One of the best things about WordPress is that you have the option to install additional plugins to enhance its functionality. There are plugins to boost speed, increase security, add simple forms, block spam and much more. Some of the best plugins for WordPress are incredibly simple yet super useful.
If a function isn’t offered in the main install, then you can probably tack it on by installing a plugin. It makes building a comprehensive website incredibly easy, even for people with little to no web development experience.
If you’ve just built a WordPress site recently — or you’re looking to upgrade an existing one — here are the best plugins available right now.
Jump to: Jetpack | Akismet | Everest Forms | Yoast SEO | W3 Total Cache | User Registration | Blog2Social | WooCommerce | TinyMCE Advanced | Smush Image Compression and Optimization | Sucuri | CSS Hero | Google XML Sitemaps | UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin | Nivo Slider | WP-Optimize | Modula | SeedProd | Broken Link Checker | Disable Comments
Jetpack is, without a doubt, the plugin to end all plugins. It’s maintained by the WordPress development team (Automattic) and includes a bevy of additional features and functionality. In other words, it doesn’t just add one thing — it adds several.
Jetpack boosts site security and performance, adds image optimization and social tools, changes some aspects of the site’s appearance and much more. Another excellent feature is the option to publish or share your content across a wide variety of platforms, from Facebook to search engines.
The plugin even incorporates a feature that monitors your site for errors or downtime and will then send you updated alerts. If your site goes down, you’ll know thanks to Jetpack.
Akismet is another must-have out of the best plugins for WordPress. Even though it only adds one thing, it does it exceptionally well. Akismet explicitly blocks spam comments and helps filter out incoming junk on a WordPress install. It makes a moderator or administrators job so much easier.
If you’ve ever used WordPress before, then you know how prevalent spam comments are. You need Akismet to help cut down on the massive influx. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself sorting through thousands of ridiculous comments.
3. Everest Forms
At some point, you’re going to need to include an inline form — like what you’d see on a Contact page. Forms essentially allow you to collect specific sets of data from visitors or customers, which is to be used for, well, whatever you need. You might collect email addresses to sign up users for a newsletter, for example. Or, you might collect contact information for a lead, so you can reach out and propose a sale.
Whatever the case, Everest Forms is a free and fully capable plugin that allows you to quickly and easily create beautiful forms. It uses a simple drag-and-drop interface — no coding required — so anyone can customize and place a form.
It also includes Google reCaptcha support to eliminate spam, editable email settings, redirect options, customizable messages and more.
4. Yoast SEO
To rank in search results — Google especially — you need to be mindful of your site’s SEO. Yoast is a comprehensive SEO plugin that helps you optimize your website, from page to page and post to post. Below the visual editor, you’ll see a Yoast field that coaches you on a variety of SEO-related elements. It helps you build friendly titles, snippets and keywords, and much more.
It will even give you a grade for each component, telling you just how close you are to a fully optimized post or page.
5. W3 Total Cache
As your site grows in size and content, it will naturally start to slow down. W3 Total Cache is a unique plugin that helps boost performance and keep everything running optimally. It builds a temporary cache of your entire site so that when users revisit a page, it’s essentially pre-loaded. The posts and pages are essentially cached by creating a static HTML file, which is then served to visitors.
Not only does it help reduce loading times and improve the entire experience, but it also boosts SEO ratings because the site will load much faster.
6. User Registration
After enabling the registration and membership feature, WordPress allows visitors to register on any site. This can be found under admin > Settings > General.
The problem, however, is that the default user registration system is terrible. It looks terrible, is frustrating and confusing to use, and it doesn’t add much for your users. The aptly named User Registration plugin changes that entirely.
It installs a drag-and-drop user management interface with a vast selection of features beyond what default WordPress is capable of. There are unlimited registration forms, advanced user management tools — like multi-column support — and email alerts.
If you don’t like the social features added in JetPack, then Blog2Social is a great way to enhance that experience. Primarily, it allows you to automate social media publications by cross-posting WordPress content to connected social accounts. You can do custom and scheduling sharing, as well as track everything that’s happening via social media. Everything is curated and accessible from a single dashboard, making the entire process that much easier.
If you want to take your WordPress install and basically convert it into an online storefront, WooCommerce is the plugin for you. Like WordPress, it is open-source and includes a bevy of additional features, extensions and personalization options. It makes the setup of a digital storefront incredibly easy.
