Our Top 10 Used Plugins For WordPress – 2021 Edition

Every WordPress developer has a bunch of plugins they tend to install on pretty much every WordPress site they develop, and we are also that kind of people. These plugins give great solutions for caching, security and adding other improvements that build on WordPress core.

That’s the beauty of WordPress – there are loads of plugins to choose from and they are so quick and easy to implement. Some plugins are just a case of downloading and activating, others provide a shortcode which you can copy and paste within your pages and others is a simple as dragging and dropping a widget where ever you wish to display it.

With so many free and premium plugins available, how do you distinguish from the good and bad plugins out there?

Do note, overloading your web site with too many plugins can cause plugin conflict and reduce the speed of your web site, so if you can avoid a plugin and just code it in, that’s even better!

Below you will find our selection of essential plugins, all chosen based on their usefulness, quality and popularity.


1.) WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a great plugin and is really quick and easy to install. It turns your standard WordPress website into an eCommerce store and creates all the necessary pages for you (My Account, Checkout, Cart etc). It allows integration with secure payment methods such as Bank Transfer, PayPal, SagePay and many more. With a huge range of features that can be quickly changed in the Control Panel, this is definitely one of my favourites because of the speed you can set up a fantastic eCommerce website.


2.) Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields is an amazing plugin and without a shadow of a doubt, it’s installed on every project I build. I would definitely recommend getting a licence for the Pro version which you can find out more information about here. You can use the Advanced Custom Fields plugin to take full control of your WordPress edit screens & custom field data. It makes it super easy for clients to change text / images any many other things within your WordPress site without any risk of breaking the site.


3.) Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is another plugin I use on pretty much every WordPress site I develop. You can manage multiple contact forms, customise the form and the mail contents and again, it’s really easy to use. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and many more. All the form elements are generated for you so you don’t even have to know any PHP code. If your not already using this plugin for your forms, I suggest giving it a try now!


4.) Yoast SEO

SEO Yoast is a fantastic platform for SEO. I have used this plugin on 100% of the WordPress sites I have developed and it is the only plugin I use in terms of SEO. If set up correctly, it will improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. WordPress SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere, it also ranks the SEO of all your pages and posts from ‘Bad’, ‘OK’ to ‘Good’ so you know if your content is going to have any chance of ranking on search engines. The best feature about this plugin is that it even tells you how you can improve the performance of each and every page on your site. It may say things such as, you need to include

tags or include an outbound link on your page/post. You will learn a lot about SEO if you run this plugin on your websites. We actually use the SEO Yoast Premium version which allows up to 5 keywords on each page/post/CPT including many other great features which you can read about or purchase here.


5.) Hummingbird Page Speed Optimization

The next 3 set of plugins I’m going to be talking about are plugins offered by WPMU DEV which you can read about more here. There are free versions of these plugins but they also have premium versions which offer a lot more features which I would highly recommend. Hummingbird PRO is an awesome caching plugin. It zips through your site and finds new ways to boost page speed with fine-tuned controls over file compression, minification and full-page, browser and Gravatar caching. Load your pages quicker and score higher on Google PageSpeed Insights with Hummingbird site optimization.


6.) Smush Image Compression and Optimization

This plugin is one of my favourites; it will resize, optimise and compress all of your images with the incredibly powerful and 100% free WordPress image smusher. This uses Lossly compression which will significantly reduce the file sizes of all images on your web site which will definitely increase your sites speed. Again, the premium version of this plugin is 100% recommended as it will allow you to SUPER-Smush all your images along with a few other great features which will allow you to further optimise your site. Need a high Google Speed Test score? This plugin combined with Hummingbird will make the job a piece of cake 😉


7.) Defender Security, Monitoring, and Hack Protection

Security is definitely important when it comes to WordPress, the number of sites I’ve had to restore/repair and remove Malware from is crazy. So make sure you have fully configured a great security plugin to prevent your web site from these kinds of attacks. Defender is layered security for WordPress made easy. And by easy, I mean amazingly easy! No longer do you have to go through hideously complex settings and get a virtual PhD in security. Defender adds all the hardening and security tweaks you need, in just minutes!


8.) Akismet Anti-Spam

Sick and tired of spam comments and junk email from your WordPress site? Akismet has you covered! Akismet checks your comments and contact form submissions against their global database of spam to prevent your site from publishing malicious content. You can review the comment spam it catches on your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.


9.) MailChimp for WordPress

MailChimp for WordPress allows your visitors to subscribe to your newsletter very easily. This plugin helps you grow your MailChimp lists and write better newsletters through various methods. You can create good looking opt-in forms or integrate with any existing form on your sites, like your comment, contact or checkout form.


10.) Classic Editor

Finally, our last plugin which we have made a lot of use from since WordPress 5 is Classic Editor! Classic Editor is an official plugin maintained by the WordPress team that restores the previous (“classic”) WordPress editor and the “Edit Post” screen. It makes it possible to use plugins that extend that screen, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor. By default, this plugin hides all functionality available in the new Block Editor (“Gutenberg”). Since a lot of people are finding it difficult to get their heads around Gutenberg, this is a great quick fix plugin which will restore the editor back to the way you’ve known and loved for a long time.

 

Silva Web Designs - Profile

Posted by: Silva Web Designs

Nathan is the Founder of Silva Web Designs. He is passionate about web development, website design and basically anything digital related. His main expertise is with WordPress, Magento, Shopify as well as many other frameworks. Whether you need responsive design, SEO, speed optimisation or anything else in the world of digital then get in touch. If you would like to work with Nathan, simply drop him an email at [email protected]

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How to stop spam emails coming from WordPress’ Contact Form 7

Receiving lots of spam emails from contact forms on WordPress websites is always a big issue. The most commonly used plugin for WordPress is Contact Form 7, and this is highly targetted by spammers. Spam from contact forms can be a big issue for sites that get a lot of traffic and so, it results in receiving hundreds of spam emails every day. These are inconvenient and it makes it very difficult to spot the genuine messages in between all the spam.

