When I first started out building websites, the first two things I needed to understand a lot better were Themes and Plugins. If you want to read up on my version of what themes and plugins are, you can read my post on that HERE. This article dives deeper into my Top Ten Plugins List of website development.
For me, plugins added an element of confusion because it wasn’t clear what some of the best practices were such as; How many plugins is too many? Which plugins are good? Which plugins can do what? Which plugins do I REALLY need?
See, up until then, I wasn’t very comfortable with adding a bunch of things to my site. I can remember when computer memory wasn’t as plentiful as it is today. Now, you can get 128 gigabytes of memory on a micro SD chip that you can put in your phone. Pretty amazing!
Back then, you not only had to be careful regarding the space on your hard drive, but the safety of it. While these things should still be seriously taken into consideration, it’s just as necessary to consider which functions you want your phone, tablet, computer and, in this case, website to perform for you.
When you launch a WordPress website, it comes with the basic necessities of having a website. It’s kind of like having a car with the basics needed to pass inspection at the DMV; tires, working lights, horn windshield wipers and everything else they check for you to basically drive safely on the road with everyone else.
What I hope to convey here is that you shouldn’t be nervous about adding the necessary plugins to your site for your purposes and that there are certain ones that I’ve needed for certain types of websites. You can choose to do your own research as well because you may learn of better or more efficient ones for YOUR purposes.
As is the case in a lot of things, we humans tend to get into a routine since we tend to be creatures of habit. Building websites is similar; once you hit a groove and you learn what works for you, it doesn’t hurt to keep doing it.
Having said all this, I’ll start with some of the basics and then I’ll branch out to some other plugins that are more genre-specific in future posts. I’ll try to list them in the order I’ve added them because order can matter for some plugins more than others. So let’s get started.
Blogs tend to be on the more “basic” side of web development using WordPress because WordPress is mostly geared towards each website having this capability. As a matter of fact, most of the different types of sites will use blog elements in them as well. Some of the following will be either specific plugins and/or plugin types.
In addition, I’ll cater more towards using Hostgator as my host. If you host your website through a different host, that’s fine; the first plugin may or may not be applicable since there may be a slightly different process for installing your SSL certificate. So let’s get started!
Really Simple SSL
When you get hosting through Hostgator, as of the writing of this, your websites come with an SSL certificate. This adds encryption and extra security to your website.
In some browsers, your users may get a warning if you don’t have an SSL certificate. Moreover, when you build an online store, you’ll need an SSL certificate for other plugins to work properly.
What Really Simple SSL does is it makes it easier to add the SSL to your website so instead of your website starting with http://, it starts with https:// and your site has that extra added security needed which also gives your visitors more confidence in your site.
I wanted to add this to the list as early as possible because as you add images, elements or other media to your site, sometimes it doesn’t get added properly. When you add it early on, the likelihood of elements being added properly increases. At times there may be a few maintenance tasks you may have to perform, but it’s not something you cannot handle.
Elementor (Page Builder)
I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first one I learned or if it’s easier to use, but Elementor is an excellent choice to start out with as far as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) page builders are concerned. There are other good ones that you may like better, but this is the one I learned on and I have that creature of habit thing going on. It works for me, so I do it.
It has a free version which has add-ons and a Pro version that has even more bells and whistles that I enjoy as an Elementor user. You don’t need the pro version, it just gives you more options that are transferable to other themes if you should choose to switch up later.
Elementor has many different templates and blocks that you can easily add to your pages and you can even add full pages.
Regardless of which way you choose to go, as a beginner, there’s a learning curve that you’ll have to go through to get to be somewhat proficient at it. Even the non-WordPress ones you see on the commercials will take time to learn.
Keep in mind that there are Template plugins you can use with which you can add beautifully designed full pages or even full websites. You can just add/subtract the parts you need or don’t need and change the content once you import the sections. Bing Bang Boom, you’re done…kinda! What you may find is that even when you get it to look perfect, the words you put on the page also matter; so content is king.
WPForms Lite (Form Builder)
This, in my opinion is a good basic option for website forms if you want to collect basic information from your visitors on a Contact page or anywhere else on your site. Another one I’ve used in the past is Contact Form 7. I find WPForms pretty easy to use and reliable.
WP Mail SMTP by WPForms
If you need to know what SMTP stands for, here it is: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. I add this in conjunction with my form builder so that when someone fills out a form or goes through any actions that will initiate an email being sent out to visitors, it decreases the likelihood of that email going straight to the spam folder. Moreover, you can also use an admin email with your domain name in it instead of a generic free email.
I put this on all my sites now, but you would definitely want to put it on your website if you are running an E-Commerce online store that sends out an automated message to your customer after a sale or any type of transaction. During this process you wouldn’t want those emails automatically going straight to the spam folder.
