WordPress is a great Content Management System (CMS) to create content and manage your blog. Not just because it is easy to set up and use (although these reasons also count) but due to the fact that you can install any plugin from among thousands available to extend your blog’s functionality.
For this reason, the first thing to do after installing WordPress on any website is to log into your WordPress admin dashboard. Then head straight to the Plugins menu and add the essential WordPress plugins to your new blog.
These plugins will help you greatly in managing, securing, and boosting the traffic of your WordPress blog. To make it easier for you, I have listed only the top 13 plugins that every WordPress blog requires in 2021. Nothing more, nothing less.
Many of these plugins are also installed on some of the most popular blogs on the internet.
If you’re already logged into your WordPress site, you can install these plugins as you read along. By the time you reach the end, you will agree that these are some of the coolest WordPress plugins that you came across.
The Ultimate List of the 13 Essential WordPress Plugins
Let’s start this list with the most common problem that bloggers experience – comment spam.
Akismet – Essential Comments Plugin for WordPress
When you install a new WordPress blog, the first aspect you have to take care of is the comment spam. That’s because spammers are looking for unmoderated websites to post spam comments containing junk links.
To fight comment spam, you should install the free Akismet plugin. Fortunately, Akismet comes pre-installed with WordPress. And did I mention that Akismet is developed by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com and whose CEO Matt Mullenweg is one of the founders of WordPress.org that you’re using to run your blog?
All you need to do is activate and configure it to say goodbye to spam. That’s what makes this plugin an essential component of every WordPress blog. The first thing you will need is an API key, which is not hard to obtain. You need to create your free account on Akismet.com and get an API key.
Once you have entered the API key in the Akismet settings dashboard, you can configure the plugins’ settings using its intuitive interface.
Wordfence – A must-have WordPress security plugin
The second vital facet to take care along with comment spam, is the security of your WordPress blog. Since WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS), it is also the most prone to various kinds of online threats.
That’s why it’s crucial to ring-fence your WordPress blog with a thick blanket of security. And what better plugin to use than Wordfence Security. With more than 3 million active installs, Wordfence is the most popular WordPress security plugin.
It includes the following comprehensive security features in its free version:
|WordPress Firewall||Web Application Firewall, Endpoint protection, Malware scanner, brute force attack protection.|
|WordPress Security Scanner||Malware scanner to scan plugins, themes, URLs, SEO spam, malicious redirects, and code injections. Does an integrity check of your WordPress core files with the original data on the WordPress.org repository to detect any changes.|
|Login Security||Enables 2 Factor Authentication (2FA), login page CAPTCHA to stop bots, disable XML-RPC, ensures password security.|
|Wordfence Central||If you have multiple sites, you can manage the security of all the websites with one central dashboard. You can also use security templates across your websites. Alerts for important security events via SMS, email, or slack.|
|Security Tools||Live traffic monitoring, block attackers by IP or other methods.|
Not only this, but Wordfence also contains an intelligent learning system to learn more about your site’s security and offer crucial inputs whenever needed. There’s absolutely no reason not to install this top-rated security plugin for WordPress.
RankMath – The Best SEO plugin for WordPress
SEO which stands for search engine optimization is the art of getting targeted traffic to your new WordPress blog. The free RankMath plugin has built up quite a reputation for itself in a short time.
RankMath is one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress and can handle everything from focus keywords, sitemaps, breadcrumbs, metadata optimization, to showing your search console stats, 404 error processing, and much more.
Setting up RankMath is a breeze thanks to its setup wizard that walks you through the installation process. You will also love its clean and straightforward user interface with the one-click settings that make on-site SEO so easy for WordPress beginners.
Let me quickly summarize its core features:
- Google search console integration: To check your site search data right in your WordPress dashboard.
- Google crawl errors: Now, you can monitor your 404 errors without installing a separate plugin.
- Automated image SEO: RankMath automatically adds alt and title text to all your images, in case you do not add them yourself.
