It’s true what the say:
Plugins really are the secret sauce behind WordPress. They’re what make it so flexible and all around, awesome!
But every coin has two sides…
… and the scary thing is: one bad plugin can spell disaster for your entire blog! No joke.
In the following guide, I’m going to show you how to avoid that. I’ll show you the 10 best WordPress plugins your blog needs.
Be prepared for a few surprises. This is NOT a copy/pasted list like so many others.
I’m a plugin developer and started programming long before I became a blogger. Everything I recommend I’ve personally vetted and actively use.
OK, let’s get on with the list!
1. Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS)
What’s it for: Connecting your website to Google Analytics.
Why it’s awesome: Traffic analytics software, like Google Analytics, gives you insight into your website’s visitors. It helps you better understand your visitors so you know what’s working and what’s not, among other things. If you’re serious about growing your online business, you need to connect your website to Google Analytics.
As you’ve probably noticed, there are a ton of plugins in this category. And unfortunately, more and more of these plugins are bringing the Google Analytics charts and graphs directly into your WordPress admin area – where they DON’T belong.
Google’s July 2018 “Speed Update” clearly shows how important it is that you have a fast website. This is precisely why these bloated, feature-packed analytics plugins are doing you a disservice. Leave the charts and graphs inside Google Analytics so they don’t weigh down your website’s performance.
The Complete Analytics Optimization Suite (CAOS) is my pick and leads in its category. It is lightweight and includes only the most important options, key privacy settings, and blazingly fast performance.
Read more: Learn how to add Google Analytics to WordPress.
2. Contact Form 7
What’s it for: Makes it easy for a visitor to send you a message.
Why it’s awesome: Gone are the days where you can just post your email address on your contact page and be done with it. Nowadays, you should be using a contact form. They help reduce spam, are easy for your visitors to use, help you collect the right info and make you look professional.
While there are also many options in this category, my preference is Contact Form 7. It’s been around forever which means most bugs have been worked out and it’s not likely to break your website. It’s also extremely easy to set up and works straight out of the box.
Read more: Learn how to create the perfect Contact Us page.
3. Elementor Page Builder
What’s it for: Building unique pages and designs, like a custom homepage or sales page.
Why it’s awesome: Page builders have skyrocketed in popularly in recent years. No longer do you need coding experience or tons of different plugins to create web pages with grid layouts, sliders, forms, standalone landing pages and other custom designs. Their simple drag-and-drop interface truly unlocks your creativity.
The leader in this category is Elementor. From their intuitive and easy to use controls to the fast, clean code it creates, I couldn’t recommend them more highly. They even include hundreds of template and blocks so you can quickly and easily create your beautiful pages.
Also, you can use Elementor for free and upgrade to their Pro version if you need more features. There’s also a great community supporting Elementor, including a good selection of free add-ons (plugins).
Note: If you are using the Divi theme, you don’t need Elementor. Divi comes packaged with its own page builder called the Divi Builder.
4. iThemes Security
What’s it for: Securing and protecting your website in countless ways.
Why it’s awesome: If you aren’t using a security plugin on your WordPress blog, you need to stop everything you’re doing right now and install one immediately!
WordPress is already a pretty secure platform; however, 30% of the websites on planet Earth now use WordPress which makes it a big target for hackers.
I’ve been using iThemes Security on all my WordPress websites for almost a decade. I prefer this over other popular security plugins because iThemes won’t slow your website down, includes comprehensive security features and takes part in a brute force attack network (which proactively prevents attacks on your website).
Read more: Learn how to set up WordPress security and backups.
5. Shortlinks by Pretty Links
What’s it for: Creating and organizing shortened links on your own domain.
Why it’s awesome: This is one of those plugins whose value doesn’t become apparent until you start using it. And then, it’s hard to imagine life without it!
Imagine you wanted to share the following link on your social profiles:
Wow is right. Good luck getting anyone to click that thing! But what if you could shorten that link to look like this:
This is the power of Pretty Links. Not only can it make scary links looks more friendly, but it makes them easier to remember too. This is especially handy when asking your webinar attendees or podcast listeners to visit a link somewhere.
In addition, Pretty Links is indispensable for affiliate marketing. It helps organize your affiliate links, gives you a single place to update any links (in case it changes) and makes it easy to add nofollow to your links, which keeps Google happy.
Note: Do not shorten or use this plugin with Amazon affiliate links. It’s against their terms.
6. Social Warfare
What’s it for: Helping increase your social presence and grow your blog traffic.
Why it’s awesome: For many bloggers, social traffic is their primary traffic source. And more likely than not, they’re using Social Warfare to achieve this. Social Warfare is the leader in this social sharing category of plugins.
I also prefer Social Warfare because it’s lightweight, includes attractive (and easily configurable) sharing buttons, has a click-to-tweet feature, takes care of a lot of the back-end analytics for you, and integrates seamlessly with your WordPress blog posts.
Your website needs a way to connect with the social networks and Social Warfare fills that need beautifully. It’s free to get started with but I recommend upgrading to the Pro version to unlock their best features.
