WordPress Plugins, they are absolutely great and are probably one of the biggest reasons for the success of WordPress as a platform. There are countless plugins to add additional functionality to your WordPress installation, in many cases without having to write a single line of code. Yes, plugins are awesome, however, you should be cautious about installing too many plugins.
In this post, I will share why I think you should be cautious when it comes to WordPress Plugins and I will share what I believe to be essential plugins for running a WordPress site. This is by no means meant to be a definite list as different sites have different needs. I encourage and welcome you to share your essential plugins in the comment section!
WordPress Plugins – Areas of Caution
Below I will share a quick overview as to why you should be cautious when it comes to installing plugins. I will identify some important areas for consideration, why they are important and what you can do to protect yourself.
Every plugin that you install can pose a security risk, even famous and well-supported plugins have dealt with this. In 2015, Yoast’s SEO plugin had a security risk that affected over a million websites. This does not mean that you should stop using plugins, but it does mean that you should realize that every plugin you install could pose a security threat.
Slows Down your Site
Every plugin installs a different script on your WordPress installation, all these scripts need to be loaded when someone tries to access your site. The more scripts that need to be loaded, the slower your website could get. You can check out the load time of the plugins you have installed with another plugin (the irony), be sure to check out P3 Plugin Profiler.
Errors and Incompatibility
No WordPress installation is alike, different themes, hosting software and plugins. While respected developers can smooth out a lot of the errors and incompatibilities, it is impossible to do so for every WordPress installation. The more plugins you run the higher the chances that something causes errors.
WordPress Plugins – Quick Rules
Before you install any plugin you want to make sure that the plugin ‘passes’ a couple of quick tests, this to mitigate potential problems in the future. Check for the following:
#1 The plugin is compatible with your WordPress installation – You have to make sure that the plugin you wish to install is compatible and tested with your WordPress version.
#2 The plugin is regularly updated – I can’t stress enough how important updates are if a plugin is not regularly updated it leads to potential incompatibility with WordPress and could expose your website to a security risk.
#3 The plugin is absolutely necessary – Every plugin that you install you have to ask yourself the honest question, do I really need this plugin. If the answer is maybe or no, then don’t install it. Many features that certain plugins offer can also be created with a little coding. Try to limit the total number of plugins you run, there really isn’t a lot of reason to have over 20 plugins installed.
#4 The plugin has a decent amount of installs and positive reviews – If you check the WordPress repository you can check how people have installed the plugin and you can see reviews of the plugin. Alternatively, you can also check out the support forums, is the author of the plugin active? While this does not guarantee that you won’t have any problems, it is an indicator that the plugin is widely supported and compatible.
Below I will share an overview of some essential plugins, note that there are no definitive answers when it comes to the plugins that are relevant to your website. I will share the bare minimum in certain categories.
The JetPack plugin really is a combination of different plugins that is very useful within WordPress. I am a big fan of the site statistics and their custom CSS extension. Furthermore, JetPack also helps to protect and secure your website. For blogs, their related post feature is also very handy as it automatically suggest readers related posts.
Akismet is vital to anyone running a blog and helps to protect your blog against spam. At first, I did not get a lot of spam on Tropical U.P, but since this blog is starting to take off I get over 100 spam comments a day. Akismet helps me to protect my blog against unwanted comments and spam.
A visual editor plugin that helps you to easily draft post content, adding images and HTML to pages, posts and widget areas.
The security of your website should be your main priority. Wordfence provides enterprise security for free (also with a premium option) and helps to protect your website against hacks and malware.
One of the great advantages of hosting with SiteGround is their SuperCacher plugin that is included in their plans. With this plugin, you can speed up load times significantly. If you are not hosting your websites with SiteGround, W3 Total Cache is also a good option.
It is important that visitors are able to contact you. Contact Form 7 is probably the most popular contact form on WordPress and allows you to easily insert a contact form on your website in minutes. You can customize all the entry fields and feedback messages.
This plugin by Yoast lets you easily connect your WordPress site to your Google Analytics to track your website. You can easily install this plugin and you can add custom data tracking based on your personal needs.
Page Builder by SiteOrigin (optional)
This page builder is very easy to use and allows you to create pages in minutes. You can easily add rows, background images and custom override different CSS classes. In this page builder, you can add a visual editor widget to style all your different elements. This page builder is very lightweight, has good support and is free.
The visual editor I mentioned above is not compatible with this page builder and if you want to use a visual editor in combination with this page builder you could use Black Studio TinyMCE.
Visual Composer Page Builder (optional)
The Visual Composer plugin is much more than just a page builder, it is a combination of many plugins all in one format. It allows you to easily and quickly build any page and style element without having to write a single line of code. Visual Composer is ideal for if you want to build a professional looking website yourself but you don’t have any technical skills.
Many elements such as icons, sliders, headers, editors, buttons and much more, are included, meaning that this plugin is likely to be sufficient for all your needs. A word of warning is that once you have built pages with the Visual Composer, it is very hard to uninstall the Visual Composer without having to build certain pages from scratch.
The Visual Composer is available for $ 34 and gives you access to future updates.
Pretty Link (for affiliate marketers)
Pretty Link allows you create custom URLs for your affiliate links. Often affiliate links are very long and using this plugin you could create a link that is shorter and well, prettier. An example of a short link could be /get/Genesis. This plugin is available as a lite or a premium version, if you are just starting out the lite version really has everything you need.
SumoMe is a great combination of different tools. A lot of the WordPress powered websites use SumoMe for its neat and professional looking share buttons, as you can also see on Tropical U.P. Furthermore SumoMe also has a smart bar, analytics, heat maps and several premium extensions.
Yoast SEO (for blogs and eCommerce)
This plugin helps you to SEO optimize your content, even when you are a novice when it comes to search engine optimization. This plugin shows you how your content scores on SEO and where you could potentially improve. A game changer for any blog or online shop that (partially) relies on search engine optimization.
WordPress Plugins Conclusion
So there you have it, my list of essential WordPress Plugins for your site. Keep in mind that the more plugins you install the bigger the potential risks are. If you will do all your website management yourself but are not tech-savvy, working with a premium page builder like
If you will do all your website management yourself but are not tech-savvy, working with a premium page builder like Visual Composer, for example, might not be a bad idea. For those that are more technical, you probably want to be more flexible, that means that sometimes you will need to code certain solutions yourself to add functionality to your website.
So what are your favorite plugins and which plugins do you believe to be essential for any WordPress installation, I am looking forward to comments below. Thanks for being awesome and good luck with everything.