You don’t have to install Plugins for WordPress but there are a few that I like to use by default. In this article we’ll chat about what plugins are, how to install them and I’ll give you a list of some of my favourite plugins for WordPress.
The video below shows some of the plugins I liked to use back in 2019. Have a watch of the video as a lot of the information is still relevant BUT then check below for a list of the most current plugins I like to use by default.
An important note about plugins
It’s important to mention that installing any plugin changes the default functionality of WordPress and therefore presents a risk to a live website. It’s your responsibility to make sure you have a working backup of your site before you start! The plugins I’m showing you are by no means de-facto and my configuration of them isn’t necessarily correct for your individual business. Always read the developer instructions that come with each plugin.
What are plugins?
Plugins are applications written by the WordPress community that enhance the standard functionality of WordPress. You can run a perfectly respectable website without any plugins but if you want your website to do anything fancy you’ll need plugins.
Most plugins are free but some specialist ones have been developed over thousands of hours and need to be paid for. You’ll find most plugin developers provide some basic functionality for free and then you pay extra for more advanced features. Examples of what you can do with plugins:
- Contact form
- Extra security
- Search engine optimisation
- Membership platforms
- Booking systems
At the time of writing there are over 58,000 plugins available. This is one of the unique advantages of WordPress.
My default set of WordPress plugins for 2020
Here are the plugins I install by default in 2020. I find this is a really nice set of lightweight and simple plugins that are useful for almost all WordPress websites I build:
- Koko Analytics by ibericode
- Really Simple SSL by Really Simple Plugins
- Redirection by John Godley
- Wordfence Security by Wordfence
- WP Mail SMTP by WPForms
- WP YouTube Lyte by Frank Goossens (futtta)
- WPForms Lite by WPForms
- WPS Hide Login by WPServeur, NicolasKulka, wpformation
- Yoast SEO by Team Yoast
What do those plugins actually do?
A great lightweight and privacy-focused analytics tool to see how many people have been visiting your website.
Really Simple SSL
Once you’ve installed an SSL certificate you can use this plugin to configure your site to run over https.
If you ever change the URL of a page on your website it’s essential that you redirect the old URL to the new URL or search engines will get confused. This plugin handles that for you.
Probably the most standard security plugin for WordPress. Helps to protect your site from hackers.
WP Mail SMTP
From time to time you’ll need your website to send out e-mails. This plugin makes the whole e-mail process more reliable.
WP YouTube Lyte
Want to embed YouTube videos on your website? This makes the whole process more efficient and can help with GDPR compliance regarding the embedding of 3rd party content.
Want a contact form so people can get in touch with you? This is a great plugin for creating a wide variety of forms on your website.
WPS Hide Login
You know how your default logon page is yourwebsite.com/wp-admin? Yes, well so does everyone else. This plugin allows you to change that login page to a different URL – not essential but just adds an extra layer of security.
Probably the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. Helps you to write content that search engines will actually show people.
How do you install WordPress plugins?
Within the WordPress admin dashboard, just click ‘Plugins’ on the left hand side. Then click ‘Add New’. Use the ‘Search plugins…’ box to find the plugin you need. Whenever you install a plugin you’ll also need to Activate it. Some paid-for plugins will need to be downloaded when you buy them. You simply use the ‘Upload Plugin’ option to install it on your website.
Another BIG word of warning
Most plugins are safe but this is by no means guaranteed. This is why backups are so important. BE CAREFUL. Rogue plugins can cause catastrophic damage to your website. They can even introduce security risks and backdoors for hackers that you might not even be aware of. General rules of thumb:
- Look for plugins that are still being updated – if you find your perfect plugin but it hasn’t been updated for 2 years then that’s a risk.
- Plugins with millions of installs and high review ratings are generally fine.
- Be wary when a plugin hasn’t had many installations – in this situation look for personal recommendations or perhaps look at the reviews of other plugins they’ve created.
- Be very wary of plugins with low reviews – read the reviews and see what the problem is.
- Don’t put 100% faith in the reviews. Plugins are as susceptible to fake reviews as anything else on the internet.
- Avoid installing too many plugins – don’t go crazy!
- Always keep your plugins up to date.
- Delete plugins you’re not using.
Once your website is all finished it’s absolutely essential that you keep things secure. Next time we’ll take a look at some basic WordPress security tips. If you spot any errors in this article please get in touch. If you’ve got any questions you can post them below by becoming a member. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and please join my mailing list.
Last Updated on 23 November 2020 by Andy Mac
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