5 Must-Have Plugins for WordPress + Why You Need Them
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Tens of thousands of plugins populate the free directory of plugins. There are many decisions to make when starting a site like choosing a host, a domain name, and a theme. Plugins also fall into this category. The fact that there are tens of thousands of plugins just makes the task challenging and daunting.
Plugins can add so much to your site. They can also be your worst enemy because the wrong plugin or too many plugins can severely slow down your site or worse break it. Many plugins are overhyped and do little for your site or distract you from a better option. Plenty offer niche features such as e-commerce, online learning, forums, etc. Few are truly must-have plugins for all sites and should be the first thing installed whether your site is a blog, a storefront or informational.
If you think of the functions and necessities of every site, there are 5 things that every site needs. These include contact forms, speed improvement, SEO, and defense against attackers.
The most basic interaction that a user might have with your website is with a form. A form provides a way to send information back to the site builder or add content to the site, like in the form of comments. Forms are essential for any kind of website. A business site might have a contact form or a proposal form. A blog site might have an email subscription form and comment forms.
The list is endless for form plugins. There are several popular form plugins because as you can see this is a huge functionality. Some popular form plugins include Gravity Forms, WP Forms, and Contact Form 7. These are great plugins. They range from free to premium. Recently though a new form plugin has come on the market. It is called Forminator. The Forminator developers are some of the most trusted in the community. This plugin can create many types of forms.
Forminator Forms, Surveys, Quizzes, Polls, Calculations, and More …
- Forms – Custom forms for all your needs with as many fields as you like.
- Polls – Interactive polls to collect users’ opinions, with lots of dynamic options and settings.
- Quizzes – Fun or challenging quizzes for your visitors to take and share on social media.
- Calculations – Collect information, generate leads, take orders, and engage visitors.
- Payments – Take payments, donations, down payments, sell merch with the included Stripe and PayPal integrations.
It also has tons of integrations with all your favorite apps:
- Campaign Monitor
- Google Sheets
- Zapier (connects you to +1000 apps)
It is amazing and will likely do everything or more of any of the premium form plugins available.
SEO is your ticket to get more traffic. The way search engines read websites and rank them changes all the time. This keeps the biggest SEO experts on their toes. There are some basic things though that help SEO no matter how the algorithms change. These include keywords, content readability, and metadata. Several plugins that help with SEO. A super popular one is Yoast SEO. My personal favorite though is SmartCrawl.
SmartCrawl has many of the same features of Yoast but it is more lightweight (it will not slow down your site as much). The plugin features sitemap creation, keywords, and Moz integrations. It also has several features to help with social media.
Smartcrawl’s SEO Tools for WordPress include:
- One-Click Setup Wizard – SmartCrawl will analyze your site and activate settings to boost your reach – no more guesswork!
- Titles & Meta Descriptions – SmartCrawl SEO customizes how titles and descriptions display on search pages to optimize your content.
- Leverage Social Media – SmartCrawl SEO/Open Graph integration connects your social accounts and credits you when someone shares your posts.
- Smart Page Analyzer – SmartCrawl has an SEO checker that scans pages and posts for readability and keyword density and makes suggestions for optimizing your content.
- SEO Audit & Crawl – Every time you add new content to your site, SmartCrawl will let Google know it’s time to recrawl your site.
- 301 Redirect – Use SmartCrawl to redirect traffic from one URL to another to protect your hard work and take advantage of high producing links.
- Integrate With Moz SEO Tools – Already use Moz? Connect your Moz reports and comparison analysis including rank and links.
- Quick Setup Import/Export – Quickly add your custom SmartCrawl SEO settings to all your sites with included import.
Our next concern (in reality it should be our first) is security. In this day in age, security is huge. By the mere fact that WordPress runs 35% of all the Internet, security is an issue. If a hacker wants to break in, they will focus on WordPress vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is really important to secure WordPress as best as possible.
With Defender you can block hackers at every level:
- Disable trackbacks and pingbacks – safety first
- Core and server update recommendations – stay on top of your systems
- Change default database prefix – they won’t find this
- Disable file editor – if they get in, they won’t get far
- Hide error reporting – don’t reveal your issues
- Update security keys – ultimate security reset
- Prevent information disclosure – why tell them what you have
- Prevent PHP execution – because it’s daaaangerous
Defender can take care of all your security needs, for free!
Features available include:
- Google 2-Step Verification
- One-click site hardening and security tweaking
- WordPress core file scanning and repair
- Login Screen Masking
- IP Blacklist manager and logging
- Unlimited file scans
- Timed Lockout brute force attack shield for login protection
- 404 limiter for blocking vulnerability scans
- IP lockout notifications and reports
All this is included in the completely free plugin. However, if you’d like extra scanning, audits, and monitoring, you can always take the next step with Defender Pro.
Did you realize that the average website’s file size is 63% images? It is a huge deal because unless your website is all text, it means optimizing your images can make a huge difference to your site’s page load times.
Smush is the ultimate king in image optimization. It is one of the oldest on the scene and still so very popular.
Some of their Award Winning features include:
- Lossless Compression – Strip unused data without affecting image quality
- Lazy Loader – Defer offscreen images with the flip of a switch
- Bulk Smush – Optimize up to 50 images with one click
- Image Resizing – Set a max width and height and large images will scale down as they are being compressed
- Incorrect Size Image Detection – Quickly locate images that are slowing down your site
- Directory Smush – Optimize images even if they are not located in the media library
- Automated Optimization – Asynchronously auto-smush your attachments for super fast compression on upload
- Unlimited & Free – Optimize all of your images up to 5MB in size forever (no daily, monthly, or annual caps)
- Gutenberg Block Integration – View all Smush stats directly in image blocks
- Multisite Compatible – Both global and individual Multisite settings
- Process All Your Files – Smush will process PNG, JPEG and GIF files for optimum results
- Super Servers – Smush images with no slowdown using WPMU DEV’s fast, reliable Smush API
- And many, many, more!
All of this is so important because if your website takes more than three seconds to load, over half your visitors will abandon it.
Last but not least, on the topic of optimization, is the general speed optimization of your website. There are so many things that can slow down your site and as mentioned above if visitors have to wait more than 3 seconds for your site to load they will leave. That is failed leads, failed purchases, failed followings.
Many hosting companies such as WP Engine or SiteGround provide some kind of caching on a certain level but Hummingbird goes beyond this and offers specific fixes for your specific site. Although there are many caching and speed performance plugins, Hummingbird is my favorite and has proved itself over and over in real-life sites.
Features in Hummingbird include:
- Scan and Fix – Get a scan of your site, find out what’s slowing it down, and use one-click performance improvements
- World-class caching – A full caching suite to load pages faster with full-page, Gravatar and browser cache tools
- Performance Reports – Pro tips for running your site at super speed
- Asset Optimization – Position, minify and combine files for top performance
- Better Rankings – improve scores on Google PageSpeed Insights (SEO ranking factor), YSlow, Pingdom and GTmetrix
- Increase Your Conversion Rate — Don’t keep visitors waiting: faster sites convert better
Hummingbird is available from the WordPress plugin repository. Hummingbird Pro part of the WPMUDEV subscription, features automated scanning, uptime monitoring, enhanced minify compression (with 2x the regular optimization), and CDN hosted minification.