There are over 51,000 plugins in the WordPress repository and you can also find many premium plugins. Some are absolutely amazing, while others are not that great. Today, I want to talk to you about the WordPress plugins that I use every time I build a new website and I think everybody should have them.
What are plugins?
Out of the box, WordPress is pretty light. You can create a simple blog or website, add photos to your posts or create a gallery, but that’s about it. Plugins add functionality to your WordPress blog and you don’t have to touch a single line of code.
So you want to add social media buttons? You can use a plugin.
Want a newsletter subscription form? Use a plugin.
Do you need help with your SEO? There are plugins for that.
Now, you shouldn’t just go to the WordPress repository and install every single plugin that does something interesting. You should only install plugins that you need, and when you don’t need them anymore, you should remove them. Plugins can slow down your site or they might not play nice with each other. Always think of your website’s needs before you install something.
How to install plugins?
There are 3 ways to install plugins on WordPress:
Search and install
The easiest way to install a plugin is to go to Plugins > Add new on your dashboard and search for the plugin you need. Once you find the one you want, click on Install Now and then on Activate Plugin.
Upload a plugin
Sometimes you might want to install premium plugins that are not in the repository and you can’t install them via the plugin directory.
First, download the plugin to your computer. Make sure it is a .zip file. Some computers automatically extract the files, so zip them if that happens.
Go to Plugins > Add new and click the Browse button. Search for your plugin and click Install Now. Don’t forget to click Activate Plugin.
If you can’t install a plugin from your dashboard, you can use FTP instead. You probably won’t need to install a plugin via FTP, but it’s good to know how to do it.
Download the plugin from the repository or from another site. Extract the files and save them to your computer.
Open your FTP client and login using your username and password. Find the path to /wp-content/plugins/ and upload the extracted file.
Once you’ve uploaded the files, go to your blog’s dashboard and navigate to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Find the new plugin and click Activate. That’s it!
Your website’s security should be at the top of your list. You can keep your blog safe by installing a security plugin.
WordPress security plugins will help you monitor your website, scan for malware, limit login attempts, protect you against brute force attacks, and they will even help you if your site gets hacked. Some security plugins will let you see live traffic or help you block readers based on IP or country.
When you choose a security plugin, you should check with your host to see what they recommend.
A slow website will make your visitors leave and it is also bad for SEO. There are many ways to speed up a website. You can change your host, optimize your images, or use a caching plugin.
Caching plugins will save a static HTML version of your site, so it won’t generate new pages all the time. This helps your page load faster because it reduces the number of requests made to the server.
Caching plugins, especially W3 Total Cache, can be quite technical and the settings pages are not very friendly to the less experienced users.
If you decide to use one, and you should do that, check with your host because some plugins only work with certain hosts, and there are hosting companies that have their own plugins.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to backup your site. If you have a good host, they will probably backup your site, but you shouldn’t rely on them. Unfortunately, servers can go down and you will lose everything if you do not have your own copy.
Setting up automatic backups is very easy and there are many plugins that will help you with this.
Search Engine Optimization
For a lot of people, SEO can seem a bit daunting, but it should be a priority. If you have good SEO, your website will appear higher in searches and you will have more views and sales.
SEO plugins will do wonders for your blog, but it’s not enough to install a plugin. You still have to do the work. The plugin will help you optimize your posts and pages, and it will also provide tools for improving your titles and meta descriptions, generate a sitemap, and connect your site to your social media pages and to Google Search Console.
Spam is a huge problem on WordPress. Fortunately, you can install an anti-spam plugin to help you. These plugins will scan comments and block them if they have many links or certain words. Those comments will be deleted after a while, or you can view your spam folder and delete them yourself.
I also suggest moderating comments because not all spam comments are from bots.
I believe that social media sharing buttons are essential because they make it easier for your readers to share your posts.
I’m not a fan of huge floating buttons. Some of them can block your content area on mobile devices and it’s impossible to remove them. I do love smaller buttons that you can add at the top or bottom of your post.
Building a relationship with your readers is very important if you are a blogger. If you are a business owner it’s even more important to have an easy way for potential clients to contact you. And you might even be required by law to have a contact form.
You can use these plugins to create simple contact forms, for support tickets, or even for short surveys.
So these are the plugins I use each time I build a new website. What are your must-have WordPress plugins?