WordPress is the most powerful free and open-source content management system (CMS), which means it easy to use, even for not tech-savvy business owners. There are thousands of themes and plugins for WordPress and today I’m going to share my favourites plugins, some of them you might already know but you probably haven’t heard about the others.
When I started development of my website, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of plugins available. I wasn’t sure which one I’m going to need, what they are for and how exactly are they going to improve my website and blog.
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WHAT ARE THE PLUGINS?
WordPress plugins are elements of software that can be used to expand the functionality of your site, improving your website design wise and making it easier for you.
Today I’m sharing essential WordPress plugins, to improve your blog, get email subscribers, set up e-commerce shop, track your analytics & more. Let’s dive in.
This post is long, so I thought I would make it easier for you and list all the plugins before we begin and you can click on a specific plugin and it will direct you to its description in this post:
IMPROVE YOUR BLOG AND WEBSITE:
BETTER BLOG AND WEBSITE DESIGN:
GET EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:
SET UP E-COMMERCE SHOP AND TRACK YOUR DOWNLOADS:
TRACK YOUR ANALYTICS:
IMPROVE YOUR BLOG AND WEBSITE:
UPDATE: 07.11.2018 – I no longer use VC on my website
Is my FAVOURITE! Why? Because my entire website is built on it.
What is a Visual Composer?
Visual Composer is a Page Builder for WordPress, which means that you can easily create pages, posts, products and more by drag and drop feature. If you’re familiar with Squarespace, is very similar to it.
What is the best part? No coding knowledge is required! There are loads of features build in a plugin and also if your theme is built on it, you’ll probably have even more features like, for example, I have in my theme: call to action buttons, portfolio sliders, blog sliders and more.
This plugin is worth every penny! You don’t have to spend hours of creating beautiful pages, blog posts and more. Simply drag and drop elements like columns, text blocks, image blogs etc. and create well-designed website quicker than ever.
It’s a plugin which allows you to backup your website to Dropbox or similar external Backup Service.
What backup your website means?
You can save your entire site including your database and all your files. Backup of your website is essential, because you can have all the necessary components for your website in case of hacking or when something goes wrong with WordPress or plugin update.
This plugin saved my website many times, especially when I updated WordPress right after the new update is ready and it usually didn’t work correctly after they upload it. You can do a backup manually or set up a “job” which will automatically backup your website for example once a week.
Have you ever seen on someone’s blog the box with prewritten tweet, on which you simply click and it automatically send it to Twitter and you simply click “Tweet” without writing anything? This is the plugin for that ;)
How does it work?
When you writing a blog post, on Visual mode there is a Twitter icon and you simply click on it and write a tweet in a place “Enter your tweets” then click OK and it’ll insert into a post. I really recommend it, because ever since I started to use it, I got more tweets about my blog. You can see it in action below (see what I just did here?)
Contact Form 7, is a plugin which allows you to create a contact form and is the most popular and free contact form plugin for WordPress.
What is a Contact form?
Is a form that you can use to enable your visitors to contact you. It’s usually used on “Contact” page on any website and it contains fields to fill in with name, e-mail address, message and more.
Is easy to use, because they have already prepared shortcodes for text areas, email addresses and similar. Also, they have well-written documentation. You can embed it into a page by using a shortcode. If you want to see it in action go to this page. I have also built my logo/brand questionnaire on it which comes really handy.
What does compress images mean?
Compressing images means reducing its size, without losing a quality. In practice, it means that your website will use reduced images, which will cause running faster and have lower overall size.
I bet you want your website to work as fast as it can. Also, I know you don’t have much time to spend on compressing images for your website and blog. This plugin is life saviour! It speeds up my website by over 30% and saves me a load of time.
How does it work?
You simply install the plugin and by clicking one button, it will automatically optimize all your images by integrating with the popular image compression services TinyJPG and TinyPNG. If you add a new image, it will only compress this one image.
This is a tough one. I love/hate this plugin, but I still use it. Disqus is a comment system when you log it once and don’t have to log in every time when you’re on someone’s website (if they using Disqus.) This is probably the main reason why I like it, but also when I comment on a blog, people can see my profile and go to my website.
The hate part is probably the branding which you can’t change, so logo of Disqus is always there. Also, I don’t really like the fact that someone can see ALL of my comment I’ve ever written (on other blogs with Disqus system). Despite that, I still like it and recommend it and you can’t always delete it if you hate it and your comments will still be there, but on native WordPress comment system.
This is absolute MUST HAVE plugin for everyone. This is a powerful plugin which improves your SEO (search engine optimization), so it helps you rank higher in Google search. The best features are:
- Meta description – the description which you can see when you search for a website/blog post/page on Google for example when you search for mintswift.com, you’ll see my meta description from home page which says “MintSwift is a Graphic Design Studio, specializes in Logo & Brand Design for small businesses, creative entrepreneurs, and bloggers founded by Adrianna Glowacka. My mission is to truly reflect you and your business via logo design. I’m here to help you create a distinctive brand, which would grow your business and attract your dream clients.”
- XML Sitemaps – Sitemap is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to all users. You can easily add sitemaps by using a free tool called Google Webmaster Tools. It will inform search engines about all the pages that exist on your website. After I added sitemaps to Google Webmaster Tool, I was able to finally see “cards” under my website address in Google search.
- Social Integration – You can simply provide any image in size 1200 × 630px for Facebook and 1024 × 512px for Twitter and when you share your content, thanks to Yoast the image you’ve added will be shown (not the featured image or random image from page). After you add a new image for Facebook, make sure to visit Open Graph Object Debugger and “Fetch for new scrape information” and it’ll update Facebook image you’ve added.
