Best WordPress plugins to start with
There are almost an endless supply of WordPress plugins. Developers are consistently updating existing plugins and always creating new ones. If you have something in mind for your website, chances are there is a plugin that can help you achieve it. That’s not to say you should over do it and start uploading plugins that you really could do without. That’s why I’m just going over the best WordPress plugins to get your website or blog up and running smoothly.
You may have heard that plugins slow down the load speed of your website. And this is true to some degree. If you’re just needing plugins to help you preform necessary actions such as install a contact form, social share buttons, improve the security and help with SEO of your site, etc. then you’re good to go. The only thing the plugins are doing is helping you by adding lines of code to your site for you. Some of them might have a minor effect on your over all site speed but it’s no different than manually adding those extra lines of code yourself. It’s just much quicker to set up and make future changes. Plus, there are actually plugins available to help boost the speed of your site. Which we’ll go over.
Always backup your site
If you’re uploading useless plugins, with poor quality coding, then you might run into problems. Potentially in more areas than site speed. It’s always a good idea to back up your site before uploading and activating any plugins. I’ve listed some great plugins to get you off to a good start but even with these, it’s a good idea to back up your site first. Chances are it would be fine but you can never be 100% sure how one plugin might effect your theme or existing plugins.
I truly believe that these are some of the best WordPress plugins to make life easier. They are also all free except for the drag and drop page builders.
One Click Child Theme
This is pretty much a must have, especially if you plan on making any customizations to your theme. Even if you don’t, upload and activate it anyways because it won’t harm your site. It creates a copy of your theme that you can then customize. If you go ahead and make changes to the original theme, once your theme is updated, your changes will be lost. Once you install the plugin, go to “Appearance” – “Child theme”, then give your new theme a name and description and click “Create Child”.
W3 Total Cache
Remember I mentioned there being plugins specifically designed to increase site speed? W3Total Cache serves your visitors compressed and cached files to reduce load times, meaning more visitors, lower bounce rate, and higher conversions, all leading to better rankings in Google. It is used by wpbeginner and recommended by top hosting companies and by Yoast SEO. One of the top WordPress plugins when it comes to enhancing user experience.
Security is an important part of maintaining a quality website or blog. Wordfence does just that. There is a free version and a paid version. So far the free version has been sufficient and allows me to limit the login attempts and set the lockout time from 5 minutes to 60 days. Wordfence sends you regular emails to go over any failed login attempts, lockouts and successful login attempts. As long as you keep your password in a safe place, and someone else locks you out by a number of failed attempts, you can easily reset it through email without having to change your password.
This is one of the most important plugins to help you develop an online presence. It helps you with your on page SEO by displaying, at the bottom of each page, a list of actions you can take to make the most of your SEO efforts. It also creates you a sitemap that you need to submit to your Google Search Console account in order for Google to index your pages quicker. If you’re unfamiliar with Search Console and don’t have an account, set up is easy and I’ll go over it a bit later.
After installing Yoast, you’ll see “SEO” within the sidebar of your WordPress dashboard. To access your sitemap, click on “XML Sitemaps” in the SEO dropdown menu. Make sure “XML sitemap functionality” is enabled. Click on the “Post types” tab and choose what you want included in your sitemaps. Save any changes then go back to the “General” tab and click the “XML sitemap” button. It will open a new page with the links to your sitemap (http://yoursite.com/page-sitemap.xml, http://yoursite.com/post-sitemap.xml) Once you create a Google Search Console account, you’ll need to submit these. Google will ask for the subdomain (page-sitemap.xml).
note: If you don’t see “XML Sitemaps” under “SEO”, go to “Dashboard” – “Features” and make sure that “Advanced settings pages” is enabled.
Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is a well known, easy to use plugin to help you create contact forms that can be linked to your personal or business email. You have the option to create multiple different forms and link them all to the same email or different emails. Fill out the forms provided and the plugin will create you a line of code that you can insert anywhere on your page. WP Forms is another easy to use form builder that allows you to create contact forms, email subscription forms, order forms and payment forms.
