Our Essential Plugin Stack – 9 Plugins to Install on Every Site

Andrew Buck April 11, 2019

At Fatcat Apps, we’ve been in the WordPress game a while. After setting up our fair share of WordPress sites, we like to think we know a little about building things from the ground up.

Plugins are one of the things that can take your site from average to extraordinary. It’s one of the great things about building on WordPress as a CMS. There are a range of plugins available – free and paid – to solve virtually any problem you’ll come across on your site.

One problem. With over 54,000 free plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository, how the heck do you know which to use?

Worry no more. We’re going to help you out, with a list of the best WordPress plugins for blogs, online businesses, or whatever your site is designed for. These are the plugins we personally use every time we start a new site or blog.

You shouldn’t need professional programming skills to create beautiful, powerful websites. And with these plugins, you don’t. So with that said…

On to the list!

essential wordpress plugin Yoast SEO

1. Yoast SEO

No matter what type of site you have, one thing’s for sure. You’re going to want organic SEO traffic.

Optimizing your site for organic search starts with on-page SEO. And there’s no more powerful tool for checking and analyzing this than Yoast SEO. What’s more, it’s free!

Yoast’s free plugin shows everything you need to know to maximize your SEO visibility, in a super-easy to follow traffic light format. Even if you have limited knowledge of SEO, you’ll be able to check all the boxes by following the advice from this plugin.

Even if you’re well-equipped in SEO and writing content that’s optimized for search, Yoast takes a lot of the pressure off your shoulders, and will often catch small issues you might have missed.

The free plugin does enough to meet the demands of most bloggers or site owners. However, for a more powerful option, you might want to opt for the premium version, which is $89 for a 1-year license, covering 1 site.

Yoast SEO Premium brings a few beefier features, such as internal linking suggestions, additional keyword analysis and a built-in redirect manager. Not to mention 24/7 one-on-one support.

The team at Yoast offer a range of plugins dedicated to more focused use cases, such as Video SEO, Local SEO, News SEO, and WooCommerce SEO.

Best WordPress form plugin: WPForms

2. WPForms

It’s in your interest to make it easy for your readers to get in touch. For blogs, it helps you 10x engagement, and thus social shares and viewership. While for businesses, this is the primary reason your site exists.

So with that in mind, one of the easiest ways to allow people to reach you is by embedding a form on your site. The WPForms plugin does this for you, with one of the most powerful yet most simple form builders available.

The free WPForms plugin is a drag-and-drop form builder, allowing you to create and customize simple contact forms within minutes. Forms are responsive and optimized for all devices, and light enough to not slow your site down.

If you’re ready to get more serious, they offer several paid versions, starting at $79 for a year’s license. The Pro WPForms versions give even more powerful features, such as customer support, advanced form templates, and email provider/payment provider integrations.

There are of course many other form plugins for WordPress. As an alternative to WPForms, Gravity Forms is a powerful and reliable plugin, for those who are willing to pay for a premium solution.

Akismet anti-spam WordPress plugin

3. Akismet Anti-Spam

We’re all used to seeing spam online. But when spam comments start appearing on your blog or website, it’s not so nice.

If you have a WordPress blog that enables comments, you need a way to deal with spam commenters. Sure you can moderate it and deal with them manually… if you have literally nothing else to do all day.

But an anti-spam plugin like Akismet takes care of this for you. You’ll spend less time worrying about spam, more time improving your site. It’s generally regarded as one of the most powerful anti-spam plugins, and the basic version is free (you’ll need to pay for a premium plan – starting at $5 per month – if you want to use Akismet on a commercial site).

There’s no reason not to make this one of the first things you add to your site.

Best WordPress Plugin for security: Wordfence

4. Wordfence Security

Anti-spam is one thing, but as your site grows, you want to take your protection a little further.

It can feel like a kick in the teeth to build a great site, get tons of engagement and fall victim to malicious bad actors. Wordfence gives you a line of defense against things like malware, security vulnerabilities, and harmful files/downloads.

In case you think security problems won’t happen to you, Wordfence claims to have blocked over 4 billion attacks in the last 30 days. The chances of getting caught up in an attack are higher than you’d imagine.

Wordfence is free to begin with, but as your site grows you may want to upgrade to a paid license. Wordfence premium licenses start at $99 for one site, with a discount when purchasing licenses for additional sites.

There are many security plugins for WordPress, and most would be better than none at all. Wordfence is one you can’t go wrong with, carrying huge popularity and high regard in the WP community.

