You’ve just launched your WordPress website – or maybe you’re about to! Either way, congratulations. DIY-ing a website is no small task, especially if you’re not a web designer!
If you’ve felt confused about WordPress plugins, you’re definitely not alone. I think we’ve all been there. What plugins are worth installing? What plugins are the best for site security? How about for spam? SEO?
Girl, I’ve got you. Read on for information about 6 essential WordPress plugins that I install on most new sites I create.
1.) A security plugin
Price: Free to get started, I’d recommend upgrading after you get 1-2k website visits per month
Let’s get the super boring part over with first and talk about WordPress site security. No free plugin will be able to provide a security guarantee for your website, but you’ll want to have some basic security no matter what your monthly maintenance budget is.
WordFence is the most popular WordPress security plugin. That’s because it’s pretty damn good!
So, what does it do? Here’s a quick list:
- Scans your site on a regular basis for security threats
- Reports on potential security issues and gives you recommendations on how to fix them
- Creates a firewall to filter attacks before they reach your site
- Shows you live traffic on your site + monitors traffic for suspicious activity
- Lots more!
Note: There are some reports that WordFence is a little more bloated than other security plugins, so keep that in mind. If WordFence seems to slow down your site, I’d look for another option.
I recommend installing WordFence, iThemes Security, MalCare, WebArx, or another reputable security plugin and setting it up as soon as you can. Most security plugins have a premium version that comes with advanced security features.
Install the free version for now if you don’t have a budget for site security at the moment. Then circle back and purchase the pro version once it becomes more feasible for you.
And when your website is bringing in more than 1-2k per month, I’d recommend investing in the pro version of your security plugin to protect the time investment you’ve made in your website.
2 .) An SEO plugin
Price: Free unless you plan to buy a premium plan, but you don’t need to if you don’t do SEO or content marketing professionally.
SEO plugins help take care of some technical SEO issues and give you suggestions for how to improve content-related (on-page) SEO of your blog posts and website pages.
SEO plugins are handy tools for many reasons and I highly recommend installing one and getting to know your way around it. It’s important to note that no SEO plugin will replace good keyword research and solid SEO knowledge. There is no such thing as a magic tool that can “do SEO for you.”
SEO plugins provides a great little set of suggestions, but it’s nowhere near an exclusive list of what you need to do to get your post ranked higher in search.
For example, focusing on getting “green lights” in Yoast is a good way to miss the point completely. You’ll need to make sure what you’re doing aligns with your keyword and content strategy and that you’re not getting carried away with what the plugin thinks.
To rank on page one for a keyword with any amount of competition, you’ll need a thorough understanding of all three parts of SEO: on-page optimization, off-page optimization, and technical SEO.
In other words, SEO plugins are great and you should install one and learn about it, but you should also learn more about SEO when you have time. Don’t bother with the premium version of the plugins if you’re new to SEO – you’re better off learning about SEO and implementing what you learn.
I use RankMath Pro, which is my favorite SEO plugin. The free version of RankMath provides more features than the paid version of Yoast, so that’s something to keep in mind. That said, if you’re used to using Yoast and you’re comfortable with it, then there might not be a need to switch.
Here’s a video explaining some of the differences between RankMath and Yoast:
3 .) An optimization plugin
Price: $49/year for the top optimization plugin, free for the others on the list
You’ll want some kind of website optimization plugin on your site if you are trying to create the best user experience possible on your site. You have a lot of options for this, both free and premium.
What you need out of your optimization plugin might differ a bit than other sites, but in general, here’s what you’re looking for in an optimization plugin:
✅ Page caching options
✅ Ability to delete database clutter, like post revisions, spam comments, etc.
✅ Help preloading fonts, cache files, and links
✅ Lazy-loading images
✅ CDN compatibility
My first choice for a WordPress optimization plugin is WP Rocket. It’s by far the easiest to set up and it’s the plugin that’s hands-down done the most for my site speed. It’s got all of the features above and more, where some of the free plugins don’t quite have everything and are a little more time-consuming to set up. WP Rocket is $49/year for one website.
Here’s some free website optimization plugins:
4 | Antispam Bee
Antispam Bee protects your website from spam comments.
Most of us have comments disabled on individual site pages but not on posts. Once you start getting regular traffic, you’ll, unfortunately, have to fight off spammy comments pretty much on the daily. Most of these are super generic and don’t add anything to the conversation and/or include links to the commenter’s site – an annoying and outdated way to build up links for their site.
You can flag these comments as spam and delete them inside of WordPress without a plugin, but installing and setting up Antispam Bee will allow the plugin to auto-flag comments that look like spam.
I recommend setting it up on your site because it’ll take sorting through spammy comments off of your plate, for the most part. It’s pretty good at accurately deciding which comments are spam and which ones are real. Your site will look a lot more credible without spammy comments on it, too.
Antispam Bee is a free plugin. Yaaaaas, we love to see it.
5.) A backup plugin
You just never know when a backup of your site will come in handy. Hopefully, never. But chances are that someday you’re going to break something on your site while updating it and you’ll want to revert to a previous version.
UpDraft Plus is an amazing plugin that has a free version that’s good enough for most websites. After installing it, you can set it up to automatically back up your entire site to the platform of your choice – Dropbox, Google Drive, etc., for free. Mine backs up every night to my Google Drive.
Having to restore your site to a previous version isn’t fun, but losing your entire website is a lot less fun.
Start backing it up regularly and you can breathe easier knowing that no matter how badly you “mess up” while working on your website that you’ll have access to a non-broken version.
6.) An image optimization plugin
Price: Free for 100 images per month, $4.99+ for more image credits
You need to optimize your images to make sure that your site doesn’t have crazy load times. Images can slow down your site dramatically, so definitely install one ASAP.
My favorite after testing several is ShortPixel. They have a free plan where they’ll optimize 100 images per month for you. After that, you do have to pay, but it’s pretty dang cheap.
They also have lifetime deals on AppSumo where you can get a monthly quota of credits for a one-time fee, instead of a monthly subscription. I did that this Black Friday and I’m sooooo glad I did.
Other image optimization plugins that come to mind are Optimole, Smush, and Imagify. Here’s an article that compares them all, but I like ShortPixel the best for the price point if you’re on the free plan or if you get the lifetime deal.
Final thoughts on essential WordPress plugins
Alright, so those are really the essential WordPress plugins for pretty much every website or blog! The only plugin listed here that might not apply is the custom Pin-It button plugin if you don’t plan to use Pinterest for your business. Pinterest marketing is a super-powerful traffic generation machine, though, so definitely explore that if you haven’t yet!
There are more plugins that I like and that I use on a regular basis. But each site is unique and there aren’t many plugins that need to be installed on every website in the world. It’s important to remember that you don’t want to overload your site with plugins, either – that’ll slow down your site by a lot.
What other WordPress plugins do you find to be essential?
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