Looking for some recommended WordPress plugins to improve the functionality of your website or blog? With tens of thousands WordPress plugins available, how do you know which ones are good and which ones to avoid?
First, always check the plugin’s page on WordPress.org. Look at the reviews and support forums. Do there seem to be re-occurring issues in the support forums that just don’t seem to be addressed by the plugin developer? Would the issue(s) apply to you and how you plan to use the the plugin? How many people have posted reviews? Do they tend to be rated 4+ or lower on the scale? You can usually get a good gauge of the quality of the plugin by spending a little time looking at those pages.
Here are some of my go-to WordPress plugins:
Before building your website, it’s essential to setup an automatic backup schedule using Updraft Plus or other quality backup solution. Should you ever run into a technical issue, your data and site files will be available for you to restore your website. This is an absolute must!
Ensuring that your website is as secure as possible and keeping an eye on potential hackers and other troublemakers is also essential, particularly with WordPress websites. Wordfence provides excellent tools and an array of settings to keep your website safe from unwanted intrusion. For more information on securing your WordPress website, see 5 Best Practices to Secure Your WordPress Website.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Now that you’ve built your website, it’s time to make sure it comes up in the search results when people are looking for you or the service you provide. WordPress SEO can help you add the necessary tags and optimize your content to optimize the way your site appears in search engine results and improve its visibility.
Google Analytics + Google Analytics Dashboard
If you have a website, you’ll definitely want a way to analyze traffic in order to set goals related to optimizing your content, search engine rankings, and to see what your website visitors are looking for. Google Analytics is a free tool that is a must for any website. Assuming you’ve signed up for Google Analytics and have the custom code snippet included in the footer file of your theme (or are using the Google Analytics plugin to do this), the Google Analytics Dashboard plugin provides simplified reports right on your WordPress dashboard for easy access when you’re working on your website. You can also set up Google Analytics to send you reports on a weekly or monthly basis for a more thorough report.
Google XML Maps
XML sitemaps are what search engines use to index the content on your website, but generating them can be a pain particularly for non-technical users. That’s where Google XML Sitemaps comes in. This handy plugin does all the work for you and is highly recommended to ensure the search engines (and any potential website visitors or customers) can find you.
Contact Form 7 or Gravity Forms
You’ll no doubt want a way for website visitors to contact you via your website. Rather than listing your email address for spammers to grab and send you unnecessary messages, add a form. Two great plugins for easily creating and adding forms are Contact Form 7 (free) and Gravity Forms (paid). Check out their plugin pages to see which might be the best fit for you and your website.
Want to add an online shop or way for website visitors to purchase tickets to an event? WooCommerce makes it easy to get a shop up and running. The plugin has a variety of add-on plugins to add specific functionality. Best of all, the core plugin is free. WooCommerce is a solid, quality plugin that you can implement on your website and integrate with PayPal or other payment processing systems.
Bonus for Advanced Users
Custom Post Type UI + Advanced Custom Fields
While you may be comfortable creating and managing posts for your blog, the Custom Post Type UI + Advanced Custom Fields plugins allow you to create your own custom post types easily. Let’s say you’d like to add a custom post type for Staff Bios… You’ll first create the Bio custom post type using the Custom Post Type UI plugin and then add specific fields like Job Title, Bio, Email address, etc. using Advanced Custom Fields. You’ll need to do a bit of work to update your theme templates to show your new fields and specify queries for your new custom post type, but both plugins have great documentation.