One of the best things about building websites in WordPress is that you can customize almost anything and everything to get a website *just* the way you want it. While the design side of website building encompasses the look and layout of your site, customizing the features and functionality is a different story.
For features like animations, automations, and analytics to work well, It takes a bit of tech know-how and patience, but it’s oh-so-worth-it. The good news is, you don’t have to figure out how to make all that stuff happen on your own – enter plugins!
Basically, plugins are little pieces of software that you can add onto (or…plug into 😉) your site to add features that don’t exist in the original bare-bones WordPress setup. Whether you want the flexibility to edit your site with a drag-and-drop page builder or optimize Pinterest pins from your site (or so much more), plugins are your best friend.
Ten must-have plugins for your WordPress website
When you take your first trip over to the WordPress Plugin Library, you might notice there are over 60,000 plugins available. With so many options, it might be just a leeetle overwhelming to know which ones to choose. Don’t worry, I’ve got you! These are my top ten must-have plugins for your WordPress website, so you don’t have to figure it out alone!
(Psst – if you’re looking for the best free cookie consent plugins or the best plugins for adding Google Analytics to your site, I’ve written entire posts on those two topics!)
Customize and Design with Ease | Elementor or Beaver Builder
Unless you’re a programmer and writing a bunch of code into the backend of a website is your idea of a good time…I highly recommend adding one of these plugins to make page editing a breeze! Both Elementor and Beaver Builder let you work in real-time to customize your site, even if you’re not a coding genius. Once you’ve installed one or the other, you’ll be able to edit pages, drag-and-drop style, and see exactly how the finished product will look – as you’re working. Who doesn’t love a little instant gratification?
Add Code Snippets | WPCode Lite
Even though plugins save you a TON of time and work vs. coding every single thing yourself, there are still some minor tweaks or custom solutions where coding is the best way to get it done. That’s why you’ll want WPCode Lite, which helps coding go as smoothly as possible.
Simplify Your Editor | Classic Editor
These days, when you sign into WordPress to write a blog post, the default interface is a block editor called Gutenberg. While many people are fans of this version, others find it hard to navigate or want to work with something less complex and more intuitive. The Classic Editor plugin allows you to work with the same editor that existed in earlier versions of WordPress, which has a more straightforward, word processor-style setup. The design is much closer to programs most people are already used to, so it gets points in my book for ease of use.
Boost Your SEO | Rank Math
SEO is the keystone to a strategy that will drive new visitors to your site! A dedicated plugin will help you optimize each post’s SEO before you go live and gather information on search trends, so you can tailor your content to visitors’ needs. Even though there’s another super popular SEO plugin for WordPress, my pick is Rank Math.
The dashboard is really user-friendly, and it’s easy to see key stats like how many times you’ve shown up in search results, the number of keywords you’re ranking for, and how many clicks your site is getting. Plus, while writing a post, you can plug in target keywords. Rank Math will evaluate your content for those terms and general SEO practices, so you can make sure your next post has the best possible chance of showing up in search engine results.
Boost Your Pinterest Marketing | Tasty Pins
Pinterest is THE place for service-based business owners to be, especially now that they’ve pivoted to work more like a search engine. The tricky part is that Pinterest’s and Google’s algorithms favor slightly different kinds of metadata.
Google likes alt text that tells users exactly what’s in a photo, but Pinterest’s search engine prefers descriptions that tell users what to expect when they click through to a site. Tasty Pins bridges the gap so that you can optimize your site’s images for Google and Pinterest. Plus, you can do a lot of other cool things, like disable pinning on images you don’t want to be pinned or choose a preferred default image for pins. You can even hide additional images from displaying on your site but make them available to Pinterest pinners!
Connect Facebook Pixels | PixelYourSite
Meta (aka Facebook) has their own ad network, and pixels are their analytics tool. These tiny pieces of code are used to measure, optimize and build audiences for your ad campaigns. You might already have a plugin to make sense of the data Google Analytics gathers from your site visitors, and it’s useful to have a plugin to do the same for Meta’s pixel analytics. My favorite plugin for this is PixelYourSite. It lets you manage all your pixel data in one handy place, so you can understand user behavior or create audiences for Facebook campaigns.
Optimize Your Photos | Regenerate Thumbnails or Imagify
If your site’s images aren’t optimized, it can throw off a page’s layout and visual appeal or slow down your site’s loading speeds. This is especially true if you’ve just switched to a new site. The new design might not look very good or work well with the old site’s image sizes. Instead of learning the ins and outs of creating images in multiple dimensions and ensuring they’re all the correct file sizes, use a plugin like Regenerate Thumbnails or Imagify to create new thumbnails and lower the “weight” of images without compromising on image quality.
Optimize Your Site Speed | NitroPack
Double-checking your site’s speed and loading times is one of my can’t-miss steps before launching your WordPress website. I know I say this fact all the time on the blog, but it’s one worth repeating: site visitors expect your site to load in three seconds or less! If it takes much longer than that, they’re highly likely to leave without seeing any of that fantastic site you worked so hard to build. Image optimization plugins and opting for less video content can do part of the work to keep site speeds up, but NitroPack will boost the entire process, so you can be sure your site is running lightning fast.
Backup Your Website |Updraft Plus
We all hate to think about the worst-case scenarios, like if our site totally crashes or we lose significant amounts of data. Even though it’s a scary thing to think about, you can be prepared (just in case!) with regular backups.
My pick is Updraft Plus – you can manually back everything up or set an automated schedule and store your backups locally on your own hard drive or in the cloud. That way, if disaster strikes and something happens to the live version of your site, you’ll always have a recent backup on hand to restore your website to its previous state.
Protect Your Website | Wordfence
A breach in website security is another one of those “I don’t even want to think about it happening!” situations, but it’s so important to protect yourself from this one as well. And not just for your own sake! If you have a membership section, course, or store on your site, you’ll need to protect clients’ information and data in addition to your own site files. Wordfence was built specifically to protect WordPress sites from hackers and malware, so you can rest a whole lot easier when it comes to your site’s security.
Other amazing add-ons
I have an entire post coming up dedicated to these two plugins, but I couldn’t sign off on this post without giving you all a little preview! These two last plugins are a little different from the rest of the list, because you can use them to build out entire membership and e-commerce sites.
AccessAlly is my go-to for helping coaches and creators build out scalable courses, group coaching, and membership sites. WooCommerce is amazingly good at creating customized storefronts, shopping cart experiences, and product pages for whatever physical or digital goods you sell. I can’t wait to tell you more about these two plugins soon!
A Quick Recap
These ten must-have plugins for your WordPress website can get you started on the right foot! Whether you’re looking for the best way to automate backups or something to get your SEO game on point, I hope my list of MVP plugins has made your search easier!
Don’t want to do it all yourself? My Launch Week service can get you up and running with a strategic, semi-custom website (complete with all the plugins you’ll need) – in as little as one week! Reserve your Launch Week now!