Five Essential Plugins
Every WordPress website has a few similar needs. Every WordPress website. So if you use WordPress, then your site must have these five essential plugins (or alternate plugins that perform similar functions).
If you’re new to WordPress or a beginner, you will especially appreciate this list (because it will make your life infinitely easier), but even many experienced users will agree–the functionality provided by these plugins is necessary.
Top-tier plugins have some things in common. They:
- are updated regularly,
- have great ratings,
- are used by the masses (well-proven),
- are well-coded by known experts,
- are easy to use (for the most part),
- and provide valuable functionality.
Essential Plugin #1 — Jetpack
Without Jetpack my site would lack some serious functionality.
I wouldn’t have the “subscribe box” on my on my website. Jetpack allows any user with a WordPress.com account (free) to utilize a completely free site subscription system. That is, your site’s visitors can subscribe to your blog posts (automatically receive a notification email every time you post) and you can build a subscriber base. That’s quite nice for the intimidating price of totally free.
Not only that, your users can subscribe to specific comment conversations. A lot of “pay-for” subscription services lack that feature.
Without Jetpack, I wouldn’t be able to keep track of my site’s statistics from my dashboard. Yes, I could use Google Analytics. It’s free. It provide more detailed analysis than Jetpack. But it’s also much more complex to use and comprehend. With Jetpack, simply activate WordPress.com Stats, and your website’s stats show up right in your dashboard. It’s free, simple and convenient.
Without Jetpack, I wouldn’t have access to a free CDN to help speed up my website. Sure, I could go through the trouble of setting up CloudFlare (can anyone say pain in the bazooka?) but why? The Photon module allows me to utilize WordPress’s cloud prowess to accelerate all my images. That means a faster website and less load on my web host.
Without Jetpack, I wouldn’t have cool sharing buttons, be able to make amazing tiled and mosaic galleries, be able to automatically post to popular social media sites every time I write a post, improve my SEO, improve the security of my WordPress website, have related articles at the end of all my posts, be able to manage all my WordPress websites from one dashboard, have a cool contact form that automatically utilizes Akismet . . . I could continue rambling about Jetpack’s sweet modules, but pretty soon people are going to think I’m an employee so I’ll stop.
I really don’t work for Automattic.
Jetpack is just way cool and I couldn’t live without it. Nobody with a WordPress website can.
Essential Plugin #2 — Akismet
There’s a reason Akismet comes pre-installed on all WordPress websites. It’s essential. It’s the best anti-spam solution for WordPress that exists anywhere. If you haven’t set it up yet, watch my video and get it set up! Right now!
Essential Plugin #3 — Updraft Plus Backup and Restore
How are you backing up your WordPress website?
Oh, you aren’t? Quit risking all your hard work. It’s not worth it. It’s easy to forget about making backups, because WordPress just runs, but everything, and I mean everything, needs a repair once in a while. WordPress is no different.
Updraft Plus Backup and Restore really needs no explanation. The title says it all. The plugin backs up and restores your WordPress website. Protect yourself against drastic loss and back up your website!
Updraft Plus is free. There’s a premium version but the free version has everything I need.
The plugin can be scheduled to run automatically. You set your own schedule. Daily backups, weekly backups . . . it’s your decision. Set it and forget it and enjoy a little peace of mind.
Essential Plugin #4 – W3 Total Cache
This plugin doesn’t really meet my requirement for being easy to use, but that being said, most folks can use the default settings and be fine. And that makes it pretty simple to use.
W3 Total Cache super-charges your website. It caches everything and makes your site load fast. Don’t believe it? Test your site’s speed here, here or here and then install W3 Total Cache. Then test your site’s speed again. You should notice a significant speed improvement. Comment on your results below.
W3 Cache should be set up for each individual WordPress website. You should take some time to research each setting and see what it does. That being said, it typically improves performance right out of the box.
Other caching solutions exist. Maybe you’ve found a better one. I haven’t.
Do I really need caching?
Yes. WordPress is, by nature, complex, inefficient and slow. If you use WordPress, you need a caching solution.
Essential Plugin #5 — WordPress SEO by Yoast
Would you like to utilize the awesome power of Google? Of course you would. We’re website owners. We want traffic. And Google can bring us lots of traffic.
WordPress SEO makes writing keyword-rich pages and posts a snap. Used correctly, this plugin can literally help you become a better writer (in the eyes of the search engines anyway)!
It analyzes your title, keywords, keyword density, meta description, headings, writing level, outbound links, the number of words . . . and then it scores each element. Green means good job. Any other color means you need to fix something. The more red the color, the more important that item is.
In the above image, the plugin is telling me that I really need to put in a meta description. I really need to try to put my keyword in the first paragraph of the copy (those items are red). I could improve my keyword density, add my keyword phrase to my images, and make my page a little easier to read.
The “reading ease” score is yellow, which means it is less important than the orange and red items above it. And they keyword density and alt images scores are less important than the two items at the top.
But WordPress SEO does more than that. It has a lot of advanced functions. Get to know those functions. As an SEO writing improvement tool, it’s very simple to use. The advanced functions, however, take a bit more work to learn but the pay-off (in the form of improved search engine rankings) is well worth the effort.
Essential Plugins Honorable Mention — Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions
My five essential plugins for every WordPress website list wouldn’t quite be complete without mentioning Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions. I can’t say this plugin is a must for everyone, but it is for me.
This set-it-and-forget-it plugin deletes revisions automatically and keeps my database lean and fast. If you write a lot and don’t delete your revisions occasionally, you’ll be shocked at the amount of bloat in your database (when you run this plugin for the first time).