WordPress plugins: the best and most essential for the site

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WordPress has established itself as the undisputed giant among Content Management Systems, capturing over 62 percent of market share, and its rise has been fueled by a winning combination of ease of use and flexibility. Yet, it is the plugin ecosystem that has really opened the door wide to a universe of possibilities, transforming WordPress into a platform suitable for all kinds of web projects. WordPress plugins are small software add-ons that allow us to customize, optimize and improve every aspect of our online presence, helping us build a personalized, efficient and secure website. So let’s delve into what WordPress plugins are and which are the best and essential ones to add to our site.

WordPress plugins, what they are and what features they have

WordPress plugins are additional applications or software that integrate seamlessly with any WordPress-based site-they are a quick and easy way to expand the functionality of the site and platform even if we cannot specific technical and computer skills.

Plugins are more than just add-ons, because these software modules easily graft into the site and enrich it, allowing us to add features tailored to our every need. Another relevant and powerful feature is the numerical quantity: there is practically a plugin for every need, from SEO improvement to social media management, from contact form management to e-commerce, from security to page loading speed. Whatever needs we have for our business, plugins are the tool to customize and optimize the site, adapting it to our practical needs.

To understand how the extension system works, we can compare WordPress to a smartphone: basically, the cell phone has standard essential functions, but it is through the apps we install that we can really customize the user experience. Plugins operate in a similar way, allowing us to add new features or enhance existing ones without having to write a single line of code.

What are plugins in the digital world

The term plugin is not reserved only for the WordPress world and indeed has wide use and diffusion in the digital world and in different technological contexts, but the basic concept remains the same (although sometimes the name changes).

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We can define plugins as software components that add specific functionality to an existing program, extending its capabilities or adding new features. They are add-ons that integrate with a main application to enhance or customize it.

In the context of a Web browser, for example, plugins are usually called “extensions” and allow the addition of features built into the basic tasks of the browser itself: for example, there are extensions to allow video playback, the opening of PDF documents directly in the browser window, or the addition of a more advanced download manager. In graphics software, a plugin might add new filters or editing tools.

Plugins are designed to be easily installed and configured by the end user, thus allowing even those without programming skills to benefit from additional functionality. This ease of integration makes plugins extremely popular and useful for customizing and enhancing the user experience across multiple software platforms.

The benefits and functions of WordPress plugins

Let’s return to the topic of our article to understand what the best WordPress plugins are.

The official WordPress directory is a mine of nearly 60 thousand free and open source plugins, plus paid ones developed for commercial purposes. All are useful for creating, customizing, and enhancing a website with WordPress, and each is designed to address different functions: from SEO optimization to security, from e-commerce to social media integration, from creating contact forms to creating photo galleries, to managing backups and improving site performance.

The potential of plugins is almost literally endless: whether we want to start a blog or inaugurate an online store, optimize the site for search engines or implement a newsletter system, there is a plugin specifically developed for this purpose.

These extensions thus offer unprecedented flexibility, allowing us to customize the site according to our needs without ever having to intervene directly in the code. In short, they represent significant time and money savings by providing ready-to-use solutions for tasks that would otherwise require far greater resources and technical expertise, and they are also an important lever for site efficiency because they help control and improve crucial aspects such as speed, security and overall performance.

In general, the plugins available for WordPress can vary enormously in complexity and functionality: some are simple tools that perform a single, specific task, such as creating a contact form or inserting and managing a photo gallery; others are more complex and can turn a site into an online store, forum or learning platform, or can make SEO optimization work for WordPress easier.

But to understand the importance of these elements, it is perhaps enough to think about one aspect: without WordPress plugins, we would be forced to manually code each new feature, a process not only time-consuming and costly but also fraught with potential errors; on the contrary, these extensions give us the freedom to shape our site and respond nimbly to market demands, staying abreast of user needs and web best practices.

WordPress plugins: where they are found and how to install them

Finding plugins is super easy: we can open the official WordPress site directory or, even more directly, work directly from the WordPress admin interface, browsing through the various categories or using the search features to get exactly the extension we need.

