Categories: WordPress Plugins

Setting Up WordPress: 10 Best Plugins & Tools To Have From The Get-Go

One of the best things about WordPress is that its plethora of add-ons and plugins make it incredibly easy to set up. But this can also result in ambiguity as it can be difficult to choose from this wide range of extensions.

In this article, we’ll help you discover the best free and premium plugins and tools that we use here on DesignBombs to familiarize you with the ins and outs of getting the best out of your WordPress site. We will cover all of the tools and plugins we’re using in this article, from our hosting all the way on up to plugins to help you create pretty URLs.

Let’s get started.

01. Genesis Framework by StudioPress

Genesis Framework is a jack of all trades when it comes to building WordPress websites. You can be an expert and love the options that you get or you can be a novice WordPress’er and love the simplicity it provides – Genesis Framework has something to offer to everyone.

You can buy a single license for $59.95 or go for the pro-plus, all theme package for $499.95 with which you get lifetime access to all child themes that are made by StudioPress as well as any new themes they release in the future. Now that’s quite a bargain.

Whether you’re interested in design or optimizing your content for search engines, Genesis Framework has got you covered. It’s loaded with an extensive array of child themes and you get access to a lot of tutorials that are very helpful (especially if you’re new to WordPress).

Genesis Framework Alternatives: Other good options for WordPress themes include Meridian Themes, Elegant Themes (see our Elegant Themes review)Astra.

02. Thrive Leads

Getting a lot of subscribers is a must-have for most websites and blogs and Thrive Leads is a great way to make this task as smooth as possible. It is a marketing tool with a lot of great reviews. There are a lot of features that earn this plugin a place on this list, but here I will go through the most prominent of these.

First, it lets you create a variety of different opt-in types, including:

  • Popups
  • Notification bars
  • In-line forms
  • Slide-ins
  • Widgets
  • Scroll mats

You can use tons of trigger and targeting rules to control where and when your forms appear, and Thrive Leads also includes other helpful features like A/B testing and a drag-and-drop form builder.

Thrive Leads Alternatives: Another good option for list building on WordPress is OptinMonster. While it’s technically a standalone service, OptinMonster is super easy to integrate into WordPress thanks to its dedicated plugin.

03. Canva

Canva offers you a field of designs that you can use for creating visually stunning documents and templates and social media images.

“The easiest to use design program in the world” – The Webbys

It offers a range of layouts that you can use to create professional documents or presentations. It has everything from high-quality images to filters that you can leverage to give your site that extra zing.

You’ll also get a ton of fonts and icons to pick from so you can unleash the artist in you and build layouts that appeal to you, your site’s visitors, and, most importantly, your subscribers.

Canva Alternatives: Other good graphic design tools like this are Stencil and DesignBold.

04. Syntax Highlighter


If the content you provide requires code to be displayed alongside your content, then Syntax Highlighter is your go-to resource.

It can be a nightmare if the formatting gets messed up and you realize that after you’ve already uploaded the code. The solution is Syntax Highlighter. This plugin makes it relatively simple to post syntax highlighted code on to your WordPress site without the fear of messing up its formatting or having to edit the code manually. The readability is also enhanced due to the code being separate from the text.

05. Kinsta

Kinsta brings convenience to a whole new level for you. It is an all-in-one WordPress hosting service that manages your entire website’s infrastructure for you.

Bringing in play a wide array of features and functions that will leave almost no venue untouched, Kinsta offers free site migration, a premium tech support, and takes care of maintaining the speed of your website as well. It has 19 data centers across the globe and you can switch to the one where the majority of your visitors are in order to speed up load times of your website.

You get CDN network support from Kinsta and you are free to use any third party CDN if you prefer as well. It has free SSL and SPDY support and provides IPv4 addresses and for those of you with a passion for techy words, it uses Nginx, an event-based web server, and also the much more recent HHVM interpreter. Also, it has TLS support for all CDN setups and HTTPS stacks with the best performance. Basically, it’s really fast!

The most prominent feature is Dynamic load balancing which makes a network of three virtual machines and leaves very little chance of software or maintenance downtime, which is a really great thing.

Kinsta Alternatives: Some other good managed WordPress hosts are SiteGround (a little cheaper) and WP Engine (a little more expensive).

06. WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a WordPress caching and optimization plugin that makes it really easy to speed up your site’s load times.

Beyond caching, WP Rocket also implements lots of other techniques like minification, lazy loading, database optimization, GZIP compression, and a whole lot more.

Basically, it’s like a one-stop shop for implementing all of the most important WordPress speed optimization techniques.

WP Rocket Alternatives: There aren’t very many caching plugins that are as convenient as WP Rocket. But if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, you can approximate its functionality with free plugins like Cache Enabler and Autoptimize.

07. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is one of the most popular email marketing services out there. It’s easy to integrate and get used to with a simple drag-and-drop designer to build your own email designs.

It automates a lot of work and makes it easy for you to segment your customers according to their preferences and behavior. It is easy to integrate with most of the commonly used plugins because of its compatibility with numerous apps and services like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

You can create a series of emails with a single click and it also provides you analytical data that you can access from anywhere. It also has mobile-ready templates and forms right out of the box.