This is the drag and drop page builder that I mentioned earlier. This one isn’t free but is included in some Premium WordPress themes. If you’re interested in purchasing it separately, it will cost you a one time fee of $34. I’d say it’s well worth it to either pay for a theme that comes with it or just cough up the $34. Especially if you are new to WordPress, it will save you a lot of time. Another tool to consider, which starts at $19 / year, is CCS Hero.
For one of my sites, I use a great host (WPengine) that automatically backs up my site daily and saves my 30 latest backups. If I want to restore my site to any of the latest 30 backups, I can do this with just a couple clicks. The downside is that their services start at $29 / month.
Some hosting companies use a software program called Softaculous apps installer. After you sign up for hosting with them, you will install WordPress through Softaculous and will be given the option to receive automatic backups, how often and how many to store (up to 10).
Another way way to easily backup your WordPress site is with the use of a plugin. You can set it to automatically backup your site, how often you want it backed up, decide which files you want backed up and whether or not you want an email notification upon successful or unsuccessful backup. Some other quality plugins to consider are Backup & Restore Dropbox, Updraft Plus WordPress Backup Plugin, and Duplicator.
I wouldn’t rely solely on a plugin to take care of all your backups in case your site ever gets hacked. You can also backup your site manually via cPanel with an app called Backup Wizard. You don’t have to do this all the time but it would be a good idea after making any major changes to your site.
Insert Headers and Footers
This one is a really simple, yet really helpful plugin. Software programs such as Google Analytics will provide you with a code snippet that you will need to copy and paste into each page. This is how Google tracks and records your website activities. Insert Headers and Footers is especially helpful if you have lots of pages or are consistently adding pages. They have two sections, Header and Footer, where you can paste these code snippets instead of having to paste them on every page. Super easy.
This has the ability to help improve your site’s speed. If you have a good number of images on your website, you’ll want to consider Imagify. It compresses the file size of all your current images and automatically compresses the file size of new images upon upload without effecting the quality. There is a free version and a paid version. Once you get to a certain number of images (or combined file size), you’ll need to upgrade. I’m still using the free version for one of my sites and I have about 200 images but I’m almost out of space.
Lots of WordPress themes will have an option to enable social shares. You might not want social share buttons enabled on your pages but you think they’d be valuable to display on your posts. Go to one of your pages or posts in your dashboard and scroll down to “Page settings”. I use the “Total” theme for one of my sites and “Social Shares” is at the bottom under the “Main” tab. I have the option to enable or disable it for each page separately. Otherwise Social Pug is a simple alternative.
Easy Forms for MailChimp
MailChimp is one of the most popular email marketing platforms. If you plan on creating an email list with MailChimp, this is a helpful plugin to consider. Your MailChimp API key will connect your site to your MailChimp account. With Easy Forms for MailChimp you’ll be able to add unlimited sign up forms to posts, pages and sidebars. User activity can be viewed right from your WordPress dashboard.
You might have noticed that, in the pages and posts section of WordPress, there is actually an “insert read more tag” button. On the front end, only the section of content above the “read more” tag will be displayed until the user clicks the button. Unfortunately, it only works with posts and not pages. So if you plan on writing a lot of content on a page and you don’t want it all displayed initially, you’ll want a plugin like this.
Paypal Buy Now Button
Pretty straight forward. If you plan on making online sales, first of all, it’s a good idea to have a Paypal account. Secondly you’ll need a way to connect your account to your website. This plugin is a simple solution. Easily get set up and start making those sales!
Main WP Dashboard
If you run multiple websites or blogs then this might be one to look into. Main WP Dashboard lets you manage unlimited WordPress websites from one single dashboard. Even if they are with different hosts and servers, it’s not a problem. Install this plugin on your main dashboard were you’ll be taking care of the management and then install Main WP Child plugin on every WordPress website that you plan on looking after.
There are a lot more great WordPress plugins to consider and there are always more being developed but that should get you off to a good start.