Within the WordPress panel we need to look for the dedicated section, called “Plugins,” where we will find a vast ocean of options – thousands of free and paid plugins – that we can filter by popularity, ratings or specific functionality.

Installation is also usually a breeze: having chosen the plugin we just need to click on the “Install Now” button and, after a few seconds, another click on “Activate” to implement it on our site, following the simple instructions.

This process is generally simple and within the reach of anyone with a basic knowledge of WordPress. However, for more complex configurations or to resolve any conflicts between plugins, more advanced technical skills may be required: in these cases, it may be helpful to consult an expert or rely on the support provided by premium plugin developers.

What sites do WordPress plugins serve?

It is not easy to give a definitive answer to the question “does my site necessarily need plugins?” because obviously a lot depends on the type of project, its size, and even its ambitions. A personal blog will have different needs than a corporate site or an online store. And, as mentioned, for sure, a basic site can run without too many problems even relying only on the standard WordPress configuration or, on the contrary, developing in house the necessary solutions to improve some aspects.

In general, however, most WordPress sites can actually benefit from the use of plugins, with the “how” and “why” varying depending on the specific goals of the site. The key is to identify which aspects of the site need improvement or expansion and to select the plugins that best meet those needs, always remembering to use them wisely and responsibly, because only thoughtful and informed use of such components can ensure that our site is secure, fast, and able to provide an optimal user experience.

Installing plugins: how to avoid site problems

Choosing the right plugins is indeed a critical step in managing a WordPress site: while technically a simple process, it does require an informed approach and a certain amount of caution, as each plugin we install brings with it potential benefits but also possible risks.

Like any coin, they have their downside and, in this case, they bring with them limitations, risks and problems that can compromise the health and security of the site.

Generally speaking, installing plugins can lead to compatibility issues, site slowdowns, and even security vulnerabilities. In particular, especially with “over-accumulation,” the presence of too many extensions can weigh down the site, slowing page loading and creating a frustrating user experience. In addition, adding too many plugins can increase the risks of non-compatibility with each other or with the WordPress theme we have set up, and it also makes it complicated to regularly update each element, which can be time-consuming and labor-intensive.

What’s more, incorrect updates or installations can cause malfunctions and vulnerabilities, opening the door to potential cyber attacks. While disabling or deleting a plugin, intentionally or unintentionally, can cause loss of functionality or the appearance of errors on the site due to dependence on relevant functions.

What are the problems and risks

More precisely, we can divide the potential negative effects of “thoughtless” and careless use of plugins on our sites into two broad categories, Technical Problems and Performance Problems.

Technical problems include:

  • Conflicts between plugins.It is not uncommon for conflicts to occur if two or more plugins try to perform the same task or modify the same part of the site. This can lead to obvious malfunctions, such as features not working as intended, or more subtle problems, such as data not being saved correctly.
  • Theme Incompatibility. Some plugins may not be compatible with the theme in use on the site. This can cause display problems, with elements appearing out of place or not loading at all, compromising the user experience.
  • Code errors. A poorly coded or outdated plugin can introduce errors into the site, which can range from minor alerts and notifications to critical errors that prevent the site from loading (fatal errors).
  • Dependence on external developers. Making massive use of plugins means entrusting the future of the site to the continued existence and support of developers of installed elements.
  • Security vulnerabilities. An outdated plugin may contain security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain access to the site, spread malware or steal sensitive data. In some cases, some low-quality plugins may send spam or automatically redirect users to malicious sites.

Instead, the following side effects concern the performance aspect:

  • Site slowdown. Plugins that perform many database queries or load additional resources can significantly slow down page load time. This is especially true for plugins that are not optimized for performance or that do not make use of caching.
  • Excessive resource consumption. Some plugins can consume an excessive amount of server resources, such as CPU or memory. This can lead to degraded site performance or, in the worst cases, server overload resulting in crashes, especially in hosting environments
  • Loading problems. Plugins that add heavy scripts or styles can adversely affect page loading. If these files are not minified or do not load asynchronously, they can block page rendering, creating significant discomfort for users.

