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WordPress plugins enhance your website, making it more brilliant and unique, similar to how certain apps improve your phone experience. Think of it as tuning your Ford Mustang with new bodywork and black metallic paint, except that you won’t get pulled over by the cops quite often.

Different to how Chuck Norris made mankind, not all plugins are created equal. Therefore, I suggest you frequently test them with the latest WordPress version to confirm every aspect is secure, reliable and working as it should, while you enjoy Sunday night semi-finals with your loved one and the Lakers. There are no mistakes allowed in your resting day. Go Lakers! #LebronIMissYou

Leaving basketball aside (since you could also be a Warriors fan), I prepared a list with the 10 most essential plugins to verify your website functions at its peak performance so feel confident and free to enjoy your special day.

Here are my 10 essential plugins to use on your website:

1. Elementor Page Builder

1+ million installations, rated to 5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Elementor Visual

This one is the most affordable in your list of „Must Have WordPress Plugins“. It allows you to build web pages without requiring you to understand any HTML code at all, since you only need to drag a specific element to the right place. It also provides several impressive (and totally free!) extra features for you.

What you see is what you get” editing is for certain one of the main reasons to acquire it. You won’t get WordPress catfished. The instant live edit process presents you a real-time site preview so you don’t need to specifically preview the page.

Elementor page builder includes unique features like the designer’s touch and, as Kanye West said, it is “harder, faster, better, stronger” than other available market alternatives. Okay, maybe only faster and better.

The plugin works smoothly with the new Gutenberg editor, hence no problems when switching to WordPress 5 where Gutenberg is the new default standard for the editors. Elementor offers many of pre-designed templates and blocks – finding your favorites is more than guaranteed.

Other features worth of mentioning:

  • Mobile first – a responsive design means a lot for the folks at Elementor. If your website is mostly targeted to mobile devices, go for it with no hesitation.
  • Undo/redo and revision history – feel like you messed up somewhere? That’s okay, mistakes happen and you don’t have to worry as you can go back in time whenever you want and then back to the future!
  • Canvas – design your very own landing page to fit your theme and aesthetic requirements.
  • Maintenance mode – design your own under construction page.

Some of the Premium version features include:

  • Marketing automation and CRM integrations.
  • Custom fonts.
  • Blog post layout widget.
  • Image & video sliders.
  • Global widgets.

Do I recommend this? Oh yes! Elementor is a good WordPress plugin worth of every penny.

2. UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin

2+ million installations, rated to 5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

UpdraftPlus Visual

Do you have daily scheduled backups set up for your website? “Why I should care about my daily website backups?” you ask. Well, you should.

Life is short. So imagine it as ultimate insurance, one that you’ll need because anything could go wrong in a split second of the most beautiful day. You can lose your job, loved one or those abs that you worked so hard for (it only takes one chocolate bar too much).

Your SEO ranking could fall when, one day, ransomware encrypted your site’s data. Hopefully you got to the point where backups don’t allow these events to ruin your life and your last one wasn’t a year ago. Setting an automatically scheduled backup allows you to take the version of the backup copy, taken the day before ransomware knocked down your doors, and restore all your data.

Yeih! I’m saved and convinced!

Cool! Now here’s why you should choose UpdraftPlus – it is one of the most popular backup plugins out there with tons of great features and possibilities to offer. You can choose an isolated location to backup your data like DropBox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, FTP, SFTP, SCP, should I continue? …Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Storage and other brilliant options like the drawer at your mother’s house. We can literally say there’s no place we can’t store our backup copies.

With UpdraftPlus, restoring your website becomes easier. You just have to point your backup copy and click on it. During the process, you could drink a cup of coffee and after that, your site is up and running again. UpdraftPlus will guarantee that their plugin is reliable and working consistently across the huge range of deployments. It’s regularly tested by millions of users and they all agree on one thing: immigration policies (or not haha). They agree on one thing – it works.

Free version features worth the mention:

  • Restores, as well as backing up.
  • Allows you to set up automatic backup schedules.
  • Backs up to more cloud options than any other.

