We’ve just finished the building your website post and in this post we have a list of essential plugins for your WordPress website. The great thing about using a content management system like WordPress is that you don’t have to be a coding expert to learn build your website and as it is open source there are thousands of people building add-ons and plugins to make your designing experience even easier. and your website working better.
Plugins (if you select the right ones) combined with an awesome theme and some killer content can turn your website into a sleek online machine giving your readers an awesome user experience whilst enabling you to convert readers and build revenue. Select the wrong plugins (or at least have lots of them activated on your website) can turn your website into a clunky slow mess and drive away any traffic you may have generated.
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So which plugins do you need?
Remember that WordPress (and the theme you select) is essentially a blank canvas for you to fill out with content and plugins to make the user experience the best you can, however you don’t want install plugins if they have no real use for your site. You want plugins that will boost the performance of your website without sacrificing speed, functionality or the user’s experience.
Stay lean and only add a plugin that will improve your website performance or will add to the readers experience.
Now what plugins you start with is entirely up to you as niches and content/product offerings will vary between people. You can also delete plugins that no longer suit your site the further into your online journey you venture.
Never be afraid to try a plugin if you think it will add to the user experience and never be afraid to delete if it doesn’t perform for you!
Below I’ve included a list of the 10 areas of essential plugins for a WordPress website and a recommendation of a plugin for each area. This post only discusses what I believe are essential plugins, in a later post I will go through suggested and optional plugins.
- Website Security
- Website Backup
- Website Speed
- Website Analytics
- Redirects and 404 errors
- Editorial content
- Grow your email list
- Social sharing
One of the main things you need to take care of with your website is security. No website means no revenue, so look after your asset.
Don’t take any risks with your website and look for a security plugin straight away!
The plugin that I use for a lot of my sites is:
This plugin is free and stakes its claim on being one of the best actively monitoring plugins on the market. Sucuri also offers paid options (such as a website firewall) which interact with the free plugin
- Security Activity Auditing
- File Integrity Monitoring
- Remote Malware Scanning
- Blacklist Monitoring
- Effective Security Hardening
- Post-Hack Security Actions
- Security Notifications
We discussed above how important website security is, what happens if your website crashes, is hacked or you make a change which screws up your site and you have no back up? You are in BIG TROUBLE!
So, make sure you regularly back up your site. Your website host might offer this service for you, but I wouldn’t rely on this! What happens if their back up system for your site fails? Make sure you back your site up on your end as well.
The easiest way to do this is with a WordPress plugin.
The plugin I recommend is:
In my opinion this is the best WordPress back up plugin available. Sure you have to pay for this plugin but it is well worth the price. This is one of the most popular premium backup plugins on the market. This plugin is one of the first plugins that I install on every one of my WordPress sites.
BackupBuddy is very easy to set up and use.
BackupBuddy is also a great option to use if you are looking to migrate your site to a new host.
- Scheduled backups
- Full backups and database backups
- Option to exclude any files you don’t want to backup
- Easy website migration
- Free 1GB cloud backup
- Supports multiple cloud storage services including Dropbox and Amazon S3
Price: Starts from $80 US
Speed is everything in the online world. For every second it takes to load your website up you are risking losing buyers, subscribers and money!
Speed of website also affects your SEO so you want your website loading fast!
The plugin that I use for website speed is:
This is currently my go-to plugin for improving page load times.
W3 Total Cache has a wide range of features and goes beyond just being a simple caching plugin.
I find that it has a reasonable impact out of the box but it’s best not to tweak any of the advanced settings unless you know what you’re doing.
Fully configured, this plugin can have a serious impact on load times.
- Compatible with various hosting environments.
- Minification functionality.
- CDN support.
- Database caching.
- Object caching
- Browser caching.
- Advanced settings.
W3 cache can be a little tricky in setting up so I would suggest you look at the following websites to help you install and optimize this plugin.
Search Engine Optimization
To get your site and content optimized for Search Engines (to get organic traffic) you will need help.
There are a lot of WordPress plugins available for SEO help however the main one that I use is:
When it comes to SEO, Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugins available.
Some of its features include: XML sitemaps, crawlability with all major search engines, instant SEO score with your pages and posts.
- Traffic light signals to determine whether your content is optimised
- Great support and large library of content regarding SEO
- Page analysis functionality.
- Basic on page SEO score.
- XML sitemap generator.
- Facebook OpenGraph support.
- RSS settings.
- Edit titles and descriptions in bulk.
- Edit .htaccess and robots.txt files.
- Import and export settings.
- Various permalink tweaks.
Price: Free with paid upgrades available
Monitoring your analytics is one of the most important tasks a website owner can perform. You want to be able to track how much traffic visits your website, where this traffic goes on your website, time spent on your site, bounce rates, etc.
Google Analytics allows you to do this and more. For those of you that haven’t set up a Google Analytics account for your website do this now by visiting Google here.
To connect your Google Analytics information to your website, you will need a WordPress plugin and the one I recommend is Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP).
