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Essential WordPress Plugins – Must Have WP Plugins Guide

Building the WordPress website for the first time is not an easy task. The problem is not technical but the fact that there is an information overload on internet. There are hundreds of reviews, hundreds of suggestions. This makes it very frustrating for a beginner to pick the essential WordPress plugins, to successfully launch the website/Blogs.

The following list mentions the tasks one needs to perform on the WordPress website/blog to keep it up, optimized, and secure:

  • Optimize Website Load Time
  • Optimize Images on Website
  • Make Website SEO Ready
  • Prepare Website to Handle Redirects
  • Check Website for Any Broken Links
  • Create A/B Testing for Your Crucial Product/Landing Pages
  • Social Network integration – Sharing, Likes, Social Comments, and Social Login
  • Handle Spam Like a Pro
  • Secure and Defend Your Website
  • Backup Your Website
  • Build Email List of Visitors for Content Promotion
  • Streamline Editorial Process for Content Publishing (Optional: If you have a team)

Now we will list plugins which perform these tasks and keep your website up and running.

Essential Best Plugins List for Beginners

Make your website load faster

Users really appreciate a fast loading website. User experience hinges so much on website speed. A slow loading website can result in lower user conversions. Amazon learned the hard way that every 100 millisecond latency cost them 1% in sales. Then they have a potential of losing $1.6 billion in sales with a delay of 1 second.

Website speed depends on Theme chosen, Hosting Service Provider. Then there are plugins to improve the loading speeds. The best things in life aren’t free. But the best plugin to speed up website is.

W3 Total Cache is a plugin that covers all bases.

W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin

There is a very good reason why Mashable, Matt Cutt’s blog are using this plugin.

  • It uses page caching to keep a cached copy of webpages to deliver to users. This reduces the overhead on servers and results in fast webpage loading time.
  • It also uses browser caching to store static content like pictures, scripts on user’s system in browser cache so that the webpages load faster when they re-visit the website.

There are many other features that would put premium plugins to shame.

Price: Free

Image Optimization Plugin

Images are usually the culprit behind slow page loading. Website must look professional, with high quality yet small-sized images. Also it reduces the backup and restore time of the website. There are many plugins for the purpose. However, the best plugin is one which is constantly updated, does not push you to buy premium memberships, and is feature rich.

EWWW Image Optimizer plugin provides automatic optimization of images as they are uploaded in WordPress media library.

EWWW Image Optimizer essential wordpress plugins - must have wp plugins

It provides the following features:

  • Light weight and super-fast optimization of GIF, JPEG, and PNG images.
  • Lossless Optimization process is used where image looks same before and after optimization. Only the image size is reduced.
  • Bulk optimization of multiple images supported.
  • It also supports the Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) like CloudFlare and MaxCDN.

Price: Free.

Make Your Website SEO Ready

SEO is the most important aspect of building a website. You want to be found. You want your website to get unique visitors through search engines. You want your content to be placed in first page of search results. There are plugins to make your life easier and make SEO a breeze for you.

Yoast SEO free version is one of the most famous Search Engine Optimization plugins available for WordPress.

Yoast SEO Essential WordPress Plugins - Must have WP plugins

It is feature rich.

  • Yoast SEO plugin can evaluate readability of your content
  • Evaluate SEO score of your webpage
  • Optimize it for Facebook and Twitter sharing
  • Generate XML maps, etc.

The free version is powerful enough in itself.  Over one million installs are testimony in itself for its capabilities.

You may familiarize yourself with the plugin through the video below:

Price: Free. (Optional premium paid version).

Handle 404 errors and 301, 302,307 Redirects

There are times when you change your existing URL to better fit your SEO strategy. Or sometimes just to make it more understandable. This causes bad user experience and increases bounce rate of your website. Which is a bad news for your SEO.

Redirection plugin solves that problem by monitoring 404 errors, accommodating 301, 302, and 307 redirects. It also adds automatic redirects when post’s url slug changes. For example, when is changed to then a redirect is automatically added for old page to new one. This is done because search engine will still show old page in search results until they crawl your website again and realize that the old page is gone. And there may be some users who have bookmarked the page.

Redirection also lets you export or import redirections, arrange them in groups, manual redirections, etc.

It is important to check your site for broken links. A broken link is a link on a webpage that no longer works because:

  • An improper URL entered for the link by the website owner.
  • The destination website removed the linked web page (causing what is known as a 404 error)
  • Manual redirection may be not correct and leads to non-existing page.

