top 5 must have wordpress plugins

This article is part of HostGator’s Web Pros Series. In this series, we feature articles from our team of experts here at HostGator. Our Product Managers, Linux Administrators, Marketers, and Tech Support engineers share their best tips for getting the most of your website. 

At a recent HostGator customer meetup, I hosted a roundtable discussion with our customers about their WordPress websites. Btw, look for more of those meetups in 2020. I wanted to know – how are our customers are optimizing their WordPress websites? 

WordPress is, of course, super powerful and flexible. But arguably, plugins are the true workhorses of the WordPress functionality.  With so many plugins on the market, how do you know which ones to choose or where to start? 

Here’s the list I shared with the WordPress round table. I was surprised to discover that most people at the table didn’t know about these plugins they could be using to quickly optimize their sites. I believe about 75% of these plugins are relevant to any website.  

So, here are my picks for the top 5 WordPress plugins to maximize and optimize your WordPress website…

1. Yoast SEO

Yoast is the most popular SEO plugin on the market. Yoast simplifies the task of configuring your SEO settings and crafting your metadata. With the Yoast plugin, it’s very simple to change the page title and metadescription for every page, directly within the editor of each post. 

I like it because I don’t have to remember the latest standards for metadescription length. As I’m typing a metadescription, Yoast “highlights” the text in red, yellow, or green so I know the correct length and how well I’m doing on a writing the page description. 

Yoast has both a free and a premium version. The free version of Yoast is very robust. In fact, we use the free version on the HostGator blog. 

But, if you want a little more help, the premium version is only $89 per year and comes with extra insights such as keyword exports and internal linking suggestions. 

My opinion? You’ll get along just fine with the free version and a little SEO education. Check out our free intro-to-SEO webinar to get started. 

2. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is a powerful plugin that can improve the load time of your website for returning visitors and increase your server performance. 

This plugin will manage your caching – essentially keeping a “light weight” copy of your website readily available so the browser doesn’t have to download every bit of your website each time.  Read more about caching here

Ultimately, W3 Total Cache will help reduce page load times and frustration so your visitors view more pages and spend more time on your website. 

3. Smush Image Compression

Large photos can be one of the most taxing things on a website’s load time. But, high quality, compelling images are often important to convey your brand message and deliver a certain “feel” to your website. If you’re a professional photographer, high quality images are of utmost importance to show off your portfolio. 

This is where Smush Image Compression comes in. Smush will compress or reduce the download size of your photos without sacrificing image quality. 

The free version of Smush will work for most websites, but photographers, web designers, or hosting resellers may want to take advantage of the paid version. At $49 per month for unlimited sites, it’s still a pretty good deal, especially if you’re responsible for multiple sites.  Smush Pro will compress and resize images up to 32MB and use the Smush Pro CDN (content delivery network) to render the photos, taking even more load off your website. 

4. Redirection

We’ve said it before on HostGator social. But, you should never delete a page – always redirect your links

I like Redirection plugin because it’s a simple, no coding necessary solution for how to manage 301 redirects. 

It really is as simple as dropping the “old” link into one field and the “new” link in another field. It’s always easy to “undo” if you need to make an original link live again. We use Redirection on the HostGator blog to easily manage redirects without relying on a programmer to help us. 

5. WooCommerce

Ok, so, you won’t need this plugin if you aren’t selling products online. But, if you plan to have an online store, WooCommerce is our top recommendation for eCommerce on a WordPress website.  

WooCommerce is an all-in-one solution for your online store. It comes with product, cart, and checkout pages, calculates taxes, and keeps product inventory. 

Pro tip: in most cases, you need a design theme that is compatible with WooCommerce. I once had a client that launched a beautiful website. Their next step was to create their online store. By the time they got to me, I had to build their website again in a WooCommerce-compatible theme in order to set up their online store. Save yourself some time, and start with a compatible theme. 

Wrapping up…

So now you have my recommendations for the top 5 WordPress plugins that you should definitely download in order to get the most out of your WordPress website. But what do you think? Are any of your favorites missing from the list? 

If you could only download 5 WordPress plugins, which would you choose?  

Blair Williamson avatar

Blair Williamson is the content marketing manager for HostGator where she comes up with great ideas for blog content, webinars, and emails to help you rock your business.