The Must-Have WordPress Plugins Every Website Needs

The Must-Have WordPress Plugins Every Website Needs

12 WordPress Plugins that will Improve Your Website

WordPress out of the box is pretty great, but plugins are where the real fun is at. Plugins are the building blocks of your WordPress website. The right ones can add features, improve functionality, increase security, and boost speed.

But where do you start?

There are over 43,000 plugins in the WordPress repository. It can be difficult to know which ones are worth your time and which ones aren’t when there are so many choices.

The exact plugins you should install on your WordPress website depends on your specific needs. There are a ton of plugins in my tool belt that I use occasionally, when a project demands it.

But there a some plugins that I find myself installing over and over–no matter what type of project it is. These are my go-to plugins.

I’ve put together my list of must-have WordPress plugins that I install on every* website I build. They have become an essential part of my WordPress workflow, and they should become a part of yours too.

*I should say “almost,” because “every” is a bit of a stretch. No matter how useful a plugin is, every website is unique. There are circumstances where a website wouldn’t need every single plugin on this list. But still, this is a pretty good place to start.

1. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO Plugin

Use it to: Improve your site’s SEO

There are a lot of options when it comes to SEO plugins, but Yoast SEO is king.

Of course, Yoast SEO has all the basic features of an SEO plugin. You can set titles and meta descriptions for all your posts. But what really puts it over the top for me is the number of bonus features. Yoast SEO has a lot of extras that save me from downloading additional plugins.

Yoast SEO has an SEO checker. It scores every post/page based on SEO factors and gives suggestions for improvement. It also has a snippet editor, which shows you how a specific page would appear in Google search results.

The plugin’s XML sitemap feature creates a sitemap to help Google index the pages of your website. Yoast SEO generates the sitemap for you and automatically updates it anytime you publish a new page or post.

Yoast SEO’s social features let you add Facebook Open Graph data, Twitter Cards, Pinterest verification, and Google+ meta data to your website. These improve the appearance of your pages and posts when they’re share on social media. You can even set a specific photo, title, and description for each social network.

Price: Free


2. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache

Use it to: Make your site faster

A slow website isn’t just super annoying for visitors. It’s also bad for SEO. Google’s ranking algorithm takes page speed into account. A slow website could affect your rankings.

W3 Total Cache is a caching plugin. It speeds up your website by “increasing server performance, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.”

Sound daunting?

Truth told, W3 Total Cache is fairly technical, and the settings page can be overwhelming for less experienced users. Fortunately, the out-of-the-box settings work well enough to make significant speed improvements to your website without much tinkering.

If you’re really uneasy, WP Super Cache is a decent alternative with way less set-up than W3 Total Cache. It isn’t as powerful, but it’s much less daunting if you’re new to WordPress.

Whichever you choose, I challenge you to test the difference that a caching plugin can make. GTmetrix is a website to analyze your website’s speed. It offers suggestions to improve performance as well. I cut my page load time in half just by activating the W3 Total Cache plugin.

Price: Free


3. EWWW Image Optimizer

EWWW Image Optimizer

Use it to: Make your site faster

If your website is photo-heavy, optimizing images is one of the most effective ways to improve site speed.

EWWW Image Optimizer reduces the file size of images on your WordPress website. This reduces the page load time for visitors and reduces the bandwidth usage on your hosting server.

Once installed, it will automatically optimize any new images as they are added. It also has a bulk optimize tool, so you can optimize images that are already on your WordPress website.

Price: Free


4. Sucuri Security

Sucuri Scanner

Use it to: Keep your site secure

Sucuri focuses on four key features of WordPress security:

  • Auditing — Sucuri keeps logs of all activity that happens on your WordPress website: logins, plugin activation/deactivation, page modifications, media uploads, new posts published, etc. This is especially useful on websites without many users. On my website, where I’m the only admin user, I would know to take immediate action if I saw logs for activity that I didn’t do.
  • Monitoring — Sucuri keeps an eye on all your website’s files and alerts you when files have been added or modified. If a hacker is adding malicious files to your server, Sucuri will notify you immediately.
  • Scanning — Sucuri has its own malware scanner that it uses to detect malware on your website. In my experience, Sucuri’s scanner has missed malware that Wordfence catches. That’s why I like to use two security plugins.
  • Hardening — One of my favorite features of Sucuri is its security hardening features. It gives you suggestions for increasing the security of your WordPress website. Most of them can be done instantly with a click of a button.

