The beauty of WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS) is it’s unbelievable flexibility. It can grow with your business like no other CMS, with thousands of free Open Source plugins to extend your websites functionality. If you ever have to hand-over your WordPress website to someone else they can take over immediately, updating your plugins or adding new ones, something not so possible with a bespoke CMS which ties you in to the particular agency or developer who built it.
So here is a list of my GoTo Plugins that is needed by nearly every WordPress website.
Contact form 7
Every website needs a contact page of some sort and Contact Form 7 has been around for many years and is the number 1 contact form plugin. Its not the most complex, there are many better ones, Everest Forms or Gravity Forms being a few but with a bit of knowledge a lot of power can be derived from it and its ideal if you just want a simple contact form immediately on your website. WordPress still doesn’t come with a contact form out of the box, so this free plugin has to be added. It gets updated frequently and there is great support on the Plugin website.
Once Contact Form 7 is installed Flamingo is a real neat free plugin that stores all the messages and email addresses received through the contact form so if you are not receiving mail from your form, perhaps due to your own server or domain then you can login to the backend of your WordPress site and check all the entries.
Making sure your website is backed up is key, that way if there is ever a major issue with your site going down for some insane reason, or worse still its hacked then its fairly easy to restore an older version of a working database for your site. Backups can be saved to the same directory as the website on the host, or better still to the Cloud such as Dropbox or a Google Drive. Don’t worry if that sounds a bit complex, any web designer or developer who created your website should arrange for this to be done from the outset. The UpdraftPlus plugin is free and there is a Pro version available which personally I have never needed to implement.
Wordfence seems a more complex plugin to set up but most of what it does is completely in the background. It will give your website the security it needs and protect from hackers who constantly send robots all over from various IP addresses to attempt to login to your website and inject all sort of nasty bits of code. You can block by IP addresses or block whole countries from visiting your website so it’s a must.
No website is complete without installing Yoast SEO. Your website won’t act different, look different or function differently after its installed but any decent designer or developer will install it so that the websites SEO can be properly optimised for its keywords. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is key to get right and Yoast will help guide the user when writing Posts and adding Pages and how best to write their content to match their keywords.
- It will help you add a custom title and meta description for each page or post.
- Uses a traffic light system to guide you.
- Will help you add a sitemap for Google to index.
- You can edit your Robots.txt file
- And loads more
Worth mentioning is that Yoast SEO has a monopoly on other similar plugins, its the most downloaded but I will also recommend Rank Math. I enjoy the fact it gives each page or post an SEO score.
WP Simple Booking Calendar
There are plenty more complex booking calendars and systems out there but the reason I like WP Simple Booking Calendar is you can quickly show clients or customers what dates or days you have booked, the other dates are marked available by default. More complex options are out there but if you are wanting people to actually make bookings on your website it may be better to get a different plugin. But at least by showing this on your website both your clients and you at a glance can see what dates are not booked and that can help them and you to make instant decisions.
GDPR Cookie Consent
With the laws changing on the cookies that a website collects from a visitor it is necessary to install a GDPR plugin. There are many out there and I’m sure most do a similar job, so it’s best to install one on your site that helps you comply with the latest regulations and note how often the plugin gets updated. Cookies collect information from a visitor to your site, like location, web browser etc. and if you want your visitor to fill in forms and make transactions then a plugin like this is required by law. Once a visitor accepts the fact that their data is collected then they no longer need to do that when they revisit your website.
Smash Balloon Instagram Feed
I love Smash Balloon Instagram Feed. Once connected to your Instagram account it will display the latest images on your Instagram Feed. You can customise how WordPress displays this, so once set up you don’t really have to do anything – just keep posting on Instagram. The feed can be added to a sidebar and displayed on the side of pages or posts or a page can be set up on your site, ie a Gallery page and it can display the photos from your Instagram Feed, so you have an instant gallery. There are Pro Versions and Plugins for displaying your feed from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Smush is a free plugin with a paid-for Pro version that personally I have never had to use. It’s excellent at compressing and/or resizing all existing or every new image that is added to your WordPress Media Library. It can work in the background so that the client who may upload an image that is not resized and therefore quite large in terms of file size need not worry that their visitor will spend ages watching it download and render on the page, severely slowing your website down – something you certainly don’t want.
OK, so WooCommerce is not a Plugin I would normally install unless you are going to pro-actively sell Products on your website. If you are, then this is the No1 Plugin on the WordPress platform and it’s insanely hard to believe that the version that you need is free. set up your Shop, Cart, and Basket page. You can set Stock levels, Shipping prices, Offers, Tax, you name it. And you must choose a method of payment for the customer and unless you want to go through hoops and prepared to take transactions on your site then I suggest you set it up to take payments via PayPal. Your site will definitely need to be secured with an SSL certificate which you will get from your host. They are not expensive and basically its represented by the ‘Lock’ icon on your browsers URL bar – more on that another time.