As I’ve mentioned, this plugin is very powerful, I’ve just listed most used features. If you’re blogger, you might also find helpful the Page Analytics and Focus Keyword feature which will show your quality of your content.
BETTER BLOG AND WEBSITE DESIGN:
Is a simple image widget, integrated with native WordPress media library, so you just simply upload the image, set a size and a link if you want, alignment and that’s it. I use it in my blog sidebar, is the photo of me (below)
Is easy to use the widget, which allows you to add Instagram Feed to your website. I use it on my blog at the bottom of my sidebar. It’s easy to customize without any coding knowledge, so you can change the colour of the “Load More” button, “Follow on Instagram”, a number of posts displayed and more and it updates every single time you add a new post.
I recently wrote a whole blog post about adding a custom Pin it button to your blog images and you can read it here. Have you ever seen a Pin it button image on hover when you read a blog post? It’s possible with this plugin! It super easy to use and helps you differentiate your blog, be on brand and get more repins from your website.
GET EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:
Essential plugin to integrate your MailChimp* account with WordPress. MailChimp is one of the most popular and affordable email marketing platforms which allows you to send marketing emails, automated messages, and targeted campaigns.
How does it work?
Have you ever heard of Lead Pages? So you probably saw the sign-up popups on other blogs which appear when you click on an image and there is a box when you fill your name and email address to get a freebie or sign up for something.
The downside of Lead Pages is that you have to pay for it every month. Layered Popups cost $19, but you only have to pay once. When you click on a freebie image one of my blog post with the content upgrade, you’ll see a popup, or you can see it below – It was created by using Layered Popups. Now you know my secret ;)
What is a Signup form?
Sign up form, is a form located on your website, allows your visitors to fill it out and begin the opt-in subscription process, so filling their name, e-mail address and more – signing up to your email list.
How does it work?
Go to Mailchimp > Lists> Sign up forms > Embedded forms and create a form (I created classic). Now you can embed the Opt-In Form Code from Mailchimp. The best feature of Magic Action Box is a possibility to add your own styling and you can style every single sign up for however you want.
If you want to see it in action, go to my blog and you can see BoardBooster* tutorial opt-in form in my sidebar – that’s Magic Action Box and also below any blog post, there is a sign up for to get to my free resources library which was also created using this plugin or see it below:
SET UP E-COMMERCE SHOP AND TRACK YOUR DOWNLOADS
If you have free resources or content upgrades, available to download to your visitors or subscribers, the Download Monitor plugin is the perfect way to track the number of downloads, so you can see which digital file is the most popular and to know what your readers actually need.
Is the most popular plugin for creating an e-commerce shop on your WordPress website. You might don’t know what, but some of the large businesses have a website built on WordPress and are using WooCommerce for their shops.
WooCommerce is perfect for selling both digital and physical products. They have built-in themes for Shop page, Checkout, My account etc. so you don’t need any coding knowledge. If you want to see it in action, go to and see my online store built on WooCommerce or see it below:
I highly recommend this plugin for those who sell digital products. Woo Checkout Field Editor Pro allows you to remove unnecessary fields from Checkout page like address, city, phone number etc. If you sell digital designs like me, you simply need name and e-mail from your customers and that’s it. This plugin makes it easier for you.
TRACK YOUR ANALYTICS
MUST HAVE plugin for every business owner and blogger. This plugin enables you to track your site activity using the latest Google Analytics tracking code and allows you to view essential Google Analytics reports on your WordPress dashboard.
You’re able to see Real time :
- Number of visitors
- Acquisition channels (from where someone entered your site, for example from Facebook)
- Traffic sources details.
Also, you can view the Reports:
- Organic searches
- Page views
- Bounce rate analytics reports
- Keywords analytics reports
- Traffic channels
- Social networks
- Traffic mediums
- Search engines analytics reports
- Device categories
- Operating systems
- Screen resolutions
- Mobile brands analytics reports
- User access control over analytics reports.
Google Analytics comes really handy – after some time (when your numbers will grow) you’ll be able to draw conclusions: on what social media platform you should focus the most (from where people are coming to your website), which of your page is the most popular (you might improve it, add call to action buttons to it, so people can explore your website even more) and which of your blog post is the most popular, so you can try to write similar post for example informational post when you teach something like this post ;)
Is a powerful plugin, but I only use it for Analytics (I know some of you might use it for social share buttons).
Why I use two Analytics plugins?
Also, I’m able to see, in what links my visitors clicked when they read my blog post which included links, like the one with 10+ websites with free stock images.
Phew! I know it’s a long list, but these are in my opinion the best and essential plugins (and most of them are free) to improve your website and blog, get email subscribers, set up e-commerce shop, track your analytics and more. I hope you can find this list of 18 WordPress plugins helpful, even if you just starting out and you have no idea what plugins are for or if you have a blog for a few months now, but want to improve it.
If you’d ask me to choose the most essential 3 plugins from this list it will be:
1. Visual Composer, so you can create pages and post with drag and drop feature,
2. Google Analytics, to track your traffic results and
3. Yoast SEO to rank your website in Google search and improve your search engine optimisation.
Gosh, it was hard to only pick three, because all of the 18 above helped me improve my website and I can’t recommend them enough.
BUT HOW EXACTLY CAN I INSTALL ANY OF THESE PLUGINS?
For the free ones:
From your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New, then search for the plugin name, click Install Now and then Activate it.
For the paid one:
Go to your WordPress Dashboard and navigate Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin and upload the .zip file of your plugin, then Activate it. Simple right?
Ps. I’ve added 18+ to a blog post title, because I might update it and add even more awesome plugins, so make sure to check it out from time to time ;)
What the three essential plugins in your opinion? Which of the WordPress plugin is your favourite and why?