It’s been a few years since Jim, impersonating his “prankemy” Dwight, asked Dwight what kind of bear is best. Before Dwight can say that there are basically two schools of thought, Jim answers his own question: “black bear.” Dwight is enraged. Jim persists (and explains his outfit while smiling at the camera in an “interview”). Dwight launches into the boss’s office. “MICHAEL!” Cue theme song.

I have that scene in mind as I write about the easiest-to-use, most flexible, and most functional WordPress Plugins: what kind of plugin is best?

Knowing which WordPress Plugins to use (and when, and how, and why) is essential to ensuring that your site runs properly.

We folks at GHI Internet Services have been using WordPress for a number of years now and learned plenty of lessons along the way: what works, what doesn’t. We want offer you some of those hard-earned lessons about WordPress. Of course, take it or leave it. We’ve got no skin in the game when it comes to which plugin you choose.

First, we’ll talk about the essentials, the plugins that simply everyone must use to have a functioning site. After that, we’ll offer a few plugins that are good for specific purposes: creating and editing sliders, selling products and services online, backing up your files, keeping your site protected from malware, and more.

The Essentials: What plugins should I absolutely have on my website?

It doesn’t matter what kind of website you have or want to have. There are 3 basic plugins that are recommended for every WordPress site:

1. A Contact-Form Plugin

You need some way for people visiting your site to contact you. We have found success with these two:

  1. Contact Form 7 is best, in our opinion, for flexible forms.
  2. Gravity Forms, on the other hand, is better for more advanced forms. It also has an easy-to-use drag and drop system that works like a charm.

2. A Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Plugin

In most if not all cases, the #1 way to bring in new business on the web is through the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc). Every day, millions of potential customers are the search engines to research, compare and purchase products and services … including yours. Without the right tools, without the right WordPress plugin, they won’t find you. (Instead, they’ll be finding your competitors.) There’s a lot more that goes into an effective search engine optimization campaign than this, but without this, it’s hard to imagine even that even the best of campaigns would have much success. We recommend installing one of these two:

  1. All-In-One SEO
  2. WordPress SEO (by Yoast)

3. A Caching Plugin

Sometimes, visitors will not be able to see changes made to your site because their browser cached an old version of the site and is accessing it, as opposed to the newer version. We recommend manually clearing the cache by installing one of these WordPress plugins:

  1. W3 Total Cache
  2. WP Super Cache

Ecommerce Solutions

We often recommend (and use) Woocommerce, a flexible eCommerce framework for WordPress. Not only does it allow selling downloads and virtual goods, but it also allows your WordPress site to have full eCommerce capabilities.

Backups

A plugin called UpDraftPlus allows you to easily schedule backups as well as manually make backups. Not only will it just make a backup on your computer but you can pick other options of where to send the Backup like Google Drive, Dropbox, FTP, etc. It also has a button to easily restore backups.

Security

It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a free or paid solution, Sucuri is our answer. They’re one of the leading companies when it comes to website security. They offer a free plugin that really works well in hardening WordPress websites as well as scanning for malware. They also offer a paid version which will let you take full advantage of their services by connecting WordPress sites to their Firewall and CDN network.

Flexibility

Easy: Strappress. Out of the box it is pretty basic, but when it’s built off of Bootstrap 3, it has a great framework. (Not to mention, it is very easy to expand upon.)

Improve PageSpeed and Score

A simple and easy fix to improve your pagespeed and your score is by using a free plugin called “WP Performance Score Booster” which is a very efficient tool that automatically applies many of the fixes needed to increase your pagespeed like leveraging cache for example.

Next week, we’ll take a look at 10 questions we get a lot about how to use WordPress. They may seem like dumb questions, but they certainly aren’t. Stay tuned!

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