Since WordPress has over 70,000 plugins, it can be difficult to find which ones you might need on your website. That said, since every site is unique, a lot of the “recommended” plugins will be based on exactly what your needs are for your site.
For example, if your site only needs a single page to shows some pictures, you may only need a couple of plugins. However, if your site needs to sell products or have a “Get a Quote” form, you may need another set of plugins.
That said, there are several types of plugins many sites tend to use. First, let’s look at the three types of plugins that you should almost always have on your site.
Plugins All Sites Should Have
If your site were to go down, get hacked, or some accident caused your site to be broken, you will need to restore to a previous version or move your site to another server. In order to do that, you need a recent backup of your site. If you want to know more about backups, be sure to read our article on how to back up your site.
Luckily, there are entire plugins that can automatically and regularly back up your site for you. Both of the recommended plugins below allow you to either manually or automatically back up your site to a variety of remote locations.
The backup plugin I use on most of my sites (including this one) is Updraft Plus. This is a great backup plugin whose free version is usually enough for most sites.
BackupBuddy is a very useful premium backup plugin that includes a variety of features including the ability to move sites and work on resource-limited hosting. If you are using iThemes Sync, this plugin closely integrates with that system as it is made by the same team.
The next most important plugin that almost all sites need is a security plugin. Every day, there are tens of thousands of hack attempts on websites. Having a security plugin can help prevent your site from being hacked as well as help detect if your site has been hacked.
While there are many security plugins out there, this is one area that I would recommend to stay with the most popular plugins. This is because all of the popular plugins have entire teams of security professionals who proactively look for security vulnerabilities and issues in WordPress, themes, and plugins.
The one I usually recommend is iThemes Security. What makes iThemes Security great for new WordPress users is that it has a quick “Security Check” that you can enable which will turn on all security features with the recommended configurations. The plugin makes helping new users find and understand the different security features one of its main focuses.
If you are using iThemes Sync, this plugin closely integrates with that system as it is made by the same team.
Another great security plugin is WordFence. While this plugin is not, initially, as beginner friendly as iThemes Security, it has several features that iThemes Security does not and has configurations available to the different features that are difficult to replicate in iThemes Security. WordFence has a powerful firewall feature that helps prevent hackers from even getting to your site.
The last plugin that almost all sites need is a caching plugin. Caching is a bit technical and can be an entire article on its own. Essentially, caching can greatly speed up your site and lower the resources your server needs to run the site.
WP Super Cache
The one I normally recommend is WP Super Cache. While all caching plugins are a bit technical due to how caching works, I find WP Super Cache is one of the easier ones to use and set up, if following their documentation and recommended options.
WP Rocket is a great premium caching plugin. They have some of the best support you will find in WordPress plugins and is much more user-friendly than most other caching plugins. WP Rocket also has some features that you will not find in some of the free alternatives that will help make your site faster.
Other Common Types Of Plugins
Almost every site needs a way to add a form. Maybe you need a contact form or a “get a quote” form or any other form. Most form plugins include intuitive form builders that are drag-and-drop and can be very powerful. The one I normally recommend is Ninja Forms.
Ninja Forms is one of the most user-friendly plugins I have ever used. If you are looking to create almost any form, this is a great plugin to use. This plugin has a variety of fields that you can add to your form including text, dates, emails, phone numbers, and much more.
While Ninja Forms is normally the one I recommend since it is very user-friendly, Caldera Forms is the one I use on most of my sites. Caldera Forms has many more fields available than most form builder plugins and has a lot more settings and configurations to create forms that work exactly the way you want them to. It does take a little more time to understand and set up, but I have found this plugin and its support to be one of the best.
While the block editor in WordPress is great for creating some content on your site, there may be times where you want greater control and to have more elements that you would like on your page. This is where page builders come in. Using a page builder plugin, you can quickly create pages on your sites that look amazing and use a variety of elements.
Elementor is the page builder that I use on all of my sites (including this one!) and recommend. The free version is more than most people need and offers a variety of features and elements that you can add to your site.
If you are creating a website where ranking well in search engines is important, another type of plugin you will probably install is a plugin that helps your SEO (search engine optimization). These plugins assist you with creating and editing the necessary parts of your pages to help them rank better in the search engines.
The better your site ranks, the closer your pages will be to the top of the search results. The closer to the top, the more traffic your site gets.
Yoast SEO is one of the most used WordPress plugins and is used on over 5 million websites. Yoast SEO adds a new panel to the editor when you are editing your site’s content. This new panel will have a variety of options for you to configure and will include color-coded suggestions to help you improve your site’s SEO.
All-in-one SEO Pack
While Yoast SEO is great for when getting started, I personally like to have “suggestions” and have finer control over some of the SEO configurations. All-in-one SEO Pack is the plugin I use on most of my sites including this one.
If you plan on selling anything on your site, including physical products, digital products, or even services, an eCommerce plugin is something you will want to add to your site. While almost all eCommerce plugins are free to start with, you will almost always need to purchase some premium features. At a minimum, you will probably need the payment gateways you want to have available in your store.
WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce plugin and is owned by Automattic (the company that also owns JetPack, Askimet, and WordPress.com). WooCommerce has many features built into the free version and offers many features available as premium features.
Easy Digital Downloads
When it comes to selling digital products, WooCommerce can be a bit overwhelming and has many features that are not needed. This is where Easy Digital Downloads comes in. Easy Digital Downloads is created to allow users to easily and quickly set up a store that sells digital merchandise.
Honorable Mention: SiteAlert
Naturally, I couldn’t provide a list of plugins I recommend without recommending my own plugin, SiteAlert. SiteAlert is a free plugin that checks many important aspects of your site and recommends solutions to improve security and performance.
With so many plugins to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to get your WordPress site set up. Something to keep in mind is that you can install as many as you want when testing but you will want to limit your final number of plugins. The more plugins you have, the more your site’s speed can be affected.
When evaluating which plugins to add to your site, there are some things to consider. You can read more about how to evaluate a plugin by reading our Finding Quality WordPress Plugins article.