WordPress is the most popular content management system on the web, powering over 30% of all websites. Its simplicity, flexibility, and endless plugins make it the go-to choice for everyone, from hobbyist bloggers to Fortune 500 companies.
With over 60,000+ free plugins, figuring out which ones are essential for your site can be overwhelming.
In this post, we’ll look at 12 WordPress plugins that no site should be without. These plugins provide essential functionality, security, and SEO benefits that will take your site to the next level.
What are the WordPress Plugins?
WordPress plugins are add-on software programs that extend and expand the functionality of WordPress. They allow you to easily add features like contact forms, SEO, security, and ecommerce without coding them from scratch.
With over 60,000+ free and premium plugins, you can enhance WordPress in almost any way imaginable. Plugins make WordPress incredibly flexible and customizable for sites of any type.
1. Yoast SEO
The first plugin that should be on every site is Yoast SEO. This all-in-one SEO solution gives you control over all the key on-page factors that help your site rank high in search engines.
With Yoast SEO, you can:
- Optimize title tags and meta descriptions
- Set up XML sitemaps and content analysis
- Manage social media integration
- Handle redirects and more
Proper SEO is crucial for driving traffic from search engines like Google, which sends over 63,000 visits each month on average. Yoast SEO makes search optimization easy and is necessary for big and small WordPress sites.
Yoast SEO Alternative:
RankMath is a popular alternative to Yoast SEO, offering similar functionality for optimizing your WordPress SEO.
With RankMath SEO you can:
- Optimize title tags and meta descriptions
- Manage XML sitemaps
- Integrate with Google Search Console
- Analyze content for keywords
- Handle redirects
- And more
2. WP Rocket
Speed is an important ranking factor and user experience metric. The faster your site loads, the more Google and visitors will like it. An easy way to accelerate your site is using a caching plugin like WP Rocket.
WP Rocket minimizes server requests and optimizes images to improve site performance dramatically. Specific features include:
- Lazy load – Only load images and scripts as they enter the viewport
- Remove query strings from static resources like CSS & JS
- GZIP compression to reduce file transfer size.
By installing WP Rocket, you can decrease page load times by up to 2x on average, helping boost your conversions and search rankings.
WP Rocket Alternative:
FlyingPress is an alternative to WP Rocket that aims to speed up your WordPress site.
With FlyingPress, you can:
- Defer non-essential JS
- Compress images
- Enable browser caching
- Lazy load images
- Minify Combine CSS and JS
It provides similar speed optimizations as WP Rocket to help improve site performance.
Note: Both are available in the paid version and cannot be downloaded directly on the WordPress plugins store.
Understanding your site analytics is crucial for gaining insight into your users and traffic sources. The best analytics platform is Google Analytics, which compiles incredibly detailed reports on your visitors, traffic channels, behavior, and more.
Rather than adding the Google Analytics code manually, you can use MonsterInsights to integrate it into WordPress easily. MonsterInsights also adds proper functionality like:
- Events tracking for PDF downloads, outbound links, etc
- Ecommerce tracking for product views, adds to cart and purchases
- Customizable dashboard widgets
- Page-level analytics
- Ads tracking
- Author tracking
Having Google Analytics adequately set up through MonsterInsights is necessary to track traffic and understand your site’s performance.
The GA Google Analytics plugin is an alternative to MonsterInsights for integrating Google Analytics into WordPress.
With GA Google Analytics, you can:
- Quickly set tracking code
- Enable demographic and interest reports
- Track events like PDF downloads
- Enable ecommerce tracking
- Connect with Google AdSense
- Customize dashboard widget
It provides a streamlined way to connect your site with GA Google Analytics for in-depth tracking and analytics.
4. Smush Image Compression
Images can significantly slow down your site, especially if they are not adequately compressed. Smush is a free plugin that optimizes images using lossless compression that doesn’t affect quality.
It compresses existing and new images as they are added to your media library. Smush can compress JPG, PNG, GIF, and even PDF files. On average, it achieves over 60% compression with no visible loss in quality.
