13 Essential Site Launch Plugins for WordPress

Oftentimes, setting up a WordPress website results in a haphazard scramble to configure enough of the right plugins to make the client happy, and address any specific needs they might have mentioned.

But a failure to install certain plugins means the client will come back at you with questions as to why it wasn’t done in the first place. Though you’re probably happy to rectify the problem (and collect a little extra money on the project), going back in to install plugins can distract from more profitable client work.

In an effort to nip this problem in the bud, here’s a complete look at launch list plugins for new WordPress websites. If you configure all (or many) of these WordPress plugins at launch, your clients will be in awe of all the value you’ve brought to their project.

SEO Plugins

Yoast (free)

Yoast is the only SEO plugin you really need, because it’s truly amazing in it’s ability to help you optimize for most (if not all) available on page SEO factors. Continuous updates to the plugin have also resulted in additional content optimization suggestions. Their blog serves as an excellent resource for all things SEO.

All-in-One Schema.org Rich Snippets (free)

Rich snippets help give context to searchers, alongside your written meta description. The All-in-One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin makes it easy to annotate your pages, so that Google (and the other major search engines) show your content in a way that makes it stand out against the competition.

Image Size Optimization Plugin

Smush Image Compression and Optimization (Previously WP Smush, free)

Slow page load can affect a lot of things negatively, which is why web developers should do everything they can to make sure that their websites avoid the issue entirely. Smush Image Compression and Optimization takes control of images as they’re uploaded, reducing overall file size through (what else?) compression and optimization. Having this plugin installed means that anything a client uploads will get this same treatment, without them needing any additional coaching on image optimization best practices.

Site Speed/Caching Plugin

W3 Total Cache (free)

Remember how we were just talking about site speed? It’s not just images that could cause a page to lag. W3 Total Cache performs a number of features that help speed up a website, including:

  • Browser and server-side caching
  • CDN management
  • Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) support
  • Minification of CSS and JS

Unfortunately, W3 Total Cache isn’t without it’s own set of issues. Two caveats of using W3 Total Cache:

  • It’s often blacklisted (and therefore unusable) on shared server hosts, like GoDaddy
  • Configuring it incorrectly can break your website

If you have no experience with W3 Total Cache, it’s best to start by investigating if you can even use it with your current host, make a backup of the website, and enlist the help of an expert to show you the reins. Alternatively, WP Super Cache is a comparable WordPress plugin that often works in situations where W3 Total Cache won’t.

Backup Plugin

UpdraftPlus (free, with a premium version available)

UpdraftPlus bills itself as the world’s most trusted WordPress backup plugin. Although your host may offer some type of backup service, it doesn’t hurt to be extra careful and double your chances of successfully restoring a WordPress install if something goes wrong. Some of UpdraftPlus’s convenient and useful features include:

  • Backups to Google Drive, Dropbox, and a number of other cloud storage providers
  • Regularly scheduled backups
  • Easy/quick backup restore

Anti-Spam Plugin

Akismet (free, accepts donations)

If you’ve ever gotten email reminders for every comment a blog receives, you’re especially aware of how annoying it is to work on a website that doesn’t have any anti-spam measures in place. Luckily, it’s quite easy to stop 99% of these monstrosities in their tracks with Akismet. Simply sign up and activate your API key – that’s all there is to it!

Multipurpose Plugin

Jetpack (free, with some paid add ons available)

Is there anything Jetpack can’t do? Instead of trying to corner it into a certain classification, it seems much more fair to label it as a multipurpose plugin. But if you want a feature primer on Jetpack as a whole, here it is:

  • Publicize: automatically post new WordPress blogs on connected social media channels
  • Subscriptions: allows readers to easily subscribe to blog updates
  • Protect (previously known as BruteForce): protects against malicious attacks
  • VaultPress: another backup solution, similar in some ways to UpdraftPlus
  • Site Stats: an easy to understand web analytics app, somewhat comparable to Google Analytics

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For a complete look at Jetpack’s features, visit their website.

Analytics Plugin

MonsterInsights (free, with some paid add ons available)

Although Jetpack offers a site stats feature, it will never be as comprehensive as the data that Google Analytics can provide. There are many plugins that help integrate Google Analytics with WordPress (in addition to the more simplified JavaScript in header file solution), but MonsterInsights stands out as an analytics plugin that will satisfy the needs of your clients.

The free version offers limited features that will be enough for the average user. Paid add ons help simplify complex data in a way that’s more useful and actionable than the standard Google Analytics dashboard.

Contact Form Plugin

Contact Form 7 (free)

It’s hard to think of a website that doesn’t have a goal that focuses on encouraging interested prospects to get in touch. That’s why Contact Form 7 is a must-have launch list plugin for new WordPress websites. It is both one of the most popular, and easiest to configure (including CSS customizations), of all contact form plugin options. Plus, it’s free, which doesn’t hurt.

Security Plugin

Wordfence (free and premium)

Your choice of security plugin will ultimately depend on the popularity of the website you’re working on, and perceived threats. Regardless, Wordfence’s free version will cover the bases on a basic site, and can be upgraded to premium protection for a website with bigger security needs.

Features include:

  • Firewall
  • Daily site scan for issues
  • Live traffic security
  • Ability to repair files, and other background tools

For a more in-depth look at WordPress security plugins on the market, check out our detailed article on the subject.

Slider/Carousel Plugin

Revolution Slider ($25, included with some paid themes)

Regardless of your personal taste or opinions, it’s safe to say that sliders aren’t going anywhere soon. There are plenty of free slider plugins on the market, but most of them leave a lot of options to be desired. If you want the best tool for making them look gorgeous, look no further than Revolution Slider. It’s $25 per license, but is often included with premium WordPress themes that feature sliders.

Social Sharing Plugins

Social Warfare ($29/year)

Simply stated, this plugin is gorgeous. Social Warfare’s social sharing icons display a counter that shows visitors how many others have shared the article, providing instant social proof. The look and feel of this launch list plugin is customizable, and multiple social optimization features make it worth paying for.

Click to Tweet (free)

Click to Tweet is a feature of the Social Warfare plugin mentioned above, but you can also get it free as a standalone WordPress plugin. It creates compelling, tweetable quotes within your content that are begging to be shared. This plugin makes it easy for readers to share a specific part of a blog post that resonates with them.

Email Forms Plugin

Optin Forms (free, with premium options available)

With numerous email service provider integrations, and a number of conversion factor options, Optin Forms is one of the easiest ways to integrate a form onto a client’s website. With that said, it’s important to be careful with the pop ups feature, as Google has deemed many popup instances to be a negative search ranking factor.

Maddy Osman creates engaging content with SEO best practices for marketing thought leaders and agencies that have their hands full with clients and projects. Learn more about her process and experience on her website, www.The-Blogsmith.com and read her latest articles on Twitter: @MaddyOsman. More articles by Maddy Osman
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