I know what you’re probably thinking. Another “best plugins article” that’s being thrown out there onto the world wide web. It seems to me (and probably to you too) that every website has some list of the supposedly best WordPress plugins. But I guarantee that by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll be installing several of these plugins.
Overall, the plugin world is VERY difficult to navigate, and the process of determining which ones are good is as fun as watching grass grow.
Many plugins are clunky and inefficient. Overall, the WordPress plugin world is VERY difficult to navigate, especially if you’re not a PHP developer, and the process of determining which plugins are good is as fun as watching grass grow.
But, here’s a list of 13 great plugins that every website built with Wordpress should be using to get the most out of WordPress and to make your life WAY easier.
The Akismet plugin is #1 on this list because it is typically the very first plugin I install when I launch a new WordPress site. In fact, when I launch a new WordPress installation, I don’t consider the install completed until Akismet has been installed and activated. Why is this so vital? Well, simple: Because we all hate spam!
If you’ve ever used any sort of comment board or forums, you know how quickly spam comments start showing up. Hackers and advertisers alike have robust spambots, crawling the web looking for places to “comment” because they want to place their spam links on as many sites as possible. Well, Akismet kills them before they have a chance to do their dirty work.
Basically, Akismet monitors and tracks all spam activity on the entire internet (not an easy task). They identify where spambots are originating from and block them from accessing your site.
The Akismet team is hell-bent on thwarting the underbelly of the web.
If by chance a spambots does have the chance to crawl your site, Akismet servers can recognize them when they seek to comment, so Akismet kills the comment and blocks that spambot from ever visiting your site again (or any WordPress site that also uses Akismet). If any spambot attacks even one WordPress site (that is using Akismet), then the plugin can protect any and all sites using Akismet against that particular spambot forever.
The team at Akismet has built the most advanced anti-spam service in the WordPress community. They are hell-bent on thwarting the underbelly of the web, and they’re really good at it. How can we trust the team at Akismet to get this right? Well, because the team at Akismet was the same team that invented WordPress! Yes, that’s right, Akismet was launched and is led by some of the best developers at Automatic, Inc. (the company founded by the same guys that invented WordPress in the first place). If you are trusting WordPress to run your site, than you ought to be trusting Automatic to handle some of your plugins.
For non-commercial use, Akismet is based on a “name your price” model, so you pay whatever you can afford, if anything at all. For commercial use they have multiple packages, starting at just $5/month. If you have a WordPress site, then Akismet is a must!
2) VISUAL COMPOSER
Visual Composer has been developed by WP Bakery, one of the most trust plugin developers in the world. It is a front-end WYSIWYG page builder plugin for WordPress that allows you to take full control over your website, and it’s by far the best front-end builder you will ever use. It’s so good that many higher-end theme builders have implemented Visual Composer into their themes.
With Visual Composer you can build any layout that you can imagine with a super intuitive drag and drop editor. It’s way more robust than the standard WordPress editor and even easier to use. You’ll never need programming knowledge at all. And there’s no more clunky “admin panel” needed to edit your theme options and content blocks (how the heck did that nonsense fly for so long in the WordPress world). Get Visual Composer today. It’s only $34 and we know that you’ll love it. We promise!
3) CLONE POSTS
One of my biggest complaints about WordPress has long been the fact that there is not a native manner to duplicate pages or posts. I used to tear my hair out trying to replicate a page I had created, but now the problem is solved! This is a SUPER SUPER simple plugin, but it’s great! It basically allows you to clone (duplicate) any post and/or page in your WordPress. The Clone Posts plugin is easy to install. It’s a VERY helpful tool!
In development, there will be time when having the ability to “copy and paste” a page will be helpful. This plugin makes that task too easy. There’s no settings options or tabs with this plugin, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
There’s nothing to this plugin, except a simple little button that’ll appear next to each page title in the “Pages” section of the dashboard or next to each posts in the “Posts” section of the dashboard. This plugin doesn’t always copy meta properties associated with a post properly, depending on the theme and type of post, but it’ll copy and paste all content perfectly, with any theme or template.
As you may already know, there are two ways to utilize WordPress. One way is to use the online platform developed and managed by Automatic, Inc. hosted at WordPress.com.
The second, and more popular way, is to mange and self-host your WordPress website, wherein you download the WordPress framework from the website managed by the WordPress Foundation located at WordPress.org and you install the framework onto your server/hosting location. There are certainly pros and cons to each manner. I am a big proponent for self-hosting, but I recognize there are some advantages to utilizing their platform (and chances are we have readers in both camps).
