A month ago I asked which WordPress plugins I really needed to have on my blogs. I decided on six plugins which I then installed on half of my blogs. A month later, having tried them out, it’s time to decide which to keep and install on the other blogs, and which to uninstall. As promised, I’m blogging about it to share my conclusions.
A quick recap, in case you’re just joining me: This is all part of the Blog Revival Project, where I’m trying to bring six blogs from the brink of death, back into the land of the living. You can read more about it here.
Choosing just six plugins to use on my blogs
I don’t like the added liability that comes with plugins, so I want to keep their number to the minimum. You can read more on why plugins can hurt your blog in this post.
In order to decide which plugins to use, I did something fairly simple. I looked up every list of “top wordpress plugins” posted by bloggers in 2016. I wrote them all down and tallied up the votes. That’s how I came up with the final list of 6 most recommended wordpress plugins for 2016. The finalists were: Jetpack, Yoast SEO, W3 Total Cache, Wordfence, BackupBuddy and Akismet.
I then decided to test them for one month on three of my blogs, leaving the other three plugin-less. Akismet was the exception here. I’ve been using it forever and there was no need to test it.
So, were these plugins worth it?
1. Yoast SEO
This plugin really helped re-focus my attention back to onpage SEO. I love its interface. Tiny traffic light icons light up in red, orange or green and give you instant feedback on two parameters: SEO and readability. Yoast SEO measures your score on these criteria, literally as you type. Scroll down the page and there’s a box under your editor where it tells you exactly what needs improving. This is what the readability tab looks like –
And there’s a similar one for onpage SEO –
At first, I found myself trying to make Yoast SEO happy. I really wanted to turn all of the little lights green! I may have over optimized a few blog posts that way. I don’t do that anymore. I just work at things until I reach a green light.
The bottom line is: Yes. It’s a great plugin which I’m going to install on all of my blogs.
2. W3 Total Cache
It’s hard for me to evaluate W3 Total Cache at this point. All of my blogs are relatively small and don’t get a lot of traffic (yet!), so server loads just aren’t high enough to see any significant difference with caching.
I’m going to deactivate this one for now. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not necessary at this point.
Another plugin which is difficult for me to evaluate. It delivers what it says on the package. Fortunately, with no attacks on any of my blogs, all it does at this point is let me know when I need to update plugins or templates. That’s something that WordPress does just as well on its own by displaying little red circles in the dashboard.
Web security is important but at this point, I’m not sure Wordfence adds much in that respect.
I actually couldn’t get BackupBuddy to work on the first blog I tried it on. I never bothered with trying too hard. Instead, I just moved on to another recommended backup plugin: BackWPup.
BackWPup works as advertised. I now have weekly backups on the blogs where it’s installed. Complete backups of database and files are regularly placed in my Dropbox. No complaints. Backup is important, so this is one plugin I’m keeping and installing on the other blogs as well.
Hmmm. Still not sure how I feel about Jetpack. It does have a lot of features but the only one I actually use is social sharing. Now, that’s something that can be done using other – much smaller – plugins.
Its other features are nice-to-have but not something I rely on. So, the jury is still out on this one. I think I’ll keep it where I installed it. If nothing else, it provides an element of site protection and an extra stats counter.
So, to sum this up.
BackWPup and Yoast SEO stay and get installed on all of my blogs. I may even invest in the premium version at some point.
Wordfence and W3 Total Cache get uninstalled.
Jetpack stays for now on the blogs where it’s been installed. Still thinking about whether or not I need it on the other blogs. It’s a “Wait and see” with this one.
So, only three plugins?
I wish! Other needs have come up over the past month which made me install a couple of other plugins.
Affiliate redirects –
I’m trying Pretty Link on this blog and Easy Affiliate Links on another. I need them to streamline those ugly affiliate links. They also add with tracking clicks, so that’s a nice bonus.
It’s always been a favorite of mine. I comment on a lot of blogs and I really like instantly seeing what another commenter’s blog is all about. CommentLuv provides that and I want to offer it on my own blogs.
I hope this post helps others figure out which plugins they should be using on their blog. I’m always happy to hear what others use, so please leave me a comment! With CommentLuv installed, you even get to show off your latest blog post!