10 WordPress.org Plugins I Couldn’t Do Without

Plugins are software components that add extra features to your blog. Whether it’s decorative or practical, plugins are enormously helpful. Here’s a list of my 10 favorite WordPress plugins.
 
Full disclosure: the only reason I was so determined to self-host my blog was so I could use plugins.

In case you don’t already know, plugins are software components that you can install to add extra features to  your blog. Whether it’s decorative or practical, plugins have been an enormous help to me since I began self-hosting. Some of them are things you get to see everyday (like my signature & share buttons). Others sit off-screen, making daily tasks easier for me.

The problem with plugins is that there are dozens that claim to do similar things better than all the rest. This makes it difficult to know where to start. Especially when you’re looking for one tiny feature that would specifically help your blog.

The other problem is that having too many plugins can drastically slow down your site. So you have to choose wisely.

After two years of self-hosting, here are my absolute favorite plugins.

Plugins are software components that add extra features to your blog. Whether it's decorative or practical, plugins are enormously helpful. Here's a list of my 10 favorite WordPress plugins.

1. Yumprint Recipe Card

Confession: The biggest reason I wanted to self-host my site was so I could use a recipe plugin. I have no regrets.

What it does: A recipe plugin is what generates the recipe cards that appear at the bottom of each of my recipe posts. If you create a Yumprint account, you can save your favorite recipes. You can also print a recipe directly from my site.

The reason I use Yumprint over other plugins is because it’s easily customizable. With most other plugins, you either have to use the Pro version (my version is free), pay someone to customize it, or you have to be intimately familiar with CSS. With Yumprint, it’s as easy as clicking a few buttons.

It’s also incredibly easy to use. While writing a post, all you do is click on the “Recipe Card – Insert Recipe” button, add all the details, and save.

Unlike other recipe plugins I’ve used, you can use regular HTML to insert links (if, say, you want to link to a pie crust recipe instead of writing it all out).

It also has an option to add nutritional information (more on that in a moment).

For more information, I wrote up a whole post about it a while back. You can read it here.

Drawbacks: It’s super slow. It loads fast for readers, but waiting on the pop-up Edit box can take a while…especially if the plugin is having issues. 

For some reason, once you’ve had the recipe plugin open, you can’t type anything in the post box anymore. If you hadn’t finished writing/editing the main post before adding the recipe with the plugin, you’ll need to save/update the post before you continue editing again. Once you do that, you’ll be able to type again. Not a huge deal, just kind of annoying.

The nutritional information is not always accurate. This was more irritating back when turning it off wasn’t an option. I got a lot of confused, sometimes rude, comments and emails about incorrect information that I had no control over. Fortunately, they recently changed the template so you can choose not to have nutritional information on your recipe card. But if you want to ballpark it for your readers, writing up a disclaimer to put at the bottom of my posts made the comments stop.

Speaking of which!

2. Bottom of Every Post

I’ve been using this plugin ever since I started self-hosting and it is WONDERFUL. There might be other plugins out there, but I have never had a reason to go hunting for one. This does exactly what I need it to do and is incredibly easy to use.

What it does: You type in what  you want to appear at the bottom of every post, be it text, an image, or an email sign up form, and it generates it. It’s really that easy. I use it to keep my signature, email sign-up form, and some social media stuff at the bottom. 

The best thing about this is that all you do is edit one file and it changes the bottom of your posts for every single blog post on your site. So if you get tired of the signature you’re using, change it. Need to add some seasonal stuff? No problem. Did you write a book and now you want your readers to know about it? Add it to the plugin. 

There were a couple other plugins I tried before adding this one, but the problem was that they didn’t allow HTML. All you could do was add a picture for your signature. With this plugin, you just use HTML tags to add whatever you want and style it however you want (great if you need something to stick out). If you want your signature to be right-aligned, it’s incredibly easy to do. (And if you’re not familiar with HTML, you can just Google what you need. So if you’re not sure how to align something to the right, just search for, “Right align HTML code.”) 

Drawbacks: I had some trouble figuring out where to go to change the bottom of my posts. Unlike other plugins, it doesn’t get added to the menu of your dashboard. You have to go to Plugins, find Bottom of Every Post, click Edit, and then under Plugin Files (on the right side of your screen), click on the file ending in bottom_of_every_post.txtIt’s very important that you double-check that you have the right file. Those other files are .php files and you should never edit those unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

Here’s what it looks like:

BOEP

3. Mad Mimi or MailChimp

This is another feature I spent a long time searching for. Finally, one day I was checking my email and saw Anyonita Nibbles pop up in my inbox. Her subscription emails were so pretty, so I asked her what plugin she used. She sent me to Mad Mimi and I am now eternally grateful for that!

What it does: These plugins allow you to keep track of email subscriptions from their website (meaning: people who subscribe to your blog and what they’re receiving). It also allows you to personalize the emails that get sent by adding a color scheme, images, and social media icons. You can also add a sign up form to the bottom of your posts (I keep mine in my signature so everyone knows it exists). All-in-all, this plugin makes your life easier and your followers’ lives easier.

