I know what you’re thinking. Another “best plugins article” floating around the World Wide Web.
It seems to me (and likely to you too) that every website has a list of the allegedly best WordPress plugins. But I guarantee that by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll have already installed several of these ‘can’t-live-without’ plugins.
Many plugins are clunky and inefficient. Overall, the WordPress plugin world is VERY difficult to navigate, especially if you’re not a PHP developer. The process of determining which plugins are worthwhile is about as fun as watching grass grow.
Here’s a list of 13 great plugins that every business owner should be using with their WordPress website to get the most out of the platform.
In fact, I don’t consider a new WordPress installation to be complete without Akismet installed and activated. Why is this so vital? Well, it’s simple: we all hate spam!
If you’ve ever used a comment board or forum, you know how quickly spam comments start filing in. Hackers and advertisers alike have robust spam bots, crawling the web for places to “comment” because they want their spam links on as many sites as possible. Akismet kills them before they have a chance to do their dirty work.
Akismet monitors and tracks all spam activity across the entire internet (which is not an easy task). They identify spambots’ origination and block them from accessing your site.
If, by chance, a spambot does crawl your site, Akismet servers recognize them as they try to comment. Akismet kills the comment and blocks that spambot from ever visiting your site again (or any other WordPress site that runs Akismet).
If a spambot attacks even one WordPress site (currently running Akismet), the plugin will protect all WordPress sites against that spambot forever.
The team at Akismet has built the most advanced anti-spam service for the WordPress community. They are hell-bent on thwarting the underbelly of the web, and they’re really good at it.
For non-commercial use, Akismet is based on a “name your price” model, so you pay whatever you can afford, if anything. For commercial use, they have multiple packages starting at just $5/month.
If you have a WordPress site, Akismet is a non-negotiable!
2) VISUAL COMPOSER
Visual Composer was developed by WP Bakery, one of the world’s most trusted plugin developers.
It is a powerful, front-end WYSIWYG page builder WordPress plugin that allows you to take full control of your website design and content. It is, by far, the best front-end builder you will likely ever use. It’s so good that many higher-end theme builders have integrated Visual Composer into their themes.
With Visual Composer, you can build any layout imaginable with an incredibly intuitive drag and drop editor.
It’s more robust than the standard WordPress editor and much easier to use. You’ll never need any programming knowledge. And say goodbye to the 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, anyway?).
Buy Visual Composer today for only $34. We promise you’ll love it.
3) CLONE POSTS
One of my biggest complaints about WordPress has long been the fact that there is no native process to duplicate pages or posts.
I used to tear my hair out trying to replicate an existing page, but now, thanks to Clone Posts, there is a solution! This is an exceptionally simple but wonderful plugin. It allows you to clone (or duplicate) any post and/or page in your WordPress site. The Clone Posts plugin is a helpful and easy-to-install tool.
In development, there will inevitably be times when having the ability to “copy and paste” a page will be necessary. The Clone Posts plugin makes that task almost too easy. There are no settings options or tabs with this plugin, but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do.
The straightforward design boasts a simple button that appears next to each page or post title in the respective “Pages” or “Posts” sections of the dashboard.
Depending on the theme and type of post, the Clone Post plugin doesn’t always copy meta properties associated with a post accurately, but it will transfer all content perfectly across any theme or template.
As you may already know, there are two ways to utilize WordPress. One is to use the online platform developed and managed by Automatic, Inc. and hosted at WordPress.com. Automatic, Inc. is the company founded by the guys who originally created WordPress.
The second, and more popular choice, is to manage and self-host your WordPress website, whereby you install the downloaded WordPress framework (managed by the WordPress Foundation at WordPress.org) on your own server/hosting location.
There are certainly pros and cons to each approach. I am a big proponent for self-hosting, but I recognize there are some advantages to utilizing the WordPress.com platform (and chances are we have readers in both camps).
When you’re running a site or blog on WordPress.com, you can take advantage of all sorts of special extra features. These features were previously unavailable to self-hosted users. But then Jetpack came on the scene, and the world of self-hosting WordPress was forever changed.
Jetpack is a plugin that connects your self-hosted WordPress site to the WordPress.com platform managed by Automatic, Inc. This allows your site to utilize many of the features previously exclusive to WordPress.com users.
Self-hosting a WordPress website that runs Jetpack is literally the best of both worlds.
Jetpack includes a whole host of special features. Despite a single install, it feels more like 25 different plugins in one. Jetpack features include the following:
- Traffic analytics. Jetpack allows you to see deeper, more accurate traffic stats from your dashboard. These stats are robust enough to satisfy any reporting needs and are remarkably easy to digest through 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. It includes instant and customizable lightweight, responsive theme options for phones and tablets with better overall mobile responsive elements baked into the WordPress framework.
