WordPress plugins are pieces of software that can be added to your site for extra functionality, and one of the main reasons WordPress is a highly versatile content management system (CMS). From SEO plugins that help your site rank in Google to page builder plugins that transform your page editor into a drag-and-drop interface, no matter what you need, there’s likely a plugin available to make your life easier and your website better.
Planning to build a site using WordPress? Get the step-by-step instruction on how to make a WordPress website.
Reasons to Use WordPress Plugins
Pretty much every professional WordPress website uses plugins—and for good reason. From small business websites to big tech sites, plugins are the go-to source for added features and capabilities. In short, plugins give WordPress users an easy way of building out a custom website without developing your own custom code.
Here are a few of the reasons to use WordPress plugins:
- Easy to use, no coding required
- Add just about any functionality to your site
- Most are available for free, or at a low cost
No matter what you’re looking to do with your site, you’re most likely going to need a plugin. Without plugins, you will be very limited on what you can do with your WordPress website. For example, even something as simple as a restaurant website would likely use plugins to build a contact form, to connect with an online ordering or reservation system, and to embed reviews from sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor.
Must-have WordPress Plugins for Every Site
No matter what type of website you’re building, there are certain types of WordPress plugins you will want to install. From plugins that safeguard your site from hackers and malware to plugins that enable you to design a WordPress website using a drag-and-drop site editor, if there’s something you need, there’s most likely a plugin for it.
Here are the best WordPress plugins for every business website:
Page Builder Plugins
While WordPress plugins make the platform customizable, it has always been considered a more challenging CMS that required either web design experience or a great deal of time to learn. However, thanks to page builder plugins, this is no longer the case. Now, you can turn your page editor into a drag-and-drop interface, similar to all-in-one site builders like Squarespace or Wix. These make it incredibly easy to design a WordPress site without any web design experience.
Top WordPress page builder plugins:
Each page builder plugin works a bit differently, so find which is right for you by getting all the information you need on the best WordPress website builder plugins.
Search Engine Optimization Plugins
It’s not easy to get your site to rank in search. One way to help give your site a fighting chance at landing in the top of search results is to use a search engine optimization (SEO) plugin. There are tons of SEO plugins, and what most do is help guide you through building pages and posts that can rank, using key SEO components (such as keyword usage), writing snippet descriptions, alt tag usage, and even readability.
Here are the top three SEO plugins:
In general, Yoast SEO is the most popular SEO plugin. It has a comprehensive free version, making it a good choice for just about any WordPress website.
SSL Certificate Plugins
Most likely you will get a free SSL certificate through your web hosting plan. However, many choose to use a plugin to install the SSL certificate. And even after installing it, you may find that your site fails to load securely (with the lock icon in the address bar). In this case, you need to use an SSL certificate plugin to force HTTPS on your site. Though this may sound technical to those new to web design, it’s actually very easy thanks to the plugins that do the work for you.
Here are the top SSL certificate plugins:
Learn more about the different ways to get an SSL certificate, including how to install an SSL certificate.
Performance & Security Plugins
One of the most vital aspects of your website is its performance and security. Not only does having a poor performing site increase bounce rates and lead to missed opportunities, but a lack of site security can make you vulnerable to hackers. Don’t risk your site getting hacked—use a WordPress plugin to increase your site’s security and performance.
Here are the three best performance and security plugins:
Beyond protecting your own site, you also must protect your site visitors. This is especially true if your site collects any sensitive user data, such as contact or payment information. Learn more about ecommerce security.
Contact Form Plugins
As simple as a contact form sounds, you’ll likely find that WordPress does not come with good contact form builders out of the box. Skip the unattractive, poorly designed contact form and get more form submissions with a high-quality form using a plugin. Not only will you be able to easily create contact forms, but all sorts of forms from event registration to collecting user feedback.
