If you are just starting out with WordPress, you may not know which are the best WordPress plugins that you can use, or what plugins can actually do for your new website.
With so many plugins available (almost 50,000 at last count), it can also be a bit daunting when looking through the WordPress plugin repository trying to find ones that work well.
A lot of it is trial and error, so just going through some of them one-by-one and checking out the plugin Description, Screenshots and Reviews can reveal a lot of information. You also want to check out:
- when it was last updated
- WordPress version compatibility
- the number of active installs
- to see if there is support for the plugin, and
- the average star rating.
Now, as mentioned, there are literally 1000s of plugins available, and it’s impossible to go through every single one. So we have selected a few that are very popular and are good at what they do as a “starting point” for a lot of websites, and on top of this, you will probably want to add others to suit more specific requirement and situations.
Table of Contents
- 404 Redirection
- Akismet Anti-Spam
- All in One SEO Pack
- BJ Lazy Load
- Broken Link Checker
- Contact Form 7
- Cresta Social Share Counter
- Google XML Sitemaps
- Invisible reCaptcha
- Magic Liquidizer Responsive Table
- Peter’s Post Notes
- Simple 301 Redirects
- Simple Custom Post Order
- UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
- Wordfence Security
- WP AutoTerms
- WP Fastest Cache
- WP Smush
Standard WordPress Plugins For A New Website
These plugins below provide a good foundation for your WordPress website. There is a lot of overlap between some plugins, and people have their favourite plugins that they like to use – this means that opinions may vary between the “ideal” list of plugins as a starting point.
I have also provided a brief description of why you might want to use these plugins on your website:
This plugin will redirect any links on your website that are broken to your home page. This is good as it provides users with a better user experience if there is a broken link on your website, rather than being shown an error page. It is getting a little old now but still works ok.
This plugin checks comments that are left on your site and automatically marks them as spam. A very popular choice, but does require registering before you can use it.
All in One SEO Pack
This, together with Yoast, are 2 of the most popular SEO plugins. Use this to set up meta titles and descriptions (what are commonly displayed in Google search page results), as well as block pages from being indexed in the search engines.
BJ Lazy Load
Although not really an essential, this is a handy plugin to use. Since website page loading speed is quite important, you want your page to load as fast as possible. This gives your visitors a good user experience and also is favoured by Google.
This plugin loads images only as you scroll down the page, closer to each image. So, for instance, if you have an image right down the bottom of your page, it will not load it immediately, but only when you scroll down towards it. This means that the visible content of your page is loaded faster.
Broken Link Checker
Links on your website that point to pages that don’t exist (whether on your website or not) give visitors to your site a bad user experience if they click on these links. Google monitors this and it can affect your rankings if you have broken links on your website. Hence, it is wise to monitor and clean up broken links from time to time. This plugin scans for and highlights broken links requiring attention.
Contact Form 7
If your theme does not have an inbuilt contact form (or even if it does, you still may wish to use this plugin), Contact Form 7 is a popular choice. It has been around for ages and works well with other themes and plugins. It’s relatively easy to set up.
Cresta Social Share Counter
Adding social sharing buttons to your website allows visitors that find your information to quickly and easily share it to their friends and followers. Use this plugin to install buttons to popular social media platforms and customize the look and feel to suite you.
Google XML Sitemaps
It’s a good idea to tell Google and other search engines exactly what pages make up your website. By making it easy for them, they can rank your pages in the search engines easier. This is done by creating a sitemap, which you can do via this plugin. After installing, you tell Google via the Google Search Console (aka Google Webmaster Tools) what your sitemap is called, and where it is located.
If you are using another plugin such as Yoast, this plugin may also have the ability to create sitemaps; so in this case, you may not need the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
This is a handy plugin that helps protect your website against spam messages. Similar to clicking the checkbox or entering Captcha text to say that you are not a robot, this plugin looks to make sure that a human is actually entering comments. It requires a bit of setting up to get it to work, but is worth the effort. It works well with the Contact Form 7 plugin.