Mailchimp Alternatives: There are tons of other quality email marketing services, but two of our favorite Mailchimp alternatives are Constant Contact and Drip.

08. BackupBuddy

No matter what your site is for, backups are essential to keep your site’s data safe. For easy backup, migration, and restoration of your WordPress site, we recommend BackupBuddy.

It is very easy to create backups with this plugin and you can schedule one of two backups to take place — full or routine. You can choose which files and tables to exclude from the backup. It lets you store your data on the BackupBuddy stash for a complete set of your backups or you can also use other offsite storage such as Dropbox or email. You can also create different profiles associated with their own backups and settings.

BackupBuddy Alternatives: A good free backup alternative to BackupBuddy is the popular UpdraftPlus plugin.

09. Unsplash WP

Most of us are familiar with the website Unsplash.com. It is a website that provides a staggering amount of free images for you to use and now you can upload images directly to your WordPress Media Library without having to leave your WordPress Dashboard by using the Unsplash WP Plugin. Do I hear extra marks for convenience?

Unsplash WP Alternatives: You can find similar plugins for other free stock photo sites. Other good options are WP Pexels and Pixabay Images.

10. ThirstyAffiliates


We have all used lengthy and cluttered URLs and used bit.ly or tinyurl.com to create shortened links. A far more suitable alternative to that is ThirstyAffiliates. And guess what? With Thirsty Affiliates, you can use your own domain name to shorten the link while making it cleaner at the same time.

It allows for 307 and 301 redirects only and is a great tool for receiving detailed links of your URL such as hits per link and unique hits per link.

ThirstyAffiliates Alternatives: Another solid free option is Pretty Links Lite, though we prefer ThirstyAffiliates.

11. Embed Code

Embed Code is a free WordPress plugin that makes it super easy to add code snippets to your WordPress site’s header or footer.

As your site grows, you’re going to almost certainly need to do this. Common examples are adding:

  • Google Analytics
  • Facebook Pixel
  • Custom CSS stylesheets
  • Site verification snippets
  • Etc.

Rather than messing around with your child theme, Embed Code will save you a ton of time and make it easier to organize all your various code snippets.

To Sum It Up

Managing a website is a full-time job. It is like owning a farm. Not only do you have to take care of the farm but also market what the farm produces so you can profit from it. After getting all these plugins, taking care of your farm (website), will no longer be a hassle and you will be able to focus more on the production, which, in this case, would be content development.

Let us know what plugins you find essential to your WordPress site and why, in the comments section below, we love hearing from our readers!

Rafay Ansari

Rafay is an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and professional ghost-writer for several high-traffic websites.

View Comments

  • Replace Pretty Link nonsense by "Wizard Cloak" ... which is also FREE plus also better functionality than the Pretty Link Pro and Better Links Pro combined. Including GEO targeting and keyword tagging.

    And OptinMonster (affiliate link hmm?) although awesome, has become extincts due to wBounce. Has the same functionality, supports all autoresponders, super easy css design, on-exit / exit-intent technology, animation effects, etc. Saves another $49-199/year.

    BackupBuddy ... seeing this recommend everywhere as well. Prefer using FREE email SQL backup service provided from within iTheme Security.

    Syntax Highlighter is pretty awesome but prefer "Crayon Syntax Highlighter" myself.

    MaxCDN is superawesome. However W3TC self-hosted CDN + CloudFlare gives me better results and again free (although does require some tech knowledge to set it all up).

    On a positive note? ;-) Canva is indeed awesome. And didn't know about Unsplash yet; been using "WP inject" (flicker searcher) + "Image Teleporter" myself.

    • Hey Earnle,

      Pretty Link -- I have been using the lite version for last 1 year and it works smoothly. I didn't needed the Geo targeting and keyword tagging, so Pretty Link it perfect. Though, it did take a look at Wizard Cloak, it looks nice (plus it is created by Soflyy, who also created WP All Import).

      OptinMonster -- yes, an affiliate link (which we disclose at the bottom of each post). Never tried wBounce, so thanks for the suggestion -- I'll take a look.

      But I think I'd still prefer OM, because it does much more than popups / exit-intent, and gets regular updates.

      BackupBuddy -- nice to know about the free backup feature in iThemes security.

      Crayon highlight looks nice but I think it really depends on the personal preference.

      W3TC -- not using it anymore, we are currently using WP Rocket + MaxCDN. Also, we ran a test comparing top caching plugins, you should check it out.

      Glad you found some positive / useful info out of this post :).

      Cheers!

      • Everything does indeed rely on personal preference, and then there are some things that are just better from every angle :-p and free. But thanks for the feedback. And did actually purchase WP Rocket base on your recommendation (and the half a dozen of other reviews I seen about it the past few months); too bad they don't offer an affiliate program :) We would all become RICH! ;-)

        • No problem.

          Definitely, we could have made some nice side-income, seeing so many people use WP Rocket, plus it is one of those essential plugins that you can find in almost every best plugins list :).

          On a side note, you purchased the plugin on right time. They recently updated their policy to make it easy for users to get refunds (source).

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