This Must-Have WordPress Plugins for Beginners guide is not the guide that will tell you the top or best plugins and leave it at that, no, it will tell you exactly what you could add to your new website, starting now.
And this list is all about free wordpress plugins.
Building a new WordPress site is hard enough without adding on another job of trying to figure out what essential WordPress plugins you should start with.
When I first started out, I was searching and reading, reading and searching!
And I realized that what I really needed as a new blogger, who knew nothing about anything blogging, was for someone to say, “hey new blogger, these are some must-have free WordPress Plugins you should think about starting out with from day one!”
Trying to figure out which plugins to start with as a beginner can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what you need, why you need it or what it’s for.
So, I created this must-have beginner guide for new bloggers.
So, if you’ve been trying to figure out what plugins you need to start with, this post has it!
If you’ve had questions like:
- Which WordPress plugins do I need as a beginner?
- Which plugins are essential?
- What are the most important plugins to get started with?
- Is there a guide somewhere that will suggest what I need and why?
Or if you’ve just been frustrated and yelling at your laptop, can someone just help me for pete’s sake?
I’ve got your answers right here!!
I’m going to share with you what you could, would and should need and most importantly, why.
But don’t worry these plugins will not need to be removed from your site when you’re no longer a beginner, these plugins are for everyone for everyday use, unless you choose to no longer use them.
And you do not have to get these particular plugins that I’m going to list.
But to know what you need, you need to pay attention to the TYPE of plugin: security, forms, SEO, etc., and then when you figure that out, then you can pay attention to the names.
But first, there are a few things you should know….
Must-have wordpress plugins for beginners is a phrase that gets searched a lot. As a beginner when I read it, I consider the question to mean, as a new blogger, what exactly do I need to put on my site to start with, now?
No site is the same and what you need depends on what you need, plain and simple, so there will be plugins that you will need to add on your own.
But there are also plugins that you need to start with now, and that is this.
These plugins that I mention are the top and best free plugins, because you want to have good quality plugins.
What is a WordPress Plugin?
A plugin is a piece of software that will help your site do things that it couldn’t do without it and depending on what the plugin was developed for, it will add different types of functions to your site and make it a whole easier to manage.
But if you want the technical definition for a WordPress plugin , you can check out my go-to site WPBeginner and it will explain in more detail.
Are WordPress Plugins Necessary?
They are very important and necessary to your site.
Plugins are going to help you take care of your site, build your site, protect your site and do so much more.
And not only that, they will make a better user experience, and Goolge loves that.
Back in the day, when people used to build their sites, you either had to know code, how to write code or you hired someone.
And then came plugins, now there are thousands of them and even though you might need to add code one time or another to your site, plugins make it so much easier with the click of a few buttons.
Are Plugins Free?
Yes, they are.
But, there are also premium WordPress plugins that are paid, but you can do alot with the free versions.
Premium plugins have extra features, add-ons, and advanced features.
Paid WordPress plugins are not available in the plugin diectory, these paid plugins would need to be downloaded and then uploaded in a zip file to your WordPress site.
How to Install a WordPress Plugin?
This is how it works when you need a plugin, you’ll head to your WordPress dashboard:
- Scroll down in the left side dashboard and find PLUGINS, click on it
- When you click on Plugins in the side bar, the menu will appear and Installed Plugins and Add New will show up, you can click Add New from here and the plugins page will load or
- Click on Plugins and the page will load, in the top of the page an Add New button will show, click it, either way you will be taken to the WordPress Plugin Directory
- Enter the name of the plugin or a main keyword, for example Sucuri or Security
- The page will populate plugins with the main name or keyword
- Click the Install Now button
- Then Activate
- Configure (set it up) if necessary
After you have installed a plugin, it must be Activated to do it’s job.
Is There More to Plugins?
Yes, sometimes a whole lot more; after you get a plugin, it might need to be configured, which means doing more than adding it and going on your merry way.
It will need to be set up properly.
If you have a plugin with the word “settings”, it most likely needs to be configured.
When this happens, you will need to do your research for the harder ones but most are pretty easy.
Check online to see if the developer of the plugin has tutorials or a blog with instructions and check for YouTube videos, there are tons of how-to’s out there.
