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You’ve purchased your domain, registered your hosting, and customized the look of your site with a beautifully responsive theme (like Divi!) All you need to do now to complete your WordPress site is to install your plugins. But what do plugins actually do? And with so many out there, how do you choose which plugins your site actually needs?
In this post, you’ll learn exactly what a plugin is and what it does. I’ll also give you my list of the essential WordPress plugins that I install on all of my clients’ sites. Let’s get to work!
The Essential WordPress Plugins
What is a plugin?
If themes are what customizes the way your site looks, plugins are what customizes how your site functions. There are literally millions of paid and free plugins out there that do everything from speed your site up to make little snowflakes fall on every page of your site.
How do I choose which plugins I need?
You’ll want to choose plugins based on what you’re trying to accomplish with your site. If you’re not quite sure what you want to get out of plugins yet, that’s okay! My list of essential plugins below will give you a great start as you figure out what you want out of your site.
How do I install a plugin?
Installing and activating plugins is super simple. Go to your site’s WordPress admin dashboard (yoursite.com/wp-admin) and click Plugins on the left sidebar. Click the Add New button at the top of the page and search for the plugin you want. Click Install Now, and once the plugin is installed, click the Activate Now button that takes the place of Install Now. Your plugin is installed! You can find the instructions for each individual plugin in the developer details shown under the plugin description.
What should I be careful of when using plugins?
Just like anything you download, you should make sure that you’re downloading plugins from a trusted source and not
So what are the best WordPress plugins?
I recommend that each blogger starts out by installing these essential plugins:
Yoast is a plugin that handles most of the dirty work of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so you don’t have to. Even if you’re not quite sure what SEO is or how to use it to increase traffic to your site, download and activate Yoast anyways and improve your SEO skills as you go along.
Keep an eye out for a complete series about WordPress SEO using Yoast from me coming soon!
I cannot stress enough how important it is to make regular backups of your site. WP-Updraft creates regular backups of your site and saves it to your preferred cloud storage system, making sure your content is safe and secure in case of web disaster.
Using WP-Optimize easily and automatically cleans up those unused files that keep your website from running efficiently. It also works with WP-Updraft to make a backup of your site before it deletes any old files, just to give you that extra peace of mind.
Hummingbird is a comprehensive plugin used to increase your site speed (and consequently increase your SEO rankings). I absolutely adore how easy Hummingbird is to use, even if you have no tech know-how whatsoever.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer
Huge images are the most guilty offenders of slowing your website down! Not only does a slow website deter people from spending too much time on your site, it also lowers your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings, making it harder for potential visitors to find your site with Google. ShortPixel automatically optimizes the images on your site so you don’t have to worry about slow site speeds. You can optimize 100 images per month for free, but should you need more, you can use monthly plans or pay a one-time fee of $10 to get 10,000 images optimized. Totally worth it!
Wordfence is my hands-down favorite security plugin out there right now. It protects your site from malware, malicious login attempts at multiple access points, and lets you know when anything on your site needs updating or if it’s found any security issues on your site. Wordfence has both a free and a premium option, but if you can afford it, you should consider upgrading to the premium option.
The Social Warfare plugin is great to show off your social clout! This plugin displays your social sharing stats on your blog posts (and pages too if that’s what you want!)
Pinterest Pin It Button
Your readers love your content and want to save it to reference again later. Make it easy for them with the Pinterest Pin It Button which puts a “Pin It” button over your images when someone hovers over them.
Ever walked into someone’s home before they had a chance to clean it up? Prevent the internet equivalent of this by using the Site Offline plugin to hide your side from nosey visitors while it’s under construction.
If you have a ton of images on your site, you’ll want to use Lazy Load to prevent your site from loading all of those images at once and slowing your site speed down.
Contextual Related Posts
This plugin links readers back to your own articles that they might enjoy at the end of each blog post, increasing reader retention rate.
And there you have it folks, the essential WordPress plugins for your WordPress site! Of course, you might find that you don’t need or want all of these plugins, or you might find different plugins that work better for you! This is more of a handy suggestion rather than a compulsory order. If you find any plugins you think should be included on this list, drop them in the comments below!
And as always, if you have any questions at all about plugins, WordPress, or anything digital marketing, please send them my way. Enjoy your high-performing, plugin-boosted site!