One of the best things about WordPress is how easy it is to add extra functionality to your website. Want to add a shop? There’s a plugin for that. How about event listings? There’s a plugin for that too. Or you want to create a directory or membership site. Yep, there’s a… well you get the idea. There are plugins to cover practically anything you can think of.
I’ve built a lot of sites and that’s let me try out loads of different plugins. Not every site needs loads of extra features, but there are a few types of plugins that I install on every site as standard, and you should be installing on your site too.
So in this post I’ll share the 6 essential plugins for your WordPress website, along with my recommendations for each type. Plus, don’t forget to download your free step by step guide to installing plugins. Let’s get started:
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It’s important to make sure your site is as secure as possible from hackers. After all, your business isn’t going to look very professional if a hacker has covered it in adverts for certain pharmaceuticals!
Protect your site with a security plugin like All In One Firewall & Security or WordFence Security. They’re both really comprehensive plugins with loads of options for adding different types of protection, such as from brute force attacks, and even helping you to reduce spam comments.
You should be backing up your site regularly so that if you’re unlucky enough to have your site hacked or experience problems with your hosting account, you don’t lose your data. It’s like an insurance policy for your website.
Your backup schedule should depend on how often you update your site. If you blog once a week, then you should be ok with backup just once a week too. If you blog more frequently, you should backup more often too. As a bare minimum backup your site once a month; set a reminder or a repeating appointment in your calendar to make you don’t forget to spend some time on site maintenance.
UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin is a great option. You can run manual backups whenever you want to and you can also set it to automatically backup your files to Dropbox or Google Drive on a schedule.
You might also like: Keep your site healthy with updates and backups
3. Contact Form
Not everyone is comfortable phoning you, so add a contact form to your website to make it easy for your visitors to get in touch – and hopefully become customers. You can also use it to collect more than the basic ‘name, email and message’ data to help you screen potential clients, or filter messages to the right person or department at your business.
I recommend either Contact Form by WPForms* or Ninja Forms Contact Form. Both are drag and drop form builders, making it super easy for you to design forms and offer a range of ore-made templates to speed up the process. Plus, they let you add all sorts of fields to the forms, from basic text to checkboxes, plus reCAPTCHA to help reduce spam submissions.
You might also like: How to create a contact form with WPForms
Use a plugin like Yoast SEO to help optimise your website for search engines and help the right people find your content. You can preview and edit how each page and post will appear in search results by customising the title, keyword and meta description. It also rates your page and gives suggestions on how to improve the rating.
The plugin offers much more than that though; it’ll generate your XML sitemaps for you. It’ll also add OpenGraph data and lets you set different titles, descriptions and images for social media sites.
All in One SEO Pack is a good alternative but I like the extra features that you get with the Yoast plugin.
5. Social Sharing
Another way to help more people find your site is to make it super easy for people to share your content. You should at least have some social sharing buttons so that it’s quick and easy to share or tweet your posts. Because if you make people do it manually, there’s a good chance they just won’t bother.
Plus, there are other types of plugins that can automate parts of social sharing, like automatically sending a tweet when you publish a new post – it’s a great way of saving time.
I recommend Social Warfare* or Genesis Simple Share for Genesis-based sites. Both are really quick and easy to set up, letting you add just the social networks that you want people to use (ie, there’s no point adding a ‘share to Pinterest’ button if your site doesn’t have pinnable images) and decide where in your content they should appear. Social Warfare also includes a Click to Tweet option, which means you don’t need a separate plugin for that.
6. Page Builder
When I’m building sites for other people it’s all about making things as easy as possible for them. One thing that really helps is using a page builder. That lets them drag and drop content around the page, giving them an easy way to create fancy layouts and make their site pretty. Because a well laid out site is more likely to attract and convert customers.
And you know what? I use page builders on my own sites too – no reason my clients should have all the fun!
I recommend Beaver Builder* as it’s easy to use, has the basic features you need and doesn’t fill your content up with shortcodes that need to be removed if you decide to deactivate the plugin. Plus, there are a bunch of add-ons available to give you extra features. For a comparison of page builder plugins, including Beaver Builder, check out this post.
So there you have the 6 essential plugins for your WordPress website, along with my favourites for each type. Most of the plugins in this list are free, or have free versions to get you started. If you want to look for alternatives though, a good place to start is the WordPress plugin directory. Do you have any must-install plugins?
Want more WordPress tips? You’ll find loads more tips, time-saving tricks and step by step tutorials in my book, WordPress Superstar. Find out more and grab your copy here.
This post was originally published 15th September 2016 and was last updated 20th August 2020.
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