In addition to tracking all the above data and presenting it in your WordPress dashboard, Sucuri also has an email notification system so you can be alerted of suspicious activity the moment it happens. It has a long list of settings that let you pick and choose what types of activity generate an alert. The super anal can get an email for every single failed login attempt. Meanwhile, the less worried can choose notifications only when a brute force attack occurs.

Price: Free (or premium version for $199/year)


5. Wordfence

Wordfence Security Plugin

Use it to: Keep your site secure

Every WordPress user has their own favorite security plugin. I have two. On the surface, Sucuri and Wordfence look very similar. But each plugin also offers unique features that the other doesn’t have.

For a long time Sucuri was the only security plugin I used. Recently, though, I’ve started testing out Wordfence as well. The interface isn’t as attractive. I can shamefully but honestly admit that this kept me from becoming a fan sooner. However, it succeeds in a few areas where Sucuri falls short.

A few of my favorite Wordfence features:

  • Scanning — Sucuri takes an inventory of your server when you install it scans for file changes against that moment. This works well on a brand new install but isn’t as helpful if you install it on a site that’s already infected. Wordfence scans all files (WordPress core, themes, and plugins) against the WordPress repository. I find this to a much more effective scanning method, as it has caught issues on my sites that Sucuri has missed.
  • Limit Logins — With Wordfence, you can automatically block a user’s IP after too many failed login attempts. Wordfence lets you decide how many failed attempts it allows and how long the user is locked out.
  • Real Time Traffic — Wordfence shows you what’s happening on your website in real time. It tracks Google crawlers, hackers, and human visitors and grabs information about their location, IP address, browser, and page visits.

Price: Free (or premium version for $59/year)


6. UpdraftPlus

Updraftplus Backup and Restoration Plugin

Use it to: Back up your site

Every website should be running regularly scheduled backups. You know, just in case.

UpdraftPlus makes it simple. You create manual or scheduled backups and save them just about anywhere: Amazon S3 Dropbox, Google Drive, FTP, email, and more.

What sells me on UpdraftPlus over other backup plugins is its restoration feature. It can quickly restore a website from a saved backup.

Seriously, backups could not be easier.

Price: Free (or a premium version for $70/year)

Bonus: Learn how to set up automatic backups with the UpdraftPlus plugin.

7. Akismet

Akismet WordPress Plugin

Use it to: Block spam comments

Akismet comes pre-installed on every new WordPress install and for good reason.

Helps automate spam prevention on the comments of your WordPress blog. Without it, your blog will be overrun with spam comments soliciting knock-off Nikes and Viagra.

Akismet catches any suspicious comments and marks them as spam so you only see the real ones.

If your website doesn’t have a blog with commenting enabled, you can probably skip this one.

Price: Free for personal sites/blogs


8. Broken Link Checker

Broken Link Checker Plugin

Use it to: Eliminate broken links

The older your site gets, the more maintenance and cleaning it requires. After a couple of years you might have old blog posts with links to sites that no longer exist. Or you might have links to a page on your own site that you’ve changed the URL for.

One or two broken links may not seem like a big deal, but too many can ruin a visitor’s experience and hurt your SEO.

The Broken Link Checker plugin regularly scans your WordPress website for broken links and notifies you by email when it finds new ones. It compiles all broken links on a single page, making it easy to fix everything in one place.

Price: Free


9. Redirection

Redirection Plugin

Use it to: Eliminate broken links

Broken Link Checker is helpful for fixing broken links that exist on your own site. But when a broken link exists on another site (because you’ve changed a URL or deleted a page), you can’t just go to that site and fix it it for them.

When a site links to a page on your website that doesn’t exist, it creates 404 errors. Redirection helps you manage and minimize these errors by creating 301 redirects. Basically, what a 301 redirect does is tell your website “Hey, I changed the URL of that page. It’s over here now.”

Redirection lets you manually set an unlimited number of redirects. Additionally, it will automatically create a redirect when you change a page/post URL.

Price: Free


10. Simple Social Icons

Simple Social Icons Plugin

Use it to: Encourage social sharing and engagement

Simple Social Icons is pretty much the most self-explanatory plugin out there.

It displays icons that link to your social media profiles. You can customize the icon size and color to match your website.

