WordPress is a content management system that can be used by anyone, from beginners to dedicated website designers, but its core code is simply a framework that provides essential elements for creating a basic website. To fully customize a site’s functions, appearance, and performance, you’ll need a set of plugins – independent pieces of code that can be added to any WordPress website to meet a user’s specific needs. With just a little know-how and guidance, you’ll find that building a WordPress website is easy, fast, and affordable for all website owners.
There are over 54,000 active WordPress plugins, and more are being developed every day by WordPress designers and developers around the world. Since WordPress is open source code, anyone can create and sell a plugin or make it available for free. With so many options to choose from, selecting which plugins are best for your WordPress site can be tough.
Here’s a look at 10 of the best WordPress plugins for performing a variety of essential functions on just about any WordPress site.
What Plugins Do You Need?
There’s a WordPress plugin for nearly every imaginable need – even the needs of unique sites in very narrow niches. Whether you are looking for free live chat plugins or plugins for photographers, there are a variety of plugins you can use to create your own unique website. Generally, though, the essential plugins that most working WordPress sites should have fall into a few key categories:
Content management– WordPress comes with basic tools for creating, publishing and managing a variety of content types, but specialized plugins can make your workflow more efficient and your content more accessible and attractive. Plugins related to content management include ones for editing and formatting, image optimization, and galleries.
Social sharing, marketing and SEO plugins– Any website hoping to find an audience needs tools for optimizing a site for searchability and sharing on social media.
Website performance– Plugins can speed up loading time, optimize images, and provide a better user experience.
Security and safety– Plugins can back up the site, add firewalls and other protections against hacking, and protect the site from spam.
Some of the best plugins for WordPress are entirely free. Others have both free and premium versions with more features. These plugins have been downloaded by thousands of WordPress users with ratings of four stars or better.
1.) Yoast SEO
Optimizing your content for search engines is essential for getting traffic to your site. Yoast SEO is an SEO WordPress plugin that helps you optimize every aspect of your site for searchability. Yoast automatically grades content for keywords and metadata and tags areas for improvement. Efficient and functional, Yoast is available from the WordPress plugin directory as a free plugin with a premium version for more features.
Originally created for the hosted WordPress site WordPress.com, Jetpack is now available for self-hosted WordPress sites. It’s an “all in one” solution for social media sharing, site statistics, and search engine optimization. Users can activate and customize the Jetpack features of their choice. It’s available in a premium or free version from the WordPress Plugin Directory.
3.) WordFence Security
WordFence Security is a full-featured security solution for self-hosted WordPress sites. Available in free and premium plugin versions, WordFence Security provides a firewall with multiple features and protection from hacking, malware, and viruses. WordFence also includes email alerts for critical problems and real-time traffic monitoring.
MonsterInsights brings the features of Google Analytics right to your WordPress admin dashboard. This plugin makes it possible to track traffic, clicks, visitor statistics and more without manually installing or interfacing with Google’s comprehensive analytics tool. MonsterInsights is a premium plugin with multiple plans from third-party developer MonsterInsights.com.
5.) WP Smush
Images can hog your site’s storage and cause slow loading times. Smush from WordPress.org is an image optimization plugin that compresses a variety of file types without sacrificing image quality. It’s available in free and premium versions from the WordPress Plugin Directory.
WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce solutions in the world. This plugin includes all the features you need to set up a full-service online store on your own WordPress site. WooCommerce is fully customizable with multiple themes and product page layouts, and it supports sales for both physical and digital products as well as affiliate marketing. You can get started using WooCommerce in either its free or premium version from WordPress.
WordPress comes with a basic content editor, but customization options are limited. Elementor is a drag and drop page building plugin that allows users to customize every aspect of a webpage with no coding required. Elementor is free to download, with premium options that offer more features and support.
8.) Pretty Links
Affiliate links can be long and ugly. Pretty Links is a premium WordPress plugin with multiple plan tiers that allows marketers to cloak links using their own site and domain name. Pretty Links include auto-linking to keywords and a year of support and updates with all plans.
9.) Really Simple SSL
Really Simple SSL converts a site from http to https with one click. This plugin allows you to safely migrate your entire site to a secure site in a single step and avoid the “Not Secure” warnings on Google. Really Simple SSL updates site URLs, handles redirects and enhances site security. You’ll need to acquire a free SSL certificate in order to use this free plugin.
Mailchimp for WordPress includes a suite of tools for creating forms, managing email lists, and sending newsletters. This free plugin integrates with Woocommerce and many other WordPress plugins, and comes with a variety of optional add-ons including Captcha and Mailchimp Activity.
The right set of plugins can make a WordPress site work better for both site runners and visitors. Whatever your site needs, there’s a plugin for that – and the best WordPress plugins make your site look better, load faster, and stay secure.