Top 10 Essential Wordpress Plugins

Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins

WordPress Plugins provide a simple way for you as a blog owner to extend and expand the functionality of your WordPress site. Automatically install plugins from the WordPress Plugin Directory or manually upload a plugin in .zip format by clicking the button at the top of the plugin page on your admin dashboard.

The WordPress Plugin Directory is a huge directory of all kinds of free and open source plugins for you to browse.  Developers create plugins and add them to the Plugin Directory for your use. The majority operate under the freemium model where you get a base set of features for free, but if you want any additional capabilities then you’ll have to pay up.  Then again, some plugins are absolutely free while others only ask for a small donation or some extra change for their coffee or beer fund.

To search available plugins directly from the admin dashboard of your WordPress installation, click Plugins in the sidebar and select Add New.

WordPress Plugins Add New

Search by keyword, author or tag to find the plugin that you need.  Select Install Now and Activate the plugin.

WordPress Plugins Keyword Search


Once activated, manage the plugin’s settings from the sidebar.  Some plugins create their own link in the sidebar while others add a link to the Tools menu or Settings menu.

WordPress Plugin Sidebar


About This Guide

While each WordPress site is different I do find myself installing the same foundational plugins on every site that I create.

In this guide, I’ll discuss the top 10 essential WordPress plugins that I use on all of my WordPress sites including this very site,  Using these plugins will help you get your blog started with the confidence that you are building it upon a solid foundation.

Want to learn more about blogging?  Read my articles on how to start a blog, how to grow your blog or how to make money blogging .  Also, make sure to choose a great domain registrar and web hosting provider for your site.

Let’s get started!


The Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins

This list is in order of how I typically install plugins, which loosely reflects their importance on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being the first plugin installed.


1. Classic Editor

Classic Editor

Classic Editor – In WordPress 5.0, the classic content editor was replaced with a brand new block editor, known as Gutenberg. Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (pre-Gutenberg) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It will be fully supported until at least 2022.

Why I like it:

Call me old school, but I prefer the Classic Editor to Gutenberg.  Yes, Gutenberg is nice for those just starting out with WordPress because you can seamlessly create rich content and view it in the editor as you create it.  However, for those of us familiar with and adept at the classic way of editing it feels like you lose some control when moving to Gutenberg.   In the Classic Editor I very often switch back and forth between the Visual and Text tabs to make sure things are formatted with HTML5 tags just right. I’d be curious how much extra code gets inadvertently added when using Gutenberg. Maybe none, but I’ll bet there’s extra <h#> tags and <p> tags with no content in them.


2. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO – This is one of the most important plugins you can install.  This plugin significantly helps to improve your search engine optimization on every single post and page.  Yoast SEO is the favorite WordPress SEO plugin of millions of users worldwide for a good reason.  It does the job.

Why I like it:

The SEO tab lets you view any improvements that need to be made on each page and post.  It provides a real-time preview of your Google search results snippet for both mobile and desktop.  It gives you the ability to edit the title,  slug and meta description that appear in those search results.  Plus, it lets you mark your cornerstone articles as such giving them higher importance and a link reference for search engines.

The Readability tab automatically analyzes your page/post and reports any problems that you need to fix.  It recommends improvements to make that aren’t necessarily problems, but could use revision.  It also tells you what you did well, too.

The Social tab gives you the ability to change the title, image and description of search results as they appear on Facebook and Twitter.

The other great thing about the Yoast SEO plugin is that it creates a sitemap for you, which is one less plugin you have to install.

All of those features come with the free version.  It looks like there’s much more in the paid version, but I haven’t even needed that yet.


3. AMP


AMP – The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. AMP enables web experiences that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across distribution platforms. Formerly, AMP stood for “Accelerated Mobile Pages”, but now works completely across desktop and mobile. The official AMP plugin for WordPress supports fully integrated AMP publishing for WordPress sites, with robust capabilities and granular publisher controls.

Why I like it:

While the AMP plugin does require some setup after activation, it’s still much easier than optimizing page load times on your own.  This is a mobile first world and the AMP plugin not only helps load times on mobile devices, but also enhances SEO rankings as well.  Do you need to setup AMP for your WordPress blog?  Read more about using AMP with WordPress.


4. WP Last Modified Info

WP Last Modified Info

Last Modified Info – Most WordPress themes usually show the date when a post was last published. This is fine for static websites. However, WordPress is also used by websites where articles are regularly updated like on this site. The last updated date and time is important information so users can readily see how current the article is.

