Starting a new WordPress site? When you create a fresh installation, you will have only a few plugins installed automatically. There are some additional WordPress plugins you really have to install to make you site useful, manageable and indexable. I’ve created lots of WordPress sites (circa 120) and I use a sort of ‘template’ to get myself going, before I choose plugins that are specific to any niche.

Because there are so many thousands of plugins (each with their strengths, weaknesses and nuances) I’ve listed the plugin types and my recommendation to the one to use (the ones I use!) You don’t need to select my choices, you can use your own, but I can’t vouch for them.


You need an anti-spam plugin to prevent those pesky spammers from clogging up your comments with their links and non-specific, sycophantic expressions. They’re the bane of WordPress users, so stop them in their tracks. An Anti-Spam plugin screens out the spam automatically (most of the time) so you don’t have to trawl through them when moderating comments. And if you have ever had to deal with spam yourself, you will know what I mean.

You also need an Anti-Spam plugin to prevent getting banned from Google Adsense too. No blog that allows user comments should be without one.

What do I use?

I use Akismet – this is normally installed with the WordPress core by default. This used to be a turn-key solution (you just installed it and away you went) but recently the Akismet people made you register and get an API key. This only takes a few minutes and then you’re done.

Search Engine Optimization

So you’ll want your new WordPress site to be found by Internet users… correct? If you haven’t heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) yet, where have you been? Napping on Mars?

Joking aside, SEO is an absolute must – you’ll be wasting your time without it. It’s really important to understand that ranking high in search engine results is a cut-throat competition, because all websites want it. And some website owners spend millions to get there. (I haven’t got millions to spend on SEO, have you?) So the next-best affordable thing is to make sure you’ve nailed the basics in order to give your website the best chance of appearing in search engine results pages – high enough to receive traffic.

WordPress plugins that ‘sort out’ your SEO do some basic, but essential stuff. Such as automatically creating meta-tags for you, based on your content (the post titles or excerpts, normally).

What do I use?

I use the Yoast SEO plugin. The Yoast plugin is multi-functional and is way cool. I don’t use it for all the things it can do for me – but it really rocks at SEO. I do like the readability enhancement though – this tells me if my content needs re-working so that it is readable by the widest audience.

I have (and still do in some cases) used All in One SEO Pack. This is also a great SEO plugin – highly configurable.

Google Analytics

You’ll want to know how effective your site is, right? Put it this way, who doesn’t use Google Analytics? Plugins can take the burden away from installing the GA tracking code manually (why would you do this yourself?) Some themes have a setting that allows you to enter the GA tracking code in, and some of these work a treat. I always use a dedicated plugin because they give me the most control.

What do I use?

I use Monster Insights. It’s flexible and professionally written. What’s more, I can configure it to ignore my own hits on my site, which would otherwise skew the analytics results. As long as I am logged in to my sites, then this plugin doesn’t log Administrator hits.

XML Sitemaps

You’ll need a XML sitemap plugin to help Google and other search engines know what content on your website exists. A XML sitemap is a directory of all your posts and pages, plus other taxonomy content. A XML sitemap is essential for new sites, especially if the internal links on your site don’t link all your content.

What do I use?

I’ve always used the Google XML Sitemaps plugin – for me this has been the most reliable and configurable.


The speed of your WordPress site is important. Google penalizes slow sites – not by a huge amount but every little helps when it comes to how much Google loves your site. Cache plugins speed up your WordPress site by storing a ‘rendered’ copy of your content – which means that precious time taken up with calls back to a database and plugins is saved.

What do I use?

I use WP Super Cache – because I’ve found this to be the most stable and reliable. I’ve used others, with more bells and whistles, but always come back to this plugin because of its stability. And when it comes to my sites, stability is a major factor.


Speed is critical, as I have said before. Keeping my WordPress installations clutter free and tight gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling. Doesn’t it for you? I use optimization plugins to automate the grudge work in keeping things nice and tidy. For example, I get rid of post revisions, once I’ve published them. I removed trashed comments and posts. I optimize database tables.

What do I use?

I use WP-Optimization plugin. It does these things quickly and robustly. There isn’t much else to say other than it just works, for the tasks I want. There are features that I don’t use, because they can potentially corrupt data – there are plenty warnings on the plugin settings page as to which these are.

Do I ‘Go Pro’?

Many plugins offer an upgrade option, for a fee. Which is fair, when you consider the amount of effort and cost that goes into building a really good plugin. Paying for the upgrade version means that the plugin developers get paid for their work, and even better versions follow.

I upgrade all the above plugins I have specifically mentioned, for that reason. But it doesn’t mean you have to – only upgrade if you want to (it’s a way of saying a big Thank You to the developer), as you don’t really need the enhanced features to make them work.

I Created a Plugin Pack

To speed up the deployment of these plugins, I created a ‘plugin pack’. Which is simply a local folder with the latest plugins (unzipped) that I FTP up to my host, when creating a new site. Saves time – a nice little hack. It also means I carry through any customizations I make to the plugins (very geeky, I know…)