In this guide, I’ll talk you through the top 10 must-have WordPress plugins that any new website owner will find essential in ensuring their site succeeds throughout 2023 and beyond.
At the time of writing, the WordPress plugin directory boasted 59,533 free plugins to help site owners and bloggers manage their platforms easier, add all kinds of extra functionality, and ultimately deliver the best user experience possible.
Add to that total the wealth of third-party premium plugins, and it’s easy to see why choosing the right plugins for your website can sometimes be a difficult task.
On the other hand, the nearly infinite number of cool things you can do with plugins may mean that it’s tempting to install everything you come across. It’s a practice that could easily slow your site down and create performance issues, creating the opposite effect of what you were going for.
Whatever the case may be for you, this guide is here to help.
Top 10 Must Have WordPress Plugins in 2023
Below, I’ve rounded up the 10 most essential WordPress plugins so that you can add all the functionality you need to your site without overloading your site with unnecessary tools and features.
WordPress users may be spoiled for choice when it comes to drag-and-drop site builder options, but Elementor remains the best of the best. Effortless and intuitive, nothing quite matches it in terms of design quality and functionality.
Elementor is much more than your standard WordPress plugin. It’s a complete web design tool that allows you to put together beautiful pages using an array of attractive, fully customizable templates.
After installing an Elementor-compatible theme like the popular free Astra WordPress Theme, you can access any one of those templates (free and premium options are available), whether that’s a full site-wide template, a single-page template, or even a simple template for a block of web design elements like text and images.
From there, Elementor’s ease-to-use drag-and-drop interface gives you all the tools you need to modify that template to your heart’s content.
If you’re fed up with the limited customizable options of some WordPress themes, or you’re a beginner looking for the most user-friendly way to design a great-looking website. Elementor may well prove to be one of the essential WordPress plugins you own.
How Much Does Elementor Cost?
Elementor comes in a free version that includes a select number of templates and enough standard components to help you build a professional-quality website.
For access to more templates and features, you can upgrade to one of their premium plans which range from $49 – $999 depending on the number of websites you use it on.
Top Elementor Alternatives for WordPress
I like WooCommerce because it makes it easy to extend the functionalities of WordPress websites. However, I recommend exploring other options if you don't want to build your company's website with WordPress.
If you’re planning to sell physical or digital products via your website, WooCommerce is going to be the first must-have WordPress plugin you’ll need to install.
Once activated, this powerful tool transforms your standard WordPress website into a fully functioning online store, complete with product pages, a checkout, and multiple options for receiving payment.
On the front end, this ensures a smooth, secure shopping experience for users, while behind the scenes, the WooCommerce dashboard gives you everything you need to manage orders, inventory, pricing, process shipping, and more besides.
Whether you’re looking for ways to monetize your blog by selling ebooks and other tools, or your end goal is to create the best online store possible – you’ll find WooCommerce invaluable.
How Much Does WooCommerce Cost?
The WooCommerce plugin is free to use and includes most of the functionality you’ll need to set up an online store.
After that, you’ll also need a tool like WooCommerce Payments in order to accept payments in a secure manner.
This is also free to use, and there are no monthly charges, though you do pay 2.9% + $0.30c in transaction fees for each purchase.
You may also want to extend WooCommerce’s core functionality with a range of optional extensions, which range in price from free to $99+.
Top WooCommerce Alternatives
While this plugin is the undisputed king of WordPress plugins, if you want to try something different, then the likes of WP EasyCart, Easy Digital Downloads, and BigCommerce are the best WooCommerce alternatives for WordPress out there.
Using images on your website can sometimes be a Catch 22. On the one hand, they can help drive in traffic, on the other, they can drive that same traffic away by negatively affecting your site performance. SmushIt is the best option for solving that problem through quick and simple image optimization.
If you read my recent post on the best ways to drive traffic to your blog, you may recall that I talked about just how important it is to have a fast-loading, high-performing website.
After all, you’ll know yourself that if a website takes too long to load up and present you with what you’re looking for, you’re simply going to hit the back button on your browser and never return.
There’s no reason why your visitors wouldn’t do the same to you, which is why it’s so important to focus on-page optimization.
The best place to start with this is with a free plugin like Smush, which offers a number of features to help you improve your site speed.
At the core of this popular plugin is an image optimization feature that compresses your pictures to reduce the loading time. Elsewhere, features like Lazy Load and Lossless Compression both can both make a big difference to the way your site performs.
How Much Does Smush Cost?
Smush is a free plugin that allows you to optimize unlimited images of up to 5MB in size.
There is also a premium option with plans priced at $5, $7.50, and $15.83 per month, which provides faster optimization, removes the 5MB size limit, and also offers a handy feature that lets you tackle Google Page Speed recommendations at the click of a button.
