Over 17 posts are published every second across the globe on WordPress sites. That amounts to more than 61,000 hourly posts. It’s easy to understand that WordPress has quickly become the go-to content management system for bloggers, small businesses and entrepreneurs alike. But despite being robust and easy-to-use, WordPress’ core software is still missing some functionality. Luckily, the WordPress Plugin directory has over 40,000 plugins for you to use. The question is, from so many possibilities, how can you know you’re choosing the best plugin for your site?
Granted, even newcomer bloggers have a general idea as to the best plugins out there. It’s rather difficult to stray off the beaten path with so many great guides praising plugins such as SEO by Yoast or Jetpack. So let’s take a look at top-tier WordPress plugins that can truly bring your blog to the next level.
Core WordPress Plugins
Now before we get into the list itself, let me just point out that your goal should be to never overburden a site with too many plugins. Ideally, you should use as few as possible while maintaining the functionality that your specific niche requires. That being said, there’s a plugin suite that significantly improves the performance of any site:
1. SEO by Yoast
Active Installs: 1+ million || Rating: 4.5/5 (1,436)
Though it’s impossible to pick the one plugin to rule them all, WordPress SEO by Yoast is definitely a must-have tool in the arsenal of any site owner, as it helps you control almost every aspect of your SEO efforts. There’s a reason why this particular plugin has a well-deserved seat at the table. It’s simply invaluable as it makes sure that you bring in as much organic traffic as possible to your site.
Aside from handling meta descriptions, titles or your XML sitemap, WordPress SEO by Yoast also has a number of built-in tools designed to make your SEO endeavours simpler (for instance, the Bulk Editor).
2. WP Rocket
Active Installs: 42,103 || Rating: 5/5
Designed to contain everything that bloggers need to reach 7th heaven, this exceptional WordPress caching plugin has a multitude of features to ensure that your site performs great. Despite being a newcomer, this plugin has managed to positively impress due to its many positives: quick and easy setup, page caching and cache preloading, GZIP compression feature, browser caching, mobile detection, multisite and multilingual compatibility, as well as ecommerce friendliness.
Unlike W3 Total Cache and Super Cache, there are very few options that need configuring. Simply installing the plugin will already have your site running better, and that’s impressive for a caching plugin.
Active Installs: 1+ million || Rating: 4.9/5 (437)
Targeting the not-so inviting underbelly of the internet, Akismet is your anti-spam companion, efficiently analysing heaps of data from millions of communities and selecting genuine comments. Because spammers will continuously improve their techniques to bypass such spam-blocking software, Akismet is designed to also change. It adapts and continuously protects your site.
2. Vault Press
Active Installs: 20,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (29)
Ensuring that you’re properly backing your site up is one of the most important things to consider. The trick with backups is that there’s always a glitch you’ve not thought about. There are many factors to consider, and any of these factors can fail when you need them most. Having your backup system depend on your database, server, PHP, on WordPress itself, as well as a plethora of WP plugins is somewhat terrifying.
The best thing about VaultPress, though, is that it’s not only reliable and automatic, but also easy to restore. This off-site restore system is the closest thing to a bulletproof backup system.
Active Installs: 200,000+ || Rating: 3.4/5 (93)
Any blog should have a simple-to-use comment system that inspires constructive discussion. Visitors who comment your posts become the community of your website and represent immense growth opportunities as they offer inspiration and support. Now, the issue is whether to use the in-house comment system or go for another plugin.
Disqus is an excellent plugin that allows your readers to connect and easily comment by using their G+, Facebook, Twitter or Disqus accounts. There are, of course, other plugins, including Disable Comments and Commenter Emails, though we will discuss them later on.
6. WP Smush
Active Installs: 200,000+ || Rating: 4.3/5 (361)
Perhaps one of the most troublesome issue with WordPress is working with images. More often than not, your authors will simply upload enormous images to the website even if there’s no valid reason to do so. What WP Smush Pro does is to compress (either individually or in bulk) any JPEG, GIF or PNG image of your choice. It does so by stripping meta data, optimizing conversion and converting GIFs to PNGs. Never fear, though. Even if the plugin strips away this data, image quality is not affected.
