You’ll find that as you develop more and more WordPress websites there will be common plugins you use every time. The below 8 plugins provide the functionality that we can’t live without and we use them for most of the projects we get involved in, regardless of what the finished product needs to do. There will be many different plugins that do very similar things, but after testing all variations these are our favourites.
Redirection is a really useful plugin that allows you to manage your 301 redirects and monitor your 404 errors. Monitoring your 404 errors is a great way to understand where your visitors are seeing a 404 error due to missing content. This might be because you or somebody else has typed a link incorrectly somewhere on your website or because you’ve changed the location of your content.
After evaluating your 404 error list you can then remedy the issue by redirecting a page to another by creating a 301 redirect. This is great for your SEO too Google passes most or all SEO value from an old link to another via 301 redirect.
Finally, we also like to use redirection to redirect from WordPress generated pages to custom designed pages. For instance we’ll redirect from a /blog page (which is generated by WordPress and a pain to style) to /latest-posts, a custom designed blog page that fits in with the overall website style.
Have a play around and see how Redirection can solve your website design conundrums. Another plus – it’s free!
2. Updraft plus
Updraft Plus is a life saver and we don’t doubt it has saved many a web designer’s neck over the years. Updraft Plus is the best backup solution we’ve used, allowing you the peace of mind knowing that if your website is hacked or you make fatal changes, you’ll easily be able to restore the latest backup and be away again in no time.
Updraft Plus is effortless to setup and allows many different off site locations to back up too. Simply sign up for a free Google Drive or Dropbox account and choose how often you’d like it to automatically backup and how many versions you’d like to store at any one time.
Updraft Plus makes this list as it’s essential you take steps to protect your website and this includes backing up your theme, plugins and database. You never know when you might crash your site or need to restore after being hacked.
iThemes is a fantastic plugin that makes it easy to secure your site far beyond what you’re normally able to do. There are a number of great security plugins, see WordFence, but in our opinion iThemes does the most comprehensive job.
The free version allows you to take many steps towards making your site more secure, like hiding the WordPress back end, blocking failed log in attempts, removing “admin” profiles, protecting against spam and much more.
Download iThemes and secure your site. Make sure you enable email notifications and reports to get a summary of your website security every day, week or month.
4. Yoast SEO
We’ve all heard of SEO, and many of you will probably be well versed in optimising your site for certain keywords and your brand. We’ve used a number of SEO plugins for WordPress over the years and have ended up using this one in all of our projects.
Yoast SEO will allow you to, amongst other things, customise your Meta Descriptions and Titles and create an XML sitemap. WordPress does not ship with great SEO capabilities so Yoast SEO is a very useful plugin to use within all of your projects.
5. W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is the most effective way of taking advantage of caching and a variety of other means of making your site faster. There are loads of different plugins that will help you do this but none as comprehensive as W3.
Set up is a bit more complex than other plugins – you may want to read the documentation to understand what you should and shouldn’t be activating. This said once you get to grips with all of the settings, you’ll notice significant gains in load times and your Pingdom and Google page score.
Google also gives a slight advantage to faster websites so if you needed another reason to get started with W3, that’s a good one.
6. Cookie Notice
This nifty, lightweight plugin displays a cookie banner to your site visitors so that you remain compliant with the above law. There’s loads of options so that you can style the bar so that it compliments your theme, plus display it in numerous different locations to suit you.
7. Monster Insights
Probably the easiest and simplest way to integrate Google Analytics with your WordPress site, Monster insights removes any hassle of monitoring your visitors, bounce rate and conversions.
Monster insights has an incredibly quick and easy set up and you can install Google Analytics without even needing to log in to Google. Monster insights also includes a dashboard through which you can view all of your statistics right from within your WordPress website.
8. WP Smush
We’re big fans of WP Smush, given it’s really useful functionality that is not significantly limited even though the authors do offer a paid version. WP Smush allows you to further compress your website images automatically upon uploading, reducing file size without compromising quality. This obviously makes your website smaller and therefore will reduce your load times.
If this wasn’t enough, WP Smush can reduce your image sizes to a maximum width or height, ensuring that you never upload a full resolution image by accident.
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent many years working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.