You might have just setup your wordpress site and installed a beautiful theme, now wondering which plugins to use. WordPress plugins are one of the main reasons why wordpress is so popular and easy to use.
There are thousands of plugin available but using too many plugins can slow down your website as well. So, you need to choose them properly. In this article, I’ll show you some of the most essential wordpress plugins for your website.
To make it easy, I have created a table of content to help you navigate through easily.
Table of content
Disclosure: Some of the links here are referral/affiliate links that means if you decide to buy through those links I’ll earn a commission at no extra cost to you. This is how I keep Designtheway.com up and running.
Speed & Performance
Load time is very important for a website if your website is too slow visitors will bounce off your site and increased bounce rate will drop your search rankings as well. You can use few plugins to improve your website performance.
Jetpack is one of the most essential plugins to have, the plugin offers many features such as caching, site analysis, security, sharing, uptime monitoring and even backup (premium feature). In order to use jetpack, you have to create an account in wordpress.com and connect it to your site.
Primarily I use it for image caching but the range of feature it offers I can literally add this to all the categories I have here. Though personally, I like to use different specialized plugins for each task rather than depending on one single plugin.
W3 Total Cache (Freemium)
Caching is one of the best ways to improve a websites load time and performance, the method is to create static html files out of static data and serve it to the user. This reduces the total number of requests to the server hence making your site load faster.
W3 total cache is one of the most popular caching plugins, it allows page caching, database caching, object caching and browser caching. You can also minify html, css and js to reduce the total file size.
WP Rocket (Premium)
Wp Rocket is a premium caching plugin. The setup is very simple and uncomplicated, unlike W3 Total Cache. The plugin is like plug and play even if you test your site without touching any settings you will see certain improvement in performance but you should adjust the settings to get an even better results.
I ran a quick test on one of my subdomain (very simple site) and the result (pingdom) was really impressive, the load time reduced from 2.44s to 1.79s and performance grade improved from B(89) to A(96) compared to W3 Total Cache. You can try WP Rocket risk-free with its 14days free trial offer.
Images are another factor that affects your website performance if you have lots of un-optimized images that can make your site really slow. Always save your images in “Save for Web and Devices” mode in Photoshop or use similar compression method in other applications before uploading.
But if you already have hundreds of un-optimized images in the library you can use smush-it plugin. It will optimize existing images as well as new ones. The best thing about this it compresses images without losing quality. The free version does the work quite well but if you want more compression can try the pro version.
As your site grows your database also grows but with time the database can contain unnecessary or redundant data making your site slow.
You can use Wp-optimize to clean up your database, it’s among the best plugins for database optimization. It cleans old unnecessary data and helps your database work at its maximum efficiency.
Search engine optimization is a critical thing for the growth of a website if your site is well optimized it will get higher rankings and visitors. But SEO is not an easy thing to master, luckily wordpress itself is very well optimized for SEO and has some very good plugins to optimize it even better.
Yoast SEO (Freemium)
Yoast SEO is one the most popular plugin in wordpress and is one of the best if not the best plugin for SEO. It helps you to create XML sitemap for submission to different webmaster tools.
You can set meta description, the title of your content and see a preview of how it will look in the search engine. It also provides a detailed analysis of your content for better SEO and readability based on your keyword. In general, it optimizes your whole site.
The free version is awesome but if you want to get more features like multiple keywords, internal linking suggestions, social preview, redirects etc you can try Yoast SEO Premium.
Broken Link Checker (Free)
Broken links can be a hard thing to detect especially if you have hundreds of pages/posts moreover, it can have a negative impact on your sites SEO. You can use this plugin which not only detects broken links but allows you to fix redirects easily. It will notify you if there is any broken link in the site.
Fixing these broken links can decrease the bounce rate by providing better user experience thus improving your rankings.
If you decide to delete or change the url of a page/post and that particular page/post is indexed in the search engine or linked from other sites, visitors coming to those pages will see a 404 error. This will not only increase your bounce rate but you may lose a visitor or potential customer.
You need to redirect those outdated links to appropriate locations. You can use Redirection plugin this adds 301 redirections automatically when you change the permalink.
If you want to display more details than just what a basic snippet show in search results, like star ratings, no of reviews or more information of that page/post, you can use Rich Snippets plugin.
Rich snippets with appropriate information and ratings can improve your CTR and rankings.
Very rarely you will find a theme 100% matching to your requirement, you may want to add features to your website especially if you are using free themes. Let’s see some of the plugins that can help you add few essential features.
Page builders are the future of wordpress editing, it makes page editing so much simple even for non-technical persons. That’s why wordpress is also introducing Gutenberg editor, even many premium themes like Divi or Avada have built their own page builders.
There are many page builders in the market and elementor is one of the most popular. It offers front-end editing with lots of customization options along with may widgets. In the free version you get quite a lot of pre-designed templates to get started quickly you can also save your page or a section as a template. These features in free version make it really stand out and that is why I use it in Design The Way.