I suggest that you read and watch videos first before attempting to set it up.
I’ve come to find out that some tutorials and videos may leave out some information and another one may include the information, so look out for a few, don’t just rely on one post or video.
How Many WordPress Plugins Should You Install?
Great question, because I’m sure you’ve heard or read that that having too many plugins will slow your site, mess up your site, affect your performance and possible get you hacked.
- Bad plugins can do all that
- Low-quality plugins do that
- Plugins that are not updated
- A poorly developed plugin
- Plugins that shouldn’t be used with other plugins
- A plugin that is heavy/bloated
- Plugins that use a lot of resources
- Adding plugins to an already slow theme or hosting provider
But not too many plugins, there are sites out there with hundreds of plugins and they run super fast.
Just get what you need and use what you get.
During my research, I came across some sites that suggested, you should only have five plugins.
A few other sites suggested that however many years you’ve been blogging, is how many plugins you should have; like 1-5 years, 5 plugins, 6-10 years; 10 plugins and so on.
But think about this, if you start out with 5: Security, Forms, SEO, Analytics and a Page Builder. How are you going to do without a Cache, Social Media, Membership, Cookies, Optimization for Photos, Backup, Spam and so on?
Seriously, think about it!
You need what you need, period!! Whether it’s 5 or 25 or more.
And one last one, from Wpastra:
The short answer is to use as many plugins as you need to provide the user experience and functions you want.
But no matter how many you use, the best practice is; don’t get it till you need it and if you’re not using it delete it. There’s no need to have a plugin installed and activated if you’re not using it.
Use what you need for your site and every few months do a plugin clean up and get rid of what you’re not using.
Deactivating and Deleting Plugins
If you’re no longer using a plugin and it’s just sitting there, delete it.
While it won’t harm your site, it is still executable, which means it’s able to be run by a computer.
And if someone or something trys to hack your site, these deactivated plugins can get infected or be used to install malware.
If you have a deactivated plugin, already set with settings, that you turn on and off regulary, you can keep it, but only if you plan to use it soon.
If not, you should just get rid of it and install it again when you need it.
Problems Plugins Can Cause
Anything can happen with a plugin, especially a bad low-quality plugin, a heavy plugin or plugins that load to many uncecessary scripts to your site.
This can affect your site speed and even crash your site and this could also happen with a good plugin not updated.
Also keep in mind that not all plugins are compatible, meaning they don’t work well together and every time you add a plugin to your site, this is a risk you take.
Any time you add more resources to your site, there could be a number of reasons that something happens to it.
You could have the best site ever; speed, security, performance, everything and one single plugin could harm it for a number of reasons.
But don’t be afraid to use the plugins that you need, again make sure your plugins are updated and are high quality.
How Do You Choose a Plugin?
Do your research!
Look at the:
- star rating
- how many installations
- when it was last updated
- and read the negative reviews, you can learn a lot
And understand what your plugin is for.
Why Should You Know What Your Plugin Does?
For example, take a plugin like Jetpack (security, lazy loading, marketing, performance, social share buttons, CDN and more) it’s a multi-use plugin, meaning you can do a lot with this one plugin.
And having this plugin that does so much, would mean that there are a lot of other plugins you don’t need.
If you don’t know what all this plugin does and you have or put other plugins on your site that did the same stuff Jetpack did, it could cause trouble for your site.
Keep in mind that with a plugin like Jetpack, it is bloated, meaning it has a lot of code and that can slow your site and some of the things that the plugin does, you may not even need or won’t ever use.
So know what your plugins do!
For the record, I do not use Jetpack, I just used it as an example of a multi-use plugin.
There are thousands of plugins to choose from, but you only need one plugin to do one thing, you do not want duplicate plugins, that may and will cause issues for your site.
Having plugins that do the same exact thing, means that these plugins can and will work against each other.
For example: say you have an anti-spam plugin, you do not need an anti-spam plugin with security. You need only to choose one because both do the same thing, one just has an extra feature.
And if your security plugin does what the security for the anti-spam plugin does, you don’t need anti-spam security.
Know what your plugins do!
