The Essential Guide To Must-Have WordPress Plugins And Tools For Your Blog

Must Have WordPress Plugins

Wondering which plugins to install on your WordPress blog? But not sure which of the thousands of plugins you need?

No problem. I’ve got you covered!

In this post, I’ll share my favourite plugins for installing on new WordPress websites.

But a quick note first:

“Must-have” plugins don’t really exist. It’s the type of plugin that is essential.

So, I’ll tell you how each plugin will help you, and provide alternatives that may fit your circumstances or budget better.

And because what qualifies as a “must-have” is somewhat subjective, I’ll label some plugins with “optional.” that you may not need, but would be good to have depending on your needs.

Let’s get started:

Essential WordPress plugins and tools for your blog

1. WP Rocket (Caching Plugin)

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is much more than just a caching plugin. It’s the WordPress speed optimization plugin to rule them all.

So, if you want to speed your website, this one of the best plugins you can use.

Aside from the usual caching functionality, it comes with a bunch of other useful features which include:

Now, a lot of these types of plugins are not easy to setup. But this is hands-down, the most user friendly caching/optimization plugin I’ve found so far.

But, it’s worth noting that if your host has it’s own caching plugin (e.g. Kinsta/Siteground), you won’t need this.

Use this plugin to: Speed up your website.

Pricing: Starts from $49.

Get WP Rocket

WP Rocket Alternatives: There are alternatives such as WP Fastest Cache (free) and WP Super Cache (free), but they’re more complicated to use, and features such as lazy loading aren’t included which means installing extra plugins.

For more options, be sure to check out my post on plugins to speed up your WordPress website.

2. Sucuri (Website Security Platform)

Sucuri Security

Keeping your WordPress website secure is incredibly important because there are people that will try to break in. And bots, too.

But, with Sucuri’s Website Security Platform, you get a bunch of features to help you out.

These include:

  • Cloud based web-application firewall that filters traffic
  • Virtual patching against security vulnerabilities
  • Malware scanning and removal
  • Blacklist monitoring
  • Mitigation against DDoS attacks
  • Content delivery network to reduce server load and improve page load times

An added bonus of this platform is that you’ll get a CDN. Couple that with a decent caching plugin, and you’ll improve page load times dramatically.

But, above all else, the feature that attracted me to this platform is the ability to stop anyone from logging into my site unless I whitelist the IP address first. This stops a lot of issues.

Now, let me be clear – I’m not a security expert but Sucuri have got me out of a few scrapes over the years. And helped me avoid a lot of hack attempts.

Use this plugin to: Secure your WordPress website and speed up your website.

Pricing: The basic plan is $199.99/year but it doesn’t support SSL, so really the $299.99/yr plan would be needed. Bandwidth is unlimited and means you would never need to purchase a third-party CDN service.

Get Sucuri

Sucuri Alternatives: Sucuri has saved me a lot more money than it’s cost me. But, if you’re just starting out and need a free plugin to improve security, there are a bunch to choose from.

Sucuri have a free plugin that provides auditing, malware scanning, and security hardening functionality. Then there’s Wordfence and iThemes Security – both have free versions but they can be a bit of a resource hog.

If you use any of these plugins, it’s worth using the free Login No Catcha reCAPTCHA plugin as well. This adds a captcha box on your login page, and is usually enough to stop most “brute force” login attempts.

For a complete breakdown on security plugins, be sure to check out our guide to security plugins for WordPress.

3. UpdraftPlus (Backup Plugin)

UpdraftPlus

Don’t be the person that spends a year publishing content on their blog, only to lose it all because they don’t have a backup!

With UpdraftPlus, you can get your entire site backed up and sent to the cloud for safe keeping.

A few core features include:

  • Backup your database and files with ease
  • Restore your website with the click of a button
  • Send your backups to cloud platforms like Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, etc.
  • Send your backups via email, or FTP

It’s true that a lot of web hosts offer backup services, but you should never rely on them 100%. Use them, sure. But always keep backups you control.

Here’s why: A few years ago, a popular UK web host deleted my SEO clients entire blog by accident.

The host referred my client to their terms of service to relinquish themselves of any responsibility, and their editor spent the next month sifting through emails of half written articles so he could rebuild the blog.

The lesson: don’t take chances!

Use this plugin to: Backup your entire blog and send it to to the cloud via Dropbox, or Google Drive, etc.

Pricing: Free – it’s all you need!

Get UpdraftPlus

UpdraftPlus Alternatives:

There are a bunch of great backup solutions on the market. UpdraftPlus provides a great solution for smaller sites.

But as your website grows, you’ll find that plugins the work within WordPress will get slower, and be more prone to time-outs (although that partly depends on your host).

So, I use an off-site solution. Since I’m a Sucuri customer, I pay an extra $5/month per site for a rock-solid and scalable backup solution.

Alternatively, BlogVault is another option here. They offer incremental backups to minimise server load. And they’re especially good if you have clients as they offer white-label functionality.

For more on backup solutions, be sure to check out my article on WordPress backup plugins and tools.

4. All In One SEO (SEO Plugin)

All In One SEO Pack

When it comes to SEO, WordPress leaves a lot to be desired. But, All In One SEO will give you all the features you need.

Here are some of the main features I use:

  • Page/post level control over SEO settings – Want to give your post a specific title for search engines? No index it? Or write a meta description optimized to drive more clicks? No problem, you can do all of that and more.
  • XML Sitemap – Submit this to search engines like Google, and it’ll help get your content indexed.
  • Control over how taxonomies are indexed – It may not make sense for your tags or categories to be indexed by Google, so you can noindex them with this plugin.
  • Image attachment page redirects – WordPress creates a new page for each image and they aren’t needed. This feature redirects those pages to the parent post/page where the images were added.

