These are the WordPress plugins that I install on every website I build. You don’t want to have too many plugins on your website or it can slow your site down, but this is the list of essentials that to me are must-haves for every website. (I have included a few alternatives below too.)
Plugins to install when you set up your website:
Elementor is the pagebuilder I work with to build custom websites in WordPress without touching a line of code (and that my website templates are built with).
Elementor is a free plugin which allows you to build you website, 100% code free, in a drag-and-drop, WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) page-builder.
If you want all the benefits of WordPress, without the coding headache, Elementor is the number 1 page builder for me (and I’ve tried them all!)
While you can do a helluvalot with Elementor, Elementor Pro let’s you take it to the next level. (If you’re a client of mine, or purchase one of my Elementor website templates, you get Elementor Pro free for 12 months too 💃🏻)
Say Goodbye to comment spam on your WordPress blog or website. Antispam Bee blocks spam comments and trackbacks effectively, without captchas and without sending personal information to third party services. It is free of charge, ad-free and 100% GDPR compliant.
This is a plugin specifically used with Elementor to capture all form submissions made through your website into a database.
If you’re ever concerned you’ve missed an enquiry or realise some have gone to spam, you can jump into Elementor DB and view all the form submissions.
4. Custom Fonts
This plugin helps you easily upload custom fonts files (woff2, woff, ttf, svg, eot, otf) to your WordPress website, and works seamlessly with Elementor and the Astra theme. This means you can upload your brand fonts and make sure you keep brand consistency and build brand recognition across all platforms.
There are a whole lot of SEO plugins out there and every developer will have their own fave for their own reasons. And SEOPress is my personal fave.
I like it because it integrates with Elementor and you can easily update your page SEO details as you’re editing your page. I also find it intuitive to use and very simple and easy, where some SEO plugins make everything feel complicated and overwhelming.
(You should at least enter in a Title and Meta Description for each page of your website. Include SEO keywords and make the description enticing to lure in those clicks from Google!)
Some other great SEO plugins are: All in One SEO, Yoast and Rankmath.
You website load speed directly impacts your conversion (because how annoying is it when you have to wait 5 seconds for a page to load 🙄)
One big way to improve page load speed? Optimising your images. This starts with making sure they’re not too big to begin with (max 1MB, ideally >500KB for non-banner images). I then like to put them through tinypng.com to compress them even further.
And finally, I install Smush and compress them all one last time on the website. I’ve found Smush to be the image compression plugin that does the most images on the free plan, and does an incredible job at saving space and compressing your images to load faster – without losing image quality.
Want to add some CSS to your website? Simple CSS is a plugin that integrates seamlessly with Elementor so you can easily add CSS code when building your page with Elementor.
These are the plugins you’ll want to install, activate and setup once your website is ready for launch:
You want to make sure you’re taking backups of your website, so that in case of some kind of website error, you can restore your website to the last working version. Most Website Hosts take backups – but you can never be too careful, so it’s a great idea to have an additional backup elsewhere. UpdraftPlus simplifies backups and restoration and is the world’s highest ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin. You can backup your files and database backups into the cloud and restore with a single click!
There is a paid version of UpdraftPlus, but you can use the free version to set up backups to go to a Dropbox.
A security plugin is essential. Wordfence is a free plugin that does a great job at keeping your site secure.
If your website comes under fire, or you’re seeing an increase in hacking attempts, you can always upgrade to the Pro version for some extra security. Though I have always found the free version works well enough for me!
10. A Caching Plugin (Breeze, WP Rocket or Swift Performance)
The purpose of a caching plugin is to optimize your WordPress website and reduce the load time of the web pages to create a good user experience. A fast loading website is directly linked to better conversions, so it’s important to install a caching plugin. But which one?
If you’re using Cloudways I recommend using Breeze. It’s a free, user-friendly, simple yet powerful WordPress caching plugin developed by Cloudways.
If speed is really important to you, I recommend the paid version of WP Rocket. It includes some extra features for optimising your website and making your website load times faster.
If you’re not using Cloudways and do not want to pay for WP Rocket, then Swift Performance is another popular caching plugin, however I have experienced a few times where it has conflicted with other plugins. Generally, it should work well though and has a high rating.
Broken Link Checker monitors and tests all internal links & external links on your site looking for broken links. It helps you fix bad links to improve SEO and user experience.
It’s quite common for your form submissions and website email communication to go to spam. That includes admin emails, purchase confirmation emails for customers, form submissions etc.
To combat this, you’ll need to set up an SMTP plugin to ensure both you, and your clients reliably receive all emails and communication from your website.
WP Mail SMTP is my go-to for this – there is a free version that works with Gmail or Google Workspace – or you can opt for the Pro version.
13. Google Site Kit
Site Kit is the official WordPress plugin from Google for insights about how people find and use your site. Site Kit is the one-stop solution to deploy, manage, and get insights from critical Google tools to make the site successful on the web. It provides authoritative, up-to-date insights from multiple Google products directly on the WordPress dashboard for easy access, all for free.
Monster Insights is another really great plugin for Integrating with Google Analytics and easily viewing results in your WordPress dashboard.
Here are some additional, non-essential (but very handy) plugins you may wish to install:
14. WP Code – Insert Headers and Footers
If you’ve ever used a program like Flodesk that has asked you to “paste this code in the <head> of your website – you’ve likely panicked at the thought of having to mess around with the code on your website.
Fear not, Insert Headers and Footers is a super easy way to do this, without ANY advanced skills necessary.
Want your instagram feed displayed all pretty like on your website? I use the free Smash Balloon Instagram Feed for mine.
There’s a few different plugin options to do this, but I’ve found the Smash Balloon plugin has the most features for the free version, and it’s all I’ve ever needed!
WooCommerce is a free – yep, free! – e-commerce plugin for WordPress. You can upload, manage and sell products with WooCommerce – and paired with Elementor you can design your shop to look any way you like! It’s a dream.
If you’re wanting more complex features, there’s also a bunch of paid add-ons that you can use with WooCommerce to take your shop to the next level with endless capability.
Hotjar may be one of my favourite plugins ever. Hotjar screenrecords each visitor on your site, and you can watch the playback and see how people are interacting with your website.
You can use this to optimise your customer journey on your website, see where people keep dropping off, view the way people engage with your site and improve copy, CTA’s and everything based on how people engage with your website.
(The amount of times I’ve realised I hadn’t updated a button link because I watch it direct them to the wrong page and kicked myself 🙈)
Warning: Hotjar is wildly addictive so I now just jump on about each quarter and do a little analysis session and watch for any ways I can improve the client journey.
Oh, and of course, their privacy is protected and you don’t know who is visiting your site! It’s kinda creepy, but not that creepy.