Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Ads by Google

WordPress is the most widely used and adaptable content management system out there, but you’re probably going to want some plugins to make it just right for your needs.

Here, I’ve collated what I think are the best plugins – both from experience, and community recommendations. Remember though, the more plugins you install, the slower your site will be, so there’s a delicate balancing act between features and performance.

Performance and Backup

WordPress is great – but can be quite slow when faced with lots of traffic. Once you hit about 500 pageviews a day, you’ll need to start thinking about caching pages so they don’t need to be regenerated every time.

Note: Many of these plugins should only be configured by advanced users – they could potentially break your site, so take care. I’ve noted which are particularly easy to use. 

W3 Total Cache

The Swiss Army knife of caching and performance plugins, W3 handles everything from page caching to Content Delivery Networks and file minification. If those terms mean nothing to you, don’t install this yet – read our primer on speeding up WordPress Vroom, Vroom: A Comprehensive Guide To Speeding Up A WordPress Blog Vroom, Vroom: A Comprehensive Guide To Speeding Up A WordPress Blog MakeUseOf serves hundreds of thousands of visitors everyday, and we do it all on Wordpress. Wordpress can and does scale from tens to millions of pageviews, but you’re going to need some heavyweight plugins and... Read More and configuring W3 Total Cache How To Boost Your Website's Performance With W3 Total Cache And A CDN How To Boost Your Website's Performance With W3 Total Cache And A CDN Getting judged by Google as a low-quality site because your pages load too slow will hurt you in the long run. Take time off to boost your site speed and enhance user experience. Read More .

Ads by Google

Better WordPress Minify

Make no mistake, W3 Total Cache is a behemoth that can seem like it needs an engineering degree to set up correctly. If you don’t need to serve millions of pageviews a day, or perhaps can’t install W3 because your host disallows it (or handles caching themselves), you can still get the benefits of minification with this simple hands-off plugin. Simply install, and it will automatically figure out which JS and cSS files are being loaded, combine them into a single file, and minify. It’s simple – and it works.

better wordpress minify

WP SuperCache

For simple page caching needs, SuperCache might suffice. It makes static HTML pages, and serves those instead of dynamically generating new ones each time (which is what WordPress does by default). If you’ve tried W3 Total Cache and found it bewildering, give this a go instead.

CloudFlare

Another quick fix for speed, CloudFlare is a free service which replaces your existing DNS, acting as both a firewall against malicious requests and caching certain content. It can be a little tricky to set up though as it requires modifying your domain settings (unless you’re hosted with Media Temple, in which case it’s one click away from your control panel). Read what I had to say about CloudFlare in detail Protect & Speed Up Your Website For Free with CloudFlare Protect & Speed Up Your Website For Free with CloudFlare CloudFlare is an intriguing start-up from the creators of Project Honey Pot that claims to protect your website from spammers, bots and other evil web monsters - as well as speed up your site somewhat... Read More .

Duplicator

The only reliable way I’ve found yet to take an entire website from one place to another. Run the plugin, get a big archive out of files and database; put the archive on the new site along with a special installer, and run. It just works.

WP Optimize

Performs essential maintenance on the WordPress database – trimming down the size by removing post revisions, and optimizing the tables. Just useful to have around – or at least to install once a year when you’re tidying up.

wp-optimize

BackWPup

The best (and free) WordPress backup solution, but it can be picky about your server setup. If you can get it to play nicely, it includes email backups, Amazon S3, and Dropbox.

Don’t forget that many dedicated WordPress hosting solutions will already include some kind of backup, or offer it as an inexpensive add-on – check with your host.

backwpup

Google Analyticator

If you don’t to manually edit Analytics code into your theme’s header file, Analyticator is the easy way. Simply log in to your account to authorize the plugin, then choose from your list of sites – the plugin will handle the rest, as well as allowing you to ignore certain users, and adding an attractive widget to your Dashboard for at-a-glance stats overview.

analyticator

WordFence Security

Completely free WordPress security suite – firewall, malware scanning, strong password enforcement, plugin and theme repairs. If you’ve had problems in the past or aren’t confident of where your theme or plugins come from, it’s worth giving your site a thorough scan. In most cases though, as long as you keep WordPress and plugins up to date (WordPress updates itself automatically now anyway), you probably won’t need this.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Contrary to popular belief, SEO is not cheating – it’s just half of the secret to running a successful and popular website 8 Proven Tips To Make Your Wordpress Blog Popular 8 Proven Tips To Make Your Wordpress Blog Popular Read More (having fantastic content being the other half). These plugins help to present your site to Google in the best possible way – giving you the audience you deserve! Confused about SEO? Try these 5 beginner guides to learn the art of SEO Demystify SEO: 5 Search Engine Optimization Guides That Help You Begin Demystify SEO: 5 Search Engine Optimization Guides That Help You Begin Search engine mastery takes knowledge, experience, and lots of trial and error. You can begin learning the fundamentals and avoid common SEO mistakes easily with the help of many SEO guides available on the Web. Read More .

