When you have a WordPress blog or website, you’re always on the hunt for the best WordPress plugins for your site.
The last time I checked, there were almost 55,000 available WordPress plugins. With that many to choose from it can certainly seem overwhelming.
The good news is, you definitely don’t need that many! As a matter of fact, the fewer the better.
However, it is important to know which ones are the most important to start with.
In this blog post, I’m going to share seven WordPress plugins that I think are must-haves for your site.
I’ll also cover how to install WordPress plugins on your site (it’s quite easy).
But first, let’s cover some basics.
WordPress Plugins Basics
Plugins are great! They make functionality that’s not included in WordPress easy to implement on your blog or website. Usually, they’re simple to install via the plugins section of the WordPress dashboard.
However, with each plugin that you install, you are reducing the speed and performance of your website. With just a few, the performance degradation is hardly noticeable. But, when you start installing plugin after plugin, the performance hits really add up.
Truthfully, most website owners try to keep plugin installs to a minimum.
In the end, you want to strike a balance between functionality and performance.
7 Must-Have WordPress Plugins
Now that we’ve covered some basics, let me reveal my seven must-have WordPress plugins.
I also want to let you know that some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. These commissions help pay the costs to keep this website going and supports the free content I provide. I’m proud to say I only affiliate with products or services I have used personally or believe will provide value to readers like you.
#1 Akismet Anti-Spam
Akismet is an anti-spam plugin that reduces comment and contact form spam on your site.
Sadly, there are tons of “bots” that make their way to sites and enter spam into your WordPress comments. They also do the same into your contact forms.
Akismet integrates with the Comments section of your WordPress dashboard. It checks the comments you receive against their spam web service and flags the spammy comments as “Spam” on the dashboard.
Depending on how you set your settings, you can have Akismet delete most of the bad spam comments for you. Or, you can review them and delete them yourself. I usually review them and delete them myself, once a day.
Occasionally, Akismet will flag a non-spam comment. When that happens you can choose to approve it and allow it as a comment on the blog post.
What’s great about Akismet is that it dramatically reduces the time you spend reviewing comments to see if they’re real.
As your website gets more popular you’ll get more and more spam, whether you like it or not.
Most spam looks like gibberish in your comment’s text field plus a URL is usually entered in the website field.
The goal of the spammers is to try to get a back link into your website’s comments. 99% of the time, you’ll see that the URL (the back link) has absolutely nothing to do with your website.
They just want to poach your traffic and direct it to their websites.
#2 Wordfence Security
I’m embarrassed to admit, I only discovered Wordfence recently.
There’s two versions of this plugin. One is paid and one is free. I’m currently using the free one and am finding it very useful.
It claims to be the most downloaded security plugin for WordPress and offers two main features that I love.
The first is a firewall. A firewall helps to prevent hackers from getting into your site and doing harm.
The second is its Live Traffic feature. With this feature you can view (in real-time) all the humans and bots that are visiting your site. Along with that, you can do whois lookups to see where the traffic is coming from and then block that traffic if you don’t want it.
It also helps you to see when the good bots (like Googlebot and Bingbot) are visiting. Check out my SEO Basics post to learn more about those.
#3 Yoast SEO
Speaking of SEO basics, Yoast SEO is THE must-have plugin for optimizing your site for SEO.
Over the years, this plugin has been getting better and better. It’s very well-maintained and documented. Plus, it’s always on top of the latest search engine algorithm changes.
One of its best features is a checklist built right into your post editor that looks for certain things that are good for SEO purposes.
It checks for you and gives you a “stoplight” type indicator telling you how optimized your post is.
It also helps with blog post readability (for your visitors) too.
Another good thing is its ability to help you optimize your entire site for SEO. For example, it includes support for XML sitemaps, social media and more.
#4 Social Warfare
This would include channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (which is more of a search engine, really) and LinkedIn.
Social Warfare does this really well and is a very popular social sharing plugin.
With this plugin you can setup social sharing buttons that appear to float on the side of your post. They can also be placed at the beginning or end of your post.
Some of the other social sharing plugins out there make their buttons look rather unattractive. Social Warfare does a great job of making their buttons look aesthetically pleasing.
Once you have your buttons setup, it will be easy for your visitors to share your content.
Note: While the free version of this plugin is great, they also have a premium version called Social Warfare Pro. The premium version adds 9 additional social sharing sites and additional controls and customizations. Certainly worth a look!
#5 Simple Basic Contact Form
The reason why I like Simple Basic Contact Form is because it’s simple and doesn’t slow down your site like others do.
It’s definitely not the prettiest contact form. But, its secure, easy to install and lets you block spammers with its special a+b math feature. You can see what I’m talking about on the Contact page on this site.
If you want people to be able to send you a message through your website, give this plugin a try.
#6 Pretty Links
If you’re doing affiliate marketing on your site, I would definitely suggest using this plugin to format your affiliate links.
Pretty Links allows you to take the ugly links that the affiliate programs give you and display them in a much cleaner way.
For example, take a look at my clean looking affiliate link for StudioPress <– Mouse over or tap and hold to see the URL.
Now look at the actual link provided by the affiliate management program for StudioPress <– Mouse over or tap and hold.
See the difference? That’s what this plugin does. It makes the ugly link look pretty.
Also, it does it using a temporary redirect that you can set as a nofollow link (better for SEO purposes). Either link leads to the same place.
I use the free version of this plugin.
#7 Thrive Leads
The last in my must-have list is Thrive Leads.
This is a plugin that you have to pay for, but it’s extremely powerful and I highly recommend it if you’re building an email list.
It allows you to build and deploy email opt-in forms on your website, do A/B testing and get reports showing you how well your conversions are going.
The email opt-in forms are great. You can do lightboxes (including pop-ups when someone clicks a button), ribbons on the top of your website, in-line forms and more.
It’s also much less expensive than Leadpages, its closest competitor.
How to Install WordPress Plugins
Now that you’ve seen my favorite plugins, let me give you a quick overview on how you install the plugins on your site.
In most cases you’ll find the free plugins right from your WordPress dashboard.
For the paid ones, you’ll need to buy the plugin from the plugin provider and download the zip file they send you.
Let’s start with the free plugins. In most cases, here’s all you need to do:
- Click on Plugins inside your WordPress Dashboard.
- Click on the Add New button on the upper left.
- Enter the name of the plugin you’re looking for into the Search Plugins field (upper right).
- Look for it and click on the Install Now button for the plugin you want to install.
- Click on the Activate button after the install is done.
From there you can configure the plugin, per its directions.
Now for the paid plugins, it’s a little different:
- Go to the plugin company’s website and purchase the plugin (each one is a little different).
- Follow their instructions to download the plugin zip file.
- Go into your WordPress dashboard and click on Plugins.
- Click on the Add New button on the upper left.
- Click on the Upload Plugin button.
- Upload the zip file you just downloaded.
- Install and Activate it and follow the plugin’s directions as needed (each one is a little different).
That’s it… My seven must-have WordPress plugins!
I hope you got value from this post and now have a great list of plugins to try on your site.
If you’re new to WordPress, take advantage of this list.
You can also get a list of ALL the tools and resources I recommend on my Resources page.
And now I want to hear from you…
What did you think of this list? What WordPress plugins would you recommend?