- XML sitemaps: You do not need a separate plugin for submitting sitemaps to Google and other search engines. RankMath handles this for you.
- Rich snippet support: Do you need to add an FAQ or a recipe schema on your site? You can do all this and much more with the built-in rich snippet support feature of RankMath.
- SEO analysis tool: This is perhaps the heart of this must-have plugin for WordPress. RankMath assesses your site on 40 factors and displays a score on a scale of 1 to 100.
- On-Page SEO: You can quickly optimize your posts and pages for focus keywords, meta description, canonical URLs, etc. without leaving the WordPress editor.
I can go on and on, but you get the point. Just install this essential SEO plugin for WordPress and make your life easier.
WP Rocket – The coolest WordPress plugin to boost website speed
Google places a great deal of importance on site speed, and so do your visitors. That’s why you should make sure that your site loads as fast as possible to provide a memorable experience for anyone visiting your website.
WP Rocket, which is one of the highly recommended WordPress speed optimization plugins, boosts your website speed with its exemplary caching and optimization features. The plugin dashboard is user-friendly, and you can configure WP Rocket in under 5 minutes even if you know nothing about WordPress caching.
Have a look at what WP Rocket can do to speed up your WordPress website:
- Page caching, browser caching, and cache preload
- Sitemap preloading and GZIP compression
- Database and Google fonts optimization
- Cloudflare and CDN compatibility
- Mobile detection and DNS prefetching
WP Rocket is capable of lowering your site load time to under 2 seconds doing away with the need to install separate plugins for caching, image lazyload, and database optimization, as I have explained in this post.
Alternative caching plugins
But, if you do not wish to invest a small amount in buying WP Rocket that does not have a free version, there are some free alternative plugins available.
EW3 Optimizer – Essential image compression plugin
If you want your website to load fast (who doesn’t?), you have to compress hundreds of beautiful images on your site that can take a long time to load. Don’t worry; you don’t need to compress images manually. Instead, you can use an image compression plugin to do the heavy lifting for you.
EWWW Image Optimizer is one of the most popular image compression plugins on WordPress with close to 1 million installs.
This essential image compression plugin achieves a high degree of image compression effortlessly. On top of this, it has in-built plugin features for image lazyload and detecting incorrect image sizes.
Check out some of the awesome features of this free image compression plugin:
- No file size limit.
- Compress images of all sizes.
- Bulk compress images.
- Automatically convert images to WebP format for faster loading.
- Lazy load images.
We used to recommend the WP Smush plugin earlier but it does not compress full size images on the free version. Also, there is a file size limit of 5 MB. When we discovered EW3, we switched over right away and have been over the moon since then.
UpdraftPlus – Most useful WordPress backup plugin
Taking daily backups of your website insures it against malware attacks and data loss. Maintaining backups is vital if your web host does not provide automated daily backups. That’s why you should install UpdraftPlus, which is the most popular WordPress plugin for backups.
Taking backups with UpdraftPlus is a breeze thanks to its scheduling features. You can set the time and day for taking the backup of your WordPress site, and UpdraftPlus handles the rest.
Perhaps the best feature of this plugin is that you can backup your website data to multiple locations, including Dropbox, Google Drive, UpdraftVault, email, etc.
So, if you’re worried about losing your site data, you should install UpdraftPlus ASAP.
GAinWP – The best Google Analytics plugin for WordPress
Over time, your WordPress website will start getting traffic, and you will need a plugin to track this traffic. Most website owners rely on Google Analytics for their tracking and reporting needs.
There are tens of Google Analytics plugins for WordPress, but the best among them is arguably the GAinWP Google Analytics Dashboard plugin. This plugin is a fork of the accessible Google Analytics Dashboard (GADWP) plugin, which was acquired by ExactMetrics in 2018 and has undergone a complete makeover that has not gone down well with its long-time users.