These are the primary reasons which lead to a broken link. This impacts user experience, bounce rates, search rankings.

Broken Link Checker is highly functional plugin that monitors links in your posts, pages, comments, the blogroll, and custom fields (optional).

Broken Link Checker essential wordpress plugins - must have wp plugin

It does the following:

  • Detects links that don’t work, missing images and redirects.
  • Notifies you either via the Dashboard or by email.
  • Makes broken links display differently in posts (optional).
  • Prevents search engines from following broken links (optional).
  • You can search and filter links by URL, anchor text and so on.
  • Links can be edited directly from the plugin’s page, without manually updating each post.

Price: Free

Choose Using A/B Test And Create Effective, High Conversion Landing Pages

In A/B testing, you compare two web pages by revealing the two versions (let’s call them A and B) to similar visitors at the same time. The one which gives a better conversion rate is selected and used. This test is usually conducted on landing pages. Landing pages are product pages where you want to make sale.

All websites on the internet have a goal – a reason about them to exist. E-Commerce websites desire products being bought by visitors. Apps and software programs want visitors signing up for a trial and converting to visitors. News and media sites want readers to click on advertisements or sign up for paid subscriptions. Every company website desires visitors converting from merely visitors to something different. The rate at which a website can do this is its “conversion rate”.

Simple Page Tester lets you do all this in a very simple way.

Simple Page Tester — esssential wordpress plugin - must have wp plugin

This plugin is easy to setup, SEO friendly, and cache compatible. It also provides analytics and conversion tracking (In premium version). The free version gets the job done.

However, premium version is game changer. It provides you with following extra features:

  • Enable split testing on Custom Post Types: The regular post types are pages, blog posts, navigation menu. You may have a custom post type with their own layouts and structure like movie reviews, products, portfolio, testimonial, etc. This allows you to perform A/B testing on them.
  • Element level split testing with Shortcodes: You may just want to see which picture, font, text layout, etc. performs better on a webpage. These individual elements can also be split tested on a webpage.
  • Shortcode for detecting conversions, PHP template tag for detecting conversions, Java script snippet for detecting conversions: All possible ways to track conversions on your webpages. You may choose which one suits you best. You can visualize how many conversions each variation has had.
  • Visits vs. conversions graph: Gives you an idea of ratio of visitors converting into customers.
  • Automatic statistical confidence calculation: Automated tool to analyse the webpage’s impact on visitors.
  • WooCommerce integration for automatic conversion tracking: WooCommerce is the best E-commerce plugin for WordPress. With premium version, you can track your product page’s performance and see the conversion rates.
  • 1 year of email support: Running into any unforeseen issues requires a professional support. Premium version provides you with one year of email support.

Price: Free. Optional premium paid version. $59 per year for unlimited websites.

Make Visitors Share Your Content, and Comment on Website Using Social Networks

Facebook is the second largest source of organic traffic. Super Socializerr is the best free social plugin.

super socializer wordpress plugin

It has following features:

  • It allows users to share your content on 50 most influential social networks.
  • It also allows them to login to your website using social networks.
  • It allows users to comment on your posts using social networks.
  • It also allows them to like your social network pages.
  • It offers customizable icons, floating icons, and many more features free of cost.

You may choose to add additional functionality like Google Analytics integration at a premium.

Price: Free

Handle spam without much overhead

User comments are great way to interact with your visitors. It also provides you insights into their reactions, thoughts, suggestions with regards to the content. However, spamming is a huge problem for any website with comments section. Akismet has long reigned the world of anti-spam and it is a paid plugin (it comes free of cost with VaultPress subscription). This has been changed recently by a free plugin called WP Spam Shield.

wp spam shield essential wordpress plugin - must have wp plugins

It blocks spam from even reaching your WordPress database, which supports site security. This plugin claims to make WordPress spam vanish. Notably it does not need users to type in CAPTCHA codes, thus enhancing user experience. It protects website against both human spam comments and automated spam bots using a two level security process, without any false positives. This plugin also protects the website’s email. It provides security against following spam:

  • Comment spam
  • Trackback spam
  • Registration spam (WordPress, BuddyPress, bbPress, WooCommerce, etc.)
  • Contact form spam (Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, JetPack Contact Forms, etc.)

Price: Free

Make your site secure against hacking and vulnerabilities

Considering that hundreds of thousands of websites are hacked daily, you would want to have the website security in place.

