Best WordPress Plugins To Install On My Blogs

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 –

yoast screenshot

 

And there’s a similar one for onpage SEO –

yoastseo

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.

3. Wordfence

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.

4. BackupBuddy

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.

5. Jetpack

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.

CommentLuv –

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!

Why I REALLY don’t like Disqus

I really don’t like the Disqus commenting system.

If you use Disqus as your comments plug-in, not only will you not be getting any comments from me, I’ll also avoid reading your posts. I use BlogLovin’ to follow my favorite blogs and I absolutely refuse to follow any blog that uses Disqus.

Why I really don't like Disqus

Here’s why.

1. It wants me to register an account with them.

I have plenty of accounts in so many services. I see no benefit in registering for one more just so I can comment on your blog.

2. It won’t let commenters add a link back to their website.

No, I don’t comment on blogs for SEO benefits. I know very well that WordPress comments have a “nofollow” attribute and that’s just fine. I hate comment spam as much as anyone.

When I see an interesting comment by someone, I want to follow through to their blog. It’s very frustrating not having a link to go to other than their very boring Disqus profile. Why should I care about their Disqus profile and why should you generate traffic for Disqus which does not benefit your readers in any way?

These two reasons make Disqus very frustrating for me as a blog reader, whether I want to comment on your post or even if I don’t.

I don’t understand why bloggers use Disqus in the first place. Yes, I have read about their “advantages” but I see more disadvantages there.

1. They store the comments on their server.

I want to contribute content to your blog. Not to Disqus. I would never use that plugin on any of my blogs because I want full control over content, comments included. Now and in the future too. Even if down the road they decided to charge for the service.

2. It deters some users from participating in the conversation.

Those without an account, like myself, are far less likely to add a comment.

Why would anyone choose Disqus in the first place?

I do wonder.

WordPress has a perfectly ok system for commenting.

  • It allows users to add their email address without publishing it, so you can contact them while keeping their privacy.
  • It allows fellow bloggers to present their blog in a non-obtrusive way, helping develop a community around your topic.
  • It lends itself beautifully to various template designs.
  • It handles spam very well once you activate Akismet.
    I don’t see how Disqus is any better in that respect. I have seen blogs where spammers filled the Disqus comments section with links to their sites. Left open to links and unmonitored, there’s little Disqus can do to stop spammers.
  • It’s there already. No need for additional plugins.

With such an effective and useful system already in place, why use a plugin? The only motivation I can see is that Disqus pays bloggers a small fee when they activate the built-in ads. Is it really worth it though?

Why won’t I even follow your blog if you use Disqus?

I’m the kind of person who likes to engage others in conversation. I’m the one who can’t help but respond to people’s Facebook posts, or tweet back when something catches my eye on Twitter.

I do the same with blogs. When I read an interesting blog post, I like to leave my paw mark and reply with my own insights and thoughts. I also appreciate the opportunity to present myself to the blogger and to other commenters by adding a link to my blog. I want this process to be simple and I don’t want to have to create an account with a third-party just so I can comment.

If your blog uses Disqus, you’re in effect shutting me out of the conversation. Even if I have something that’s very useful and interesting, or if I want to ask something. That’s not nice and it means I won’t go back to your blog. There are TONS of great blogs out there where I can speak my mind, so why waste my time on the ones who don’t let me do so?

Why should you care?

I’m just a grumpy old web publisher (not really! I’m awesome!) and your blog will do just fine without my comments or my readership (not really! You want to hear what I have to say!)

I’m not the only commenter you’re losing though. People who engage with a website tend to return and to stay for longer. Commenting adds stickiness. To get them to engage with your blog, you need to keep things simple. Disqus complicates them.

When you use Disqus you may be losing commenters and readers. I doubt I’m the only one.

6 WordPress Plugins That Will Actually Benefit My Blogs

First, A quick recap:

I have recently decided to rejoin the blogging community which means I’m taking a fresh look at everything – from blog software through content writing to marketing – while at the same time using my own insights, generated over 18 years of web publishing. You can read more about that here.

This week I’m looking into plugins. I’m not too keen about using too many plugins and you can read here why. That said, I’m entirely open to using the ones that –

  1. Are secure.
  2. Seem to have enough of a community around them to offer support in the long run.
  3. Actually benefit a blog.
  4. Are easy to remove.