Here are the top three contact form plugins for WordPress:
Each contact form plugin works a bit differently, so it’s worth taking the time to figure out which serves your needs best. While you can try to find which is best for you based on plugin descriptions and user reviews, the best way is to try them out for yourself. Luckily, the plugins are free, so it only requires a bit of your time.
User Insights & Analytics Plugins
Not only is it generally interesting to see information such as how many people are visiting your site and how they interact with it, but if you plan to optimize and improve your site in the future, then you will need this information. By having user insights and data, you can later make more strategic optimizations. With the help of analytics plugins, you can easily get a great deal of user insights for free.
Here are the top three analytics plugins:
Get started by following the step-by-step instructions on how to add Google Analytics to WordPress.
People visit your site for a number of reasons, and one of the most common reasons is to find answers to their questions. By using a FAQs plugin, you can give visitors what they came for without having to contact you by preemptively providing a FAQs section on your site. While you could simply create your own FAQs section without a plugin, using a plugin will help you be able to create a question and answer toggle, and better organize your questions.
Here are the top three FAQs plugins:
- Ultimate FAQ: Best overall FAQ plugin
- Elementor: Best website builder with built-in FAQ elements
- Knowledge Base: For creating a comprehensive help center
Not sure which to choose? Get the complete comparison of the best WordPress FAQ plugins.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin in 3 Steps
It’s very easy to install a WordPress plugin. So easy, it only takes three steps. First, go to the “Plugins” tab on the left-hand vertical menu in your WordPress dashboard and select “Add New.” Next, use the search bar on the Plugins page to find your desired plugin. Once you find it, click the “Install” button, and then click the “Activate” button.
Here’s how to install a WordPress plugin in three steps:
1. Go to Plugins From the WordPress Dashboard
Shortcut: WordPress dashboard > Plugins > Add New
Log in to your WordPress dashboard and then navigate to “Plugins” from the left-hand vertical menu. Click the “Plugins” button and select “Add New” from the options.
2. Find Your Desired Plugin
Shortcut: Use the search bar to find your plugin
From the Plugins page, you can find your desired plugin by using the Plugin search bar on the right-hand side of the screen. Alternatively, if you’re not sure which plugin you want to use, you can browse plugins by featured, popular, or recommended.
If you’re adding a premium plugin, then you can click the “Upload Plugin” button at the top, select the plugin from your downloads, and install it.
3. Click Install & Activate
Shortcut: Install > Activate
Once you have found the plugin you want to install, click the “Install” button. After it has installed, that same button will say “Activate.” Click the “Activate” button to complete the installation process.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you update a WordPress plugin?
Developers often update plugins to ensure compatibility with the latest versions of WordPress, to fix any bug issues, and to add new features. When a plugin is updated by its developers, you will need to update your version of the plugin from your WordPress dashboard. To do this, go to Plugins > Installed Plugins and then find all of your plugins that have an available update. You will see a notice on all plugins with an available update, and you can click “Upload Now” to update.
Are WordPress plugins free?
Nearly every plugin is either available for free or has a free version available. You can find free plugins by searching or browsing plugins from your WordPress dashboard, as only free plugins are available directly from WordPress. Keep in mind that many of the free plugins offer limited features, and so it can be worth investing in premium plugins if you need them.
How do you install a premium plugin?
The process of installing a premium plugin is a little different from installing a free plugin. Premium plugins require you to purchase the plugin directly from the plugin provider, which will then give you the ability to download the plugin. After downloading it, go to “Add New” from “Plugins” in WordPress, and click the “Upload Plugin” button at the top. Select your plugin from the downloads file, and upload the plugin.
What’s the easiest way to build a business website?
The absolute easiest way to build a site is to leave it to the experts and hire a pro to build it for you. You may assume this will cost a fortune, but there are a number of surprisingly affordable options, such as using Hibu or hiring a freelancer from Upwork. If you’re looking for the easiest way to build your own website, then your best bet will be an all-in-one website builder, such as Squarespace or Wix. Get started with all the information you need to build your small business website.