When you’re running a site or blog on WordPress.com you get all sorts of special extra features. These features were previously not available to self-hosted users. But then came Jetpack and our world changed forever!
In essence, Jetpack is a plugin that connects your self-hosted WordPress site to the WordPress.com platform managed by Automatic, Inc., allowing your site to utilize many of the features previously only available to users of WordPress.com. Having a self-hosted website using Jetpack is literally the best of both worlds.
Jetpack includes a whole host of special features. It’s really not one plugin, it’s more like 25 different plugins in one. Jetpack features can help with the following:
- Traffic Analytics. Jetpack allows you to see better deeper traffic stats from your dashboard. These stats are robust enough to satisfy any reporting needs but SUPER easy to understand by using an attractive user-friendly interface.
- Customization. You’ll have more options to customize CSS, carousels, Contact Forms, Sidebar Widgets, Infinite Scrolls, and Tiled Galleries.
- Mobile theme. Instant and customizable lightweight responsive theme options for phones and tablets, and better overall mobile responsive elements baked into the WordPress framework.
- Content tools. Access to enhanced typography and styling options, enhanced WYSIWYG editor, more tools to help create, publish and distribute content such as Post by Email, Shortcode Embeds, Markdown, Beautiful Math, Spelling, and VideoPress.
- Visitor engagement. Ability to utilize enhanced performance tools to help increase your traffic and keep visitors coming back with Enhanced Distribution, spam-free Comments, Shortlinks, Likes, Notifications, Related Posts, Publicize, Social Sharing, Subscriptions, and Site Verification Tools.
- Site performance. You see better performing website because Jetpack will speed up image delivery with the Photon CDN and access to visitor Stats.
- Increased Security. You’ll sleep better as Jetpack will keep your WordPress site up, safe, and protected with Single Sign On, Jetpack Monitor, and a built in Akismet anti-spam feature.
New features are always being developed and added to the Jetpack system, and it’s always kept up-to-date.
You can initially install Jetpack free of charge and unlock many of its features. Most people never go beyond that, simply because the features are so good, few people ever need to go beyond the initially unlocked features. However, the Jetpack system also has several features that can be unlocked by paying to use them. The price for these features vary, but if you need them, it is highly likely you’ll find their pricing to be VERY reasonable.
If your web developer recommends against Jetpack, then fire him immediately! He is not a WordPress developer that can be trusted!
If you have a website developer or site manager that recommends against Jetpack or is unfamiliar with Jetpack, then you need to fire that person immediately! Yes, I’m serous. Jetpack is too good and too well-known at this point. If someone in the web world isn’t using Jetpack effectively, then they’re not a WordPress developer that ought to be trusted. We know this is a big statement, but we feel strongly. Get Jetpack today!
5) CUSTOM PERMALINKS
This plugin is relatively unknown and probably viewed as unnecessary to some people, but we like it a lot. The custom permalinks plugin allows you to layout your website precisely the way you want it and gives you a chance to set the URL for any page, post, portfolio, tag, or category, allowing you to set a custom URL to anything you want, in just about any structure. It also has a simple redirect built into it, allowing old permalinks to auto redirect properly to the new URL address you have set.
The reason some people may say that this sort of plugin is unnecessary is simply because this plugin is not a replacement for the permalink naming system built into WordPress. In all reality, for many people the WordPress “Permalinks” settings page may have the option to name the pages in whatever you want, so it’s possible that WordPress’ native system can already meet your needs. In that case, we recommend you use the native system (in fact, we ALWAYS recommend you use a native option over a plugin whenever the native option is sufficient; plugins should only be used to extend WordPress’ usage and effectiveness where there may be a deficiency in features).
This plugin is however extremely useful for assigning custom permalinks to any individual page, post, portfolio, tag, or category if you want to name them in a manner that cannot be achieved by the native WordPress functions. This is especially useful when we want to include a “parent” category in the naming of the page.
We typically set the WordPress permalinks settings to be set to “%postname%.html” and then we’re able to change the individual pages’ permalinks from and to anything we want them to be directly from the page itself. This plugin is FREE but as with many plugins, they accept donations.
6) WOO COMMERCE
WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell anything online, beautifully! It is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress and many high-end WordPress themes; it gives online sellers and merchants an incredible solution to manage online stores.
