I’ve noticed some trends.
After helping new theme users every day for the last 4 years, I’ve found there are a lot of common questions that come up.
Often times, a simple plugin can be installed to help the user do exactly what they want with their site.
In this guide, you’ll find the 7 plugins that I consider the most practical for customizing, securing, and optimizing your WordPress site. These are plugins that I use and recommend to my customers every day.
You may not need all of these plugins for your site, so bookmark this page for later so you can return when you need a new plugin.
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is extremely popular and for good reason, it’s a fantastic plugin for managing your WordPress site’s SEO.
Yoast SEO helps with all of the most important on-page and technical SEO factors such as:
- Setting title tags
- Creating sitemaps
- Keyword optimization
It can even add Open Graph tags so you can set the thumbnail images displayed on Facebook when people share your posts.
While Yoast comes with lots of customizable functionality, it also implements a handful of optimizations for you automatically. Some of these optimizations include:
- URL canonicalization
- Proper handling of pagination tags
- Meta description output
And there are many other best-practices implemented as well.
Given the ease-of-use and impact this plugin has on search traffic, it’s always one of the first plugins I install on a new site.
2. WP Forms
Most websites have a contact form and WPForms Lite stands out to me as the best option.
WPForms is made by AwesomeMotive, the same company behind popular plugins OptinMonster, MonsterInsights, and Soliloquy Slider.
The best feature in this form plugin is the visual editor. You can drag-and-drop fields into place and easily rearrange them. Each field has a set of simple customization options, and you get full control over the confirmation message and notification email you’ll receive.
While most sites need some kind of contact form, you’ll likely find some other needs for forms too. For instance, you might want a more advanced form to provide clients with quotes, a purchase form, or a customer survey form.
After using WPForms for other sites, I recently switched all forms on this website over to WPForms. You can visit our contact page if you want to see an example of a form built with this plugin.
That form utilizes “conditional logic” which is only available in the Pro version.
3. Monster Insights
You need analytics for your site. At the very least, you’ll want to know how many visitors you’re getting each day.
Google Analytics is the most popular and advanced free analytics tool available. While there are lots of plugins to help you add it to your site, MonsterInsights stands out thanks to its slick interface and additional features.
You don’t need to touch any code to add Google Analytics with MonsterInsights. There’s a quick verification process and then you’re up and running.
There are a few nice features built-in like the ability to ignore all visits from admins or logged-in users so you don’t disrupt your data with your own activity on the site. If you’re intimidated by the complexity of Google Analytics, you can also view very simple traffic reports from within the MonsterInsights dashboard in your WP admin menu.
I also appreciate that premium upgrades are available with more advanced features like eCommerce tracking and an EU privacy compliance add-on that makes the Google Analytics integration GDPR-friendly.
4. Widget Options
A request I get a lot from customers is that they want to display a widget on a specific page, but not any other pages. This is exactly the type of functionality that Widget Options handles with ease.
Widget Options approaches widget display in a comprehensive way. While you can pick any widget and display it on just one page, there are plenty of other options too.
You can display widgets on certain types of pages like only the archives or even specific categories. You can even show/hide widgets based on the device used to view the site: desktop, tablet, and mobile.
You may not need this functionality now, but it’s likely to come up at some point during your site creation process.
Most blogs and content sites include social sharing buttons somewhere on their posts. The problem with most social share button plugins is that they slow down your site and sometimes have compatibility issues with themes.
The Simple Share Buttons Adder (SSBA) plugin is easy-to-use, customizable, loads quickly, and is fully compatible with all of our themes.
Unlike most social plugins, SSBA provides very sensible and effective customization settings. You can decide exactly where you want to display the buttons, such as the homepage, pages, posts, excerpts, and archives. This includes deciding if the icons should show up before or after the content (or both).
There are a ton of customization options including 9 different skins that transform how the buttons look. 18 social sites are supported including all of the most popular options like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and email.
If you’ve got comments enabled, you’re going to get comment spam. It’s an unfortunate and inescapable part of publishing on the web.
The Anti-spam plugin is a simple and comprehensive solution for blocking spam comments on your blog.
As a “comprehensive” spam solution, you’d think there would be a lot of settings to configure, but Anti-spam has no settings at all. Just install it and you’re done.
Losing content from your site stinks!
If you’re serious about publishing, you need to regularly back your site up in case of a security breach or other code error. While there are lots of excellent free plugins to choose from, BackUpWordPress is among the simplest and easiest to set up and run.
Manual backups are useful, but I recommend a solution that can automatically backup your site for you. The BackUpWordPress backup plugin has a very simple scheduling option that will allow you to backup automatically without any intervention required.
Of course, manual backups are still available as well. As a best practice, it’s always smart to backup your site before you update any of your themes or plugins.
You can choose to backup the files (themes and plugins), database (post and page content), or both.
While you probably won’t install all of these plugins, I hope you found at least one new plugin here you’re excited to try out.
I consistently turn to these plugins when building my own sites and for recommendations to customers. If you want to see some more plugin recommendations, check out the WordPress resources page for more great options.