20 Essential (and Optional) WordPress Plugins and Tools

Essential WordPress Plugins

For most bloggers, there are a certain amount of essential WordPress plugins that you have to add to your website.

So, I have decided to compile a small list of 20 essential (and optional) WordPress plugins for you to use now.

Did you know that there are 54,926 different WordPress plugins for you to choose from?

Nor did I.

Having so many different plugins that do different things can be overwhelming for newbies who aren’t sure what the necessities are.

We all need plugins that help us with things such as:

  • SEO
  • Social Sharing and Following
  • Security
  • Speed
  • Backups
  • Database Cleaning

After 4 years of being an admin for multiple WordPress sites, I have tested over a thousand different plugins (both free and paid).

To save you the time of spending money, and your time, I have made a list of plugins that I think you need (along with some optional plugins).

Author’s Edit: This is my ultimate list of essential WordPress plugins. Meaning that I will be regularly updating this page for you. It’s highly recommended that you check this post 2 twice a year.

I’m always testing different plugins, so no plugin on this list is safe from being taken off.

Essential WordPress Plugins

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO

As you probably know, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the foundation of any marketing campaign.

You’re literally getting free, high-quality traffic because you have “optimized” a webpage.
That’s why Yoast SEO is a must.

Yoast SEO was designed to help you optimize every page as much as possible.

It’s simple, you create a page, add a target keyword in, and Yoast will give you a checklist of things for you to optimize.

Author’s Edit: Your target is to get green for the overall page. You don’t have to get a green light for every single thing. Sometimes, that’s seen as over-optimizing, and it can cause more hassle than it’s worth.

Some other plugins do the same thing. However, Yoast SEO is a popular and well-made plugin.

One SEO plugin that I have seen create some buzz is RankMath.

RankMath

I haven’t looked into it yet.

Again, it’s similar to Yoast SEO.

GA Google Analytics

Similarly to SEO plugins, there are a few plugins out there that do the same thing as GA Google Analytics.

All this plugin does is allow you to add your analytics tracking code from Google to your website.

GA Google Analytics

There are some extra features, such as the ability to disable tracking for admin-level users on your site, but I choose to recommend this plugin because it’s lightweight.

There are more features on other plugins such as MonsterInsights (which I will be talking about next).

Author’s Edit: Since I started writing this post, Google has come out with a new WordPress plugin called Google SiteKit.

It allows you to see all of the data from essential Google tools (like Search Console and Analytics) straight from your WordPress dashboard.

Google SiteKit

Though it’s currently in beta, it’s still worth installing onto your WordPress install and checking it out for yourself.

MonsterInsights

MonsterInsights

As I mentioned just now, MonsterInsights is similar to GA Google Analytics.

However, it comes with a lot more features.

I don’t need them personally, but if you’re looking for a more feature-rich plugin for Google Analytics, then this is the one for you.

Author’s Edit: Here are some of the features that MonsterInsights provides:

  • Universal Tracking
  • Google Analytics Dashboard
  • Real-time Stats
  • Enhanced Ecommerce Tracking
  • Page-Level Analytics
  • Affiliate Link & Ads Tracking
  • EU Compliance (GDPR Friendly)
  • Custom Dimensions
  • Performance & Optimize

WP Rocket/W3 Total Cache/WP Fastest Cache

WP Rocket is the first paid plugin amongst this list, but it’s pretty convenient.

Sure, W3 Total Cache is excellent & so is WP Fastest Cache.

However, WP Rocket has a user-friendly interface and combines a few types of plugins into one (lessening the plugin load).

Other than that, it pretty much does the same as the other two plugins.

It helps make your website load faster.

WP Rocket

W3 Total Cache is the recommended plugin by my hosting platform (WPX Hosting), and it is good.

However, most solopreneurs don’t want to have to look through a bunch of complicated-looking settings.

W3 Total Cache Settings

It just takes more brainpower than is needed.

WP Fastest Cache, however, is excellent. It’s simple and a little more friendly on the eyes.

WP Fastest Cache

If you don’t want to pay for WP Rocket, then I would recommend going with WP Fastest Cache.

Thrive Architect + Leads

Thrive Themes have a bunch of plugins that will help grow your business, and my two favorites are Thrive Architect and Thrive Leads.