Wordfence supplies the best protection available for your website.

Wordfence Security essential wordpress plugins - must have wp plugins

It has following features:

  • Continuously upgraded threat Shield Feed protects your website against latest threats and vulnerabilities. Wordfence scan leverages this proprietary feed, alerting you immediately in the event your website is endangered.
  • Live Traffic view gives you realtime visibility into traffic and hack attempts on your own web site.
  • It provides you customizable scans, email alerts, etc.

Free version is quite powerful in itself. Over 1 million download and 4.9 star rating are testimony to the capabilities of this plugin.

Price: Free (Optional premium version available)

 Make Backup of Your Website for a Rainy Day

A backup saves your website from vanishing into thin air if server crashes, hard disk is wiped out, your website gets hacked, etc. Artist Dennis Cooper learned it the hard way when google accidentally deleted 14 years of his art work in few seconds. There was no backup and his art work is lost forever. You do not want that to happen.

Backing up your website is important. We have a good news and a bad news. Let’s start with bad news first.

The free backup plugins are too buggy, too cluttered, and do not work in a simple, elegant way. They have limited features, and are not reliable for this crucial job. The two most used free backup plugins are BackWPup and UpdraftPlus.

Good news is that there is a paid plugin which is very easy to use, and it has an affordable subscription.

VaultPress is the best one click backup and restore plugin.

VaultPress Essential WordPress Plugins - must have wp plugin guide

It has following features:

  • Real time backups as you upload the data
  • It backs up everything theme, plugins, content, media, comments, etc. Means you do not have to reinstall everything again before restoring data.
  • It provides additional spam protection feature.
  • One click backup and restore.
  • Email alerts on backup and restore completions.

VaultPress subscription starts at $5 a month for one website. If you think this is expensive, then remember that the most expensive is the backup you never did.

Pro Tip – Test your backups once a week.

Price: Premium paid version. $5 and above per month.

Build the Email List for Email Promotion of Your New Content

Email marketing is still the best way to generate traffic for your new content. It is better than Facebook and Google to get organic traffic. The people subscribe to you because they are interested in your content. You hand deliver it to them weekly or monthly. Email has a better click-through rate than Facebook, Twitter. The newsletters are the best way to keep the loyal user base engaged.

Email list building is an important, precision task which requires insights on user activity, appealing designs, formats that work best, different form/newsletter design format testing (A/B test), etc. Such features will always have premium. Hence, the best professional email lead generator and email promotion plugin is paid.

Thrive Lead is the best email builder plugin out there.

Thrive Leads essentail wordpress plugin - must have wp plugin guide

It has unrivaled features and affordable as well. It provides you following:

  • Thrive Leads combines every type of opt-in form you need in one single plugin and gives you a simple drag-and-drop editor to create the form design.
  • It allows you to show relevant, highly targeted offers to your visitors based on posts, categories, tags, etc.
  • Thrive Leads comes with an advanced but convenient A/B testing feature. It allows you to test multiple email subscription forms, different newsletter designs, different triggers for forms, and various offers. This allows you to choose and customize the best performing one of them. Results in more conversions.
  • It provides you insights on what is working for you. It provides graphical data on email lead generation based on selected time periods. For example, it will tell you which article generated most email subscriptions in last one month.

Price: Premium paid version only. $67 single site and $97 unlimited sites per year.

Handle Teams of Contributors and Enhance Editorial Processes

As the website grows and you avail multiple contributors who can login in your website and upload content. You may want to update the content regularly, make sure it follows the best practices, change the outgoing links, change the layout, etc. It may be a nightmare unless you have an editorial workflow defined. Steps that everyone should follow, deadlines everyone should meet.

Edit flow plugin is one stop editorial workflow manager.

Edit Flow — essential WordPress Plugins - must have wp plugins

It provides following features and more:

  • A visual editorial calendar helps you see all posts overlaid on a calendar.
  • It also integrates with Google calendar.
  • It also provides Wikipedia like editorial comment section which is only visible to authors and contributors.
  • The email notification is sent to all relevant contributors when a comment is added to it.
  • You may add custom post statuses with descriptions to integrate your own customized editorial processes.

Price: Free


About the Author Rajat Khanna

I am a full-time SEO consultant, blogger, and social media marketer. When I am not busy working, I let myself into reading, Netflix, and gaming. My long-term goal is to enable people in online marketing space with respectable passive income.

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