WordPress is a powerful platform with thousands of themes that are strong choices for your small business website, straight out of the box. However, one of the biggest advantages WordPress has is the ability to customize, with a vast array of plugins for third-party services that can enhance the functionality, effectiveness and performance of your site.
With so many plugins available, it can be hard to decide which ones to use. These 10 are what I consider to be essential WordPress plugins – brought to you in no particular order of importance. They will add to the performance of any website built on a WordPress platform.
Online Backup for WordPress
There’s no getting around it, you need a data backup plan for your website. This free, easy-to-use plugin comes with everything you need. Online Backup for WordPress lets you schedule automated daily or weekly backups, perform manual backups, and will even encrypt stored files for additional security.
Both your database and file system are backed up, so you won’t lose a thing if disaster strikes.
Comments are always welcome, but spam stinks. The Akismet plugin saves you time and keeps the reputation of your small business site intact by weeding out spam comments before they get posted. This way, you don’t have to delete them yourself and your visitors don’t have to worry about wading through badly written spam comments to get into the discussion.
Some third-party commenting systems, including Disqus and IntenseDebate, also support the Akismet plugin.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
This is one of the highest rated in the WordPress library, and easy to use for beginners and advanced website owners alike.
This plugin comes with all the features you need to improve your site’s search engine optimization, including a snippet preview, page analysis, technical SEO tools, meta and link elements, XML sitemaps, RSS optimization, and much more.
Visual Form Builder
Integrated contact forms add a professional touch to your small business website. It’s easy to do this with the Visual Form Builder plugin which lets you create all kinds of forms for your site with no coding required.
A simple drag-and-drop interface means you can have fully functional forms up and running in no time.
Google Analytics for WordPress
Sure, WordPress gives you a way to insert a tracking code from Google Analytics directly into your theme, so why add yet another plugin to your site?
Because with the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin, you get extra features: Automatic tracking for site speed, outbound links, downloads, custom variable support, link tagging, debug mode, login and registration form tracking and more.
W3 Total Cache
Did you know that site speed is now factored into Google’s ranking algorithm?
The W3 Total Cache plugin improves your site’s performance and makes it run faster by showing users a pre-created version of your pages, instead of executing the PHP scripts every time a page loads.
Both search engines and site visitors prefer faster-loading sites.
The default search feature for WordPress is unfortunately not the best around. Results are ranked according to publication date, rather than relevance to the search term. If you have a lot of content, your visitors can get frustrated trying to find what they’re looking for.
Relevanssi uses a relevance-sorting search similar to Google (the one most people are familiar with) for your site. This plugin automatically replaces the native search when it’s installed, so you don’t have to tweak your theme or go through the settings manually.
It’s ready to go, right out of the box.
After the Deadline
Get a personal proofreader for your content that catches more errors than the native WordPress spell check. This plugin comes with basic spelling and grammar, and includes contextual spell checking, advanced style checking and intelligent grammar checking to virtually wipe out mistakes in your posts.
Social media sharing is vital for your small business. The ShareThis plugin supports your social marketing by automatically adding social share buttons at the end of your pages and posts. Other features of this plugin include social analytics, Open Graph sharing, CopyNShare and an optional Hovering Bar that keeps sharing buttons always present on your sidebar.
SEO Smart Links
Improve your on-page SEO automatically with this easy-to-use plugin. SEO Smart Links scans your content and blog posts and inserts relevant internal links to other posts and pages based on keywords. Features include nofollow links, open links in new tabs, custom keyword links and more.
No problem. If you’re in need of more plugins, check out these WordPress content management plugins, WordPress plugins that protect your site and plugins to create an article quality checklist.
Digital Photo via Shutterstock
More in: Content Marketing, WordPress
Thanks Megan, I will be installing some of these on my sites right away. I like the variety you gave us and Akismet sounds really helpful.
Great, Ed! I’m glad you found it helpful. Best of luck!
Nice post. Another great one is NextGen gallery for photo galleries
Thanks for the tip, Ken! And thanks for reading. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this informative article! I will be using this third party apps. 🙂
My pleasure, Nancy! I’m glad you found it helpful. Good luck with the third-party apps! 🙂
I especially like ShareThis. It gives you instant access to different social media platforms in a single button. This way, I no longer need a separate Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Digg buttons. ShareThis covers it all.
Thanks for the tip, Aira!
Nice share indeed. Personally, I will skip GA since we could use the codes manually. Of course, placing the code using premium themes are easier 🙂
Akismet is a life safe and don’t forget about GASP too. Both of these are crazy great and thanks for sharing this!
Thanks for the tips, Reginald! And thanks for reading. 🙂
A nice list – I use most of your listed plugins for my blogs.
If I may, I’d like to add one more plugin: Limit Login Attempt. It’s a must-install because it secures your WordPress-powered site from hacking attempts.