There is an Elementor pro version which gives access to more advance widgets and a whole bunch of templates.
WPBakery Page Builder for WordPress (Premium)
WPBakery Page Builder for WordPress (formerly Visual Composer) is another premium page builder you can look into, it’s the most popular page builder in envato marketplace. Many themeforest themes include WPBakery Page Builder in their package so you may not need to buy it separately if you use one of those themes.
This page builder is super easy to work and it offers both front and back-end editing, which is better because some time front-end editing can lag a bit for all those fancy js. It has many really useful widgets and you can add more with some additional extensions.
I have used it in hundreds of my clients website built on Ultimatum framework.
A contact form helps your visitors to communicate directly with you, creating a contact form in wordpress is very easy, there are many plugins you can choose from.
WpForms Lite (Freemium)
WpForms Lite is a very simple and user-friendly plugin. Though the free version is very limited, if you want to create a basic form this can be a really good option. Its drag and drop form builder feature makes it really simple to use for anyone.
If you want to create a more complex form you can try the pro version, with that you can create conditional forms, multi-page form, subscription forms, payment forms, order forms etc.
Gravity Forms (Premium)
Gravity Forms is another popular option but it’s not free, it’s a premium plugin with a host of features to create really complex forms. With add-ons, you can create quiz forms, polls, payment forms, user registration form, survey forms etc.
If you want some advanced features in your form then Gravity Forms can be a good choice for you.
If you want to show some product or highlight some features in a nice slider then you can choose MetaSlider, it’s a free responsive slider plugin. It offers nice drag and drop feature to rearrange slides along with different slideshow options like Flex Slider, Nivo Slider, Responsive Slider and Coin Slider. You can also create a full-width slider which is great for a modern website.
The pro version offers some additional features like thumbnail navigation, theme editor, youtube & vimeo slides etc.
Slider Revolution (Premium)
Slider Revolution is a premium responsive slider from codecanyon, it’s one of the most popular sliders in the market. You can create really advance content sliders with its drag and drop feature. You can add multiple elements within one slide with advance customization options.
Though it has a learning curve and can be little confusing for beginners but the features it offers makes it a such a popular slider. If you want an advanced responsive content slider then Slider Revolution is a perfect choice.
If you know CSS you can customize the look and feel of a theme, but to edit a theme CSS you have to create a child theme and open it via FTP or Cpanel. This can be a little challenging for some, you can use few plugins instead-
Simple Custom CSS (Free)
Simple Custom CSS is a very lightweight plugin for writing css especially if you are using a free theme. You can write css in the Additional CSS panel of the Customization section but the downside of this you can’t really write css within that small space you have to copy and paste it from somewhere else and it will be attached to that particular theme.
This plugin is very straightforward to use just install it and use it as any other code editor, but you have to be really good with css because it doesn’t provide any code hints.
CSS Hero (Premium)
If you feel like the previous plugin was too specific to a CSS developer then you can use this CSS Hero plugin. It’s a premium plugin which makes css adjustment really simple with its visual editing option. Click on any element it will show editing option or you can write normal css as well.
The plugin is tested with most popular themes in the market and can be a really good option for customizing without any css knowledge.
Related post (Free)
You must have seen in many sites at the end of a post there are few posts suggested within that same category, this is a very good way to increase user engagement and page views of your site. Most premium themes have this feature built in but not in free themes. You can use this Related post plugin to get this feature within your theme.
This is a very good and simple plugin to use, it automatically chooses the related items based on your category. You can also manually include or exclude any particular item.
Photo Gallery by Supsystic (Freemium)
For a portfolio site, a photo gallery is a very effective way to showcase your work. Photo Gallery by Supsystic is a nice plugin for creating a beautiful responsive image gallery. You have multiple types of gallery option to choose from.
With the premium version, you can create a gallery from your Flicker, Tumblr or Facebook account.
Max mega menu (Free)
You may have seen many ecommerce sites show their product items in a beautiful full-width menu, you can set up a mega menu easily for your wordpress site too with Max mega menu. It uses wordpress default menu system where you can simply drag and drop to create the menu.
All menus will be responsive, you can choose which menu items will have mega menu and can set icons to menu items as well.
Custom post type
When you have a unique category and want to display it different from other categories then you can create a custom post type. You can create one by following codex code but there are plugins you can use to make the process much simpler.
Custom Post Type UI (Free)
Custom Post Type UI is a popular free plugin for creating custom post type, you can create custom post type from your dashboard without touching any code. The plugin is ideal for basic custom post type but if you want advanced features like custom template then you can consider some other plugins.
Toolset types (Freemium)
For advance level custom post type, you can use Toolset types, with the paid version (they have recently stopped providing updates for free version) you can create really advance post types.
You can create a lot more than just custom post like post relationship, templates, custom search etc. If you want really unique post type then definitely try this plugin.
SVG support (Free)
SVG upload is not supported by default in wordpress for security reasons but SVG has its own advantages it remains super sharp even in retina view and file size remains very small making it load faster. You can use SVG support, this makes using SVG in wordpress simple.
