When you’re setting up your first website (or in some cases, you’re creating a new one each week), I find it useful to have a list of required plugins to add right away.
These are the plugins that your site is going to need, and will benefit you from the beginning.
Over the years, I’ve kept a list of primary plugins to use when I build a new site, and it does change once in a while when a new plugin comes up or an old one just doesn’t cut it any more. I keep it as a simple list in a Google Sheet that acts as my niche site control panel – along with the list of domains, purchase dates, affiliate earnings, etc.
If you plan on building a number of niche sites, definitely keep this list on hand. So many times before I started this saved list I would forget a plugin and remember a month into a new site, and would have benefitted by using it over that month.
So here are my suggested plugins to add to a new site:
Jetpack for WordPress is like one of those all-in-one packages. It was built to give you access to a large number of useful modules/plugins that all come in one plugin. Some of the main uses include:
- Stats – a good secondary analytics module that shows basic stats, incoming and outgoing links and pageviews.
- Publicize – Automatically publish your posts to Twitter, Facebook and more.
- Sharing – Adds simple social sharing buttons to your posts.
- Extra Sidebar Widgets – Easily add more widget areas to your theme.
There are a large number of more features as well that, based on your theme and your needs, could be really beneficial. I find that I use the stats daily, just as a quick view while I’m on the site to see where people are coming from, and if they click on any links.
Google Analytics Dashboard (wordpress.org/plugins)
This plugin has two good uses. First, it displays your basic Google analytic stats right on your wordpress dashboard, giving you the past month’s snapshot of your stats, or letting you see Today or even Real Time stats.
Secondly, this plugin also injects the tracking code in your theme for you. The HUGE benefit of this is that I strongly believe you shouldn’t put the Analytics tracking code right in your theme files because as soon as you want a new theme (as we all do within 1 week of publishing it!), the tracking code will be gone and if it takes you a few days to a few weeks to realize this, you’ve lost all that data.
Using the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin keeps the code there, and always tracking.
Easy Affiliate Links (wordpress.org/plugins)
I’ve teetered between two link shortener plugins over the past while: Pretty Link and Easy Affiliate Links. Pretty Link was my go-to for a while at the beginning but I’ve now switched over to Easy Affiliate Links for good. Part of the reason is that while Pretty Link is simple and works well, it was a bit too simple unless you got the paid version.
Easy Affiliate Links is a plugin that lets you ‘hide’ or mask your outgoing links, as well as provide tracking for them. I like using these because if you have affiliate links that are super long URLs, this shortens them for easier viewing. As well, this plugin tracks the number of clicks so that you can get an idea of how many people are using specific links.
Lastly, this also lets you use the same code for each link. So if you’re linking to a specific Amazon product on a number of pages, you can use the same code each time.
The SEO Framework (wordpress.org/plugins)
While WordPress is amazing on its own for how well it helps with SEO, there is always more that can be done. The SEO Framework plugin easily covers things like titles, meta descriptions, social cards, sets up a sitemap, connects you to webmaster tools, etc. Its an all-in-one SEO plugin. What’s great about it, is that its fairly automated. You can adjust minor settings if you want to, but beyond adding your social accounts and helping it connect to Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster or Yandex, it pretty much can run on its own.
There is also single-post settings, and this plugin will tell you if your title and description are adequate or bad. A nice little add-on as well is you can set 301 redirects for posts right from the single post meta box, so that cuts out another plugin you may need some day.
Gravity Forms (gravityforms.com)
This is a premium plugin, but if you’re planning on running a number of websites, definitely worth it. Gravity Forms is a simple (but highly complex) form creator. So at its simplest you can create a contact form for your site that includes any number of fields, put together with a quick drag-and-drop system that includes honeypot spam protection. More advanced, I’ve used this plugin for things like an order form with full pricing, add-ons and a payment gateway. I’ve also used it for mass applications where overlapping conditional tags were used to navigate a number of forms. You can also use Gravity Forms to allow users to create posts on your site and submit them for approval. Its uses are really quite endless – if you need them.
One of the key features I love is that the form entries are stored right in your site’s admin area, so if emails get lost, you’ll always have access to the entries.
If you plan on monitizing your website with ads, this is the plugin I’d use. Its fairly simple, just lets you add in the ad image (or code), the link, set it to an area, and it’ll track views and clicks for you. Works great with Google Adsense as well as ads you sell and post yourself. You can set it to rotate through the ads randomly, give some higher strength than others, and show up in multiple areas. You can set up start and end dates for the ads, if you’ve got paying clients with time windows, or set up a maximum number of impressions or clicks, if that is how you’re selling the ads. There is a pro version if you want things like geo-targeting, but the basic is good enough to start with.
New Amazon Affiliate Link Localizer (alessandrogonella.com)
Last up is a useful plugin if you’re using Amazon Affiliate links on your site. One of Amazon’s flaws is that it has different associate IDs (and different websites) for each of its sales areas. This means that if you use your US associate ID for an affiliate link, and someone from Canada clicks on it, it pushes the user to the Canadian site and then they order something, it won’t credit you with the order because they ordered it in Canada. Big flaw.
So what you need is to set up Associate accounts in each of Amazon’s sales areas, and what the Amazon Affiliate Like Localizer does is lets you input all your IDs and it automatically changes that ID in the links on your site based on where the user is located. This then gives you a better chance of getting commissions from users outside of your target country.
Now there are thousands of plugins you can use on your website, and you may not want to go with the first you find, so do your research. Each has its pros and cons, so look at the description, feedback, screenshots and any thing else that will help you decide which is best to use.