Must-Have WordPress Plugins: The 10 Essentials You Need in 2021 

 January 8, 2021

By  Julian

10 Must-Have WordPress Plugins

WordPress is a powerful CMS and website building platform. However, there are a number of things it can't do. But that is where plugins come in.

There are different types of plugins out there that provide different types of functionality. Some of which are completely useless. While others provide for you an essential feature for growing your website business.

With that said, there are thousands of plugins within the WordPress repository. And even thousands more outside it.

So choosing the best plugins for your arsenal can be a tough task.

But you're in luck!

In this post, we are going to show you 10 types of plugins you should already have installed and activated on your WordPress website (along with our top recommendations).

Let's dive right in!



SEO—search engine optimization—is an essential part of any online business. When done right, you can generate large portions of traffic from Google search. It's the lifeblood behind many websites. And for a WordPress website, an SEO plugin is the best way get started.

An SEO plugin will help you configure how your site will look in the search results. It will help you choose what pages will show and not show on the results pages. And most importantly, it will help Google crawl your site and index all your best pages so that others may find them when they need the information.

Our Recommendations

i. RankMath

RankMath is fairly new in the WP SEO space. But after testing it, even its lite version, is exceptional. There are a ton of features and functionalities. This includes XML sitemaps, search appearance, SEO analysis, monitoring 404 pages, redirections, and rich snippets.

ii. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins in all of WordPress. It's so popular, people download it on their new websites without even considering looking for a new one. It provides you with everything an SEO tool should provide. All in all, it's a great choice.


Website performance plays a major role in its success. If your site will take longer than three seconds to load, you could lose around 40% of your visitors before they even read a single word.

One of the best ways to improve your loading speed is with a caching plugin. There are many of them out there. Some good. Some bad. Some simple. Some complicated.

And since performance is very important, we'd recommend you go for something that is a little easier to setup and configure.

Our Recommendations

i. LiteSpeed Cache

LiteSpeed Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins in WordPress. It's one of the few caching plugins that currently has more than a million installs. Everybody loves it.

ii. WP Rocket

WP Rocket is the ultimate performance plugin. Not only does it provide you with caching functionality, but there are more features to help your site's loading speed. It's a paid plugin. But it's very worth it.


Website security is crucial. It has to be a top priority for you. Otherwise, you could fall victim to one of the thousands of cyber hacks per day.

Good website security starts with a trust-worthy hosting provider. But if you want an even more secure website, a good plugin can provide you with that.

With that said, an even better plugin can provide you with more. The best security plugins will give you scheduled malware scans, firewall features, spam prevention, and more.

And we've got the best for you!

Our Recommendations

i. All in One WP Security

AIO WP Security is easily our number one recommendation because it provides you with so much more than malware protection. You will be provided with firewall functionality, brute force features where you can add login captcha or change your login page URL, full control of logins, and more.

There is also functionality for both anti-spam and database backups, which both need their own plugins. Less plugins usually means better (loading speed-wise).

ii. Sucuri

Sucuri is easily one of the best security plugins out there. Especially its premium version. There's a reason why it's one of the most popular in the WordPress community. It's safe and very reliable.


A page builder plugin adds additional functionality and a visual editor to your site. If you find the perfect solution, you could do some wonderful things and create some beautiful web content.

Apart from the visually appealing design elements, a great page builder can shorten your plugin list count.

Some page builders offer key elements you could only get from other standalone plugins. A good example would be contact forms. Instead of installing something like the Contact Form 7 plugin, you would use the page builder's built-in elements.

Our Recommendations

i. Thrive Architect

Thrive Architect is our number one recommended page builder. We use it here on ProfessorWP. The visual drag and drop builder gives you the power to edit any part of your content. There are more than 40 elements/modules. Some of these can replace certain plugins. Such as contact forms, tables, tables of contents, testimonials, and much more.

ii. Elementor

Elementor has quickly become one of the most popular page builders in all of WordPress. And this is for two reasons: 1) it's actually a very good plugin, and 2) its free version is by far the best free page builder on the market.


A database cleanup plugin helps you keep your site's performance at a high. It removes things like trashed items, unused tags, pingbacks, expired transients, and your old post/page revisions.

If you don't clean up your site regularly, all this junk can add up. Resulting in slower load speeds across your entire website.

Luckily, you can easily schedule regular cleanups with a simple plugin.

Our Recommendations

i. Optimize Database

The plugin's full name is Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions. It rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? We've been using this plugin for years—on every website we build. It's super easy to use. The configuration process is simply checking a bunch of boxes and hitting the update button. And it's totally free to use.

ii. WP-Optimize

This is a much more popular option. It's also free. The difference is that it offers additional features. Particularly, caching and image compression. While this is convenient in that it could keep your plugin list shorter, but we believe there are plugins that does these 2 features a lot better.


A picture is worth a thousand words. That cannot get any truer for web content. Visuals are essential pieces for content creators.

With that said, visuals can slow down your webpage, especially if they aren't compressed and optimized.