Why I like it:

It’s very frustrating when you’re reading an article and it doesn’t have a date at the top.  Some authors avoid putting the published date so their content always seems current no matter when it was written.  I don’t like that strategy.  Displaying the last modified date instead of the publish date is a better way to go and it works well for blogs.  How often are you correcting a typo, adding a link or just rewording a post?  Each time you make a small (or big) change to any post the last modified date gets updated, which tells readers that you actively maintain your blog.


5. Reveal IDs

Reveal IDs

Reveal IDs – Since WordPress 2.5, the IDs on all admin pages (users, posts, pages, categories) have been removed. This plugin displays those entry IDs as it was in versions prior to 2.5.

Why I like it:

The Reveal IDs plugin is really helpful with other plugins that take IDs as input to their shortcode like List Category Posts.


6. List Category Posts

List category posts

List Category Posts – List Category Posts allows you to use shortcode to display posts by category in a post or page. When you’re editing a page or post, directly insert the shortcode in your text and the posts will be listed there. This plugin dynamically filters which posts in a category get displayed on a page.

Why I like it:

The List Category Posts plugin used in conjunction with the Reveal IDs plugin makes it really simple to create a page containing blog posts that are limited to certain categories.  You could write your own function to do this, but it’s much easier to change a category ID in the shortcode than to try and remember where your function is and how it works when you need to add or remove categories in the future.


7. WPBruiser

WPBruiser {no- Captcha anti-Spam}

WPBruiser – The antispam and security plugin that really works. You no longer need CAPTCHA, but still get protection against spam bot signups and comments. Select what to protect from a long list of options.

Why I like it:

WPBruiser just works. It has a bunch of features to choose from out of the box including brute force settings, whitelisted IPs, protection for register/login/forgot password/membership forms, user enumeration and even protection for other popular plugins.  WPBruiser has a test mode to so you can ensure it’s working properly.  It sends notification emails to your admin email address without clobbering your inbox.


8. GDPR Cookie Consent

GDPR Cookie Consent

GDPR Cookie Consent – The GDPR Cookie Consent plugin helps you make your website GDPR compliant. It comes with a host of features including options for displaying and hiding the consent form.

Why I like it:

I like this plugin because it makes it very easy to be GDPR compliant.  It also gives you the option to turn the cookie bar on or off completely, where to display it on the page and what to do on page load and once a user dismisses the banner. For example, I like to have the cookie tab completely disappear after a user accepts.


9. Constant Contact Forms

Constant Contact Forms

Constant Contact Forms – makes it fast and easy to capture visitor information right from your WordPress site. Collect email addresses, contact info and visitor feedback by customizing your forms with the data fields that work best for you. Best of all, this plugin is available to all WordPress users, even if you don’t have a Constant Contact account.

Why I like it:

The Constant Contact Forms plugin makes it fast and easy to create forms that capture all kinds of visitor information.  This plugin automatically adds all new email addresses that you capture to the email list of your choosing in your existing Constant Contact account.  You don’t need a Constant Contact account for this plugin to work.  It’s a little more tedious if you don’t have an account because the information just gets emailed to the site admin. If you’re interested in a free 60 day trial of Constant Contact check out my resources page.


10. Lightweight Social Icons

Lightweight Social Icons

Lightweight Social Icons – Lightweight Social Icons is an easy to use social icon widget which lets you display your favorite social profile icons.

Why I like it:

This plugin makes it simple to add social icons to your header, sidebar or footer using the widget.  You can easily customize the icon size, border radius (roundness) and foreground/background/hover colors of your icons.  The plugin has a number of social media sites including all the popular ones Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.  Then again I created a Quora Space for TrailSix and this plugin doesn’t have Quora as an option.


Honorable Mention

The following plugins didn’t make the top 10 essential WordPress plugins list, but I do (or do not) use them often for reasons explained below.

W3 Total Cache is a caching plugin offering robust features to help you improve the SEO and user experience of your site by increasing website performance and reducing load times by leveraging features like content delivery network (CDN) integration and the latest best practices.

WordFence is security for your WordPress site.  It provides a web application firewall built for WordPress, a WordPress security scanner, login security, and other security tools including the ability to monitor activity and potential hacking attempts in real-time.

GA Google Analytics is an analytics plugin that makes it easy to add your Google Analytics tracking code and be done.  Being a hands on developer I like to manually update my header file with my analytics code instead of installing yet another plugin.

Akismet Anti-Spam is included with every WordPress installation.  The barrier to entry is having to setup an API key and create yet another account.  It’s easier to install WPBruiser (mentioned above), which I find to be just as effective at controlling spam.