The idea is to limit the number of retries when someone is entering the wrong password to the Admin Panel. As hacking attempts often use software which is doing numerous retries, it drains your web hosting resources, which often mean account suspension if you use shared hosting or expensive bills if you use utility-based hosting (e.g. cloud/grid hosting).
Limit Login Attempt tries to tackle that problem by banning the IPs. Not perfect, but it’s adequate in thwarting most login hack attempts.
Ooh, I have Limit Login Attempts on my blog, Ivan, and I’m glad I do! I get an email notification every time an attempt is made to login, plus I can view the IP it’s coming from. It’s very useful.
Thanks for the tip! I’m all about sharing useful tools with one another.
I already have some of the plugins you’ve listed installed on my blog. Two on the list that I’ll definitely be looking to install are Online Backup for WordPress and SEO Smart Links.
Great, Ebele! Thanks for reading and sharing. Best of luck to you!
For a beginner on WordPress, these are the plugins I recommend:
1. SEO Plugin – WP SEO by Yoast
2. Editor Plugin – WP Super Edit
3. Contact Form Plugins – Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms
4. Analytics Plugins – Google Analytics, JetPack
5. Social Sharing Buttons Plugin – Socialize, Slick Social Share Buttons
6. Social Profiles Plugin – Easy Social Icon
7. Facebook Like Box – Facebook Like Box
8. Comments Plugin – Disqus, LiveFyre
9. Author Bio Plugin – Fancier Author Box
10. Related Posts Plugin – ELI’s Related Posts
Thanks for the recos, Shibani! And thanks for reading.
I don’t use more than 5 plugins ever on my WordPress blog. Though out of the plugins you mentioned, I use W3 Total Cache and was looking for something like SEO Smart Links to create auto links.
Thanks for sharing this with us.
Thanks, Vineet! Glad you found it helpful. Best to you and your blog!
Megan: I will pass this information forward to my friends who are working with WordPress. Any security issues to think about?
Thanks, Martin! I came across this helpful post on WordPress security tips – it includes a section on plug-ins. http://www.tipsandtricks-hq.com/essential-wordpress-security-tips-is-your-blog-protected-987
#3 caught my eye. I don’t have that one installed and I probably really need it.
I try to do with as few plugins as I can, because I know that plugins slow down the load time.
Nice post. Just had to see if there was something I was missing.
Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Thanks, Geri. I agree – moderation is key, but a few carefully selected and essential plug-ins can really enhance a blog’s performance. Best of luck to you!
Megan, you’ve listed some interested plugins here such as Visual Form Builder which I will check out and probably had it installed.
Thanks, Diana! Best of luck!
I also use wp better security and wordfence.
Also there is one, I think called edit admin slug. It lets you change the author name on the front end so it’s not the same as the user name. Why tell the hackers your user name? May as well make them guess that too.
I used to use that SEO Yoast plug in, but had to turn it off due to it breaking my rss feed.
I’d also note that we don’t quite know what will happen to any plug in if this new ‘auto update’ feature continues with no opt out or auto backup first option. Some of them, especially free ones, are not updated frequently. You never know when a new update will break something, but if we do at manually at least we can back it up first!
This post is quite informative. Word Press is a great tool for bloggers. It’s good to know ways to make a Word Press blog better.
Thank you! WordPress has so many options for bloggers. It’s what makes it so great!
Thanks for the tips. With so many plugins for wordpress it is hard to know which ones will give you the best results and sometimes even knowing what features are available, becomes impossible to keep up with.
There are plugins for every need, some we didn’t even know we needed yet!
WordPress has so many options that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Glad my tips helped you!
Good suggestions. I already have some of these installed like Akismet, ShareThis and Google Analytics. If I may just add, Broken Link Checker is a good plugin to make sure your links in your site are always alive. Also, Contact Form 7 is a good plugin as well for those who uses contact forms in their website. It’s very easy to use and has a simple look without the clutter or unnecessary things.
I’m glad you found my suggestions helpful! Thanks for providing some of your own as well.
Contact Form 7 is very helpful as it gives you the chance to get your website enquiries with out getting the same amount of spam you get if you publish your email address. It also give you the chance to harvest other information such as the IP address to help track down any dubious emails.
Thanks Megan! It’s my first time to learn about ‘After the Deadline’; might be worth trying. I’m using this nice All-in-One SEO pack plugin that lets you become more creative with your blog title without affecting the optimization part. I think that having many plugins can slow down your website page speed though.
Fantastic Collection. Specially Sometimes I have to use a custom html page for my wordpress blog. Thanks Tom for letting me know specially about Yith Maintenance Mode plugin.
Great! I am impressed in first visit : specially your floating social media plugin. How can i get same for my site! I bookmarked your site in first 2 minutes. great!