The Top 10 Core WordPress Plugins

by Kristal Reagan

What’s a plugin? A Plugin is a small bit of code that adds a cool function to your website. It’s similar to installing a new app on your smartphone. With all the cool

Photo obtained from Royalty free membership by Kristal Reagan | Featured Contributor
Photo obtained from Royalty free membership by Kristal Reagan | Featured Contributor

features available for your WordPress website it’s hard not to be a plugin junkie!  How do we know what’s fluff and what’s core? By my definition, fluff is something that looks really cool on your site but isn’t something your website or business truly needs. Is it just “pretty” or does it make things easier for you or your ideal client? Does it serve a function that your business model needs?

Core plugins, again by my definition, are plugins that every website should have no matter the business model.  Most of these are actions that run in the background that only you know about and only you ever see. Every web builder and blogger has different opinions on what the “core” plugins are so this isn’t a one size fits all but it’s a good place to start.

Here’s what I install on mine and all my client’s websites:

“Kristal’s 10 Core WordPress Plugin Must Haves”

  1. Akismet– comes installed; you’ll need to activate it and get an API key (it’s worth the investment…do it!) prevents spam comments (free)
  2. Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress- This plugin adds a widget to the WordPress dashboard with site statistics. By:  This will add a snippet of the analytics on the WordPress dashboard giving you enough information so that you won’t need to sign into your Analytics account every day to see how your site is performing.  (free)
  3. Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and to better index your blog. By: Arne Brachhold (free)
  4. All in One SEO Pack– Optimizes your WordPress blog for Search Engines (Search Engine Optimization). By Michael Torbert.  Gives you the ability to optimize your site so that it’s easier to find using a search engine and it’s going to rank higher  You’ll have the option for general site optimization, as well as individual page and post optimization.  (free)
  5. Contact Form 7 – Perfect for your Contact Us page and other ‘form’ options. By: Takayuki Miyoshi (free)
  6. WP Smush.itReduce image file size and improves performance using the API within WordPress (think no more resizing your images, this will optimize them for you). By: WPMUDEV  (free)
  7. Backup Buddy The best way to back up (and move) a WordPress Site By: iThemes  (paid)
  8.  WordFence Security Wordfence Security is a free enterprise-class security and performance plugin that includes a very fast caching engine, firewall, anti-virus scanning, cellphone sign-in (two-factor authentication), malicious URL scanning, and live traffic including crawlers. Wordfence is the only WordPress security and performance plugin that can verify and repair your core, theme, and plugin files, even if you don’t have backups. (free)
  9.  Page/Post Specific Social Share ButtonsThis plugin allows you to display the most used social media share buttons on specific posts and/or pages. By: Ryan Howard, Abbobaker P. (free)

With these core plugins, you will have an SEO boost, backup protection, security, increased site speed, image optimization, spam control, and better formatting for your post and pages. All these plugins are for your website so that it runs smoothly. These are the “big 10” I add to EVERY WordPress website. (free)

In addition to the “Top Ten” I have listed a few of my favorite plugins that give non-techies some flexibility with custom options no matter what theme they are using:

  • Display Widgets Gives you the ability to turn off/on sidebar widgets on certain pages and/or posts. By: Strategy (free)
  • WP Display Header – You’ll be able to have a different header on every page…if you want. By: Konstantin Obenland (free)
  • Page Builder-Build responsive page layouts using the widgets you know and love using this simple drag-and-drop page builder. By:  Site Origin (free)

I’ve tested a handful of shopping carts and every time I come back to this one! Simple dashboard, easy set-up, and uses short code to embed in posts and pages.

My favorite Shopping Cart Plugin:

  • WP estore– Simple Shopping Cart Plugin to sell digital (ebook, mp3, photos) and non-digital products from your WordPress blog through PayPal. By: Ruhul Amin  (paid)

My favorite membership plugin:

Optimize Press– I use Optimize Press as a plugin and not my theme with the option for membership and to build squeeze/landing pages, optin pages, etc. By: OptimizePress (paid)

Can you have too many plugins? The key is not how many plugins you have but the quality of the plugin. To know if you have a quality plugin when searching for plugins from within your dashboard or at check how many times the plugin downloads, when it was last updated, how many stars it has, and read the reviews. If you find a site that has a plugin you “need” here is a great site that will tell you the theme and the top plugins installed: It won’t give you a list of every single plugin installed.

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