Top Smush WordPress Plugin Alternatives
4. WP Rocket
With site performance playing such a critical role in the success of your site, it's imperative that you do all you can to maximize your page load speeds. WP Rocket is the most effective way to achieve this with little-to-no technical knowhow.
Sticking with the theme of page optimization, WP Rocket is another invaluable tool that helps you to improve performance by creating cached versions of your dynamic content so as to load faster in visitors’ browsers.
This best-selling premium plugin also offers GZIP Compression, eCommerce optimization, and tools to help you minify your CSS and JS files so that they’re streamlined for optimum performance.
If you’d rather just use one tool for all of your page speed requirements, WP Rocket also offers an image optimization feature which means you’ll be able to avoid using Smush as well.
How Much Does WP Rocket Cost?
A single, one-year WP Rocket license costs $49 per year for use on a single website, $99 per year for up to three websites, or $249 for unlimited websites.
Top WP Rocket Alternatives
Sure, you can always view your WordPress data via the Google Analytics dashboard, but let's face it: That dashboard crams in so much data that it soon gets overwhelming. MonsterInsights clear and concise visual dashboard is the perfect tool for getting the valuable insights you need with none of the complications.
WIth your site performance fully optimized, it’s time to start thinking about content and how you draw visitors to your site.
The best place to start with this is with MonsterInsights, arguably the best Google Analytics plugins for WordPress around right now.
Seamlessly integrating your Analytics account with your website, you can access key insights into how visitors are finding your website, what kind of search terms they’re using to seek out your content, and which posts and pages are proving to be the most popular.
This kind of data will prove to be indispensable when it comes to creating your blog content strategy and coming up with the kind of content visitors want to read.
Still, why use this when Google Analytics has its own dashboard and set of tools you can use to help you identify your biggest sources of traffic and come up with ideas to grow your site.
On its own, Google Analytics can seem complicated and confusing, especially to newcomers but even to seasoned WordPress veterans.
MonsterInsights solves that problem by presenting all of the relevant data in a very user-interface manner that’s self-contained within WordPress itself. Meaning you can get all of the data you need about your content’s performance without leaving your dashboard.
How Much Does MonsterInsights Cost?
MonsterInsights does come with a free version that offers limited functionality, but this is only really useful if you’re looking to give the plugin a test run before you purchase.
To really use the tool to its full potential, you’ll need one of the three premium plans, which cost either $99.50, $199.50, or $399.50, depending on the number of features you need and how many websites you need to use it on.
Top WordPress Analytics Alternatives to MonsterInsights
6. Yoast SEO
Yoast is so widely used for helping WordPress users achieve success in search results that it's name is the first one anybody thinks of when it comes to WordPress SEO. The original, and still the best, it offers everything you could need to boost those all-important rankings.
So, you’ve gleaned some valuable data from your analytics plugin, you’ve learned how to do effective keyword research using that data, and now you’re ready to take the results of your research and put them to work in creating fully Search Engine Optimized content that helps you boost your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) position and attract visitors.
This is where Yoast SEO comes into its own.
One of the most well-established WordPress plugins around, this irreplaceable tool gives constantly analyses your content as you create it and offers suggestions on how best to optimize it, providing helpful advice on things such as:
- Whether you’ve used your chosen keyword too much, too little, or just the right amount
- Whether your keywords are in the best places (headings, first paragraph, etc.).
- Whether you have enough outbound and inbound links
- Whether your page title, slug, and meta description are optimized for your keyword.
Yoast can also help to make your life much easier when it comes to setting up canonical URLs, handling XML sitemaps, and optimizing site breadcrumbs to improve your navigation.
If you’re serious about growing your website through well-crafted, well-optimized content, Yoast is one must-have WordPress plugin you really can’t afford to ignore.
How Much is Yoast SEO?
Yoast SEO is available as a free plugin that offers most of the features you could need to make SEO improvements to your site.
That’s why I recommend it so highly in my guide to the best free WordPress plugins around.
However, if you do want more features like automated link suggestions as you write, content quality controls, social media sharing, and access to a complete academy where you can learn more about SEO, there is a premium version that costs $99 per year.
Top WordPress SEO Plugin Alternatives to Yoast
While Yoast SEO is undoubtedly the number one WordPress SEO plugin available, it’s not the only one out there. If there’s something about Yoast that doesn’t quite work for you, try All in One SEO, SEOPress, or Rank Math.
Whether you're a content creator, a small business owner, or a blogger, ConvertKit's impressive array of newsletter sign-up templates tailored to your niche makes it the perfect place to start when it comes to making the most out of email marketing.