I’m happy to say that I found them. Here’s how I did it.

6 WP plugins that will benefit my blogs

I began by asking the Mighty Google which WordPress plugins does she think are relevant in 2016. As expected, over 17 million search results were generated, with quite a few bloggers competing over the first spots with their beautifully-written, helpful, expert-curated, handpicked and absolutely must-have lists.

Almost all lists had more than 10 items in them, some over 20. Hmmm… did I mention I have reservations about using too many plugins? Time to narrow down the recommendations. I’m a firm believe in the Wisdom Of Crowds, so I figured I’d check and see which plugins everyone seems to recommend.

Rounding up lists of recommended plugins for 2016… here we go!

Step 1 – The Lists

First, I’m just going to go through every search result on the first two pages, check to see that it’s indeed a list of plugins for 2016 and copy their list. Just the names of the plugins. Nothing more. I’m not even going to check what the plugins are or what they do.

Source: WPBeginner.com (24 Plugins)

1. OptinMonster
2. WPForms
3. Google Analytics
4. MailChimp
5. Sucuri
6. BackupBuddy
7. Yoast SEO
8. W3 Total Cache
9. MaxCDN
10. Envira Gallery
11. Soliloquy
12. Buffer
13. IFTTT
14. Quick and Easy FAQs
15. Insert Headers and Footers
16. CSS Hero
17. Beaver Builder
18. Google Apps for Work
19. Freshbooks
20. SEMRush
21. All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets
22. BirchPress
23. Testimonials Widget
24. Slack

Source: ThemeTrust.com (27 Plugins)

1. Page Builder by SiteOrigin
2. Shortcodes Ultimate
3. Disqus Comment System
4. Easy Content Types
5. TablePress
6. Envira Gallery
7. Max Mega Menu
8. Rapidology
9. Leadin
10. W3 Total Cache
11. WP Smush
12. P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
13. WP-Sweep
14. Wordfence Security
15. Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner
16. WordPress Backup to Dropbox
17. Yoast SEO
18. Linker
19. Simple 301 Redirects
20. Broken Link Checker
21. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets
22. Revive Old Post
23. Social Metrics Tracker
24. SumoMe
25. WPtouch Mobile Plugin
26. WP Slimstat
27. Jetpack

Source: SourceWP.com (20 Plugins)

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
2. W3 Total Cache
3. Jetpack
4. Monarch
5. Google XML Sitemaps
6. iThemes Security
7. WP-Optimize
8. Contact Form 7
9. WP Smush.it
10. Bloom
11. WP Notification Bar Pro
12. BJ Lazy Load
13. Broken Link Checker
14. My WP Backup Pro
15. WordPress Subscribe Pro
16. BuddyPress
17. PubSubHubbub
18. Redirection
19. P3 Profiler
20. I couldn’t find his #20. The post title says 20 but I counted only 19 (twice).

Source: WarfarePlugins.com (12 Plugins)

1. W3 Total Cache
2. Yoast SEO
3. Ninjas Forms
4. WooCommerce
5. Redirection
6. Co-Schedule
7. Updraft Plus
8. Wordfence Security
9. Social Warfare
10. OptinMonster
11. Advanced Custom Fields
12. Google Analytics by Yoast

Source: MakeTechEasier.com (9 Plugins)

1. SEO by Yoast
2. Floating Social Bar
3. Contact Form 7
4. Updraft Plus
5. Sucuri Security
6. Page Builder by SiteOrigin
7. WP Smush
8. Yuzo – Related Posts
9. W3 Total Cache

Source: MyTipsHub.com (16 Plugins)

1. BackupBuddy
2. Yoast SEO
3. Gravity Forms
4. Disqus Plugin
5. OptinMonster
6. ShortPixel
7. Sucuri Plugin
8. AdSanity Plugin
9. Display Widgets
10. Envira Gallery
11. ThirstyAffiliates
12. Limit Login
13. Soliloquy
14. Edit Flow
15. Term Management Tools
16. Compact Archives

Source: 85Ideas.com (17 plugins)