Active Installs: 1 million+ || Rating: 4/5 (699)
8. Force Strong Passwords
Active Installs: 7,000+ || Rating: 4.2/5 (5)
You can never be too safe when it comes to your site and the first place to start is to ensure that your authors and users are using strong passwords. Force Strong Passwords is downright simple: it makes sure that no one is using easily-hackable passwords such as abcde or 12345. This plugin will significantly reduce the risk of unauthorised access to your website.
Situation-specific WordPress Plugins
There are many other plugins specifically designed to fit the needs of certain niches, bloggers and webmasters. I decided to include some of the best situation-specific WordPress plugins depending on the features they present, code quality and overall ease-of-use.
9. Best WordPress Contact Form Plugin
Active Installs: NA (it’s not free so it’s not in the repository) || Rating: NA
Though there are multiple contact form plugins for WordPress, including Caldera Forms, Ninja Forms and Custom Contact Forms, there is one plugin that reigns supreme: Gravity Forms. Think of any feature you’d wish incorporated into a forms plugin. Chances are that it’s already a part of Gravity Forms. You can use this plugin to create the simplest of opt-in forms or the most complex application and billing forms.
WordPress users will be able to create unlimited, multi-page forms that can be filled in immediately or saved and completed later. It’s particularly easy to use and includes standard fields that help tremendously. And since everyone knows how good this plugin in, there was never a free version. If that doesn’t prove the trust that RocketGenius has in its product, I’m not sure what can. Think about it: even when competitors are offering free versions, there are still so many Webmasters that choose to go with Gravity.
10. Best WordPress Redirection Plugin: Safe Redirect Manager
Active Installs: 20,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (40)
We all know how tiresome redirects can get when using .htaccess files. Luckily, this was a particularly troublesome issue for more bloggers. Safe Redirect Manager easily deals with this issue by allowing you to redirect certain locations to the URL’s you choose and by using the status codes you desire.
The installation is a breeze and the menu is simple. There is literally no better redirection plugin out there.
Best WordPress Content Management Plugins
It would have been a story come true if one single plugin would have incorporated all aspects pertaining to content management. Alas, the issue of content is so complex that, realistically, there isn’t any possibility to expect such a plugin to become available in the foreseeable future. Difficulties arise when attempting to organize content (especially when the amounts of content you produce are significant). The following plugins, however, help tremendously.
11. Simple Page Ordering
Active Installs: 300,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (83)
Instead of manually controlling the way that hierarchical post types appear in WordPress (via the “Page Attributes” metabox), you can use the Simple Page Ordering plugin to drag and drop the desired post type to its intended location. Though this may not be necessary in all situations, certain post types will require this type of control: portfolio projects or testimonials, for instance.
12. Duplicate Post
Active Installs: 800,000+ || Rating: 4.8/5 (159)
Duplicate content is a definite no-no on any site, we already know that. Even so, there are certain moments and certain businesses that truly require you to copy similar content in a variety of location (for instance when describing services). In such situations, it’s absolutely unnecessary to always start a page anew. Editing an already existing page is much easier.
Duplicate Post does exactly what the name suggests: it allows you to clone specific pieces of content repeatedly until your website is ready.
13. Admin Columns
Active Installs: 50,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (389)
One issue with the WordPress interface is the way that the admin column data is presented. If you’re like me, you’re going to want to have certain information readily available to you at all times: but that means that the post edit screen will become awfully cluttered. Admin Columns offers an elegant and simple solution to this rather pesky issue.
This nifty plugin allows you to select, remove, reorder and rearrange most elements of your admin screen. This comes in handy when running websites that rely on different data types.
14. WP Help
Active Installs: 10,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (30)
Particular sites require multiple contributors, editors and authors to supply the necessary content. But in such cases, it’s often difficult to convey a unified message as to your site’s content guidelines, requirements, dos and don’ts. That’s where WP Help comes in handy.
Instead of having to repeat yourself over and over again with every new contributor, you can easily set up a detailed, hierarchical documentation that is viewable in your site’s admin panel. Most importantly, you can sync this information across multi-site networks.
15. Better Internal Link Search
Active Installs: 10,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (30)
Interlinking is an essential part of your SEO strategy, however, it’s not always easy (especially for new users) to do so, especially when they aren’t familiar with all your site’s content. Better Internal Link Search helps you deal with this problem by providing you with a friendly search feature that scours existing content provides fast and easy link choices. Your search results will include scheduled posts as well as search terms from any taxonomy.
