As of today (end of October 2015), the WordPress plugins repository accounts for 40k+ plugins, which generated more than 1 billion downloads. Wow, right? Numbers aside, plugins are one of the main factors that make the WordPress ecosystem growing its user base so rapidly.
WordPress plugins are the first choice for many when they need their website to "do something". There's a plugin for any particular needs: galleries, backups, SEO, contact forms, spam. The list is pretty huge. And if you take into account premium WordPress plugins, those numbers skyrocket.
The 9 essential WordPress plugins for any new website
With so many different types of business out there on one side, and the immense repository of plugins available on the other, does it make sense to have a list of essential plugins all new WordPress websites should feature, right from the beginning?
The answer is "yes".
Whether you're a blogger, an entrepreneur or create websites for your clients, all these scenarios share the same DNA: WordPress. This means that, before turning into a personal blog, a membership website or an e-commerce, you should address the 3 first requests of any internet site:
- Make it secure
- Make it run smoothly
- Make it a business tool
With the increasing number of WordPress-based websites, hackers are getting interested with this CMS. So if you want to make their life tougher and sleep tight, security has to be your top priority when shipping a new website. The following plugins are must-have for this concern.
Need help with your hacked website? Get helped by our WordPress security experts.
This plugin from the guys at iThemes features more than 30 ways to make your WordPress website more secure; it's easy to use yet super useful. For starters, you'll always have a complete overview of all the vulnerabilities existing within your website because the plugin runs reports to see if and where they occur and provides you with a 1-click option to fix them. Secondly, it'll ban hosts and users with too many invalid login attempts, preventing what's known as brute force attacks. Thirdly it enforces any users to have stronger passwords, making another step closer towards security.
There are plenty of other specific features that are vital here, like detecting and blocking of numerous attacks to your filesystem and database, banning "suspicious" user agents and bots, and many more. Security is a serious thing and while there are several things you should do to make your WordPress website safer, this plugin has to be installed on your new website. If you need help setting up iThemes Security plugin, please look at our tutorial.
Two-factor authentication might sound "too much" if your site runs iThemes Security. But when we talk about security, "too much" isn't a viable answer. That's why you should add a new security level with such plugins. Specifically I'm walking about Rublon which, thanks to its email-based two-factor authentication, and its super fast setup, makes it a convenient companion to iTheme Security.
VaultPress (paid plugin)
Who are security's best friends? Backups. And what's the purpose of backups? Having a clear copy of your files to quickly be restored, with minimal issues. If you stick to this principle of easiness when performing backing up activities, there's no plugin like VaultPress from Automattic, which comes as a paid plugin starting at $5/month (if you buy it for 1 year). Its core features are spam protection, daily backups, 30-day backup archive, and - what I love most - automated restores, all together with support. There are many free WordPress plugins for backup, some of them good, others too complicated to setup or just harder to use for the novice user. With VaultPress, you get all that's needed when things go wrong (and they'll do, at least once): a 1-click time-machine to revert things back at when they worked.
Here at Codeable, we use all 3 of them.
Website speed is not just a vanity metric webmasters talk about; it's a ranking factor Google takes into account when it evaluates how high (or low) to rank a page/website. Also, page speed affects the UX of your whole website, making visitors leave if they don't get what they look for promptly.
EWWW Image Optimizer
Having fast pages on your website is crucial. And what is the #1 element that slows the speed of your website? Images, is that easy. That's why you should bundle your new WordPress website with an image optimization plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer that will optimize all your future uploaded images and also those you already have uploaded in the file format that will produce the smallest image size.
Use Google Libraries
This might sound too techie, but don't get scared too soon. Here's what's this all about (roughly speaking): Use Google Libraries tells your WordPress website to use some "elements" that are "stored" on Google's servers rather than using "copy of those elements" available on your website. Specifically, it increases the chance that a user already has these files cached, takes load off your server, uses compressed versions of the libraries (where available). The immediate and overall benefit is a faster website.
W3 Total Cache
When website speed is the topic you're concerned with, you can't forget about W3 Total Cache because it's a complete solution with its features covering page cache, minify, database cache, object cache, browser cache, just to name the most important ones. Be warned, though: this plugin is a doubled-edge sword: if not correctly setup it will make your website slower and clunky. If you need help setting up W3 Total Cache, read this guide.
WordPress as your business tool
Every website is like a living organism that needs to interact and engage with people, i.e. your target audience or customers. That's why SEO, email addresses, and social media are all pieces of the same pie: get people aware that your website exists.
Search Engine Optimization is not something you do once in a while on your website, or just when you have a budget to spend. SEO is a mixture of activities you should regularly implement if you want, for example, get on the first page of Google. The words you put in your headlines is you doing SEO; what you write in blog posts and pages, is you doing SEO; prepare your website to be easily crawled by Google, is you doing some SEO. Even if this SEO is way far from being reduced to such activities, Yoast SEO helps you take care of several SEO aspects of your site with just one plugin like write with keywords in mind, create meta-descriptions, provide XML sitemaps, and so on.
Contact Form 7
No matter if it is a personal one or a business one, every website should be able to collect email addresses to get a more direct way to connect with their visitors. Contact Form 7 is one of the most used and appreciated WordPress contact form, mainly thanks to its flexibility and its ability to manage multiple forms.
There's no website today that can live without social medias, mostly as one of the main way to widespread its content. That's why, visitors to any website aren't new to social media icons popping up around the pages they're visiting. Many social media plugins come with too many features and social networks or bookmarking website that almost nobody uses. Floating Social Bar cuts all those up and gives you an easy to setup, and optimized for speed, social plugin that provides only major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+).Without the right plugins, your WordPress website isn't running at its full potential Click To Tweet
WordPress is a powerful CMS that runs over 60 million websites around the world but without the right plugins, it's like having Van Gogh at your house and let him express his talent only by playing Pictionary with you: you're not getting the most out of it. With these essential plugins, your new WordPress website (or the one for you client), will be ready to run to its full potential.