What are must-have plugins to add to my new WordPress site?

What can you do with the default functions included in the WordPress engine? Not much, honestly. To manufacture an impressive web project, you’ll need to use third-party extensions – frameworks and plugins. This is the thing about WordPress. Every site owner is given the same starting point and you can choose the direction in which to develop a site for your business.

In this guide, I’m going to list the WordPress plugins that, in my experience, have proven to be the most essential and reliable. These are most often used by WordPress owners and are the easiest to work with for beginners.

You’ll Learn About:

  1. What is important to do before installing plugins?
  2. What are the best plugins to extend your WordPress site?

1. What is important to do before installing plugins?

While plugins are a powerful tool to extend the basic features of WordPress, you need to keep in mind that overusing them can slow down your site. Also, before installing or purchasing any plugin, make sure to check its WordPress compatibility and the feedback of those who are already using it. You can find the feedback on WordPress Plugins page in the Reviews section of each plugin’s page.

You want only quality products inside your system.

One more hint before we start: remember to back up your site’s database prior to installing any third-party extensions. If you use a ready-to-use design template from some provider, check with them directly to get a list of compatible and recommended plugins.

2. What are the features and plugins to power up your WordPress site with?


One of the things with which WordPress users are least satisfied is the default gallery option. Even if you aren’t an artist or a model, sooner or later you’ll need a gallery in some post or page. It doesn’t have to be a conventional gallery, maybe just a number of images displayed as a slideshow or carousel.

WordPress Gallery Plugins

The common extension choices for that functionality in WordPress are the NextGEN Gallery and Envira Gallery plugins. Both are good and have plenty of features. I like Envira better because it is more user-friendly and easier to operate. To create a basic gallery, you can install a free lite version. If you need something more advanced, you can get yourself an extended pack which includes things like email support, updates and add-ons.


Sliders became a web design trend in 2013. Every website suddenly needed high definition sliding images on the front page. This trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. A good slider is full-width, has a caption, uses high-quality images, but loads fast. You can put hot sales on slides or just pictures that will give a new customer the right impression of you.

WordPress Slider Plugins

The reliable choices here are the free WOW Slider plugin, which you can insert anywhere on your site with a shortcode, or the WP Slider Plugin that also comes free, or you can get a premium version with different tweaks and bonuses.

Contact form

You need to connect with your visitors on a personal level in order to turn them into customers. While most WordPress themes have built-in contact forms, the default WordPress doesn’t have one. So you need to install a WordPress contact form plugin that lets your visitors easily connect with you.

Having a contact form on your site nowadays is just good manners.

WordPress Contact Form Plugins

I recommend using the Contact form 7 plugin, which is free and can be set up easily. Or you can go with the widely popular, but paid, Gravity Forms plugin, which has an easier interface and some more functions for advanced users.

Content management plugin

Creating a page in WordPress can be as simple as typing in some content and publishing it. However, for more advanced options, say, to create columns and rows, insert buttons, carousels, service boxes, social network buttons, post grids, etc., you’ll need an external tool.

You can go with Cherry plugin. It comes free and has a long list of built-in shortcodes, which will help you manage your content the way you want.

Spam checker

It’s not like spammers are waiting for you personally to create a site they can attack. They don’t care who you are or what you do, they just launch a program that targets all vulnerable sites and can mess up your comment section in a blink of an eye. You can check our in-depth guide to improve security of your WordPress here.

WordPress Spam Checker Plugin

The most popular and effective plugin to fight spam in WordPress is Akismet. If you’re going to use it for personal non-commercial sites and blogs, you can get it for free. That is the most basic plan, like the free Avast antivirus plan for your computer. Advanced plans are paid though.

Best WordPress SEO plugins

SEO might be the most competitive plugin niche. Truth is that there is no best SEO plugin for WordPress. At the moment the rivalry is tight. Managing search engine optimization yourself isn’t easy. Luckily, there are helpful free tools like WordPress SEO by Yoast and All in One SEO Pack plugins. Both good, both free. After all, you need to remember that it isn’t the software that makes your site successful, but your content.

Safety tools

Login Lockdown is the plugin you use to prevent “brute force” password picking by hackers. It reduces login attempts for same IPs to a number that you set in your admin Dashboard. It is strongly recommended to use this plugin and never use “admin” as login and “admin123” as password.

If you don’t feel particularly comfortable working with your site’s database on your hosting service, use the free WP-DB Manager plugin to back up, restore or repair your database. I suggest backing up your database at least several times a week, just in case.

WP-reCaptcha plugin is the most widely used captcha plugin, the one with all the building numbers and random words from books. You can use it with your Contact Form 7 to avoid getting spam emails, and on your login page to strengthen security even more.

Widgets management

I bet everybody has seen the default WordPress sidebar on numerous blogs. It includes the Categories list, Archives and Search widgets. Well, that is not all WordPress has to offer widgetwise. To display your widgets anywhere on your site, without doing any coding, use the free Display Widgets plugin.

Social integration

Creating a popular site goes hand-in-hand with likes and shares in social networks. Sometimes the social buttons are so pretty that you just can’t fight the urge to press them.Luckily one doesn’t need to hire a developer to achieve that on their site.

To liven up social network buttons on your site check out SumoMe set of apps for your site.You get huge number of choices as to where you can place your buttons and how you can style them. Also with SumoMe’s suite of apps come several free tools to help you increase your traffic and grow email list.

Cache plugin

Cache plugins help increase your site speed. But you should activate such plugins only after you’re done with major changes on your site - layouts, colors, design and content. The thing is that activated caching might cause issues identifying the changes you make.

For example, if you make changes in CSS files, you won’t see them take effect at once because cache plugins display the styles and content the way they “remember” them. In a way your site is preloaded and doesn’t display the fresh changes you make when caching is working. Yet, cache is widely used as it helps drastically to decrease your site load time. W3 Total Cache plugin is a good choice.

WordPress eCommerce plugins

If you wish to turn your blog into an online store, it can be easily achieved with extensions like Jigoshop and WooCommerce. Both are popular WordPress eCommerce plugins, but WooCommerce took the lead long ago and now has over 11 millions downloads. All of the basic store functions can be easily achieved with its help. You can check the beginners guide I wrote on starting a store with WooCommerce here.

Summing up

Plugins are a powerful tool to enhance your WordPress site. There are so many of them that you can do almost anything with their help, but you need to be very careful not to overuse them, thus possibly harming your site.

Take care to use only the extensions from trusted providers and those with good feedback on the WordPress plugins page. Other than that, there are no rules, so you can go ahead and start making your WordPress site better.

We do our best to make our WordPress themes compatible with all the popular plugins. So you can use our templates with the plugins listed in this guide without any problems.

Jeff Bell

Jeff is a 20 year old Tech Support Operator at TemplateMonster. Helping our clients to edit and customize their sites every day, he knows what they need most and how to make it as easy as possible. More than one satisfied client already promised to call their child after him. Being a semi-professional high jumper in the past Jeff leaves no issue unresolved.