According to Built-With, Woo Commerce is now the second most popular online store management system on the entire web. WooCommerce has been used to build online stores for New Balance shoes, Duracell Batteries, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and my favorite pop-star Taylor Swift.
This plugin has been developed by Woo Themes, one of the world’s biggest and best development agencies within the WordPress community (launched and managed by the same team that launched and manages Automatic, Inc., the inventors of WordPress). So, the same guys that invented WordPress built this plugin, so is it a surprise that the plugin is awesome? Of course not!
WooCommerce gives you complete control with an array of styling and sales options and it boosts a secure shopping cart system that links with just about any payment processing system in the world.
Just like Jetpack, you can get WooCommerce free of charge. Most people never go beyond this because its features are great and WooCommerce seems limitless right out-of-box, but also just like Jetpack you can buy extensions and upgrades for the plugin that unlock more options.
7) REALLY SIMPLE CAPTCHA
In my opinion, Really Simple CAPTCHA is the BEST CAPTCHA plugin available. It is just as secure as any CAPTCHA out there, but easier and simpler to use. It makes sure that only real humans are filling out your forms.
This plugin does not work alone, it is intended to work with other plugins. It was originally created for Contact Form 7, one of the most popular contact form plugins on the web, developed by the popular Chinese PHP development agency Rock Lobster, LLC.
However, Really Simple CAPTCHA is now available to be used with many different plugins and many different themes.
Unlike many CAPTCHA solutions, Really Simple CAPTCHA does not use PHP “Sessions” for storing states, but stores them as temporary files. This allows you to embed it into WordPress without worrying about any conflicts.
8) YOAST SEO
Yoast SEO is an absolute must if you want to attract attention from Google. Technically speaking, Yoast is not just a single plugin but rather a series of plugins. The primary plugin produced by Yoast has both a standard version and a premium version, but they also have a video product and a WooCommerce product.
Yoast products allows for robust website optimization. It is essential that each piece of content you post be strategically crafted to maximize your ability to be seen, archived, and retrieved by Google.
Yoast products allow you to add titles, descriptions, custom taxonomy, and other pertinent meta data to any post content; and added in such a way that the post is more likely to be seen by Google as a more attractive piece of content. If Google likes any piece of content more than typical similar pieces of content, then that particular post will be more likely to achieve higher Google rankings.
The Yoast family of plugins also have built-in “page-analysis” tools to see if your post is ready for the web or not. In addition, the core Yoast SEO plugin has some special features to help with important tasks such as social media integration, RSS optimization, and the development of XML sitemaps. All Yoast plugins are very easy to install and setup and they are highly recommended for use on all sorts of websites.
9) WP USER AVATAR
This is another very simple plugin, but it can be very helpful in adding a cool quick feature to your blog posts. WP User Avatar allows you to add an avatar photo to each blog post or to any place on your site that your theme allows.
By default, WordPress only allows the use of custom avatars that are uploaded through Gravatar (also managed by Automatic, Inc.) which is a decent feature but very limiting if you’re seeking to only have those photos locally on your website, and cumbersome because you need to manage it on a third-party site. In my opinion, this is a silly limitation that WordPress has given us, and I’d be willing to bet that they will eventually change this. But until they do, WP User Avatar allows us the flexibility that we want when using avatars, which is especially helpful for author bio boxes.
With WP User Avatar you can uploaded any photo into your Media Library and use that as an avatar, with a specified size or thumbnail. WP User Avatar also allows you to do all of the following:
- Upload your own Default Avatar in your WP User Avatar settings
- Show the user’s Gravatar avatar or Default Avatar if the user doesn’t have a WP User Avatar image
- Disable Gravatar avatars and use only local avatars
- Use the “avatar_upload” shortcode to add a standalone uploader to a front page or widget
- Use the “avatar” shortcode in your posts
- Allow Contributors and Subscribers to upload their own avatars
- Limit upload file size and image dimensions for Contributors and Subscribers
10) W3 TOTAL CACHE
Some plugins need a lot of words to explain what it does; W3 TOTAL CACHE is not one of those plugins. If you’re not familiar with cache or the process of caching, it basically is the process by which your computer saves files locally when it accesses any website that you visit. If your computer can cache a website efficiently, it will be able to access that website faster.