Not only can you receive spam emails, if you have a WordPress Blog, but it will also be quite often the comments within your posts get bombarded with junk as well. Today, we will show you six different methods to reduce/remove spam coming from your WordPress website.

Note; – We don’t recommend using ALL of the methods we are going to list as WordPress websites should be kept clean and shouldn’t be overloaded with several unnecessary plugins. We recommend trialling one or two of the below methods and monitor how much spam you receive after they have been implemented. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another method until you are happy. We would recommend installing Akismet from being with.

1. Using Contact Form 7’s in-built anti-spam measures

You’ll find a lot of articles recommending CAPTCHA and quiz plugins that work with Contact Form 7. Most of these are unnecessary as it’s better to use the features already built into the Contact Form 7 WordPress plugin.

Quiz

Simple quizzes are becoming a popular way to combat contact form spam. They work by asking the user a simple question such as “Which is bigger, 2 or 8?”. Fortunately, bots can’t answer this question and as a result, only people who enter the correct response can submit the contact form.

To add a quiz, edit your contact form and click the Generate Tag dropdown. Paste the shortcode that appears below into your contact form. It will look something like this:


[quiz capital-quiz "Which is bigger, 2 or 8?|8"]

2. Minimum character count

Sometimes a lot of spam can come from bots that enter text with just 2 digits in a field, usually a number. If all of your spam messages follow an obvious pattern, you can block them by setting up your contact form to block messages that meet the pattern. In this case, we used Maximum and Minimum options in Contact Form 7 to require messages to be more than 20 characters long. Genuine enquires will usually provide more than 20 characters, so this blocks bots without frustrating real users.

The WordPress website featured in this article received a lot of spam contact forms with 2-digit messages – usually a number. I have no idea what they were trying to achieve, but it’s obviously a popular type of spam at the moment.

The Message/Comments field will look something like this:


[textarea* your-message minlength:20 maxlength:500]

Akismet

Akismet has a great reputation as being one of the best WordPress anti-spam plugins. Not everyone knows that it works with Contact Form 7 as well as blog comments.

Once you have activated the plugin and followed the on-screen instructions to add your API key (free for a non-profit-making website or a small monthly fee for business sites), you need to do a bit of extra config to make it talk to Contact Form 7 which you can read more about here.

In my tests, Akismet stopped about 70% of the Contact Form 7 spam but not all of it. It worked well in conjunction with some of the other solutions mentioned in this article. We no longer received any spam comments within the blog once this was activated as well.

4. Contact Form 7 Honeypot

Contact Form 7 Honeypot is a WordPress plugin that adds a hidden field to your contact form. Real users won’t complete it because the field is invisible. However, bots won’t know this and will fill it in. This allows the plugin to recognise them as bots and block their submission, clever right?

After you have installed and activated the plugin, use the Generate Tag option to create a honeypot shortcode to insert into your contact form. Note; this can be inserted anywhere within the contact form. It will look something like this:-


[honeypot honeypot-401]

5. reCAPTCHA v3

reCAPTCHA v3 returns a score for each request without user friction. The score is based on interactions with your site and enables you to take appropriate action for your site.

To set this up, you will first have to register your site on your Google Developers account. For full instructions, you can follow the guide here.

Then on your WordPress site, you can go to Contact –> Integrations, all you need to do from here is enter your Site Key and Secret Key provided from your developer account.

6. Really Simple CAPTCHA

The Really Simple CAPTCHA WordPress plugin was created by the developer of Contact Form 7 so they work together seamlessly. The plugin allows you to add a CAPTCHA to your contact form. It’s designed to prevent bots from submitting forms on your WordPress website.

Once you have installed and activated Really Simple CAPTCHA, insert a CAPTCHA tag into your Contact Form 7 form. (Click the Generate Tag dropdown to see the available options and create a customised tag to paste into your form.) It will look something like this:


[captchac captcha-14]

You can find further instructions about this here.

Do note though that CAPTCHAs are becoming slightly old fashioned and are not great for user experience. They also require particular features to be enabled on your server, which may not be in place for your WordPress website.

We would recommend adding a quiz first (see point 1.), and only trying CAPTCHA if this doesn’t work. The two methods basically do the same thing. They prevent automated bots from submitting your website contact form – so you shouldn’t need both.

Conclusion

All WordPress websites receive spam in slightly different ways. What works for one website may not work for another.

When I had to stop Contact Form 7 spam on a WordPress website, we immediately achieved a huge reduction in spam simply by installing Akismet.

We fixed the problem completely by combining Akismet with the Contact Form 7 Honeypot plugin, a quiz and a minimum character count.

If you just want to add one method to reduce Contact Form 7 spam, then we recommend Akismet. This is the best standalone solution as it’s so powerful and comprehensive. You can use it whether you’re a WordPress expert or a beginner. It can make a real difference to your WordPress contact form spam.

If you still receive spam, try the Contact Form 7 Honeypot in conjunction with this, trust us, it will definitely help!

 

Silva Web Designs - Profile

Posted by: Silva Web Designs

Nathan is the Founder of Silva Web Designs. He is passionate about web development, website design and basically anything digital related. His main expertise is with WordPress, Magento, Shopify as well as many other frameworks. Whether you need responsive design, SEO, speed optimisation or anything else in the world of digital then get in touch. If you would like to work with Nathan, simply drop him an email at [email protected]

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