You can force the SVG to be inline which is very useful animation purpose.
You want to keep track of who is viewing your site, where they are coming from, how much time they spent etc. Google analytics makes this tracking very easy there are many plugins you connect your analytics account with your wordpress site.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP) plugin is one of the most popular plugins for connecting wordpress site with google analytics. The process is very simple you just need to authorize the plugin via an access code.
Once connected you can see traffic details in your dashboard, where you can see various reports based on user, sessions, page views etc.
Backup and security
In the web world security is a major concern for all, wordpress being as popular as it is the framework is well know and can be an easy target for website hackers. WordPress team does everything to keep it safe by providing regular updates but it’s up to you to keep it safe. There are some plugins which can enhance your website’s security.
Once you have some visitors coming to your site you will see lots of spam comments coming through, Akismet is probably the best plugin to protect you from spam comments. You need an Akismet API key to activate it in your site, you can get that for free.
Once activated all comments will go through Akismet anti-spam check, it will automatically block spam comments as well.
Keeping a regular backup of your website is another safety measure you should take. Updraftplus is a popular backup and restore plugin, where you can set schedule backup and store the files in cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive etc.
The free version is good enough for a small website but if you want additional features like auto backup before any theme or plugin update, support etc you can try their premium plan.
As your site gets popular in search engines the chances of malicious attacks like DDOS attack, brute force, malware infection increases, you need to have a real-time protection to secure your site.
Wordfence is a very popular security plugin, the free version offers you basic protection against brute force attack. You can watch live traffic, monitor visits, hack attempts and block suspicious IP. The basic firewall identifies and blocks malicious traffic.
The premium version offers real-time firewall protection, real-time IP blocking etc. If you don’t have the budget to invest in any security plugin right now then I recommend using Wordfence free version.
Sucuri is another powerful security plugin, it does have a free version but it’s not as popular as the premium one. The pro version offers unlimited hacking & malware clean up, blacklist removal, real-time firewall, malware and DDOS protection.
If you are really concerned about the security of your website and have the budget then strongly consider using Sucuri because it basically protects you from all type of threats.
Login Lockdown (Free)
This is a very useful plugin to limit false login attempts, this adds an extra layer of security to your website. By default, there is no limit in false login attempts in wordpress with this plugin you can set a limit and lock the user for a certain amount of time after the limit exceeds.
If you are using Sucuri or Wordfence firewall then you get this feature automatically.
If you have built your site to earn money, there are many ways you can monetize your website. I will show few plugins for the most common form of monetization like online store and membership site.
If you want to create an online store in wordpress and sell your digital or physical product, look no further than wocommerce, created by the brilliant team of Automattic the minds behind WordPress itself. It’s by far the most popular ecommerce plugin in wordpress . The best part is that there are many extensions (many free) available to extend the feature of your online store.
Being such a popular plugin there is a huge active community where you can get help with most common issues.
If you want to create a subscription based site where users have to pay one time or recurring fee to get access to a certain service or digital product, then you can try these following plugins-
Memberpress is one of the best and simple membership plugin you can get. It’s a premium plugin but it covers all most all the features a membership site should have. You can create one-time payment or recurring payment, discount coupon, restrict content based on membership level etc.
I personally use memberpress for my WordPress Care plans here at Design The Way.
Paid Membership Pro (Freemium)
Paid membership pro is another powerful membership plugin, you can try the light version for free. It’s suitable for those who want to test out a membership idea before investing money. You can actually create a very good membership site with the free version but the initial set is not as simple as memberpress.
They have a very good documentation for customization, so if you are a developer you can customize a lot. They have many add-ons to extend the feature but the downside is you can’t buy individual add-ons you have to buy pro license.
Marketing and lead generation
You have your site and products ready, now you need to promote your content and create an email list to increase your sell. Here are few plugins that will help in building an email list and social sharing.
MailChimp for WordPress (Free)
Mailchimp for wordpress is a popular plugin for connecting wordpress site with mailchimp. You can easily create simple newsletter form and start accepting new subscribers.
Content upgrade is a very effective way to increase your subscribers, it’s simply asking a visitor to subscribe in order to get a bonus content.
Optinmonster is an industry leader in creating these content upgrade popup based on user interaction. You can easily connect this with popular email service providers mailchimp, converkit, aweber etc.
Sumo me (Freemium)
Sumo me is a complete marketing plugin, you can do many things with like add new subscribers, social share, content performance, track visitors, A/B testing etc. The free version is somewhat limited if you want to use all the features, but for new websites, the free version should be good enough to get a feel for the plugin.
I personally use the social share feature that allows visitors to share the content in social media easily. If you feel like using this plugin to its full potential give a try to the pro version.
As you can see there is a plugin for almost everything in wordpress and how they make our lives easier. I have list out the most effective plugins that I personally use and recommend but you shouldn’t go and install all of them together, install only those which fits in your requirement.
So which plugins do you use? Did I miss your favorite one? Do mention it in the comments section below.