Best WordPress Plugins

Choosing the best WordPress plugins for your needs

If you visit WordPress.org and click the Plugins link, you’ll come to a page where you can search for free WordPress plugins, the most popular of which are listed in the right sidebar of the page. As of today there are 43,383 plugins having been downloaded 1,198,659,492 times, and counting! How do you choose the best WordPress plugins to use when there are so many to sort through?

 

The Most Popular plugins are popular for a reason — they are simply good, well-maintained plugins. However, they do have competition. For example, WordPress SEO by Yoast is giving a run for the money to All in One SEO Pack. Is one better than the other? At some points in time, yes, and others perhaps no. A little healthy competition has made both plugins very good over time.

Below is a list of the plugins I use most often or have found to be very helpful on specific websites even if I don’t use them on all websites. I’ve placed a * by the plugins I typically use on every site I create.

This will no doubt change!

SEO Plugins

Best WordPress SEO Plugins

While WordPress is search engine friendly right out of the box, SEO plugins are a must because they all you to control key “meta data” for your pages including the Title of the page and description as it displays on the Search Engine Results Page. This can help improve your search engine ranking by helping Google understand your page/post content better. It also improves click-throughs to your posts by allowing you to craft what the user sees on the search results page.

  1. Yoast SEO*Yoast SEO for instructions on how to set up the plugin, see: Yoast Instructions
  2. All in One SEO Pack (AIOSP) — This is a fabulous alternative to the Yoast SEO plugin with a much simpler interface but very comparable features: All in One SEO Pack
  3. Google Analytics for WordPress* by Yoast – This plugin has many great features such as tracking file downloads automatically without having to manual add code to your posts.Google Analytics
  4. XML Sitemap* – Both AIOSP and Yoast SEO have built-in XML Sitemaps. Activate these and submit your XML sitemap to your Google Webmaster Tools account. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin listed in the Most Popular plugins on WordPress.org tends to be resource intensive.

Image Gallery Plugins

Best WordPress Image Plugins

WORDPRESS PHOTO / IMAGE GALLERY PLUGINS

Out of the box, WordPress has a terrific thumbnail gallery feature.  If you want something a bit more fancy, try these plugins:

  1. NextGEN Gallery — Robust image management tool that allows you to organize, tag, and upload photos to your blog and display using thumbnails, image browser, or slideshow:NextGEN Gallery All galleries can be managed in one central management area, making NextGEN one of the few true image management tools for WordPress. The paid version of the plugin allows you to sell images online.
  2. Jetpack – Jetpack has an amazing selection of options including great looking tiled galleries and carousel lightbox: Jetpack for more information about galleries and carousel, see: Jetpack support and Jetpack support tiled-galleries
  3. Envira Gallery – Beautiful and easy-to-use out of the box. Galleries are created either in a central area or on a page or post. Galleries created on a page or post are not available on other parts of the site. Envira gallery is not an image management tool, and all images are uploaded to the Media Library. However it is very easy to use because it is so simple. Envira Gallery

Social Media

Best WordPress Social Media Plugins

SOCIAL SHARING PLUGINS:

  1. Jetpack Sharing – Again, Jetpack lowers the bar for your average WordPress user to easily add social sharing icons to their pages and posts: Jetpack Sharing
  2. Really Simple Facebook Twitter Share Buttons – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google “+1”, Pinterest, Tumblr and other share buttons of your choice above or below your posts. I like this plugin because it has a shortcode you can use on the site to display the social sharing buttons outside the normal post/page content area: Really Simple Facebook Twitter Share Buttons
  3. Jetpack Likes – Adds like links to your posts. Jetpack Likes

SOCIAL FOLLOW PLUGINS:

  1. Social Media Widget  – A widget to show your social media profiles so others can follow you.Social Media Widget

SOCIAL FEED PLUGINS:

  1. Twitter Widget Pro — Great Twitter widget with customizable CSS. I like this widget better than the widget that comes with Twitter Tools because of the way it looks: Twitter Widget Pro
  2. Jetpack Extra Sidebar Widgetshttp://jetpack.me/support/extra-sidebar-widgets/

SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLICIZING PLUGINS:

  1. Jetpack Publicize: http://jetpack.me/support/publicize/
  2. Twitter Tools — automatically generate tweets from your posts http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/twitter-tools/

