Content creation is at an all-time high, thanks to the opportunities brought forth by modern technology. There are many ways to build and grow your career in this field – from social media to blogging. The latter has become quite common, with many people building websites to express their views, sell products, and connect with prospective customers.
Despite its popularity, starting a blog and learning how to manage it properly can be more challenging than it seems at first. Many go into it thinking they’ll just get themselves a hosting provider and create content, but soon enough, they realize there’s constantly something to do – updating, optimizing, troubleshooting, fixing minor and major bugs, etc. Not to mention all the necessary design improvements for the sake of aesthetics.
For your blog to meet the expected performance levels, you’ll need to ‘plug in’ necessary pieces of software called plugins. They can either extend existing functionality or introduce new functionalities to your site, making it more user-friendly.
But before we actually get into our recommendations, we’ll give you some advice on what to look for in a plugin to make sure it’ll work for you.
What to Pay Attention to When Browsing for Plugins?
Plugins are among the main features that determine the performance of any WordPress blog. As such, it’s imperative that you find the ones that not only meet your needs but also enhance the experience of your audience. Doing so will significantly improve the Lighthouse performance score. That said, here are some important factors to consider when choosing a plugin:
Most official sites offer at least a handful of screenshots. If you’re unsure whether or not a plugin is for you, study a few of them to get an idea of the interface and see if you can work with it.
This one goes without saying, but every time you consider downloading a plugin, take a look at the user reviews.
Take the overall rating into account and read a few reviews listed in the review section. This way, you’ll know what the overall user experience is like.
Cost – Free vs. Premium
There are plenty of free and paid-for plugins out there, but the most common kind is “freemium”. A plugin’s core version might be free, but in order to get all of its features, an upgrade to a premium version is necessary. This kind of plugin can be a perfect solution for beginners as you can start out using the free version and opt for the premium one later on if you think you need it.
Support and FAQs
Support is an important aspect of any WP plugin. Take a look at the kind of support each plugin offers, so you know someone is going to assist you if you happen to run into any problem.
“FAQs” is also a good section to check out. Sometimes when you first install a new plugin and are unsure how to navigate it, you might think it’s not working right. If you have a common issue, it’ll most likely be listed there, and your issue can be solved. Plus, if there are some real bugs but the developers respond and inform users that they’re fixing the bugs, you know it’s an active plugin that’s constantly being updated and improved.
Useful Plugins & Tools to Manage and Grow Your WordPress Blog
Now that we got the basics out of the way let’s get straight into our recommendations.
1. WP Reset
WP Reset is an extremely useful plugin designed for non-devs that like to tinker with their site. And let’s face it, if your site still looks the same as when you first launched it, it might need some work.
Well, as you probably already know, installing new plugins or updating old ones might cause all hell to break loose and make your site very buggy.
That’s why this plugin is perfect to have on hand for redesigns and upgrades. If you install or update something and it doesn’t work, all you have to do is click a button, and your blog is restored to its previous functional state. Handy right?
Other notable features:
- Automatic Snapshots – creates automatic database snapshots before any significant changes are made
- Nuclear Reset – resets everything to its original state with a single click
- One-Click Install – bulk install your plugins either after resetting an existing site or when creating a new one
2. WP 301 Redirects
While we’re on the topic of updates and redesign, let us introduce you to WP 301 Redirects. When you’re in the process of improving a website, you might move content to another URL, and when that happens, you don’t want to lose your SEO.
If you move a piece of content, people will still get your original URL in their searches, only to find out there’s nothing there. This will damage both the user experience and your ranking because Google doesn’t like broken links. That’s precisely the problem this plugin will help you evade.
Instead of being faced with dreadful 404 pages, your visitors will be automatically redirected to the page they wanted to see in the first place.