In essence, W3 Total Cache forces any browser on any computer to cache your WordPress website in the most efficient way possible. It does this by setting up the browser caching and compression techniques for faster downloads (the details of this process is too technical to explain herein, but suffice to say this plugin does it very well). This leads to your site loading up to 10x faster. This helps your users’ experience, but it also helps your rankings with Google and other search engines. Google penalizes slow loading sites by pushing them down the rankings.
If you want to see your website in search engine rankings then its speed matters a lot. The W3 Total Cache plugin helps in the process of optimizing the website’s overall performance, efficiency, and speed. This plugin is a winner!
11) GALLERY BANK
Gallery Bank is a WordPress plugin created by the incredible team at Tech Banker. It is designed to create elegant and beautiful photo gallery albums with images and videos using various layouts, special effects, and animations.
This is an advanced plugin with a list of tools and options for adding and editing images and albums for different views such as Masonry, Thumbnails, Blog, Filmstrip and much more. It can add image galleries and albums to posts and pages easily. The galleries and albums can be built in responsive elements that are perfect for mobile devices. The plugin has an amazing dashboard, easily integrates with social media platforms, has several lightbox options, easily integrates with widgets and sidebars, has 200+ special effect options, and can even be multi-lingual if needed.
There are many free and inexpensive gallery options out there, but very few have as many options as Gallery Bank and even fewer are as compatible with as many different theme options as Gallery Bank. There is a free version of the Gallery Bank plugin as well as several different premium versions of the plugin at varying prices, starting as low as $34.
12) GRAVITY FORMS
It may seem odd to promote this plugin being that I mentioned Contact Form 7 in this article earlier, but Gravity Forms is our preferred forms plugin. Contact Form 7 is very popular and can function as a great free option, but Gravity Forms just has more options that make it better for web developers and business alike.
Gravity Forms is one of the most trusted and popular forms plugin within the WordPress community, being used by more than one million websites world wide. Gravity Forms can easily to integrate with several popular web applications and online services, and can also work with any major payment gateway.
Basically, this plugin helps you easily and quickly create friendly contact forms for your WordPress website. It has a very user-friendly admin interface, making it easy to use, but it does not ever compromise the number of options you have, making it both robust and simple to use (and that’s a combination we love). Any type of online form can be created and integrated into your site with Gravity Forms. It allows for the creation of a web directory, online surveys, feedback forms, and much more. This is a fantastic option for forms, and it starts at $39. Check it out today!
This plugin is not nearly as well known as most on this list (and may not be as essential to some website managers as to others) but it has a very cool use that no other plugin can perform as well. Imsanity automatically resizes huge image uploads down to a size that is more reasonable for display in browser, yet still more than large enough for typical website use.
This plugin in very simple but yet VERY useful, especially to our team as web developers. The reason we like it so much is because we work with many clients that may or may not understand how to properly resize or optimize photos and images. Whenever we develop a WordPress site, we typically then hand it over to the client’s in-house staff for maintenance and management. Often the clients will unknowingly upload images that are not the proper size, aspect ratio or resolution.
With Imsanity, we can choose to have those images auto-resized to ensure that the pics still look good and serve their purpose. This also allows us to shrink down the memory storage space used by each image, so this helps the images on the site load faster. We’ve heard stories of servers crashing because the site was exceeding size and bandwidth limits with tens of thousands of images that were too big (either in size or resolution). This plugin solves that problem quickly.
The Imsanity plugin is configurable with a maximum width, height, and quality. Whenever any contributor uploads a photo or image that is larger than the preset size limits, Imsanity will use the built-in WordPress scale feature to automatically scale the image down and resize it and will then replace the original image, but it will salvage the quality of the photo because the scale down will only go down to certain point to ensure it still looks good on screen. Optionally, you can choose to have Imsanity convert any bitmap files to a JPEG so that the image can be scaled properly.
Okay, wow, that was a lot of writing about plugins… especially from a guy that has publicly declared that most plugins stink. Maybe I don’t hate WordPress plugins nearly as much as I may have thought I did, haha… or maybe that just goes to show how awesome these plugins really are. At any rate, these are the WordPress plugins you need to start using immediately. They’ll make your site better and your life easier. We promise!
Did We Miss Your Favorite Plugin?
There literally millions of WordPress plugins in the world. And I’d be willing to bet all my money (which isn’t much) that there’s lots of great plugins I’ve never heard of that are awesome. I bet there’s lots of great hidden gems out there. If there’s a great plugin that we missed that you believe should be featured in the next plugin article we publish, just let me know in the comments section herein and we’ll check it out.