Useful WordPress Plugins
I wanted to talk a little about some useful WordPress plugins that I use when building WordPress sites. Of course every site is unique and has its own needs and requires slightly different plugins, but there’s a core set of useful WordPress Plugins I install and configure before doing anything else. These plugins will save you time, make your sites perform better, and help you integrate with third parties.
Below you will find my list of useful WordPress plugins, which I have divided into similar categories and expanded on individually.
Security And Performance
Clef – Clef is a two-factor authentication plugin that secures your site even if you’re not using SSL. It replaces the standard password login form with a slick image based authentication scheme which requires you to have your phone handy when you login. This is usually the very first plugin I install, and afterwards I disable password login for all users and require them to use Clef.
W3 Total Cache – I have spoken of page caching before, and this is by far the most feature rich and compatible page caching plugin I have found. Setup is easy and it has worked with the half dozen or so WordPress themes I use. If you’re not using any page caching, I strongly encourage you to checkout this plugin. The free version will suffice for most users and small businesses, but the premium services are fantastic as well.
Contact Form 7 – Contact Form 7, or CF7 for the cool kids, is the de factor contact form plugin for WordPress. It has over a million active installs which should tell you everything you need to know about it. It integrates with just about every reputable theme, and is highly customizable, and works beautifully with very little fuss. I also recommend the Contact Form DB plugin, which can store all contact form submissions in a database, which is great to keep historical records of contact submissions and ensure you see every submission, even if your email provider filters some of them.
Duplicate Post – It still blows my mind that this isn’t part of the standard WordPress system. It lets you clone any page or post type, which has literally saved me hours of time by eliminating boiler plate.
Yoast SEO – Every page and post you create should at least have SEO in mind, if not front and center. This plugin will help you target each page and post you create to specific keywords, and then give you hints about what to add or change to make sure your content will make Google happy. It also helps with other SEO practices such as site maps, bread crumbs, etc.
Google Analytics by Yoast – I use Google Analytics to help track site usage and conversion on all my client sites, and this plugin gives me a great way to get high level user data right from the WordPress admin console.
MailChimp For WordPress – MailChimp is an awesome email marketing tool for businesses. It is incredibly feature rich and free for what most small businesses would use it for, and when you’re ready to scale up, it scales with you. This plugin makes registering for newsletters and other MailChimp forms incredibly simple.
Where To Find Useful WordPress Plugins
The best place to start your search is wordpress.org. Here you will find thousands of plugins along with reviews and compatibility reports for most versions of WordPress. It’s usually pretty clear from the plugin page if it’s being actively supported, and if there is a premium paid version you can upgrade to for additional functionality or support. Luckily installing these plugins is pretty easy from the admin console, and there is little investment required to try different plugins out. Just be careful not to activate and deactivate too many plugins, as it can leave a lot of junk in your MySQL database. This is usually a problem but there’s no good way to clean it up, even after removing a plugin, and over time the extra rows in the main posts and metadata tables might slow you down.
Another site you can checkout for paid plugins in Code Canyon. I use this to find very specific plugins for niche uses, such as modifying WooCommerce behavior. You’ll get the same ratings and reviews as wordpress.org, but it’s not always clear if a plugin will be compatible with your version of WordPress. The plugins range from $10 and above, and usually come with some period of support. I’ve also noticed a lot of plugin authors will provide custom enhancements to help meet very specific needs, so it’s a great resource to use if you have a really unique need that isn’t met by a free plugin.