1. WordPress SEO Yoast
2. Akismet
3. Intergeo Maps Lite
4. Editorial Calendar
5. Floating Social Bar
6. UpDraftPlus
7. Sucuri Security
8. WooCommerce
9. W3 Total Cache
10. Yet Another Related Post Plugin(YARPP)
11. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
12. Redirection
13. WP-Optimize
14. MailChimp
15. WP Smush
16. PolyLang
17. AdSanity

Source: WPDailyThemes.com (14 plugins)

1. Akismet
2. Jetpack
3. Wordfence Security
4. UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration
5. Breadcrumb NavXT
6. WooCommerce
7. Yoast SEO
8. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
9. YouTube Embed
10. BuddyPress
11. W3 Total Cache
12. Polylang
13. Floating Social Bar
14. SumoMe

Source: ColorLib.com (7 Plugins)

1. Wordfence
2. UpdraftPlus
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
4. Simple Share Buttons Adder
5. WP Super Cache
6. Contact Form 7
7. Akismet

Source: WPFreeSetup.com (11 Plugins)

1. Jetpack
2. SEO by Yoast
3. YARPP: Yet Another related post plugin
4. SEO friendly Images
5. WPTouch Mobile
6. W3 Total cache
7. WPForms
8. WP Db manager
9. WP Optimize plugin
10. Digg Digg WordPress plugin
11. WP Smush.it

Source: AuthorityLab.com (14 Plugins)

1. WordPress SEO by Yoast
2. W3 Total Cache
3. Disqus
4. Google XML Sitemaps
5. EWWW Image Optimizer
6. Google Analytics by Yoast
7. Mailchimp Newsletter Signup
8. Optin Forms
9. BackWPup
10. BackupBuddy
11. WordPress Backup for Dropbox
12. Wordfence
13. Sucuri Security
14. Brute Force Login Protection

Source: 80proofdigital.com (25 Plugins)

1. WP Super Cache
2. W3 Total Cache
3. WP Optimize Speed By xTraffic
4. Use Google Libraries
5. P3 Plugin Performance Profiler
6. EWWW Image Optimizer
7. Yoast SEO
8. All in one SEO
9. Google XML Sitemaps
10. XML Sitemap & Google News feeds
11. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
12. Google Video Sitemap Feed
13. YouTube Video Sitemap generator
14. Udinra All Image Sitemap
15. Image Sitemap
16. SEO Smart Link
17. WP Optimize By xTraffic
18. 404 To 301 Re-direct
19. Broken Link Checker
20. Jetpack
21. Sucuri Security
22. Wordfence Security
23. SumoMe
24. Shareaholic
25. AddToAny Share Buttons

Source: LionsShareDigital.com (20 Plugins)

1. WooCommerce – Excelling eCommerce
2. Memberships for WooCommerce
3. Stripe
4. Duplicate Post
5. HTML SEO Sitemap
6. Google Analytics Yoast
7. WP Smush.it
8. Redirection
9. Manage WP
10. Gravity Forms
11. Imsanity
12. Bloom
13. Monarch
14. Business Profile
15. Google Places Reviews
16. Yelp Widget Pro
17. Event Calendar Pro
18. Cue Music Player
19. WP Rocket
20. Foo Gallery

Source: BloggingWizard.com (22 Plugins)

1. W3 Total Cache
2. WP Super Cache
3. iThemes Security
4. Wordfence
5. BackupBuddy
6. BackWPup
7. Redirection
8. All in One SEO Pack
9. Yoast SEO
10. Google Analyticator
11. Clicky by Yoast
12. Edit Flow
13. Editorial Calendar
14. Thrive Leads
15. SumoMe
16. LeadPages
17. OptimizePress
18. Thrive Content Builder
19. Social Warfare
20. Share by SumoMe
21. Akismet
22. Disqus

Source: OnBlastBlog.com (20 Plugins)

1. Scroll Triggered Box
2. W3 Total Cache
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
4. Disqus Comments
5. The Hello Bar
6. WP Super Cache
7. 404 Redirection
8. Buffer
9. Jetpack
10. BackupBuddy
11. Edit Flow
12. LeadPages
13. Thrive Content Builder
14. Share by Sumo Me
15. Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P)
16. Wordfence
17. WP Rocket
18. GetResponse
19. Hybrid Connect
20. iThemes Security

Source: TipsAndTricks-hq.com (34 Plugins)

* I ignored the section for e-commerce. Too specific for my need.

