37 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Know (and Install If You Haven’t Already)
37 Essential WordPress Plugins You Should Know (and Install If You Haven’t Already)
While WordPress offers a ton of features and flexibility, there is still a lot of functionality missing from the core software. The best way to fill in the missing pieces, of course, is to get yourself the right plugins.
WordPress plugins offer all kinds of customization for site admins, however, with almost 40,000 options to choose from it the WordPress Plugin Directory, not to mention all the premium products available, it can be difficult sorting the good from the, well, not so good.
So here’s a collection of free and premium must-haves, the WordPress plugins that can help take your site from good to great. I’ve included options for everything from caching the image optimization to security and membership.
The average visitor to your site won’t wait even eight seconds for your site to load and Google recommends that your site loads within about two seconds.
If your site takes longer than that, then your visitors are likely going to leave before they even have a chance to check out one element on your site. Plus, Google won’t be keen on ranking you higher in search results.
Caching is one of the best ways you can speed up your site since it saves a fast-loading version that gets served up in browsers lickety-split. This is where Hummingbird swoops in for the rescue to take care of this for you. Plus, it’s easy to use.
Hummingbird scans your site, then gives you an analysis of your site. You can see the overall score for your site’s speed, then fix any issues in a couple clicks.
This plugin also goes above and beyond the clouds because it doesn’t just do page caching. Hummingbird also minifies, compresses and merges.
This plugin is like the little birdie that tells your site how to fly as fast as a hummingbird. Pun intended. It’s also included in a WPMU DEV membership and you can try Hummingbird for free with a 14-day trial.
Interested in 1. Hummingbird?
W3 Total Cache is designed to increase the page load speed for WordPress sites, which will improve your visitors’ overall experience.
The plugin helps to increase server performance by reducing download times. By reducing page load times, overall site performance improves which helps your site’s rank in search engines.
W3 Total Cache can also help to improve web server performance during high traffic periods, which is crucial for larger websites.
Interested in 2. W3 Total Cache?
WordPress is a popular choice for creating websites and this makes it a perfect target for hackers because they can create a bot to infect millions of sites without lifting a finger. It’s not a matter of if your site may be targeted, but when.
That’s why staying on top of your security game is so important. If you can set up a good defence, you can protect your site from hackers and the Defender plugin helps you do this and more.
Defender searches your site for vulnerabilities and lets you know if any were found so you can patch them up in a single click. This means installing it can also help you clean up your site if you have been hacked. It also works to harden your site’s security to save you from future disasters in one click. Now that’s a superhero.
The best part is, you can set it and forget it when you enable scheduled scans. On second thought, the best part may actually be that this plugin is included in a WPMU DEV membership and you can also try Defender for free with a 14-day trial.
Interested in 3. Defender?
Jetpack offers a suite of powerful features for your WordPress site. Enhanced security, improved site performance, plenty of content tools, and visitor engagement features are all part of this plugin.
Additional features include spam-free Comments, Social Sharing, Related Posts, Post by Email, and much more.
Jetpack even offers a mobile theme option that is lightweight and responsive, designed for phones and tablets.
Interested in 4. Jetpack?
Akismet helps to filter out any comments on your blog that look like spam. The plugin automatically checks comments against the Akismet Web service.
All comments will have a history for users to view that shows which comments were flagged or cleared by Akismet. In addition, those comments that were marked as spam or unmarked by a moderator will be highlighted in the history.
Interested in 5. Akismet?
Tracking how and when users visit your site is important if you want your site to gain popularity since it gives you the opportunity to see where you can make improvements to your site. Google Analytics is an excellent tool for this purpose and the Google Analytics + plugin brings this information right to your admin dashboard.
Not only can you track visits, page views, bounce rate, average visit duration and referrers, but you can also enable advanced settings to track your site’s demographic and interest for advertising as well as analyze shopping behaviors to boost your products’ performance.
Also, you can easily track statistics for your entire site or network with the quick setup and easy to understand display.
Interested in 6. Google Analytics +?
This must-have plugin will automatically generate an XML sitemap for your site. Having an XML sitemap is crucial in helping search engines better index your blog.
With a sitemap, web crawlers can see the structure of your site and retrieve the results more efficiently.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo will be notified every time you create a post about your new content.
Interested in 7. Google XML Sitemaps?
iThemes Security helps to fix common holes in your WordPress site from potential automated attacks. Many WordPress administrators generally don’t know they have these holes or vulnerabilities, but iThemes Security can help.
Because of unknown vulnerabilities from other installed plugins, your site can be an easy target for attacks. iThemes Security works to identify and protect these holes in your site.
Interested in 8. iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)?
Multiple contact forms can be created and managed through this plugin. No need for extra coding with the Contact Form 7 plugin, as the form and mail contents can be easily customized through the settings.