Once you’ve got your content created, it’s time to get it out there and start drawing in readers.
It’s no secret that email marketing is one of the best ways to promote your blog, getting your freshly created content into your audience’s inbox and helping you to build up a strong following.
Of all the email marketing tools out there that could help you with this, ConvertKit is undoubtedly the best.
The plugin integrates the main ConvertKit dashboard with your WordPress site, giving you access to an extensive array of features that are so easy to use even a complete novice would have no problem using them.
These tools give you the ability to create attractive email opt-in forms to build your subscriber list, then send out well-optimized, professional-quality newsletters or simply send your latest posts directly to your readers’ email.
Along with some useful analytics features to help you measure the success of your email marketing efforts, this top WordPress plugin may well prove essential when it comes to taking your website to the next level.
How Much Does ConvertKit Cost?
CovertKit is free to install on your WordPress website, though you will need to sign up for a plan in order to use it.
The good news is that there’s also a free plan which allows you to create forms and landing pages, collect as many as 1,000 emails and send unlimited email broadcasts.
There are also two premium plans which cost between $9 and $25 and include additional features such as automated email sequences, integrations with other tools, and sales funnels.
Top ConvertKit Alternatives
You can read more about each of these in my guide to the best email marketing tools for growing your website.
There are an endless number of ways to monetize your website, but no plugin helps you to utilize quite as many as MemberPress. Whether you're selling subscriptions, courses, or products, this comprehensive tool lets you do it all from one easily-navigable dashboard.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to add a Members Only section to your website.
Perhaps you’re looking to make money blogging by publishing some content behind a paywall. Maybe you want to offer additional resources that are restricted to paying clients only, or perhaps your goal is to create a thriving online community and encourage User Generated Content.
Whatever the case may be for you, if you’re going down the membership route, you could do far worse than installing the Memberpress WordPress plugin on your website.
This comprehensive member site plugin allows you to not only set up paywalls and recurring memberships but also to sell online courses, offer coupons and discounts to members, and offer digital downloads directly from your website.
All of this is handled from within an intuitive, user-friendly dashboard, using drag-and-drop style controls to create your sign-up pages and other content with no coding required.
How Much Does MemberPress Cost?
MemberPress is a premium WordPress plugin with three different plans priced at $179, $299, and $399 per year.
Which one you choose will depend on how many sites you need to run the plugin on and whether you need advanced features such as marketing integrations, two-factor authentication, and premium support.
Top MemberPress Alternatives for Creating WordPress Membership Sites
If MemberPress’ pricing is too high for you, or if you just can’t get to grips with it, you might want to try Restrict Content Pro, OptinMonster, or WooCommerce Memberships as these are some of the best MemberPress alternatives around right now.
UpDraftPlus's flexibility is undoubtedly it's biggest selling point. No other WordPress backup plugin offers quite as many options for fine-tuning the backup process to your exact requirements, at least not for free. For the most comprehensive backup management features, look no further.
So far, so good. You’ve got your WordPress website up and running; you’re drawing in new readers all the time and making good money from your memberships.
Then, suddenly, disaster.
One wrong move while tinkering with your site completely messes up your design, or a problem with plugin compatibility leaves you with a site that just doesn’t perform as it should.
Worse yet, an external problem such as your website being hacked causes your whole site to either be rendered unusable or to go offline altogether, costing you dearly in terms of time, money, and reputation.
If that’s a problem that sounds too scary to even imagine, you might want to take a moment to explore UpDraftPlus, a well-known WordPress backup plugin that lets you easily create backup versions of your site so that you can restore it to its former glory when things go wrong.
What I like best about UpDraftPlus compared to the numerous other WordPress backup plugins out there is that it offers effortless integration with multiple different cloud services so that you can save your backups wherever is most convenient for you.
From there, anytime you need to restore a previous version of your website, all you have to do is access UpDraftPlus from within your WordPress dashboard, click the restore button, and choose which components of your backup you want to re-add to your site.
This may not be the most sophisticated or feature-rich plugin out there, but it certainly does its one job incredibly well and is an essential tool for WordPress users who have invested a lot of time and energy in building a successful site.
How Much Does UpDraftPlus Cost?
The free version offers one-click backups to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud, and other services, as well as the ability to schedule automatic backups and restore those backups easily.
Meanwhile, the premium version costs $50.40 per year and offers additional features such as incremental backups, website migrations, the ability to backup non-WordPress files and databases, and integration with more cloud services such as Microsoft OneDrive and BackBlaze.
