Eight Essential WordPress Plugins

More and more publishers are switching from legacy content and publishing systems to the ubiquitous and easily-modified WordPress. And one of WordPress’s advantages is its compatibility with plug-ins: small applications that add features and functions to your site. Whether you’re running content for a business’ website or updating your own blog, these essential WordPress plugins will help you kill spam, build an editorial calendar, optimize your content for search engines and keep your blog humming along.



Akismet basically protects your blog from spam, saving you the headache of comment moderation. Akismet monitors blogs and forums to keep track of spammers’ tricks. Then their service runs hundreds of tests on each comment you get, automatically sorting through them and deleting the spammy ones. You can then see what they’ve listed as spam and mark it as ‘not spam’ if the plugin is ever wrong—but chances are, you won’t have to. Akismet is free for personal use and low-cost for businesses.



If you’re looking for an easy way to back up your entire blog—posts, images, videos, themes, settings, comments—this is the way to go. You can schedule regular backups and have them sent to Dropbox, your email account or your desktop computer. This plugin will also help you migrate your entire site to a new server, should you ever need to move it. It’s available for $80 for up to two sites or $100 for up to ten sites, but if a designer or developer created your site, check with them to see if they have an unlimited license and can install it on your site for free.


Editorial Calendar

This plug-in is crucial for managing an editorial calendar. It lets you quickly see all of your posts and when they’ll be posted, and drag and drop them to new dates. You can see the status of your posts, quickly edit titles and post times, and manage posts from multiple contributors. The Editorial Calendar plugin is free, and you can even test it out and play around with it before downloading.


Google Analytics for WordPress

If you’re already using Google Analytics to track data for your site, setting up this plugin can add a lot of metadata to your tracking code. It lets you track the speed of your site, how many people are downloading e-books and other content off your site and other metrics. You can also exclude specific users fromt racking—for example, if you don’t want your own viewing to count towards your pageviews. And if you’ve got a lot of contributors posting to your blog, you can track how many pageviews each individual author has had. You can even see which category on your site garners the most traffic. Google Analytics for WordPress is free.


SEO Friendly Images

You may have read on Copyblogger or a similar site that it’s a good idea to add “alt” and “title” tags for images, just to improve your search engine optimization and increase traffic. But not everyone has time to update each image with the proper tags. This free plugin will do the work for you, describing each image to a search engine.



Sociable is one of the fastest-growing WordPress plugins. Put simply, it allows your readers to share your posts on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media. You can customize the text, color and length, and even add custom images. Sociable is completely free.


WordPress Popular Posts

Want to list your most popular posts in a widget on your sidebar? This plugin will do it for you. You can select a date range, depending on how often you post (for example, most popular posts of the month, week or day), add a thumbnail of each post if you like, and you can order your posts by the number of comments or number of average views per day rather than total views. WordPress Popular Posts is free.


Yoast SEO

Yoast helps you optimize your blog posts for search engine keywords, helping people find your content when they use search engines like Google and Bing. If you know you need to optimize your blog for SEO but forget to do it, Yoast will make it super easy by simply allowing you enter a focus keyword and letting you know if it’s in your title, heading, meta description, etc. so you can quickly add it as needed. Yoast SEO is free.

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About Yael Grauer

Yael Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yael Writes.