What They Are + Why You Need Them + Top 10 Must Have Plugins
WordPress websites are a great place to start if you’re starting out and making your first website. You’ve chosen your domain name, your website host and your theme so now you’re ready to get started creating your site.
Maybe you’ve become addicted to YouTube tutorials for a little guidance on how to create a WordPress website. You’re probably hearing a lot about Plugins. So, what exactly are WordPress Plugins and which ones should you use? There are over 50,000 choices which gives you every opportunity to make your dream website with all the bells and whistles you want. The good news is the that many of the ones you need are free!
In a nutshell, plugins are like apps. You add them to the back-end system of your website (through the dashboard) to add necessary and special features to your site. It doesn’t require any advanced coding or major techie skills. Most of them require simple uploads that are self-explanatory. Some may require some setting integrations, however many plugins come with helpful installation tutorials.
With the right suite of integrated plugins, you can dramatically (and instantaneously) improve the functionality, aesthetics, and efficiency of your site both for yourself and your viewers.
However, with the myriad of options available, the challenge of finding the best WordPress plugins can feel overwhelming. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the most essential Top 10 WordPress Plugins that every website should have.
To access plugins you’ll need to start on the WordPress dashboard and open the plugins link. From here you can see the plugins already installed. To add and search for a new plug in, you’ll find the ADD NEW button at the top of the page that will take you to a search option. Type in the specific plug in name or simply search by subject and you’ll be given a variety of choices with full descriptions. Be sure to read the reviews and see how others users rate the plugin. This can be helpful in wasted time installing worthless or troublesome plugins.
1. WP Forms
Every website needs a contact form. So, you’ll need a plugin that will allow you to seamlessly create and manage multiple contact forms, use reCaptcha verification, and ensure that all spammy submissions are filtered out with Askimet (more on them in a second), WP Forms is the last WordPress contact form plugin you’ll ever need.
This simple plugin allows you to skip all of the extra coding so that you can quickly create and publish beautiful contact forms that will have your users blowing up your inbox. It even has built in PayPal and Stripe options to accept payment directly through the form.
Best of all, it’s absolutely free
2. Yoast SEO
An important part of any website is having strong SEO that accurately describes the website content on each page. It helps google searches find your website when certain matching keywords are typed in the search. With strong SEO you can increase your chance of ranking higher in organic (not paid) Google searches.
When it comes to on-page search engine optimization, few plugins can shine a candle to the efficacy and functionality of Yoast SEO.
Assuming that you’ve already conducted basic keyword research, the Yoast plugin will guide you step by step through the process of optimizing your new content for the search engines.
From the density of your target keyword to the optimization of your title and h2 tags, to basic readability and metadata, Yoast SEO makes on-page search engine optimization so easy a caveman could do it.
3. Akismet Anti-Spam
Akismet Anti-Spam is the only plugin that you’ll need to keep the spammers at bay and maintain the long-term integrity of your site.
The plugin reviews and filters every comment that is shared on your website, providing a status history for each one so that you can determine which comments were found spammy by Askimet or the moderator.
You also have the ability to view the number of approved comments for each user, look at the URLs in the comment body, and remove any less-than-useful links you may find.
For those of you who opted to take a slightly less conventional route with your eCommerce adventures (a.k.a. not using Shopify), WooCommerce is the all-in-one open source eCommerce platform for WordPress webmasters.
With a plethora of features, extensions, and customizations built into the platform, WooCommerce makes selling on your WordPress site easier than ever before.
From their abundance of themes (all of which come with unrestricted customization) to the ability to sell physical, digital, and affiliate products, to the countless conversion optimization tools, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single plugin that can match WooCommerce in terms of usability or price (FREE)!
5. Google XML Sitemaps
Yet another useful SEO plugin for WordPress, Google XML Sitemaps helps search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! (people still use that, right?) to better index your website with a special XML sitemap.
As soon as you install and activate the plugin, it will automatically create an XML sitemap that makes it easy for search engine bots to view, crawl, and index your site so that you can enjoy a boost in your rankings and some extra “SEO Juice” for years to come.
It works behind the scenes to drive traffic to your website.
6. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics
If you’ve ever wanted to track the real-time traffic details of your website without logging into and attempting to navigate the labyrinthine Google Analytics website, then Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by Exact Metrics (try saying that three times fast!) is the plugin you’ve been searching for.
This plugin allows you to monitor not only the real-time traffic stats and acquisition channels but also the:
- Sessions, organic searches, page views, bounce rate analytics stats
- Locations, pages, referrers, keywords, 404 errors analytics stats
- Traffic channels, social networks, traffic mediums, search engines analytics stats
- Device categories, browsers, operating systems, screen resolutions, mobile brands analytics stats
And, since it’s free to use for both personal and commercial sites, you have nothing to lose by clicking ‘download‘ and giving it a try.
7. UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
Nothing is more frustrating (or terrifying) for the average webmaster than the prospect of losing all of their hard work and content due to a faulty update or accidental coding fluke.
Luckily, with UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup, the world’s highest-rated (2,400+ 5-star reviews and counting) scheduled backup plugin, you can put those fears and frustrations behind you.
All you have to do is click ‘install’ and rest easy as all of your data is seamlessly backed up into the cloud.
8. Elementor Page Builder
If the Divi Builder had a brainchild that was converted into a WordPress plugin, the Elementor Page Builder would be it.
Elementor Page builder is one of the most effective and easy-to-use WordPress page builder plugins on the market today. Elementor will allow you to quickly and professionally create gorgeous pages.
9. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Nothing will bog down your website or slow your load times faster than oversized and unoptimized images.
Luckily, with Smush Image Compression and Optimization, you can compress, resize, and optimize all of your website’s images in less than a day.
Smush Image Compression and Optimization is considered the best free image compression plugin in the WordPress marketplace.
10. Easy WP SMTP
If you have any type of WordPress site has a contact form (which all websites should) or accepts public registration — like a membership site or an eCommerce store — your WordPress site will need to send a lot of transactional emails to users. For example, order confirmation emails, password reset emails, etc.
If you use the native WordPress email solution — wp_mail — a significant portion of those emails will likely end up in recipients’ spam folders. Not the desired outcome, right?
A WordPress SMTP plugin lets you use an alternative method for sending emails that has a much better deliverability. In simpler terms, a WordPress SMTP plugin helps you make sure people actually get the emails that your WordPress site sends to them.
Easy WP SMTP is a popular and 100% free WordPress SMTP plugin that lets you connect your WordPress site to your SMTP server of choice.
The plugin also adds a tool that you can use to send test emails to verify that everything is working.