When it comes to building a website using WordPress, there are over 52,000 plugins on offer! But which are the best WordPress plugins? Which are the absolute essential plugins that every WordPress website should have? Well, here are a few of my favourites.
But first, what’s a plugin?!
A plugin is a piece of software developed to offer a specific functionality to a website. They come ready-made; all you need to do is find it, install it, activate it, and you’re away.
They’re usually created to solve a common need rather than anything niche. It’s functionality that many websites need – such as forms, Google maps, buttons etc – rather than just a few.
Contact Form 7
Every website needs to offer its users a way to get in touch. You could just jot an email address down, but the better way is to embed a form onto your contact page. The best WordPress plugin for this job has to be Contact Form 7. With over 1 million active installs it’s a popular choice, as well as being completely free.
Contact Form DB
I discovered this plugin out of necessity when a WordPress update caused issues with messages getting through to my inbox. It’s always good to have a back-up, and it’s even better when it comes free as Contact Form DB. Install this one from day one and you’ll always have a record of all your website’s form submissions should anything go wrong.
Yoast SEO is one of the best free WordPress plugins out there. It’s a comprehensive search engine optimisation plugin that allows you to:
- Edit the page title and meta description (the words on a Google results page)
- Optimise pages for search engines through a traffic lighted checklist
- Customise images and text that appear on a link preview card (the card that appears when you share a link on social media)
- Automatically create a sitemap
- Connect to the Google Search Console
As well as dozens of other SEO-related benefits.
Max Buttons Pro
Every website needs buttons. You’ll want to drive your website’s users to particular destinations – specially, where they can convert – and to do that buttons are essential.
The best plugin by far is Max Buttons Pro. There is a free version, but the pro version is only $19 and that’s money well spent. Once you have pro you can customise your buttons to your exact specification; colour, shape, size, font, rollover colour…
WP Google Maps
If you’ve got an office or a venue, your website needs a map. To solve that problem, look for WP Google Maps. Its free version is fairly simple to use and offers a few levels of customisation so you can fit the map to suit your website’s design. You can also add markers to highlight your business.
There are even plugins to help with the less obvious needs, such as how quickly your website loads. WP Smush tackles the size of your images, compressing them as much as possible without losing quality. This can make a massive difference as loading images is a big draw on load speed.
W3 Total Cache
Another plugin that helps with page speed is W3 Total Cache, which compresses and caches your website’s files before serving them to users. Without getting too techy it basically speeds things up by reducing the amount of files visitors have to load when they revisit. You’ll need to be a little in the know to get the most out of this plugin, but it’s also free, which is always a winner.
Created by the chaps behind WordPress itself, Automattic, Akismet is your defence against spam. You’ll find that the comments section on your blogs get bombarded with spam comments, and filtering through these manually to find the real ones can be a mission. Akismet solves this for you.
Unnecessary if you’re don’t sell stuff online, but essential if you do! WooCommerce powers a whopping 28% of all online stores and offers all the functionality you would want for free. There are also add ons that give you extra functionality (such as product customisation, subscriptions or calendar-based bookings) but these do cost a few dollars.
The best WordPress plugins
That list just scrapes the surface. There are tens of thousands of other options out there, all built to serve a particular purpose when designing a website. What’s the best one you’ve found?