The Contact Form 7 also supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, and Akismet filtering to help with spam.
Interested in 9. Contact Form 7?
Backing up your site can save you from a lot of future grief. Did your site just go down? Was your site just hacked? No problem – just restore your site from a backup and it’s as good as new.
But what if your backup was lost, compromised, corrupted or accidentally deleted? Do you have a backup of your backup? Most people don’t, but you don’t have to worry about that with Snapshot Pro.
This plugin can backup your site, but you can also save your backups to multiple locations such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, Google Drive, your computer and more. Backups can also be scheduled so you don’t have to lift a finger to help save your site the next time disaster strikes.
Soon, you’re also going to be able to manage backups and restores remotely from your WPMU DEV Hub while also keeping your backups locked away securely on our cloud. It all comes with the benefits of membership and you can also try out Snapshot Pro free for 14 days.
Interested in 10. Snapshot?
When you’re running a WordPress site and a business at the same time, you know looking professional is important and just as crucial as your content and products. That’s why being able to turn WordPress into a white labeling machine is a great idea.
You could replace the WordPress logo for your own, customize the admin bar and add your own company name to achieve consistent branding across your site. This plugin can do all this and more.
You can completely customize the admin bar, login page, footer, dashboard and everywhere else WordPress logos and branding appears. You can even add your branding to even more places than that. Plus, you don’t have to touch any code.
It’s easy to set up and use and it works across your entire Multisite network or your single install of WordPress.
Ultimate Branding is the only branding plugin you need to turn a WordPress site into your company’s site.
Interested in 11. Ultimate Branding?
If your business needs to schedule appointments, consultations or even meetings, a pen and planner isn’t enough. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and double book clients. It’s far easier and more efficient to streamline your appointments digitally and Appointments + can handle that.
This plugin also lets users book and even pay for appointments themselves. You can choose to have your clients book an appointment for free, pay a deposit or pay in full. You can also fully customize this plugin’s styles and how appointments are booked with shortcodes, widgets and over 20 add-ons.
Clients can also add the appointment to their schedule with Google Calendar integration. You can even enable social media logins to make it even easier for clients to book an appointment without having to fill out every single detail since their information is captured automatically.
You also have the flexibility of being able to add in your entire staff including their schedules so users can choose a staff member for their appointment or just a service.
It installs as easy as most other plugins and is compatible with single and Multisite installations of WordPress. If you want to give Appointments + a try, there’s a free version available on WordPress.org.
Interested in 12. Appointments +?
When trying to sell products on your site, it’s important to choose the right solution since you want the shopping experience to be easy and delightful for your customers, while also being easy for you to manage. Not only that, but making sure you have all the tools you need to run a successful online store is also a must.
That’s where MarketPress comes in. It gives your customers a delightful user experience while simultaneously integrating with your site and its pre-existing styles. MarketPress also makes it easy to manage your sales, inventory, shipping requirements and products. You can even manage an eCommerce network.
It also comes with everything you need to sell physical, digital or external items without needing to resort to installing other plugins to take care of important tasks. MarketPress can handle it all, including VAT tax requirements, coupons, discounts, product variations, one-page checkout, PDF invoices, 16 built-in payment gateways and a heck of a lot more. You can even let your customers pay with points they acquire on your site for crying out loud.
With MarketPress, you can sell anything. It’s also a piece of cake to set up and use which is also nice. You can try the free version of MarketPress at WordPress.org.
Interested in 13. MarketPress eCommerce?
Managing users can be a bit tricky, especially when you want to customize the user experience and what they have access to on your site. Membership 2 Pro can do this, plus offers every feature you could need to run a scalable membership site.
Membership 2 Pro can do it all. You can offer free or paid memberships, present content over time, offer free trials, customize the registration form or protect anything on your site from posts and media to plugins and categories. You can also customize or assign the default user roles and use shortcodes to protect anything else including only parts of a page or post.
All the add-ons you need are already in the plugin and just need to be enabled. You can direct users to a certain page after logging in and out and also turn on invoicing and Taxamo to take care of EU VAT laws.
Membership 2 Pro works with both single and Multisite installs of WordPress integrates with BuddyPress and it’s also a cinch to set up and use. It’s definitely on the “easiest plugins to use” list somewhere toward the top. You can try the free version, called Membership 2, on WordPress.org.
Interested in 14. Membership?
Pro Sites is a powerful plugin that we developed and use ourselves to help us manage subscriptions, capabilities, and memberships. You can also use Pro Sites to create a network of sites like WordPress.com or Edublogs.org that have paid upgrades for blogging and creating sites.
It’s specifically designed for Multisite networks and can integrate with BuddyPress. If you’re looking to limit user access, set a quota and even offer paid upgrades for storage space, uploads, domain mapping, publishing posts, offering support, plugins, themes and more, this is the plugin you need.