This results in dramatically faster load times and savings in bandwidth usage for your site. Smush Image Compression is an essential plugin for every WordPress site using images.
Smush Image Compression Alternative:
TinyPNG is an alternative image compression plugin that can optimize images in WordPress.
With TinyPNG, you can:
- Compress JPEG and PNG files
- Optimize images on upload or bulk optimize existing images
- Integrates with common image editors like Photoshop
- One click restores the original images
- Converts PNGs to JPEGs
It provides lossless compression to optimize images and improve page speed, much like Smush.
5. Wordfence Security
Security is critically important for any website. Wordfence Security is the most popular security plugin, providing an all-in-one firewall and malware scanner to protect your site. Key features include:
- Real-time blocking of known hack attempts and vulnerabilities
- Malware scanning for infections and backdoors
- IP blocking of repeat offenders
- Country blocking
- Security alerts
Wordfence Security constantly monitors activity and files to identify and halt hacks before they happen. Their thorough scanning checks for malware and identifies problems or changed files that could pose a threat. For rock-solid security, Wordfence is a must.
Wordfence Security Alternative:
Sucuri is an alternative to Wordfence Security providing enterprise-level security for WordPress sites.
With Sucuri, you can:
- Daily malware scanning
- Block brute force attacks
- Monitor DNS for errors
- Reverse malware infections
- Detect blacklisting status
- Ongoing site monitoring
It offers complete protection and site recovery to keep WordPress sites safe from hacks and infections.
6. UpdraftPlus Backup
No matter how secure your site is, disasters can always strike. Whether it’s a hacking attempt, server failure, or plugin problem, sites can go down without warning. UpdraftPlus gives you an instant backup solution to avoid losing your site.
UpdraftPlus enables you to:
- Schedule and run backups automatically
- Backup to cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, etc
- Create backups locally or remotely
- Restore/migrate backup files easily
With UpdraftPlus, you can schedule daily, weekly, or real-time backups to minimize any loss of content or data in the case of an emergency. It provides total peace of mind that your site is protected if disaster strikes.
UpdraftPlus Backup Alternative:
Jetpack Backup is an alternative to UpdraftPlus that provides automated backups for WordPress.
With Jetpack Backup, you can:
- Schedule real-time and daily backups
- Store backups locally or on the cloud
- Restore or download backup archives
- Sync backups across multiple sites
- Includes security scanning
- 30-day revision history
It offers a streamlined way to create and manage WordPress backups for security and disaster recovery.
7. Akismet Anti-Spam
Combatting comments and form spam is an unfortunate must for many sites. Akismet Anti-Spam blocks over 99% of spam straight out of the box and gives you tools to manage any that slips through. As a bonus, it’s free for personal use.
Akismet uses constantly updated databases to prevent spam and malware from reaching your site. It works in real-time to review all comments and forms to detect and block spam. You can check flagged spam and fine-tune filters as needed.
No one wants their site overrun with spam. By installing Akismet Anti-Spam, you can focus on more important things.
8. W3 Total Cache
Speeding up your site goes beyond just implementing a caching plugin like WP Rocket. You must also optimize static content delivery, like images, CSS, and JS files. This is where a CDN comes in handy.
W3 Total Cache improves site performance as a CDN and minifies front-end files. Specific benefits include:
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) integration
- Browser caching using cache headers
With all static files adequately configured, your pages will load faster globally. W3 Total Cache optimizes your entire front end for speed, making it a must for high performance.
9. Broken Link Checker
One of the quickest ways to negatively impact your site’s performance is by having broken links. These 404 errors frustrate users and can send the wrong signals to Google.
Broken Link Checker crawls your site to identify and report any broken links or images so you can fix or remove them. This prevents users from hitting dead ends when clicking on links.
By repairing or removing broken links, you improve site navigation and eliminate negative SEO issues caused by missing pages. This is an easy plugin to install and forget as it constantly monitors in the background for you.
Collecting user information is crucial for lead generation, surveys, job applications, and more. WPForms is the best drag-and-drop WordPress form builder, making it easy to create any form.
