11 Essential WordPress Plugins for Any Website

Posted on December 21, 2020 by 14 Comments Reader Disclosure Disclosure: If you purchase something after clicking links in the post, we may receive a commission. Thank you for the support!

11 Essential WordPress Plugins for Any Website
Blog / WordPress / 11 Essential WordPress Plugins for Any Website

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

1. Yoast


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 SEO plugin 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 comprehensible 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

View More Top SEO Plugins

2. WP Rocket

The WP Rocket plugin.

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

3. Smush

The WP Smush plugin.

Image optimization is one of the biggest ways you can speed up your website. Smush has steadily been one of the most viable image optimization plugin options to speed up your site. In combination with a caching plugin (including its partner Hummingbird), Smush can really take your site speed down a whole second or more. 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

essential wordpress plugins divi

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

5. WordFence

essential wordpress plugins

Like most of the other essential WordPress plugins, the category WordFence falls into (security plugins) 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

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

gravity forms

There’s a joke around the WordPress community that form 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 form 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 come up 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, its 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 are second-to-none, and they are popular enough that almost every major platform you go to has integration with it.

Now, there are lots of use cases for forms. We always recommend that you look at particular plugins that fit particular needs (though the occasional all-in-one plugin is very helpful). For forms, we recommend this list of contact form plugins and these top popup builder plugins. Depending on your exact goals, Gravity forms or CF7 may be exactly what you were hoping for.

Price: Free (Contact Form 7) or  $59 (Gravity Forms) | More information: CF7, Gravity Forms

8. Simple 301 Redirects


At some point, your site is going to have a page 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 may not be as robust as other redirect plugins, 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

really simple ssl plugin

In order to rank in searches and gain the most traffic possible, your site needs an SSL certificate. This plugin activates the certificate and makes sure your website is set up correctly. It really is that simple.

Price: FREE | More information

10. Jetpack

essential wordpress plugins

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 an essential wordpress plugin

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

Wrapping Up

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?

Article featured image by Mantav Jivva / shutterstock.com

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  1. Great list of plugins. Though Rankmath is a new player in its segment but has quickly grown as one of the most popular SEO plugins around. This is the plugin that I use on my websites. A couple of more plugins that I would have like to see on the list are Akismet Anti-Spam and Broke Link Checker. These really help to check spam comments and all the live broken links on a site.

  2. BJ when are you comming back om YouTube ?

  3. Good list. We use a lot of these. You can’t go wrong, really, with any of them. Here are a few of Type A’s “essential soup” of WordPress plugins:

    WP Fastest Cache – Even at the free level, it’s about the fastest, most trouble-free cache plugin we’ve tested. For our budget-minded clients, we team the free version up with Autoptimize for some pretty impressive speed gains.

    RankMath SEO. Even at the free level, this plugin replaces at least two other plugins we used to use in our SEO mix, including Yoast SEO and one of two schema plugins.

    BBQ Block Bad Queries – We use this firewall along with Wordfence for additional site protection. They play nice together.

    EWWW Image Optimizer – The free level of Smush is nice in that it can crunch images off site when CPU usage is a factor for your web host. Otherwise, we use EWWW. The free level has a few more options and provides better results than the free level of Smush. Of course, keep in mind that EWWW works its magic using your own server’s CPU which could potentially get you a nastygram from your web host.

    And, of course, rather than use the Divi Builder plugin, we just use the outstanding Divi theme. Although we’ve tried other theme builders, the Divi theme is the easiest, most versatile and most powerful theme to get the job done for most of the sites we build. I’m not associated with Elegant Themes. I’m just a happy customer.

    • A problem I’ve found though is that Rank Math conflicts with Updraft Plus in that Rank Math needs to be deactivated in order that Updraft Plus can be made to work.

  4. I did not know about the Google Site Plugin.. Instead of Yoast we use Rank Math – Is it better to use Yoast, i found out that rank math have a lot of the options that i should pay for with Yoast?

  5. Great list, I’ll have to check out some of those. I like to try new plugins and see which ones get the most done without sacrificing security or speed.
    Wordfence is #1 for me on every website hands down no exceptions. #2 Branda and #3 Tidio Chat. My personal base list is pretty small but it’s a foundation to build on. Honestly I feel it really depends on the needs of the person, and what functionalities are important to them when I am building their website.

    • Thank you, sir

  6. No.5 Simple 301 Redirects was a disappointment. Been looking for an alternative to hand hacking htaccess and thought I would have a look. It hasn’t been updated for over 2 years but Scott does seem to be answering support queries

    I did not know about the Google Site Plugin that was a find

    And UpdraftPlus works a treat using the S3 settings to a Digital Ocean serve ( I happily pay or both services)

    • Pretty Link is a good plugin that also allows you to set up redirects. The pro version has some very interesting features like automatically replacing keywords on your blog with a link, etc.

    • Instead of Simple 301 Redirects, you could try out Redirection (https://wordpress.org/plugins/redirection/).

      It works well and can create complex redirects. As a bonus, it will also track 404 errors so that you can fix/redirect any that are appearing regularly.

  7. Thanks, for the list! I have tried Yoast. And I liked the SEO course and plugin.
    I am really excited about this Yoast plug-in for WordPress. Also, the SEO course they offer is really extensive and easy to understand as a beginner as well.

  8. Very useful article it is. These list can be help SEO consultants. I have used Yoast SEO, it is an essential WordPress plugin to get your blog content ranked on search engines. This plugin comes with a readability analysis feature, title and meta description templating, breadcrumb controls, and XML Sitemaps functionality.

  9. 1. Rank Math the best
    2. Divi Builder Plugin Whenever I use it with astra – Generatepress premium always crashes. Yes, I work with Divi theme
    3. The images, I optimize them before uploading them
    4. Ninja forms magnificent
    5. UpdraftPlus Backups X2
    6. WP Fastest Cache + Autoptimize

  10. 1.ACf
    2.Custom Post Type UI
    4.Code snippets
    5.Asset CleanUp
    6.Wp all imports
    7.All-in-One WP Migration
    8.WP Fastest cache or Rocket

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