You can also view rich statistics and analytics as well as easily manage memberships and subscriptions. Setting up paid subscriptions is easy, but you can also offer free membership levels, free trials, discounts and coupons as well.
It’s customizable from payment screens to full-on branding, creates pricing tables for you, includes four payment gateways, takes care of VAT requirements and can automatically process cancellations and refunds. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. It’s a trusted plugin that you can use for your network and business.
Interested in 15. Pro Sites?
You work hard creating phenomenal content to draw visitors to your site, but are you really drawing in all the users you could be? Good SEO practices can help, but you can go much further with SmartCrawl.
This plugin makes your site more visible to search engines by informing web crawlers when your site has important content that needs registering instead of waiting for web crawlers to find you.
On top of that, SmartCrawl can create a sitemap, customize how your titles and descriptions appear on search engines, add automated keyword linking and you can also view industry leading reports by Moz.
On top of all that, setting up and using SmartCrawl is quick and easy with the setup wizard. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can do it for free with a 14-day trial or with a WPMU DEV membership.
Interested in 16. Smartcrawl?
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The Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) can display a list of posts or pages that relate to the current post. This feature provides a great opportunity for your readers to see other relevant content from your site.
Users have the option of displaying only content found on their site or can make extra money by displaying sponsored content.
Interested in 17. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin?
Uploading images to use on your site and in posts is an excellent way to grab your visitors’ attention, but they do weigh down your site. They take up a lot of storage space, but most importantly, they slow down your site. Fortunately, you can compress your images to take care of that problem.
WP Smush Pro has been benchmarked as the best image compression and optimization plugin. Not only that, but it works in a way that saves storage space and helps your site load faster without reducing the quality of your images.
You can compress and optimize images automatically, manually or in bulk and also Super Smush for 10 times the compression power while still not losing out on image quality. It also integrates with NextGEN and WP Retina 2x so photographers need not worry about displaying crisp, stunning images.
You can try the free version of WP Smush on WordPress.org or try out the premium version for free with a 14-day trial. If you’re already a WPMU DEV member, you already have access to WP Smush Pro so you can check it out and see how easy it is to use and maybe even boast that your site has superpowers.
Interested in 18. WP Smush Pro?
BJ Lazy Load can help your WordPress site load faster and save bandwidth. By replacing most images on your site with a placeholder, the plugin loads the content as it gets close to entering the browser screen when a visitor scrolls the page.
The plugin works for all post images, thumbnails, gravatar images, and content iframes. Other images within your site can also be included by using a delivered function.
Interested in 19. BJ Lazy Load?
Have you ever needed to backup or move an entire WordPress site from one location to another? The Duplicator plugin can duplicate, backup, move, and transfer a site.
The plugin can also serve as an easy utility for those administrators looking to backup their sites.
Need to make a clone of your production site for testing purposes? Yep, the Duplicator plugin is perfect for making a backup of a WordPress site for testing and validation.
Interested in 20. Duplicator?
These days, being able to share content on social media is a must and your site’s no exception. You need to empower your visitors to share your posts and pages, and to spread the word about your business by making it easy to share your content.
Floating Social lets you display buttons to let users share your posts and pages by connecting to their social media accounts. The buttons also float on the side of the page so it’s easy for users to see and click on it since it follows them down the page as they scroll.
You’re able to fully customize the styling of the buttons to fit your site’s design and it’s also responsive. You can also choose which social media buttons are displayed so you can show only what your audience uses to make it even easier for them to decide to share.
It’s easy to set up and use, compatible with single and Multisite installs of WordPress and also includes all the major social media sites. You can also choose to show the sharing buttons on all posts and pages or you can limit them to specific posts, pages or post types.
Interested in 21. Floating Social?
Relevanssi can replace the default search option on your site where results are sorted in order of relevance, instead of by date.
The plugin is customizable so that it can be setup to do fuzzy matching on partial words. Content can be found by matching on just one search term or it can be required that all words be found.
There is a free version of Relevanssi that supports a single site, while the premium version offers multi-site support along with other features.
Interested in 22. Relevanssi?
Broken Link Checker monitors the links found in your posts, pages, comments, blogroll, and more. The plugin identifies any broken links that no longer work, missing images, or any redirects.
Once broken links are identified on your site, links can be edited directly from the plugin page to avoid manually updating each post.
Interested in 23. Broken Link Checker?
The Disable Comments plugin enables administrators to globally control comments on their site. Comments can be disabled according to post type, on pages, attachments, etc.
This plugin works well if you want to disable comments on certain post types or on your entire site. However, if you plan to selectively disable comments on individual posts, then this function is better handled directly through WordPress.
Interested in 24. Disable Comments?