Best UpDraftPlus Alternatives for Backing Up Your WordPress Website
Rivalling only site performance in terms of its importance, security should be a top priority for any WordPress user. Not that it's something you need to be overly concerned about if you have Sucuri installed. This industry-leading tool takes care of everything in the most user-friendly manner possible.
I simply couldn’t finish a guide to the top must-have WordPress plugins without mentioning Sucuri, an essential security tool designed to keep your site hacker-proof and provide advanced protection against a multitude of attacks.
After all, while it’s certainly a good idea to have a backup version of your site on standby just in case something goes wrong, it’s a much better idea to do all you can to stop something going wrong in the first place.
That’s where Sucuri proves to be worth its weight in gold.
Once set up and configured on your website, this best-selling website security plugin provides ample protection from malware, spam comment attacks, brute force attacks, DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks, and more.
With that in place, site security is one less thing you have to worry about, meaning you can focus more energy and attention on coming up with great blog post ideas and building your audience.
How Much Does Sucuri Cost?
A free version of Sucuri exists, which provides remote malware scanning, blocklist monitoring, effective security hardening, and other key features.
However, to really optimize your WordPress security, you’ll benefit from paying for the premium version.
This costs between $199.99 and $499.99 per year, depending on your security requirements.
WordPress Security Plugin Alternatives to Sucuri
What to Look for When Choosing WordPress Plugins
The ten tools I’ve listed above are what I consider to be the ten most important must-have WordPress plugins for running a successful website and are the same ones I’ve personally used to help me develop a content website portfolio worth several million dollars.
If you’re curious as to why I chose these particular plugins over the thousands of others available, or if you’re not sure what to look for when picking the best plugin for your site, the following pointers may help.
The most important factor I consider when choosing a plugin is the kind of features and functionality it offers.
Naturally, this is going to be different from plugin to plugin, but it isn’t so much the nature of the features themselves that I look at. Rather, it’s the quantity and quality of those features that matter most.
If I’m looking for a plugin that will help me to optimize my page speeds, for example, then I need to know that the tool I’m considering will help me to tackle all aspects of page speed optimization without relying on multiple plugins for each optimization task I need to take care of.
If I can’t find a suitable free plugin that offers everything I need, then another important question to ask is whether the premium version provides enough additional features to warrant the cost.
Compatibility and Updates
As useful as WordPress plugins can be, they can also cause a nuisance when two or more plugins conflict with one another, resulting in any number of design and functionality issues for your site.
This is especially true if a plugin hasn’t been updated to keep up with the frequent updates to the core WordPress files, as well as updates to any themes you might be using.
With that in mind, it’s important to check whether the plugin you’re thinking of installing has been tested for compatibility with the latest version of WordPress and to read up on any known conflicts with other plugins.
While all WordPress plugins are designed to make our lives easier, there are some which require a steeper learning curve than others, especially if you’re new to all this.
It’s for that reason that I pay close attention to the kind of support available.
Many plugin developers will restrict support to their premium users only, while others will offer a basic level of support to free users via their plugin’s entry page in the WordPress plugins directory.
Whatever the case may be, I recommend looking not only at the level of support available, but also the quality and timeliness of it as the last thing you need when your site is having problems is for a developer to take days (or even weeks) getting back to you with a lackluster response.
Frequently Asked Questions About WordPress Plugins
How many plugins should a WordPress website have?
There are no hard and fast rules about the number of plugins you should install. Though most websites will have between 15 – 30 active plugins, the key is to simply install only as many as you really need to deliver the best experience for your visitors.
Should I delete inactive WordPress plugins?
If you’re not using a WordPress plugin, it’s best to delete it as inactive plugins won’t be updated, thus leaving your site more open to security risks.
Are paid WordPress plugins worth it?
Sometimes. With so many plugins out there, it’s usually possible to find a high-quality free tool to do whatever you need to do with your site, though the number of advanced features and access to better support can make some premium plugins worth the cost.
The Final Word on 2023’s Must-Have WordPress Plugins
From delivering optimum user experiences to protecting your site from security breaches and even promoting your blog posts, the ten tools I’ve listed above are the best options out there for using your WordPress website to its full potential.
But does that mean you should rush out and instantly install every single one?
Ultimately, the best approach is to consider whether you really need the kind of functionality offered by a plugin or whether it’s going to be a superfluous extra that offers little value to you or your site visitors.
For example, if the idea of using email marketing to promote your blog appeals to you but you’re not convinced that you have the extra time needed to do it, you might want to give tools like ConvertKit a miss until you’re really ready to use them.
That said, plugins such as site-builder Elementor, Yoast SEO, and the security plugin Sucuri all form the essential building blocks of a successful WordPress website and should be at least considered by anyone who is serious about growing their website in 2023 and beyond.