Other notable features:
- Complete Redirects Control – whether it be a changed URL or outgoing affiliate links, you can handle them with ease
- Monitors Changed URLs – automatically creates a redirect rule whenever a URL is changed
- Built-In Charts – monitor all the information you need to know without having to install another plugin
3. Coming Soon/Under Construction Page Plugins
These are relatively similar in what they do and how they can help you, which is why we’ve decided to list them as one entry. But we’ll still give you a quick run-down of each so you can decide which plugin you like better once you’re a tad more informed.
Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode
This is a rather well-rounded plugin that pretty much any site these days requires. The Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode plugin will help you with creating gorgeous coming soon pages. Sticking with the same theme of upgrading your site, when you want to launch something new and simultaneously raise a bit of hype about it, always create a coming soon page.
We choose this plugin above all others because it comes with over 2 million stock images and 170+ themes. So, no matter the kind of site you own, you’re bound to find what works for you with this plugin.
It also allows you to customize virtually anything (logo, colors, texts, etc.), comes with a grade A SEO setup, and gives you the ability to collect email addresses straight from the coming soon page.
UnderConstructionPage is similar to the above-mentioned plugin in that its primary purpose is to help you create under construction or coming soon pages. Using this plugin, you can easily create a one-page site, landing pages, sales pages, and, of course, under construction pages.
It comes with 260+ templates that are easily customizable to work for any style or niche. Just use the simple drag-and-drop builder, and you can have your perfect page in under an hour if you’re not too into customization and tinkering around.
And just like the above-mentioned plugin, it includes a library of over 2 million free stock images.
4. BackupGuard WordPress Plugin
BackupGuard WordPress Plugin is, as its name would suggest, a backup plugin. And well, if you own a site and still don’t have one of these, you better hurry up. Problems and glitches can always happen no matter how careful you might be. So, if you had no backup when your site crashed, you’re bound to lose heaps of content you spent days, if not weeks working on.
With this plugin, you can store everything you need safely on a cloud or offline.
When it comes to backing up your system, you can choose how often you want it done. Maybe once a day, maybe once a week, or maybe once every 12 hours. It’s entirely up to you. Plus, you don’t have to back up the whole site, only parts of it, if you don’t need everything.
Another great thing about this plugin is that it comes with a security plugin included. Meaning it’s actually a two-in-one. It performs backups and prevents data loss, as well as protects the site from any malware.
5. Google Search Central
Google Search Central, formerly known as Google Webmasters, is a comprehensive and top-rated SEO tool. And how wouldn’t it be since it is a tool developed by Google that helps you get noticed on Google?
A convenient thing about this tool is that it offers different services depending on what kind of business you’re in or your level of SEO knowledge. So, in the very beginning, you get to choose between the following: Business or Marketer, Developer or SEO Professional. After that’s done, you’ll get a series of tips and advice on your SEO.
When you use the Google Search Console, you need to verify site ownership. After that, you can check your site for mobile compatibility, make sure Google can find your pages, and monitor your site’s performance.
The best part: it’s completely free.
WebTotem is another security plugin that had to make it onto this list. The reason why is that it’s really detailed in every step of the process. It allows all users to prevent any threats, detect those that happen fast, and respond to them properly so they would cause minimal to no damage.
It comes with an option to sync across all devices, so if anything were to go wrong while you’re away, you could still take action before any damage is done. Plus, it offers a 14-day free trial so you can get the hang of it before purchasing.
- Firewall – in-app AI protection against any threats coming your way
- Antivirus – a scanner to neutralize malware that notifies you about any deleted files
- External Monitoring – continually monitors almost every vulnerable aspect like downtime, SSL, domain expiry, etc.
- Healthboard – calculates risk based on website security
ManageWP is a handy tool aimed at helping you skillfully manage your WP site. It’s extremely handy and makes your job a lot easier. This tool automates a lot of the workflow and offers quite an impressive list of very useful features.
Another thing that might interest you is the fact that the core version is completely free. If you want the whole package, there are plenty of premium add-ons that can make that happen. Plus, you don’t have to get all of them; you can pick and choose what you need.