Premium features worth the mention:

  • Free, dedicated expert support.
  • Incremental backups.
  • Easily duplicates or migrates websites (with Migrator).
  • Multisite/multi-network compatible.
  • Backs up non-WP files and databases to multiple remote destinations.
  • More storage destinations (e.g. OneDrive, BackBlaze, Azure, SFTP) and multiple destinations.
  • Database encryption.

UpdraftPlus presents an exciting product for managing multiple websites from one central location. You can read more about it at https://updraftplus.com/updraftcentral/

Do I recommend this UpdraftPlus plugin? Yes! Especially when you lack life insurance and don’t want to take any risks.

3. WooCommerce (Full Review)

4+ million installations, rated to 4.5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

WooCommerce Visual

WooCommerce is the best standard option to go when you run an e-commerce business and you would like to set up an online store on the WordPress platform. Though there are a couple more alternatives, WooCommerce is the most secure bid to make, like investing on Apple in the 1970s. In 2018 this free plugin powered 42% of all e-commerce stores. This number stands out in the statistics.

It is very hard to add anything new because this plugin’s reputation is known widely all over the world. With endless flexibility and access to hundreds of free and paid extensions, WooCommerce represents a powerful tool for selling goods and services online across the globe.

Major features worth of mentioning:

  • Sell anything including physical and digital goods, monthly subscriptions anywhere you like, even on Mars when we once get there. Why not? I trust you, Elon. Don’t let me down!
  • Wide range of shipping options, even drop-shipping.
  • A lot of world’s most popular payment options, from credit cards to Amazon Payments and even more.
  • Very flexible in terms of adding and/or removing extensions like PDF Invoices and Packing Slips, New Product Badges and lots of more, free and paid.
  • Thousands of theme options, either free or paid.
  • Decent REST API for extendability and integration purposes.
  • Very secure as a dedicated (and hopefully well-paid) team is monitoring the code and releasing patches constantly.
  • Large a community for contributing and sharing ideas. But only ideas, please, we are not your therapist.

Do I recommend WooCommerce? Yes! Even more so when you need flexibility and lots of theme options.

By the way, are you looking for a reliable and recognized web hosting partner for your e-commerce business? Please consider the following options below.

4. Yoast SEO

5+ million installations, rated to 5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Yoast SEO Visual

Have you ever heard of the word SEO before? No? Mmm all right, no biggie. Keeping it simple, when your website is not listed on page one of Google search results, it does not exist for most of the world. There’s still the deep web, though that’s a very dark place full of terrors.

Maybe I overdo a bit, but Yoast SEO plugin is the right tool for your websites on-page SEO to take good care of ranking in the search results.

This plugin is definitely the number one WordPress SEO plugin to consider as it ensures that your website titles and meta descriptions are set and optimized the best possible way. Yoast even provides tools most have no idea about their existence, like readability tool to analyze the content of your webpage. Sounds awesome, right?

Some key Free features:

  • Snippet Preview shows you how your post or page will look in the search results (mobile included).
  • Set canonical URLs to avoid duplicate content and Google penalties.
  • Title and meta description templates for better branding and consistent snippets in the search results.
  • Content and internal linking features help you optimize your site structure.
  • Integrates with Google Search Console to detect crawling errors.
  • Generates XML Sitemaps for you.
  • Invaluable tools to write SEO-friendly texts.

However, I suggest you go for the Premium version to squeeze all the juice out and enjoy the power this plugin has for us. When live gives you lemons, you have to make lemon mojitos.

With the Premium version you’ll get features extra like:

  • Expand Yoast SEO with the News SEO, Video SEO, Local SEO, and WooCommerce SEO extensions.
  • 1-year free access to support team.
  • Previews to manage the way your page is shared on social media.
  • Keep your site healthy by easily redirecting errors, deleted pages and changed URLs.
  • The Insights tool helps you to keep your content in line with your key-phrases.
  • Optimize your content for synonyms and related key-phrases.
  • Write your content and get automatic suggested posts to link to.