Active Installs: NA || Rating: NA
Generally, a good WordPress theme allows you to construct beautiful page layouts. Every now and then, though, you may require something a bit more complicated.
Now this may be a controversial topic and while I’m convinced that the fewer plugins you use, the better, there are certain situations when you don’t have the physical time to use custom code in order to display content. Conductor is an excellent tool to help you customize your content’s layout in a matter of minutes.
One free alternative is PageBuilder by Site Origin. It currently has 600,000+ installs and a 4.8/5 rating and allows you to create column based content that is easily adaptable to most mobile devices. While Page Builder’s code is way better than what its competitors currently offer, page builders themselves aren’t something that you should consider lightly. A poorly picked plugin may end up wreaking havoc on your site’s load time.
17. Related Post
Active Installs: 4,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (89)
The WordPress repository is full of new and remade versions of related posts plugins and while some of them may fool unexperienced bloggers, they’re mostly unusable and significantly disturb your page load times. But Related Posts for WordPress works beautifully by constructing independent relationships and referencing these relationships for fast loading times.
You’ll be able to quickly create connections between related posts right after installing the plugin, even if your website comprises thousands upon thousands of posts. You can also manually edit, add or remove related posts if you don’t feel comfortable with any of them.
Best WordPress Image Plugins
Certain sites rely on images and in such cases, you may require a multitude of plugins to help you better manage.
18. Foo Gallery
Active Installs: 10,000+ || Rating: 5/5 (43)
Foo Gallery gives you the option of creating robust image gallery systems. It’s extremely simple to use because it’s based on WordPress’ native media uploader. Luckily, if you used other image gallery plugins, such as NextGen Gallery, Foo Gallery also features an importer to help you quickly migrate your images.
Active Installs: 100,000+ || Rating: 4.8/5 (136)
If you’re fed up with the insanity of manually scaling images, Imsanity is a great alternative to WP Smush and solves the same issue of image size: regardless of what your users upload, Imsanity will automatically resize any image to the maximum size that you configure. Though seemingly minor, Imsanity saves massive amounts of bandwidth. The plugin also has a bulk-resize feature that will help you resize the images already on your website. Most importantly, once installed, you won’t have to worry about image size ever again.
20. Simple Image Widget
Active Installs: 70,000+ || Rating: 4.4/5 (29)
Certain webmasters may require to add images to sidebars. Things such as calls-to-action, ads or sliders are easily achieved with Simple Image Widget. It’s a user-friendly, easy-to-use, clean-coded plugin that integrates well with WordPress. Also, its template loader solution is a great addition.
21. Force Regenerate Thumbnails
Active Installs: 200,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (76)
As previously stated, WordPress is an excellent content management system. Yet one of its shortfalls is the need to regenerate image thumbnails if ever new image sizes are added and removed. That’s where Force Regenerate Thumbnails comes in handy, as it rebuilds all existing thumbnails and deletes those that are no longer needed. So if your site uses custom image sizes, if you change themes or change your image sizes, this plugin is a definite must-have.
22. Seriously Simple Podcasting
Active Installs: 8,000+ || Rating: 5/5 (46)
Where podcasting is concerned, you surely have multiple options in the repository. Even so, there’s one particular option that simply excels at delivering exactly what any serious podcaster would expect from such a plugin.
For one, Seriously Simple Podcasting will handle things like generating an iTunes RSS feed, include the podcast player in your post content as well as provide audio file hosting either on third party services or directly on the site. Moreover, you can run multiple podcasts on the same site, in which case, each podcast will feature its own RSS feed.
23. Cue by AudioTheme
Active Installs: 4,000+ || Rating: 4.8/5 (18)
Even if WordPress excels in certain areas, there’s one particular aspect that it seems to have neglected: audio. Luckily, there’s a great plugin by AudioTheme designed to push WordPress to its limits and provide your site with the best option for managing audio playlists and allowing your tracks to be used as playlist track sources.
24. Content Aware Sidebars
Active Installs: 20,000+ || Rating: 4.9/5 (66)
From a SEO standpoint, some webmasters may prefer to be in full control of their sidebars, edit the content contained therein or choose which sidebars are displayed and alongside which content. Content Aware Sidebars allow you to manage an infinite number of sidebars and create dynamic and custom sidebars without having to write the code.
Whether you should use multiple sidebars or decide to go with something like Restrict Widgets and manually select where each sidebar appears is another discussion altogether. What’s important is that this plugin is easy-to-use and will not slow down your site.
