15 Essential WordPress Plugins to Make Your Website Work Better

WordPress is our CMS of choice because it’s easy to use and has some great features right out-of-the-box, but if you are creating a business website you need more than just great.

Third-party plugin extensions take WordPress from a humble blogging platform to a serious business Content Management System.

Here is our round-up of the plugins that we find ourselves frequently using to bring that extra superness to our sites.


SEO & Internet Marketing

WordPress SEO – This is usually the first plugin we add to a customer site as SEO is so important to the success of an online business.  WordPress SEO pips all others to the post with its Google search results preview and inclusion of the previously separate Yoast Breadcrumbs plugin.  This plugin also allows you to control and automatically generate the robot.txt and sitemap.xml files.

WP Google Analytics – Paste the tracking code into this plugin to get your site generating stats for analytics.  We like this plugin for its options to exclude stats being sent to analytics while we’re logged into the CMS admin area of a site ensuring that you’re getting real visitor data not skewed by admins, editors and contributors.

Wordbooker – Posts an update, link and thumbnail image to your Facebook page when publishing a new post on your site.  Great for marketing.  The interface needs a little tidying up but there are heaps of options and is one of the few we could find at the time of writing that allows you to choose which Facebook page to publish to (if you are an admin of multiple FB pages).

Contact Form 7 – The best and most flexible way to add forms to your website.  The plugin includes a form-builder making it easy to create complicated forms even if you have no HTML knowledge.  Support is also very good with quick responses to any questions you may have.

MailChimp Widget – Growing email lists are a necessity in the world of Internet marketing and we love to use MailChimp for our list management needs.  This handy plugin provides an email list sign-up widget that you can easily drop onto a sidebar, specifying which list you want customers to sign up to.


Images & Video

NextGen Gallery – WordPress has a built in media library which manages graphics but it is very basic.  NextGen Gallery gives you a lot of control over your uploaded images, allowing you to create galleries and albums of galleries.  It also includes a neat drag ‘n’ drop image sort feature and adds insert buttons to the page and post editor.

Lightbox 2 – We use this plugin with NextGen Gallery giving us the nice lightbox image display with the faded background.  The plugin is light-weight using jQuery and doesn’t conflict with any other plugins.

Premium Slider – A very flexible image scrolling plugin that has a lot of features and flexibility. We use the low-cost paid version of this plugin to access all of its features, however, there is a free version called Easing Slider if you want to try before you buy.

ProPlayer – Embedding YouTube videos is pretty easy but how do you go about hosting your own video clips?  The ProPlayer plugin makes this easy and gives you good control over how the video is displayed in general and per video.  Oh – and it also lets you embed YouTube videos too.


Website Maintenance & Customisation

BM Custom Login – A very handy plugin that allows you to change the picture used by the WordPress login system.  We use this to brand the login box to match the customers website front-end giving the site that extra neat little touch.

WP Realtime Sitemap – Many sites now have a page dedicated as a sitemap listing links to all the pages as a handy reference.  This plugin allows you to generate this automatically and gives you the options to include or exclude pages, posts, categories and tags and is easily included onto a page or post using a shortcode.  Everything is classed allowing you to change the look and feel via CSS.

Widget Logic – Sometimes you need a widget to be displayed on a particular page or pages and not on others.  This plugin uses WordPress’ own logic statements to give you control over when a widget is displayed on the sidebar.  Perhaps displaying your MailChimp signup only on your contact page.

Better Delete Revision & Revision Control – A bundle of two plugins here.  The first scans through all your posts and pages giving you the option to delete all those revisions that have built up over time, bloating your SQL database.  Once you have deleted them and optimised the database to prevent them from accumulating again, the second plugin places limits on the number of revisions kept for a page or post.  We normally set this to a limit of 2.

Always Edit In HTML – OK we’re blowing our own trumpet here a little by including our own plugin but it is very handy.  The plugin allows you to disable the visual editor tab, forcing the editor to open a page or post in HTML mode and preserving your HTML formatting.


What plugins do you use?

Do you use any essential WordPress plugins that aren’t listed here?  Let us know.

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Wil is a dad, WordPress consultant, WordPress developer, business coach and mentor. He co-organizes the WordPress Sydney meetup group and has been on the organising committee for WordCamp Sydney since 2014. He speaks at many special events and contributes to the WordPress open source project. His likes are chillies, craft beer and electrogravitics.