Image re-sizing and optimising

  1. WORDPRESS IMAGE RE-SIZING, OPTIMIZING, AND RETINA PLUGINS

    1. Regenerate Thumbnails – If you’ve changed any of your thumbnail dimensions (via Settings -> Media) after previously uploading images or have changed to a theme with different featured post image dimensions, you will need to use this plugin to re-process your previous uploaded images to use the new sizes: Regenerate thumbnails
    2. Imsanity – This is a must-have plugin for anyone who works with clients who don’t optimize their images before uploading. It allows you to specify a maximum image size and actually resizes the images on upload to avoid overly large file sizes being served on posts and pages. Imsanity
    3. EWWW Image Optimizer -This plugin optimizes images but does not resize them. It works with both lossy and losseless methods. It is integrated with TinyJPG and TinyPNG to provide the best quality compression. It works with many of the popular gallery plugins, including NextGEN Gallery, so that’s a bonus since the other plugins only work with images uploaded to the Media Library.EWWW Image Optimizer
    4. Kraken – Like EWWW but compresses images further on tests. However, not sure if tests were done with the EWWW paid version – Kraken
    5. WP Smush – Works like EWWW to further compress images on upload. https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/ Read this review of Smush Pro versus EWWW versus Kraken: WP Smush – I think you need to pick the solution that compresses your images with the best quality result if quality is important to you, such as with professional photography.
    6. WP Retina 2x – This plugin creates the image files required by the Retina (High DPI) devices and displays them to your visitors accordingly. Your website will look beautiful and crisp on every device!WP Retina 2x
    7. ShortPixel * – This plugin is bar far my favourite.  The free version optimises 100 images a month or for a small one off payment, 10,000. ShortPixel

Image Management

IMAGE MANAGEMENT PLUGINS

  1. Enhanced Media Library – Allows you to create custom categories for all the images in your Media Library which typically wind up in a big, unorganized mess that is hard to wade through down the road. Enhanced Media Library The Pro version allows you to bulk-edit previously uploaded images to assign them to categories. A must-have plugin if you are managing a lot of images on your site.
  2. Image Teleporter -This plugin turns images that are hosted elsewhere into images that are now in your Media Library, and the code on your page is automatically updated. Image Teleporter
  3. Add from Server – Allows you to import media & files into the WordPress uploads manager from the FTP server –  Add from Server

Contact Forms

Best WordPress Contact Form Plugins

  1. Jetpack Contact Form – Jetpack has a great, simple contact form builder. If nothing else, use Jetpack’s contact form on your contact page. http://jetpack.me/support/contact-form/
  2. Ninja Forms – Fast outpacing all of the free forms with lots of great paid add-ons that integrate with many email newsletter services, Paypal, and more! Free version: https://wordpress.org/plugins/ninja-forms/ Paid add-ons: https://ninjaforms.com/extensions/
  3. Formidable Forms – Build WordPress forms the fast and simple way with a simple drag-and-drop interface. Several templates to choose from. https://wordpress.org/plugins/formidable/
  4. Formidable Pro – Like a contact form with super powers. This premium plugin lets you create robust applications to collect and display data on your site. It’s crazy amazing! https://formidablepro.com/
  5. Not a contact form per se, Google Forms are great for surveys and other simple forms you want to create. You can embed any Google Form on your site using this plugin:Google Forms
  6. Contact Form 7*– Can’t not mention this as it is very popular but it isn’t the easiest to use. Contact Form 7

Read WP Beginner’s comparison of the top contact form plugins: http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/5-best-contact-form-plugins-for-wordpress-compared/.

Performance

WordPress Performance Plugins

  1. WP Super Cache – Exponentially improve the load time of your site by installing WP Super Cacheand setting up with these instructions: http://support.hostgator.com/articles/specialized-help/technical/wordpress/wp-super-cache-plugin
  2. W3 Total Cache * – This is my favourite but it can seem a little overwhelming at times.  Get it here W3 Total cache. Stick with the defaults to start with.  For help with setting up go to http://www.wpbeginner.com/plugins/how-to-install-and-setup-w3-total-cache-for-beginners/
  3. Jetpack Photon – Caches images on your site on a Cloud Delivery Network to expontentially improve the speed of your site. Test to be sure that it works with any other image plugins you may be using. Sometimes distorts the display of images in third-party plugin sliders.http://jetpack.me/support/photon/
  4. Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions* – Over time, your WordPress database can become bloated with old post revisions, trashed items, comment spam, and more. You should optimize your database at least once a month to keep your site running efficiently:http://wordpress.org/plugins/rvg-optimize-database/

Links, broken Links and redirections

WordPress Links, Broken Links, and Redirection Plugins

  1. Redirection – Essential for managing any redirects of old site URLs to new URLs. I almost always turn off the Monitor option to avoid infinite loop issues, and I set the logs to expire after 15 or 30 days to avoid huge log tables in the database. Also tracks 404 errors:Redirection
  2. Velvet Blues Update URLs* – A super helpful plugin that is pretty safe to use for bulk rewrite of URLs. Very helpful with site migrations. Velvet Blues Update URLs
  3. Broken Link Checker — This plugin is recommended by many people. I dislike it for many reasons not the least of which it overwhelms caching with an inordinate amount of HTTP requests. It does checks for broken links throughout your site. Broken Link Checker
  4. Broken link checking without a plugin: I prefer to use one of these services instead of Broken Link Checker above:
  5. Quick Page/Post Redirect – Much easier to use than the Redirection plugin, so I tend to recommend this plugin more often for creating quick page and post redirects:Quick Page/Post Redirect

