When starting up a new WordPress site there are just certain things that you NEED. Notice I didn’t say “want” like it’d be a thing that’s nice to have. Because if you take your site’s performance, and potential, seriously you can’t stand to do without these 10 plugins, themes, and tools for your site.
This goes for existing sites too. If you’ve had a WordPress site for some time but want to spruce things up a bit and get your site firing on all cylinders then make sure you’ve got all of these tools running on your site ASAP.
Fair warning, this list is opinionated. We’re not giving you multiple options for every category of plugin or tool you might need, but giving you The Best options out there, from our experience helping build hundreds of sites over 5+ years. So let’s dive in.
Good, Fast, and Reliable Hosting
This seems obvious, but so many of new site owners miss the mark here. There are tons of options out there when it comes to WordPress hosting, and many providers make strong promises, but in our experience just a few deliver really excellent service and value.
Here there are two clear winners in our book. One that is a bit less expensive and is great for those just getting started, and one for power users who have significant traffic to their site.
If you’re just getting started or don’t have a lot of traffic going to your site we love Siteground hosting. In fact that’s what this site is hosted on. They have plans starting from $5/month, which also makes them one of the most affordable options in the managed WordPress hosting business.
One of the things we love about Siteground is the value you get. There are loads of bells and whistles included in even their cheapest hosting plans, making this the clear choice for those just getting started.
If you’re running a site that has significant traffic, or you want just that bit extra power behind your site then the next move up in the managed WordPress hosting realm is Kinsta. A relatively new player on the market Kinsta has the benefit of having built a fantastic platform using all the most modern web technologies.
Powered by Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta offers enterprise level WordPress hosting at an affordable price. They have plans for single sites starting at $30/month, which include automatic backups, done-for-you site migrations, managed site setup to optimize speed, and incredible customer service that are available 24/7.
As your site gets more pages, images, and other resources it is a good idea to put some of those more static resources (i.e. things that don’t change very often) in a cache layer so that your site loads faster. Caching is just a way of storing some of your website files and assets in a place that makes them available more quickly to visitors, and search engines.
In fact speaking of search engines even as recently as 2020 Google has said that site speed plays a significant role in the ranking of sites. So, if you’re writing content and want your site to rank for key terms it’s best to get a caching plugin on your site to speed it up.
The clear winner in this category is WP-Rocket. WP-Rocket is a one-click, set it and forget it kind of tool. Upload, activate and turn on their caching plugin and you’re all set.
We mentioned search engines like Google ranking your site higher if your site is fast. There are also things you can do to the actual structure of your site and the content on it to make your WordPress site more likely to get ranked highly by Google.
And when it comes to SEO plugins for WordPress there’s a clear winner: Yoast SEO – this tool has both free and paid options (the free is good enough for most all sites in our opinion) and this gives you all the tools you need to more clearly describe what your site and its content is about to search engines like Google.
Content marketing, or just organic rankings of your site in general, is still one of (if not THE) best way to grow a brand online. If you’re not paying attention to SEO today’s the day to start.
One of the downsides of WordPress, and the fact that they run nearly 1/3 of the entire internet, is that it’s a popular target for hackers and those who wish to exploit weaknesses in websites. Add on top of that the fact that with the 3rd party theme and plugin ecosystem around WordPress there are just a lot of opportunities for hackers to affect our sites.
But because of that a few very powerful tools have been developed to monitor your site and keep it clean from malicious code, attacks, and minimize the chances of your site being affected by those who wish to do it harm.
And here again there is a clear winner: Sucuri. Sucuri has free and paid options, and even the free option is extremely powerful both in monitoring your site, and keeping unwanted people from exploiting your WordPress site.
We use Sucuri on this site, and absolutely love it. In fact it’s saved our site more than a few times…so it’s well worth the small yearly cost we pay for it.
Even if you’re on a higher end managed WordPress hosting service, like Kinsta, having a backup service that keeps a recent copy of your site is a great idea.
If you ever want to work on your site locally on your computer, or, heaven forbid, you need to restore a previous version of your site because of an attack, you’ll be very thankful you set up an automated backup service for your WordPress site.
And UpdraftPlus makes this almost too easy. They have a free version that is excellent, and a paid version if you want a few more features like automatic Dropbox or Google Drive integration to store your backup files in a separate place from the rest of your WordPress site resources.
That one dark day when your site goes down and you need to restore it from a backup you’ll be thanking your lucky stars you took these next few minutes to set up automated backups. They’re like a get out of jail free card for your site.
Their backup WordPress plugin has a free version and a premium, paid version.
Email Optin Provider
No matter what kind of site you’re running there is one single best way to communicate with your site visitors, fans, audience, and customers: email.
