Starting A WordPress Blog

If you are thinking about starting your own blog with WordPress, there are SO MANY tutorials out there that show you exactly what to do. I read a lot of them, I really did. I spent months, reading and preparing to build my own blog. What I found though was, that unfortunately, the majority of these posts were sales pitches to sign up for Bluehost or another web hosting provider. While I absolutely understand the wish/need to monetise your blog and I do use affiliate links myself, I was a little disappointed by those posts. I’m not saying they don’t provide value to someone who is just getting started! They do.

Website Functionality Determines Plugins

I would have liked to see two things though:

1. More realism. Yeah, it may be TECHNICALLY absolutely possible to get web hosting and start a blog within hours – is it sensible though? Shouldn’t you have a plan first? I think you should.

2. Your blog needs more than web hosting and a domain name. What about all the plugins? There are so many plugins out there, that it’s really hard to find the best ones. At least for me, it took a lot of trial and error to find the ones that worked well.

For all you out there, who are still looking for the perfect WordPress plugins for your blog, I hear you! It can be so frustrating! Especially if you can’t afford to invest upfront, so you need to find free plugins that do the job. I hope I can save your time and sanity by listing the plugins that I found most helpful so far.

Obviously, the functionality you want from your website determines which plugins you need.  This is why you need a plan first. If you don’t know what functionality you want from your website, it’s gonna be hard to figure out which plugins you need. There are also some general ones, like spam protection, that I think are a great choice for every website, no matter what you do. In my case, I basically wanted a blog with a simple membership area, newsletter integration and a little online shop. If that sounds like something you’d like to have as well, then I’m sure you’ll find my list of plugins helpful.

List Of My Favourite WordPress Plugins So Far

Just for your information and because it can be important when it comes to compatibility – I’m using WordPress 4.9.1. and the Tuulikki theme from Creative Market. (As I mentioned before, I’m using affiliate links to products or services I love and these were ones. Not sure what that means? Click here, to learn more.) So let’s dive right into it!

 Powered by Creative Market

1. Akismet Anti-Spam

As the name suggests – this plugin helps you fight spam. Always a good thing! More specifically, this plugin checks your comments and contact form submissions and blocks spam so you don’t have to deal with it. Sweet!

2. UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore

Never too soon to think about backing up all your content. Just think about how much time and effort goes into writing and maintaining a blog! You wouldn’t want to risk that, right?! So better be safe than sorry and start backing up your page from day one! This plugin is free, but also has a paid version that offers better support.

3. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP)

This plugin enables you to view key Google Analytics statistics in your WordPress install. Lets you track sessions, page views, organic searches, bounce rate, traffic channels, social networks, traffic mediums and more in real time. Might be a little frustrating in the beginning when the numbers are really low… Nevertheless, might help you to improve your content and help you to figure out where your visitors are coming from.

4. 404page – your smart custom 404 error page

Remember Murphy’s law? Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Believe me. Someday, you’ll have someone click on a broken link to your page and that someone will most likely be quite disappointed by the standard 404 – page not found message. With this plugin, you can customise your own 404 page and maybe create something a little less frustrating and annoying. As an example, you can see my 404 page here.

5. MealPlannerPro Recipe Plugin

Boy, did I try many recipe plugins! None of them was working for me the way I wanted them to work. This plugin was the best free plugin, that I could find that made the recipes look pretty enough, is easy to use and has some great built-in functionality. If you are just starting out, this is probably all you need! It’s SEO friendly as well. For an example of what a recipe looks like, scroll to the bottom of this page.

6. MailChimp for WordPress

If you are thinking about starting an email list and writing newsletters to this list – MailChimp is a good choice when it comes to email marketing. It’s free as long as you send less than 12,000 emails per month and have no more than 2,000 total subscribers. Anywho, this plugin lets you create user-friendly sign-up forms on your website and adds those new contacts to your MailChimp list(s) when people sign up.