How to choose WordPress plugins, best practices and tips to avoid problems

And in short, how do you navigate through this vast offering and choose the right plugins without compromising your site?

The key lies in reliability: preferring plugins developed by authors with a solid reputation and positive reviews is definitely the first step – a well-reviewed and frequently updated extension is often synonymous with quality and security, just as the number of active installations is a possible indicator of the trust the community places in the tool.

As mentioned, the WordPress repository offers a wide range of free plugins, many of which offer excellent functionality at no additional cost, but there are also premium, paid plugins that usually provide a higher level of support and advanced functionality. The choice between free and paid plugins depends on the specific needs of the site and the budget available, although it is important to note that premium plugins may offer more guarantees in terms of regular updates, technical support and detailed documentation.

It is also crucial to check that the plugin is compatible with the current version of WordPress and other plugins we already have installed, to avoid conflicts that could affect the functioning of the site.

Beyond that, it is essential to focus on plugins that offer the functionality we really need, avoiding overloading the site with superfluous tools that could slow it down or make it less navigable.

Third, we must never forget to keep these software updated, to ensure maximum security and functionality. As mentioned, the risks involved in installing plugins cannot be underestimated, and in particular, an outdated or poorly coded plugin can introduce vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit to compromise the site. To minimize these eventualities, it is often sufficient to keep plugins up-to-date: updates not only bring new features, but also fix bugs and security vulnerabilities.

Another best practice is to conduct regular testing, especially after installing new plugins or updates. Creating a staging environment, which is a copy of the site on which to test changes before making them live, can help identify problems without putting the main site at risk.

Finally, it is advisable to make regular backups of the site. In case of serious problems, a recent backup can be our salvation, allowing us to restore the site to the version before the problematic plugin was installed.

How to minimize risks

In conclusion, plugins are very powerful tools, but they are not without risks and contraindications. Therefore, the choice of plugins should be guided by a careful evaluation of their necessity, quality, reliability and compatibility. Keeping plugins up-to-date, testing changes in a secure environment, and having a solid backup strategy are the cornerstones for ensuring the security and optimal performance of our site.

The watchword is therefore “awareness,” which should lead us to:

  • Choose only plugins from reputable developers with good reviews.
  • Check compatibility with our theme and version of WordPress.
  • Make regular backups of the site.
  • Update plugins and the WordPress theme regularly.
  • During the process of updating plugins, it is safest to upgrade one plugin at a time: this way, in case of a malfunction it will be easier to identify the responsible module and use the backup to restore the site to its previous condition.
  • Do not install plugins that we do not really need.

All this while remembering that the security and speed of our site are priorities and should not be sacrificed for the addition of non-essential features.

What are the best WordPress plugins to install on the site

And here we come to another frequently asked question for those who have just created a blog or want to improve their site, namely, “Which plugins should I install?”

It is clear that the choice depends on the specific and unique needs of the project, its main activity and even our own desires. Yet, there are some plugins that stand out for their ability to provide immediate added value and are considered “must-haves” for any WordPress site, useful for completing a specific task and solving a common problem.

  1. W3 Total Cache, tomanage cache and improve site loading speed.
  2. Wordfence Security, toprotect the site from malware and hackers.
  3. Akismet Anti-Spam, to protect the site from spam comments and malicious bots.
  4. WP All in one migration, for backups.
  5. Yoast SEO, for SEO beginners and beyond.
  6. Easy Social Share Buttons,to make it easy to share content on social media.
  7. Redirection, to manage redirections.
  8. ShortPixel, to manage images.
  9. ACF, to create custom fields in any type of content.
  10. Elementor, to create eye-catching page layouts and content

Overview of the 10 most useful WordPress plugins for a site

Can you manually perform all the tasks that plugins do automatically? Certainly. But is going this route time-efficient, especially if we are working on a large site with hundreds or thousands (or even more!) of URLs? Probably not. Content will always be king, but technical optimizations and simplified management of key aspects can definitely give us an edge in niches where the competition does not always follow best practices.

