Out of the box, WordPress provides an intuitive and elegant editing and publishing experience, but part of what makes WordPress such a popular content management system is its vast ecosystem of plugins. WordPress Core provides all the necessary tools to publish content, but no single project can be all things to all bloggers.
There are thousands of plugins — both free and paid — to extend WordPress in any way you can imagine. The breadth and depth of the plugin ecosystem is astonishing, but it also poses something of a problem for new users — without testing hundreds of plugins how can they know which are right for their site?
I’ve installed more WordPress sites than I can count, and over the years I’ve tried out most of the plugins the average WordPress site might need. Today, I’m going to share the five plugins that every new WordPress user should at least take a look at. There are excellent alternatives to every plugin I’m about to suggest, so you should consider this list one WordPress user’s opinionated take on the perfect new WordPress site.
WordPress isn’t a slow content management system, but on a web where performance is paramount, every optimization counts. WP Rocket is a user-friendly caching plugin that just works.
Because WordPress generates its pages every time a user requests them, it spends a lot of time generating the same page over and over again. WP Rocket stores the results of page generation and when a user requests a page, it sends the pre-rendered page rather than generating it again. Caching can dramatically improve the responsiveness of a WordPress site.
WP Rocket isn’t free, but if you want a caching plugin that doesn’t require technical knowledge to use, it’s the best option. If you’d rather use a free plugin W3 Total Cache is an excellent alternative, but be prepared to do some configuration to get the best results.
Yoast’s SEO plugin will help you get your site in shape for search engines. The free version is packed with functionality to help WordPress users optimize their pages for maximum SEO value.
It includes tools for adding metadata to posts and pages, setting up sitemaps, keyword and focus word analysis, and the creation of canonical links.
Backing up your WordPress site is an essential part of site maintenance. I’ve seen no end of WordPress sites seriously damaged because they didn’t have a recent backup. If your WordPress site is hacked or you make a mistake that deletes data, a backup can save your bacon.
BackUpWordPress makes it straightforward to create comprehensive backups, from which you’ll be able to resurrect your site should anything go awry.
WordPress has an undeserved reputation for being insecure. It’s no more insecure than any other content management system, but, because of its popularity, it is the target of a huge number of attacks.
Sucuri augments WordPress’s existing security features with file integrity monitoring, remote malware scanning, blacklist monitoring, security hardening, and a number of other features that make life difficult for hackers and criminals.
Images make up a significant proportion of the size of most web pages. Any reduction in the size of images will make your WordPress pages download faster and consume less of your users’ bandwidth.
Smush can resize, optimize, and compress the images on your site to reduce their size without affecting their appearance. The result is much smaller images that still look awesome.
I’ve listed five out of many thousands of plugins. These are enough to get you started, but I’d encourage you to explore the WordPress Plugin Repository yourself. If you find there’s something you need to do with your WordPress site that isn’t included by default, there’s almost certainly a plugin that will do the job.