In this post I am going to cover the most important plugins that we use and why. I have updated our top WordPress plugins for 2019.
So what is a plugin?
I think of plugins as the building blocks of a website, They allow you to add features and functionality to your site. There are plugins for everything you can think of and, speaking from experience, you can get lost in a sea of plugins, some of which will be great for your blog and some will be a complete waste of time!
Doing your research before installing the plugin, is important as you don’t want a ton of plugins cluttering up your database and slowing down your page load (yes they can have a severe impact on page speed in some cases).
Our Must Have Plugins for Food Bloggers
The list of plugins below are some of the plugins we classify as the most important for our needs and we use them on at least one of our sites (this site, and also KitchenSanctuary), in some cases all sites.
So lets get started with the list. These plugins are in no particular order:
Akismet – Spam Protection
Aksimet is a plugin that helps stop spam to your website. Believe me when I say you can be overrun with spam is this is a MUST HAVE!. We are on the free service and have had over 155 thousand spam comments blocked by this plugin. If we didn’t have this we would be overrun with spam. It’s a must, especially as your blog starts to grow. It has over 5million active installs!
Yoast – SEO
Yoast is magic! We are on the paid premium version, have been for years and really recommend it very highly. Yoast gives you advice on how to optimise your post as you are typing, for readability and for SEO performance. There are some search terms where Kitchen Sanctuary has the top ranking for Google and we couldn’t do that without Yoast. Yoast Premium also had a tonne of other features for your SEO including the ability to target multiple keywords/keyphrases, a redirect manager and auto redirect creation if you need to change a URL of a post and more. Highly recommend Yoast for your SEO!
Wordfence – Security
Wordfence gives you a lot of the key resources you need to secure your WordPress blog. Its a firewall, helps block brute force attacks, malware & virus scanning, tracks logins to your page, and much more. We have the premium package for wordfence and its one of the things i highly recommend to help secure your website.
SocialPug – Social Sharing
We use the Social Pug for our social sharing and social icons on Kitchen Sanctuary. It’s a top plugin to maximise the social-ability (if that’s a word!) of your posts for your readers., Its also lightweight and wont slow down your site. If you are thinking of moving to HTTPS/SSL (Read our guide on switching to HTTPS/SSL here on how we did it*) then Social Pug will help to ensure you dont loose your social share counts.
*Note: we were using Social Warfare at the time of switching to HTTPS/SSL but Social Pug also has the same feature for recovering share count.
WP Recipe Maker – Recipe Card
If you haven’t got this yet and you are a food blogger who posts recipes you should. It automatically gives you the markup (a specific type of output) you need for Google to see your post as a recipe = getting you more traffic. The support from Brecht and the team is second to none, hands down the best support I’ve had from any tools or patform. Also they are continuously updating it with feedback from the community. Check out our new design using their new super easy-to-use recipe card designer on one of our posts over at KitchenSanctuary.
Updraft Plus – Backups
Being able to backup your site is absolutely key. Updraft Plus is one of the best WordPress backup solutions out there. Allowing you to easily perform regular backups, backup before you update WordPress or backup before you update your theme or plugins. Restoring is super easy too, if you update your plugins and find that it breaks your site you can easily restore to your previous backup. I have tried and tested this a number of times with no issues. You can also set it to upload your backup files for a remote storage like Dropbox or OneDrive so that your backups are not stored on you main server taking up space and reducing risk of loosing your data.
Shortpixel – Image Optimisation
Shortpixel really helps to reduce the size of the images without losing image quality, you can achieve up to 90% compression. Reducing image size is paramount if you want a fast page load. There are other plugins out there that offer this, we have tried a few of them and this one seems to be one of the better ones. If you want to read more about how we have improved our page speed you can see our post here. We use this primarily on KitchenSanctuary where the quality of the pictures is so important but we also want to ensure the pages load quickly. ShortPixel gives us the ability to balance this. This is a MUST for people who have pictures on their blog posts.
WP Rocket – Caching
We have tested many caching plugins over the years and this is one of the best out there and is well recommended by other experts too. We use WP Rocket on all of our sites and it gave us an INSTANT speed boost when we switched over. WP Rocket, however, is much much more than a caching plugin. You can use it to to perform database cleanups (essential for keeping your site running to its full potential), You can use it to minify the HTML, CSS etc. (which helps to improve page load speed). You can read more about what I have done for our page speed here. You can also use it to control the WordPress heartbeat to ensure WordPress doesn’t take up too much of your server resources. All round this is a must have plugin to get your site running to its maximum potential, WP Rocket is a brilliant caching plugin with plenty of added benefits.
ConvertKit – Email & Optin
The plugin for ConvertKit allows you to put the optin forms automatically added to the bottom of every post, in the sidebar or where ever you want on a post or page, we also use ConvertKit to have a pop up appear on at exit intent (when it thinks you are about to leave the webpage). The plugin is lightweight, easy to set-up. We used to use Optinmonster for our optin forms (which is awesome) and Mailchimp for KitchenSanctuary but have recently moved to ConvertKit to cover both (i will be covering our full migration in a post soon).
TinyMCE Advanced – Writing Posts
TinyMCE Advanced gives you much more powerful post writing/editing options – somewhat akin to what you might see on word processing software like Microsoft Word. You can easily write posts without this, but it’s a far more user-friendly experience to write with all of the options you need at hand. There have been over 2 million active installs for this one.
Revisionize – Re Writing Old Posts
Revisionize is a free plugin (ok there is a paid version but we don’t use it). As we are working through some of our old posts to optimise them for user experience, Revisionize helps us do this without impacting the current live post. It clones your post to a draft that gives you the ability to edit the post and when you’re happy, publish the revision, which will copy your content changes over the original post. We are working a month ahead in our content posting schedule and couldnt do this without Revisionize.
Enable Media Replace – Updating Images
If, like us, you are reshooting some old recipes with new images, you might not want to lose out on the traffic from replacing the image with the same URL is the thing to be doing. Enable Media Replace is made by the same people as ShortPixel and allows you to upload new images at the same url as the image you are replacing. New Photos over old keeping the same url = better for SEO.
Better Search & Replace – Updating The Database
This plugin allows you to search the SQL database and make replacements. I used this a lot during our transition to SSL and HTTPS and couldn’t have done it without this plugin. It allows you to do a dry run of the replace before you click the button to commit. You can read more about the transition to HTTPS and the impact the transition has had in our post here. This was a one time use plugin, I have this uninstalled now.
Broken Link Checker – SEO and Maintenance
Broken links are bad for user experience and SEO! Broken Link checker is a free tool that you can run to check all of your links with your website. It will highlight where you have a ‘broken’ link that would give a negative experience if a reader clicked on it. It also gives you an easy interface to fix the broken links. I use Broken link checker as part of my weekly maintenance plan (I have been asked to writing this up in a coming post – watch this space). Good SEO positive not having any broken links on your site too! Note: I have heard of some people having problems running this as it is quite resource heavy so if you are on a shared hosting plan or a small server you might get problems. That said we are with Cloudways and have never had any issues running this 🙂 Although I do not have this active all of the time only on the days I am doing site maintenance.
There are quite a few plugins here but they all have a specific purpose and we have done our research to ensure we are using the best and most lightweight plugins for our site where we can.
That’s all of for our top WordPress plugins updated for 2019. If any others jump into my top list I’ll add them in here too.
Question for you: Do you know of any more really useful plugins? I’m always interested in what other people are using and why. Please let me know in the comments below and dont forget to sign up to our mailing list to keep uptodate with new posts from Nicky and I.
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