- Maintenance – automates tedious daily tasks and allows for schedule updates in bulk
- Monitoring – monitors your website with Google Analytics, Uptime Monitor, etc.
- Reports – offers a way to boost your client care with “Client Reports” and a “White-Label” tool
- Performance Check – offers website optimization and a speed boost
This plugin is quite useful if you’re looking for something with basic features that is multipurpose. WP-Optimize is a performance improving plugin used to optimize your images, clean your database and cache your entire website.
If you’re wondering how exactly these things help you, let us briefly explain. Clearing up your database enables you to get rid of useless software bloat that builds up over time. It makes your site cleaner, more functional, and faster. The same goes for image optimization. If images are too big, they’ll make your load time a lot longer, and we all know people tend to click away when something doesn’t load fast.
So, even though these are not features that pop into your mind initially as a necessity, they’re still vital to your site’s overall performance. Make sure you don’t forget about them.
Now, to move onto something that’s not strictly related to site maintenance but is a direct and useful tool for growing your blog.
Pop-up marketing can be either annoying or useful. It’s all about what you do and how you do it. For this purpose, Optinly is one of the top names in the game.
One of the best things it offers is undoubtedly gamification pop-ups. Basically, they’re like your regular run-of-the-mill pop-ups, but they include a mini-game aimed at capturing the visitor’s interest. Plus, you can create so many different versions of pop-ups with this tool, including exit-intent pop-ups, floating sidebar, notification pop-ups, promos, full-screen overlays, and time delay pop-ups.
Other notable features:
- Great triggering – triggers the pop-up at the right time
- Advanced Targeting – shows pop-ups to visitors based on their activity and interests
- Responsiveness – any pop-up created can be made to work on any screen size
10. WP Sticky
Accessible and easy site navigation is an element too often overlooked, so we’re going to dedicate some time to it today. The reason why you need to keep this in mind is that when users have been scrolling through your site for a while, they’re not going to spend an equal amount of time scrolling back up to the navigation menu. If the navigation menu is not in their sightline, let’s face it, they’re likely to leave.
That’s why you need something like WP Sticky. This plugin allows you to make any element on your site sticky, including headers and menus. So, you’ll never have to deal with messy site navigation again. Plus, every sticky element you create is highly customizable, and you can tweak it however you want.
You also don’t need to use this for site navigation only. There’s a new promotion going on? Stick it on the front page. Have an ingredients list on your cooking blog you want to be in your visitors’ sightline at all times? Make it sticky.
WP All Import/Export has the unique ability to handle everything from the simplest drag & drop WordPress imports/exports to solutions involving powerful filters, advanced data manipulation, and even custom programming functions. It can work with CSV, Excel, JSON, and XML files in any layout. It can interact with fields from any theme, plugin, or custom field. It can even be configured/scheduled to automatically synchronize your website with external data sources.
Other features include:
- The ability to bulk edit sets of data
- Advanced image handling whether images are local, on your server, or in the cloud
- Easy integration with 1000+ apps using Zapier
- Handles very large files
- Full set of developer tools & API
- Can be used to manage complete migrations
12. Google Analytics
If you’re doing any sort of business online, whether that be blogging or running a shop, you’ve probably heard of Google Analytics. But in case you’ve been living under a rock or remain unconvinced, let our recommendation be the final nail in the coffin.
This tool was designed with an aim to help you optimize your website through useful insight and data. It’s very simple to use and offers a plethora of information you could use to advance your site and improve rankings.
Since you already probably know the basics of this tool, we’ll just list a few reasons why you should consider using it:
- The core version is free
- Collects all of your data automatically
- Integration with other tools is effortless
- Helps you understand why visitors leave your site
- Gives insight into what your target audience is by tracking metrics such as age, gender, and location
13. Simple Author Box Pro
Everyone knows by now how beneficial guest posting is for any site. If you’re not doing it already, then we suggest you start considering it. But, if you are going to do it, you should know to give credit where credit is due. Otherwise, guest authors might be discouraged from collaborating with you if they get zero credit for the work they’ve put in.