- Content tools. Jetpack allows access to enhanced typography and styling options, an enhanced WYSIWYG editor, additional creation tools, and the ability to publish and distribute content such as Post by Email, Shortcode Embeds, Markdown, Beautiful Math, Spelling, and VideoPress.
- Visitor engagement. It allows you to utilize enhanced performance tools to increase your traffic and keep visitors coming back with Enhanced Distribution, spam-free Comments, Short links, Likes, Notifications, Related Posts, Publicize, Social Sharing, Subscriptions, and Site Verification Tools.
- Site performance. Jetpack speeds up image delivery with the Photon CDN and access to visitor stats increasing website performance across the board.
- Increased security. You’ll sleep better at night as Jetpack keeps your WordPress site functioning, safe, and protected with Single Sign On, Jetpack Monitor, and a built-in Akismet anti-spam feature.
New features are regularly being developed and added to the Jetpack suite, which is always kept up to date.
You can initially install Jetpack free of charge and unlock many of its features. Most people never need to go beyond this level, because the complementary features are comprehensive enough. However, the Jetpack system also includes several unlockable features for purchase. The pricing for these additional features is variable and, as you’ll discover, VERY reasonable.
Go on, get Jetpack today.
5) CUSTOM PERMALINKS
This plugin is relatively unknown and probably considered nonessential for some users, but we like it a lot.
The Custom Permalinks plugin allows you to layout your website precisely the way you want it and allows you to determine a custom URL, in most structures, for any page, post, portfolio, tag, and/or category.
It also has a simple, built-in redirect that properly auto directs old permalinks to newly defined URL addresses.
Because this plugin is not a replacement for the permalink naming system built into WordPress, some view it as unnecessary. And to be fair, it’s possible that WordPress’ native “Permalinks” settings page can adequately meet your needs to name pages whatever you like.
In that case, we recommend you use the native system (in fact, we always recommend you use a native option over a plugin when it’s sufficient; plugins should only be used to extend WordPress’ functionality where built-in features fall short).
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 format that is not supported natively in WordPress. This is especially useful if you want to include a “parent” category in the naming of a page.
If you format the WordPress permalinks settings like this – “%postname%.html” -then, you’re able to change individual pages’ permalinks from and to anything you want them to be directly from the page itself.
This plugin is free, but as with many plugins, they accept donations. If you love it, show the Custom Permalinks team some love.
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 provides online sellers and merchants with an incredible online store management solution.
According to Built-With, WooCommerce is now the second most popular online store management system on the entire web. WooCommerce is the online store platform of choice for New Balance shoes, Duracell Batteries, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and my favorite pop star, Taylor Swift.
The WooCommerce plugin was developed by Woo Themes, one of the world’s biggest and best development agencies within the WordPress community. Woo Themes was launched and is managed by the same team that launched and manages Automatic, Inc., the inventors of WordPress.
The same people that invented WordPress built this plugin, so are you surprised that the plugin is awesome? Of course not.
WooCommerce gives you complete functional and design control with an array of styling and sales options. It also boasts a secure shopping cart system that links with just about any payment processing system in the world.
As with Jetpack, the basic version of WooCommerce is completely free. Most people never have a need to go beyond this version because its out-of-the-box features are robust and expansive. But, of course, you can buy additional extensions and upgrades to take your eCommerce site to the next level.
7) REALLY SIMPLE CAPTCHA
In my opinion, Really Simple CAPTCHA is the best CAPTCHA plugin.
It’s as secure as any CAPTCHA out there, but easier and simpler to use. It ensures that only real humans are filling in your web 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 available, and was developed by the popular, Chinese PHP development agency Rock Lobster, LLC. However, Really Simple CAPTCHA is now interfaces with many different plugins across numerous themes.
Unlike many CAPTCHA solutions, Really Simple CAPTCHA does not use PHP Sessions for storing states, but stores states as temporary files. This allows you to embed it in your WordPress site without having to worry about conflicts.
8) YOAST SEO
Yoast SEO is an absolute must if you want to attract attention from Google.
Technically speaking, Yoast is not a single plugin but rather a series of plugins. Yoast’s primary plugin has both a standard and premium version, but also be sure to check out their excellent video and WooCommerce products.
Yoast products allow for robust website optimization. It is essential that each piece of your posted content be strategically crafted to maximize your website’s ability to be seen, archived, and retrieved by Google.
Yoast products allow you to add titles, descriptions, custom taxonomy, and other pertinent metadata to any post content; and added in such a way that the post is more likely to be seen as attractive content by Google. If Google prefers a certain piece of content to other similar, but typical pieces, then that particular post is more likely to achieve higher Google rankings.
