your specific needs.
Akismet – Anti-Spam Plugin
Even if your blog is new, there is a high chance it will still attract spam comments. This can quickly snowball leaving you with hundreds of fake comments to review and delete every day. By using the free Akismet plugin, you can let this tool filter the comments that are left on your blog and delete and fraudulent ones.
This plugin is now installed as part of WordPress by default, but it still needs to be activated, which involves creating a new API key. So when you see this anti-spam plugin on your list, make sure you activate it as it will save you a lot of time in the future.
For extra comment spam protection the very simple but effective Growmap Anti Spambot plugin should also be installed.
Adding a contact form to a website has never been easier than with this free plugin. Contact Form 7 allows you to instantly insert a working contact form into your posts and pages by simply pasting in a shortcode. Any messages sent using the forms will be delivered to the email address in your user profile in WordPress. This means the forms don’t require any configuration before they can be used.
However, the forms can be edited, to include different fields, layouts and recipient addresses if necessary. Contact Form 7 is a simple but effective plugin that allows your readers to send you messages without you having to do anything apart from entering a few words on a page.
Making it easy for your readers to share your blog posts with their friends and networks on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is a great way to quickly get free exposure for your blog. As this is such a vital feature to have on any website, there are countless social sharing plugins for WordPress. However, our pick of the bunch is the Digg Digg floating share bar plugin.
This plugin adds a customisable list of social sharing buttons to each post on your blog. The share bar floats as the reader scrolls down the page. At any point should they decide to share the blog post, the buttons are right there.
Search Engine Optimisation
Many books have been written on SEO, with entire careers dedicated to mastering it. There is much you can do to optimise your site for the search engines, in order to get better rankings and more traffic. However, the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast allows you to quickly take care of the basics and ensure that your site is setup correctly to give it a good chance of being well placed by Google.
Of course the plugin has many more advanced features, but simply by installing it and filling in the ‘meta description’ field each time you write a new post, you can do your bit to help Google make sense of your content and rank it appropriately.
Another top SEO related plugin is Google XML Sitemaps which auto-generates a sitemap for your website in order to help the search engines index your blog and understand its structure.
A slow site can have drastic effects on your visitor retention and even how search engines such as Google evaluate it. An unnecessary extra second of load time can make the difference between a user leaving before your content is displayed and the chance to turn a onetime visitor into a lifelong subscriber.
To quickly help speed up your site, a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache is a great choice. Read our guide to find out more about caching your WordPress site to improve performance and setting up this plugin to best improve your site’s load times.
While Google Analytics offers superior functionality and tracking data, the StatPress plugin gets the nod as the essential visitor statistics plugin to install. This is because it is very easy to setup. Simply install and activate StatPress and you can begin seeing who is visiting your site in real-time, right from within your WordPress dashboard.
For a new site, this plugin is all you need to quickly begin discovering if anyone is visiting your site, how they found the site and what pages they are viewing.
For more detailed analytics and tracking data, Google Analytics is the best option. Once you’ve created an account with the search behemoth’s tracking service, you can then integrate it with your WordPress site using the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin and the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin. The latter plugin allows you to view your stats from within your WordPress admin area, without the need to log into the Google service.
While Google Analytics is the best choice long term, quickly uploading StatPress as part of your essential plugin pack allows you to begin tracking your visitors without having to sign up with any third parties. For a no hassle-solution, StatPress is a good option.
One of the reasons for the continuing success of WordPress is the sheer amount of plugins that are available for the platform. With so many to choose from it can be hard to make the right choices for your site, without overloading it and installing anything and everything that catches your eye.
While the purpose of your site will largely define which plugins it will require, from eCommerce plugins to image galleries, the addons on this list should help you get your site setup quickly and easily. These essential WordPress plugins bring enough functionality to help you get started with creating the killer content a new site needs, without having to worry about which addons to install and whether your site is best optimised for getting ranked well by the search engines as well as being able to fend off the inevitable deluge of comment spam that is heading your way.
Let us know what other WordPress plugins you deem essential and what’s on your list of plugins to be installed when creating a new website in the comments below.