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Plugins Every WordPress Site Should Have Installed

April 12, 2020, , ,

The base install of WordPress is good but it lacks functionality that the majority of WordPress websites require. The developers have spent a lot of time making WordPress expandable through the use of plugins and its various APIs and this has resulted in an abundance of plugins that offer functionality for pretty much anything you could want.

When developing a new WordPress website there is a set stack of plugins that web developers install for each and every project. We have put together a list of some of the best based on a few categories. These include:

  • Forms
  • Security
  • Backups
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Performance
  • Custom Fields

Forms

There are so many form builder plugins on the market that it can be difficult to know which is the best for your site. You must consider couple of different aspects, these being performance and functionality. A lot of form builder plugins offer some impressive functionality but as a tradeoff, load excessive amounts of JavaScript files that will add load time to your site. A great form builder has easy point and click functionality and shouldn’t jeopardize performance. Below are two plugins we recommended and consistently use on our client websites.

Fluent Forms

Although Fluent Forms don’t have a massive number of site installs (10,000 at the time of writing) it is by far one of the most polished and feature rich form builders around. Just because a plugin developer hasn’t nailed the marketing of their product doesn’t mean it isn’t great.

Fluent Forms is super lightweight on the front-end of a website and has a fantastic drag and drop editor and supports a large range of field types and integrations. There is a free and premium version with the pro version being one of the cheapest available and with a lifetime licence. What we love about Fluent Forms the most is that it only loads its required CSS and JavaScript files when a form is present on a page. This keeps your site optimised for performance.

Fluent Form Pro integrates with the following platforms:

  • Mailchimp
  • Slack
  • ActiveCampaign
  • Zapier
  • MailerLite
  • HubSpot
  • Google Sheets
  • Twilio
  • Stripe and Paypal
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Plus, a handful more

There are too many features to list on this post but you can read more on the WP Manage Ninja website here: https://wpmanageninja.com/wp-fluent-form/

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is the grand-daddy of form builders being one of the first to become available. It has an impressive 5+ million active installs. It is basic in nature, only offering two integrations out of the box and it has a primitive form builder. Nether the less, it is very light weight and loads incredibly quick on the front-end of a website.

Contact Form 7 is a very capable form builder however can require a developer if you need it to do something special. This plugin is our second choice for a form builder and although it doesn’t come with all the bell and whistles, it is very reliable and free.

You can learn more about Contact Form 7 here: https://en-au.wordpress.org/plugins/contact-form-7/

Security

There is a great illusion that WordPress is not a secure content management system. Although many WordPress sites do get hacked each and every day, it is mainly due to not updating core and plugins files or weak user passwords.

Many security measures can be taken without the need of any security plugins; however, this will require a developer who knows what they are doing. If you don’t have access to a good developer, well this is where a security plugin can come in handy. Please be warned, some security plugins can decrease the performance of your WordPress website as they can be too busy wasting server resources performing scans and providing real-time data. I’m looking at you WordFence (in their defense, this functionality can be disabled).

iThemes Security

This plugin has been around for many years and has over 900,000 active installs. It is a tried and tested security platform and continues to outperform many others in an ever-growing market. iThemes Security has all the powerful features would you expect from a security plugin and with low resource usage, having next to no performance impact on the front-end of your website.

Features include:

  • WordPress brute force protection
  • Strong password enforcement
  • Hide login and admin
  • File change detection
  • Away mode
  • Database backups
  • And many more…

The plugin configuration is easy and offers many prompts to help the non-techy user. SevenDev uses iThemes Security on every website we build and not once have we been let down with its capability. Best of all it’s free with the option to upgrade to a premium version.

You can learn more about iThemes Security here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/better-wp-security/

Backups

Every website must have a backup procedure and no security plan is complete without one. When your site is victim to a malicious intruder or you updated a dodgy plugin and now your site is broken, restoring from a backup will be your saving grace. Backups should be performed at both the server and website level and stored remotely.

You never want to store your backups on your hosting server because if it goes down, you will not have access to your backups either. This is a bad situation to be in and you won’t be having a good time. There a number of backup solutions available on the market but we recommend and use one plugin consistently across all of our websites. It’s called Updraft Backup Plus.

UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus is a complete backup solution that offers both a free and premium version. It offers:

  • Schedule backups
  • Remote storage to popular cloud hosting such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Amazon S3
  • Restores backed-up entries from the dashboard with one-click
  • Proven to backup websites 100GB in size
  • Incremental backups that can be set to a schedule
  • Database encrypted backups
  • Backup non-WordPress files and databases

For the years we have used this backup plugin we have never had an issue with it failing or corrupted/loss data. Once it is configured you can forget about it but still have comfort knowing that the plugin is doing its job. Some of the world largest companies utilise UpdraftPlus and it has been installed on more than 2 million sites.

You can learn more about UpdraftPlus here: https://updraftplus.com/

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is the process of optimising your website to get organic traffic from search engine results. It doesn’t matter how good your website or content is, if people are unable to find your website, then it is not fulfilling its intended purpose.

