My Favorite WordPress Plugins for Your Blogging Level

This article was originally published on the Shay Bocks Design Co. blog. Click here to see the original and access bonus content with it.

I love WordPress plugins. They’re an effective and simple way to increase the functionality of your site and take your blog to the next level.

But having lots of plugins can also affect your site’s speed and usability. How can you tell which ones to use and which ones to skip?

When it comes to plugins, sometimes that age-old advice of “less is more” actually holds some water. So, be selective about the ones you install, and resist that urge to load your blog up with every option under the sun.

I’ve curated this list of recommendations to get you started, no matter what your experience level with blogging. Everyone has slightly different plugin needs, so pick ones that offer distinct value to your site: you know your blog best!

Want to determine whether or not that plugin is a good fit for your blog? Use this worksheet!

Beginning Blogger

Photograph 069 by Ashley Schweitzer found on minimography.com

You’re just getting started with your blog, but that doesn’t mean you want it to look like you’re a newbie. Not only are you searching for ways to grow your audience and reach new readers, but you’d also like to up the functionality and presentation of your site.

Akismet

Responding to comments is a great way to engage with your readers. But nobody wants to waste time replying to a robot. This plugin automatically checks your comments for spam and deletes it.

Ninja Forms

You want your readers to be able to get in touch with you. Nothing makes that easier than a simple contact form on your blog. With a user-friendly drag and drop interface, this plugin makes creating any type of form a breeze — even if you’re a complete novice!

Meal Planner Pro

If you’re a food blogger, the meat and potatoes of your blog (see what I did there?) is your recipes. Use this plugin so readers can save them, create shopping lists, and add your dish to their meal plan.

Genesis Enews Extended

When you’re just getting started with your blog, collecting emails might seem unnecessary. But I recommend building your email list from the get-go! Whether you want to use MailChimp or Constant Contact, this plugin adds mailing list integration to your Genesis website.

Genesis Simple Share

As a blogger, social media is your best friend. If you want your posts to develop a life of their own on social, make it easy for readers to share your content by using this plugin to enable blog post share buttons.

WP FeatherLight

Improve the aesthetic of your blog by showcasing your gorgeous photography with a lightbox, which fills the screen with your images and dims the background. Sound complicated? This plugin makes it a breeze!

Experienced Blogger

Photograph 068 by Ashley Schweitzer found on minimography.com

You’ve been blogging for a while. Along the way, you’ve learned that you’re never truly done learning. Even with some experience, you’re always looking for ways to take things up a notch!

Google Analyticator

You’re eager to stay up-to-date on what’s resonating with your audience, but sometimes you forget to check your analytics. No more! This plugin displays Google Analytics and real-time statistics right inside WordPress.

Tweet This

Highlighting a key quote or two from your post is a simple and effective way to engage your readers. Use this plugin to create a stylish content box that inspires readers to share your insights on Twitter!

Yoast SEO Premium

You know optimizing your posts is important, but you’re not an SEO expert. Consider this plugin your SEO partner. With pre-determined fields for you to fill in, Yoast makes it easy to ensure your posts are as searchable as possible.

CoSchedule

You already know I’m a huge advocate for creating an editorial calendar for your blog. Using this plugin, you can schedule your blog posts and corresponding social media posts. It’s a one-stop-shop for blog publishing!

Jetpack

This plugin helps you manage a ton of different aspects of your WordPress site, including traffic and security. My favorite piece is the simple stats feature, but there are a few modules that I think are unnecessary. Luckily, you can disable those.

Imsanity

Say goodbye to uploading huge image files that slow your site down. This plugin automatically resizes those giant images to a size that’s more reasonable for display in browsers.

Blogging as a Business

Your blog is your main source of income, or at least some decent side cash. You’re looking to improve its design and functionality for readers and for tools and plugins that make blog management easier.

Email Marketing by Drip

Whether you want to build your email list or offer an e-course to subscribers, Drip is what you need. This plugin makes your life even easier with one-click installation!

Simmer

With a drag-and-drop interface, this plugin makes publishing recipes a breeze. Plus, with spaces for ingredients, step-by-step instructions, and structured cook times, your readers are sure to appreciate how simple it is to reference your recipes with Simmer.

Postman SMTP

If you’re sending emails directly from your website — automated notifications, for example — you’ll want this plugin. It allows you to easily send, log, and troubleshoot your outgoing mail.

WP Rocket

As a large, established blog, additional caching is something you might consider to speed up your site. Caching is already included in many managed hosting services. But if you’re looking for something more, this plugin guarantees extra-fast load times.

Official Gumroad WordPress Plugin

If you’re selling products on your site, this plugin is right up your alley. It allows you to embed or overlay your Gumroad purchase pages — meaning purchases happen directly on your site.

Is that plugin really a good fit for your blog? Use this worksheet to find out!

Final Thoughts

There you have it! My favorite WordPress plugins for each stage of your blogging career.

Carefully evaluate every plugin you install, and consider a quarterly evaluation of them to ensure they’re under control. Yes, plugins are fun — and it’s easy to think that more is better. But an excessive number of plugins will bloat your site and increase its load time.

Pick the ones that best fit your goals and needs, and you’re sure to take your blog up a notch!

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