15 Essential WordPress Plugins For Niche Blogs

Too many plugins will dramatically impact your site. Your page speed will drop, there is the potential of conflicts and not to mention security risks. Other than that you NEED the right plugins to make it faster and improve your workflow, conversion rate and UX.

So you want to minimize the number of WordPress plugins to only the best! – These are my essential plugins that you must have for a fast and functional blog.

Make Your Blog Lightning Fast!

Smush Image Compression and Optimization

What does it do? It’s essential for the speed of your website! What it does, is compress your images to a smaller file size so they can load faster.

Smush has a bulk smush feature which allows you to retro-actively optimize your images. When uploading new ones, it will automatically get them in a more suitable format and file size. You don’t have to worry about a thing, the plugin makes sure your images will always be nice and small in size, without losing quality.

The free version is enough for most blogs and even offers you a lazy load (images only load when in or near view). The pro version offers a plethora of features, such as CDN integration, even better optimization and other site speed-ups. I would recommend the pro version only if you’re really serious about your blog.

Check it out here: https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wp-smush-pro/?ref=yannickschouppe-346497 (affiliate link – I get some free months, nice huh?) Free version you can just find in the WordPress plugin directory in your dashboard.

Autoptimize

What does it do? Minifies Javascript, CSS, HTML code. Cleans up a lot of other things, aggregates where possible. Creates a cache. If all those things sound like gibberish to you, just remember this: it makes your website faster.

How fast your site loads isn’t the biggest ranking factor on Google, but it’s definitely important. Having a nice and fast website will give you an edge over a slower competitor. Get this plugin, it helps quite a lot.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/autoptimize/

WebP Express

What does it do? It further optimizes your images by creating new .webp versions of them. Using this alongside Smush or Smush Pro, Autoptimize and WP Super Cache will give your site a speed boost that brings it to the 100-mark on the Pagespeed test site.

It creates duplicated of your images and serves them to browsers that are .webp compatible. Older browsers will still see your png and jpg versions, but that’s not important. It’s all about Google!

It’s easy enough to set-up. Just let it hande the images and not the HTML and don’t forget to bulk convert your old files (it’s in the options)

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/webp-express/

WP Super Cache

What does it do? Creates static versions of your posts so they don’t have to be loaded by your server every time someone visits. Greatly speeds up the user experience and page load times.

In combination with the above plugins, I got this website to 100 rating on Pagespeed tests for Desktop. For Mobile, I’m at about 80, but I’m considering AMP pages for that.

Mobile Result
And the desktop test. Remember I’m using a free theme, so all optimization comes from the plugins listed.

AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages

What does it do? It redirects mobile users to special AMP pages. These are lightning-fast, mobile-first pages. AMP is a Google technology and they highly suggest using it in their own guides. I don’t know the technical specifications but I do know they are fast.

The biggest draw-back is that your ads probably won’t work anymore. AMP pages really only support text links or images that you yourself created. Any automated Amazon or other network ads won’t show up.

AdSense does work perfectly (nice one, Google)

Check it here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/accelerated-mobile-pages/

Clearly faster than just the cached and optimized version shown earlier.

Quality Of Life Blogging Plugins

External Links in new tab/window

What does it do? I ALWAYS forget to add the “open in a new window” tag to my external links. I want people to check out the link, but at the same time, I don’t want them to leave my website. There’s more content for them to check out, which potentially earns me money.

This plugin automatically makes all the external links on your blog open in a new window or tab. It has some nice settings to include or exclude certain links and is generally very tailorable. I just use it right out of the box, as all I want is external links opening in a new tab.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/open-external-links-in-a-new-window/

Google XML Sitemaps

What does it do? Creates an index of all the pages and posts on your website so that search engines like Google can easily find them. It’s especially handy if you have loads of posts that are harder to crawl.

Your sitemap should also be submitted to the Google Search Console so that potential problems can be identified by Google. They will also provide you with detailed metrics such as the number of indexed pages, click through rates and your average position for keywords.

Check it out here: https://nl.wordpress.org/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/

Pexels Photos

What does it do? A super-easy way to get stock photos on your blog or website. It’s a plugin that has a direct connection to the Pexels website. When you add new media, you can choose from thousands of stock images and add them with a single click. If you combine this with the Smush plugin, they will be automatically optimized too!

The added benefit is that Pexels automatically adds the attribution to the images, so you won’t run into any issues with copyright protection firms. Overall it’s my favourite stock image plugin for WordPress.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-pexels-free-stock-photos/

Pretty Links

What does it do? Basically it creates a “cloak” for links. As an example: you can make weirdsite.com look like notaweirdsite.com. This can be used to hide affiliate links, which can be handy for Clickbank mostly, but borders spam regulations.

Alternative use, and the best one, in my opinion, is as a tracking tool. You can basically keep your internal link structures (don’t change the name or path) and track the number of clicks. This is a huge metric for your internal linking as it will show you which links work.

The one things that I learned by measuring internal links: nobody uses navigation bars anymore…

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/pretty-link/

Akismet Anti-Spam

What does it do? Tries to stop comment spammers from flooding your Dashboard. It does a fairly good job but there will always be some that manage to break the filter.

Pre-installed with WordPress, Just follow instructions to activate it.

Disable Comments

What does it do? Disables comments… I really don’t know what else to say. It can be configured to your exact needs.

I would advise using this if your blog gets a lot of traffic. Akismet won’t be able to cope with the massive flood of spam messages. I use this for every blog except this one. Because I want comments, even though I never get any 🙁

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/disable-comments/

Elementor Page Builder

What does it do? Helps you build custom posts and pages through a set of blocks, widgets and pre-made snippets. The new Gutenberg is heading in the right direction and allows for some really nice customization, but Elementor still has more features.

You will need this a lot if you really want to put effort into things like product reviews or recommendations. It really lets your creativity flow freely, without a steep learning curve.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/elementor/

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics

What does it do? It connects to your Analytics account for the web property. It then adds the tracking code where needed and shows a small summary in your dashboard. It’s a nice gimmick to have that summary, but its main use is the code.

This way you won’t have to add anything to your header.php file, you won’t even have to create a child theme. Remember that when your theme updates, there is always a risk that your header.php gets overwritten and you tracking code stops working.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard-for-wp/

Hustle Marketing, Social Share, Email Opt-in Form, and Popup Plugin

What does it do? Saw that slider for my newsletter? It does exactly that. You can configure different forms and popups for your lists or digital products.

It has a lot of integrations with third-party providers, making it my favorite in this area.

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-popup/

Ad Inserter

What does it do? Supports all kinds of ads. You add your code, choose a location to display it and the plugin does the work for you.

It’s completely free and allows for incredible in-depth customization of the ads you want to display. Allows you to create 16 ads that can be rotated. Really great stuff here! Supports AdSense, Amazon, banners, …

Check it out here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/ad-inserter/

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