Colourful cog wheels that represent different WordPress plugins working together.

Finding the right WordPress plugins for your blog and getting them to play together nicely – not an easy thing to do.

7. Pinterest Pin It Button On Image Hover And After Post & Page Content

There are several Pinterest plugins out there and I’ve tried a few before I found this one, that works just fine. It lets your readers pin any of your images to Pinterest really easily. With this plugin, your Pinterest fame is literally only one click away. See for yourself: Click on the image below and save this post to your Pinterest account! Awesome, thanks! 😉

8. Stop Spammers

“Why another anti-spam plugin?”, you might wonder. This one fights unauthorised login attempts as well. Initially, I only had Akismet, but then I got a serious problem with spammers registering as new users. As soon as I installed and activated this plugin, the problem stopped. What I like about this plugin too is, that users are offered a second chance at posting their comment or logging in. In that case, denied requests are presented with a CAPTCHA screen. This prevents users from being blocked inadvertently. I thought about using CAPTCHA straight away to stop spammers, but then I changed my mind because it’s just not great for general user experience. So I like how this is solved with this plugin.

After all, I’m not 100% certain, if I still need Akismet as well, or if it is redundant now, but I leave it activated, just in case…

9. Simple WordPress Membership

Membership plugins were also a category that I found very difficult. Many of them just weren’t working for me. All I wanted was to protect certain pages so that only members can view them. I didn’t need a complicated pricing structure or anything. My membership is free at the moment. I just thought it was a more convenient way of providing my free content to my subscriber list, than by emailing everything out. That way, everyone can log into their account and download whatever they want, whenever they want. Nothing gets lost in email spam filters, everything can be found at exactly the same place all the time. Sounds good to me!

10. WF Cookie Consent

An easy way to comply with EU Cookie Law (that sounds far better than it is – haha). It informs the reader that this website is using cookies. Simple as that!

11. WooCommerce

A free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell both, digital and physical goods. If you live in Germany and you have to deal with EU VAT regulations, the WooCommerce Germanized plugin comes in handy. It extends WooCommerce to technically match german legal conditions. I did, however, find, that these two plugins weren’t playing together nicely. At least the free versions seem to have a few bugs. For example, I cannot get them to apply the Small-Enterprise-Regulation AND to enable Virtual VAT  at the same time. Which, according to a tax consultant, is exactly what I would want to do. Oh well. As long as you are not from Germany, this should not concern you.

12. WooCommerce Product Bundle

If you decided to use WooCommerce, you will find that it offers a few very useful extensions to optimise your online shop. Like the Product Bundles, which allows you to bundle products together and offer the bundle at a discount. Unfortunately, these extensions aren’t free. At the time of writing this post, the product bundle extension costs 49$ for a single site. Quite a hefty price tag for a beginner, when you don’t know if you are going to sell much through your store. Again, it took me quite a bit of trial and error to find the free WooCommerce Product Bundle plugin, that basically does the same thing for you. At least it seems to work for me. You can see an example of what a bundle looks like here.

13. Yoast SEO

The last of the plugins that I’m going to recommend to you, is Yoast SEO. For those of you who are just starting out and don’t know what that is: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Essentially, you want to use SEO to improve your ranking in search engine results. For example, if you write about blogging and someone searches the term “blogging” in Google, you want your page to appear as far atop as possible. There is a lot that goes into these rankings and I’m far from an expert. Anywho, this plugin checks the SEO of your posts and pages and tells you what you can do to improve them. This surely can’t be bad, can it?

Your Turn

That’s my roundup of the most useful free WordPress plugins that I’ve found so far. What do you reckon? Did you find some that you are going to use for your site as well? Let me know how you go in the comments. Also, if you are looking for something more specific, let me know as well and I’ll try my best to point you in the right direction. Or if you know a few awesome plugins that you think could be really useful for a new blogger, please share them in the comments. Thanks!

Happy experimenting!

Yours,

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December 3, 2017

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