The Regenerate Thumbnails plugin enables you to regenerate thumbnails for image attachments. You have the option to regenerate the thumbnails for all image uploads, individual images, or specific multiple image uploads.
This plugin is very helpful if you have altered any of your thumbnail dimensions or have changed to a new theme that features different image dimensions.
Interested in 25. Regenerate Thumbnails?
Easy Updates Manager enables you to manage all of your WordPress updates for a single site or Multisite install. There are tons of settings included within the plugin making it highly customizable.
Features include options to automatically update WordPress major and minor releases. Site administrators can also opt to automatically update plugins, themes, and much more.
Interested in 26. Easy Updates Manager?
Redirection can help manage 301 redirects and keep track of 404 errors without digging into .htaccess files. This plugin can be very useful if you are migrating pages from a different website and changing the directory structures of your WordPress installation.
A redirection can be setup to pass a URL through to another page, file, or website. Any URL can be redirected, not just those that no longer exist.
Interested in 27. Redirection?
With TablePress, you can easily create tables that can be embedded into posts, pages, or text widgets by using a Shortcode. No special coding is necessary as table data can be entered directly into a spreadsheet interface.
Tables can contain any type of data, including formulas. Sorting, pagination, and filtering add additional functionality for TablePress. Tables can also be imported and/or exported from/to Excel, CSV, HTML, and JSON formats.
Interested in 28. TablePress?
Edit Flow makes it easy to communicate with your team members directly within WordPress. It can be customized to fit your specific workflow needs.
Features include a calendar that offers a view of your scheduled content. Custom statuses can be created to define specific stages of your editorial workflow. Writers and editors can have private discussions through editorial comments all from within WordPress.
Interested in 29. Edit Flow?
The Advanced Custom Fields plugin gives WordPress users the flexibility to visually create custom fields for their site.
Custom field input types include: text, textarea, wysiwyg, image, file, page link, post object, relationship, select, checkbox, radio buttons, date picker, true/false, repeater, flexible content, and gallery.
Interested in 30. Advanced Custom Fields?
The WP Mail SMTP plugin reconfigures the WordPress delivered mail function to use SMTP. It offers a setup page that enables you to configure various email options. These options include specifying an SMTP host and SMTP port, specifying the from name and email address for outgoing mail, setting SMTP username and password, and more.
Interested in 31. WP Mail SMTP?
Gallery offers tools that will assist in adding and editing images for different views on your site that are 100% responsive. Photo galleries and albums can be easily added to posts and pages within WordPress as well as to multiple widgets.
The plugin can also make it easy to rename, upload, remove, and copy images in just a few steps. Image descriptions and tags can also be added through this tool.
Interested in 32. Gallery?
The All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin can help give search engines a useful summary of your content to display. These useful snippets of information for your content can help you stand out from your competition.
The plugin supports the following content types: review, event, people, product, recipe, software application, video, and articles.
Interested in 33. All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets?
The Fast Secure Contact Form plugin enables you to easily create and add forms to your WordPress site. Multiple forms can be created with an option to redirect visitors to any URL once the message is sent.
Contact forms created by this plugin can easily be customized to fit your site. Extra fields of any type can be added, including: text, textarea, checkbox, checkbox-multiple, radio, select, select-multiple, attachment, date, time, hidden, password, and fieldset.
The plugin also includes CAPTCHA and Akismet support to help block spam.
Interested in 34. Fast Secure Contact Form?
Display Widgets enables you to change your sidebar content for different pages, categories, and more. No more extra coding is required to create multiple sidebars for different scenarios on your site.
All you need to do is click a checkbox on or off for where you want widgets to display or be hidden.
Interested in 35. Display Widgets?
Black Studio TinyMCE Widget enables you to insert rich text and/or media objects directly into your sidebars without any HTML coding through a visual editor.
As a default, WordPress text widgets lack the editor capabilities that are offered in posts and pages. The Black Studio TinyMCE Widget overcomes these limitations by providing a clean visual interface to add media and text.
Those that prefer to switch from a visual editor to HTML (like posts and pages) also have that option.
Interested in 36. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget?
By default, WordPress keeps all your deleted posts, pages, comments and all your post revisions, spam comments, unused tags and the like. Until you manually flush your site from all of these excess items, they stick around, bloating and slowing down your site.
The free Optimize Database plugin purges your database from all the extra table data you don’t need including other stray data such as orphan postmeta items and expired transients. You can choose exactly what you want removed so you don’t accidentally delete items you want to keep.
Once your database is all cleaned up, it gets to work optimizing your database for an even smoother running site.
It’s Multisite compatible so you can network activate the plugin and lets you clean and optimize your database in one click each. You can even schedule your database to be automatically optimized on a regular basis so you can keep your database running like a well-oiled machine without having to worry about it.
Interested in 37. Optimize Database?