When it comes to content management systems, WordPress is undoubtedly one of the most popular CMS options due to its ease of use and the amount of support in WordPress themes, plugins and online information resources. With nearly 30,000 different plugins available in the WordPress directory, they’re the easiest way to get your website completely dialed in to do what you need with simple interfaces or ways to do it. However, plugins can only be installed in self-hosted WordPress sites, so if your site is not self-hosted and you want the functionality of these plugins you will need to self-host your WordPress site.
We’ve been using plugins for many years and have developed a list of the top WordPress plugins we like to incorporate in order to achieve basic initiatives on a WordPress site. We’ve made sure to touch on security, aesthetics, tracking, search engine optimization (SEO), site speed and more so to have a well-rounded site. Read on below for our top 15 WordPress plugins and drop us a comment if there are any that we didn’t touch on that you think should make this list.
Security & Setup
Some of the earlier versions of WordPress have been known for security flaws and while many people have updated to newer versions of the CMS, even websites with the more recent versions of the CMS have been reported suffer from security issues. Therefore, we’ll touch on security first to cover all the bases.
Better WP Security Plugin
The Better WP Security plugin provides a wealth of security features that are well worth configuring to help increase the security of your WordPress website. This plugin is very compatible and works on both single and multi-site installations and multiple servers including Apache, LiteSpeed or NGINX (NGINX site webmasters will need to manually edit the virtual host configuration). It allows you to detect, record and protect against a host of security vulnerabilities and has been recently updated to include new features.
Limit Login Attempts
Brute force attacks have been common among WordPress sites and have allowed hackers to figure out login credentials so that they can make any type of change on your site. Commonly, these automated attacks will target the standard “admin” usernames but have been known to target other usernames based on the business name or webmaster. If your WordPress login lives on the standard login URL http://yoursite.com/wp-admin/, then Limit Login Attempts provides an easy-to-use interface to protect against these attacks, lockout IP addresses and record login attempts.
Backing up your website is always a best practice. the BackUpWordPress plugin allows you to easily automate this process and is compatible with most WordPress websites. It allows you to use both .zip and mysqldump file types, furthering compatibility. Currently the plugin works with version 3.3.3 or higher and is regularly updated, making it an efficient and cost-effective backup solution.
W3 Total Cache
Widely used and often known as the standard for better page caching, W3 Total Cache is an easy to configure caching solution for WordPress so that site visitors can experience faster page speeds when internally navigating a website. It provides caching and speed improvements for browsers, pages, objects, databases and more in addition to simple content delivery network connectivity so that you can reduce page load times in areas distant from your main server. It is regularly updated, highly compatible and can be easily configured with our tips to configure W3 Total Cache.
Duplicating a site, whether onto a local environment, development server or pushing a new site to live production, can be a time consuming task. WP Clone By WP Academy solves this by providing a quick and simple process for replicating and transferring WordPress websites without requiring FTP access or a backup of the WordPress system files to make the transfer process quicker. When transferring a WordPress website to another WordPress controlled URL, all you need to have is the basic WP installation and the WP Clone plugin on both websites. It is highly compatible with almost all hosts that support WordPress, but make sure to deactivate and delete any caching plugins before doing the transfer. Overall, it is a great tool for WordPress development that saves a bulk of time.
When it comes to comment spam protection many turn to Akismet’s It does require you to sign up for an API key, but this can be done for free on single site applications because it’s donation-based at the moment. However, if you can, throw them a few dollars because it does work well. Not only does it filter for spam, but it also continuously updates and highlights links in comments for easy identification of anything that does make it through the filter.
Marketing, Sales & Conversion
Driving people to your website and understanding their behavior is essential to having a well rounded digital strategy. Luckily, there are a few select plugins that allow you to drive traffic to your site, understand the traffic via analytics and convert the traffic through contact forms. While there are many marketing relating plugins, here’s some of the top WordPress plugins for marketing.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
WordPress SEO by Yoast is one of the most commonly used and updated SEO plugins available for WordPress users. This free plugin allows you to easily implement many of the key elements for a well optimized page including the SEO basics such as title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords, XML sitemaps, Google authorship markup, no directory tags, Bing & Google Webmaster Tools, 301 redirects, rel=canonical tags and much more. It also allows for a quick SEO spot check but make sure to take this a grain of salt because high ranking pages are not just based on keyword usage, but also the webpage’s context and interaction. We highly recommend using this SEO plugin.
