Essential WordPress Plugins
One of the most useful aspects of developing a website on WordPress is the sheer volume of almost every kind of plugin you can imagine. At the time of writing, there are over 57,308 WordPress plugins in the WordPress plugin directory, and more are being added constantly. Plugins are vital for websites that need elements that do not exist within the WordPress CMS, whether that’s WordPress security to keep your website safe, or a caching plugin to speed up your website. Here is my pick of 10 WordPress plugins I use on almost every web design project.
How many WordPress plugins are too many?
This question is asked often. While it is true that plugins can slow down your site, some listed below actually speed up your site. It is important that your site functions well and takes full advantage of what a website is for, to inform and generate leads. We have designed sites with 4 or 5 plugins, and we have designed sites that use almost 20 plugins. What you need is really determined by what your site’s needs are. More important than how many, is which ones. The key is to find ones that are highly rated, even better if they can perform several functions all in one plugin as some of this list does.
Without further ado, here are my 10 Essential Plugins Every Website Should Have.
1: Best WordPress SEO Plugin
There are many options when it comes to SEO plugins for WordPress. If you are unfamiliar with SEO then it’s important to read our article about Demystifying SEO. Picking the right SEO plugin is crucial, and they are not all created equal. My every site go-to is SEOPress. It is powerful, full of options, and intuitively integrated into each page editor. It places the page-specific SEO input fields on the bottom of each page for ease of use. It also adds SEO functionality to all posts and images, which, as Google has been putting more weight on image meta this is a huge bonus. It features Schema Markup and many other great features. SEOPress creates a sitemap for the site, which replaces the need to either create it by hand or using a sitemap-generating plugin.
2: Best WordPress Contact Form Plugin
We used to use the more standard WP form plugins until we realized what a gamechanger Typeform is. It differs from the normal form plugins like Gravity Forms or WP Forms in that it engages the person filling out the form. You can have fields populate wherever you want. So once they fill out their name, you can have the next question state their name which creates a warmer atmosphere. It’s not a cheap option, but I have seen my conversion rates really improve. You also have access to conditional logic as well as payment processing. Typeform is a real disruptor when it comes to how we will out web forms.
3: Best WordPress Anti-Spam Plugin
Spam is a natural part of the internet, but you should always take care to protect your site from spam. Akismet is free for personal use and keeps comment spam at bay. No one wants to spend time cleaning the spam comment from their site and not to mention how bad the wrong kind of spam comment can look to your visitors. Akismet puts comments that may be spam in a section for approval.
4: Best WordPress Multi-function Plugin
JetPack is one plugin that adds multiple functionalities to your site. It adds widget options, shows you site stats, automatic posting to your social media accounts, expanded image gallery formats, and more. Jetpack is an integral part of a WordPress website, you simply create a wordpress.com account, and you are good to go.
5: Best WordPress Backup Plugin
Backing up your site can be a pain. Restoring it from a backup can be even more of a hassle. Take precautions and never be in the worst of the three, trying to save your site because you haven’t been backing it up. Some hosts do backups, Siteground and WP Engine are a few. But if you are on a host that does not perform backups, as many don’t, Vaultpress does a great job. It is a premium plugin, running $55/yr at its lowest plan, but this plan offers daily backups as well as a one-click restore of any snapshot from the past 30 days. During setup, you add an FTP or SSH login and boom. With Vaultpress there is no need to make a restore any more complicated than it should be.
6: Best WordPress Caching Plugin
WordPress is kind of slow. This is because it is bulky, remember that while it has evolved into the most popular CMS it is primarily a blogging platform. This makes it pretty large and it lags a bit. Speed is also determined by your hosting choice, many of the cheaper shared hosting plans lend themselves to slow sites. Depending on how big your site is I go between 2 caching plugins. For larger sites, 50 pages+ I use WP Rocket. WP Rocket is very in-depth and can be quite intimidating to someone that doesn’t understand compression and caching lingo. There are many great tutorials online to help guide one with tech-savvy to configure it.
Another Option: WP Super Cache
For smaller sites I use WP Super Cache. It is much simpler and works great on sites that don’t have hundreds of pages, images, and products.
7: Best WordPress Image Compression Plugin
Is your site image-heavy? Better yet do you have large image files on your site? If so I recommend you add WP Smush It. It compresses images making them smaller and load faster. A large image file, while also adding unneeded bulk to your site, will also load very slow. Ever go to a web page where the image fills in slowly from the top? With Smush It the images will appear instantly. I recently used this plugin on a site with over 500 pages, most of them were product images. After compressing the 900+ images on the site it reduced the site size by over 3 GB and changed the website’s load time (without caching & other speed optimization) from 9 seconds to just over 5 seconds.
8: Best WordPress Email Collection Plugin
There are many email sign-up options for WordPress, even Jetpack includes a decent one, but if you are taking your email collection and email marketing seriously you should 1) sign up for a MailChimp account and 2) install this plugin on your site. It will capture email addresses and send them to your choice of lists within Mailchimp. You can then design emails and select the lists to send them to. Learn more about the importance of Email Marketing.
9: Best WordPress Security Plugin
WordPress websites are prone to hackers. The default WP install does very little to prevent brute force attacks and other ways hackers use to get into your website. All In One does a great job to really beef up your site’s security in an easy way. A site hack is a terrible thing. It can cost a lot to fix, it can lose business when it is infected and it can affect your website’s rank. All In One makes it fun to make your sites secure, with a grading system and a gauge that shows you the improvement. Some of the little things like a captcha on the login page, testing to make sure you do not have “admin” as a username (a big no-no), and changing your login URL will do a lot to help, but the advanced features are where this free plugin really shines.
10: Best WordPress Instagram Feed Plugin
No site these days is complete without sharing your Instagram feed. There are a ton of different plugins that can take care of this need. But as far as simplicity, aesthetics, and customization none is better than Instagram Feed Pro Business. It makes syncing to your IG feed very easy, which is great because this can get tricky with other plugins. More than that it gives you detailed control over the feed and the design. The feature that really won us over is the ability to integrate multiple feeds into one setup and the ability to base the feed based on the hashtags used. Let’s say you are a restaurant and want to have an IG feed that only shows your specials. All you have to do is set it to pull by hashtags and then use the hashtag you chose, “specials” and then that specific feed will only show those hashtagged “specials”.
So there you have it, 10 of the finest plugins to help our website function the way you want it. These plugins work with many themes and on many different WordPress versions so you can rest assured most of them will work flawlessly. Are there plugins you feel are essential to a well-run WordPress website? If so, please let me know in the comments below.