One of the beautiful things about WordPress is that you can add all kinds of plugins that give added functionality to your blog.
It’s beautiful in that if you can think about something you’d like to do with your blog, there’s probably a plugin that will help you do it.
Here’s the downside – the more plugins you have, the more code gets added to your site.
This is where the potential problem comes in. If a plugin’s developer isn’t really good at what they do and proactively upgrading the plugin, it can cause your site to be slower and also open up some security vulnerabilities leaving your blog open to exploitation. I know because this has happened to me.
In an interview with on the Smart Passive Income podcast, Dan Norris from WP Curve stated that a good rule of thumb is that you should try to aim for fewer than 20 plugins. Since he’s the co-founder of WP Curve, the company that I use for all my tech support for my blog, I trust his opinion and have decided to use that as a good rule of thumb.
Now, I’m not saying that if you have 50 plugins, you are definitely screwed and that you’re a hacker target. Nor am I saying that if you don’t have any plugins, you are 100% secure.
What I AM saying is that since I know of these potential issues, I’ve made the decision to only keep a plugin or install a plugin if it adds something that I feel is absolutely necessary for the function of my blog or that it enhances the user experience in some significant way.
In other words, if a plugin helps you, it stays. If it doesn’t – it goes!
The result is that I went from having 32 plugins installed to 13 active plugins. Here’s a list of what has remained with a detailed explanation as to why they made the cut.
This is actually a relatively new plugin that I just had installed on my blog. Why? Because (once again) hackers tried to take me down a few weeks ago. I asked my tech crew to fix my blog for me and this is what they installed.
I spent some time going through the plugin’s setting last night and was very impressed. It allows you to specify a number of settings that make it more difficult for hackers to get to you and I just love it. Here are some examples of the steps it takes you through:
- Changing your admin username from “admin” (if you haven’t done this, make sure to do this)
- If someone attempts to login multiple times unsuccessfully (you set that number), it will automatically block their IP address for a predetermined amount of time. This prevents bots from doing what’s called a Brute Force attack, where they just automatically try a bunch of passwords until one works.
- Change database table prefix – WordPress is based on a database system. When the database for WordPress is installed, the prefix on all of the database tables is wp_. This is something that can be exploited by hackers. It allows you to randomly generate a table prefix or to use one that you determine.
There are a bunch of other settings that you can apply that make WordPress even more protected, and it’s all up to you how many of those you wish to apply without making it inconvenient for regular users trying to access features of your blog (i.e. using a CAPTCHA code for comments, etc).
Once you have applied your settings, it gives you a report on a scale of 0 to 460 of how protected you are. Once you’re in the green, you should be relatively safe. I scored 215 so far as you can see below:
Cost: Starts at $80/yr
This was also installed by my tech team to perform automatic backups. I remember trying it out in the past but not liking it. I remember it being difficult to figure out. Seems like they have come a long way now and things are much easier.
It basically performs automatic backups of your blog at whatever time interval you would like it to. I used to use VaultPress for this because it was much easier at the time, but vaultpress has a recurring monthly fee.
Backup buddy does essentially the same thing, and offers multiple ways to store that backup (i.e. on Dropbox). Since it's included in the cost of my tech team, I've decided to stick with this one. Now, I have peace of mind. If something goes wrong, I just restore an earlier version.
The jury is still out on this one. I installed it a few weeks ago because of the sheer number of spam comments I was receiving. I’ve heard a number of my blogging friends say that Disqus virtually eliminates those spam comments.
I do feel (so far) that the number of spam comments have gone down, but I hate how long the comment system takes to load. I think because there’s kind of an extra layer to go through before leaving a comment, it does reduce the amount of spam.
Also, when you click on the commenter’s name, it doesn’t go directly to their website. That’s not as attractive for spammers.
The beauty in these kinds of commenting systems is that it makes it so that if someone is already logged into Disqus, it’s even easier for them to leave a comment. I do like that.
I’m still thinking this one through, but will let you know what my final verdict is.