GAinWP is the perfect replacement of the GADWP plugin and displays all your important site statistics in a dashboard widget on your home screen. It can show different site metrics up to 3 years in time.
If you prefer function over form, you should install the GAinWP Google Analytics plugin and get tracking.
WPForms – Drag and drop contact forms plugin for WordPress
Do you want your site visitors to contact you using a contact form? Then install the WPForms plugin right away. Because this plugin makes creating contact forms using its drag and drop interface a breeze and a delightful experience.
But it is more than just an essential contact form plugin. You can do the following with WPForms:
- Allow user file uploads
- Create multi-page forms
- Use conditional logic to create the forms
- Create user registration forms
- Allow post submissions
- Create survey forms
Besides this, WPForms features multiple integrations with PayPal, Stripe, MailChimp, Zapier, etc.
I am sure you already know the importance of displaying social sharing buttons on your site to popularize your blog and attract traffic from social platforms.
Sassy Social Share makes social sharing on multiple platforms a 1-click process. You can choose your favorite networks from than 100 social sharing services. It’s lightweight and fast loading and quite easy to configure.
This plugin is also mobile responsive, and the vertical floating bar (on your left) can turn into a horizontal floating bar on mobile devices if you enable this feature.
For many users, the ability to customize the social icons is the stand-out feature of this cool social sharing WordPress plugin.
Thrive Architect – Essential page builder plugin for WordPress
We all want to customize our WordPress website as per our taste. We want to create nice looking posts and pages.
For this purpose, we need a page builder plugin. And what better page builder than Thrive Architect, which is also one of the most popular WordPress drag and drop landing page builders.
There are 42 power-packed elements included in Thrive Architect that help you create feature-packed landing pages and attractive blog posts.
The emphasis is on usability and to speed up your landing page creation, there are 330+ templates included. All you need to do is pop in the content and you are done. Read my complete Thrive Architect review.
Cookie Notice – Essential plugin to make website GDPR compliant
If your website traffic includes the European region, then making it GDPR compliant is a must. There are many cookie notice plugins, but few offer the simplicity as the Cookie Notice for GDPR & CCPA plugin. It displays your cookie notice in a no-frills manner and requires no further action on the part of the user. Even though it lacks the advanced features of some other plugins, it is quite effective at simply displaying the cookie notice to visitors.
Yoast Duplicate Post – Best content duplication and rewriting plugin
As bloggers and content creators, we need to update our content regularly. And this includes the design of our posts and pages as well, not just the text. But would you want your readers to look at the page get updated in real-time as you make the changes in the backend? Probably not, since it looks unprofessional.
That’s why you should install the Yoast Duplicate Post plugin. As you can figure out from its name, this plugin duplicates your posts and pages. But there are many alternatives that do this simple job. Where the Yoast plugin excels is in its content rewriting feature.
You can create a second version of any page or post that you wish to work on and when you are done, you can easily merge it with the original page or post. So, the readers see only the updated version of your post and not the work-in-progress one. Think of it as a staging feature offered by web hosting companies.
Instant Images – Add free stock images instantly
While creating blog posts, you may struggle to find high-quality and free stock images for your content. Also, who has the time to search on Unsplash and other websites for free images?
You can select the image size that you wish to import in your media library. Perhaps the best part of this must-have image plugin is that you do not need to open an account on Unsplash.
Isn’t that cool?
Summary of the top 13 essential plugins for WordPress
Now that you know some of the coolest WordPress plugins that you should install on your blog let’s quickly summarize the plugins in a list.
- WP Rocket
- EW3 Image Optimizer
- Updraft Plus
- Sassy Social Share
- Thrive Architect
- Cookie Notice
- Yoast Duplicate Post
- Instant Images
Have you installed any of these essential WordPress plugins yet? Or you prefer some other plugins over the ones listed above. I would love to know your favorite WordPress plugins and why you use them in the comments below.
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