Choosing the best WordPress plugins for your website is often the most frustrating and time-consuming part of the process. With over 50,000 to choose from it can be hard to know where to start. To make things even more confusing, some plugins provide different features depending on whether you pay for the ‘pro’ subscription or not. That’s a lot to take in for someone not familiar with WordPress.
That being said, there are some plugins that I consider essential for every website. Here are my top 10 picks for the best WordPress plugins.
Jetpack is usually one of the first plugins you install on a fresh WordPress website and for good reason. The number of features it adds to your website (even in the free plan) is fantastic, making this one a must-have. This plugin provides everything from security enhancements and social media integration to statistics on your website’s visitors. Here’s a short video to explain what Jetpack is all about.
For most people, SEO is a nightmare. Depending on the amount of content you have, it can take a long time. Even then you’re never quite sure if what you have done will work to place your website at the top of Google’s search results. Enter Yoast SEO. This plugin works by taking the guesswork out of Search Engine Optimisation. It provides automatic analysis of each page and post and gives it an SEO score to let you know if improvements are needed. Not only that, but it will also tell you exactly what you need to work on to improve your SEO. I consider this an essential plugin for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to work on your SEO whilst writing content so you don’t have to come back to it later. If you do, then it can cut the time you spend on each page drastically. It also provides a readability analysis, which tells you if what you have written is easy to understand and follow.
Watch this video for a quick rundown of all the features Yoast SEO has to offer.
When I first started out as a web developer, website migrations were the most daunting tasks by far. For a bespoke website, the process is actually pretty simple. You just take the files and transfer them onto the new server. With WordPress, it’s a little more complicated than that because there are so many components involved. You have to think about what could break in the transfer and if your WordPress database could become corrupted. Then there’s actually setting it all up. This is why I consider Duplicator to be absolutely essential. This plugin makes it SO easy to transfer or backup a website you don’t really need to think about it. Just create a backup, download it and then run the installer on a blank server. That’s it.
We all want beautiful, high-resolution images on our website but this can often lead to slow loading times and a high bounce rate. When you use images with large file sizes, you put unnecessary strain on the server and increase the time it takes to download them to a customer’s device. This is where Smush comes in handy. Instead of manually checking the size of every image yourself, Smush scans your server for large images and compresses them. Even better, Smush tells you how much space you have saved and also comes with lots of free features such as lazy loading, image CDN’s and much more.
It goes without saying that your website needs an easy way for your customers to contact you. WPForms is one of the best WordPress plugins for this as it provides a drag and drop interface, allowing you to build professional forms in an instant. The reason I consider it an essential plugin is because it is so versatile and integrates with most marketing platforms. You can use it to build user registration forms, payment forms, contact forms and so much more!
Even with WordPress 5.0 and Gutenberg blocks, the default page editor doesn’t have nearly as many customisation options as Elementor. There’s a reason over 5 million people use this plugin to build their websites. Elementor features an intuitive drag and drop interface, which allows anyone to build a professional, modern website without any coding experience. The changes you make to your website are applied instantly so you can see it take shape in real-time. There are limitations to what the plugin can do without diving into the code, but it’s enough to suit most needs. You can even expand the number of widgets available in Elementor by installing other plugins that are compatible with it. Elementor is such a large plugin that it’s impossible to go over all of its features in one article, so here’s a quick introduction to the plugin.
Easily one of the best e-commerce plugins available, WooCommerce allows you to establish an online store in a matter of hours. Just like Wix and Squarespace, you can couple this plugin with Elementor and built your store without any coding knowledge. The best part? It’s completely free to use. WooCommerce comes with an impressive array of features and built in payment options such as PayPal, credit and debit card. There is no limit on the number of products you can add and you can expand and customise it with other compatible plugins. WooCommerce is used by major international brands such as AeroPress.
Even small websites can experience hundreds of malicious attacks everyday from people trying to gain access to you and your customers accounts. That’s why it is critical you have an SSL certificate and some sort of security plugin installed. SSL certificates work by changing the domain prefix from http:// to https://. Simply put, this ensures that all the data on your server is transmitted in a secure way which can’t be read by a third party. The problem with WordPress is that all of its URL’s are hardcoded. SSL Certificates won’t work with it out of the box. To fix this, you can manually change them in the database, or you can just install Really Simple SSL. This plugin automatically changes URL prefixes to https to make sure your website is secure and you don’t run into any nasty redirect loops.
When you want to understand your audience and grow your business, look no further than MonsterInsights. This is one of the best WordPress plugins to integrate your website with Google Analytics and get all the data you need on who visits your website. It provides real time stats for all your pages and posts, showing you who is online and what they are looking at. It also allows you to track trends over time so you can understand what time of day you get the most traffic and where people visit your website from. MonsterInsights offers a lot of these features for free, which is enough for basic users to understand how to grow their business. You can also pay to unlock the most powerful features only available to ‘pro’ users. When you’re ready to get started, watch this video which explains how to install the plugin.
Since loading times and site speed are one of the most important factors in your SEO score, it’s important that your serving files from your server as efficiently as possible. WP Super Cache speeds up your site by serving compressed and minified files to site visitors. This reduces the strain on your server and frees up bandwidth as well as speeding up loading times for customers. It may not be a glamourous plugin, but it certainly is one of the most important on this list. WP Super Cache is also completely free.
So, there you have it. My top 10 picks for the best WordPress Plugins. There are lots more that I couldn’t feature here. Why not dive into the videos to get started and explore from there? – Nathan