Google Analytics For WordPress
Google Analytics is widely referred to as the preferred analytics solutions in the digital industry, and this WordPress plugin allows you to easily integrate the Google Analytics code on your website. It supports and properly implements the asynchronous Google Analytics code via a simple dashboard that all website administrators and webmasters can use. While it is also easy to install the analytics code in the head of the website, this solution is great for those who have limited PHP knowledge or are not comfortable with editing a PHP file.
Contact Form 7
Driving traffic to your website and understanding the traffic is only half the battle, and implementing contact forms or email collections forms are a great way to increase leads. Contact Form 7 is a very easy to use WordPress plugin that uses a simple, click-operated process for setting up HTML based contact form fields and lead generation emails. It can be easily implemented throughout the website with a unique shortcode for each individual contact form and styled with basic CSS markup making it adaptable to almost any website.
This plugin is a great start for a website that is using Google AdSense that does not want to do so through custom development. Google AdSense by bestwebsoft provides an easy-to-use interface that allows you to customize the display of ads, color scheme, layout and ad units per page. It’s highly compatible and regularly updates with good support making it a great option for easy Google AdSense integration.
WooCommerce is one of the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugins and is very easy to setup, use and modify. It is a great solution to smaller eCommerce websites but has its limitations so medium and larger size eCommerce websites would benefit more from an ecommerce based CMS. Some Specific eCommerce applications may benefit from a different WordPress eCommerce solution, but WooCommerce is a great overall solution that works for most applications and industries.
We’re grouping this one under marketing and conversion because it can help with engagement. WordPress Related Posts allows you to easily search for related posts and link to them related content to provide more value for your users. In turn, your users will see more value in your content and be more likely to interact more with your other content because you have helped build credibility with the website user. It inserts related posts at the bottom of the post offering additional resources for the user at the end of reading. While it is not great for every site, it works well across many industries and websites.
Aesthetics & Formatting
While most themes provide a basic foundation for a good website, many themes and the basic WordPress install lack the ability to implement many key aesthetic and functionality features. There are many ways to achieve these development initiatives but the following plugins allow for a versatile and easy to use platform for better aesthetics and formatting.
Images and graphics are the base of aesthetic appeal and a solution to easily implement interactive images and graphics will greatly improve your user experience. Royal Slider is a great gallery plugin that allows you to easily create virtually any type of image or graphic slider. It also supports HTML blocks so that you can easily incorporate video or any other html element – all with easy formatting controls. It works with both full-width themes and narrow layouts and is easily implemented via shortcode making it a great way to interactively style almost any page or post.
Many themes lack some of the key formatting options in relation to page layouts, conversion points and displaying content. But have no fear – Shortcodes Ultimate solves this. This WordPress plugin boasts a variety of page styling options including columns, toggles, custom widgets, accordions, buttons, section backgrounds and much more. Just like everything else we’ve mentioned, the plugin is regularly updated and compatible with WordPress versions including 3.5 and above so that you can easily style your pages better.
All In One Favicon
Favicons are a key element to any well-polished website and are easy to implement with the All In One Favicon plugin. Some WordPress themes include the ability to upload a favicon, but if your theme does not, this plugin is a quick and easily solution to upload an .ico file type favicon to your website for a more personalized and completed look. Leaving your site without one can make it look unfinished, so simply convert a simple branded graphic into a 16×16 pixel .ico file with editing software or an online converter, then upload the favicon with this plugin and it will properly display throughout the website.
As you can see, its relatively easy to setup any WordPress website with the features above to increase the security, performance, marketing and aesthetics of your website by using the plugins we’ve mentioned. While these are some of the options we use, nearly 30,000 plugins exist to help you achieve almost anything you want with your WordPress website. Did we miss a key plugin that you like to use? Drop us a comment and let us know what you think are the top WordPress plugins!