The 5 “Must-Have” WordPress Plugins Our Web Designers Can’t Live Without
WordPress is to websites as Google is to search engines.
This mammoth-sized content management system (CMS) powers almost 40% of the internet’s 1.3 billion websites (just 520 mil, that’s all).
As we’re already talking numbers, here’s another: 60,308. That’s how many WordPress plugins are available, allowing users to expand website power and function. But out of over 60,000 available plugins, which ones are the best of the very best?
We Never Build a Website Without These Five WordPress Plugins
Naturally, every WordPress website owner-slash-designer wants top-notch plugins that offer superior functionality, visual appeal, lightning-fast speed, and an extraordinary user experience.
However, that’s easier said than done. With over 60,000 different choices, finding the best ones for your site doesn’t just feel overwhelming; it seems near impossible.
Even if you tested 100 plugins every single day, it would take you almost two years to get through the entire directory!
But here’s the great news: the superstars that make up the Connective team already did all that tedious, time-consuming research. Below, I’ll list and discuss the five WordPress plugins that are the “secret ingredient” in every single website we build for clients.
Without a doubt, Elementor is the absolute best and most important plugin we use for WordPress themes.
But just in case you don’t want to take my word for it, its bonafides speak for themselves. It has over 5,000 five-star reviews, powers over 10 million websites, and claims a spot as one of the top five WordPress plugins.
The official website describes Elementor as “the Swiss Army knife of WordPress plugins,” and there’s no doubt it lives up to the hype.
The Basics of Elementor
At its core, Elementor is a visual drag-and-drop page builder. So when you’re designing your WordPress website and content, you have the same POV (point of view) as your page visitors do.
Thus, it eliminates the nasty surprise of realizing the visual appearance of the website you just built looks absolutely nothing like what users will see.
The drag-and-drop feature makes it fast and simple to experiment and change around page elements just by clicking and moving your mouse.
Okay, you get it. Elementor is terrific and the best plugin for WordPress themes.
Here are some of the top features that make it stand out from the thousands of other theme-builder plugins:
A Vast Template Library: Elementor is perfect for all you creative geniuses out there who want to spend the time and energy creating your WordPress website design from scratch. However, it also offers an extensive library of pre-built templates you can use with just a few clicks. Categories include “Pages,” which are complete, full-page designs, and “Blocks,” which consist of separate sections.
Open Source: Yup, that’s right. Elementor provides a 100% free-for-life version, which offers over 60 templates and widgets, unlimited customizations, and seamless integration with the WordPress theme of your choice. Or, opt for Elementor Pro.
No Coding Knowledge Required: Let’s be honest; many of the people who build WordPress sites lack the know-how to code HTML or CSS. Thankfully, that’s not a problem when you choose Elementor. Of course, every plugin has an initial learning curve; however, Elementor is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-learn plugins you can use to build your website theme, landing pages, and more.
With a diverse range of widgets, features, and functionality, Elementor is our go-to WordPress theme plugin. It also offers advanced security features and regular updates.
So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned expert, Elementor has something for everyone.
2. Rank Math
In second place on our plugin MVP list is Rank Math.
I know what you’re thinking: “But wait, Rodney. What about Yoast? Isn’t it, like, the #1 WordPress SEO plugin?”
Despite the success and popularity of Yoast, we’ve discovered that Rank Math offers a much better package all around. In fact, it’s an end-to-end solution for all our on-site SEO needs, from focus keywords to XML sitemaps.
The Basics of Rank Math
When it comes to WordPress plugins, you can’t go wrong with Rank Math.
Adding Rank Math as your SEO WordPress plugin is one of the smartest moves you can make to improve your site.
You can enable and customize over 15 different modules based on your specific needs, with a user-friendly setup wizard to help you get started. Even better, it has an auto-configuration feature that adapts seamlessly to your website.
Another reason why we love Rank Math is that it accommodates a deep integration with Elementor’s page-builder plugin. Plus, it has complete integration with Google’s key tools, including Search Console, Keyword Ranking, Analytics, and Schema Markup.
While Rank Math’s modular interface provides superior functionality and precise control, that’s only one of its many excellent features. Here are even more reasons why we remain loyal to Rank Math:
On-Site SEO Analysis: Curious to find out how your site’s SEO measures up? Rank Math offers a comprehensive SEO analysis tool that uses 70+ tests to help you find the best ways to optimize your site. You’ll receive an overall score and a description of the tests you passed…and failed.
Keyword Optimization: Yoast only offers users the option to optimize blog posts for one keyword. With Rank Math, you can choose up to five! Then, enable the Google Search Console integration to track your keyword rankings, click-through rate, and more valuable information concerning your site’s SEO performance.
AI-Powered Content Creation: Rank Math has the distinction of being the first and only SEO plugin that offers AI technology to help you create content. Your personal AI assistant does all the hard work, generating SEO-friendly content that can boost your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Rank Math is a complete solution to all your on-site SEO needs.
With advanced capabilities, free SEO site audits, keyword optimization, and effortless Google integrations, it doesn’t get much better.
3. Gravity Forms
No matter what kind of content you offer on your WordPress website, it’s safe to assume that it contains at least one form, if not more.
Common examples are surveys, email opt-ins, feedback, payments, etc., and you’ll need a top-quality WordPress forms plugin to collect all that juicy first-party data.
Enter Gravity Forms.
The Basics of Gravity Forms
You can take advantage of all the features Gravity Form offers to help you generate qualified leads, streamline and automate your workflows, collect data, and accept payments. With a drag-and-drop form editor and Preview visualizer, you can build every type of form you need for your WordPress site in the blink of an eye.
