After installing WordPress and selecting a suitable theme for your website, the next most important step is installing the required plugins. Plugins make it easy to implement almost anything on your website with little or no coding knowledge. The WordPress repository has thousands of plugins designed for all manner of functions and it can easily get confusing for a new user. That is why we have listed the top 5 most essential plugins for starting a new WordPress blog below. These five plugins address the most important functions on any new WordPress website namely; security, SEO, speed optimization, spam prevention and traffic analysis.

1. Security: Ithemes security

Approximately 30,000 WordPress websites get hacked every day. This is not to mean that WordPress websites are not secure. In fact, WordPress is a very secure content management system and that is one of the reasons why it is deployed by industry leaders the world over. The only challenge is that WordPress relies on lots of third party plugins and themes and other external applications like databases and servers. This really complicates the safety of your WordPress website.

And that is where ithemes security plugin comes in.

iThemes security WordPress plugin preview

There are many other good security plugins you can use but what makes ithemes security standout is how it fixes known loopholes that are often exploited by hackers. For instance, once installed and activated, it will force every registered user to start using strong passwords. Other important features include password expiration, Google ReCaptcha, user action tracking, user banning, malware scanning, two-factor authentication, temporary privilege assigning, importing and exporting of your security settings to other sites, etc.

When you install the plugin, you will get two important notifications on your dashboard. The first will prompt you to check out their new settings page and the second will ask to request for a free API key to help prevent brute force attacks. The ithemes security dashboard has a number of configuration options that will help you easily secure your website.

iThemes security WordPress Plugin dashboard

iThemes security WordPress Plugin dashboard

iTheme security WordPress plugin dashboard

iThemes security WordPress Plugin dashboard Screenshot 2

 

Just click on the configure settings or learn more buttons and follow the suggestions given by ithemes and your website will be more secure.

2. Search Engine Optimization: Yoast SEO

After securing your website, you will want to do some search engine optimization (SEO). Without SEO, your website will not achieve top ranking in Google and other search engines in your niche and that would mean losing out on lots of organic traffic. SEO is a very technical field and it would be close to impossible for beginners to properly optimize their websites for search engines if it were not for SEO plugins.

With over a million users all over the world, Yoast is indeed the best SEO plugin. From the one-click install to the easy to use interface for content, this is a plugin you will want to install from the very onset. Yoast makes the otherwise cumbersome task of adding Meta descriptions and tags just a breeze. The plugin combines both the on-page and social SEO to improve the overall ranking of your website. If you are on a shared hosting, you do not have to worry about accessing your robots.txt and htaccess files – both can conveniently be edited right from within the WordPress installation.

Using Yoast SEO is easy. After installing and activating the plugin it automatically adds a Yoast SEO window below your posts and pages.

Yoast SEO Plugin Preview

 

There are some basic steps that yoast will propose as you optimize your post. For instance, the focus keyword needs to be used in the heading, the slug, and the content of the page. The meta description should also contain the focus keywords.

Yoast SEO Plugin Preview 2

Once you fulfill all yoast requirements, you will see the gray and orange icons turn green. The green light means your page is properly optimized for search engines so make sure to follow all the suggestions given until you get a green light against each. Once this is done, just save the changes, publish your post and wait for Google to index your page.

3. Speed Optimization: WP Super Cache

WP Super cache Plugin Preview

Caching improves the load speed of your website by creating static HTML files and serving these files to your visitors, instead of going through the normally lengthy process of obtaining certain files to load a given page. There are two main advantages of this technique; first of all, users hate slow websites so your visitors will get a better user experience and this helps reduce the bounce rate. Secondly, search engines pay attention to how fast your pages load and slow pages could negatively impact on your SEO.

WP Super Cache is the ultimate go-to plugin as far as caching is concerned. The 4.3-star rating from millions of users is testament enough. This plugin ensures that the static HTML files are served to any user that is not logged in so you are guaranteed 99% of your visitors will get a fast loading page.

After you install and activate the plugin, go to the settings page and set it up. The first thing you want to do is turn caching on because it usually is turned off by default.

WP super cache plugin dashboard

 

4. Spam filtering: Akismet

By default, WordPress doesn’t automatically publish comments and pingbacks. An admin user has to login to approve, delete, or mark comments as spam. While this manual approach is fine, it can get really annoying once you start getting hundreds or worse still, thousands of spam comments. The best solution is to install the Akismet plugin which will help you filter and block spam comments. Akismet allows you to auto schedule deletion of all the spam comments either daily, weekly, or whenever you decide to.

After installing Akismet, click on the blue button labeled “activate your Akismet account”

Akismet plugin installation

That will navigate you to a signup window for creating an Akismet account. Akismet keeps a spam database and you need a free account with them to access the database. To register, just enter your email address and click the submit button.

Akismet WordPress Plugin preview

You will be redirected to the Akismet website where you will be prompted to acquire an API key. This key is provided free of charge for non-commercial websites so you can just signup and activate it. Akismet uses this API key to filter spam from your website based on the spam database they keep. They have three membership plans. The plus membership plan costs $5 a month, the premium membership costs $9 a month but the basic plan is free. The free plan is good enough for a new website so you can go for that one.

Akismet WordPress Plugin Pricing

After you pick your plan and activate your site, you will be redirected back to your WordPress dashboard where an API key will be automatically inserted in your Akismet plugin. Just click save changes and you will be good to go.

5. User Tracking: Google analytics

In case you are not familiar with Google Webmaster tools, Google analytics is one of the most important additions to any new website. You will need to sign up for the Google analytics module from which a special JavaScript code will be auto-generated for your website. Once you embed this code on your website, Google automatically keeps track of the user behavior on your website and generates an in-depth report containing user acquisition, user flow, user demographics, keywords, traffic sources and many other important metrics.

The Google analytics WordPress plugin is a great plugin for automatically embedding the Google analytics code on your WordPress website.

Google Analytics WordPress Plugin

Instead of having to upload the file via FTP, just install this plugin, activate it and enter your web property from Google and you are good to go!

Google Anaytics WordPress Plugin preview

Please note that you will need to sign up for the Google webmaster tools in order to get the web property ID for your new website.
So there you have it! Those are the most important plugins for any new WordPress website. You can now keep building your website with confidence that it is secure, will perform great in Google, and most importantly, you now have a means of tracking user behavior for purposes of marketing.

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