Security

Security Plugins

  1. Akismet* — While not technically a “security plugin,” allowing spam comments to get through on your site even in the form of unapproved comments can really cause performance issues and blacklisting. Akismet filters spam comments from your blog. Must have wordpress.com user account to get Akismet key: Get Akismet here
  2. WordPress Simple Firewall – Comprehensive and Easy-To-Use WordPress Security with no “premium” restrictions.  WordPress Simple Firewall
  3. Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall (aka GOTMLS) – This Anti-Malware scanner searches for Malware, Viruses, and other security threats and vulnerabilities on your server and it helps you fix them. Get GOTMLS here
  4. Sucuri Security – Great post-hack features that help you quickly reinstall all your free plugins, change passwords, change authentication keys, scan the core WordPress files for hacks, and more!Get Sucuri Security here
  5. Clef Two-Factor Authentication – Modern two-factor that people love to use: strong authentication without passwords or tokens. It’s kind of magical. Clef Two-Factor Authentication
  6. WP SpamShield Anti-Spam – An exceptionally powerful WordPress anti-spam plugin that eliminates comment spam, trackback spam, contact form spam & registration spam. Can be used instead of Akismet. WP SpamShield Anti-Spam
  7. BulletProof Security* – BulletProof Security is another popular WordPress security plugin that takes care of most things. It adds firewall security, database security, login security and more. It comes with four-click setup interface. Just activate this plugin and then relax. It will take care of your website.  Get BulletProof Security here
  8. iThemes Security* (formerly Better WP Security) – iThemes Security is also a nice WordPress security plugin which claims to offer 30+ ways to secure and protect your WordPress website. With one click installation, you can stop automated attacks and protect your website. it also fixes various common security holes in your website. Download iThemes security

RSS

RSS Feed Plugins

  1. Feedblitz – FeedBlitz provides daily email updates to  subscribers. You can arrange and remove posts right before you send the daily email. Great stats! Feedblitz
  2. Jetpack Subscriptions – allows users to subscribe via email to your blog. Email is not branded, but it is clean looking. Jetpack Subscriptions
  3. Mail Chimp – Sign up for a free account and allow people to subscribe via email to your blog and have them receive a customized and branded email with your blog posts as designated intervals: Overview w/ video: Mail Chimp Detailed Instructions:Mail Chimp tutorial
  4. FEEDZY RSS Feeds by b*web* – is a small and lightweight RSS aggregator plugin. Fast and very easy to use, it allows you to aggregate multiple RSS feeds into your WordPress site through fully customizable shortcodes & widgets.Get it Here

Widgets

WordPress Post, Category, and Rich Text Widgets

  1. Category Posts — Shows posts within a certain category in the sidebar:Category Posts
  2. Extended Categories — great widgets for determining which categories display in the sidebar and how: Extended Categories
  3. Custom Post Widget – Let’s you format content using the WordPress visual editor and use in a widget area and on pages and posts. Invaluable! Custom Post Widget
  4. Recent Posts Widget Extended – Provides flexible and advanced recent posts. Display it via shortcode or widget with thumbnails, post excerpt, taxonomy and more. Recent Posts Widget Extended

Widget visibility and CSS

WordPress widget visibility and CSS

  1. Display Widgets – Control which widgets show on which pages or parts of the site:Display Widgets
  2. Jetpack’s Widget Visibility Module is an option to the plugin above if you are already using Jetpack.Jetpack’s Widget Visibility Module
  3. Widget CSS Classes* – Control styling of each widget using a CSS class : http://wordpress.org/plugins/widget-css-classes/

Backups

WordPress Backup Plugins and Services

Before anything else, check that your hosting provider offers free backups like R1 Soft. Theses should be available to you at least daily if not shorter.  You should also get database backups for free.  See See PCFH.solutions as an example

FREE WORDPRESS BACKUP PLUGINS (WITH PAID PREMIUM OPTIONS)

  1. WP DB Backup — makes it easy to create a backup of the entire database or repair your database without having to login to your PHP MyAdmin to do so: WP-db-Backup
  2. UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration – Fast becoming the most popular backup plugin since it has a free version. Complete backups; manual or scheduled. Paid backup storage optional –updraftplus
  3. Duplicator – Can be used to quickly backup and migrate your site to new host. It is my go-to plugin for site migrations because of the simple interface. Scheduled backups only available in premium version. Duplicator

PAID WORDPRESS BACKUP PLUGIN

BackupBuddy – Create complete backups on demand or at scheduled intervals with optional cloud storage. BackupBuddy can be used to migrate a site from one location to another as it’s importbuddy script will automatically rewrite all the URLs on the site for you.