Drawbacks: It’s kind of difficult to figure out what you need to do to set everything up. I got a lot of help from Anyonita. πŸ˜› But once you figure it out, it’s pretty simple! My subscribers have gone up since I started using this, which is pretty awesome!

Update 4/10/15: I wound up switching from Mad Mimi to MailChimp. Both are fine. I think Mad Mimi is simpler to use, but MailChimp has more options for customization and allows to create multiple email lists for free. (Mad Mimi makes you pay if you want more than just one.)

4. HelloBar

When you got to my site, you likely saw a big, red bar going across the top of the page. It probably had a “Subscribe” button in it. That’s my HelloBar!

What it does: This thing is great. First, I just love the pop of color it adds to the page. 

But as far as practicality? My email subscribers stats have gone up a lot since I installed that thing.

It’s also pretty easy to set up! You go to the HelloBar website, create an account, and it will pretty much explain how to set it up (including installing the plugin).

Also from the website, you can link the bar to your email list. I use MailChimp for mine, and all I needed to do was connect my accounts and select the list I wanted people to be added to when the signed up.

You can customize it completely. Make it thick, thin, change the color, change the text, put it on the bottom of the page instead of the top. You can set it to float over the page while people scroll or set it so it is hidden when someone scrolls. You don’t even have to use it for an email list. You can also use it for social media or for driving traffic.

Drawbacks: It can mess up your mobile site a little. In fact, the reason I went with the thinner bar was because the thicker one looked AWFUL on my mobile site and covered up my menu. Though it still works on the mobile site, which is nice. 

5. Simple Social Icons

 What it does: It’s a set of social media icons. They’re found in your Widgets area and they’re easy to set up. You can change the colors (the color of the text, the background color, the hover color, everything). You can make them round, square, or square with rounded edges.

The selection of social sites is far better than any other social icons plugin I’ve seen. For a long time, I had trouble finding one that would let me add Bloglovin and Tumblr. This one does!

Even though the theme I use came with a set of social media icons, I greatly prefer this plugin.

Drawbacks: They’re spaced out weirdly. If you have a lot of icons, like I do, you’ll want to go into the CSS file and change the spacing so they all show up on one line. And you have to do this every time the plugin updates. Which is more frequently than it should, honestly. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. Just go to Plugins, find Simple Social Iconsclick Edit, under Plugin Files click on the one ending in style.css. And then under this line:

.simple-social-icons ul li {

find this part:

margin: 0 6px 12px !important;

Change the 6 to a smaller number (mine is set at 1) and then update the file.

Here’s what mine looks like:

simple social icons

6. WPTouch

I discovered this plugin while reading 10 WordPress Plugins Every Blogger Needs. Of all the plugins she recommended, this one is my favorite.

What it does: It allows you to make your site more mobile-friendly, which is really important since Google penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly (as of April 2015). This is an INCREDIBLY easy way to set that up all on your own. 

Drawbacks: There, um, really isn’t one. I love this plugin. So for all you bloggers who passed on using a theme that you loved because it didn’t come with a responsive version: this plugin will fix that for you.

FYI, if you’re affiliated with The Blogger Network (which is basically an ad revenue company made for bloggers by bloggers), your site is likely already mobile-friendly. They have their own template they like to use.

7. Shareaholic Share Buttons

WordPress comes with its own share buttons, which you can set up by going to Settings > Sharing. But it just wasn’t quite cutting it. It didn’t have all the social media sites I wanted and they didn’t stand out very well. I doubt my readers even knew they were there (I couldn’t tell they were there half the time and I was the one who put them there).

What it does: Enter Shareaholic. It has far more sharing options. The buttons are vibrant and noticeable. I can place them on top of my posts, on bottom, or both! Which is handy for me. It’s handy for you, too, of course. Now you can share content on any social media site you want. All you have to do is click on a button.

Also, if you want to add “Similar Posts” to the bottom of each of your blog posts, Shareaholic will do that for you. It will never be as good as nRelate (which I used to use before WordPress stopped supporting it), but nothing I’ve found is. Which is a bummer.

Drawbacks: It’s a pretty heavy plugin. If you want something lighter, try Simple Share Buttons

8. BackUpWordpress

This has been a complete lifesaver on so many occasions. I don’t know what I would do without this plugin.

What it does: You can set this to work on whatever time period you want (daily, weekly, or monthly). Mine is set to daily, which means that every morning, BackUpWordpress collects all of my files for me and puts them into a neat little .zip folder. As soon as that’s done, it sends me an email directing me to the page where I can download that .zip file and keep it on my computer. (If I ever need to find that page again, I just go to “Tools” and “Backups.”)

This means all of my important files have been backed up for me, so if something goes wrong, I can re-install from the back-up and voila! Day saved. I like to download my .zip files periodically, but especially when I’m about to make a major change to my blog (like installing a new theme).

Fortunately, I’ve only ever needed the back-up once, while I was first learning how to self-host. It may seem like a waste of time to you for me to back up so much if I’ve never really needed it…but I don’t ever want to find myself in a situation where I wish I had taken the time to back-up. With BackUpWordpress, saving my data takes no time at all, so it would be silly for me not to use it.