W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin

5. W3 Total Cache

Load time can be severely overlooked when building a site. But it should be one of the first things you think about. Page load speed has a huge effect on SEO, user experience, and conversions.

It doesn’t matter how amazing your content is, few people are going to wait around to read it if they’re waiting minutes for your site to load.

Caching essentially means creating a static page to load when someone comes to your site, instead of making a request from the server every single time.

Without a caching solution, your site is going to put a ton of pressure on the server as traffic goes up. Meaning slower load speeds, or worse, crashing altogether.

W3 Total Cache takes care of this for you. The free plugin is trusted and used by many high-level developers and high-traffic sites all over the web. You don’t have to be an expert in back-end web development to improve the performance and stability of your site.

Simple 301 Redirects WordPress interface

6. Simple 301 Redirects

There’s not much worse for visitor experience than a dead end 404. They’ve decided they want to view your content, but the big words “page not found” come up instead.

This kind of thing happens easier than you think. Especially when your site is growing, and it’s harder to track each page and URL. You might have made a great post, and put it on a particular URL. Then you make a change, and the URL changes too.

Boom. 404 not found.

A 301 redirect plugin takes care of this issue. When any of your links change, you can set it up to redirect any requests from the old URL to the new one. No interruption for the user. You preserve your user experience and maintain most of your SEO juice for the redirected page.

Simple 301 Redirects is just as the name suggests – simple. And it’s free, so it won’t cost you a dime to keep your links nice and tidy.

CSS Hero Plugin for WordPress

7. CSS Hero

There’s no shortage of beautiful themes (free or paid) available for WordPress. But as beautifully designed as they are, there’s often a little thing you want to change to personalize it for your site.

If you’re an expert in CSS (cascading style sheets, the primary code used to customize the appearance of websites), you can do this yourself. But not everyone is an expert, and coding things manually takes time.

A popular option for theme adjustments is CSS Hero. This plugin lets you customize the CSS of your theme, live, without needing to write any code. Just point and click what you want to change, and it will be done.

Want to change the line height of your headers? Point and click. Want to change your font weight only on a particular device? Point and click. It’s that easy.

CSS Hero starts at $29, which allows installation on one site and 1 year of updates & support. If you have multiple sites, you’ll want to opt for one of their higher plans, to benefit from CSS Hero on all your projects.

Optin Cat: best email optin plugin for WordPress

8. Optin Cat

Are you doing email marketing?

If not, you should start now. Email marketing is a low-cost, tried and true digital marketing channel that is used by almost every successful business.

Whether you’re promoting your new blog post or trying to get extra conversions on your e-commerce site, email marketing will help you reach your goals, for very little cost.

Before you can start, you’ll need an email list. That means you need some way to collect emails from your target audience. Optin forms – including popups, sidebars, exit-intent popups, and slide-ins – are the most common way to get this done.

Optin Cat is a simple, easy to use email optin plugin for WordPress. It lets you build all types of email optin forms, customized to fit your site, and integrates with a number of popular email marketing providers.

Even if you don’t have any idea for an email marketing campaign, it’s beneficial for you to start collecting subscribers now. A large email list is a huge asset for a blog, affiliate site, e-commerce business, or basically any business. If you don’t have any optin forms on your site, you’re missing a great opportunity to passively build your email list.

ManageWP Dashboard for WordPress

9. ManageWP

Finally, we come to ManageWP. This plugin will make your life significantly easier once you start to manage more sites.

ManageWP starts as a free plugin, yet has no shortage of features for free users. It gives you a dashboard, from which you can manage and access all your connected sites. This includes updating themes and plugins (in bulk or individually), and checks on security and performance of each site.

The most important thing ManageWP provides is the ability to back up your sites. This is vital, as things like hacks, user error or software conflicts can cause you to lose a ton of work, should something go wrong. With ManageWP you can schedule regular backups, as well as backing up your site before each update.

ManageWP has even more features available in the free version, as well as several premium add-ons for those who require more power. It’s become an industry standard for people managing a number of WordPress sites.

Our Essential Plugin Stack – The Best WordPress Plugins to Start Your Website or Blog

The world of WordPress plugins is vast, and as a result, it can be easy to get swept up in all the choices.

Once you start building multiple sites on WordPress, you’ll start to get an idea of which plugins you use on every site. Listing them down can make the process of starting a new site much quicker and more streamlined.

For a suite of plugins that can help kick off any site, check out our Fatcat Apps product bundle. Featuring our 5 premium WordPress Plugins, our bundle is high on value and sure to help grow your site.

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