Got a WordPress website or blog? If you run your website on WordPress, chances are you use at least a handful of plugins.
WordPress is a super awesome content management system, built originally for blogging. WordPress does not come loaded with tonnes of features that will never be used. Rather than some huge bloated system with every feature under the sun, WordPress allows plugins to extend and add the functionalities you need, without taxing your site’s resources more than necessary.
WordPress does also not include some essential features such as SEO functions. For reasons best known to the WordPress team, the world’s most popular CMS also does not include some must-have features out-of-the-box. However, the WordPress community is huge and there are plenty of great plug-ins to plug the voids left out by the default WordPress system. Browse through the WordPress.org plugins list to find a huge list of awesome plugins that take WordPress beyond the core features.
Now, you may be wondering which plugins are really essential, and which aren’t. Part of that depends on what you want to do with your WordPress installation. Essential plugins for a personal blog are different than those for a corporate blog, just like must-have plugins for a podcaster are different than for someone using WordPress as a CMS.
In this post, we will limit ourselves to the very basic and essential features required by all websites & blogs. If you have a WordPress website and don’t use these plugins, install them right away.
1. WP SEO Plugin (for Better Search Rankings)
For any website, it is critical to be found easily in search results by potential audience. That’s why you need SEO, or search engine optimization. One of the best SEO plugins for WordPress is WP SEO by Yoast. I personally use it on all of my WordPress websites. It also allows you to add the sitemap functionality.
2. Website Caching Plugin (for Fast Websites)
All content management systems create your post dynamically. Like most of the CMS platforms, WordPress relies on a SQL (or similar) database to store your content and also information relating to website options and images. (Images are saved on your web server, but the information of which image to use where is stored in a database.)
Due to the dynamic nature of WordPress, each webpage is served after being processed by your web server. The script code is run by the server and the resulting content displayed. It takes a small time and a fair bit of work (memory power) on the part of web server to process and show the webpage to the visitor. When a lot of web traffic comes to your website, the work load can become overwhelming for the web server, making your website slow to load.
Website caching is a process of pre-processing the dynamic content and storing it as a ready static file to serve the website visitors. This means there page loads faster as the web server does not have to generate the webpage for each visitor. Caching helps improve website speed substantially.
Which plugin to us for website caching in WordPress? WP Supercache for simple & effective caching of small blogs/websites on cheap shared web hosting. If you are using a dedicated server for your blog (quite unlikely for beginners), go for W3 Totalcache which has tonnes of features for even more powerful website caching.
3. Contact Form Plugin (for Allowing Your Users to Easily Reach You)
Though not exactly essential for blogs, this is one of the feature that I always add on all of my WordPress websites. It makes it possible for your users to reach you by simply filling out a form. It is essential if your WordPress website is for a business.
Ninja Forms is my current favourite for adding contact forms as it can save the contact form submissions in database and/or send it to my desired email address. I always keep both the database and email options enabled. Alternatively, you can use Contact Form 7, a WP contact form popular plugin since many years.
That’s it. You don’t need any other plugin for your WordPress website for simple blogs and websites. If you have a requirement for any special feature such as membership function or downloads, you can always browse the official WordPress.org plugin repository. Have fun!