There are tons of WordPress plugins and plenty of 'must have' plugin lists on the interwebs. For my clients I am constantly looking for ways to improve their systems, make their sites faster, safer and more profitable. If you are in business or plan to start an online business here is my current list of best WordPress plugins to help you dominate your market.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links and I might earn a commission or be compensated in some way if you click through. However, rest assured that I only recommend tools that I personally have tested and used and/or currently using. I will never recommend anything that I have not personally tested or feel brings the best value to you. If you click on any of them I do appreciate it 🙂
Hands down the best WordPress page builder. It's easy enough for beginners and powerful enough for all developers. With the recent addition of inline editing, you can now see your updates in real-time which is great if you aren't into coding and helps you keep your flow and focus on your writing.
Please don't waste your time with themes on themeforest.com or other repositories. While they might look cool and fit your current needs, chances are they will not serve you later when you want to expand your site. Also, most are built by one or two person teams which makes it much more difficult for them to stay on top of bug fixes, supporting you and changes to WordPress. Almost every client that has come to me to help fix their broken website was rooted in their outdated theme and/or related plugins. A costly mistake!
On the other hand, Beaver Builder has a dedicated team of professionals who are constantly updating and squashing bugs. It is also built to WordPress standards, clean and fast to load. Beaver Builder also comes with a bunch of starter templates and modules to help you build the site that you envision. But what if you don't see designs you like? Easy. Find a design elsewhere then rebuild that in Beaver Builder. 90% of the time it should work. If you can't quite get it to look and function the way you want you will either need to hire a developer and/or use additional plugins.
Ultimate Addons for Beaver Builder is a great option if you want to add some additional features that aren't built into Beaver Builder. For instance, they have accordions, photo galleries and priceboxes. Check out their site for more details.
Note: Beaver Builder by itself is a page builder which means it's meant to help you build pages only. If you want customized headers, footers or blog layouts you need to hire a developer and/or purchase their new Beaver Themer. It's not cheap at $147 but even a novice can learn to use it and build impressive headers/footers and other layouts.
You might we wondering why Beaver Builder is only a page builder but almost all the other options are also only page builders. This includes the only other worthy options: Divi, Elementor and Thrive Architect. The only true site builder that I am aware of is Oxygen 2.0. This is a new player but comes from a very reputable team. I recently purchased this new builder and getting used to it. Once I've built a couple of websites with it I'll update this post with my recommendation.
Which version of Beaver Builder should you purchase?
I highly recommend you get the Pro version at $199. It's not cheap and it's also for one year of support and updates. The reason why I recommend this over the Standard version is that it comes with their Beaver Builder Theme which is excellent and makes great use of the WordPress Customizer.
Alternatively, you can save money and get the Standard version then download the free version of Astra by Brainstorm Force. Astra, is solid, fast and also makes good use of WordPress Customizer. As an added bonus the Brainstorm Force team is solid and makes a few other plugins that I recommend.
You don't know much about SEO ( search engine optimization ) if you use Yoast SEO. Yoast SEO makes it super easy to get the basics up and running. Make sure that you set these basic features:
- Focus keyword - this is the main keyword that your page is about and what you want to rank for in search engines.
- Page title - your page title is one of the most important factors for SEO. Make sure that your focus keyword is in your title.
- Page meta description - while this is not an SEO feature it is very important. It's the sentence that appears your search result so make sure it describes your page and gives a reason to click on your page link
- Sitemap - search engines use sitemaps to determine which pages should be indexed by the search engine. If you don't have one then the search engine has to create this on their own and may not include relevant pages.
The free version is all most will ever need but they do offer a premium version which includes the ability to have multiple focus keywords and premium support.
You need to make sure your website is secure. According to TechRepublic your website gets attacked 22 times a day or about 8000 times a year! This is not a joke. If you look at your logs you will see that even your site is getting attacked by some unknown location from Ukraine, China and elsewhere.
There are many plugins to help you keep your site secure and I have tried many of them. My current favorite is Malcare. They claim to be the only security plugin that does not overload your server. I believe this to be true as in general, security plugins run on your server and you will notice a slowdown in site speed. This is not the case with Malcare as it runs on their servers!
Their early detection feature works great and their cleanup is also very fast. When one of my sites got infected with malware, I ran Malcare and Sucuri ( my previous favorite ) to find the malware. Sucuri couldn't find any errors or malware but Malcare did and cleaned the site very quickly.
If you choose Malcare, you should opt for the Security + Backup plan. They also own BlogVault which is a great backup service that stores their backups remotely. If you think you already have a backup service with your host provider make sure that those backups are remote. Otherwise, you are putting yourself in jeopardy if the host providers servers crash and/or get hacked.
As an added bonus, if you choose Security + Backup you also get a staging site. A staging site allows you to have a duplicate development site where you can do testing and build out features without having to worry about accidentally destroying your live site! Once you have made changes that you like on your staging site you can easily push them live.
