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WordPress plugins can add valuable functionality to a food blog. Despite the thousands of plugins that exist, you do not need a lot of plugins to have a well-run website. When I partner with my clients, I take an inventory of their current plugins. I identify any unneeded plugins with the new design, and we go over every plugin to make sure the client understands how and why of it. Here’s a look at my favorite WordPress plugins for food bloggers, which I have personally tested and used on various client sites.
WP Recipe Maker (Recipe Card)
Anytime you write a recipe post for your website, you should use a recipe card plugin. Google looks for specific fields – instructions, ingredients, timing, video, nutritional information, etc. – within a website page. WP Recipe Maker allows you to complete those fields of your recipe within the post, and it ensures that the recipe has the correct markup. When people search for recipes, the way your recipe shows up in results (and how high) is heavily determined by your recipe card.
Almost all of my clients use the Pro version because it includes a Nutrition Facts Calculation and unit conversion. If you are starting or want to calculate the nutrition facts on your own, you could opt for the free or premium versions.
For the most part, I don’t force a client to use a specific recipe card plugin. However, if there is an issue with the one they are using – markup errors, no longer supported, or technical bugs – then I recommend them to WP Recipe Maker. I have found a critical issue with almost every other recipe card plugin. Kristen from Hello Nutritarian noted that she was so glad I recommended WP Recipe Maker to her four years ago!
Vaultpress (Backup Plugin)
With the changes to WordPress, it is more important as ever to get a reliable, third-party backup of your website. What do I mean by third-party? Lots of hosting companies offer backups, but my clients and I have found that those backups are not always easily accessible or as complete as they are advertised. Vaultpress generates full, daily backups of your website. If something goes wrong, you can click a button and restore your site. Vaultpress isn’t free, but it is worth the investment. I use it for my website along with Siteground’s backup.
Any WordPress website should have this plugin installed; SEO stands for search engine optimization. This plugin helps you set up your blog in a way that Google and other search engines can easily understand. Within posts and pages, you can get live recommendations on how to improve your content.
While clients frequently are familiar with Yoast’s in post functionality, there are a few features that are underutilized – custom Twitter and Facebook messages for posts, pages, and taxonomy terms, Google Search Console connection, adding relevant social markup data to website header, and redirection management (pro version).
WPRocket (Caching + Site Speed Optimization)
WordPress has countless caching and site speed optimization plugins. They all have different levels of functionality. To avoid using multiple plugins to optimize speed (because that seems like an oxymoron), I prefer to use WP Rocket’s features include page caching, Google Fonts optimization, removing query strings, database optimization, GZIP compression, CDN, Cloudflare compatibility, magnification, and defer JS loading as well as more. I have opted to use WP Rocket over SiteGround’s built-in caching plugin as I have found WP Rocket to be more robust and have better performance.
Imagify or ShortPixel (Image Compression)
Image compression is a must for site speed, but it at the same time is a very personal decision for content creators. The most prominent thing bloggers face with image compression is how it impacts the quality of the images. For most of my clients, I recommend an image compression plugin (if they don’t have one), but it is up to them to use it. With the recent changes to Google’s Site Speed metrics, image compression is as important as ever. Imagify and ShortPixel are premium image compression plugins, but they do not jeopardize the image quality.
Akismet (Spam Comments)
Spammy comments negatively impact your website health, overall SEO, and user experience. As your blog grows, you are more susceptible to spam comments. To effectively manage them, Akismet helps you filter out the comment spam. It’s always updating the filter that checks for spam, so you know it is up to date. Plus, it’s made from the creators of WordPress, like Vaultpress, so you know you will have an up-to-date, seamless integration.
Other Notable Plugins
I don’t always use these plugins on my custom sites, but they are plugins that I recommend for premade clients, where custom code is not possible:
- Advanced Custom Fields is used to put content in any place in the site design. I particularly like this plugin because it preserves the metadata regardless if you switch themes. Several clients have had sites where blog post content was stuck in the theme design. So, when they changed the theme, they lost the content.
- Boxzilla is a free popup plugin that allows you to create different popups on various pages and posts throughout your site. I particularly like this plugin because it is FREE, and you can customize the specifications of your pop-up without coding anything.
- Featured Image in RSS Feed allows you to put a full-size image in your RSS campaigns. For most of my sites and premade themes, I automatically include a code blurb. BUT, if someone needs an image in the RSS campaign, this plugin works well.
- Social Warfare can be a pretty buggy plugin, but it does do a great job of social sharing. I particularly love how easy it is to tell what posts are most popular. It is a buggy plugin – they always release updates with bugs. So be careful when you update. I don’t recommend the pro version. Most bloggers who have the pro version tend not to use all the features.
Plugins I Don’t Recommend
When I see these plugins in a website audit, I recommend alternatives to clients. These plugins are notably buggy or can negatively impact your overall website.
- Email Marketing plugins: The MailChimp plugin has an extremely buggy API that can mess up your list. The Convertkit plugin can impact how different components of your dashboard load (an issue that has been relevant since August 2018). Therefore, I recommend using the code snippets from both platforms when adding forms.
- Instagram plugins are notoriously slow. If keeping people on your site and site speed is your goal, then I recommend going without an Instagram plugin.
- WP Facet creates a separate URL for the different filters used in your Recipe Index, and these URLs can contribute to keyword cannibalism. I’m currently working on a “Recipe Filter” plugin, similar to the recipe filters used on Hello Nutritarian, Julie Blanner, and Streetsmart Nutrition
- Reduce Bounce Rate: Bloggers frequently use this plugin because it helps increase your bounce rate time and percent. Honestly, bounce rate is not something brands consider. A good bounce rate is not that significant in the bigger scheme of things. Moreover, this plugin can interfere with your Google Analytics page view count. Especially if you are on a site with lots of affiliate widgets, links, and ads. There’s no point in including it.
- Pinterest Plugins: Often we share other people’s content on our Pinterest profiles. This content might not align with our brand, and it also encourages people to leave our site. Including opportunities for readers to pin your content and follow your Pinterest profile (via social links), will more effectively help you grow your Pinterest account.
Questions About Plugins
What is the difference between free and premium WordPress plugins? Premium plugins are often sold through third-party sellers and require a subscription (usually yearly). Free plugins are listed on the WordPress directory, and anyone can use. With any free or premium plugin, check out support tickets and reviews before adding it to your site.
How many plugins should my food blog have? Fewer the better. More plugins mean more security and site speed risks. My rule of thumb is that a blog should have no more than twenty plugins, but most sites could work very well with ten plugins. Keep only the plugins that are necessary. Plus, you should know what each plugin does on your site.
How often should I update my plugins? You should update your plugins whenever a release is available. Usually, updates are related to security. With some plugins, you might want to wait. I recommend setting aside 5 minutes each week to go through updates.
How do I install a plugin? This blog post shows you three different ways you can install a WordPress plugin. Remember WordPress.com sites don’t use plugins, only self-hosted WordPress sites.
Do you have any questions about WordPress Plugins? I’d love to hear your feedback! If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, make sure to subscribe to my WordPress newsletter here!