By adding an SEO plugin to your WordPress site, it allows you to configure metadata for each page or post to best help Google find and rank your content. WordPress and most themes are built out of the box to be search engine friendly but a dedicated SEO plugin will give you an extra boost and often connect your sites directly with Google services such as Search Console and Analytics.

SEOPress

At SevenDev we use a great plugin called SEOPress. It offers a free and premium version, but the premium is well worth the money. It comes with a simple installation wizard, which will get you setup and running within a couple minutes. There are so many features available in SEOPress it would be easier to take a look at this comparison table to get a good run down. https://www.seopress.org/features/

Some of the features we enjoy the most include:

  • XML and HTML sitemaps
  • Content Analysis
  • Google structured data type
  • Redirection
  • 404 monitoring
  • URL rewriting
  • Social media integration
  • Import data from other SEO plugins

At $39USD it is very well priced compared to other premium SEO plugins on the market. It is light weight and leaves no code bloat on the frontend of your website. SEOPress integrates perfectly with many other 3rd party plugins from e-commerce platforms to page builders which are all reasons why it is our top pick.

You can learn more about SEOPress here: https://www.seopress.org/

Performance

According to performance monitoring website GT Metrix, the average load time for a website is around 7 seconds. The reality is that if your website takes longer than 5 seconds to load you are most likely losing traffic. The internet loves fast loading websites and if yours is sluggish, you are being penalised by search engines and providing a less than desirable user experience.

Over time, WordPress websites are notorious for slowing down when not in the hands of an expert. The database becomes filled with unused information and uncompressed images make their way on the pages and blog posts. These scenarios plus many others will all lead to your website performing badly. We actually did an article on why your WordPress site may run slow and how to fix it. You can read that here: https://www.sevendev.com.au/why-your-website-runs-slow-and-how-to-fix-it/

WP-Optimize

Simple, effective and organised. These are great ways to describe WP-Optimize, a plugin to designed to clean your database, compress your images and provide server-side caching. When you install and delete countless plugins, information is left in the database which increases its physical file size. The larger the database, the longer it takes for WordPress to extract and display your content on a page. WP-Optmize will help you remove orphaned data keeping your WordPress running as smooth as butter (granted your site is built well to begin with). At SevenDev, we use the free version of the plugin on our own website for page caching and are getting fantastic results.

You can learn more about WP-Optimize here: https://getwpo.com/

WP Rocket

There are many full-service caching plugins available on the market but there is one that stands above the rest. WP Rocket. By only activating the plugin, you will see immediate results and with some simple configuration those result can improve even further. WP Rocket supports the following features:

  • Page caching
  • Cache preloading
  • Static file compression
  • Images on request
  • Developer friendly hooks and filters
  • GZIP compression
  • Database optimisation
  • Minification and concatenation
  • And much more

SevenDev uses WP Rocket for all the online stores we develop using WooCommerce or Easy Digital Downloads. This is due to fact that WP Rocket has great e-commerce compatibility and doesn’t cache carts and checkouts. Unfortunately, WP Rocket is only a premium plugin with prices starting at $49 USD a year.

You can learn more about WP Rocket here: https://wp-rocket.me/

Custom Fields

Out of the box WordPress is somewhat limited in regards to the data that a standard post, page or custom post type can capture. Without the help of plugins (or a good developer), you are restricted to the title, content, categories and tag fields. If you want to add a star rating to a review blog post you would need to create a custom field to save that data to the post. Lucky, there are a handful of great plugins to achieve this but at SevenDev we love one in particular called Advanced Custom Fields.

Advanced Custom Fields

With both free and premium versions available, Advanced Custom Fields is one of the most downloaded WordPress plugins and we personally use it on every WordPress build we do. ACF allows you to create field groups that can be applied to posts based on a large number of conditions. You can show fields based on post type, if a page is using a certain template, whether a post belongs to a particular category and many, many more scenarios.

ACF has over 30 field types with some very powerful options including:

  • Gallery
  • Google map
  • Date time picker
  • File
  • Tabs and accordions
  • Repeater
  • Wysiwyg editor
  • Relationship
  • Groups

Apart from custom fields, ACF also packs powerful features that allows you to create custom Gutenberg blocks, Option pages and front-end forms. ACF is a staple tool for many web developers and has been an important part of the development process for a million+ websites. ACF offers a powerful free version which usually has enough features for most website builds, however if you are needing the Pro features you can pick it up for $49 AUD a year.

You can learn more about Advanced Custom Fields here: https://www.advancedcustomfields.com/

Well there you have it. Our list of plugins that all WordPress sites would benefit from. Of course, every project and website has different requirements, but on average we install these plugins on all sites we build here at SevenDev. These are products that we firmly believe in and have no issues recommending them to other developers and website owners. Please ensure before installing any plugins that you take a full backup of your website just in case things do not go according to plan.

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