Over the years, I’ve used a bunch of SEO plugins but I always come back to All In One SEO.

Use this plugin to: Optimize your website for search engines.

Pricing: A substantial free version is available, with paid plans starting from $97.

Get All in One SEO Pack Free  Get All in One SEO Pack Premium

All In One SEO Alternatives:

If you’re looking for an alternative, Yoast SEO is well worth checking out. This used to be my go-to plugin but I have had issues with it.

For example: A bug in version 7.0 caused ranking drops some users, and they keep changing the interface, and seem to have moved more and more free features to the paid version.

Be sure to check out our post on SEO plugins for WordPress, where we dive deeper into other plugins you may want to check out.

Not-so-essential (but still damn useful) WordPress plugins for your blog

We’ve covered the essential and “must-have” WordPress plugins.

Now, let’s explore WordPress plugins that add specific functionality to your site.

5. Thrive Leads (Lead Generation Plugin)

Thrive Leads

The biggest regret I have is not building an email list sooner. It is by far, one of the best ways to build a website, and encourage purchases.

Thrive Leads is the most functional WordPress lead generation plugin I’ve found for deploying opt-in forms and other calls-to-action (CTA’s).

Here’s why:

  • A true drag & drop editor for extensive form customization
  • Add a variety of opt-in form types to your site (widgets, popovers, content lockers, in-content, after post, ribbons, slide-ins, 2-step forms, etc.)
  • Split test not only different forms, but opt-in form types to find what converts
  • Powerful targeting functionality to ensure opt-in forms are tailored for your content
  • 50+ opt-in form templates to get you started

When I rebuilt my agencies lead generation setup, I used Thrive Leads. I created several different lead magnets and deployed opt-in forms that were tailored to my WordPress categories.

… boosting email subscription rates by 300% in the process.

Use this plugin to: Deploy targeted opt-in forms to grow your email list.

Pricing: Starts from $67 for 12 months support and lifetime updates (yes, lifetime updates!).

Get Thrive Leads Read Review

Thrive Leads Alternatives:

There are a few other powerful opt-in form plugins out there. ConvertPro is a solid option, but it’s a bit more expensive.

If you use Elementor, you may want to check out their new popups feature, but you’ll need to get Elementor Pro.

But, if you’re only looking for a simple way of adding an opt-in form to your site, WP Subscribe is available for free. Although, it is more limited than the options I mentioned earlier.

For a full run down of opt-in form plugins, and other plugins to build your email list, check out this post.

6. Social Snap (Social Sharing Plugin)

Social Snap

Social networks have the potential to drive a lot of traffic to your website. That’s why it makes sense to make it as easy as possible for your content to be shared.

Not only that, but to also ensure when your content is shared, it looks as eye-catching as possible.

This is where Social Snap comes in – a powerful social media plugin for WordPress.

But, what can it do? Here are a few stand out features:

  • Add social sharing buttons to various locations on your blog, including inline buttons, floating sidebar, sticky bars, widgets, shortcodes, on images, etc.
  • Customise the look of your buttons, to make them stand out
  • Choose from over 30 social networks
  • You have the option of showing total or individual share counters, while hiding low share counts to avoid negative social proof
  • Display click-to-tweet boxes to encourage sharing

One of my favourite features is the ability to choose how content is shared on social networks.

This includes support for Twitter Cards, and OpenGraph. So, you can add an image that’s sized perfectly for sharing on social. And a separate Pinterest image (vertical images get more traction over there!).

You can also choose the titles and descriptions of your articles when they’re shared on social platforms.

Use this plugin to: add eye-catching social share buttons, add OpenGraph tags, encourage social sharing, and more.

Pricing: A limited free version is available at WordPress.org. Full version starts at $39.

Get Social Snap

Social Snap Alternatives:

I mentioned Social Snap mainly because of its extensive feature set. But, if you’ve been reading Blogging Wizard for a while now, you’ll know I’m also a big fan of the Social Warfare plugin. Their pro version comes in at $29, and they also have a limited free version available.

And both plugins share a number of similarities in terms of features.

Want more details? Check out my article on the best WordPress social sharing plugins.

7. Redirection (Redirection Management Plugin)

Redirection

WordPress has a way of managing URL changes under the hood. But, the fact URL changes are hidden and operates automatically feels too dangerous to me.

After all, when search engines and users can’t find their way to the right piece of content, that’s when you lose traffic and sales.

That’s why, it makes sense to use a plugin like Redirection to handle URL redirects manually.

To give the situation more context:

Let’s say you publish a post and for some reason you want to change the URL. Maybe you’re doing a content audit and removing under performing content. Or maybe, there’s a typo in a permalink for a post you just published.

The original URL may be included on another site. If a user clicks through, they’ll find your 404 error page – not good for user experience.

And if that post was ranking in Google, by changing a URL, you’ll have lost your rankings.

By using this plugin, you can ensure search engines and users always find their way to the correct URL.

A few important notes:

  • Best practice for managing redirects is to manually add redirects via your .htaccess folder. This will result in better performance but if you’re not comfortable editing code, it should be avoided because a stray full-stop could bring down your site.
  • While this plugin does allow you to monitor 404 errors, I recommend turning this feature off because it is a complete resource hog!

Use this plugin to: Manage 301 URL redirects for your WordPress website.

Pricing: Free.

Get Redirection

Redirection Alternatives:

One popular alternative is the free Safe Redirect Manager plugin.

Wrapping it up

We’ve talked through a bunch of useful plugins and tools. Now it’s time to make sure you’ve got those essential WordPress plugins installed.

Once you’ve got the important stuff sorted, it’s time to consider adding the not-so-essential (but still damn useful) plugins.

Want more WordPress goodness? Be sure to check out our category of WordPress articles for more.

 

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