Everyone who has run a WordPress website for any amount of time has their own set of “must-have” WordPress plugins that get installed before doing anything else. These plugins are the backbone of their workflow and content strategy, but if you haven’t been using WordPress long enough to get your own custom set, we want to help you along that path by giving you some suggestions regarding the most essential WordPress plugins out there that we feel are fundamental for any site’s success.
Keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list of every plugin you’ll need on your site. But these are the top essential WordPress plugins that we feel provide the most solid base for all kinds of sites.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Yoast is one of the top WordPress plugins around. If a site isn’t using Yoast, it’s for one of three reasons: they’re using a competitor like RankMath or Squirrly , they don’t know about Yoast, or they don’t know about SEO plugins in general. Yoast is that ubiquitous and useful. Not only does it provide SEO advice for you as you write, giving you an idea of keyword count and density, but it also provides a readability score that helps you adjust the content to make it the most comprehendible as possible. Even if you go with the free version and never touch the Premium access, your site absolutely needs Yoast. (Or an SEO plugin in general, but it will probably be Yoast.)
Price: FREE with premium upgrade | More information
2. WP Rocket
Like SEO plugins, you have a lot of options for a site caching plugin. Free ones such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are really great options for many people, but in our experience, the premium WP Rocket has simply been one of the most reliable and effective plugins of its type. Because of that, we have to include it specifically as an essential WordPress plugin. For those on a limited budget or a newly minted side project, absolutely check out the free options we linked to earlier. They’re truly great. But if you’re in need of an upgrade, WP Rocket is simply the way to go.
Price: $49 (1 site/year) | More Information
Image optimization is one of the biggest ways you can speed up your website. Smush has steadily been one of the most viable options to speed up your site. In combination to a caching plugin (including its partner Hummingbird), Smush can really take your site speed down whole seconds. It’s customizable and simple to set up and use. While it is part of a premium membership, the results that we’ve seen with it justify the cost. If you do not have a budget for Smush and the plugins it is packaged with, other image optimization such as Imagify and TinyPNG are exceptional choices, too.
Price: $5 per month and up | More information
4. Divi Builder Plugin
Page builders are incredibly common these days, including the base WordPress editor being a blocks-based builder for posts and pages. Even if you or your client aren’t using the Divi theme, you can still get the benefits of our page and theme builder by running the Divi Builder Plugin. Not everyone may be aware that the Divi Builder plugin works with pretty much every theme out there, not just Divi. So you can be running Genesis or Astra or any other theme that suits your needs while still getting the most powerful and robust page builder experience possible.
Price: $249 lifetime membership, $89 annual | More information
Like most of the other essential WordPress plugins, the category WordFence falls into (security) is very heavily saturated. But WordFence stands out in features for both the premium and free versions, as well as in ease of use. Not everyone is a security expert or even understands what all is necessary to keep a website safe. With WordFence you don’t have to. The plugin can send daily emails reporting issues that might appear on your site, you can easily set thresholds for login attempts and blocks, and more. And that’s just the free version. We have a full write-up on the plugin that we definitely suggest you check out. After installing it on your site of course.
Price: free with premium upgrades | More information
6. UpdraftPlus Backups
Let’s put this as simply as we can: UpdraftPlus will save your site at least once if you have it installed. Whether your site suffers a crash from malware or hacking, or if a staff member clicks a few wrong things and removes all your post content, UpdraftPlus is an easy-to-use backup and restoration solution that can fix it in no time flat. You can connect it to remote storage like Dropbox so your backups don’t take up your web server space, and making the backup and restoring it is done with just a couple of clicks. While there is a premium version that offers more bells and whistles, the free version is more than enough to save nearly any site from disaster. When looking at essential WordPress plugins, UpdraftPlus is a staple.
Price: free with premium options | More information
7. Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7
There’s a joke around the WordPress community that forms plugins are the easiest plugins to make that no one needs anymore. That’s a bit hyperbolic, but the truth is there is an enormous amount of forms plugins to choose from on the WordPress repository. That said, it’s hard to go wrong because of that dearth of choices. However, two particular plugins float to the top consistently: Gravity Forms and Contact Form 7.
If you need to go the free route, Contact Form 7 is undoubtedly the way to go. While it does not have the cleanest interface or the lowest learning curve, it’s functionality as a free plugin is unparalleled. For those with the ability to spend money on a forms plugin, Gravity Forms offers as many features as CF7 in a much easier to use package. The power and customization you can find in Gravity Forms is second-to-none, and they are popular enough that almost every major platform you go to has integration with it.
8. Simple 301 Redirects
At some point, your site is going to have a page to missing. Or you’re going to need to change a URL. Whatever the reason, you’re going to need to be able to redirect via 301 to a new address from an old one. While there are many options and tweaks you can include for redirecting, most of the time you simply want to take traffic for URL A and send it to URL B. Simple 301 Redirects handles this better than almost any plugin we’ve found, and while it doesn’t have the bells nor the whistles that other plugins have, the ease of use and “it works” nature of Simple 301 makes it an essential WordPress plugin for us.
Price: FREE | More Information
9. Really Simple SSL
Price: FREE | More information
We know that Jetpack is a sort of controversial plugin (or really, a Love It/Hate It plugin), but it has definitely proven to be an essential WordPress plugin since its release. Kind of a Kitchen Sink tool, Jetpack gives users access to site stats, image management, CDN delivery, security, backups, social sharing, and more. All within the same plugin and the same dashboard. While the specific features aren’t as detailed or intricate as some specialized plugins, the ease of use and access puts Jetpack at the front of the, well, pack.
Price: FREE with premium upgrades | More Information
11. Google Site Kit
Google Site Kit is a relative newcomer to Top WordPress Plugins lists, but it definitely deserves its spot. Combining Google Analytics, AdSense, and Search Console, as well as Page Speed Insights and Google Tag Manager, Site Kit puts it all in your WordPress dashboard at a glance. Sure, you have to click through to the main platform to get detailed analysis, but to get a full view of your website in Google’s eyes in your WP admin panel with a single plugin that’s set up in a couple of clicks? Absolutely one of the most essential WordPress plugins out there.
Price: FREE | More information
Again, everyone has their own set of essential WordPress plugins that they install on every site. But if you install the plugins on this list (or even most of them), your site will be a stronger and more viable platform in the future. From securing your users and staff to checking your stats and making sure things are running as well as they can, these WordPress plugins are absolutely essential to your success in some way.
What WordPress plugins do you feel are essential to your sites?
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