Here, then, is why it is useful to know what the 10 plugins we just mentioned do and how they can help us move our site forward.

  • W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is a WordPress plugin that improves site performance through various caching techniques. Caching is the process of storing temporary data to reduce load times: when a visitor accesses a page on the site, instead of generating the page dynamically each time, the server presents a cached version that is much faster to load. W3 Total Cache optimizes this functionality by working on several levels, such as page cache, object cache, database cache, and browser cache. It also supports minification and file compression, reducing the size of HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and their resulting bandwidth requirements. This not only speeds up the site, but also improves the user experience and can contribute to better search engine rankings, which reward faster sites. Its effectiveness is demonstrated by its wide use by both small and high-traffic sites, making it a viable and reliable plugin for anyone wishing to optimize the performance of their WordPress site.
Alternative: WP Rocket

  • Wordfence Security

Wordfence Security is a bulwark in the defense of WordPress sites against cyber threats. This plugin provides virtually total security by monitoring any intrusion attempts in real time and scanning the site for malware, viruses and other vulnerabilities. Its firewall function blocks attacks before they can damage the site, while the in-depth scanning system verifies the integrity of the files, comparing them with the original WordPress files and reporting any suspicious changes. It also features a powerful login security system that prevents unauthorized access by offering two-factor authentication and blocking users after repeated failed login attempts. The plugin tracks access and changes to the site, providing a detailed log that can be critical in identifying and repairing security problems. Its validity is recognized by the vast WordPress community.Wordfence is one of the most popular and reliable security plugins, suitable for novices and web security experts alike. With regular updates to respond to new threats and an intuitive interface, Wordfence Security is an essential tool for keeping your site safe and secure, protecting it from the dangers always lurking in the digital world.
Alternative: Jetpack Security

  • Akismet Anti-Spam

Akismet Anti-Spam is a specific tool to fight spam and, like an automatic shield, filters comments and contact form submissions, distinguishing between legitimate and unwanted content. It works by connecting to a web service that analyzes data sent to WordPress users around the world, continually learning from spammers’ techniques and becoming increasingly effective at recognizing and blocking spam. When a user leaves a comment on the site, Akismet reviews it and, if it exhibits typical spam characteristics, sets it aside in a moderation queue, allowing these unwanted posts to be reviewed and deleted without clogging up the site. This process happens in the background, without requiring constant attention, thus freeing us from a tedious task and allowing us to focus on creating quality content for the audience. The validity of Akismet lies in its accuracy and its ability to learn: the more it is used, the more adept it becomes at protecting the site. It is an especially valuable plugin for site owners who receive a large number of comments, as it reduces the time spent in manual moderation and keeps the interaction sections of the site clean, ensuring that conversations remain relevant and distraction-free.
Alternative: Antispam Bee

  • WP All in One Migration

WP All in One Migration is ideal for performing rescue backups or in case of migrations, and therefore useful for anyone who needs to transfer a WordPress site from one domain to another, or from one server to another. With a few clicks, WP All in One Migration exports the site, including databases, media, plugins and themes, packing everything into a single file. The plugin takes care of adapting internal links, database configurations and file paths to the new destination, ensuring that the site works exactly as it did before the migration.

