Hey, y’all, I am super excited to talk to you today about one of the most common questions I get from TPT sellers about their WordPress websites. Now, whether they have just launched a WordPress site or migrated over from a different platform, or they’ve had their website a long time, I constantly see people asking what must-have WordPress plugins are out there that I should get?
This question comes up all the time in Facebook groups, and I am here to answer it for you today. Now, if you’re wondering what a plugin actually is, a plugin is a piece of code that adds some sort of functionality to your website. WordPress was built to be bare bones, and to rely on plugins to add any kind of additional functionality, so that everyone can add just the different parts that they need for their specific website. This is really great, because it keeps your WordPress site lightweight, which is good for site speed and you don’t have a bunch of things on your site that you never use.
Now, if you do have a bunch of things on your website you’re not using, then you should probably think about getting rid of those plugins because like I said, we want your website to be lightweight, because that’s good for site speed. But we are actually going to talk all about what plugins to get rid of in next week’s episode, so make sure you come back for that.
Regardless of your business model, there are a few types of must-have WordPress plugins every site should have. Today, I’m going to share those must-have plugin types with you and I’ll tell you my favorite for each one. There’ll be links to each of these must-have plugins in the show notes, so be sure to head over there if you need help finding them.
Alright, let’s dive in. The first type of plugin you absolutely have to have is a security plugin. This is vital. Unfortunately, because WordPress is the most popular website platform in the world. It is also the most hacked website platform in the world. Now, don’t let that scare you. There are plenty of ways to protect your site and keep it safe.
A security plugin is one of the best things that you can do to help block hackers or bot attacks on your site and just to make sure that your site is staying healthy. My top recommendation for a security plugin on your site is called WordFence. They do have a paid and a free option, but for most people, I just recommend using the free version.
The second must-have plugins you absolutely have to have and this should come as no surprise if you’re familiar with me. I recommend that everyone have an SEO plugin on your site. SEO stands for search engine optimization, of course. Your SEO plugin will help make sure that you’re doing the right things, so that your posts are getting seen by Google. Your plugin is not going to teach you all the ins and outs of SEO. That’s what my course is for. But it does serve as a checklist to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
Most SEO plugins will also help analyze the content to be sure you’re using your keywords often enough, that you are writing in a reader friendly way and some other things like that. The most popular SEO plugin, at least in the teacher author world is probably Yoast, it is perfectly fine to use Yoast if you have it, but I actually recommend rankmath instead. And here’s why, rankmath gives you an actual score a number score from 1 to 100. Rather than just those red, yellow and green dots. Now your number score is still color coded so you can see where you fall.
Because you get an actual number score and because their color coding goes on a gradient instead of just those three categories. You can really tell more about where your post falls and how much you need to continue optimizing. I also feel like rankmath gives you some better recommendations for what to optimize than Yoast does. So, that’s another reason I recommend them.
My favorite part is that rankmath’s free version includes a bunch of extra features that you have to buy the Yoast premium version in order to use. Things like tracking multiple keywords within a post, setting upredirects, meaning that you don’t need a separate plugin to create pretty links and things like that. They will even automatically redirect your links if you change them so that people don’t land on an error page a 404 error. They also give you suggestions for related posts and pages on your site that you might want to link to all within the free version of rankmath.
There is a pro version of rankmath, which is also wonderful. Most people are okay with just the free version, I do think the free version is much better than the free version of Yoast. If you are one of my WordPress care plan members, the pro version of rankmath is included for you. So if you don’t have that installed, or if you want to switch from Yoast over to rankmath Pro, just submit a ticket on your WordPress dashboard.
For anyone else who is interested, you can easily switch over from Yoast or any other SEO plugin to rankmath. They have a wizard that will do that and will move all of your optimizations, all of the keywords you might have put in with your other plugin right over to rankmath. You don’t have to worry about losing anything when you move.
The third must-have plugin you absolutely have to have is a site speed plugin. Site Speed is very important to Google for search ranking now and it is also important for your readers that your site loads quickly and that they aren’t stuck waiting around. The statistics on how quickly people leave your site if your load time slows down are staggering. When you get up to 10 to 15 second load time, people are almost 200% more likely to leave your site and it jumps every small increment from zero seconds up to that point.
It’s really important that you have a good site speed plugin installed because this will take care of a lot of the more tech heavy optimizations to your site that need to happen. My recommendation for this hands down is called WP Rocket. This is a paid plugin it costs about $50 a year. Again, if you are one of my WordPress care plan members, this is included for you. If you don’t have it, or if you have a different plugin, and you want to switch over just submit a support ticket on your dashboard and we’ll get that taken care of for you.
WP Rocket has performed better than any other plugin every time that I have switched a client over to it, so that is hands down my recommendation. The out of the box settings when you install the plugin are really good. I usually make just a few small tweaks to it for personal preferences. But if you install it and just click Activate, it will immediately speed your website up in 99% of cases.
If you need a free alternative, I would recommend W3 Total Cache as a good free alternative. But to be honest, there is nothing that has performed as well as WP Rocket for me. So definitely check that one out.
Your fourth must-have WordPress plugin is an image compression plugin. These are also important for site speed and this is something that WP Rocket doesn’t do a great job of even though it is a part of WP Rocket that you could use. When it comes to Site Speed images are almost always the biggest factor in slowing your load time down. And there are two parts to image sizes, the dimensions of the image itself so how physically large that image is, and then the actual file size.
The dimensions are measured in pixels, you might see something like 1920 by 1080. The file size is going to be measured in megabytes, kilobytes, whatever size your image is. Sizing your image dimensions properly before you upload them is very important. And I recommend that most images uploaded to your website be no larger than 1000 pixels wide at the largest dimension.
Once you have uploaded them, the next step is to compress the actual file size. This will make your file size a lot smaller and will help your images load faster. My recommendation for image compression is called an Imagify. This is a paid plugin but it’s not very expensive. A backup free alternative is called Smush. You can find the links for both of those in the show notes.
Your last absolute must-have WordPress plugin is something to handle daily backups of your website. If something happens to your site, you will need a way to restore the latest good version of the site. This often happens when you’ve updated plugins and they break something on your site and can also happen if a site gets hacked. Most web hosts quality ones anyway have some sort of back backups built into your hosting service.
The downside here is these backups don’t always happen daily and if your site gets hacked, chances are fairly strong that your hosting account is compromised too and you may not have access to those backups. I highly recommend you use a separate backup for your website that is not tied to your hosting account.
My recommendation here is called Updraft Plus, with the caveat that if you’re one of my WordPress care plan members, I am taking daily backups for you off site, so that we can restore typically in just a couple of minutes whenever that’s necessary. Care plan members, you do not need to worry about a daily backup plugin, but everyone else does. Those are my five must have plugins for every website.
Just to recap quickly, you need a plugin for site security, an SEO plugin, one for site speed, one for image compression, and a plugin that handles daily backups outside of your host.
You know, I always like to leave you with an action step. So today’s action step is to check out your site. Go to your plugins page and see if you have each of those five areas covered. If not, you can get the recommended must-have plugin links in the show notes at Kristindoyle.co/episode9 and get those must-have plugins installed ASAP.
If you’re on my WordPress care plan and you need WP Rocket, Rankmath Pro or you need help with any of the other must-have WordPress plugins I mentioned, just submit a support ticket from your dashboard and we’ll get those installed for you.
Thank you so much for listening today. If you are finding the savvy teacher seller helpful and fun to listen to, I would love for you to rate and review the podcast on whatever platform you use. Come back next week to learn what plugins you should not have on your website. I’ll talk to you then.