Their page builder (Thrive Architect) that you can use to build landing pages for your site.

BloggerXL Library Landing Page

As you can see from my landing page, you can either make straightforward (straight to the point) kind of landing pages.

Thrive Architect Landing Page

Or you can build more complexed landing pages. Thrive Themes have even updated their plugin recently to add “Content Blocks.”

Thrive Architect Content Blocks

Content Blocks are templates that you can use on your landing pages (or even for your blog posts) to make the building process quicker.

Thrive Leads is a lead generation plugin.

Author’s Edit: You may have noticed that Thrive Architect has a “lead generation” element that you can use to capture leads. The difference between that and Thrive Leads is that you get a lot more features and control over your lead generation forms with Leads.

I’m sure that you’ve heard about how great email marketing can be for your business.

However, it’s only a good asset when you’ve built out your email list to give your subscribers the best content possible.

Thrive Leads can help you segment your subscribers, showcase lead forms to individual readers, A/B test your forms to increase conversions, and more.

Combining Thrive Architect with Thrive Leads will become a very powerful tool for your business.

It’s highly recommended that you, at the very least, get Thrive Leads.

Elementor

Elementor is another page builder that you can use to build landing pages and eye-catching blog posts.

Since I have talked about page builders, there isn’t much else to say other than, download it now.

Elementor is a great alternative to Thrive Architect because there’s a free version of Elementor.

Give it a try, and I promise you that you won’t regret it.

Author’s Edit: You may have noticed that I am currently using Elementor Pro. I will be making a comparison review and video about the two soon.

Easy Social Share Buttons/Social Snap

Easy Social Share Buttons and Social Snap are two lightweight plugins that will help you boost your social presence.

The main reason I like these two plugins is that you can install them and forget about them.

Unless you want to take advantage of their extra features, all you have to do is install the plugins.

Social Snap

Since I use Social Snap, I will be talking about the features of that plugin.

Social Snap Features

For the main section (the social buttons), the main settings are:

  • Manage Networks
  • Floating Sidebar
  • Inline Buttons
  • On Media
  • Share Hub (Premium)
  • Sticky Bar (Premium)

Social Snap Settings

These settings are self-explanatory.

Next, you can connect your social accounts via the “Social Followers” section.

The basic account allows you to connect these social accounts (if you’d like more, then you can upgrade to premium):

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • Mix

Other features that you can get are:

  • Click to Tweets
  • Analytics Tracking (Premium)
  • Share Count Recovery (Premium)
  • Link Shortening (Premium)
  • Social Login (Premium)
  • Boost Old Posts (Premium)
  • Social Auto-Poster (Premium)

As you can see, you get a lot of things if you upgrade to premium. However, most of us bloggers won’t need to get the premium version.

If you do want to upgrade, however, it cost $39/yr for a single website.

OptinMonster

OptinMonster

OptinMonster (which was created by the guys over at WPBeginner) is similar to Thrive Leads.

The main difference between the two is, of course, the features and the price.

Whereas Thrive Leads is $67/yr (if you want extra support), OptinMonster is $19/mo, which is nearly $230/yr.

OptinMonster Pricing Page

Disclaimer: The prices you see above are for a single website license.

Here are some of the features you get with OptinMonster:

  • Lightbox Popups
  • Page-Level Targeting
  • List Segmentation
  • Subscriber Recognition
  • Reporting
  • 5,000 Pageviews (for the Basic package)

You get more if you purchase their other packages. However, it will cost more money.

Schema

Snippet Results

These results were created with the help of Schema Markup.

Schema Markup is structured data that helps define what type of content your website has. It also allows you to explain to search engines what type of business your website is.

Schema Settings Page

The free version of Schema does enough for your website if you’re publishing informational content.

However, if you plan on creating other types of content (for example reviews) and you want the star rating snippet, then you’ll want Schema Pro (which is $99/yr for a single website).

Redirections

In some cases, it’s essential to have a page showcase a 404 error.

For example, if the page that your visitor is looking for a page that never existed, then telling them that via a 404 page is helpful.

404 Page

However, for most cases, landing on a 404 page isn’t helpful and will result in your visitor bouncing off of your website.

That’s where the helpful plugin Redirections comes in to play.