The plugin currently supports:

  • Bloglovin
  • Dribbble
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Github
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Vimeo
  • YouTube

Price: Free


11. Simple Share Buttons Adder

Simple Share Buttons Adder Plugin

Use it to: Encourage social sharing and engagement

Encourage readers to share your content by adding social sharing buttons to your posts and pages.

Simple Share Buttons Adder has quite a few settings that let you tailor the plugin to suit your needs.

The plugin lets you choose which post types should display the buttons and where on the page they should display. You can control the size, style, or even create your own custom buttons to use on your site.

These popular networks are supported:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Digg
  • Email

Price: Free (or premium for $10/year)


12. Gravity Forms

Gravity Forms Plugin

Use it to: Add advanced contact forms

You may have noticed that every plugin I’ve listed so far is free or has a free option.

I love a free plugin. If I don’t have to spend money I won’t, and with WordPress there’s almost always a great free option. Almost.

But sometimes a premium plugin is just so good that even I have a hard time settling for a free alternative.

Enter Gravity Forms.

It almost doesn’t do Gravity Forms justice to call it a contact form plugin. It’s SO much more than that.

The $39/year personal license gets you the basic features, like:

  • Drag-and-drop form builder that makes creating forms a breeze.
  • Every type of form field you could ever need: text fields, dropdowns, checkboxes, radio buttons, captcha address, phone number, email (with validation), file upload.
  • Conditional logic.
  • Use it to create contact forms, order forms, and front end page editors.
  • No need to know even a line of code. Just drag, drop, save, and insert into your post, page or widget area.
  • Receive email notifications for every new entry.
  • View all entries in the WordPress dashboard

Upgrade to the business license for $99/year and you get a whole slew of add-ons that increase the functionality by integrating with your other business services:

  • ActiveCampaign
  • AWeber
  • Campaign Monitor
  • CleverReach
  • Emma
  • GetResponse
  • iContact
  • Mad Mimi
  • MailChimp

There’s also a developer license for $199/year, but those add-ons go beyond the needs of the average user.

If you’re absolutely opposed to dropping some cash, there are free alternatives. If all you need is a basic contact form without any of the bells and whistles, Contact Form 7 will get the job done. It’s one of the most popular plugins in the WordPress repository, and a lot of user swear by it. But you won’t have any of the added features included with Gravity Forms.

Ninja Forms is a newer contact form plugin that’s more user-friendly than Contact Form 7. It has a drag-and-drop builder like Gravity Forms. With Ninja Forms, the basic contact form features are completely free. Ninja Forms has a lot of the same features as Gravity Forms available via a la carte add-ons that range from $19-$12

Price: $39+/year


Is there a WordPress plugin that you absolutely can’t live without? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

The comments are closed.

  1. June 1, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Would definitely agree with you on most of these plugins– I use 6/12 of them on all my properties. I’m a Ninja Forms guy though. I was using Gravity forms at first and then just kinda fell in love with Ninja Forms. As far as the social sharing plugin goes… well, I’m biased. I’ll just leave it at that. 😀

  2. August 31, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I know plenty of people who are team Ninja Forms, so I trust that it’s great. Personally, I’ve just been using Gravity Forms for a long time and it works. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    I’ve also heard great things about Social Warfare and have been meaning to test it out. It’s on my to-do list!

  3. July 23, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I love Easy Google Fonts PlugIn! Great resource post! Thanks!

  4. August 31, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Great suggestion, Autumn! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. February 6, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I have an image heavy blog and have been looking for some ways to speed it up. I’ll make sure that I check out some of these WordPress plugins and install them.

  6. February 6, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    If your blog has a lot of images EWWW is a must! I’ve become obsessed with seeing how much my images are reduced when I upload them.

  7. Danial Wilson
    March 9, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    All listed plugins are very useful. Thanks for guiding.
    I want to add one more good security plugin which is User Activity Log Pro Plugin. It is very helpful for monitoring and tracking of all the activities occurs on the admin side.

  8. February 4, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I use some of these but Broken Link Checker has been downloaded immediately! Very useful, thank you 🙂

  9. Mary Martin
    August 20, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    Great List. You described a good list of plugins.
    I have just installed the User Activity Log Plugin on my website.
    It is helpful for monitoring, and tracking of all the activities occurs on the admin side.