Do I recommend Yoast SEO? Yes! Especially when search engine optimization is very crucial for your website (and that’s always).

5. Wordfence Security

2+ million installations, rated to 5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Wordfence Security Visual

Like automatic backups, Firewall is another crucial part of your website. This plugin will take care of your website’s security. Bad guys can’t do any harm or at least the plugin makes their efforts as complex as possible.

Wordfence is an on-site firewall providing the newest firewall rules, malware signatures and malicious IP addresses for your website’s safety. Look at it as that beautiful headset protecting you when the shitstorm is coming down at work. The office might be emotionally falling apart, but hey, how good is James Blake’s new album!

It blocks malicious traffic at very early stage of a HTTP request so it does not move any further.

Some important Free features are:

  • Integrated malware scanner blocks malicious traffic.
  • Malware scanner checks bad URLs, backdoors, SEO spam, core files, themes and plugins for malware, malicious redirects and code injections.
  • Checks your site for known security vulnerabilities and alerts you about any issues found.
  • Checks your content’s safety by scanning file contents, posts, and comments for suspicious elements.
  • Protection from brute force attacks by limiting login attempts, enforcing strong passwords (no, your birthday is not good enough) and other login security measures.
  • You can monitor visits and hack attempts in real time.

Premium features to mention:

  • Automatic firewall rule and malware signature updates.
  • Real-time IP blacklist eliminates all the traffic from the most malicious IPs.
  • Block attackers by IP, Country or build advanced rules.
  • Checks to see if your site or IP generates malicious activity and is blacklisted because of that.
  • Provides two-factor authentication, one of the most secure forms of remote system authentication available to eliminate the success of brute force attacks.

Wordfence has only one considerable downside and it is protection at the endpoint. This means that your server alone must tackle all the malicious traffic to your website when no global firewall service is applied either by you or your hosting provider. You’re like Will Smith in I am Legend: very strong, but kind of alone.

Do I recommend Wordfence? Yes, when you’re happy with on-site firewall only.

6. Akismet Anti-Spam

5+ million installations, rated to 4.5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Akismet Anti-Spam Visual

There are lots of scammers, spammers and who knows which jerks more out there that end in hammers constantly annoy people. Provided by Automatic, Akismet Anti-Spam filter is your best defense against them.

Automatic is the same company behind wordpress.com so you can trust them and be confident about its longevity.

Akismet Anti-Spam helps you eliminate irrelevant content by automatically screening all of your incoming comments for spam. The great thing is that if you need it for personal use, it’s completely free! On the other hand, businesses have to pay for a subscription.

Major features worth mentioning:

  • URLs are shown in the comment body to reveal hidden or misleading links.
  • Automatically checks all comments and spam will be filtered out.
  • Each comment has a status history, so you can easily see which comments were flagged either by Akismet or moderator.

Do I recommend Akismet? Yes! Especially when your new friend Dr. Mucuba Baba likes to comment nonstop your site and for some reason, it’s always about cats. Man, my site isn’t even about cats! Find another hobby, please.

7. AddToAny Share Buttons

500K+ installations, rated to 4.5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Add To Any Visual

Organic traffic is central for your website and a good way of building it is to provide your audience with tools they can use. People love to share. Therefore, when they find good content (and yours is probably awesome), they send it to their friends, family, and overly attached barbers through social media and that means new visitors are likely coming to your website. This is called organic traffic.

There are many more plugins for social media sharing, but if you are looking for a free price tag and tons of social media buttons, then I recommend you to bet on AddToAny Share Buttons.

The plugin entered the market in 2006 and it has convinced millions of users ever since with many social network integrations like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Reddit and those you’ve never heard about before. What on Earth is Ask.fm?

Major features worth of mentioning:

  • Standard, custom and official share buttons.
  • Custom icons let you use any location.
  • Image share buttons.
  • Responsive floating Share buttons.
  • Many placement configuration options.
  • Universal email sharing makes it easy to share via the web or native apps.
  • Highly extensible for developers and designers.
  • Very optimized as loads asynchronously before or in parallel with your content.
  • Google Analytics and Tag Manager integration.
  • Mobile optimized and retina ready.
  • Display share counts, on posts and pages included.

