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Essential WordPress Plugins for Every Website

Every Website Should Be Using These WordPress Plugins for Security, Performance, and Backups

This post lists and reviews essential WordPress plugins we believe every website should be using. These plugins fall into four different categories; security, performance, backup and functionality.

Essential Plugin Categories

  • Security
  • Performance
  • Backup
  • Functionality
WordPress Security Plugins
WordPress Security Plugins
“Search engines like Google rank sites on many factors, but the most important factor is user experience. If a website is slow or insecure, you will be unable to achieve the #1 goal of your site, to attract visitors.”
WordFence Security Plugin
WordFence Security Plugin

#1: WordPress Security Plugins

An insecure website is bad for you and your visitors, and a sure fire way to get your site removed from Google. However, securing your site with a WordPress security plugin is not that hard, it just takes a little effort on your part. There are many good plugins available to secure your site, but we recommend WordFence since it offers several great features to help keep your site secure.

 

  • Prevents brute force login attacks.
  • WordPress firewall
  • Customizable file scanning
  • Real-time blocking of attacks
  • Monitoring
  • 100% Free! (Premium Version Available)

Installing WordFence is easy, just go to your dashboard, click plugins, add new, then type WordFence in the search box.

W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache WordPress Performance Plugin

#2: WordPress Performance Plugins

Studies show people expect a page to load in only 2-3 seconds, and that there is a dramatic increase in page abandonment rates for every additional second it takes your page to load. Studies also show that people are hesitant to return to a site after experiencing issues such as slow loading times.

How Do I Improve The Performance of My Website?

The first thing you need is obvious, but not covered here in this blog post, and that is a good web host. However, the good news is you do not need an expensive host or a dedicated server.

We have optimized many websites to load fast on shared servers where the hosting accounts are very cheap. You just need the right combination of plugins and a web host that will allow you to install plugins and possibly edit your .htaccess file.

Essential Performance Plugins

  • Cache
  • CSS Minify
  • JS Minify
  • Compression (gzip)

There are of course other types of performance plugins that may or may not be useful for your site, but we are focusing on “essential” plugins here in this article and these are four areas you will need to address to ensure your site loads fast.

W3 Total Cache

This is our favorite WordPress performance plugin since it addresses all of the areas listed above. However, we do not always use this plugin for compression, as we have occasionally had issues with this particular feature. We recommend enabling gzip compression and doing a Google PageSpeed test to determine if it works properly for your site.

At My Island Designs, we are big fans of W3 Total Cache and have used it to achieve very good Google PageSpeed and Pingdom website speed test scores for countless sites.

You can install W3 Total Cache from within your WordPress dashboard. To configure this plugin we recommend reading “The Ultimate Guide To W3 Total Cache Settings.”

WordPress Compression Plugin

Gzip compression reduces the size of files delivered to a visitors browser, which decreases page load time. Compression is also one of the tests Google PageSpeed performs, which means it may also be used as a ranking factor.

If W3 Total Cache does not compress all of your content we recommend using the GZip Ninja Speed plugin for compression, and it can be added to your site from within your dashboard.

WordPress Functionality Plugins

WordPress Backup Plugins

#3 WordPress Backup Plugins

All-in-One Migration: Backing up your site is an essential part of maintaining your WordPress website. If your site is every hacked or crashes due to a WordPress or plugin update you will be glad you have a backup of your files and database.

We recommend regular backups, but the frequency depends on how often you update your site. However, you will certainly want to backup your site after any major changes to ensure all your hard work is not lost.

What we love most about All-in-One Migration is that it not only creates a backup of your site, but it is also a great tool for migrating your site to a new host or from a local server to a web host.

#4 WordPress Functionality Plugins

This topic is very broad and will be different for every WordPress website. However, we have created a list of some of our favorite plugins that added functionality to the front and backend of some of the website we have created.

One Essential Plugin

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO handles your meta-tags for you, including the Title tag and description tag. These tags are very important for SEO, especially the Title tag. Yoast SEO has a lot of indispensable tools that analyze the SEO of each page and post, which helps you optimize your website, without over-optimizing which can incur the wrath of search engines like Google and Bing.

 

 

 Other Recommended Plugins

 

  • Search & Replace: This is an excellent tool that we use to search and replace text and URL’s within the WordPress database. For example, this tool can be used to replace all instances of a HEX color code when redesigning your site.
  • Caldera Forms: This is our favorite form builder. It has tons of useful features and allows you to build both simple and complex forms easily.
  • Newsletter: Add a newsletter to your website using this WordPress plugin. This is a great way to stay in touch with visitors to your site.
  • Font Awesome 4 Menus: This plugin allows you to add font icons to your menu, just like you see here on our site. The great thing about this plugin is once it is installed you will have the ability to add the icons anywhere on your site using the code found at http://fontawesome.io/icons/
  • Auto Terms of Service and Privacy Policy: A plugin that does exactly what its name says, it allows you to easily add a privacy policy and terms of services page to your site. Every website should include both of these pages.
Marketing Chart
W3 Total Cache WordPress Performance Plugin

Final Thoughts

A fast and secure site is crucial if you want to be found on major search engines like Google and Bing. It is also an essential part of any marketing campaign since visitors are unlikely to wait for a slow site to load and first impressions are just as important online as they are offline. Creating great content is a waste of your time if your visitors never see it so follow the links below to test your site.

Summary

  1. Only Download Plugins from WordPress.org.
  2. Secure Your Site With a Reputable Plugin.
  3. Install Performance Plugins to Improve Page Speed.
  4. Test Your Site Using Google PageSpeedPingdom Tools.

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