If you are building your first WordPress based website then one of the first, and most exciting, things you will want to do is add plug-in’s to your site. Before you start looking through the thousands of available plugins, start by checking out this list of the top 5 WordPress plugins for beginners.
1. Under Construction (Free)
When you first install WordPress it comes with a default theme and some placeholder content. The first thing you will want to do is start to customize your site and add your own content. If you want to prevent people from seeing your site during this stage then you can, and should, use the Under Construction plugin.
Under Construction allows you to work on your site while displaying a “Coming Soon” page to anyone who visits your site. Once you are happy with your site then you simply turn off the plugin and your site goes live.
2. Akismet (Free for personal use. $5 for business use)
Akismet is a spam blocker that helps reduce comment spam. Without a spam blocker most blogs, just like email accounts, get an undesirable amount of spam through the comment section. Akismet works like an email spam filter and blocks the spam before it has a chance to make it to your site.
There’s nothing more frustrating then starting your first blog and getting all excited when you see that you have your first comment…only to find that it is someone abusing your site to flaunt Viagra. Trust me, this one is a no-brainer.
3. Automatic WordPress Backup (Free)
Backing up your site is an essential task, and unfortunately one that is too often overlooked by beginners.
There are a number of backup plugins, including a couple very good paid options such as Backup Buddy & VaultPress. If you want to start with a free option then I suggest WordPress Backup. Unlike other backup solutions that back up just a portion of your site, WordPress Backup captures your entire site.
4. Website Defender (Free)
Website Defender offers 3 free plugins to help protect your site from hackers and malware. Install all 3 and your site will have a strong security foundation.
5. WordPress SEO (Free)
WordPress SEO by Yoast is hands down my favorite SEO plugin. The feature set may be overwhelming for a beginner, but even if you just scratch the surface your site will be better off. It also includes a XML sitemap functionality, which most webmasters used to need a separate plugin for.
6. [BONUS]: Google Analytics (Free)
Google Analytics is free software from Google that allows you to track user behavior on your site. Google Analytics is an incredibly robust set of tools, but even if you just scratch the surface you will be able to learn how visitors find your site, how long they spend on your site, and which pages they view the most.
To get started with Google Analytics, sign up for an account here. After that you will need to add a snippet of code from your analytics account to your website. Most premium WordPress themes have a spot where you can add this code, making a plugin unnecessary.
There are, however, a few reasons why you may want to use a plugin for Google Analytics. If you are using a free theme and aren’t sure how to add analytics, then you will want to use a plugin to activate Google Analytics. Also, if you want to dive in deep with Analytics and gain advanced functionality then you can’t beat the Google Analytics for WordPress plug-in. This plugin extends the functionality of Google Analytics and allows you to create custom parameters to track.
Those are the plugins that I suggest to all beginners. There are alternatives to each of these, as well as hundreds of other plugins that can help get the beginner off on the right foot. Use the comments below to let me know what your favorite plugins are.