When you pick a plugin in WordPress, click on the name.
It will open a page that will tell you what the plugin does.
Need more clarification about the plugin? Google it!!
Some developers have blogs with more info, look into it.
WordPress Plugin Compatibilty
What if you find a plugin that says “it has not been tested with your version of WordPress”, do you still use it?
I use one of those plugins on my site and I have never had a problem with it.
How Do I Know Which Plugins to Use?
There are hundreds and hundreds of posts out there about plugins and everyone will have something different to say.
Do your research!!
Find reputable sites that will have valuable useful information, this is the only way we will learn, doing our own research and having trial and error.
Now with that being said, you also need to keep in mind that even sites that know about plugins will still have something to say.
You might read one site that says how wonderful a plugin is and then read about how bad that same plugin is on a different site.
This is where your better judgement needs to come in.
Use what is best for your site and if you have a problem with a plugin that can’t be fixed, delete it and try a different one, just make sure you use good quality plugins.
And know, that what might work for one person may not work for another.
I was chatting with someone that used the same GDPR plugin that I use, but he said it slowed down his site, but my site speed is fine.
All sites are not the same and we all have different plugins, host, and themes.
So, we can’t base our decisions on what works for others.
It could have been a number of things that caused his site to slow down when he added that one plugin.
If it works for you and it’s a necessary plugin you need, use it.
Now, let’s get started on adding must-have WordPress Plugins for beginners.
Must-Have WordPress Plugins
You may be the only one working on your site right now, but there will come a time that you might add more users, and you will want something to control what goes on in your site.
Capability Manager Enhanced Plugin: also known as Publish Press Capabilities, allows you to control: who can edit, read, publish and delete content.
Use this Getting Started Guide , to learn what it’s for, how to use it and how to configure the plugin.
Capability Manager allows you to set user roles, control what they can do on your site, what users have access to and allows you to create your own custom roles.
Activity Log Plugin:
Monitor Users on your site. Some security plugins come with activity monitoring, if it does, then you don’t need this, your security plugin is fine to use on it’s own.
Temporary Login Without Password:
This plugin can be used if someone asks to have access to your WordPress Admin login to get into your site to do some work that you’ve hired them to do.
If you use this plugin, you will upload it, activate it, enter the email of the person that will use it, assign a lenth of time they will be able to access your site, then send the user the link, they will enter your site through that link without having to create a password.
Once the time frame is up that you entered, that user will no longer have access.
- Here we know that if you have multiple users on your site, you need a plugin to control what their role is and what they can and cannot do.
- Use a plugin that will log activity, when someone has logged in, changed something, deleted something and so on. (Unless your security plugin has these features)
- And a plugin in case you ever need to give temporary access to your site, you will only need to upload when you need it. I use this plugin, then delete it and upload it again when I need it.
There is no way around this, you need security!
This plugin will add extra security, you will download an app to use it. This is a 2-step verification process and you’ll recieve a code to get into your site.
WPS Hide Login:
Hackers can try as may times as they want to guess your admin password. This is a brute force attack. This plugin will limit the number of attempts they get and lock them out and/or block their IP address and you also have the ability to enter their IP address and block it.
This is how and why, you should limit login attempts.
Also has a premium version. This plugin has what you need, except for a firewall, but if you use the free version and want the Firewall, you’re able to purchase it.
Just head over to the Sucuri site for pricing.
This is another top free plugin that also has an upgrade option. This plugin comes with a firewall. Read the tutorials and watch the videos on how to set up the Wordfence plugin.
Sucuri is one of the top free WordPress security plugins but to have a firewall you need the paid version.
Wordfence comes with a firewall but not the full package, but it gets the job done, it also comes with brute force attack protection.
But just to let you know, I use login lockdown for extra security and they work fine together for me.
- Google Authenticator, WPS Hide Login and Login Lockdown are 3 different types of plugins, it’s your choice to use them or not, but take your security seriously. They are for extra added protection to prevent hacking.
- Sucuri, Wordfence or another security plugin is a definite that you will need to add to your site. You need a wordpress plugin for security, no if ands or buts
Yes, you need it.
And you only need one.