Do I recommend AddToAny? Yes! Especially when you are a social person who doesn’t live in a cabin on the woods away from civilization and only accompanied by squirrels.

8. Smush Image Compression and Optimization

1+ million installations, rated to 4.5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Smush Visual

Your images are too big and they pull down website performance and page load speed? Smush is another free plugin to improve with the use of lossless compression, which means your images preserve quality but become smaller in file size. Fun size, baby!

With this plugin you can resize, optimize and compress all of your images with a few clicks. With tons of options to select, it’s super easy to customize.

Smush is a Plugin Madness award winning plugin so I can’t be wrong that this is the right tool for the job. Heck, there was even talk about making it eligible for the Oscars under the Best Foreign Plugin category.

The faster your site loads, the more search engines (and users) will like it. Load faster, rank higher. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Some of the Free features include:

  • Compress any image (PNG, JPEG and GIF, max size 1 MB) in any directory for the optimum lossless result.
  • Compatible with other media plugins like WP All Import, WP Offload S3, WP Media Folder, WP Retina 2x, NextGen Gallery and many more.
  • Includes wrong size image finder to increase rates on Google PageSpeed tests.
  • Bulk Smush for optimizing up to 50 images with one click (It should be called Thanos Smush).
  • Resize large images by setting max width and height to scale them down.
  • Automated optimization on image upload.
  • Gutenberg block integration for image statistics.
  • Multisite compatible to optimize all the images across your entire network.

Premium features include:

  • Fast CDN image delivery.
  • Automatic resizing.
  • Ability to optimize images bigger than 1MB up to 32MB.
  • Super lossy compression and WebP format support. It means faster page loads.
  • Ability to make a copy from the original image.
  • Auto conversion from PNG to JPEG.

Do I recommend Smush? Yes, when you do care about page speed and SEO ranking… as you should!

9. WP Super Cache

2+ million installations, rated to 4.5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

WP Super Cache Visual

WP Super Cache is an outstanding, free caching solution available on the market. The principle upon how this plugin works is very simple. It just generates HTML files that can be cached and served statically. One cached file can be served thousands of times without any serious impact to the server.

Super Cache offers here three main different options to turn on caching on your website.

  • Easy – as the name already indicates it’s simple and the safest option to go. Generates static HTML and PHP files.
  • Simple mode (Advanced) – using PHP to serve static files. Less risky choice and ensures almost the same velocity as for option three.
  • Expert mode (Advanced) – using Apache mod_rewrite or any similar mechanism. May break your site, therefore requires that you are (or hire) an expert.

When you are unsure about what each option will do in advanced mode, go visit an Oracle. Still confused? That’s alright. Just head for option one, it’s easy peasy. In advanced mode you can try recommended options and, trust me, you’ll be already satisfied with the results.

There are many options on how to configure preloading and garbage collection mechanisms. You need to find out which combination suits best for your website depending on whether it contains mostly static content or visitors can insert some content to your pages.

And now that we’re talking about content… have you heard about CDN (Content Delivery Network) before? If not, that’s ok. Usually, it refers to a network of computers located around the world that deliver your content closer to the visitors. This content tends to include images, CSS, Javascript, and even HTML files to speed up the load of your website.

It’s great, though setting up CDN for your website is advanced technique and requires some expert knowledge or lots of testing hours. It’s up to you… but looooots of testing hours.

The page offers plenty of troubleshooting options on the homepage when the plugin doesn’t work as expected.  Remember that fine tuning configuration step of any caching plugin is quite complex and may also require lots of testing and sleepless nights away from the comfort of Netflix.

Though some people switch to „expert-mode” to customize some fine tuning, others are using default settings that already work for them.

Do I recommend WP Super Cache? Yes! And if your website takes more than 3 seconds to load… hurry!

LiteSpeed LogoWhen you have LiteSpeed web application server installed to your environment then I do recommend to use LiteSpeed Cache plugin.