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Industry standard and essential install for every website. Extensive feature set, including XML sitemap generation and indexing control of archives.

wordpress seo

Yoast Video SEO ($70)

With Google having removed video thumbnails from general search results, the benefits of this plugin are somewhat diminished. However, it will still enable you to create special video sitemaps, ensuring your video content is listed on video specific search queries, as well as adding the correct OpenGraph and semantic markup.

Redirection

Monitors your site for 404 Not Found errors and presents you with an easy way to 301 Redirect them. Shouldn’t be needed for most sites, but if you’ve recently changed the site structure, deleted lots of posts, or find you’re otherwise getting reports of 404 errors from users, it might be worth seeing what this can do for you.

Social and Commenting

These plugins help to create a real community on your site – critical if you actually want users to stick around.

Disqus

Drop-in replacement for the boring standard WordPress commenting system – offering a range of login options, share buttons, spam protection, user tagging, and more useful features. Highly recommended if you find WordPress comments rather lacklustre.

disqus

LiveFyre Community Comments

Another full comment replacement system, LiveFyre has the added benefit of being able to extract conversations about your post from social networks. There’s a rich text editor, and the ability to insert videos or images. Much as I love LiveFyre though, I see more larger sites running Disqus now, so this war may be won.

livefyre

NextScripts Auto Poster

Maintain a Twitter account and wish all your new posts could be automatically sent there? You’ll want this free plugin then. Connecting to a variety of networks, this requires careful use to avoid rapid loss of friends and followers – you have been warned!

autoposter

DiggDigg

The simplest, easiest, and most attractive way to add a set of floating social share buttons to your site.

diggdigg

PollDaddy

Poll your readers for their opinions with a multiple choice survey, or ask them to rate posts or products – PollDaddy has it all, and is completely free.

polldaddy

Core Functionality

These plugins tweak some fundamental things about how WordPress works – take care, and don’t install anything you don’t thoroughly understand.

No Revisions

The title says it all – this stops WordPress from generating post copies every time you update some small part. The same effect can be had by modifying the wp-config.php file by yourself. Here’s a whole article of wp-config tweaks 5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With The WordPress Config File 5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With The WordPress Config File Read More you should try, too.

Advanced Custom Fields

Custom fields are a powerful way of turning WordPress into anything you want. We use them extensively at MakeUseOf to record various added information about the article. By default, you only get a simple list of data keys and values. With this plugin, you can create special forms to make additional meta entry meaningful.

FD Feedburner Plugin

WordPress provides RSS feeds for your entire site out-of-the-box without any bother, but with thousands of users pinging your site for updates everyday, this can rapidly become a performance bottleneck. Feedburner is a free Google service which caches your feed, handling the traffic without bothering your site. The FD Feedburner plugin ensures anyone subscribing to your site is automatically given the Feedburner cached feed URL instead.

JetPack

Lots of features from the team behind WordPress themselves, all rolled into a single handy plugin – includes stats, gravatar hovercards, grammar checker, recent tweets widget and much more. Opinions are divided on JetPack – some people love it, but it’s a big resource hog and will significantly slow down your site, so be sure to weigh up the actual value you’ll get from this.

Fast Secure Contact Form

Quick way to add a secure contact form with captcha, and even includes a meeting scheduler. There’s a wealth of settings to customize, but the defaults should be fine for most.

Members

If you need to restrict your content to specific member levels, this plugin is your answer. You can also control user role capabilities if you want some non-standard permissions for your contributors or subscribers.

members

Widgets Controller

Sometimes, you don’t want the same sidebar widgets appearing on every page – Widgets Controller adds a layer of logic to your widgets, so you can easily design custom rules for what appears where.

widget controller

WP Insert

There is no better way to insert advertising codes into every post – and it even handles mid-content insertion too – without needing to delve into code. I’d recommend reading my full guide on monetizing your blog Monetization Manual: Your No-Nonsense Guide To Making Money Blogging Monetization Manual: Your No-Nonsense Guide To Making Money Blogging Residual income streams from a website have motivated bloggers for years. I will share with you the knowledge and experience I've gained from years of making money blogging. Read More , first – until you have at least 500 pageviews a day, advertising may do more harm than good.

Fluid Video Embeds

Nothing complicated, but WordPress can make a mess of inserting the right video sizes. This plugin scales them appropriately, and keeps the correct aspect ratio. Install and activate.

Shortcodes Ultimate

Add visual interest to boring blog posts by adding boxes of highlighted content, spoilers and tabs. This plugin adds a number of useful visual highlights that your theme might not have included. Read all about the 40+ features added by Shortcodes Ultimate Add 40+ New Layout Features To WordPress with Shortcodes Ultimate Add 40+ New Layout Features To WordPress with Shortcodes Ultimate Add pull-quotes, spoiler warnings, column layouts and much more to WordPress. Shortcodes Ultimate makes it easy. Read More .

shortcodes

Edit Flow

For sites with multiple writers, managing the workflow of submitting, editing, scheduling and publishing can be a hassle. Edit Flow allows you to create custom statuses (like “waiting for approval from James!”), get notifications when articles are approved, and even manage article budgets.