1. Akismet
2. BackUpWordPress
3. All in One SEO Pack
4. WordPress SEO by Yoast
5. Google XML Sitemaps
6. All In One WP Security & Firewall
7. BulletProof Security
8. Wordfence Security
9. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
10. Google Analytics
11. WP Statistics
12. W3 Total Cache
13. FeedBurner FeedSmith
14. Add to Any: Subscribe Button
15. Category Specific RSS Menu
16. Contact Form 7
17. Contact Form
18. Gravity Forms
19. Social Media and Share Icons
20. Share This
21. Fat Free WordPress Social Share Buttons Plugin
22. Simple Google Adsense insertion
23. Google Adsense Plugin
24. Google Adsense
25. NextGen Gallery
26. Simple Photo Gallery
27. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
28. Download Monitor
29. Executable PHP Widget
30. Crayon Syntax Highlighter
31. Mailpoet Newsletters
32. WP-Polls
33. EWWW Image Optimizer
34. WP Video Lightbox

Step 2 – Crunching The Numbers

Whew!

That was a total of 16 sources, based on the top Google search results which should hopefully reflect a decent mix of relevance and authority. There were a few results I chose not to use because they were too niche-specific or overly self-promotional.

Total votes counted: 291

Total number of plugins mentioned: 149

And The Top Recommended Plugins for 2016 Are…

1. Yoast SEO – 15 Votes

2. W3 Total Cache – 13 Votes

3. Wordfence – 7 votes

4. Sucuri – 7 votes

Places 5 through 8:
Jetpack, SumoMe, Smush & BackupBuddy – 6 votes each.

Places 9 through 14:
Akismet, Disqus, OptimizeSpeed, Redirection, Updraft Plus, XML Sitemap – 5 votes each

Step 3 – Considering The Top Choices

Googling and counting is relatively easy. Now for some actual thinking.

My criteria for plugins were security, a strong community of users, significant benefit to my blogs and ease of removal (in case there are any issues with them in the future).

All of these plugins seem to have a fairly large number of users. Which means it’s unlikely they will be discontinued in the coming years. Fingers crossed, if the original developers decide to move on, there will be others taking their place.

I’m not a security expert so I can’t check the code of any of these plugins for security loopholes. That’s ok though. They are used by so many bloggers that we can assume there are actual coders and security experts among them. Security issues will hopefully be addressed with quick patches, should they arise.

The actual benefit to the blog is an interesting point. I think the full list brings up a few aspects that appear to be lacking in the original WordPress installation. Looks like most bloggers think there’s a real need for the following –

1. Tighter security – Wordfence and Sucuri appear to be the leaders. All in all, almost every list included a security plugin. Jetpack offers security features as well.

2. Improved SEO – Yoast, yoast, yoast… everyone wants it, apparently. A few other SEO plugins have been mentioned as well.

3. Faster loading times – W3 Cache is the hands-down winner but other plugins have been mentioned abundantly, so this seems to be a very real issue.

4. Automatic backups – WordPress has a built-in backup option of sorts. It generates an XML file which you can download to your own computer. Backups are important and I know it’s something I’m not too good about. I think a backup plugin may be a good idea for me.

5. Social Sharing – Can’t have a post without those social share buttons, now can we. SumoMe seems to be the popular choice. Jetpack offers social shares too.

Step 4 – Decision Time

And the winners are…

1. Jetpack –
It’s a semi-official plugin, designed and maintained by the same people that maintain WordPress. This means it’s here to stay for the very long run and shouldn’t have any compatibility issues during software upgrades. It offers so many features, there’s going to be a learning curve but hopefully it’s worth it.

2. Yoast –
Because 15 out of 16 bloggers can’t be all wrong. Am I giving in to peer pressure? Maybe. And maybe that’s not a bad idea.

3. W3 Total Cache –

There is always a need for speed. Always. Looks like everyone agrees WordPress needs a cache plugin to do that and this one got the most votes.

4. Wordfence –

I’ve had plenty of blogs hacked in the past (unmaintained ones), so I can appreciate the need. There was a tie between Sucuri and Wordfence in the voting stage, so I checked their stats in the WordPress Plugin Directory.

