I have been using WordPress for more than 5 years and I have played around with plugins a lot. Plugins are an essential part of any WordPress site. Every WordPress site is unique and the plugins we use for the site will depend on the functionality of the site. Here, I am going to list a few plugins that are essential to any WordPress site irrespective of it’s functionality. The plugins I will be talking about here do not have anything to do with how the site functions. These plugins do not add anything new to the front end of the site (except for one). They are tools that help with site maintenance and ease of use from the back end.
There are a lot of plugins out there and most of them are very good. The plugins I mention here are the ones that I have been using or have used it on a client’s site and I know that it wrorks well. Here are the plugins in no particular order. For each of these plugins, we will be looking at why these plugins are important, what are the easy to use plugins for each and some details of the plguins.
- Backup Plugins
- Security Plugins
- SEO Plugins
- Contact Form Plugins
- Plugins that enhace the WYSIWYG editor capabilities
Let’s look at each of them in detail:
Why are backup plugins important?
They make it very easy for you to make a backup of your site. It is very important to make a backup of your site on a regular basis. Even if your hosting is providing backup, it is still a good practice to make a backup of your site. It is also important to store your backup away from your site so that if your site gets affected by malware, you can restore it from your backup. It is always a good idea to save the backup in a cloud server – Dropbox, OneDrive, Amazon S3 etc…
The backup plugins give you all these features and more. They make it super easy to make backups with the single click of a button. They give you options to automatically email the backup files to yourself or send the backup to a cloud server. You can also schedule backups and not have to worry about it anymore.
There are two backup plguins that I have used and are very good.
BackWpUP – https://wordpress.org/plugins/backwpup/
This is a free plugin with a pro option. For most of the sites, the free version works fine. It is very easy to setup and also has some tutorials to get you started. Free version has options to backup to Microsoft Azure, Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud Files, FTP Server, Web Space and Sugar Sync.
UpDraftPlus – https://wordpress.org/plugins/updraftplus/
This is also a free plugin with a pro option and woks fine for big sites as well. I currently use it on one of my clients’s sites which has a lot of images. The backup is done pretty quickly and is sent to Dropbox. It is very simple to setup and the free version has options to backup to Dropbox, Gogle Drive, FTP, S3, Rackspace and email.
Why are Security Plugins important?
Security plugins protect your WordPress site. Any WordPress site needs a security plugin. I have met many people who say that they do not have any e-commerce or that their’s is a very small site and so they don’t use a security plugin. But, small or big, ecommerce or not, you need to make sure your site is secure. Websites are hacked because of weak passwords, vulnerabilities in plugins or themes or if the site is not up to date. Server vulnerabilities can also cause your site to be hacked. So, your site must be secure.
A couple of the most popular security plugins and a few features of each of the plugins.
WordFence – https://www.wordfence.com/
- Gives you a detailed IP info
- Scanns for malware
- Repairs files
- Blocks Brute Force attacks
- Country blocking
iThemes Security – https://ithemes.com/security/
- Brute force protection
- File change detection
- Strong password enforcement
- Hide login and admin
Search Engines bring traffic to your site and so you want to make sure you have the terms the user is searching for. SEO plugins make it easier for you to add keywords and meta descriptions for every page and post on your site. They actually have a lot of features that help with SEO.
The most popular SEO plugins is Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast). It has a free and premium version. Simple to setup and has a bunch of features – post titles and meta descriptions, Breadcrumbs, XML Sitemaps etc. The free version should be pretty good for a small site.
I want to mention Google Analytics here because it kind of goes hand in hand with your SEO. Google Analytics is a web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. If you are trying to improve your SEO, then you should also track your site with Google Analytics. It gives you a lot of statistics about your site like the number of people visiting your site, the pages they viewed, the most popular page on your site etc. It also gives you information regarding keywords used by people to search for your site. This helps with SEO as you can assess the keywords and make improvements.
Google Analytics is free. You can login with your Google account and get a tracking code for your site. After your site is setup, you can either login to Google Analytcs site to view your data or you can install a Google Analytics plugin that will show you the data in your wp-admin dashboard. There are many different Google Analytics plugins. I mentioned the one I use.
Contact forms are the most important part of any website. They need to be simple and user friendly. The most popular contact form plugin is the Contact Form 7. Very easy to setup and you can have different types of contact forms on your site. You can specify the required fields, can have multiple email addresses in a dropdown etc. The styles can be customized to match your theme (you need to know some CSS for this). You can also add the captcha feature with the form with reCaptcha.
Plugins that enhance the WYSIWYG Editor capabilities
The WYSIWYG editor makes it very easy to write content on the posts and pages. It gives us a number of tools to style the text by changing font sizes and colors. But, there are a few features missing in the default WYSIWYG editor. TinyMCEAdvanced improves the features of the editor. They add features like adding a table, or background color for the text etc right from your editor. It comes in pretty handy when you want to insert a simple table in your post or page.
The TinyMCE Widget plugin gives you a nice little widget on your sidebar. You can use this instead of a text widget and you will get all the functionality of the post/page editor in your sidebar.
There are a few more plugins that can be mentioned here which might be useful for majority of the sites.
JetPack – A huge set of different plugins in one pack. You can enable or disables the individual modules.
Wp-Cache – Helps with caching the site so that the pages load faster
Broken Link Checker – If you have a lot of pages on the site, you can track all the links in different pages/posts using this plugin. It shows you if a link is broken so that you can fix it.
Wp Help – Useful little plugin where you can write helpful instructions for managing your site.