The Yoast family of plugins also has built-in “page-analysis” tools to determine if your post is web-ready.
Additionally, the core Yoast SEO plugin has 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 across all different types of websites.
9) WP USER AVATAR
This is another incredibly simple plugin, but it adds 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, which is a decent service but cumbersome to manage on a third-party site and limiting if you’d prefer to only store those photos locally on your site.
In my opinion, this is a silly limitation from WordPress, and I’d be willing to bet that they will eventually change this. But until they do, WP User Avatar provides the desired flexibility for using avatars, which is especially helpful for author bio boxes.
With WP User Avatar, you can upload any photo into your Media Library, with a specified size or thumbnail, to use as an avatar.
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 they do; W3 TOTAL CACHE is not one of those plugins.
If you’re not familiar with cache or the process of caching, it’s essentially the process by which your computer saves files locally when it accesses any website you visit. If your computer can cache a website efficiently, you will be able to access that website faster.
W3 Total Cache forces any browser on any computer to cache your WordPress website in the most efficient way possible.
It does this by configuring the browser caching and compression techniques for faster downloads (the details of this process are too technical to break down here, but suffice to say, this plugin does this very well).
This leads to your site loading up to 10x faster. This increases the quality of your users’ experience, but it also improves 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 loading speed matters…a lot.
W3 Total Cache plugin optimizes your website’s overall performance, efficiency, and speed. This plugin is definitely a must-have.
11) GALLERY BANK
It allows you to create elegant and beautiful photo gallery albums with images and videos using various layouts, special effects, and animations.
This is an advanced plugin for adding and editing images and albums from a list of tools and options including diverse views such as Masonry, Thumbnails, Blog, Filmstrip and many more.
It easily adds image galleries and albums to posts and pages. The galleries and albums can be built into responsive elements that are perfect for mobile devices.
The plugin features an amazing dashboard, easily integrates with social media platforms, widgets, and sidebars, has several lightbox options, over 200 special effect options, and is even multilingual, when needed.
There are countless free and inexpensive gallery options out there, but very few boast as many features as Gallery Bank and even fewer boast the same broad compatibility across multiple theme options.
There is a free, basic version of the Gallery Bank plugin as well as several premium options, starting as low as $34.
12) GRAVITY FORMS
It may seem odd to promote this plugin being that I mentioned Contact Form 7 earlier in this article.
However, Gravity Forms is our preferred forms plugin. Contact Form 7 is a very popular and functional free option, but when it comes down to it, Gravity Forms just has more features that make it better for web developers and business minds 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 worldwide.
Gravity Forms easily integrates with several popular web applications and online services. It also plays well with all major payment gateways for innovative forms being used with any kind of paywall.
Bottom line: this plugin helps you easily and quickly create friendly contact forms for your WordPress website.
It has a user-friendly admin interface, making it simple to use while never compromising the number of options available (and that’s a combination we love). Any type of online form can be added and integrated with Gravity Forms.
It allows for the creation of a web directory, online surveys, feedback forms, and much more.
This fantastic option for forms starts at $39. Make sure to check it out.
This plugin is not nearly as well known as most on this list (and may not be as essential to some website managers as the others), but it offers a smooth and simple service that no other plugin can perform.
Imsanity automatically resizes large image uploads to a reasonable size for displaying in the browser, yet still large enough for typical website use.
This plugin is very simple but very powerful, especially for our web development team. We love it because it removes the guesswork for many of our clients who may or may not understand how to properly resize or optimize photos and images for the web.
Once we’ve finished developing a WordPress site, we typically hand it over to the client’s in-house staff for maintenance and management. Often, 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 images still look good and serve their purpose.
This also allows us to reduce the memory storage space used by each image, which helps images load faster on the site.
We’ve all heard the stories of servers crashing because a site exceeded size and bandwidth limits with tens of thousands of improperly sized images (either too big in size or resolution). This plugin ensures that will never be your story.
The Imsanity plugin is configurable with a maximum width, height, and quality. If a 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 resize it. It replaces the original image with the scaled down version, but intuitively never sacrifices image quality.
As an additional option, you can choose to have Imsanity convert bitmap files to JPEGs to ensure the image is scaled properly.
Okay, wow. That was a lot of information on WordPress 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 thought I did…or maybe it just goes to show that these 13 plugins are truly the crème de la crème.
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 are literally millions of WordPress plugins on the market. And I’d be willing to bet that there are ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ plugins that I’ve never heard of before.
If there’s a great plugin I missed that you believe should be featured in our next plugin article, tell me about it in the comments below. We’ll check it out!