Key features include:
- Form creation wizards
- Multi-page forms & progress bars
- File uploads, payment integrations & signatures
- Entry management, notifications & analytics
- Over 40 add-ons for more complex needs
WPForms has all the bells and whistles you need to create simple to advanced forms tailored to your needs. It’s the perfect way to quickly collect information from visitors to grow your site, business, or organization.
11. Sucuri Security
Building on the security provided by Wordfence, Sucuri adds enterprise-level website protection. It protects against malware infections, blacklisting, and other threats.
Sucuri performs scheduled and on-demand malware scanning to detect any problems. If your site suffers a breach, their experts will repair any infections plus monitor for future threats.
Sucuri protects against hacks, infections, and blacklisting for high-traffic or business sites. It gives total peace of mind that your site is secure and ready for anything.
Growing an email list and increasing conversions is vital for any site’s long-term growth. OptinMonster makes it easy to convert abandoning visitors into subscribers and customers.
Using popups, floating bars, slide-ins, and more, you can convert up to 2x more visitors. Specific features include:
- A/B testing
- Exit intent technology
- Behavioral targeting
- GDPR compliant forms
- Detailed conversion analytics
OptinMonster allows you to seamlessly integrate high-converting lead generation into your site to grow your email list, social following, and more. More subscribers mean more traffic, engagement, and sales over the long run.
Wisepops is an alternative popup and emails opt-in form builder to OptinMonster.
With Wisepops, you can:
- Create popups, slide-ins, banners
- Target based on behavior
- Integrate with email services like Mailchimp
- Track conversion analytics
- Make GDPR-compliant forms
- Use templates and customize the design
It provides an easy way to add floating bars, popups, and other opt-in forms to boost conversions.
Why WordPress Plugins Are Essentails for Websites?
WordPress plugins provide critical functionality and customization that would be extremely difficult to achieve by hard-coding everything from scratch. The key reasons WordPress plugins are so valuable include:
- Save time – Plugins let you add complex features with a few clicks, saving hundreds of hours of development work.
- SEO – Plugins like Yoast SEO/RankMath make optimizing for search engines easy, improving traffic and rankings.
- Security – Security plugins like Wordfence provide firewall protection and malware scanning required by all sites.
- Speed – Caching and optimization plugins dramatically improve site speed and performance.
- Forms – Form builders like WPForms make creating all types of forms drag and drop simple.
- Features – There’s a plugin for just about any feature you can dream up, no coding needed.
- Support – Commercial plugins include technical support and ongoing updates for compatibility.
In summary, plugins expand what WordPress can do exponentially while saving time and money. They provide essential features, security, and optimization that would be enormously complex to do from scratch.
Many Plugins Slow Down the Website
Good point – too many plugins can potentially slow down a website and hamper load times. Here are a few thoughts on how to prevent plugins from bogging down your site:
- Be selective – Resist the urge to install every plugin you come across. Carefully evaluate if a plugin provides functionality that is truly essential for your site.
- Delete unused plugins – Don’t activate old ones if you no longer use their features. Deactivate and delete plugins you don’t need.
- Limit resource-intensive plugins – Some plugins, like security scanners and excessive analytics, can tax resources. Use these judiciously.
- Enable caching – Caching plugins like WP Rocket can override sluggish plugins by caching pages to improve performance.
- Monitor load times – Monitor page speed tests and adjust plugins if any correlate to slower speeds.
- Optimize images – Compress images with a plugin like Smush to minimize their footprint.
- Upgrade hosting – More resources from quality hosting can help overcome sluggish plugins.
So, in summary, carefully choose essential plugins, delete unused ones, implement caching, and monitor load times. This will allow you to benefit from plugins without dragging down site performance.
The wide array of WordPress plugins provides endless options for enhancing your site. While plugins offer powerful benefits, choosing carefully and only using those genuinely essential for your needs is vital.
Implementing the proper performance, SEO, security, and conversion plugins can take your WordPress site to the next level. But be wary of going overboard and slowing down your site.
With a strategic, optimized selection of plugins, your site will reap the benefits while avoiding the potential pitfalls.