Just keep in mind that it also offers premium elements, such as paid themes and extensions, to enhance your experience. But don’t worry — the initial install is free, as is using the plugin.
9. TinyMCE Advanced
A rather simple tool, TinyMCE Advanced adds a bunch of new options to the WordPress dashboard menu, otherwise known as the visual editor toolbar. There are extra rows of buttons, many related to fonts and colors, adding tables, changing visual elements and much more.
In the WordPress settings, you can add some of the unused buttons to your visual editor — or all of them if you like. It just makes working in the default visual editor much easier and more convenient.
10. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
One of the most significant contributors to site slow-downs is a library of oversized, unoptimized images. Bigger resolutions images look much better — of that, there is no question — but they also take up much more storage space and time to load.
With Smush, you can compress, resize and optimize all images on your site in a short period, making the entire site load faster. As expected, this improves the experience for your users but also boosts your SEO rating.
Want built-in security and data protection for your WordPress install? Sucuri is the plugin for you, as it protects from DDoS attacks, malware, XSS, brute force and a variety of other common threats. It also adds a web application firewall to prevent unauthorized access.
It can be a little pricey, but the cost is worth it in today’s climate.
12. CSS Hero
Even with the most user-friendly themes, you’ll have to dive into CSS to customize certain elements. If you don’t know how to code or don’t already understand how CSS works, you’re going to have a rough time. That’s where CSS Hero comes into play — it allows you to customize any theme without actually writing code.
CSS Hero doesn’t use a drag-and-drop interface that you might be used to with most WordPress related plugins. Instead, you customize various elements of your installed theme section by section. But don’t be turned off by that — it’s still incredibly easy and quick to use.
13. Google XML Sitemaps
Another SEO-friendly plugin, Google XML Sitemaps builds sitemaps for your entire website that allow search engines like Google or Bing to index it better. They don’t have to be as thorough crawling your site because the complete structure is provided in the sitemap. It speeds up the entire process, delivers better SEO results and boosts exposure.
14. UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
UpdraftPlus is a backup plugin, as the name implies, that will help you keep the latest version of your site and content stored in the cloud. When your site is working great, it’s not necessary. But when you run into an update problem or your database messes up, you can lose a lot of work.
UpdraftPlus kicks in as soon as you install it on your site. All data and content are backed up seamlessly in the background, with no performance hit to note.
15. Nivo Slider
Pretty much every site uses some form of content or featured image slider that shows the most interesting content right up front. Nivo Slider — or Slider by Nivo — is exactly that, a responsive image slider that promotes your best content.
You can fully customize the slider, different panels or features and build a gorgeous looking carousel. Also, all updates for the plugin are automatic and free.
The WP-Optimize plugin cleans up and optimizes your WordPress database to remove unnecessary data and expired transient options. Once installed, it continues to carry out this process weekly — unless you specify otherwise — to keep your entire site optimized.
Modula is a remarkably lightweight gallery tool that converts the simplistic and bland-looking default WordPress galleries into something truly beautiful. You also have full control over how each gallery looks and operates.
The free version allows for 20 images per gallery, which is great for any basic site. If you need larger galleries, you can always pony up the cash for the premium version.
When your site goes down for maintenance, WordPress displays a rather ugly, default message to visitors. SeedProd upgrades this experience to be more attractive and functional. You can collect email addresses from interested visitors, for example, when they land on a ‘coming soon’ page. It also incorporates social media integration, countdown timers and offers several different page templates out of the box.
19. Broken Link Checker
Over time, you’ll end up with broken or misdirected links especially as your site grows. This happens even to simple blogs as each post on the site is considered a separate page. If you change the slug, broken links. If you update your old content, broken links.
This plugin, Broken Link Checker, will scan your site to find problematic pages. It checks all posts, comments and general content, then notifies you of any discovered problems. It will also find missing images, too.
You can then take action to fix the problem.
20. Disable Comments
By default, WordPress allows you to either enable comments or disable them altogether. The Disable Comments plugin will do just that, but globally for certain parameters. If you don’t want comments on any of your reviews, you can configure that. If you don’t want comments on news posts or previews, that’s possible, too. Just change the settings, and away you go.
It also removes comment-related page elements from any area of your site. You can eliminate them on the admin dashboard, widgets and much more.
The Best Plugins for WordPress
There you have it! Those are the best plugins for WordPress, available to any new or existing site owner. Many of them are free or include a free version. Rest assured, the ones that are premium are well worth the cost.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.