This plugin is simple to install and easy to use and it enables you to track your site using the latest Google Analytics tracking code and allows you to view key Google Analytics stats in your WordPress install.
- Sessions, organic searches, page views, bounce rate analytics stats
- Locations, pages, referrers, keywords, 404 errors analytics stats
- Traffic channels, social networks, traffic mediums, search engines analytics stats
- Device categories, browsers, operating systems, screen resolutions, mobile brands analytics stats
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP enables you to easily track events like:
- Outbound links
- Affiliate links
- Fragment identifiers
Redirects and 404 errors
If you change a posts URL then you need to redirect it to the new URL.
This lets both search engines and users access the new URL. The potential fall out of not doing this can be huge and cause serious issues with user experience.
Generally, you would add a 301 redirect which indicates that the URL change is permanent. Occasionally you may wish to add a temporary redirect if the URL will be switching back to the original at some stage, although that is typically used by ecommerce sites when products are removed temporarily.
It’s also important to monitor 404 errors; this will allow you to pro-actively add redirects to ensure a consistent user experience.
Unlike other plugin types, I’ve only found one that is effective for this:
Redirection is the most popular redirect manager for WordPress. With it you can easily manage 301 redirections, keep track of 404 errors, and generally tidy up any loose ends your site may have.
If using this plugin, make sure that you have set up the 404 logging setting up correctly.
- Track and Monitor 404 errors
- Import/export option
- Fully logging
- Other redirect types supported (301, 302 and 307)
- Automatic redirects added when post permalinks are changed
I debated whether to include this as an essential plugin and I’m still not sure that it is. The reason I have included this is that you do need to make sure you have your content planned out and for that reason I have recommended Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin. I personally use a simple excel spreadsheet for my content ideas and use my Google Calendar to schedule when to publish my posts.
WordPress doesn’t come with anything to help manage teams or editorial processes so it’s worth considering using a plugin to add this functionality.
These plugins come in more useful when you have more than one contributor, although I’ve found them to useful for single author blogs too.
This handy plugin will give you the ability to visualize when your posts will go live and makes it easy to drag and drop them onto different days.
It’s similar to how the calendar within the Edit Flow plugin works but without the extra editorial process functionality.
- See all of your posts and when they’ll be posted
- Drag and drop to change your post dates
- Manage your drafts with our new drafts drawer
- Quickedit post titles, contents, and times
- Publish posts or manage drafts
- Easily see the status of your posts
- Manage posts from multiple authors
Grow your email list
One of the keys to building a successful and profitable website is to grow your mailing list. Not only is a mailing list an efficient and effective way of staying in contact with your readers, it also offers great opportunities for future sales to qualified leads. To do this I suggest you use an email service provider.
The service I recommend is Convertkit.
- Easy to embed forms
- Dashboard that allows quick views of subscribers
- Simple to use automations and sequences that allow you to tailor your target audience
- Reliable support
- Concierge migration
- Slack Community
Price: Plans start from $29 US per month
To get people to visit your website you need to have content that is easily shareable. You need a plugin that allows your content shared across all major social networks.
There are plenty of social media plugins available, the one I recommend is Sassy Social Share.
This plugin has everything that you need to share your fantastic content across all the social media channels. Plus it’s free!
- Supports UTM parameters so you can monitor traffic in Google Analytics.
- Around 100 Social Sharing/Bookmarking services
- Social Media follow icons (Redirect website visitors to your Social Media pages)
- Share counts are supported for Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Buffer, Reddit, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte
- FREE Icon Customization options
- Options to specify sharing icon shape – Square, Round and Rectangular
- Options to specify sharing icon size – minimum 16 pixels, no upper limit
- Options to specify sharing icon backround color and logo color
- Share counter customization options
- Enable share count cache with option to control cache refresh time-frame
- Enable/Disable vertical/floating sharing interface on mobile device
- Url Shortening Service integration
- Standard and Floating layout for Social Share icons
- Supports sharable quotes with several smart designs.
- Custom social sharing options for individual posts.
- Bit.ly support.
- Advanced control over how share counts are displayed.
- And lots more.
One way to build a community on your blog or website is to allow comments on all of your posts. The big drawback with this is the more popular your site becomes the more likely these comments will attract spam! So, you can either not allow comments on your post or you can use a comments spam plugin on your site.
The plugin I recommend is Akismet.
Akismet is one of the most popular plugins to help curb spam.
Akismet takes a different approach as it is essentially a web-based service run through a plugin.
After the plugin highlights potential spam comments, it allows you to review these and you can decided whether they are spam or not.
- Automatically checks all comments and filters out the ones that look like spam.
- Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were caught or cleared by Akismet and which were spammed or unspammed by a moderator.
- URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links.
- Moderators can see the number of approved comments for each user.
- A discard feature that outright blocks the worst spam, saving you disk space and speeding up your site.
Price: Free and paid option
Let me know if you have any plugins to add to the essential plugins for your WordPress website.