WordPress plugins are excellent tools for adding and extending functionality to your website. This article outlines the features and benefits of the top 10 essential WordPress plugins for 2021.
Although the type of website mostly determines what plugins you should have on it, there are some essential WordPress plugins that every website owner needs. For example, security, backup, caching, image optimization, database management, broken link management, 301 redirections, spam management, analytics, and SEO are all essential features.
This list includes the top essential WordPress plugins that will help you secure your website, make your website run faster, and provide reporting to help you make the best decisions.
1. WordFence (Website Security, Firewall, and Malware Scanner)
One of the most crucial things to do is to keep your website secure from hackers. Thousands of malicious bots on the web can attack your website anytime and destroy your entire work in a short period of time. WordFence is arguably the most essential WordPress plugin to install on your website.
WordFence features firewall and brute force protection, malware scanning, login security, live traffic monitoring, and more. In addition, you can monitor all your traffic in real-time including robots, humans, 404 errors, logins, logouts, etc., and be aware of the security threats your site is facing and take action against it.
The plugin has a real-time firewall application that prevents your site from being hacked. The blocking feature blocks all the known attackers and malicious networks that can be harmful to your site. To enhance login security, it adopts two-factor authentication while it also checks the strength of all the user and admin passwords, helping to fight brute force attacks.
The WordFence plugin offers firewall protection, security monitoring, health reporting, and malware scanning.
2. UpdraftPlus (WordPress Website Backup)
The UpdraftPlus plugin will help automatically backup your website’s database and make sure your files are safe. You can have manual, as well as scheduled backups. Store your files in remote locations such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Google cloud storage, Rackspace, and more.
Backup schedules for the files and database are flexible and can occur at different times. You can also choose which of the files to backup and which components to restore later. Most importantly, failed file uploads are automatically resumed until the backup is entirely done.
The UpdraftPlus plugin offers scheduled backups of the WordPress database and files (themes, plugins, media uploads, and specified directories).
3. W3 Total Cache (WordPress Website Caching)
One of the best ways to improve website performance and speed is by caching—storing the website data temporarily in the cache so that it loads faster the next time the user opens the same page. Caching gets you better ranking on search results which then delivers high traffic and more conversions.
The W3 Total Cache plugin will store posts and pages as static HTML files which are served to the users, dramatically reducing page loading time while optimizing overall site performance.
Download W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache Features
The W3 Total Cache plugin offers the functionality to optimize and compress the website with Page Cache, Minify, Database Cache, Object Cache, Browser Cache, CDN, and more.
4. ShortPixel Image Optimizer (Image Optimization)
Compress and optimize your images without reducing the quality. ShortPixel optimizes all of your image files in JPEG, GIF, PNG, and PDF formats using advanced compression techniques.
Download ShortPixel Optimizer
ShortPixel Image Optimizer Features
The ShortPixel Image Optimizer plugin optimizes images remotely to reduce resource usage on the website. Moreover, there are 3 image compression types offered: Lossy, Glossy, and Lossless. The plugin also offers a feature to resize large images and store original images.
5. Advanced Database Cleaner (Database Management)
Old revisions, old drafts, spammed comments, etc. left in your website’s database can be a reason your website is performing slower, which nobody wants. Even when you delete a plugin, it doesn’t necessarily remove everything that is added to your database.
However, if you are a savvy WordPress Plugin user and want to deep clean the orphan tables and options, old drafts of posts and pages, spam comments, trash comments, and more, you can use the Advanced WordPress Database Cleaner plugin. As an essential WordPress plugin, it makes for quicker database access (since the file of your backup will be smaller) and faster website operation.
You can schedule your database clean-up to run automatically. Just remember to first make a backup of your database before starting to clean and optimize.