SwiftType Search

Replaces your regular old search box with one that presents results as soon as the user starts typing – and it uses a far better third party search engine than the default WordPress one. You can even manually override search results for a specific query to present them in exactly the order you want. Marvellous!

WooCommerce

In the past, there were lots of competing eCommerce plugins and it wasn’t really clear which was best. That’s all changed now: WooCommerce has pulled out well ahead of any competitors, and offers a fantastic feature set for the low price of nothing. Additional plugins can be pricey, but out-of-the-box is such a complete and feature rich system that if your requirements are flexible you may not need anything extra.

NextGen Gallery

Sadly, the built-in WordPress gallery functions are still quite lacking, as is the media management in general. Fix that with NextGen Gallery if your site is going to be photography focussed. The plugin creates a whole new section with brand new way to manage galleries and albums. Featured in our 4 must-have portfolio plugins article 4 Must-Have Plugins When Using Wordpress as a Portfolio 4 Must-Have Plugins When Using Wordpress as a Portfolio Read More back in 2010, and still recommended.

nextgen gallery

Smush.It

Most images aren’t optimized – which means your users are wasting bandwidth downloading them, and the total page load time is slower. Smush.It is a free Yahoo! service which automatically optimizes the images without any loss of quality. Can be buggy with images over 1 megabyte, but still the best solution out there, and will hopefully be fixed now that wpmudev has taken over the development.

Miscellaneous

Print Friendly and PDF Button

Not all themes are ideal for printing – install this plugin to automatically make PDF and printer friendly versions, utilizing the free PrintFriendly service. Read more about PrintFriendly Make Your Website More Reader, Printer, And PDF Friendly With PrintFriendly Make Your Website More Reader, Printer, And PDF Friendly With PrintFriendly As a website owner you should provide a cheap and green solution for your readers, who want to take your content with them either on paper or in a PDF. Read More .

print friendly

Leaflet Maps

When working with small businesses, one of the most common requests is to add a map to the page – but there are lots of other ways a custom map can be useful, too. Leaflet Maps is simple, free, and works with any maps data source you can think of – not just Google. Define custom markers with photos or choose from a wide range of included icons.

leaflet maps

As always, your input is appreciated and helps to make this page what it is. If you have any suggestions, please post them below and we’ll check them out.

  1. Lucy Barret
    August 12, 2016 at 2:03 pm

    All in One SEO plugins is also one of the best plugins. You forgot to mention it in the list.

  2. Jane Phillips
    June 14, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Hi James,

    I would like to suggest you to go ahead and try Blog2social, this is my personal favorite, not only you have a single dashboard which will help you post across platforms but also it requires no cron job done. You just have to simply install and activate it.

  3. Panagiotis G. Anastassopoulos
    June 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

    great article!

  4. Drumahn Technologies
    September 2, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks for the list sometimes it's so hard to figure out which plugin is useful enough.

  5. Martin King
    June 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Cheers - first decent plugins list I've found that's not just a blatant advertising space for affiliated websites. Appreciate the time you've spent putting this together!

    • Jane Phillips
      June 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

      Hi Martin, Thank you for your comment

  6. Daniel Keith
    April 24, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Hi Vinceszy,
    Frizzly is good to use for the share button on your website. It allows you to share on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

  7. Leonnie Leckie
    April 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Wow... didn't know half of these plugins till i read this. Good read. Btw... Does anyone know of a wordpress plugin called JCH-Optimize - https://www.jch-optimize.net? It seems like a good plugin that combine external files and minify javascript and css. Wanted to know what you guys think before i give a try.

  8. Vinceszy
    April 20, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    What plugin is used for the share buttons appearing on image hover?

    Thanks!

  9. Clay
    February 26, 2015 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for compiling this list! I tabbed half of them. :)

  10. Neil Curtis
    January 28, 2015 at 8:25 am

    For anyone looking to structure things and lay things out in WordPress I highly recommend the Types (for custom post types) & Views (custom page templates). These are part of a suite of plugins calle Toolset, but they do cost money so it's not a free option. They basically let you do stuff that you'd normally need .PHP skills to do, buy now you don't - luckily for me :-)

    I have no affiliation with these plugins (i.e. I do not work for the company that makes them) but I do use them on all my sites. I have a big article about them on my website (www.neilcurtis.me) where I show how I use them across 3 or 4 different websites I have setup if anyone's interested.

    Cheers, Neil

    To see how I use them you can

  11. Tifa
    January 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    Thanks for collecting all those useful plugins right here! :)

  12. Jeff
    January 8, 2015 at 5:09 am

    I would argue that UpdraftPlus is the best backup program for WordPress. It's the most downloaded backup plugin on WordPress.

  13. WHMpress
    January 6, 2015 at 7:17 am

    cloudflare is most easy to you and works best with all the sites and is not limited to wordpress.

  14. Olajide
    December 10, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful list. More grease...

  15. Kris
    December 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Glad I read this post all the way through... Leaflet maps is exactly what I need for a current site build. Thanks!

  16. Shafiq Khan
    December 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    I highly recommend BackupBuddy for backing up websites

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *