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The Best & Only Plugins You Need for WordPress

Let’s talk WP plugins! When you first find them – 10s of 1000’s of them – it’s like Christmas at a candy store. So many neat things you can do to make your site look or function differently. And all with the click of a button!

I do think it’s my life’s work to crush dreams and insist that these are not all they’re cracked up to be! In this security week post, we go over the basics on the dangers of plugins, how to select one and how to know which are safe.

Today however, I want to cover the plugins that we do recommend, organized by function. Note that if any plugins are premium, requiring a fee to use, I’ve noted a $. If I’m not recommending something, I’m speaking in general terms for most people! Of course there are going to be exceptions!

Let’s get this ball rolling!

WordPress Plugin Recommendations by Function

Ads

Advertisements are usually a piece of code that you are instructed to copy and paste. The easiest way to get that code in your site is to add it to a text widget. I do NOT recommend adding any advertisement ‘management’ type of plugins as they can mess with the theme coding and slow down the site.

AMP

AMP is misunderstood by most. Right now, if you install the WordPress AMP plugin, nothing will happen! The pages will be prepped, but not connected to the existing pages – so technically they’re not available to anyone. I’ll link to a coming tutorial on installing AMP soon.

Also, for most bloggers, AMP may not be a good fit. If you want to encourage conversation, if your homepage changes often, or if first impressions are important (designers, DIY, fashion, etc) then you won’t like the restrictive design of AMP pages. More on this coming soon.

Anti-Spam

Akismet is the best plugin there is in my opinion for preventing spam. There is a fee if you’re using your blog for business. Others that we will use are WP Zero Spam, Anti-Spam Bee and Antispam by Clean Talk.

Backups

Your backups should be stored off of your server so if your server has a failure at least you’ll have your backups! Updraft Plus connects to DropBox, Amazon and a number of others. It also will automate the backup process and email you if something goes wrong.

If you blog a number of times per week I recommend a daily database backup, keeping one week’s worth: 7. And a weekly file backup, keeping two week’s worth: 2.

Contact 

There are a number of great contact plugins. If you need any other forms for submissions, surveys, etc, then I will always install Happy Forms($). If you need one form only: Use Contact Form 7.

Downloads

Adding your media (including PDFs) to your media tab is easy. And you can link it up to any post or page on your site. Once linked up, a reader can download it. A plugin for simple downloads is not necessary.

E-commerce Plugins

  • WooCommerce: a shop for digital & tangible products with shipping & taxation needs. Add-ons for a fee.
  • E-Store($): easy to integrate into your own landing pages; best for digital products
  • Paypal: if you only need donations, or one-or two simple products, this is the easiest solution

Google Analytics & Google Search Console

You do not need a plugin to connect your site to these services. And you should connect your site to them! Just copy and paste the code they give you for verification purposes into a code plugin on your site. This used to be done through the themes, but when you change themes it becomes a pain in the tush. We now recommend using “Code Snippets” plugin.

Learning Management System

Granted I’m new to the LMS world, but we’ve been creating client LMS using LearnDash and love it. All the features that you’d find in Teachable are available, and the support is awesome! And you don’t have to give away a % of your earnings!

Media Management

I’m not sure why you’d use a plugin for any media management at all. Video, MP3 players are already in WordPress – all you need to do is copy and paste the URL from the most popular MP3/MP4 hosting sites.

The Galleries in Kadence Blocks are amazing. For extra features, purchase the Pro add-on.

Search Engine Optimization

Yoast SEO is one plugin that I recommend on each and every WordPress install. Not only is it valuable for the keyword hints (you’ll learn those on your own in a few posts) but it provides a ton of settings and integrations that you can use to easily connect to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google Search Console and Google Plus.

Go through each tab and complete it as thoroughly as you can. It makes me cry a little each time I see this plugin installed and not configured!! 

Security Plugins

I’m going to surprise you by saying, I do NOT recommend any security plugins. If you follow best practices you won’t need any.

Note regarding SSL: you will not need a plugin to maintain HTTPS links if you do it correctly. See this post for a full tutorial on adding SSL to your WordPress site.

Shop

See “E-commerce” above.

Social Media Follow Buttons

Simple Social Icons for Genesis users.

Social Media Sharing Buttons

This is the best we have so far. I’m hoping a new one comes out with the features and speed that we need – and supported by a small plugin author. For now -this is the fastest, best supported with the most features: Grow by MediaVine (used to be called Social Pug).

  • Hidden Pinterest Images – Included in Grow.
  • Separate Images for Pinterest & Twitter/Social Media – Images¬†and descriptions can be unique for each social media platform with Grow
  • Tweet This – Included in Grow.
  • Share Combining for previous urls (for SSL) – Also included in Grow.

Speed

This is a constant battle for most bloggers. Speed is a result of good hosting, clean coding, optimized images and caching. For these I recommend a careful test of the following to see which works for you:

  • Cloudflare combined with WP Rocket($)
  • Cloudflare Page Optimization Plugin (use with cloudflare)
  • EWWW Image Optimization and use webp versions¬†($)
  • For CDN I recommend Cloudflare – you only need this after 1,000 uniques/day

Total number of Plugins needed in WordPress: 7

Remember that each plugin you add is another opportunity for a vulnerability to creep into your site: be careful!

3 Comments

  1. Did you write this post specially for me?!? Seriously, I felt like you were talking right to me. I needed to read every word of it. I’m saving this article to re-read and explore further.. Thanks for your insights Cathy.

    1. Haha! No I did not! If it sounds that way, it’s because I have the same conversation several times a day! It’s my life’s work to spread the message that plugins are not candy! lol

  2. I’ve been reading about this stuff non stop for several months now and here is the first good plug in advice I have absorbed! Use them sparingly. Thank you.

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