One of the great things about WordPress is the tons of free and paid plugins available for your website. I like to keep my WordPress sites simple and light, so when I create a new website, I always start with some of the same plugins. This short list of essential plugins is intended to help get you started on the right foot.
If you are new to WordPress or do not know what WordPress plugins are, check out this quick overview I wrote here.
Essential plugins for your new WordPress site:
Limit Login Attempts
This plugin is a little bit older now, but very important from a security stand point. Limit Login Attempts does what it says and limits the number of times a hacker or robot can try guessing your password on your admin login page. If someone gains admin access to your site, they can do whatever they want to your site and lock you out. It is also crucial to pick a hard to guess password and consider keeping a written copy in a safe place if you have a hard time remembering it.
This plugin has saved me on more than one occasion. It allows you to make an exact copy (or backup of your WordPress site) including the database. This is important if you ever want to move your site or something goes wrong and need to restore your site. I recommend backing up your site regularly (save the files to your computer) or every time you make a major change to your site.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Yoast is well known in the WordPress community for developing WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plugin helps you take your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts to the next level with in-depth analysis of your pages and posts.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is a bit of a complex plugin, but great for making sure your website loads as fast as possible. Google has flat out said that it favors fast loading websites in its search rankings over slower ones and many studies have been done indicating that users will leave a website if it takes over a couple of seconds to load. I have personally tested other caching plugins including WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache, and Zen cache, with W3 Total Cache serving test sites the fastest. WPBeginner has this excellent video on how to setup and tune W3 Total Cache here.
Elegant Themes Updater (if you use a theme by Elegant Themes)
I am very vocal about my love for the Divi theme by Elegant Themes. This plugin makes it super easy to update your theme without much hassle.
That wraps up the short list of essential plugins for your new WordPress site. Again, there are tons of great plugins out there and you might explore some others that apply to what you are trying to accomplish, but remember that installing a lot of plugins will slow your site down. It is always best to deactivate any plugins you do not end up using and a fast site is always important!