The Plugins I Put on Every WordPress Install

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If you’re building a website with WordPress, one of the first things you’ll want to do is install a set of essential plugins to enhance your site’s functionality, security, and overall user experience. WordPress is an incredibly powerful and flexible content management system (CMS), but with over 50,000 plugins available, it can be overwhelming to figure out which ones you really need.

I’m going to walk you through the top WordPress plugins that I recommend including in every new WordPress installation. But I’ll also go over some of the more common and popular ones I use.

Screenshot of the WordPress plugins repository

Whichever you choose, these plugins have been tested by WordPress and used by millions of website owners. They’ll give your website a solid foundation, whether it’s a small personal blog or a large e-commerce store.

First, a quick look at how to install plugins.

Two Ways to Install WordPress Plugins

Using the WordPress Admin Plugin Search

The easiest way to install a WordPress plugin is by using the plugin search function.

1. Go to your WordPress admin area and click on Plugins > Add New.
2. Type the name of the plugin or the functionality you are looking for in the search box.
3. You will see a bunch of listings. Pick the plugin that is best for you and click the ‘Install Now’ button.
4. After installation, you’ll need to activate the plugin by clicking the ‘Activate’ button.

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Upload a Plugin through WordPress Admin

If the plugin you want is not listed in the WordPress plugin directory, you can install it manually. This generally only happens with paid plugins.

1. Download the plugin from the source onto your computer; it will come in a .zip file.
2. Go to your WordPress admin area, click on Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin button at the top.
3. Choose the .zip file you downloaded, then click ‘Install Now’.
4. After the plugin has been installed, click on the ‘Activate Plugin’ link to start using it.

The Plugins I Always Use

SEO Plugin

Even if you’re not focused on SEO, you’ll probably want an SEO plugin. They include settings that help search engines understand your site, but they also have settings that tell social media what descriptions and images to use in your pages.

My choice is The SEO Framework. Yoast is the most popular, with RankMath gaining on it. I’ve had both Yoast and RankMath cause Google to de-index portions of my sites, so I went with SEO Framework because it’s so lightweight that it’s very unlikely to do that.

To be fair, millions of people have not had problems with Yoast or RankMath. Whichever one you choose, the free version should be all you need, at least for a start.

Spam Plugin

If you’re not going to allow comments, you won’t need a spam plugin at all. You can delete the Akismet plugin that comes automatically installed and skip to the next section.

If you are allowing comments, you’ll need one. Even a blog that’s barely had human visitors will get spam bots leaving comments.

A spam plugin catches most of those spam comments and also probably a few false positives that need to be manually approved. Akismet is okay until you get enough traffic that you need to start paying for it. On this site, I’m quite happy with the completely free plugin, AntiSpam Bee.

Caching Plugin

WP-Rocket is probably the most popular caching plugin these days, but it’s paid. With the right settings, WP Supercache does a great job for free.

Site speed has a lot of pieces, and the caching plugin is only one part of it. In fact, I’ve run sites with no caching, and when you do everything else right, it doesn’t make a lot of difference.

Email Encoder (instead of contact form)

Most people assume you need a contact form plugin for your blog, so users can email you on site. But mainly, you get bots and marketers spamming these forms.

Research shows people prefer to be given an email address so they can write you from inside their email client. But you don’t want to put your email out there for all the spambots to harvest.

Install Email Encoder, and now when you type your email address into the contact page, it will be encoded so the bots can’t get it, but readers can. Including readers using assistive tech like screenreaders!

Health Check

Health Check simulates deactivating all your plugins and themes, which is how we troubleshoot problems on WordPress websites. But instead of deactivating everything so it looks strange to visitors, you get to simulate it on the backend.

Social Sharing Buttons

If you want to encourage social sharing with buttons on your posts, you’ll need a plugin. Not everyone uses these because many of them can slow your site down.

I recommend a paid plugin – Novashare – and two free ones: Scriptless Social Share and Sassy Social. They all work well, won’t slow your site down, and are easy.

Scriptless is especially great if you want a non-paid solution that loads zero scripts and lets you set descriptions and images for Pinterest.

Classic Editor

If you like Gutenberg and all its bugs, you don’t need this one. But I can’t stand it. Every once in a while, I try to use it again and discover it’s still buggy as can be and simply less useful than the Classic Editor.

With over 5 million installations, I don’t think it’s just me.

Other Plugins?

Over time, you’ll need other plugins, or you may find you don’t need some of these. You’ll know when you see cool features on other sites and research how to make them happen on yours.

Minimizing Plugins

It’s generally good advice to use as few plugins as possible to make your site work the way you want. Some people actually use fewer than I’m describing here.

Most of my sites now have close to 30, and I’m always looking for ways to keep the same functionality with fewer plugins. I do believe functionality is equally important to speed.

A rule of thumb I use: if a plugin gets visitors to read more, share more, or do more on my site, then I keep it, at least until a leaner option comes along. If not, get rid of it.

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Last Updated:

June 19, 2024

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