Note: If you purchased the Divi theme, you also have access to Elegant Theme’s Monarch social sharing plugin. I recommend trying it out as you may find it meets your needs.
What’s it for: Making scheduled backups of your website (and even to the cloud).
Why it’s awesome: You already know how important website security is these days. But no security solution will ever be 100% secure which is why you need a solid backup plan.
UpdraftPlus is my go-to plugin of choice in this category. It’s fast, free, easy to set up and works quite well. But this is true of a lot of backup plugins. What really sets UpdraftPlus apart are the following two features.
First, your backups are broken into separate files: database, plugins, themes, uploads and other. This is great because it gives you the choice of selectively restoring segments of your website if needed. For example, if after updating a plugin you find it breaks a part of your website, you can choose to restore just your plugins to quickly get back up and running.
The second reason I love UpdraftPlus is because of the ability to schedule automatic backups to the cloud. For example, I have this website set up to backup each day to DropBox. Since my local computer also syncs with DropBox, I now have offsite backups of my website in multiple places. I highly recommend a similar set up for your website too!
Read more: Step by step guide for setting up WordPress security and backups.
8. WP Rocket
What’s it for: Helping your website load FASTER.
Why it’s awesome: For many people, website caching is like witchcraft. You change a few settings, click some buttons and now your website loads in the blink of an eye. Sorcery!
But I assure you – it’s really not a dark art. To understand why it works you have to first understand how WordPress works. Simply put, every time you visit a web page, WordPress runs a lot of code, database queries, calculations and more to build that web page in real time. It does this on EVERY page load – and that takes a lot of processing and time.
What caching does is takes a snapshot of the finished end result. And then, the next time someone visits that web page, rather than doing all that processing and building from scratch, it just shows the snapshot instead. Boom. FAST!
Now, there’s a lot of good caching plugins out there but unfortunately, their effectiveness is usually dependent on your ability to configure them. Some of the configuration gets quite advanced and make you feel like a PhD in computer science is required.
For this reason, my recommendation is based on two criteria: ease of setup and speed.
WP Rocket truly leads in the ease of setup arena. They have a beautiful user interface with clear help/documentation making it very newbie and non-techie friendly. They are also among the fastest caching plugins out there. This is why I use and recommend them.
Free alternative: WP Fastest Cache is an easy to use and relatively fast alternative. It isn’t as well documented or as fast as WP Rocket but the price (free) may better fit your budget.
What’s it for: Protecting your entire website from spam.
Why it’s awesome: When people think WordPress spam protection, they usually think Akismet. For a long time, I was one of those people. However, times change, companies change and better options become available. But first, let me ask you something.
Is your blog making money? If so, guess what. Akismet isn’t free anymore. Akismet is only free for personal websites. Otherwise, you have to pay a monthly fee to use it.
For many years, Akismet and WP-Spamshield competed for the #1 spot in the anti-spam category. I now find WP-Spamshield to be the better spam protection solution.
Akismet is cloud-based spam protection. Naturally, this entails a performance trade-off as it takes extra time and bandwidth for servers to communicate. It also raises privacy concerns.
WP-Spamshield is different because it’s lightweight (fast) and runs only on your server. Also, it protects against spam everywhere! This includes blog comments, contact forms, registrations, etc. No need for slow and annoying CAPTCHAs or other challenge questions.
Rather than paying monthly for a slow and average anti-spam service, I recommend paying just once for a high tech spam solution that helps your SEO and keeps your visitors happy. At the moment, WP-Spamshield includes lifetime updates so if you think you might try it someday, I recommend sooner versus later.
Free alternative: If you are looking for a free alternative, I would consider Antispam Bee. It’s simple to set up, includes some great features and doesn’t skimp on the spam protection.
10. Yoast SEO
What’s it for: Helping your website with its search engine optimization (SEO).
Why it’s awesome: Everyone knows SEO is important for their website but most don’t understand how to do it correctly. This is why I love the Yoast SEO plugin. Not only does it provide a comprehensive suite of on-site optimization features, but it also helps you learn good SEO practices.
For example, Yoast SEO includes a content analysis features. This helps you understand how to write post titles, descriptions and use keywords in your content. This is a skill that will help you apply proper SEO elsewhere too, for example, with writing your Pinterest titles and descriptions.
Yoast SEO also keeps an eye on your website and notifies you of any problems. It integrates seamlessly with your blog posts, maintains your sitemap and is quite beginner friendly.
That’s the number of plugins in WordPress at the time of this writing.
I know it may be tempting but try to limit the number of plugins you use on your website. Each plugin, no matter how well it’s coded, will have an impact on your overall website performance. A very general guideline is to use no more than 10-15 plugins.
Thanks for reading! I hope this saves you time and headache by revealing the best WordPress plugins to help you succeed.
If you found anything in this article useful, please PIN THIS or share it with someone you know. And as always, let us know if you have any questions in the comments section below.
Did I miss anything? What are some other plugins you use? Let me know in the comments. 🙂