From time to time we’re asked which plugins we’d recommend for WordPress websites. Most of the time people are just looking for our input on what we consider essential for all new sites. There really isn’t a one-size fits-all recommendation. A lot depends on what the site is and how it’s going to be operated. However, if you really must have a short list of the plugins we absolutely can’t live without, then keep reading.
First, before I give you the 5 essential WordPress plugins to use on all websites, let me say one thing about plugins. Plugins can be really helpful in enabling you to rapidly build your websites in a fraction of the time it would normally have taken you. But as a friendly warning, too many plugins or the wrong plugins can be destructive and even harmful. I am not going to cover much of that here, but if security and website page-speed are important to you, then keep your plugins limited to the ones you absolutely must use. The less you rely on third-party plugins, the happier you’ll be in the long run.
1. Blacklist Updater – This plugin will automatically update your WordPress anti-spam keys with the latest comment spam protection. This is a really simply and light weight plugin, but in my opinion, just as valuable as Akismet, if not more. It checks a public repository on Github for the latest anti-spam keys and adds them to your
Dashboard > Settings > Discussion > Blacklist form section. I’ve tested the Blacklist Updater plugin on over 10,000 WordPress websites for over the last 3 years and it’s solved our spam problems for the most part. For maximum comment spam protection, you can also Activate Akismet.
2. Advanced Automatic Updates – This plugin is very important in my opinion. Sometimes we get so busy with our day to day schedules we can forget to update our WordPress core, themes and plugins. This plugin will take care of that for you so you wont need to manually update things. With this plugin you can choose to update everything automatically or if you want to exclude certain things, such as maybe themes or plugins, you definitely are able to do that too.
3. BBQ: Block Bad Queries – This is probably the easiest and fastest firewall plugin for WordPress. BBQ checks all incoming traffic and quietly blocks bad requests containing nasty stuff. BBQ is absolutely plug-n-play, set-it and forget-it, with no settings menu to configure at all. Simply install, activate, and enjoy better security and robust protection against malicious requests. It’s literally as simple as this. I would say this is definitely a no brainier plugin and a must have for all WordPress websites.
4. WP-Optimize – WP-Optimize is a must have tool for automatically cleaning your WordPress database so that it runs at maximum performance and doesn’t get bloated by unnecessary data, fragmentation and start to bottleneck. This is one of the most important of the 5 essential WordPress plugins to use on all websites that I’ve listed. Without a healthy database, the rest of the plugins I’ve mentioned are pretty much useless. I typically setup the plugin to optimize my database and clean everything up once a week. Depending on how busy your site is, how much activity there is by administrators and logged in users, absolutely depends on how often you want to optimize your database and run a cleanup. I think a good time-frame would be once a week for the average site.
5. Yoast SEO – This is a great plugin to help you improve your WordPress’ placement within the search engines, often known as SEO or search engine results position (ie: SERPS). Even if your first priority isn’t to focus on your websites SEO, I would still strongly recommend adding this plugin immediately. With Yoast SEO, you can learn to write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site. It’s a lot easier to spend a little time from the beginning on setting up Yoast SEO, rather then to put it off and have to worry about it after you already have a ton of posts and pages on your website. At that point you’ll have your hands full and potentially a mess to cleanup that won’t be easy to address.
6. SendGrid – WordPress is notorious for emails being sent to the spam box. In most cases, this isn’t a big deal if you are the only one that needs to receive email from your WordPress site. You could whitelist those emails. But if you are sending email directly from your website using forms or have a membership or eCommerce site and send frequent emails to users from WordPress, then I would strongly recommend at least starting off with the Free SendGrid package. Your emails will arrive in your users inbox 99.9% of the time. I’ve also tested this on over 10,000 sites.