Drawbacks: The .zip files do take up a lot of space, depending on the size of your blog. Especially if you have BackUp WordPress set to collect your files daily. This is a fairly easy fix. Just delete any files you no longer need. I believe you can also set the plugin to auto-delete files after 30 days.

9. CommentLuv

A long time ago, I wrote a blog post called Why You Shouldn’t Add Links to Blog Comments, which seemed to discourage some. However, with CommentLuv, there’s no need to get discouraged!

What it does: First, it eliminates any need to add a link to a comment. As long as the blogger has CommentLuv installed, a link to your most recent blog post will show up automatically. (If the blogger is really nice, they’ll set their CommentLuv account to let you choose from your ten most recent posts instead of just one.)

Even though a lot of bloggers don’t want to admit it, but the biggest reason they comment on anything is to draw attention to the fact that they exist and to get other people to view their blogs (made more obvious by the generic comments and the link drops). We all want our blogs to do well, so while it’s annoying to be on the receiving end of countless, “Please visit my blog!” comments…we’ve all probably done it to someone else at least once. CommentLuv is a way of letting other bloggers tap into that natural tendency without hurting your own blog.

Just…make sure you leave a genuine comment, not just, “Great post!” Other bloggers see right through that.

Also, as the blogger, you can keep someone’s link from showing up. The only reason I ever do this is if someone comments and they don’t sound like spam, but their website is a little fishy. Though I usually don’t need to remove their CommentLuv. Usually I just need to remove the link from their name. (Non-bloggers tend to not know that the “URL” box is optional and only meant for other bloggers, so they’ll leave a link to Facebook or something. Not their Facebook page…just Facebook. It’s not a big deal, it’s really easy to remove.)

Drawbacks: My spam seems to have increased, but that could be unrelated. Speaking of spam….

10. Akismet

I feel silly including this, since it came with WordPress…but apparently a lot of people choose not to use it! So let me explain why you should.

What it does: Akismet is a spam filter, which means it keeps spammy comments from showing up on your blog. This is important because if you have too many spammy comments, Google will mark your blog as spammy, too, and you’ll be penalized for it in the search engine.

Too many spammy comments also reflects poorly on you to anyone who wants to comment. Seeing a bunch of spam in your comments section sends a message to your readers that you don’t care enough about your blog to pay attention to your comment section, which discourages potential commenters.

Akismet just collects any spammy-looking comments from your blog and puts them into a little spam folder for you. You can then choose to delete them all or go through them and look for any false positives (anything Akismet thought was spam, but was actually a real comment).

My Akismet filter has an accuracy of 98.84%, which is REALLY good. Part of the reason  it’s not higher, though, is because I have Akismet set to mark any comment with a link in it spam. Which means if a fellow blogger leaves me a comment asking me to check out their blog, it gets marked as spam. And then I have to label it as a false positive (which I generally do after deleting the link).

Drawbacks: As I said, every once in a while it catches a comment that isn’t really spam. So you really should check your spam folder every once in a while. Other than that, it works really well and it’s constantly learning from what you mark as spam or not spam.

If you don’t use Akismet now, start! Especially if you decide to also use CommentLuv because, trust me, your spam comments will definitely begin multiplying.

These have made my life so much easier and my blog a lot nicer for you all, as well. Hopefully you also get some use out of them!

Do you have any plugins you absolutely can’t live without? Let me know in the comments!

chelsey2
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36 comments

    • Chelsey says:

      Awesome! I’m glad it can translate to Blogger, as well. πŸ˜€

      And yes, CommentLuv is awesome! So glad I switched!

      (Holy crap, I just used “awesome” twice. I think it’s time to explore a larger vocabulary….)

  1. Carrie says:

    Thanks for linking to my plugin post, and thanks for sharing all of these great plugins!! I am super excited to learn about the Bottom of Every Post one…can’t wait to play around with that!
    Carrie recently posted…Wordy WednesdayMy Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Haha! I had most of this written when I read yours and then after I tried some of them, was like, “NOPE! Time to edit!” πŸ˜›

      Thanks for stopping by! πŸ™‚

    • Chelsey says:

      Unfortunately, I haven’t found a spam plugin. I just use Akismet to put them all in a folder for me so I can handle it later. Sorry. πŸ™

  2. TrineMarie says:

    Haha, when I saw you mentioning CommentLuv, I remember how annoyed I was when it didn’t work on my blog. So I went back and checked on it and it wasn’t activated! lol. Now it should work for me too, though πŸ˜›

    I definitely have to get BackUpWordpress too!
    TrineMarie recently posted…Five ThingsMy Profile

    • Chelsey says:

      Roflmao That’s hilarious. Glad you figured it out! :p

      You should! It’s so awesome! (Though another commenter just mentioned that Bluehost will back it up for you automatically, as well.)
      Chelsey recently posted…Coconut Lemon LoafMy Profile

  3. Audrey@That Recipe says:

    I didn’t know Comment Love could be set for the 10 most recent posts – I will be fixing that on my blog. I am off to go check out WPTouch, it never hurts to be accessible to as many people as possible.
    Audrey@That Recipe recently posted…Dirty RiceMy Profile

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