There are some interesting statistics regarding page loading. For instance, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load within 2 seconds. Another one that's scary is 40% of all internet users abandon websites that take longer than 3 seconds to fully load. 

An image optimization plugin compresses your images—giving them smaller file sizes, thus helping your page loading speed.

A great plugin will even provide you with lazy loading functionality, which waits for images to come into view before loading them into a webpage.

Our Recommendations

i. Smush

Smush is by far the most important plugin in this category. It's very easy to use and offers both the compression and lazy load features. The best part about this: it's 100% free! Plus, over 3850 users have given it a 5-star rating!

ii. Optimole

Optimole is very similar to Smush. It also offers image compression and lazy loading. It's super easy to use. After setting up the API connection, all it needs is a few clicks and it's good to go.


Building a mailing list has become an integral part of online business—whether you're a startup, a SaaS, a blogger, or even a digital empire like Amazon. For every $1 spent on email marketing, you can generate $44 in ROI.

But, in order to see this kind of return, you will first need actual people on your list. This is where a plugin comes in.

A great mailing list plugin is one that provides you with email opt-in forms, quality form templates, split testing functionality (to help you find what works and what doesn't), advanced analytics, and more.

There are dozens of them out there. But luckily for you, we've got the best of the best...just for you!

Our Recommendations

i. Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads is the ultimate mailing list plugin. It's the one we've used here and it has helped us generate leads and boost our conversions. It's easy to use, has a great user interface, and offers hundreds of templates for every type of optin form you need.

ii. OptinMonster

OptinMonster is one of the most popular list building tools out there. For good reason too. It offers everything you need to create high-quality optin forms that perform well.


Social media can be a great source of web traffic. There are millions upon millions of users across all the major platforms. And an effective way to tap into this is by getting your visitors to share your content with their social followings.

To do this efficiently, you will need some quality social share buttons. For this, you will need to find a plugin that will give you this functionality. And you will need to find one that will not negatively affect your website's performance.

Luckily for you, there are a dozen of great social media plugins to choose from.

Our Recommendations

i. Social Snap

Social Snap is our top choice. It is the social share plugin we use here at ProfessorWP. It offers everything you need and more.

The social button designs are CLEAN. It provides buttons more than 30 networks, including all the major platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Supports inline buttons, the floating sidebar, the pin it button, and more. There are even follow buttons for all major networks!

There is also a free/lite version of the plugin you can find within the plugin directory and install right from your WP dashboard.

ii. Social Warfare

Social Warfare has been the choice for many bloggers and marketing experts over the past couple years. It is very similar to Social Snap. On top of high-quality social buttons, it offers a wide variety of features. Including click-to-tweet, analytics, link shortening, and more.


When someone changes a permalink or URL on their site, it will result in a 404 error. This means that a page/link does not exist—or that it has been moved to a different URL.

If you were to change your links often, it could mean bad news for SEO. Especially if you don't manage them properly.

Let's say you have a page that is doing great within the SERPs and one day you decided to change the permalink because you didn't like the last one. You thought it was unprofessional-looking and not SEO-friendly.

Once the page and URL are updated, the old one will give your visitors a 404 error. If you don't redirect the old URL to the new one, all the traffic you generate from your high search rankings will go to waste. Google won't know you made the change. And the page will eventually lose all its rankings.

Our Recommendations

i. Redirection

Redirection is the go to plugin for creating and managing 301 redirects and tracking 404 errors. The plugin is very simple and easy to use.

WordPress users all across the world love it. It has garnered more than 345 5-star reviews. And the best part is...it's 100% free.


Affiliate marketing is one of the best monetization methods for bloggers and online marketers. It's one where you never need to create your own product. You earn through selling other people's stuff for a commission. It's a cool model.

One of the odd things about it, however, is the weird-looking affiliate link. Most look something like this: awesomeproduct.com/aff?gh2792. That's weird, right?

An affiliate link plugin can help you "cloak" these and make them look better. You could make them look clean like this: awesomeproduct.com/go/buyme.

Pretty cool, huh?

Our Recommendations

i. Affiliate Links (Lite)

There are a few great choices. But this the one we've been using since the site was launched. And it's been great. It has everything you need. Including a simple function that tracks all the clicks.

ii. Shortlinks by Pretty Link

This plugin does all the things you need from an affiliate link plugin. You're able to cloak your ugly affiliate links, track their clicks, and all that good stuff. And it's free!


WordPress is a very powerful content management system and website building platform. But even after countless updates to improve the software, it stills needs help. And this is where plugins come in.

With the tens of thousands of plugins within WordPress, it's tough to choose which ones to download and which ones to stay away from. Most plugins are useless and hurt your site more than they help.

Now that you've got a list of the 10 essential WordPress plugins here, you can ween out the unnecessary plugins and keep your performance levels high.

Here's to your success! And we hope our recommendations will fit your needs.

If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below!

About Julian

Julian started his first blog way back in the summer of 2014. He is very passionate about building websites and watching them grow. He has made many mistakes over the years and is now dedicated to sharing his knowledge on Blogging Aid so he can help beginner and intermediate bloggers become successful bloggers.

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