WordPress – Do It Right, Part 2: Your Top 7 Essential WordPress Plugins

By 6th August 2012 WordPress Guides

WordPress LogoWordPress plugins are a joy and curse.

Setting up WordPress with the plugins you need can be a little overwhelming with the sheer amount of choice available.

How can you be sure which of the many different plugins, that all boast to do the same thing, is best?

I’ve setup quite a few WordPress sites, and in the process I’ve installed copious  numbers of different plugins, some great, some terrible.

In this part 2 of the WordPress Do It Right series, I’ll show you the most essential plugins in my toolkit to save you the time you’d normally spend searching for this informaiton.

If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1 in setting up your WordPress site for the first time.

Think of WordPress plugins as you do of your shoes

More specifically, men’s shoes.

Any girl, or any boy who’s ever dated a girl, will know: girls like shoes.

Men buy shoes to serve a certain function.

Women buy shoes because they’re lovely.

Treat WordPress plugins like men treat their shoes – install only the plugins you need, when you need them, and not because they’re lovely. 🙂

In this tutorial, I’ll outline the plugins that I believe all WordPress websites should have installed, with a couple of basic configuration settings for each one.

Essential WordPress Plugins Video

[WPT_YOUTUBE src=”6KCVbb8XcwI”]WordPress – Do It Right, Part 2. Essential WordPress Plugins[/WPT_YOUTUBE]

The following plugins are covered in this video:

  • Broken Link Checker
  • Redirection
  • W3 Total Cache
  • WordPress SEO
  • Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (covered in slightly more detail here)
  • Google Analytics for WordPress (not essential)
  • WPtouch (not essential)

Below is a brief summary about each of these plugins and why they’re considered essential for any quality WordPress site.

Broken Link Checker WordPress Plugin

Just to note, I know longer use or advocate the use of this plugin due to its intense nature of scanning your site. One option is to activate it, scan, fix, and then turn it off.

Function: To regularly scan and detect broken links on your website.

Essential: for a better user experience – to say clicking a link on your site that leads to a dead webpage is highly frustrating, is putting it mildly. This plugin will solve this problem and notify when broken links on your site are detected

It will detect broken links on your site that link to pages on your site and to external sites.

Redirection WordPress Plugin

Function: Many. But those covered in the video are 404 errors, and automatically creating 301 redirects for pages where the URL has changed (reducing 404s and maintaining page search rankings)

Essential: for a better user experience – like broken link checker above, it’s frustrating browsing a site that riddled with dead links and dead ends. You want customers and potential clients to have a smooth browsing experience across your whole site.

W3 Total Cache Plugin for WordPress

Function: Many. But basically to speed up the page load and increase overall website performance.

Essential: Again, a better user experience and better SEO page rankings. A quick Google search will reveal what a million people have been talking about for ages (and yes, slightly over exaggerating for marketing purposes also) – the need for speed.

Users, people like you and me, don’t like slow websites and our attention spans are at an all-time low. If your site is slow, people leave. You don’t want that.

This plugin will help you squeeze out every bit of performance you can.

WordPress SEO plugin

Function: SEO and XML Sitemaps, and more…

Essential: Good SEO is an essential marketing component for any online business and this plugin serves this function wonderfully.

Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin for WordPress

Function: Reduce comment SPAM.

Essential: SPAM sucks both your love for life and your time. G.A.S.P. prevents most comment SPAM before it even reaches your website. Essential doesn’t do this plugin justice.

Google Analytics for WordPress

Function: Install and fine tune your Google Analytics code.

Essential: Not essential. But if you’re running a business website without any sort of analytics now is a good time to ask why not. When the time comes that you want to start using Google Analytics, this is the plugin I recommend.

WPtouch WordPress plugin

Function: Quickly creates a mobile version of your website.

Essential: Not essential, but if you haven’t noticed the growth of mobile in the last few years, I hardly know where to begin to describe the importance of a mobile-friendly website.

Disclaimer: Opinions are valid, but not necessarily correct

This goes for my opinion as well as everyone else. There are as many opinions about WordPress plugins as there are WordPress plugins.

That’s a lot of opinions.

Each site is different with its own unique set of requirements and because the internet is the perfect forum for people to offer unsolicited claims/advice, you’ll hear many conflicting truths about plugins.

For example, some say if you have more than 10 plugins you have too many.

Screw that. Comments like this are unhelpful and have no foundation in logic.  Again, that’s my opinion and not necessarily correct 😉

Here are the some things you need to know about WordPress plugins:

  1. Not all are created equal. Be discerning about what you install and retain on your site.
  2. There is no magic number for a WordPress plugin limit – the correct number of plugins for your site is: the minimum number of plugins that you need to best achieve the requirements for your site.
  3. Don’t be scared to install and test many different plugins that offer the same functionality – then choose the one you think is best.

If for whatever reason you don’t agree with my list of essential plugins or you think there’s something I’ve missed, I’d love to hear what you think.

Please drop a comment below!

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Guy Scharf says:

    I consider “Better WP Security” to be an essential plugin. I add it to all sites I maintain to prevent, detect and block attacks on the sites. While there are other integrated security plugins, this is the one I like.

    View Comment
    • Paul G. says:

      Hi Guy,

      Thanks for the suggestion – I haven’t tried this particular security plugin. I’m a little bit wary of plugins for security because often I find they can cause more problems because they interfere with some core WordPress features without adding the benefit.

      This depends on the particular security “feature” they’re adding and often it’s security through obscurity that interferes. I’ll definitely give it a good look though.

      Thanks for commenting and letting us know what you think.

      View Comment
  • Thanks for this video. I didn’t know all of this impressive plugins but will consider most of them. Especially the redirect plugin will be great as we’re reorganising our web page which might lead to people coming with old and wrongbookmarks… great tool.

    View Comment
    • Paul G. says:

      Hey Christian,

      Yup, the Redirection plugin is an absolute gem of a plugin. I couldn’t run my site without it.

      Glad you like the video and the article and I hope it helps you with all your sites!


      View Comment

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