Sucuri:
Compatible up to: 4.4.3
Last Updated: 5 months ago
Active Installs: 200,000+

Wordfence:
Compatible up to: 4.5.2
Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
Active Installs: 1+ million

That pretty much sealed the deal. If I’m going to install a security plugin, I want it to be kept up-to-date and at the very least updated with the latest WP version. Wordfence it is.

5. BackupBuddy –

I need some help with backups. This one had six votes and came in first out of several backup plugins, so I’ll give it a try. Backups are completely “behind the scenes” and should not affect the way users experience my blogs so if I ever want to stop using BackupBuddy, it wouldn’t be a problem.

6. Akismet –

Yes. Good old Akismet. I know what happens when you don’t use it. I’m not seeing any other anti-spam plugin so I can only assume that the bloggers who didn’t mention just take it for granted. After all, you don’t actually have to install Akismet. It’s the one plug-in important enough to be pre-installed for you.

So, that’s it. These will be my five plugins of choice for the new and renewed projects. All’s that left to do is actually install them, tweak and see how they do. In fact, I’m going to turn this into a little experiment.

Step 5 – Testing

Right now I have 7 wordpress blogs in various niches. All of them with aged domains and 100% original content. For the past couple of months I’ve been updating all of them with 4-10 posts a month but I’ve done zero promotion. As in zero. They get hardly any traffic as a result.

Akismet is already installed on all of them and it’s staying there. Wordfence shouldn’t have any affect on traffic, so why not install it on all blogs. The same goes for BackupBuddy.

The other three plugins: Yoast SEO, Jetpack and W3 Total Cache are supposed to have at least some effect on traffic, so I’m going to install them only on three of my blogs. The other three will remain yoast-less, jetpack-less and W3TC-less.

I’m not ready to reveal my portfolio at this point so I’ll just say what my blogs are about, along with their current stats for the past 30 days. That’s May 14th, 2016-June 12th 2016.

#1 A blog sharing photos of cats along with some cat care tips.
Uniques: 118 Pageviews: 165

#2 A shopping blog about cat-related products.
Uniques: 147 Pageviews: 212

#3 A shopping blog about gifts for kids.
Uniques: 33 Pageviews: 44

#4 A shopping & advice blog about home decor.
Uniques: 345 Pageviews: 519.

#5 A travel blog with trip reports, tips and destination guides.
Uniques: 144 Pageviews: 144 (weird, I know. I suspect there may have been reporting issues with this one for a few days).

#6 A blog about my current web publishing projects. Oh, wait, I can actually reveal the domain name in this case. It’s Yeys.com.
Uniques: 181 Pageviews: 263

I’m going to install the plugins on blogs #2, #4 and #6. In one month from now, we’ll see if these three benefit in terms of traffic.

My task for July 13th is to review the plugins I chose and check whether there’s a significant effect to adding the three additional plugins: Yoast SEO, Jetpack and W3 Total Cache.

Are WordPress Plugins Really Worth The Hassle?

“What hassle?” I hear you asking.

They’re wordpress plugins! They’re the best and awesomest thing in the world. They are every blogger’s little helpers, optimizing for SEO, enabling social sharing, cleaning the office room and making us coffee. They should really be called “WordPress house-elves” and not plugins. Why would anyone think they’re a hassle?

Hold on, my little possums and heed the words of the old and wise.

WordPress is awesome. I can’t argue with that. A huge community of talented programmers keep this software brilliantly effective and safe to use. Kudos to them.

Plugins are a whole different story.

1. WordPress plugins are a security risk.

WordPress itself is checked scrutinized by so many coders, it’s as safe as any software can be. Once in a blue moon a potential security loophole is discovered and patched right away with a new update.

As for plugins – or themes for that matter – there are simply too many of them out there. The current count on the official WP plugin directory stands at 45,128. Do you honestly think all of them are safe to use?

Even the more popular ones are susceptible to security loopholes, hacks and leaks, let alone plugins that only ever had 400 installs. What’s more, a plugin that’s safe today, can be unsafe tomorrow. I’m not just talking about an existing vulnerability that’s suddenly discovered. I’m talking about how changes in PHP versions or in WordPress itself can render formerly safe plugins harmful.