Go through the backup plugins and decide which one is best for you.
Whichever one you choose, it will need to be configured to work properly.
I only use Updraft Plus, so I can’t speak on other ones, but with this plugin, you will configure it to backup to cloud storage and you can back it up to more than one place.
- You need a backup plugin
- They will need to be configured
This is a definite. Caching will help your site to load faster.
- Wp Super Cache
- W3 Total Cache
Caching happens automatically, but if you ever make changes and don’t see them take effect, clear your cache and reload the page and it’s not going to hurt anything if you want to clear your cache after making changes to your site.
I use Siteground for my hosting and it comes with it’s own Caching. If you use a hosting company that has it’s own caching, you do not need another one.
You only need one caching plugin and if your site does have a cache and you add another caching plugin, you should be notified, there is a conflict.
- You need a caching plugin
- You only need one
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
When you add an SEO plugin to your site, it will appear under your content (scroll to bottom of page). This will give you tips on how to optimize your SEO for your content.
But don’t think because you use these plugins that they automatically get you to page 1.
They are just a guide to help you optimize your posts for what Goolge likes.
These plugins will also create sitemaps for you so that all you have to do is submit the sitemap link when you create, change or update your content.
- All in One SEO
These also have premium versions available.
Check out their blogs, there is a lot of useful posts on them that you can read to learn about SEO, even if you’re not using that paticular plugin.
SEO is very important to ranking.
- Use an SEO plugin. It is a guide and it gives you recommendations to improve your SEO
Your website may be using cookies, so you’ll need this plugin. And it’s better to be safe than sorry if your not sure.
I’m sure you’ve seen a ton of sites that have banners or pop up’s at the bottom of a site asking for consent, that’s for cookies.
Also, if it is mentioned in your legal pages, you need it. I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice.
There are quite a few blogging attorneys, so you should check out their sites for more detailed information.
- Cookie Consent
- Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR/CCPA
- GDPR Cookie Consent
Google Analytics Plugin
You an use an Analytics plugin or not.
If you add this plugin to your site, you will get a glance at your Goolge Analytics and that’s just what it is a glance and not very accurate, if you want more you will need to upgrade.
You can have Google Analytics without the plugin.
So, it’s your choice to use it or now.
There are other plugins for tracking Google Analytics (GA), but I have only used MonsterInsights, but I took it off and no longer use it.
It takes up a lot of resources on your site.
I just go straight to the source: Google Analytics.
- You do not need a Google Analytics plugin, it’s your choice, some use it some don’t
- You can go straight to Google Analytics for your data, where it’s more accurate
Yes, you need some type of Spam Plugin.
Spam plugins filter out spam comments and keep them from showing on your site.
You also should set your site up to manually approve and allow comments, before they just automatically show up in your post.
- Antispam Bee
- Definitely use a Spam Plugin and set your site to manually approve comments
Visitors will need a way to contact you and a contact form is for that purpose.
This is the form that is put on the Contact Us page.
This is just a regular contact form, it’s not to send them a newsletter or offers, but to recieve any inquiries.
Maybe someone would want to contact you with a question about your site, brand or product.
This is not to replace your Email Marketing Services or your comments form.
- WP Forms Lite
- Contact Form 7
- You need a contact form for your contact us page
Images not optimized, will take up a lot of space and slow your site speed down.
You need to add an image optimization plugin that will resize and optimize your images automatically.
- Short Pixel
- WP Smush
- WP Compress
- You need it
- I use Siteground and it comes with image optimization, I know that Bluehost does not because I used to have them. If your not sure just check if your hosting company has it automatically
- It is also best to download your images first, then send them through an image optimizer like tinypng, optimazilla, imagify, or some other other type of program before loding them to your media library. A quick search for image optimizer will bring more up
A page builder plugin will definitely help you to build and customize your site to how you want it.
Yes, it will take some learning how to use it, but it will be so worth it.
Once you learn it, the majority of using it, is drag and drop.
But it will make it a whole lot easier to design your site.
There are free and there are paid.
If you’re not ready to invest in a premium page builder then use a free one.
