You don’t have to install Plugins for WordPress but there are a few that I like to use all the time. 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.

My favourite WordPress plugins in 2019
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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
  • Analytics
  • Extra security
  • Search engine optimisation
  • E-commerce
  • Membership platforms
  • Courseware
  • Booking systems

At the time of writing there are over 60,000 plugins available. This is one of the unique advantages of WordPress.

My default set of WordPress plugins for 2023

Here are the plugins I generally install by default in 2023. I find this is a really nice set of lightweight and simple plugins that are useful for almost all WordPress websites that I build:

If you don’t use SiteGround for web hosting then the SiteGround plugins above probably won’t work. In which case I would personally use these alternative plugins instead:

You can use Really Simple SSL and Wordfence even if you’re on SiteGround, but their own plugins do very similar jobs and are tightly integrated in to the SiteGround ecosystem.

What do those plugins actually do?

Koko Analytics

A great lightweight and privacy-focused analytics tool to see how many people have been visiting your website. Not as comprehensive as the likes of Google Analytics but if you want to avoid littering your site with pointless cookie warnings this is a good start. If you don’t care about how many people are visiting your website then you don’t need this plugin. Worst case scenario your web hosting account can normally give you basic analytics.

Really Simple SSL OR SiteGround Optimiser

Once you’ve installed an SSL certificate you need to make sure your website actually uses it. You can use this plugin to configure your site to run over https and visitors get that all-important little padlock.


If you ever change the URL of a Post or 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.

Wordfence OR SiteGround Security

Wordfence is probably the most standard security plugin for WordPress. Helps to protect your site from hackers. If you’re using SiteGround for hosting you may want to use their own security plugin instead.


From time to time you might need your website to send out e-mails. This plugin makes the whole e-mail process more reliable. If you don’t have a Contact form and never send out e-mails directly from your website you can probably live without this plugin.

WP YouTube Lyte

Do you want to embed YouTube videos on your website? This plugin makes the whole process more efficient and can help with GDPR compliance regarding the embedding of 3rd party content. If you don’t embed videos on your site you don’t need this plugin.

WPForms Lite

Do you 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. If you don’t need people to get in touch with you via a contact form then you don’t need this plugin.

WPS Hide Login

You know how your default login page is 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.

Yoast SEO

Probably the most popular SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) plugin for WordPress. This plugin helps you to write content that search engines will actually show people. Not bothered about being picked up by search engines? Then you don’t need this plugin.

Some other WordPress plugins I really like in 2023

These plugins are definitely not essential but I’ve been using them for a while on various sites and really like them:

Content Views

This is an amazing plugin to show all your Posts or Pages in a nice grid – a bit like this page and this page. WordPress does have in-built functionality to do this but Content Views is just… nicer. Loads of in-built templates and it’s completely configurable with their new block-based templates. Available for FREE and with extra bells and whistles if you pay for it. The pro version starts at only $39 for a single website. Well worth a look.

Download Manager

If you have a website that offers customer downloads of digital files (for example this website!) this plugin is great. It allows your customers to download files without them having the URL to the file path, preventing your downloads from being stolen or used on other websites.

WP Last Modified Info

Do you want to display ‘Last Updated on…’ on your Posts or Pages? This plugin does that. Really useful if you have articles that you update from time to time and you want to let visitors know when the post was last updated.

What about an online shop?

WooCommerce is free and by far the most popular plugin out there if you want to sell stuff via your website. This is known as an e-commerce plugin. Huge topic, hundreds of plugins just for WooCommerce to make it do fancy stuff. But yes, you can create a fully functioning online shop with PayPal and Stripe integration for FREE.

What about membership and subscription sites?

I think there’s plugins to allow WooCommerce to handle subscription payments but I’ve never used them. Too bigger topic for this article but there are MANY membership platforms out there, so if you want to charge your customers monthly or yearly for a ‘thing’ then there are plugins to do this. Most of these aren’t free but the costs are very reasonable. A big topic for another day.

What about e-learning and courseware?

Do you want to create a training course for your customers? Perhaps some sort of e-learning platform with online tests and an automatic certificate at the end of it all? Yes, there’s plugins to do that. Normally these go hand-in-hand with the membership / subscription plugins mentioned earlier. Again, another topic for another day. Back to it…

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. In this scenario you simply use the ‘Upload Plugin’ option to install it on your website. Alternatively some paid-for plugins come with an activation key.

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 big risk.
  • Plugins with millions of installs and higher review ratings are normally 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. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and please join my mailing list.

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Last Updated on 7 July 2023 by Andy Mac