Cost: Free + Premium options
This is a premium form plugin that I use. Normally I would just use the regular comment form that’s built into most WordPress themes. However, when I was taking applicants for Private Coaching, I needed a more robust form creator with more flexibility.
I checked out formidable and loved it, and since I will be using more forms in the future, I’m keeping it.
Cost: Starts at $67/month
I use LeadPages for all my opt in forms, squeeze pages, sales pages and now my lightbox popup. It’s simple and relatively easy to use. In fact, I will go out on the limb and say that it’s the easiest system I’ve found for doing this kind of stuff.
LeadPages isn’t perfect, and quite frankly, I wish it were a bit more flexible, but it’s the best I have right now, so I will continue using it.
If you go to my Podcast Page, you will see a list of all my episodes. In the past, whenever I added a new episode, my Virtual Assistant had to go to that page and add that new one to the list. I knew there had to be a better (more automated) way.
This plugin eliminates that step. Once the episode is placed in the category “Podcast”, it gets automatically added to the link. I like automation 🙂
Cost: $69/year (includes Elegant Themes Membership)
This is a plugin I decided to try because it comes with your elegant themes membership (a service I recommend for getting awesome Premium WordPress themes.
It’s the social sharing plugin I use on this blog. If you look to the left, you will see my floating social sharing buttons. That’s handled by this plugin.
It also includes all kinds of other sharing styles. You can have fly ins, popups, cool sharing buttons on your images, etc.
The coolest part is that it gives you all kinds of statistics on the backend about how people are sharing your stuff.
If you do any affiliate marketing or need to create memorable links from links that are hard to remember, this plugin is a must.
Just as an example, my affiliate link for hostgator hosting is http://secure.hostgator.com/~affiliat/cgi-bin/affiliates/clickthru.cgi?id=lrsamuel. Can you imagine me trying to remember that to tell people? Nope! Since I use Pretty link, all I have to say is go to becomeablogger.com/hostgator.
This plugin creates the pretty url and also allows me to track my clicks. It’s a beautiful thing.
Side note: I have the pro version, but you really only need the light version for tracking links.
This plugin is the only thing I use when it comes to SEO. In fact, I wrote an article explaining exactly why I use it so I won’t go into it here.
Tech Support Plugins
These are a suite of two plugins that are used by WP Curve to manage the technical aspects of my blog. I’ve mentioned my tech crew a few times. These are a team of WordPress developers that take care of any tech issues on my blog for $69/month.
The two plugins they have installed are called Custom Functions by WPCurve and Quick Support for WPCurve. I have no idea what they are or how they function, nor do I really care.
They know what they are doing and I leave that completely up to them.
WordPress Theme Related Plugins
The WordPress theme I use here at Become A Blogger is called the X Theme. This theme uses two recommended plugins: WPBakery Visual Composer and X – Shortcodes. The first makes it so that I can edit my pages in a visual way, dragging and dropping things to move them around and adding theme specific elements to the page to make it look awesome.
X Shortcodes adds functionality that allows me to use theme specific shortcodes to my posts and pages to make things look pretty cool.
I’m not going into all the details of those plugins because they are more specific to my wordpress theme.
Will I be adding more plugins?
The short answer is yes. I will be adding a few more, specifically to increase the speed of my blog. There are a few plugins out there that can make a SIGNIFICANT difference in the speed of your WordPress site. However, I won’t be covering them here because I have some more digging and exploration to do. Stay tuned though.
Let's wrap this up
So there you have it – all of the plugins I’m currently using. It’s interested that I’ve gone from being a plugin freak to a plugin minimalist. As I grow in my blogging career, I’ve been cutting away a lot of fat, and I believe that there’s a lot more cutting that will take place (in other areas).
As I make decisions on what the essential parts of my business are, you know I’ll be sharing these thoughts with you 😉
I have an interesting (and possibly difficult) question that I’d like to end on – If you could only choose ONE plugin, which plugin would that be? Let me know in the comments below.