Essential WordPress plugins for your website

Essential WordPress plugins for your website

48,630 WordPress plugins and counting

It’s fair to say that WordPress is arguably the most popular open source content management system (CMS) in the world. It’s easy to use, intuitive and continuously being updated, patched and improved by a passionate and dedicated online community. When 27% of the web uses the same CMS, there’s going to be instances where the core functionality of WordPress needs to be extended. And this is why we have WordPress plugins.

To quote WordPress themselves at the time of writing this post:

“Plugins extend and expand the functionality of WordPress. 48,630 plugins with 1,551,345,513 total downloads are at your fingertips.”

Now, that’s a lot of plugins!

Therefore, the aim of this post is to share with you the plugins which I feel are essential when running or developing a good WordPress website. Or even to improve a WordPress website which already exists.


Wordfence Security (22+ million downloads)

It makes sense to start this list of essential plugins with one dedicated to security. Security is an incredibly important factor for your site and people often overlook it. With WordPress powering such a vast number of websites this unfortunately means that more and more hackers in the world will be looking to exploit any vulnerabilities it has. This puts you and your site at constant risk.

This is why Wordfence is great. After installation, a few clicks and some very basic configuration it immediately gets to work for you. Whether it’s their Web Application Firewall stopping malicious traffic before it even has a chance to damage your website, or its robust security scanning of potential vulnerabilities it’s an absolute must have for any WordPress powered site.

Take a look at this brief introductory video for Wordfence.

Download Wordfence from the WordPress plugin directory

Users & Activity

Stream (10,000+ downloads)

If you’re developing a WordPress site for a client, or running a site with multiple users, if something goes wrong or an article gets published by mistake you’re going to want to find out what happened.

WordPress by default has a limited amount of information on user activity, and this is where Stream excels.

Stream logs every logged-in user action and displays this in an activity stream for you. How helpful is that? This stream of activity is easily filterable by user, role, context, action or even the users IP address!

Stream WordPress Plugin Activity Feed
The activity feed in action

Get Stream here.

Media & Optimisation

WP Smush (600,000+ downloads)

If you’ve got a WordPress site which has a lot of images, this one’s for you.

WP Smush is a WordPress plugin dedicated to optimising, compressing and resizing the images on your website. Un-optimised images can cause the pages of your site to load slowly and lead to a negative user experience. WP Smush tackles this issue head on, using their own servers to smush every image on your site. It even works on images which existed before you installed the plugin!

I think one of the best things WP Smush does is that after it’s optimisation and resizing wizardry there’s no loss in image quality!

This short video from WPMU sums things up nicely.

Grab a copy of the plugin and start optimising.

Search Engine Optimisation

Yoast SEO (1+ million downloads)

Search engine optimisation (SEO) can make or break a website. The SEO of a website is how we ensure our blog has maximum visibility in the endless battle for a good position in the search engines.

In Yoast’s own words, they go the extra mile when it comes to good SEO. Not only do they handle the technical optimisation, they also help you write relevant content with great readability and a focus on your main keyword.

Yoast SEO WordPress plugin screenshot
Yoast SEO analyses your content in realtime

The Yoast SEO WordPress plugin looks at your content in real-time, as you write it. It picks up on things like missing images, how often you have used your focus keyword and even if your meta information adheres to best practice to please the Google Gods. Yoast SEO does a huge amount of work for you and if you want to read the full list of capabilities I suggest you checkout their knowledge base.

Get Yoast SEO from the WordPress plugin directory

Developer WordPress Plugins

Advanced Custom Fields (1+ million downloads)

As a WordPress developer myself, the Advanced Custom fields plugin from Elliot Condon is a godsend.

When developing a website based on WordPress, your client often needs a little more flexibility when creating pages and editing content than the default WYSIWYG editor, title fields and category boxes provide. For example, if you have a custom post type on your website dedicated to recipes you would need additional input fields such as ingredients, preparation time, cooking time or the difficulty of this particular recipe. The Advanced Custom Fields WordPress plugin allows you to visually create additional fields for your pages and assign these custom fields to the specific post types or templates that require them.

Therefore, as a web developer you can use the output from these custom fields within the PHP code directly using their simple and intuitive API.

Advanced Custom Fields Code Example
An example of the Advanced Custom Fields code in action

Download the plugin from the directory and get started with the developer documentation

What are your favourite plugins?

Why not leave a comment form below and share some of the WordPress plugins you can’t live without?

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