Whether you’re a traditional small business with an e-commerce store, a coach selling your services online, or a content creator publishing blogs and videos, there are a handful of go-to WordPress plugins that I use for nearly all the sites I work on.
1. Yoast SEO (Free or Premium)
The free version Yoast SEO will generate an XML sitemap that you can submit to search engines. It also gives you an easy interface to do some basic keyword analysis, and to optimize your page/post titles and meta tags. I’ve found that for most users, the free version is perfect and suits their needs!
2. UpdraftPlus Backup & Restore (Free or Premium)
If your web host doesn’t provide backups, then UpdraftPlus is my number one suggestion for you to use. Here’s how to use UpdraftPlus with Dropbox to backup your WordPress website for free.
3. WordFence Security (Free or Premium) and Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall (Free)
WordFence is a good all-around security plugin with a lot of features to lock your site down. In addition to WordFence, I like to use Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall to run malware scans monthly. (I’ve found that plugin can catch malicious code that others miss.)
5. Classic Editor (Free) Classic Widgets (Free)
If you’re not a fan of the block editor or the new sidebar-widget interface, these two plugins will revert those screens back to the classic styles. Personally I don’t mind the block editor for posts/pages, but I have had nothing but issues with the new widget interface, so I almost always use Classic Widgets if I’m not using a page builder (like Divi or Elementor) for all the site pages.
6. SiteGround Optimizer (Free for sites hosted by SiteGround) OR WP Super Cache (Free)
You’re going to want a caching plugin for your site to help your page load speed. If you host with SiteGround (which I highly recommend), I love using their SG Optimizer plugin. If you are with another web host that doesn’t provide caching, then check out WP Super Cache.
7. Gravity Forms (Premium)
This is the ONE plugin on the list that is only available as a premium (paid) plugin. There are some OK free options – Contact Form 7 and Ninja Forms aren’t bad – but Gravity Forms is so flexible and feature-filled that I feel like it just blows the others out of the water.
8. WooCommerce (Free)
Obviously, this is only relevant if you need an e-commerce solution, but if you’re going to be selling physical or digital products on your site, this is my number one recommendation.
9. WP Mail SMTP (Free)
This might be a bit unexpected, but if you’re having deliverability issues with emails generated by your website, I recommend this plugin which will enable you to configure SMTP for email sending. It will also log the emails being sent so you know if they’re working. Plus, if you’re running a WooCommerce shop, email updates to notify you of orders, or to notify customers their order was received or that it’s shipped are SO important. Having this plugin helps you to be confident those emails are going out properly.
10. Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed (Free or Premium)
Finally, ever notice it seems like everyone has their Instagram feed in the footer of their site these days? With so many business owners using Instagram for promotion, it’s a great idea to embed your feed into your page and this plugin lets you do that super easily!