I know, I know, you say “It’s 2020, shouldn’t I be on TikTok or even Instagram?”. Maybe…but that’s not all. Social media is a great way to start a relationship with your audience and customers, but talk to any savvy marketer and they say that hands down the best way to connect deeply with your site visitors and they go straight to email.
This brings up the need to have an easy, and effective, way of gathering website visitors’ email addresses. An email optin service, like OptinMonster, is a fantastic tool in your website quiver. With this you’ll be able to present a variety of offers for your website visitors that allow them to enter their email address in return for something from you. This could be a coupon code, a free course, a downloadable template, or anything else that is of value to your specific target audience.
Email Marketing Service
Now that we’ve established that email marketing is The Best Way to deeply connect with your audience and share updates with them, and that a tool like Optinmonster is a great way to gather those email addresses, it’s time to send some emails.
Here again the choice is easy: Mailchimp.
Mailchimp is one of the original players in the email marketing industry, and they’ve done nothing but get better over time. Today Mailchimp is recognized as a powerhouse both for those just getting started with email, and those power users who want a LOT out of a tool. Mailchimp has a generous free plan, and as you get more subscribers their plans scale very fairly with the amount of subscribers you have on the platform.
Even using a beautiful and flexible theme like those here at Precise Themes, you often times want a way to customize some pages on the site. The ability to quickly add beautiful looking elements to your site, without learning how to code or decipher what a theme is doing is a huge advantage. And here is where Elementor shines.
Elementor is a page builder, which means it works alongside your WordPress them to give you additional flexibility and customization to any post or page on your site. Whether you heavily design your site (almost entirely) with Elementor or just add a bit of splash to certain pages, this tool gives you the tools you need to add great looking, and high converting assets to your WordPress site.
SEO Research Tool
We almost didn’t include this in our list of essential tools that every WordPress site needs, but we’ve seen such enormous success in the growth of this site and others like it that we had to include it.
Furthering the discussion of content marketing and SEO you need a tool to help you create a plan for crafting interesting, in demand, and easy to rank for pieces of content on your site. This is typically referred to as “keyword research”, or just generally creating a “content calendar”.
Using a keyword research tool to map out what articles you can write blog posts about that get traffic, have high “intent” (meaning that people that are searching for those terms are actually looking to take some kind of action on your site like buy your product), and aren’t super difficult to rank for is one of the most overlooked aspects of a high performing blog.
And there is absolutely no better tool at this than Ahrefs.
Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO research, tracking, and data tool for your website. It is where we do all of the research about our competitors, areas we can write about that you as our readers are interested in, and track our organic keyword rankings.
If you’re doing any kind of blogging or content marketing then this tool is a MUST in your marketing arsenal.
How often do you check your Spam folder? And even then how likely are you to pull emails out of there and actually read/reply/engage with them? Not very often if you’re anything like me.
Having emails from your WordPress site (like comment notifications, password resets, user invites, etc.) is paramount if you’re using the built in functionality inside WordPress. And I have to say this is one place where almost all shared hosting falls short. They just aren’t “made for” sending email, and as a result email tools like Gmail often flag their sending IP address as Spam.
The workaround for this is using a tool like WP Mail SMTP allows you to easily set up the emails that are sent directly from your WordPress site to go through a dedicated email service, like your own Gmail account. This is a huge win for deliverability and your audience being able to interact with your site via email notifications
Tracking and Analytics
There is perhaps no better free tool out there for site owners than Google Analytics. The ability to easily track how many visitors your site gets, which are your best performing pages, and loads of other data just wouldn’t be popular without an analytics tool like Google Analytics. And the best part is it’s entirely FREE.
In order to install Google Analytics on your site, you can use a tool like Monster Insights, or if you have other tracking and analytics scripts you’ll want to use on your site it’s worth using a general purpose tool like Insert Headers and Footers.
If you have a site then you need a way for people to send you questions, feedback, or share something with you in an organized way. The solution for this is sometimes just an email address, but often times you want to structure things a little more and place a form on your site for visitors to fill out.
The most common use of a form for many of us is a Contact Form. Here you’ll have fields like Name, Email Address, and a Message text box for visitors to send you information.
And a fantastic tool for this is Gravity Forms. We’ve been using Gravity Forms for years now and it’s both extremely simple to use, but also very powerful when you use some of their add-on modules like Zapier, Stripe, and Trello integrations to extend the native functionality of this forms plugin.
In this article, we’ve listed 12 of the most popular tools we like (and use on this site) for most all WordPress sites. But there are loads of other great tools out there. What tools do you use on every WordPress site you spin up? Drop a comment in below and tell us all about it.
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