Active Installs: 300,000+ || Rating: 5/5 (2019)
Content creators may have a hard time presenting their content attractively. Tables, for instance, are great options, and TablePress offers you an easy-to-use solution for embedding them into pages, widgets and posts.
26. Meteor Slides
Active Installs: 90,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (114)
Slides are another exciting way to deliver content. Meteor Slides is a plugin that allows you to create slides with great ease without needing a shortcode, template tag or widget. You have a multitude of navigation and transition options as well as plugin settings, metadata and slideshows.
Active Installs: 6,000+ || Rating: 5/5 (42)
The concept behind Piklist is simple: it builds things. This development framework is a plugin that significantly enhances a developer’s capabilities by providing features such as taxonomy meta, post-to-post relationships, tool building, settings, meta-boxes and many more. So you end up enhancing WordPress without changing it.
28. Google Analytics by Yoast
Active Installs: 1 million+ || Rating: 4/5 (322)
Though we already discussed Yoast above, its Google Analytics plugin is another great tool that can aid you better manage your site. It will provide you with visitor metric dashboards, demographics and interest reports, outbound link tracking as well as multiple other features.
29. Responsive Lightbox by dFactory
Active Installs: 100,000+ || Rating: 4.8/5 (282)
This particular plugin helps users view larger images that appear in lightbox (overlay) effects when accessed via mobile devices. It works great, has multiple customization options and users are able to choose the Lightbox script that they prefer. More importantly, it makes your galleries pop out without the unnecessary burden of other bloated plugins.
30. CoSchedule by Todaymade
Active Installs: 10,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (135)
CoSchedule can be a lifesaver for multi-author blogs. That’s because it makes sure that you’re keeping track of your content creation efforts, including their posting, scheduling and social media promotion. It works as a drag-and-drop calendar, allowing you to drag blog posts from one date to another, so that you can save time and focus on other important tasks.
31. Event Organiser
Active Installs: 30,000+ || Rating: 4.7/5 (92)
Since already on the topic of proper planning, aside from editorial calendars, certain websites may also require event organizers that can keep track of events. Yet with so many options, it’s easy to get lost amid a sea of bloated and confusing plugins. Luckily, Event Organiser is nothing like that. It has actually become one of the most useful and versatile plugins in the repository.
Its event management issues integrate well with WordPress and they use your site’s “custom post type” to create events with an identical functionality as posts. Complex features will also allow you to manage events assign venues or repeat them in accordance to necessities.
Best WordPress Plugins for Local Businesses
Bringing in local search traffic is essential to your business and WordPress has improved significantly in that department over the years. Consider some of the following plugins if you own a local business and hope to improve your local search traffic stats:
32. Business Profile
Active Installs: 2,000+ || Rating: 4.8/5 (8)
The best ways to ensure that your website is the home-base for your business is to employ schema.org data Business Profile is an excellent plugin in that respect. It’s easy to use and quickly inhances your business’ SEO.
33. Google Places Reviews
Active Installs: 3,000+ || Rating: 4.1/5 (14)
Speaking of enhancing your local business’ presence, real reviews are great tools that boost consumer confidence and trust. If your business is a franchise, real estate firm, hotel, restaurant or retail store, this particular plugin will do wonders. It allows reviews to be featured on your WordPress website.
34. Yelp Widget Pro
Active Installs: 5,000+ || Rating: 4.1/5 (17)
Yelp is a godsend for thousands of local businesses. Countless customers use Yelp to find particular businesses they’re interested in, so making sure that you have a high Yelp rating is a must. The plugin allows you to add business listings, display Yelp profiles, business names, review counts and profile images.
Active Installs: 1 million+ || Rating: 4.5/5 (1,126)
Ecommerce requires finesse. WordPress has slowly grown when it comes to ecommerce, so that millions of sites are now selling products and services via their websites. What WooCommerce does is help you sell beautifully. Store owners have complete control and the plugin’s feature set is absolutely awe-inspiring. One issue to be mindful of, though, is that WooCommerce involves a decent amount of code, so be sure to invest in proper hosting if you want your site speed to remain unaffected.
Now the list is by no means exhaustive and some of your favorite plugins may have been left out. If you’ve found this list useful or if you think we may have overlooked some great plugins, please let us know in the comments.