Your List of Essential WordPress Plugins, Plus What Makes Them a Must-Have

Plugins are what make the WordPress world go around. Essential WordPress plugins is what’s going to help you build your site effectively and securely, while also getting the best features out there.

Plugins allow you to add pretty much any type of functionality to your new blog. And, down the line, you’ll probably end up installing quite a few to get specific functionality that you want.

But while there are lots of interesting niche plugins, there are also some essential WordPress plugins that every blogger needs. We’re talking about things so important that no matter what you’re blogging about, these should make your must-have list:
🧙 Beginner's note: What plugins are and how to install them
Essential WordPress plugins

A plugin is a third-party extension that adds additional functionality to your WordPress site. This functionality can be something small, like a contact form, or something big, like turning your WordPress site into an e-commerce store.

To use a plugin, you’ll need to install it on your WordPress site. Read this post for more on how to install WordPress plugins.

Your essential WordPress plugins:

1. Yoast SEO

  • What it does: Yoast SEO helps you make important search engine optimization tweaks for both your entire site and individual posts/pages.
  • Why you need it: Where your blog ranks in search engines like Google has a huge effect on how many visitors your site gets. Optimizing your blog with a plugin like Yoast SEO gives you a better chance to rank higher for relevant keywords and get traffic to your posts. We’re also going to be using this plugin in further chapters of this guide, hence you need it to benefit from the guide fully.
  • What it costs: The free version is fine for most bloggers
  • Where to get it: The easiest method is to go to your WordPress dashboard → Plugins → Add New → type in the name of the plugin (Yoast SEO) in the search box. Then click Install Now and Activate.

2. Google Analytics for WordPress

  • What it does: Google Analytics provides you with detailed traffic statistics and analytics for your blog. On a more advanced level, it can also help you see how effective certain promotion strategies are. The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin helps you easily implement the free Google Analytics service on your blog.
  • Why you need it: Analytics help you learn which parts of your blog get the most traffic, as well as which parts do well and which parts could be improved. Analytics also let you see how your blog’s traffic and engagement change over time. In other words, without an analytics solution of any kind, you can’t know how effective your promotion strategies are.
  • What it costs: 100% free
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above). Then, follow this guide for how to set up Google Analytics for WordPress.

3. Cache Enabler

  • What it does: Cache Enabler uses something called page caching to make your blog load faster and use fewer server resources.
  • Why you need it: Cache Enabler can typically cut your blog’s page load times in half, which is important because 30% of users want sites to load in under one second, 74% of mobile users will abandon a site that takes longer than 5 seconds to load, and page load times can affect where your site ranks in Google. Yeah, finding ways to speed up your blog is pretty important…
  • What it costs: 100% free
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above).

4. Wordfence Security

  • What it does: Wordfence Security makes a ton of different security tweaks to keep your blog safe from hackers and other exploits.
  • Why you need it: Quite unfortunately, WordPress blogs getting hacked is a common thing. In just the first quarter of 2016, Sucuri analyzed over 8,000 hacked WordPress websites. And Google blocks hundreds of thousands of websites every year for malware. At the end of the day, you absolutely must keep your WordPress site secure, and Wordfence Security is the most popular WordPress security plugin, making it one of the essential WordPress plugins.
  • What it costs: The free version is fine for most blogs, though there is a Premium version with even more functionality.
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above).

5. UpdraftPlus

  • What it does: UpdraftPlus is a backup plugin that automatically backs up your WordPress site. You can even have it automatically save the backup to Google Drive or another cloud storage provider.
  • Why you need it: Beyond malicious actors (discussed above), there are way more reasons why you might need a backup of your blog. Regular backups are an absolute must – they help ensure your blog’s data is always safe no matter what goes wrong.
  • What it costs: The free version is fine for most blogs, though there is a Premium version with added functionality.
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above).

6. Optimole

  • What it does: Optimole automatically optimizes the images that you upload to your blog by compressing them and, if desired, resizing their dimensions. Compression is a way to reduce an image’s file size either without affecting its quality (lossless compression) or with a small reduction in quality (lossy compression).
  • Why you need it: Images make up 63% of the average website’s file size. By reducing the size of your images, you’re able to make your blog load faster. We already covered why that’s important when we told you about Cache Enabler – another one among the essential WordPress plugins!
  • What it costs: Optimole will optimize 1GB of images per month for free, which should be enough for most blogs. What you also get on this free tier is an image CDN with 7 global locations. After that, there are paid plans starting at 29 EUR per month giving you way more bandwidth and CDN locations.
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above).

7. Pirate Forms

  • What it does: Pirate Forms lets people send you a message via a simple contact form.
  • Why you need it: No matter what you write about, people are probably going to want to get in touch with you. A contact form lets them do it without you needing to expose your actual email address on your website.
  • What it costs: The free version is fine for most bloggers, though there is an Extended version with more features.
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above).

8. Jetpack – Social Sharing + More

  • What it does: Jetpack is a multipurpose plugin that adds a ton of helpful functionality. Most notable for this section is its Sharing module which helps you add social share buttons to your site.
  • Why you need it: Social share buttons make it easy for your visitors to share your posts on social media. That means your posts can get more visibility and you can get more traffic as a result! And like we said, Jetpack also includes a bunch of other helpful features, which makes us pretty sure you’ll consider it one of your essential WordPress plugins for a number of other reasons as well.
  • What it costs: The free plan is fine.
  • Where to get it: Via your WordPress dashboard (same as for Yoast SEO, see above). Then, read this post for how to set up Jetpack social share buttons.

With these must-have plugins installed and out of the way, it’s now time to take care of your blog’s basic settings.