Craft CMS is an incredibly flexible content management system. Its native features allow you to create easy to maintain marketing websites that are performant and SEO friendly.
While Craft CMS provides generic building blocks, sometimes we need to solve specific problems. Enter plugins. Plugins are packages of additional code that you can install to augment the native features of Craft and add new features.
Consider search engine optimisation. To follow current best practices, you'll need a website that gives you control over at least: page titles, descriptions, keywords and SEO images. While you can configure a selection of Craft's native field types to allow users to manage this content, you're better reaching for a plugin built to solve this specific problem.
Fortunately, Craft has a vibrant plugin ecosystem that is home to some high-quality plugins.
While there are currently over 800 plugins in the Craft Plugin Store to choose from, we recommend limiting plugins to those essential to improving the experience for your content authors and visitors.
Of all the plugins available, we find that we install a handful of plugins on every marketing site we build. Let's take a closer look at each.
Version 3 of Craft didn't ship with a rich-text field out of the box. Instead, you have your choice of rich text fields via the plugin store.
Redactor was the default rich text editor in Craft 2, and we haven't seen a need to deviate from it when building sites with Craft 3. It seems we're not alone, as the Redactor plugin is still the most installed of the custom field plugins available in the plugin store, with over 80,000 active installs.
Super Table / Neo
Craft provides a field type called Matrix, which allows you to add content blocks with predefined fields to entries.
Matrix blocks can then be stacked and reordered but can't be nested. This limitation led to the need for more flexible fields, like the one provided by the Super Table plugin.
Super Table is like the native Table field on steroids. It allows you to utilise and group native Craft field types, including Assets, Users, Entries and Matrix. You can even select your preference of field layouts—either Table, Row and Matrix—to best suit the contents of your Super Table field.
If you're looking to build robust content builders in Craft, you'll get extra mileage from the Neo plugin, which allows you to create blocks of content using existing fields.
It's worth noting that with the introduction of nested Matrix fields in Craft 4, you can achieve a comparable editing experience without using SuperTable or Neo.
For a more visual editor, take a look at Vizy. Think of it as a combination of Redactor, Matrix and Neo.
Typed Link Field
Craft comes with a couple of field types—Entry and Category—that allow you to link to related content. These are great if you know the type of content you need to link to upfront. But in the situations where you need more flexibility on the links you're creating, we use the Typed Link Field.
With this plugin installed, you'll be able to create fields that allow content editors to link to assets, categories and entries, as well as plain input fields for URLs, addresses and phone numbers.
All websites have navigation elements—global navigation in the header and a collection of links in the footer at a minimum. With the Navigation plugin, you'll have a single location in the admin area to manage your navigations.
As with the Typed Link Field, you can easily link to existing elements like entries, categories and products, as well as custom URLs.
Arguably, you could set up a simple navigation system using a Structure section, but with a plugin like Navigation you'll benefit from:
- creating multiple navigations
- navigation nodes for entries, assets, categories and Craft Commerce products
- creating custom URLs
- enabling and disabling links
- selecting whether links open in a new window
- applying additional CSS classes to each link
- automatically updating links when their linked elements status or title changes
- supporting third-party elements via hooks
- creating multi-site navigations
- outputting the entire navigation using the included `render()` Twig function
- generating breadcrumbs based on your URL segments
Pixel & Tonic's Contact Form plugin allows you to add a simple email contact form to your website, but if you're looking for something more feature-rich, look no further than Freeform.
Freeform markets itself as the "most reliable, intuitive and powerful form builder for Craft" and with good reason. Its key features include:
- an intuitive drag and drop form builder
- multi-page forms
- ajax form submissions
- GDPR compliance
- email notification options
- in-built spam protection
and if that's not enough, you can upgrade to the Pro version for:
- conditional rules
- save & continue later
- automatic purging of submission data
- additional field types (including signature, rating and tables)
- mailing list integrations (including MailChimp, Campaign Monitor and ActiveCampaign)
- CRM integrations (including Salesforce, HubSpot and Pipedrive)
and much more.
Craft CMS includes robust image editing functionality but, if you're looking to squeeze every last drop of performance out of your marketing site, you'll benefit from the extra transform options and optimisations that the Imager X plugin provides.
Notable benefits include:
- file-based image transforms, which reduces database queries
- support for WebP, AVIF and JPEG XL image formats
- image optimisation via a range of optimisers, including mozjpeg, optipng, Imagemin and Kraken.
- support for interlaced and progressive images
- support for animated gifs
If you want to set up a simple CDN for your images, Imager X makes it easy to offload image transforms to the image platform imgix (or any other service, via custom transformers).
Imager X allows for easy image manipulation too. To explore all of the available image manipulations, visit the Imager X Effect Playground.
To ensure that the marketing sites we build all follow modern SEO best practices, we use the excellent SEOmatic plugin.
SEOmatic allows content editors to manage key SEO-related content from within the content management system:
- JSON-LD Microdata
- Titles, descriptions, keywords and social images for individual entries
- Twitter Cards
- Facebook OpenGraph tags
- Robots.txt, Humans.txt, Ads.txt and Security.txt file contents
- common trackings scripts, including Google Tag Manager, Facebook Pixel and Fathom
For a solid (and free) alternative to SEOmatic take a look at—the aptly named—SEO plugin.
With the amount of control Craft CMS gives content editors over their content, it's not uncommon for entry URLs to change. To ensure this doesn't impact a website's SEO value, we use the Retour plugin.
Retour will automatically create a redirect if an entry's slug changes or an entry is moved around in a Structure section. You can also add manual redirects for exact URLs or even use RegEx patterns to match multiple URLs.
The Retour dashboard gives you an overview of 404 hits in the last day, week and month. You can also identify which URLs have redirects configured and which are currently unhandled.
This plugin is a must if you want to avoid visitors hitting 404 pages when browsing your site (no matter how fun your 404 page is).
The Blitz plugin brings intelligent static page caching to Craft CMS.
Simply put, the benefit of static caching is that a previously dynamically loaded page (which can be slow due to database calls) is cached and stored as a static file when first viewed. Any subsequent views to that same page are served the static file, avoiding the database calls. Implementing static caching can reduce server response times from 600ms+ to as low as 50ms.
When using static caching, you also need to figure out how to clear and rewarm caches when your site's content is updated. Blitz simplifies this entire process by automatically clearing and warming the cache when entries are created or updated.
It's worth noting that this plugin isn't a quick fix for performance issues. A website still needs to be performant when it isn't cached. Only when we're confident that we've optimised page load speeds using performant queries, eager loading, etc. do we enable static caching for the extra performance boost.
Once a marketing site is live, we want to make sure it continues to operate correctly. We use a service called Sentry to record any errors and monitor site performance. This Sentry plugin sends any errors occurring on a site to our Sentry account, which alerts us to the problem.
A note regarding plugin costs
Now, the majority of these plugins are not free. There's an initial purchase cost, which includes one year of updates. To continue to receive updates after the first year, you'll pay a yearly licence renewal fee for each paid plugin.
Here's a breakdown of the associated costs for the plugins in our list:
|Plugin||Initial Cost||Yearly Renewal Cost|
|Typed Link Field||Free||N/A|
|Freeform||$99 Lite / $159 Pro||$49 Lite / $79 Pro|
|Imager X||$49 Lite / $99 Pro||$29 Lite / $59 Pro|
That's $534 total initial costs and $270 in yearly renewal fees if we purchase the Pro versions.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! The cost and time investment required to solve these problems from scratch would be vastly higher than the cost of the plugins themselves.
Remember, these plugins are specifically selected to make marketing websites more reliable, performant and ensure they rank well in search.