Download Advanced Database Cleaner
Advanced Database Cleaner Features
The Advanced Database Cleaner plugin performs general clean-up operations and will optimize the database after clean up (for MyISAM database engines). The plugin also offers an automatic database clean-up tool that can be scheduled. For more information, take a look at our article How to Clean and Optimize Your WordPress Database.
6. Broken Link Checker (Link Management)
How do you lose possible customers as well as create a poor impression about your site, your business, and your value? In short, with broken links.
Broken Link Checker checks all your posts, comments, and other content for broken links and instantly notify you if any are found. It also reports on missing images so that you can find and fix them quickly.
The plugin has options to prevent search engines from following the broken links or display the broken links differently. It will notify you either via email or the WordPress dashboard.
Download Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker Features
The Broken Link Checker plugin will scan the website for internal and external broken links (scheduled scanner), and fix broken links that are found. Reporting via e-mail is available.
7. Redirection (301 Redirect Management)
Occasionally you may need to change the permalinks of your posts or pages. This could be necessary when you are migrating from an old website or changing the directory of a WordPress installation. When a visitor lands on a “not available” page (404 error) following the old URL which doesn’t exist anymore, the visitor may become discouraged and leave the website (bounce). Redirecting the URLs properly are not only essential for good SEO but provide a better user experience.
The Redirection plugin helps you to manage all the 301 redirects and keep track of 404 errors. For example, the plugin will allow you to add a 301 redirection when a post’s URL changes. You can also add 301, 302, and 307 redirections manually for a post. You can redirect all the URLs, import and export redirections, and also have complete logs for all redirected URLs and 404 errors.
The Redirection plugin offers a redirect manager, regular expression and pattern matching of URLs, conditional redirects, and straightforward URL redirects. The plugin also offers 301 and 404 incoming traffic logs, and an import and export feature.
8. Akismet Anti-Spam (Spam Management)
Akismet is basically an anti-spam plugin. It checks all comments, filters out the spammy comments, and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.
Download Akismet Anti-Spam
Akismet Anti-Spam Features
To sum up, the Akismet Anti-Spam plugin will analyze new comments, mark comments as spam, and remove spam comments from the website.
9. Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights
Understanding your audience and focusing on what is important to them is a great way to improve your user experience and traffic.
Google Analytics allows you to monitor various real-time stats regarding your website. Track product popularity, conversion rates, download numbers, outbound link tracking, events, and performance tracking, user discovery reports, and more.
Unlike other Google Analytics plugins, MonsterInsights allow you to enable all advanced Google analytics tracking features with just a few clicks (no need to hire a developer).
Download Google Analyticator
Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin for WordPress by MonsterInsights Features
The plugin automatically adds the Google Analytics tracking code snippet to website pages. In addition, the plugin offers a dashboard widget. It also comes with multiple reporting, which include Audience Report, Behavior Report, Content Report, Ecommerce Report, Forms Report, Search Console Report, and Custom Dimensions Report.
10. Yoast SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
The number of internet users using search engines is reported to increase steadily, making the importance of Search Engine Optimization more relevant than ever.
Create better content and improve your site’s search results ranking by focusing on creating the content which is useful to the users as well as technically SEO friendly.
Download Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO Features
The Yoast SEO plugin provides content & SEO analysis, snippet preview, breadcrumb management, title and meta description templating, and Google Search Console integration. The plugin allows management of what content is shown in the search engine results, including media, taxonomies, and archives. It also creates an XML sitemap and robots file for search engines.
Final Thoughts: The Top 10 Essential WordPress Plugins
There are thousands of plugins available and this list of the top 10 essential WordPress plugins will probably change over time. Threfore, depending on the use and availability, preferences for favorite WordPress plugins will vary.
This list is for the DIY website owner or customer that has questions about SEO, security, maintenance, and management of a website. The overall goal of using these plugins is to provide reporting and allow the management of a website for better user experience.
Need help? Our WordPress Maintenance Plans are a complete solution for new or existing WordPress websites, and we can help you install and configure the plugins reviewed in this article.