That’s where Simple Author Box Pro comes in. With this plugin’s help, you can easily add guest authors to your posts or list multiple authors at once. It comes with multiple color schemes, full appearance and text control, and an option to add the guest author’s social icons.
14. WordPress Portal
WordPress Portal is a tool whose sole task is to make your job of running an online business easier and more efficient. You can use this tool to create projects and invite as many clients and/or colleagues to join so you can manage them together.
Everything is neatly organized within one dashboard, and you can even create milestones and share any needed files. The tool’s system makes navigating through all of the tasks very easy as you can get a complete overview of everyone’s work and monitor them. That way, you’ll never miss anything.
Plus, this tool has a built-in monitoring system that tracks how much time it took each employee to complete a specific task. After all of that is added up, it also automatically generates the cost of each employee’s work. This way, you can easily track your performance and know who’s doing their best.
Since this tool is an all-rounder, it also has an option to create and send out invoices, as well as the ability to accept payment through PayPal or a credit card.
15. Constant Contact
Constant Contact is probably the most popular email marketing service currently in business, so it has truly been tried and tested. Plus, you’re not going to have any trouble getting the hang of it as it is super beginner-friendly and very easy to use.
It allows you to grow your email subscriber list faster by implementing intelligent solutions and marketing techniques.
It also offers plenty of options for e-commerce stores and websites. With Constant Contact, you can build a website with marketing tools already built into it or an e-commerce store with a smart recommendations system.
If, however, social media is more your thing. Don’t worry. It doesn’t falter on that end either. You can use this tool to create innovative targeted Facebook and Instagram ads. You can create and launch the ads directly from your account.
16. WP Rocket
WP Rocket is first and foremost a caching plugin. Now, if you’re new to the blogging world and don’t know what exactly caching does for you, let’s just put it in simple terms.
The noticeable difference a caching plugin makes is that your site will run and load faster. Remember when we mentioned users clicking off if something doesn’t load fast? That’s exactly why you need a caching plugin.
This basic principle is; WP Rocket speeds up your website by storing copies of your web pages. It also comes with built-in lazy loading of images, which helps your site run even faster. The better speed and smooth loading are bound to help your SEO quite a lot.
A Few More Helpful Tools
The 15 tools mentioned above cover all the basics, and your blog should be A-okay with a combination of any number of them. However, we’d also like to recommend some tools and plugins that are not actually necessary but would greatly help your blog grow, be more efficient, and sometimes be a bit more fun as well – both for you and any potential visitors.
Wordtracker is an online tool that helps you get the hang of keywords. Once you type in a keyword, you get a list of related terms you could use alongside it. You can also get a SERP preview and see other search results with the keyword in question to check out the competition.
This tool uses multiple sources from all over the web to make sure you have the best experience.
Alternatives: Keyword Planner, Keywords Everywhere, WordStream
Let’s not lie to ourselves. You’ve probably seen an ad for this tool on YouTube at least a dozen times. So, you probably don’t feel like hearing about it again. And for that reason, we’ll keep it brief.
Grammarly can help you eliminate typos and repetition in your writing. You know how to spell. However, minor mistakes can sneak up on anyone, and to a potential reader, seeing a typo or a lot of repetition seems unprofessional.
Grammarly has both a free and a paid-for version. If you’re just looking to eliminate typos, then the free version is enough. The subscription-based plans include a plagiarism checker. That could be especially useful if your site features a lot of guest posts.
Alternatives: ProWritingAid, LanguageTool, Sapling
Canva is a great multipurpose online design tool. It’s often thought of as an alternative to PowerPoint, but in reality, it’s so much more than that. With Canva, you can design anything you want, from logos to business cards, or even charts. Although, if you want to create dynamic charts, it’s best to use a WordPress tables plugin. You can handle any design work required for your blog. It’s incredibly useful, especially in the beginning when you don’t exactly have mounds of cash pouring in.