- Seed Pro
- Beaver Builder
- You do not have to use a page builder
You will need this plugin to place your Google Analytiics code, Google Search Console code, Google Tag Manager code, and/or any other codes into your WordPress site.
- Insert Headers and Footers
- You need this plugin
Social Sharing Buttons
- Sassy Social Share
- Smash Ballon
- Social Warfare
- Easy Social Share
I have added quite a few social sharing buttons and the one I found was the easiest was Sassy Social Share, everyone is different with what they like, but I found this one to be the easiest to configure.
- These plugins will need to be configured and if you use social media platforms, you need one
Yes, definitely yes.
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network.
For more information you can find out about what a CDN is from Cloudflare.
But the Liz Friendly version, it’s servers around the world that will hit the closest server when someone accesses your site for a faster upload time.
Not all hosting companies provide CDN, so be sure to ask whoever you have.
- MaxCDN – paid
- Cludflare – free
I use Cloudflare provided through my hosting company. Check with your hosting company to see what they use for CDN.
Broken Link Checker:
When you link from your site to another site or from one of your pages to another one of your pages, sometimes things go wrong.
This plugin will give you a notification under your Tools tab that links are broken.
A broken links plugin can slow down your site speed.
Keep reading to find out about an alternative.
- In the settings tab, you will find Tools and if you have broken links; next to Tools it will show the number of how many broken links it’s found, click on Tools.
- If you are reading one of your posts and you see a line through a link, most likely it’s broken
- If you have a post that is live and it contains links to a post that is in Draft, it will show the link is broken. When you publish your draft, it will fix itself, but go to the Tools tab and double check to make sure the links are fixed and hit dismiss
- If you do not want to add another plugin to your site, you can find the same broken links at brokenlinkcheck.com
- If you don’t use a plugin and use a website instead, you will need to remember to go check every often for broken links
- A visitor will recieve a 404 error message when a page no longer exists; maybe the post was deleted, the URL was changed or other reasons and a 301 would help fix that.
Find out from Wpbeginner steps to creating 301 redirects and why you might need to use it.
Siteground hosting provides a redirect plugin and I don’t need another one, so if you’re not sure, check with your hosting.
- You will need a redirect plugin, but don’t get it till it’s necessary
A minify plugin will make your website files smaller and will help to make your site load faster.
There are a number of plugins out there for this.
I use the Minify HTML plugin. Some of these need to be configured. Choose a plugin that you like.
- Yes, you should have this on your site, now
Conclusion for Must-Have WordPress Plugins for Beginners
This is a starter guide to a listing of free must-have WordPress plugins for Beginners.
Some you will need, some you don’t, some you’ll use, some you won’t, but at least you know the type you need to start with.
- Remember that every site is different in it’s needs
- Make sure your plugins are updated
- If you don’t need it now, don’t install it
- Do house cleaning every few months and get rid of the plugins you’re not using
- You don’t have to use these plugins, but as long as you know what type of plugin you need, just search in your “add new plugin” box and find a different one
- If you use a plugin that uses a lot of resources and it’s affecting your site speed, find a replacement that’s lightweight
Use your better judgement about what you need and if you really need it.
As you’ve read through this post, you have seen that there are a number of reasons that could lead to your site messing up some kind of way.
Anytime you add a new plugin, anything can go wrong, not every plugin is perfect. So, pay attention!!
- If you have installed a new plugin and all of a sudden you’re having issues, it’s 99% that plugin, uninstall it and find a new one to take it’s place
- If you install a new one and it still causes problems then it could be another plugin not playing well with the others
- Sometimes it is necessary to delete all your plugins and then upload them and activate them one by one to find out which one is causing the issues
- It is best to try your plugins in your staging enviroment first, WPBeginner has a list of hosts with directions on how to create a staging site
- Keep your plugins updated and check if they need to be configured
- Sometimes an issue with a plugin will lock you out of your site, and you may not even know if it really is a plugin that caused it, but here are some solutions: what to do when your locked out, and when you know it’s a plugin and can’t access your WordPress Admin
- Remember there are plenty of good websites out there for solving issues and getting information, use them with a quick search
Did you find this post useful?
Did this post help you in knowing what essential plugins to start with?
Let me know in the comments