While you can always design from scratch, Gravity Forms also offers a hand-dandy selection of pre-built templates to save you time and energy. It’s not open-source, but you can purchase a Basic license for $59, a Pro license for $159, and an Elite license for $259.
Gravity Forms is a feature-rich plugin with superior functionality and tools. Here are some of the best selling points this plugin offers:
Versatile Form Builder: You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to customization, including paginated and responsive forms, conditional logic, save and continue, dynamic field population, and 30+ form fields.
Secure Data Collection: With Gravity Forms, you can have peace of mind that your data collection tools are comprehensive and secure. It even lets you capture partial entries from visitors who didn’t finish submitting their information and route form data to other places. Additional features include forms for quizzes, polls, surveys, and electronic signatures.
First-Class Security: In the last few years, the privacy of digital information has become a contentious topic, which is why Gravity Forms goes the extra mile to ensure complete security and compliance. It’s GDPR compliant, with anti-spam capabilities, regular security audits, and full support for Google reCAPTCHA v2 and v3.
Gravity Forms is a no-brainer for any WordPress website when it comes to WordPress plugins. Admins with only a single contact form probably don’t need the advanced features it offers, but for sites with multiple and complex form requirements, it’s absolutely perfect.
Fourth on our list is Wordfence, an absolute must for keeping your WordPress site safe and secure.
It’s an open-source plugin, and while there are premium versions with additional support and features, the free plugin is more than capable for the average website.
Over 4 million people use Wordfence Free, which has a cutting-edge malware scanner and endpoint firewall for checking WordPress backdoors, core files, plugins, themes, SEO spam, and so on.
The Basics of Wordfence
With Wordfence’s intuitive and user-friendly WordPress dashboard, you can manage the security of all your websites in a single place.
In addition to its firewall and scanner, Wordfence offers a smorgasbord of features, including real-time traffic analysis, two-factor authentication, and so much more. As it can integrate deeply with WordPress, it safeguards your endpoints and puts a screeching halt to data breaches.
This plugin also lets you configure security alerts that you can receive via text, Slack, and email.
And, just in case you do experience problems from hackers or malware, Wordfence can repair and receive your files and keeps a backup copy of your plugin, theme, and core files to ensure their integrity.
Why is Wordfence our top choice for WordPress plugin security? Here are some of the best features it offers.
Traffic Analysis: Wordfence goes beyond the traffic data available on Google Analytics. You can access real-time data about site visitors, hackers, and their IP addresses, as well as track visits and hack attempts and block forced login attempts.
Leaked Password Protection: Nobody wants to deal with a data breach, but the fact is that they happen frequently. Using specific security information, you can protect data from WordPress hackers and even prevent admins from using stolen passwords.
Manual Blocking: Tired of dealing with the same security risks? You can block network access from sites, bots, and humans on your “red flag” list using advanced techniques like pattern matching and IP range pinpointing.
It’s true; Wordfence isn’t as fun to play around and experiment with as other plugins, like Elementor’s theme-builder.
But the built-in safeguards and protection that Wordfence offers – for free, no less – are critical to maintaining your website and keeping it safe from threats.
5. WP Rocket
Once you incorporate WP Rocket into your collection on WordPress, you’ll understand why it’s the site’s number one caching plugin.
It provides powerful, high-octane performance to facilitate faster-than-light speed on your site. Install WP Rocket, and watch your Google PageSpeeds Insights score and Core Web Vitals start to take off.
In all honesty, we sometimes switch to Nitropack. While it’s not as widely used as WP Rocket, it’s still a solid plugin for optimizing your HTML cache and giving your page speed times a swift kick.
The Basics of WP Rocket
It’s so easy to use WP Rocket that it almost feels like cheating when you realize how much this WordPress performance plugin boosts key metrics and loading speed.
And as you likely know, slow page speeds will literally torpedo your traffic, rankings, and profits.
The data says it all: eCommerce conversion rates are three times higher for sites that only take a single second to load.
How much would a 300% increase in profits benefit your bottom line?
However, WP Rocket automatically applies 80% of the best practices for web performance as soon as you activate it to provide an instant boost in page loading times.
Curious to know more about the specifics of what you’ll get with WP Rocket? Check out these sweet features:
Minify CSS & JS Files: Want to give visitors blazingly fast content? WP Rocket helps you cut file size by minifying and combining your CSS and JS files, loading JS deferred, and optimizing CSS delivery. Extra bonus: you can delay JS files until there’s a specific user interaction, decreasing your initial load time.
Page & Browser Caching: WP Rocket generates static HTML files so that your page visitors never have to wait an extra millisecond to view your content. Best of all, you get this same benefit for browser caching.
Cache Preloading: Next time you make changes to your website, WP Rocket instantly preloads your cache. Want more? How about LazyLoad, which is WP Rocket’s tool for deferring iframe and image loading, which means they stay in the background until your visitors are ready to use them.
Who doesn’t want a superhero performance for their website?
Yeah, Nitropack is a suitable alternative, but there’s a reason WP Rocket has much higher user rates. But the siren call of an immediate page speed increase is something not many can ignore, and with file minification, page and browser caching, and LazyLoad, you can’t go wrong.
Five of the Best WordPress Plugins
So, there you have it. The five WordPress plugins we use every time we build a website are Elementor, Rank Math, Gravity Forms, Wordfence, and WP Rocket (sometimes Nitropack).
If you’re still new to the world of WordPress website building and plugins, your safest bet may be to work with a team of SEO professionals who can shoulder the responsibilities and make your life that much easier.