10. Contact Form 7

5+ million installations, rated to 4 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

Contact Form 7 Visual

Contact forms are secret keys to enable conversations with your users and potential customers. Okay, they are not that secret. The NSA is always watching.

Still, when you need a simple way for your submit forms, Contact Form 7 is the right gadget for the job. Though there are many alternative plugins out there with all the bells and whistles, if you prefer simplicity and a free price tag, Contact Form 7 the most suitable option for you.

More than 5 million active installations can’t lie.

Contact Form 7 provides a moderately easy interface, based on HTML tags, to work. It’s useful to know some HTML or at least understand how the markup tags must be structured on the interface. Though this is probably the only complex element of the plugin, I trust you are a quick learner and can handle this effortlessly.

And if you need any aid, there are multiple channels to get help like documentation, FAQ, support forum and https://contactform7.com/ website.

After you finalized your form, just use the short-code to include it within some post or page. You can use AJAX powered submitting or install other plugins to expand the functionality of your forms. Stop abusive traffic by using reCAPTCHA v3 provided by Google or Akismet Anti-Spam solution provided by Automattic and you’ll get rid of submits generated by annoying bots and users.

Major features worth of mentioning:

  • Manage multiple contact forms.
  • Customize the way you like it. Enjoy freedom!
  • Prevent annoying spam.

Do I recommend Contact Form 7? Yes, when you need the flexibility of creating submit forms.

Bonus! WP-Chatbot

20K+ installations, rated to 5 stars, tested up to version 5.2.x

WP Chatbot by MobileMonkey Logo

One of the benefits of this plugin is the way it’s built. Actually, it’s very clever how everything has been implemented. The whole ecosystem uses the most powerful and robust messaging platform in the world. Simply imagine it’s just another Facebook Messenger window integrated into your website. No extra browser tab needs to be opened when using it, simple as that!

Visually this chatbot is very similar to other similar plugins available on the market and here the similarities will end. Under the bonnet, this plugin integrates with your Facebook Business page. Even your live chat can be continued at any time using Messenger. Frankly speaking, this is Facebook Messenger including chatbot – an artificial intelligence (AI) software that can simulate a conversation (or a chat) with a user in natural language. Chat with and interact with customers 24/7, even while you are asleep. Yes, you can go to sleep and let chatbot work for you or somebody else in another timezone, Indians for example. It’s up to you.

When this plugin is installed to your website it opens up a new and powerful marketing channel. You can begin building a contact list, potentially more than 1.3 billion users worldwide, and engage these potential customers with ease and power. It has enormous marketing potential and power when set up and used correctly.

WP-Chatbot is definitely a very interesting and promising WordPress plugin. There are some big partners and fans out there already, plus users have said only good words about this plugin, awesome. It has all the bells and whistles to use, including Facebook Business Manager. This plugin will be one of the beloved rockstars, when not today then tomorrow, stay tuned!

Do I recommend WP-Chatbot? Yes, when you want to engage your audience and gain more leads.

Let’s Sum Up This Whole Thing

Hey, I know, I know. There are many more good plugins out there in the wild, but the ones listed here are undoubtedly a safe investment of time and money.

It’s worth pointing out some emerging trends that are presented on the list. For example, image optimization is extremely important to decrease bandwidth consumption and improve website performance. SEO related tools to make sure that the whole website is well structured and without broken links.

I’ll tell you a secret too. Come closer. Ready? When your website’s speed is well optimized, Google will rank your site much, much higher. Though this is another story.

We have reached the end. Based on my personal experience and articles written by sector professionals, these are my 10 essential plugins to use while setting up WordPress website. You’re moving in the right direction when you are already using any of them. Though there are more good plugins out there.

I would also appreciate if you suggest me more plugins if I miss any that you think are essential too. Recently I reached out to CodeLobster IDE and their WordPress plugin. When you are a serious developer and have some time to review this plugin, please send me any feedback on what did you like and disliked, thanks!

Any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I Wish You A Lovely Day!