9 Must-Have Plugins for Your WordPress Website
Every successful website build requires a holistic approach that caters to each client’s needs while also repeating successful elements from other projects.
One part of those repetitive elements includes the plugins we use on our WordPress sites. Whenever we start a new website build at Culture Cube, there are a handful of plugins that we always install. Here are 9 that are part of that list:
- Yoast SEO
- Gravity Forms
- Caching Plugin (WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache)
- Safe SVG
- Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP
Bonus: One Signal Push Notifications
Jetpack is one of those “it does everything” plugins that can handle a lot of the basic needs of a website, including backups, security, performance, social integrations, etc.
We don’t use every one of these features on every site, but one feature we consistently use is downtime monitoring. With this enabled, Jetpack pings your website every five minutes and sends out an email to your connected WordPress.com account if it doesn’t get a valid response.
While there are plenty of specialized plugins that have more robust features, including downtime monitoring, having one plugin that does all of those things, is nice to have, especially for smaller websites. Why make things more complicated when you don’t have to?
Nothing is more frustrating than seeing new comments or form fills on your website, only for you to realize that they’re spam. If your site gets a ton of spam, you need Akismet.
It’s one of the best comment spam blockers on the web and integrates with several other plugins including Jetpack, Contact Form 7, and Gravity Forms.
We mostly use it in conjunction with Gravity Forms, and it’s become one of the main weapons in our arsenal for limiting the spam form fills our clients get. It’s nigh impossible to completely block all spam from a website, but with Akismet, you can get pretty close.
3. Yoast SEO
Whether you’re an SEO expert or not, Yoast greatly simplifies optimizing your website for search. The free version supports most website needs like metadata, XML sitemaps, and OpenGraph data while the premium version gives you access to additional features like social media previews, schema, and a redirect manager.
We mostly use the free version but in some instances, we opt for the premium version if the client would benefit from the extra features.
4. Gravity Forms
While there are other free form builder plugins for WordPress, paying for a Gravity Forms license is worth every penny. Gravity Forms are highly customizable and support several integrations including payment processors, mailing list services, and CRMs.
We’ve used Gravity Forms to create everything from simple contact forms to complex quote calculators and everything in between. One of the more unique forms we’ve built was an online estimator for EV charger installation for an electrician client.
The form included a fair amount of conditional logic as well as a video input powered by Pipe that allowed users to submit videos of their panel box and garage. All of these features helped us to build a form that provided the information our clients needed to create accurate estimates for their prospects.
And if the standard integrations aren’t going to cut it for your project, there are a lot of other third-party plugins that can add some functionality. We use other add-ons from Gravity Wiz extensively to add features like improved file uploads, and dynamic field population.
5. WP Rocket
Caching is one of those things that you should never forgo on a WordPress site. Essentially, caching stores a static version of your website’s pages and posts so that they can be served up quickly to your users.
We’ve used many caching plugins across our client’s sites such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache, and while those do the trick more often than not, we noticed a significant performance increase with WP Rocket.
It won’t take a poorly built site with a Pagespeed score of 50 to a Pagespeed score of 100, but it can take a reasonably well-optimized site and give it that extra performance boost.
Wordfence is essentially a firewall for WordPress, and it’s an essential plugin to help protect your website from malicious attacks.
It has a lot of great features, including malware scanning that scans all of your installed plugins and themes for security vulnerabilities and threats. It also comes with built-in login protection that blocks brute-force login attempts.
One feature that we’ve found to be very helpful is rate-limiting. On some of the larger sites we manage, we tend to have bots ping the servers periodically which led to increased load and in some cases required us to restart the server.
While it doesn’t completely solve the problem of bots making requests to a server, it did help mitigate the issue enough in our case to prevent major outages.
Every website will have broken links at one point or another, and Redirection makes it super easy to fix those broken links and manage any other redirects you may need.
Some of the features within Redirection include:
- The ability to easily set up redirects based on several different conditions such as the status code of the request, the referrer, cookies, IP address, or regular expressions. If you have a lot of URLs with a specific pattern that needs to be redirected, regular expressions simplify that process a lot.
- 404 logging. Redirection keeps track of all of the 404s that occur on your site, making it easy to set up redirects for those errors in bulk.
- Import and exports. With this feature, you can import and export to and from .htaccess files for Apache, rewrite rules for Nginx and transfer the rules to another site with a JSON file.
While it’s certainly possible to just create redirects manually in either the .htaccess file or using rewrite rules, why would you when you can set them up from your WordPress dashboard?
8. Safe SVG
If your site uses any vector-based icons or images, you should use SVGs. They’re going to scale across screen resolutions (hence the “scalable” in “scalable vector graphics”), making your images look sharp as well as having the added benefit of reduced file size.
Due to the nature of SVG files, they can potentially pose a security threat making your site vulnerable to cross-site scripting or XML external entity attacks. Thankfully, Safe SVG not only expands WordPress functionality by allowing you to upload SVG files but also sanitizes the SVG input to stop any malicious attacks.
9. Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP
Search engine optimization is an extremely important part of any website, and while Yoast can take care of most of your SEO needs, we’ve found that having a dedicated plugin for schema markup is essential.
Schema & Structured Data for WP & AMP provides an easy-to-use interface that allows you to set up schema for your WordPress site. It covers several different types of data, including reviews, articles, blog posts, events, local businesses, products, and more.
The conditional display options allow for a granular level of control over where the schema is displayed on your site. This includes being able to display based on post type, taxonomy, URL, etc.
Well, there you have it. Nine of our favorite WordPress plugins for any site. Each of them has helped us improve the performance and security of our sites, as well as make it easier to manage redirects, build complex forms, and optimize for search engines.
What do you think? Do you have any other favorite WordPress plugins that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
Greg Lorenzen is the Senior Developer at Culture Cube Marketing and has been on the team since 2018. In his time at Culture Cube, he's created interactive apps for experiential activations, developed data integrations as well as created custom eCommerce solutions. He has extensive experience with WordPress, including plugin and theme development, and currently manages all of Culture Cube's web servers.
Although he holds a degree in music, he began to teach himself programming out of school and quickly developed a passion for all things software. This started him on the road of freelance web development before joining the Culture Cube team.
In his spare time, Greg enjoys writing and listening to music, playing guitar, reading, cooking, spending time with his wife and family, and myriad other things there isn't enough time in a day for.