Magic Liquidizer Responsive Table
If you have large tables on your website to display information, they may not be mobile responsive, meaning that users will have to scroll from side to side to read the content. This plugin fixes that problem. It works well with the TablePress plugin (below). If you don’t have any tables, then this is not required.
Peter’s Post Notes
This little plugin creates an area in posts and pages where you can save information specific to that post or page. This is handy for things such as saving information on images that you have used (eg. Where you downloaded it from, image license information, etc). If you get questioned over image copyright usage 5 years down the track, this source of information may be able to help. This plugin is getting a little old now, but still works ok.
Simple 301 Redirects
Sometimes you may have a really long URL for a page that you want people to visit (eg. My-website.com/directory/services/path/these-are-our-services/). This can be quite cumbersome, especially if you are trying to tell a customer this information over the phone.
A simple way to fix this is to use this plugin, and then create another path (eg. My-website.com/services/) which then redirects all traffic from the new path to the old long path. This makes it much easier to remember and communicate.
Another reason for using this plugin is if you change the URL of a page, you do not want to lose any traffic from Google or from old references to the old page (eg. Links to your website from other sites or documents). So you can prevent this by forwarding all traffic from the old URL to the new one.
Simple Custom Post Order
Whether you have got a new site where you have loaded all the content up in a hurry, or your site is a bit older and bigger and has maybe grown organically over time, often all the pages in the back end of the website can be all over the place. Personally, I like to keep them a bit more organized so that things are easy to find (eg. Order the pages in the same order as the top menu bar). You can easily move the pages to any order you like in the back end by using the Simple Custom Post Order. Simply install the plugin, and then drag the pages to whichever order you want. When you are finished, just deactivate and delete the plugin.
TablePress is a great little plugin that makes creating tables easy. You create the table, and then the plugin gives you a shortcode that you insert into any page or post where you want the table inserted. Once again, if you don’t need tables, then you don’t need this plugin.
UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore
Backing up your WordPress website is important. If you run into any issues, you want to know that you have a backup handy that you can restore your website from. A great option to do this is UpdraftPlus.
We have discussed how and why you use UpdraftPlus in a previous post. Make sure that you check it out here.
Of similar importance to regularly backing up your website, you want to have good security to protect your investment. Wordfence is a great option for this, and the free plan provides excellent protection for your website. It helps with brute force attacks, runs scans, notifies you of core/theme/plugin updates requiring attention, as well as many other handy functions.
WP Fastest Cache
Having a website that loads fast is important, and having a caching plugin like WP Fastest Cache can help with page loading speeds. It also has other functions to minimise the amount of data transferred each time a web page is loaded.
WP Smush is another handy tool that helps your web pages load faster. It compresses image file sizes so that less data has to be transmitted each time a website page loads.
Since every website is different, it is almost impossible to come up with a list of plugins that every website should have. Technically, some of these plugins listed above may not be required (eg. TablePress, if you don’t have any tables on your site), but this list is generally a good starting point for someone who wants to get a website up and live to the world.
All these in the list of best WordPress plugins have a lot of installations and have good feedback. Some have not been updated for a little while, so it may be worth keeping an eye on these and looking for alternatives soon.
It can be easy to get carried away by installing heaps of plugins, but this just slows down your site and can become more of a security issue. So make sure that you know exactly what each plugin is installed for, and remove the ones you don’t need.
Of course, there will be differing opinions, as everyone has their favourite plugins that they like to use, and there is a lot of overlap between some plugins (eg. Yoast and All In One SEO Pack, above).
Don’t forget… if all this is a bit overwhelming, then we have WordPress training to help you get up-to-speed with WordPress so that you can manage your own website confidently. Click here for more information.
If you have a WordPress plugin that you think deserves to be on the list, feel free to share in the comments below what it is and why you think it’s a must-have.