The WordPress universe contains 50,000+ free plugins (and growing). With so many plugins to choose from, it’s easy to lose sight of the essential ones.
Figuring out which plugins to install becomes easier when you apply common sense. Naturally, you’ll want to protect your information and secure your site from intruders and hackers first. Then, you’ll want to focus on site performance and functionality. Lastly, search engine optimization (SEO) and branding plugins will drive marketability.
Essential Plugin Categories
Regular backups of your site are recommended to safeguard against update problems, attacks, hacks, and file management issues. For most websites, daily or weekly backups are best, and backups can be automated.
With nearly 1 million new malware threats released every day, securing your site should be a top priority. I didn’t pay enough attention to securing my site initially, but after I installed a security plugin, daily reports highlighted numerous unauthorized login attempts. A lot of WordPress admins underestimate the importance of security, but they shouldn’t and especially with so many free and excellent plugins available.
Performance & Page Speed
Google’s PageSpeed tool measures the performance of a page for mobile and desktop devices, and it’s a factor that Google pays close attention. Efficient websites produce better experiences for visitors since it allows them to access information quickly. Google tends to favor fast and efficient websites over clunky and slow ones in their search rankings.
Keeping plugins up-to-date affects security and performance. It’s believed that the Mossack Fonseca (Panama Papers) breach was the result of the firm using an outdated plugin, which had vulnerabilities that hackers exploited. According to Wordfence, a top rated WordPress security developer, “To protect your WordPress installation it is critically important that you update your plugins, themes, and core when an update becomes available. You should also monitor updates for security fixes and give those the highest priority.”
Outdated plugins negatively impact site performance because they aren’t current with the latest developments. Developers update their plugins to reflect coding and programming best practices and new enhancements.
Ensuring that internal and external links are working–not broken–is another important functionality measure. This can easily be addressed with the right plugin. Broken links are embarrassing, impede the user experience, and cause frustration for visitors.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
It’s inevitable that you’ll turn your attention to SEO activities to rank in search engine results. Understanding SEO is of vital importance to attract traffic to your site, and it’s easier to learn than you probably think. There are many excellent SEO training tutorials, courses, and resources at your disposal. I took a few SEO courses from Coursera and experienced immediate results.
I see it time and time again; webmasters don’t change their favicons, which defaults to that of his or her hosting provider. A favicon is a small, 16×16-pixel icon that appears on page tabs and bookmark bars. It’s the image you want to represent your site. For example, I designed mine with a laptop against a turquoise background. Some themes provide favicon functionality and you can install a plugin.
- Backup: BackUpWordPress or Duplicator
- Security: Wordfence Security
- Security: Rename Wp-Login.php
- Performance – Cache: WP Fastest Cache
- Performance – Page Speed: Autoptimize or JCH Optimize
- Performance: P3 / Plugin Performance Profiler
- SEO: All-In-One SEO or Yoast
- SEO: Google XML Sitemaps
- SEO: Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
- Functionality: Easy Updates Manager
- Functionality: WP-Optimize
- Functionality: Broken Link Checker
- Functionality: Redirection
- Branding: All In One Favicon
- Branding: Foo Gallery
- Branding: Thrive Themes
Check out my book, WordPress: 665 Free WordPress Plugins for Creating Amazing and Profitable Websites, on Amazon.