I know. Plugin authors should keep them up to date and patch them up as software versions change. Emphasis being on “should”. I have seen so many plugins deserted as their developers moved on to other projects. Can you be sure your plugin will be fully secure a year from now? How about five years?

2. Wordpress plugins can die on you.

And by die on you, I mean stop working altogether. The result can be a mere loss of some insignificant “behind the scenes” function, or it could mean your site crashes. It can also be anything in between, like those sites you see where a couple of lines in PHP code suddenly pop up somewhere on the page to cheerfully announce an error.

If you’re lucky, you can just deactivate the plugin or maybe switch to a competing product. Sometimes the plugin is so deeply embedded in your content, there’s not much you can do.

Plugins die all the time as talented coders move on to the next project. Especially free plugins. I can’t blame the developers. There must be a point where they tire of providing free support to so many people. That’s when you see the dreaded “this plugin is no longer supported” message on their page. From their on, you’re at the mercy of the WordPress and PHP gods. Prepare plenty of black goats to be sacrificed at midnight with every software upgrade to make sure your plugin keeps functioning.

Case in point, I once used a plugin that made it easy for me to include internal links in my posts. All I had to do was insert a certain type of bracket and presto! that word became a link going back to the page or post with the same name. It was really cool, until it stopped working and I had no choice but to go back and edit my posts to correct them.

3. There’s a learning curve to plugins.

Installation is usually (not always) a breeze but then you have to learn how to use your shiny new toy. It can take a while to figure everything out and get the results you want. Sometimes it’s worth the time invested. Other times, not so much.

4. If it’s important, it’ll get incorporated into WordPress.

I’ve been using WordPress since it was launched, back in 2003/4. Someday I’m going to take you down memory lane with me and show you what it looked like back then. Bare bones WordPress. No bells, no whistles. You could blog with it and that’s about it (and boy, that was a LOT back then!)

Then came themes and plugins. People had needs and they hacked WordPress by creating add-ons and plugins. They needed something, coded to meet that need and released that piece of code to the community. If it caught on, that meant the need was shared by many users. Often, the concept would then be absorbed into Wordpress to become an integral part of the original software. In turn, this would make the plugin redundant.

Which is wonderful, in a sense. Plugins are a way of moving the platform forward and we all benefit from that. The problem with being an early adopter is having to deal with switching from using the plugin into using the equivalent new WordPress feature. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it’s not.

The bottom line is –
One does not simply install a wordpress plugin

No, one certainly doesn’t. Or shouldn’t.

It’s tempting, I know. WordPress makes finding plugins and installing them waaay too easy. Given half an hour, you can end up with 10-20 plugins that promise to make your blog a shiny beautiful fast lean money-making machine.

Then time passes. WordPress moves on to bigger and better versions and you get stuck with a bunch of plugins that are no longer supported and are just a security breaches waiting to happen. That’s if they don’t crash your blog first.

So, no plugins for me?

No plugins for you!

Let’s not get carried away here.

Plugins can be immensely important. There’s a reason why two of them are included with every WordPress installation. Just try running a blog without activating your Akismet plugin. Trust me, been there, tried that, deleted the blog altogether.

And as for Hello Dolly, well you just gotta have Hello Dolly. You simply must have the tune swirling in your head whenever you launch a new blog. If you don’t, your blog is bound to fail. I don’t activate it though, the title is enough to get me buzzing along.

If nothing else, you can be sure that both Akismet and the much-needed Hello Dolly plugins will always be supported and have updates. Well worth sticking to those two.

But what about other WordPress plugins?

Sigh. This is where things get complicated. For the past five years I’ve been busy with a major online project unrelated to blogging. Yes, I’ve always had a few blogs on the side. I occasionally rarely updated them with new posts here and there. I managed to keep their WordPress installation up-to-date (mainly thanks to auto updates) and that’s about it. If a plugin turned sour, I would just delete it and let the blog suffer the consequences.

Now I’m back. I’m embarking on a fresh blogging adventure. Part of it might turn out to be this very blog although my focus will likely be on one or two other new blogs. As part of my refresher course, I am now looking into WordPress plugins, the ones where the benefits outweigh the risks. My current plan is to visit those lists of “Must Have Plugins for 2016” and see what other bloggers recommend.

Will soon share my conclusions in a follow-up post. Stay tuned.