Plugins are essential part of any WordPress site and used to enhance or achieve the feature you would like to have. As a beginner, you will be attracted with more than 50K plus free plugins on the free WordPress plugin section which you can find here. In addition, there are huge number of premium plugins available in reputed marketplaces like Codecanyon. On the flip side choosing wrong plugins will do more bad things like breaking and slowing down your complete site. As a beginner, we recommend following basic guidelines and choose only the needed plugins before you fall into the trapping world of WordPress plugins.
Beginners Guidelines for Choosing Plugins
- Define and follow the periodic schedule for upgrading theme, plugins and WordPress version on your live WordPress site.
- Always keep two latest backup copies of your live site. You can do the testing on one copy and keep the other one for emergency restore.
- Do not test plugins on live site, it is a good idea to have a staging or local environment to test the plugins before deploying on live site.
- Do not upgrade the plugins instantly after the new version is available. Even the reputed plugins like WooCommerce or Yoast SEO are known to cause trouble when upgrading to the next version. Again the best thing is to check on testing site before upgrading.
- Keep the number of plugins as minimum as possible, some plugins like related posts plugins consume high resources and not suitable on shared hosting environment.
- Avoid installing everything on free basis. Go for premium plugins if they can satisfy your need, instead of adjusting the requirements to fit the free ones.
Besides the general guidelines, you should be careful in installing jQuery based plugins like sliders since loading the scripts on body / header / footer may impact the site in different ways.
Top 10 Plugins for WordPress Beginners
It is recommended to check the reviews and ratings when choosing the plugin from repository or buying from third parties. Based on generic needs and reputation we believe the following 10 plugins can be a base for satisfying most of the beginners need while adding additional plugins shall be considered on top of these plugins on need basis.
Whether you have a new or a popular site, comments spam is one of the real headaches for bloggers. Though you can control spam bots by routing your traffic through CDN, plugins like Akismet will do that job effectively for free. Akismet checks each comment with the Akismet web service and filters the spam comments separately. Filtered spam comments can be visible under “Spam” section of the “Comments” tab with the option to delete most pervasive comments without noticing. This plugin also offers additional options like viewing history of comments and showing number of approved comments against the comment author.
Note that Akismet needs API key which is available free for personal blogs, but you need to get it by registering for a WordPress.com account.
2. Jetpack by WordPress.com
Jetpack is a plugin bundle offers more than 30 features as a single pack. The advantage is to have a single plugin for multiple needs like uptime monitoring, site stats, sharing, galleries, carousels, contact form, custom CSS, related posts, subscription, etc. Many people claim, Jetpack will slow down your site. However, this is a plugin from Automattic who is the company behind WordPress core development and offer popular WooCommerce plugin. Therefore, you do not need to worry much about the speed and enable only the modules you need.
Jetpack also needs API key which is available free for personal blogs, but you need to get it by registering for a WordPress.com account.[/info_message]
3. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is one of the advanced and power packed SEO plugins for your WordPress site. Though they have the buggy update history, this is the must use plugin for any WordPress beginner. Yoast SEO helps to add XML Sitemap, verify your site with Google / Bing and offers page level SEO analysis to improve the friendliness of your site towards search engines. You can also use FAQ, How-to schema blocks to improve the click through rate in search results.
4. Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is one of the simplest yet powerful form creation plugins for your WordPress site. You can easily create multiple forms; customize the form fields and mail content as per your need.
Contact Form 7 also works with Akismet spam protection; hence you do not need to worry about the spam form submissions by using both of these plugins on your site.
5. BackWPup Free
Most hosting companies like SiteGround offer backing up your WordPress site as a free feature included in the hosting plan. The problem here is the backup is also stored on the same hosting server, in case if the server is affected then your backup is also gone. This makes the need of separate backup plugins and BackWPup Free is one such a plugin for you. It helps to create backup and send to Dropbox, Amazon S3, FTP server, etc. You can download the complete backup including database and “wp-content” folder which can be used for restoring your site. This is the best option for creating localhost setup or moving from one host to another.
6. Shortcodes Ultimate
With the introduction of block based Gutenberg editor, we do not recommend using shortcodes on WordPress. The reason is that it will be difficult to delete those shortcodes when the plugin is deactivated. As you start working with WordPress, you will understand that it is difficult to search a plugin for each and every feature you need. Shortcodes Ulitmate plugin offers more than 50 features in a single pack allowing you to create beautiful content.
You can easily create tabs, lists, tables, buttons, boxes, spoiler, accordion, divider, etc. with Shortcodes Ultimate plugin. Check out the complete review of Shortcodes Ultimate plugin to understand all the features it offers.
7. W3 Total Cache
We know W3 Total Cache is not a plugin for beginners compared to other easy plugins like WP Super Cache. In case those easy to use plugins did not improve your speed score in Google PageSpeed Insights tool then the only option is to try W3TC. With every level of caching available it is highly recommend checking and trying the features needed for you. For example, activating database and object caching on a shared hosting environment may end up in terminating your hosting due to the huge number of directories created by the W3TC plugin.
Tables are the easy way to convey structured information to users and TablePress is one of the easiest ways to create tables on your WordPress site. This is a complete free plugin and the developer even offer free extensions. You can import tables from Excel, CSV and HTML files and customize the look of individual tables with simple CSS. Read our TablePress tutorial for beginner with examples to understand what the plugin can do for you.
When you are migrating your site or modifying URLs, setting up 301 redirects will be a huge task. Redirection is a stable and free plugin not only offers setting up redirects but also helps to monitor 404 errors.
This plugin also setup automatic redirection when the URL of post is changed so that you don’t need to setup redirects manually. Notably this works within WordPress installation without the need of looking into .htaccess file. In fact, Redirection was one of the first plugins we started using on this site as we have migrated our site from Weebly to WordPress.
10. Wordfence Security
Security is not the one to look after affected, it is one of the most important factors to look for before having trouble. Wordfence is a free plugin offers tons of free features to secure your WordPress site from known threats. You can setup two factor authentication with cellphone, scan for vulnerabilities, monitor real-time traffic, block IPs and do much more with Wordfence.
The above listed plugins are a guideline though you can choose different plugins suitable for your site. For example, instead of W3 Total Cache you can go for a simple WP Super Cache if that works for you. The other aspect we want to emphasize is to look for the functionality and choose the plugin instead of looking for the free tag. Plugins like premium Elementor which costs a mere $49 will save huge amount of time and take your site to different level starting from the beginning instead spending many years to realize you could not create beautiful site with those free plugins. So, list down all requirements what exactly you need and then do the budgeting whether you can afford. At last, install the plugins and test throughly to ensure the stability of your whole site is not compromised for single feature.