The validity of WP All in One Migration lies in its reliability and ease of use: no advanced technical skills are required, making it accessible even to less experienced users. It is an especially useful solution for developers and site managers who need to move sites on a regular basis, offering a safe and stress-free method of ensuring that transitions are smooth and error-free.
Alternative: UpdraftPlus

  • Yoast SEO

Renowned for its effectiveness and ease of use, Yoast SEO has the undoubted merit of being clear and accessible even to those who are inexperienced in the pursuit of organic visibility, earning it the title of the best plugin for SEO (or, at the very least, the best known and most widely used). The most outstanding feature is the traffic light-based rating system, which immediately shows with green, yellow or red colors the level of optimization of each page and content, really allowing everyone to understand what works and what needs attention. In general, then, the plugin examines titles, meta descriptions, keyword usage in text, and readability, providing useful feedback to optimize each element; Yoast SEO also takes care of technical aspects, such as XML sitemap creation and canonical link management, which are essential to avoid duplicate content problems, and also allows you to take action on robots meta tag indications to manage page indexing choices.
Alternative: Rank Math SEO

  • Easy Social Share Buttons

Easy Social Share Buttons is a WordPress plugin that makes it easy to share site content on social media: it allows visitors to share articles, pages or products from our site through their favorite social networks with a single click. The plugin supports a wide range of social platforms, ensuring that no channel is overlooked. Its operation is intuitive: after installation, we can customize the appearance and location of the share buttons to fit the design of the site; we can choose from different layouts, colors and icons, and decide where to display them – next to content, in a fixed sidebar or as a popup; in addition, Easy Social Share Buttons also offers advanced features such as share tracking, data analytics and the ability to add like and follow buttons.

  • Redirection

Redirection is a WordPress plugin that handles permanent 301 redirects from an old URL to a new one. It is an essential tool for anyone running a dynamic website where content is updated or removed regularly. It proves especially useful when changing permalink structure, publishing new pages replacing old ones, or migrating an entire site: instead of letting visitors run into 404 errors, which can negatively affect user experience and SEO, Redirection ensures that they are directed to the right page.


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How Redirection works is simple: after installing it, we can manually add redirects by specifying the source URL and the desired destination. The plugin also offers the ability to monitor 404 errors, capturing URLs that do not lead to any page, to help us quickly intervene with an appropriate redirection.
Alternative: SEO Redirection

  • ShortPixel

ShortPixel is a WordPress plugin that optimizes website images, reducing their size without compromising visual quality, and is therefore invaluable for improving site performance and ensuring good page load speed, which is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings. Once installed, ShortPixel works in the background, automatically compressing newly uploaded images and offering the possibility to optimize even those already in the media library. We can choose from different levels of compression, from a slight reduction in size that keeps image quality almost intact, to more aggressive compression to maximize space savings.
Alternative: Imagify

  • Advanced Custom Fields (ACF)

Commonly known as ACF, Advanced Custom Fields is a WordPress plugin that transforms the way users can add and manage custom data within their sites. This tool allows you to extend WordPress functionality beyond standard content, enabling you to create and leverage new data types tailored to your specific needs. Specifically, with ACF you can easily add custom fields (such as text, number, date, image, checkbox, and many others) to posts, pages, users, and even custom content types to make it possible to display custom content wherever you want.

It is a tool loved by both developers and content managers because of its ability to adapt to any project, from simply adding a field for social media profiles to building entire complex layouts for corporate sites or news portals.

  • Elementor

This is a more advanced plugin, because Elementor is a page builder for WordPress that revolutionizes the way you can create and design a website. Based on the drag-and-drop system, it allows you to build visually attractive and functionally rich pages without the need to write code. With Elementor, you can arrange elements such as text, images and buttons by simply dragging and dropping them to the desired location, offering unprecedented creative freedom.

Its intuitive interface allows you to see changes in real time, facilitating iteration and experimentation during the design process. Elementor includes a wide range of pre-defined widgets and templates that can be customized to fit any style or need, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced designers. In general, it allows you to create responsive layouts that fit perfectly on mobile, tablet and desktop devices; in addition, its lightweight nature and optimized code ensure that pages load quickly, contributing to a better user experience and SEO ranking.

These are just a few examples of the best WordPress plugins we can install on our sites. With nearly 60 thousand plugins available, the choice is vast and there are plugins for everything from managing a blog to creating an online portfolio. In addition, the real power of WordPress lies in its global community of developers who continue to innovate and provide tools that make our sites more functional, accessible and performant.

We just have to try them out, remembering never to overdo it!

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