If you plan on deleting or even moving a page to a new URL, using a 301 redirect is the best way to keep any relevant backlinks/rankings.

Disclaimer: I wouldn’t recommend moving a page that has significant rankings to a new URL unless it’s necessary. Though having your target keyword in your URL is one of the 200 rankings factors, it’s not a high impact factor.

That means that you could lose all of your significant rankings by changing the URL.

Redirections allow you to track your 404s and then use a 301 to redirect visitors to a relevant page on your site.

There are other redirect tools (like “301 Redirects”). However, this plugin has more features and is easier to find.

Really Simple SSL

Really Simple SSL is a straightforward plugin.

It helps detect your SSL setup on your website and checks to make sure that everything is in working order.

Really Simple SSL Configuration

There are some extra settings that you can use as well.

Really Simple SSL Settings

There’s not much more to say about this plugin. It’s useful to have to download it.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer

This WordPress plugin is convenient, and if you’re having trouble with your site’s SSL, this could be the solution to your problem.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer

What this plugin does is it takes all of the content served under HTTP and serves it under HTTPS.

Have you ever gone on a website and you’ve seen this?

SSL Mixed Content

The reason that happens is that the webpage is being served under HTTPS. However, some assets on the page are being served under HTTP (which isn’t secure).

One of the best features of this plugin is that you can choose the level at which the plugin works.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer Settings

So, play around with the settings and see which level works for you.

Imagify/EWWW/Shortpixel

The reason why I have all three of these plugins in the same section is that they all do the same thing.

So what I will do is tell you some of the highlight features for each plugin, and then you can choose whichever one you want.

Imagify

This image optimization plugin was created by the guys who run WP Rocket (a premium caching solution).

Imagify Promotion

When comparing it to other image optimizers, there isn’t anything that stands out too much.

Unlike WP Smush where you get unlimited free optimizations (with a cap of 50 images at a time), Imagify only gives you a certain amount of optimizations per month for free.

Other than that cap, Imagify is a reliable optimization tool and has plans to improve even further.

You can see what they plan on adding to their tool by clicking here.

EWWW

I like EWWW Image Optimizer; it’s currently the one that I use.

The main reason that I like it is that it’s got quite a lot of features without the harsh limitations of some of the other solutions.

EWWW Bulk Optimization

For example, similarly to WP Smush, there aren’t any monthly caps, and likewise, Imagify allows you to optimize all of your images without it stopping every 50 images.

So it has the best of both worlds.

There is a premium version that gives you access to better optimization methods and ExactDN (an image resizing and CDN tool).

However, I don’t think that if you run a text-heavy website that you’ll 100% need it.

Some of you will, and others won’t.

ShortPixel

Disclaimer: From this point on, whenever I mention ShortPixel, I am referring to the ShortPixel Adaptive Images plugin.

ShortPixel Adaptive Images

Okay, I recently came across ShortPixel, and I think that it’s impressive.

It’s similar to ExactDN from EWWW. However, you can get it for free.

What ShortPixel does is take your images, resizes them automatically (based on the size you use on your website) and then serves them through a CDN.

Author’s Edit: One thing I forgot to mention is that you can convert your images to WebP (a new image format) with all of these plugins.

They also allow you to use the now growing image format (WebP).

WebP is a lossy and lossless compression method that is being developed by Google themselves.

Sadly, you do get a 100 monthly optimization cap (for their free plan), but other than that, it’s a fantastic plugin.

Optional WordPress Plugins

For this section, I will be going over some optional WordPress plugins.

All of these plugins are things that most of you want, but you don’t necessarily need (like the plugins above).

Custom Fonts

It does what it says on the tin.

Custom Fonts gives you the ability to upload and use whatever font you want on your website.

For example, go to my homepage and look at the font I’m using on there (using the WhatFont Chrome Extension).

You may notice that it’s not a font that you see regularly.

That’s because I purchased a license for this font, and I uploaded it to my website using Custom Fonts.

It’s a straightforward plugin that does what it says; So if you’re looking to have a custom font on your website, download this plugin.

Akismet Anti-Spam

Akismet Anti-Spam

This spam protection plugin is in the optional list because it’s easy to spot which comments are spam and which aren’t spam.

Some people don’t even try to hide it.