At some point, you will need to update a link. Either your page no longer exists, changed the name or moved it to a new location. When you do this it is very important that you redirect your old page to a new one. If you don't, search engines won't know this and send your users to a 404 - page not found. This isn't good for SEO and for potential inbound links you have from other sites.
With Redirection, you can easily redirect your pages to new ones and also redirect based on conditions. For instance, if a user clicked on a specified link on another website, you can redirect them to a specific page once they arrive on your website. It also includes a 404 tracker which allows you to easily fix broken links if and when they happen.
While not a WordPress plugin it is an indispensable tool to have in your arsenal. Grammarly is a browser extension that automatically catches misspelled words and incorrect grammar by underlining the text in question. When you hover over the underlined text it gives you a suggested fix. It works great in WordPress, your emails and just about anywhere. If you haven't already, install it now!
Social Warfare Pro
There are a ton of social sharing plugins out there and the biggest issue that I always ran into was loading time. Every single social sharing plugin that I have used in the past was slow. Then I found Social Warfare and it delivered as promised. Fast loading, tons of customization options, tweetable ( sharable ) quotes and just looks good on all devices.
From the beginning you should be thinking about building your list. As the saying goes, "The money is in your list!" But how do you build your list? First you need to have great content but then you need a way to entice your readers to sign up. Enter ConvertPro, a great call-to-action ( CTA ) plugin. I've tried many of the others and ConvertPro is the easiest and most powerful of the bunch. ConverPro is built by Brainstorm Force, the same company behind Ultimate Addons Beaver Builder.
The major benefits include: easy to use drag and drop editor to create your designs, a bunch of templates to get you started and looks great on all devices. It also comes with a template library of predesigned opt-in types such as modal popups, slide-ins and infobars at the top ( think hello bar ).
Once you've created your CTA, you can monitor your conversions through real-time analytics. Add in split testing to see which ads perform the best. Then you can personalize messages based on device type or referral URLs. Okay, I'm geeking out a bit but can you see the potential?
Akismet is one of two plugins that comes with every install of WordPress. The fact that WordPress includes this plugin should be enough reason to consider using it. However, WordPress also comes preinstalled with Hello Dolly which I delete immediately ( sorry Matt ). Okay, back to Akismet. If you allow comments on your site then you need spam protection. Akismet has a massive learning database that filters out almost all spam. I say almost because there have been complaints of false positives, which are legitimate comments. It's not perfect but probably the best at what it does. Besides, you probably don't want to spend your Sunday afternoon clearing out hundreds of spam comments.
If you are a business then you are going to have to pay $5 a month for the service which is a bargain for what it does.
If you upload large images your page will load slowly. You don't want this. It will scare away your visitors and hurt your search engine ranking. As usual, there are plenty of tools to help you reduce your image size. My favorite is Imagify because it does an excellent job of retaining image quality while reducing file size. It also comes with a slider feature which lets you see a before and after view of your image. This way you can choose to revert back if you don't like the quality of the image and even change the amount of compression to apply.
Plans start for free with 25MB of data for unlimited websites. If you need to compress more than 25MB of images then you either need to upgrade to a paid plan or wait until the next month.
As the name suggests, WP-Optimize will optimize your WordPress database by cleaning out unnecessary data. This includes page revisions, spam comments, trashed posts and others. It comes with a simple dashboard which lets you choose which types you want to remove. If you want to keep your page revisions, simply uncheck the box and you are set. Overall, it's a very quick way to reduce the size of your WordPress database and improve site performance.
Free but premium plan available with more options.
Google Analytics by Monster Insights
Every website should have Google Analytics and using this plugin makes it super easy to connect your analytics account with your website. As they say, "We believe you shouldn't have to hire a developer to add Google Analytics to your website." One of the great features is that you can view your analytics in real-time within your dashboard. This means you don't have to wait a day to see your data. No need to login to Google Analytics separately unless you need the fine details.
The free plan is suitable for most but they do offer a pro plan with many more features.
Site caching and speed
I am testing a couple of options and currently not recommending any site caching plugin to increase speed due to their complexities. Instead, you should first make sure you are using a theme that is clean and fast. If you are using a page builder, I recommend Beaver Builder above. Use Imagify to reduce your images and WP-Optimize to clean out your database. Then you should choose a host provider who is optimized for WordPress and runs a web caching application such as varnish. Ideally, you want a VPS ( virtual private server ) not a shared hosting account that costs $4.95/month. My recommendation is Cloudways. They are very reasonably priced ( starting at $10/month ) and have excellent support. But most important, your site will be fast! Especially, if you follow the advice in this article 😉
Should I use other plugins?
If you are unsure of a plugin I highly recommend you check out WPEgine's list of plugins that they disallow. Who is WPEngine? They are a very reputable web hosting company with fast servers too. But not as fast as Cloudways.