Everything is highly customizable, but if you want to make things easy instead of interesting, you can always choose a template and do the bare minimum. Whatever suits you.
Alternatives: Crello, Adobe Spark, Snappa
4. Contest Domination
When we said that some of these tools might make your website more fun, this is the tool we were talking about. Giveaways and contests have always been popular, but with the rise of YouTube and Instagram, they’re virtually everywhere. That’s why Contest Domination is one of our recommendations today.
This platform allows the user to create viral contests for their visitors that have proved to generate more leads. These things capture people’s attention, and they’re thus way more likely to leave an email address if they think they’re going to get something out of it. It’s simple as that.
Alternatives: Woobox, ViralSweep, Wishpond
5. Smash Balloon
Smash Balloon could be of great use to anyone that uses social media to promote their blog or vice versa. In this day and age, we know that social media is integral to online success.
This is a simple social feed plugin that lets you add any kind of social feed to your WordPress site without using any code. You can customize the widget to fit your brand and put up as many of them as you’d like. The plugin is also going to make sure the widgets are backed up, just in case a problem occurs.
Alternatives: Blog2Social, Jooicer, Curator.io
6. Envira Photo Gallery
Again, this is not a plugin you absolutely need, but it’s nice to have. If you have a cooking blog, a photography blog, or a travel blog, you probably upload loads of photos. In order to organize them and present them well, perhaps consider downloading something like Envira Photo Gallery.
It makes the creation of beautiful, stylish galleries very easy, and it only takes a few moments to install. Every gallery is very easy to customize and fits the appearance of your site. Plus, you can add social media buttons to them and thus broaden your reach.
Alternatives: FooGallery, NextGEN Gallery
If I Only Had to Pick Five?
Listen, we understand that if you’re still new and trying to grow, you probably don’t have the money nor the time to install all of these plugins at once. You’re probably going to take it one step at a time and build as you go. Not every plugin on our list is a must-have at the very beginning, but some of them might be if you’re looking to make your blog professional, serious, and eventually a source of income.
So, in the spirit of giving you as much direction as possible and not to confuse you too much with an abundance of plugins, we’ll quickly explain which of these are must-haves and why that’s the case.
These plugins and tools could benefit any blog, and that’s why they’re our top recommendations for anyone:
- Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode – When your blog is undergoing some changes, you don’t want it to seem unfinished. That’s why you always have to let users know what’s going on and that everything is soon to be in order.
- WP Reset – Especially if you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to be playing around and testing plenty of new themes and plugins. So, make sure you can always revert your blog to its previous working state without spending hours on it.
- BackupGuard WordPress Plugin – This one doesn’t need a lot of explaining. Trouble is bound to happen, and content loss can be awful. With this plugin, that’ll never be a problem. Plus, it comes with a security plugin, so it’s a handy two-in-one.
- Google Analytics – An SEO tool is essential if you truly want to grow. The free core version of this tool has plenty of features, and you can always upgrade later.
- WP Rocket or WP-Optimize – Making sure your site loads fast is very important for user experience and hence, for SEO as well. Either one of these plugins is a good choice, depending on what it is you’re looking for.
When it comes to our extra recommendations, the choice really depends on the kind of blog you’re running. But, Grammarly is an excellent universal helper because it makes sure you avoid unnecessary mistakes and shortens the time you’ll spend proofreading.
Before We Leave You
Hopefully, this article helped you find some plugins that’ll advance your blog in the future. Some of these will help you with aesthetics, some with functionality, and others with both. Give any plugin a good thought before you actually install it. Too many plugins can slow down your website significantly, especially if they’re not up to date.
To have an idea of how a given plugin might work with your website, you’ll need to study a few screenshots. Reviews from current or previous users will also help you decide whether what you’re getting is worth the investment. Go through each and every option you have while assessing their suitability and cost before making your final decision.
And there you have it, every nugget of wisdom we had for you, written out. Best of luck and happy blogging!