However, if you don’t want to have to worry about spam on your WordPress site, then I would move this plugin into the necessary plugins.

Akismet Anti-Spam Settings

Akismet goes through every comment submitted on your site, and checks to see if that comment counts as spam.

If it does, then it will be automatically removed.

However, I don’t use that setting just in case Akismet submits some false positives.

Sometimes, regular comments can be counted as spam, so I have set Akismet to move all spam comments to the spam folder to be reviewed.

Pretty Links

Pretty Links

Pretty links are on the optional list for a simple reason.

Only affiliate marketers will benefit from using this plugin. Pretty Links allows you to change the way a link looks on your site.

Instead of showing you the longer link to my Facebook group.

Which looks like this (https://www.facebook.com/groups/bloggerxl/).

I’ve shortened it down with Pretty Links to this (https://staging.bloggerxl.com/facebook/).

Pretty Links Settings

The same thing goes for affiliate links. Instead of having my WPX Hosting link show up as (https://wpxhosting.com/?affid=1527), I have it as (https://staging.bloggerxl.com/recommends/wpxhosting).

Tools

The main difference between tools and plugins, in this case, is whether or not you need to install them onto your website.

Plugins are all tools that you can install directly to your WordPress install, whereas tools are things that you use without installing it to your WordPress site.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Google PageSpeed is a handle tool for those looking to improve their site’s load time. 

Google PageSpeed Insights

All you need to do is enter your site’s URL and let Google analyze how quickly your site loads up, what issues need to be fixed, and how you can fix them.

Now, that search engines are looking at the mobile version of your website as the original version; your site needs to load lighting quick.

You can read my guide on WordPress speed optimization to learn how to fix all of the issues you may see on Google PageSpeed Insights.

Longtail Pro/aherfs/Ubersuggests

If your website focuses on content marketing (which it should if you’re on BloggerXL), then you’ll need a keyword tool.

Keyword research tools help you find the best keywords for you to target your content around.

For example, the search term that I am targeting for this post is essential WordPress plugins.

Longtail Pro

Longtail Pro use to be a desktop software that you’d have to download. However, now it’s a cloud app, and that boosts the usability by a lot.

First off, you find out these things about every keyword:

  • Number of Monthly Searches
  • Competitiveness of Each Keyword
  • Average CPC 
  • Data Based on Location

When I say, the data based on the location here’s what I mean. Google likes to show slightly different results based on the area you’re using Google. 

For example, here are the results for the search term “Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks” for UK searchers.

Why Affiliate Marketing Sucks (UK Search Results)

Also, here are the results for the same keyword for searchers in the US.

Notice how they are slightly different?

There are other things that you can do with Longtail Pro.

However, I plan on writing up a full review of it so that I will mention everything there.

For those looking for more power in their tool, ahrefs is the best bet.

At $99/mo, ahrefs can pretty much do everything.

Those who want a keyword tool, but can’t afford the two mentioned above will like Ubersuggests by Neil Patel.

It can do many things the other two can do; however, it’s 100% free (forever it looks like).

Trello

Trello is a handy tool that you can use to stay organized. You can use it to create a to-do list for yourself.

Trello Homepage

Similar to Basecamp, you can create tasks and assign them to different people (in this case, using color codes).

I think it’s a better alternative to Basecamp if you’re a solopreneur and you’re not working with many freelancers.

It’s free to use, and you can make your to-do lists as complicated or as simple as you like.

Here’s an example of a simple board.

Trello Simple Board

Also, here is an example of a board with a lot more information on it.

Trello Complicated Board

Finishing Off With a Question

So that is my list of essential WordPress plugins.

Author’s Edit: I will be coming back to this post to add a bunch of extra tools since there wasn’t a lot here.

I wanted to ask you a few questions, and it will help improve the quality of this list if you could answer them.

  1. What Awesome Plugins Haven’t I Included Here?
  2. Do You Have Any Alternative Plugins to The Ones Mentioned?
  3. What’s Your Opinion on The Plugins Listed?
  4. Which Plugins Haven’t You Used on This List (and Why)?

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Anthony Beckles

Anthony Beckles

Hey creators, I'm Anthony (Founder of BloggerXL). My goal is to help you get started creating content. So, join my community to stay connected with me and other future creators.

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