This is the one I’ve gotten used to and it works pretty well. Whereas the SSL certificate adds extra encryption to the transfer of different information, your security plugin can be configured to allow or disallow certain activities on your site.
This particular one utilizes the Brute Force network database to protect you from some of the more commonly known hacking agents through their system. That being said, if big corporations can be hacked, so can you if the hacker is motivated enough. This makes the hurdle high enough that not just anyone can get through the front door and do whatever they want.
It also comes with different settings for blocking certain IPs if you have some annoying scrapers, bots or even visitors using up your resources and throwing off your numbers or just being annoying.
Pretty Links – Link Management, Branding, Tracking & Sharing Plugin
This is useful when you want to link to a page either on or not on your site to shorten the link or make the link look like it’s associated with your domain name (cloak the link) so as not confuse the visitor. Also they can be used so that it makes it easier to remember the link you’re sending them even if it’s not of the same domain name.
This comes in handy when you have an affiliate link that can be pretty long and you want to make it easier for the customer to remember for later if you can’t just insert a button on someone else’s platform or forum. It looks a lot cleaner and is more user-friendly.
Actual Link –
Campaign Name: product
Campaign Source: google
Campaign Medium: cpc
Campaign Term: segmentation
Campaign Content: mixpanel
Pretty Link – https://yourdomain.com/go/Offer
WP Fastest Cache
So the way I understand it is that it kinda takes a snapshot of the non-dynamic elements of your website and all of its codes and files to offer up to your customer so that it makes loading your site’s pages more efficient. I’ve had to read a few articles on the why and how before I found one or two that made sense to my brain. if you’d like to read it here is the link.
Head, Footer and Post Injections
If you want to track the behaviors of visitors to your website, you’ll probably have to use some of the different tracking tools such as Facebook Pixels, Google Analytics or any of the others out there. Usually they’ll need for you to paste some of their code in the header, body or footer. This plugin makes this easier to do.
Different themes may have different areas you’ll have to look in to insert code. This plugin streamlines the process across themes; meaning if you change themes and this plugin is still placing the code in your header, it should transfer to the next theme.
WordPress SEO Plugin – Rank Math
This free plugin has so many different capabilities and functions that it CAN handle for you that you could probably use it to replace some of the plugins I’ve already mentioned. As one of those creatures of habit I talked about, I’d have to take some time to test it to see how well it works for all of those different things.
Moreover, I’d have to determine if I’d be comfortable using this one plugin for that many functions. That remains a project for another day and time. It would be very encouraging though, since it seems to be a pretty “light” plugin.
The main thing I am using this plugin for right now is the many SEO settings, Rich Snippets and sitemap to submit my site to Google. Once you get the hang of what everything is and where it matters, the setup level of difficulty is about medium. As a beginner, though, you may want to find some documentation or a good YouTube video on the optimal settings. From my experience, Darrell Wilson does a great job of breaking those down for you.
I’ve put this close to the end of the list because you’d want to make sure you have most of your content and pages all set up beforehand. This way, you would just have to make sure the settings have taken effect. Then you would go back through your posts, pages and products to add in your keywords and snippets if you have to. Then you’d want to optimize it so that you’d have a better chance of ranking those pages.
It sounds like a lot of work, but I’ve done some hard work before and it took a lot more physicality. This just works on a different part of your discipline. It can be boring at first until you see the results of your work in a search engine. Not to mention, if you’re looking to possibly make money with your website, it’s another necessary piece to the puzzle.
UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
Once you’ve made a considerable number of updates or gotten your website to a good stopping/finishing point (i.e. after that last plugin), it’s always a good practice to save your work and back it up. This plugin is great for just that. You can save these files to your Google Drive, since the files can be pretty big once you get going.
It’s even a good idea to backup your site BEFORE making settings adjustments to different plugins or switching out different plugins. This way, if anything weird happens you can always use the “Restore” option within UpdraftPlus to get things back to working order as it was before making those changes and “breaking” your site.
I’ve lived long enough now to know just how easy it is to break things that can cost you a lot of time and money. Sometimes the warning signs were even there for a while and I STILL didn’t take heed to the signs. Don’t do like I did and learn from experience. However, sometimes experience, if it’s not too costly, can be the best teacher. You can look on the bright side and get more experience rebuilding your site from the last stopping point; it might turn out even better. If money is lost, though, you won’t want to have to go through that again.
So these are the first 10 plugins I would install and set up on my website regardless of the type of website it is for the most part. These all are reputable and free with options to upgrade to paid versions with support and more options.
If you see any plugins on this list you’d bump off the list and replace with something else, please feel free to share that in the comments and enlighten me and the rest of us with your own wisdom.
Please come back and review my preferences for the plugins in addition to these I would use for Affiliate and E-Commerce sites.