“Donna, which plugin should I use for [a calendar], [adding a form], [backing up my site], [other]….”
We get this question a lot at MavroCreative. When there are literally thousands of plugins to choose from, it’s hard to figure out which ones you should use for your website.
In this blog post, I’m listing some of my favorites that we use on (mostly) all of the websites that we build.
It’s worth noting that I am NOT an affiliate for any of these recommended plugins (I don’t get a dime from referring you to them!) They just happen to be the ones that I love to use in my own business and I want to share them with you!
I covered these in a recent Facebook Live. Watch below!
I’m listing this category first because it’s the one that most people forget about, yet it’s critical. Keeping your website safe from malware and hackers is so important, but who has the time to be continually scanning their site for malicious intruders?
Thankfully, there are plugins that will automatically scan your site for you and alert you when there’s a potential problem.
Two that I use and recommend are:
I like to use both of these together for added protection. There’s a little bit of overlap with what they each do but there are also some things that are different about them.
They are both free, which is awesome (although there are paid versions you can upgrade to if you want but the free versions do a good job).
I know that many hosting providers offer backups of your site. While it’s tempting to just let them take care of it for you, you’re always much better off having the control.
Some hosting providers only back up a few times a week. And keep just one back up that you revert back to if you need to. Others only back up part of the site (like your database files) and not everything else.
There are a few of them out there but the one that I’ve been using for years is BackupBuddy.
Yes, it’s $80 but in my opinion, it’s worth every penny. You can set it so that it automatically backs up your entire site (all the files plus the database) on a schedule that you set. You can send your backups to an offline storage (like Dropbox, Google Drive and Stash).
Another plugin that you can look into is Duplicator. I mainly use duplicator when I’m moving a site from a testing environment to the live environment, but you can also use Duplicator to perform manual backups. The free version of the plugin will allow you to make a backup of your site, but you have to go in and do it manually.
The pro version (paid version) will do it automatically for you. It’s currently $39 for a personal license so it’s worth checking out!
Get Found on Google (and Bing and Yahoo!)
The request that we often get right after “make my site look pretty” is “get my site found on Google”. That’s known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. We wrote a whole blog post about it here.
The best plugin that we recommend is Yoast SEO. It’s free and it does so much that Yoast has free video trainings on their website that walk you through it all. It’s pretty much the holy grail of SEO plugins.
Say Goodbye to Spam
If you have a blog (or really any content on your site that allows people to comment) you NEED to have an anti-spam filter on your site. Or those pesky bots are going to start flooding your site with unwanted comments.
Akismet is the easiest and best plugin to use to prevent spam. You’ll need an Akismet.com API key to use it. Keys are free for personal blogs; paid subscriptions are available for businesses and commercial sites (usually $5).
There are two different event calendar plugins that are my “go to”. They each look and perform slightly different, so depending on the look and functionality that you want with your calendar, you may want to check them both out.
The first is The Events Calendar by Modern Tribe. There is a free as well as a paid, pro version. For most sites, the free version works perfectly fine but if you need more bells and whistles, check out the pro version (priced at $89 for a personal site).
The second calendar plugin that I like is The All in One Event Calendar by Timely. This is another great, free plugin that you can use when adding a calendar to your site.
It has a different look to it than the Events Calendar by Modern Tribe, so it’s worth comparing the two to see which one you like the best!
Most websites will have some sort of online contact form for the user to put in their name, email address and comment.
Ninja Forms is free and does a great job and we use it on most of the sites we build.
If you’re looking for more sophisticated layouts and features, you may want to consider Gravity Forms at $59.
Knowing how many visitors come to your site, which pages they visit, and more is so important for you to know. But to add Google Analytics to your site involves adding some code (eek!!) to your site’s header file. (Sorry….did I just lose you right there?!)
Fortunately, there are free plugins that you can install that will add this code to your site without you having to copy and paste a single thing. One that we’ve used for many years is Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights. It’s not called the “most beginner friendly google analytics plugin in the market” for nothing!
Another plugin we’re loving is Site Kit by Google. We’ve been using this plugin more often as it’s developed by Google and ties in nicely with Google Analytics.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it should give you a good start for the plugins that you’ll want to add to your WordPress site.
Let me know in the comments below what your favorite plugin is!
Until next time!