WORDPRESS BACKUP SERVICES

These services do not provide option for a local backup. They automatically backup your site on a set schedule and store the backups on their servers. Check each to compare auto restoration features, number of backups stored, frequency of backups, and price:

  1. WorpDrive – Very reliable backups done via FTP. http://www.worpdrive.com/
  2. VaultPress – Remote backup service created by the makers of WordPress (Automattic). Lowest price plan of $5 provides 30-days worth of backups. More expensive plans allow you to do on-demand backups. Can be used for one-click restore of the site should anything go wrong.Vaultpress

Page Layout Builders

WordPress Visual Layout, Page Builder, and Formatting Plugins

  1. Visual Composer – Paid page builder plugin used by many popular themes –Visual Composer
  2. Page Builder *– This is a free alternative to Visual Composer with an every increasing list of widgets.  Awesome plugin –Page Builder
  3. Beaver Builder – Another free alternative to Visual Composer with paid add-on features –Beaver Builder -lite-version
  4. Twitter Bootstrap – Let’s you take advantage of various Twitter Bootstrap components and CSS like columns and buttons without having to have a theme based on Bootstrap:Twitter Bootstrap
  5. Tiny MCE Advanced Editor *— advanced toolbar for the TinyMCE editor:Tiny MCE advanced
  6. WP Edit – Not getting enough formatting options from the standard WordPress toolbar? Then WP Edit is just what you need. Not only does it give you extra optional buttons to add to your toolbar, but it also helps you add extra customisation to all aspects of your website.WP Edit

Navigation and Search

WordPress Navigation Plugins

  1. Simple Custom Post Order— very handy interface for easily ordering pages and posts: Simple Custom Post Order
  2. Exclude Pages — so helpful for excluding certain pages from navigation (such as privacy policy and sitemap) without having to edit the template file: Exclude Pages
  3. Flexi Pages Widget – Allows you to create a dynamic sub-pages menu in the sidebar:Flexi Pages Widget
  4. WP Page Navi – Replaces the old ← Older posts | Newer posts → links with some numbered page links which is much more user friendly – WP Page Navi
  5. Breadcrumbs NavXT* – The best breadcrumbs plugin –Breadcrumb NavXT
  6. User Sitemap – Quickly and easily create a human sitemap for visitors to be able to see links to all your content on one page – Sitemap
  7. Search Everything – Improves WordPress default search functionality without modifying any of the template pages. You can configure it to search pages, excerpts, attachments, drafts, comments, tags and custom fields (metadata) Search Everything
  8. Relevanssi *– Like Search Everything but sorts on relevance, not date:Relevanssi

Navigation and Search

WordPress Events Calendar Plugins

  1. The Events Calendar – Beautiful calendar plugin for displaying event listings on your site. Integrates (not exactly seamlessly) with EventBrite for registration: http://wordpress.org/plugins/the-events-calendar/ – go pro for repeat events.
  2. Event Espresso – More of a registration plugin than calendar plugin:http://wordpress.org/plugins/event-espresso-free/
  3. All-in-One Event Calendar by Time.ly* – A calendar system with month, week, day, agenda views, upcoming events widget, color-coded categories, recurrence, and import/export of .ics feeds. All in one event calendar

eCommerce

WordPress E-Commerce Plugins

  1. Ecwid – Really excellent and easy way to get a shopping cart on your WordPress site with minimum hassle and maintenance: Ecwid
  2. WooCommerce *– Maintenance costs are an issue, hence why I prefer Ecwid for performance and reliability and minimal headaches.   I do use this a lot:Woocommerce
  3. WP eCommerce *- WP e-Commerce is another simple to use yet powerful WordPress eCommerce plug-in that has been around for last several years. WP cCommerce
  4.  Ecwid– Ecwid makes strides in the market by catering to companies that don’t want to start a brand new site. Ecwid comes with four plans, one of which is completely free. Ecwid
  5. Jigoshop – Jigoshop is a reliable, secure and robust WordPress eCommerce plug-in from , a UK based web design agency. Jigoshop
  6.  MarketPress – MarketPress, prudently written by experienced WordPress developers at WPMU DEV, is a well designed, easily customizable and feature-rich eCommerce plug-in.  MarketPress
  7. iThemes Exchange – iThemes Exchange is a simple, intuitive and extremely extendable WordPress eCommerce plug-in developed by iThemesiThemes Exchange

See a full review here courtesy of ecommerce platforms.

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