Plugins are apps that extend the functionality of WordPress. You can use a plugin to improve the look, feel, and features of your site.
As of October 2016, there are 47,000 plugins in the official WordPress directory. There have been one and a half billion downloads in total. There’s a plugin for everything.
Most plugins are free and can be implemented with little hassle. You don’t need to know how to code. Just install, activate, and job done.
Over the years I have tested many of the most downloaded plugins. Activating a handful of essentials is one of the first things I do after starting a new blog.
Browse through thousands of plugins in the official directory
Take a look at the official directory or see the plugin section of your WordPress admin. Just click on Plugins in the left-hand sidebar.
There you have a list of featured plugins. You can also view “Popular” (most downloaded plugins), and “Recommended” (according to the other plugins you have installed) lists. There’s also the search box for deeper discovery.
Each plugin features a page with description, number of active installs, the user rating, and last updated date. To learn more about a particular plugin you can also view screenshots, FAQ and the reviews. These are signs of a good plugin:
- High number of downloads and active installs
- Regular updates and recent updates
- Good ratings and reviews from the users
- Developer that’s accessible and answers questions in the forum
- Compatible with your WordPress version
Installing a WordPress plugin
When you find a plugin that you want to try, click on the name, and then “Install Now”.
Click on “Ok” in the pop-up window to finish the install process. When the installation is complete, click on “Activate Plugin”.
The new plugin is now live. Most plugins will work out of the box as soon as you activate them. Some will need you to go through the “Settings” section to be ready.
If you wish to delete a plugin, go to the “Plugins” section, and click on “Installed Plugins”. Click on “Deactivate”, then click on “Delete” to remove the files. On the next page, click on “Yes, delete these files”.
Mo plugins mo problems?
A word of warning. Adding too many plugins can make your site heavy and slow to load. Make sure you only use plugins that are necessary to achieve a better usability and user experience. Don’t go overboard. Keep it simple.
Keep an eye on the speed and performance. If a plugin is not what you expected or you no longer use it, just delete it. There’s even a plugin that will help you find plugins that slow your site down: P3 Profiler.
Install it to measure the impact on your page load. Take a look here for more ways to speed up your WordPress site.
Now let’s get started with a list of best plugins that you should take a look at:
The mother of all plugins: Jetpack
Jetpack offers many features and is created by the folks that make WordPress. Using Jetpack helps you reduce the number of other plugins you need to run. Integrated features include:
- Akismet anti-spam filter to remove spam comments,
- two-step authentication to make your site more secure,
- site stats to learn about your visitors,
- infinite scroll to have a more engaging presentation of content,
- contact form to allow people to get in touch with you,
- mobile responsive design to make your site looks great on mobile devices,
- social media icons for your sidebar so people can follow you easily,
- social media sharing buttons so people can share your content,
- related posts so people can explore your site,
- ability for users to subscribe to posts and comments,
- prevent brute force attacks to further secure your site,
- spell checking to help you write your content,
- monitor site downtime to alert you when your blog is down,
- CDN to speed up the loading time of images and photos,
- image gallery for beautiful display of your photos,
- … and much more.
Best for multilingual content: Polylang
For all you running multilingual blogs and sites. This plugin makes the process of having multiple version of your content in different languages very straightforward and user-friendly.
Best for selling products: WooCommerce
Use WordPress to create your own online store and sell your products. Created by the same people who have created WordPress.
Best for search engine optimisation: WordPress SEO by Yoast
A good SEO solution. It combines what two of the most popular plugins ever used to do: helps you optimize your on-page SEO (META Title, Description and Keywords) and generates an XML sitemap for search engines to easier find and index your content.
Best for thanking commenters: Comment Redirect
Redirect your first-time commenters to a page of your choice. Thank them. Ask them to subscribe to you. This can help turn a first-time visitor into a fan. Alternative to this is Thank Me Later that sends a ‘thank you’ email to your commenters.
Best for attracting bloggers to comment: CommentLuv
Encourage more comments by rewarding your visitors by automatically placing a link to their last post at the end of their comment. This works especially well if your visitors are bloggers themselves.
Best for welcoming visitors: What Would Seth Godin Do
Allows you to display a particular message on top of the screen to your new, first time visitors only.
Best for tracking visitor data: Google Analytics
This plugin makes it easy for you to insert your Google Analytics code and start tracking your visitors. Learn more about Google Analytics and how tracking data helps you run a better site.
Best for tracking search box usage: Search Meter
This tracks what your visitors search for in your “search” field. You can know what your visitors are looking for and what they find. Can help you make your design more usable and give you some topic ideas to cover.
Best for speeding up your blog: W3 Total Cache
It dramatically improves the speed by using cache as well as Minify and content delivery network (CDN). It helps your server handle a higher load without crashing.
Best for optimizing the database: WP-Optimize
Allows you to clean up and optimize your database to make it run better. You can also remove all your post revisions automatically.
Best for reducing the image size: WP Smush.it
This plugin reduces your image files size automatically and makes your site faster and easier to load. EWWW Image Optimizer is an alternative to this.
Best for loading your site faster: BJ Lazy Load
For image heavy sites. Only load images that are in the browser’s view (i.e. above the fold) and load the rest only as the visitor scrolls down the page.
Best for backing up your files: BackWPUp
On-demand backup. It can also backup in an automated schedule. It allows you to save the database backup to your computer, in the cloud or get it sent via email.
Best for discovering broken links: Broken Link Checker
When you start posting often, you will soon have so many posts and pages that it will be hard to manually check them one by one. This plugin automatically checks all your content and informs you of any broken links.
Best for importing content: WordPress Importer
Imports posts, pages, comments, custom fields, categories, tags and more from a WordPress.com export file into your self-hosted site. See more on this process here.
Best for redirecting different URL’s: Redirection
Manages 301 redirections and keeps track of 404 errors in a very simple interface without you needing access or experience with .htaccess files.
Best for managing members of your site: Members
A user, role, and content management tool that makes WordPress a more powerful CMS. It’s especially useful for multi-author sites.
Best for mass-changing links: Search and Replace
This one can save you a lot of time. For example, if you have moved the domain name and now want to change all the internal links throughout your site. This plugin makes it a one-click process. Alternative to this is Velvet Blues Update URL’s.
Best for converting post types: Post Type Switcher
Have you ever been in a situation where you’d like to convert a page into a post? Or a post into a page? This plugin is perfect for those cases. Makes the process very simple directly from your dashboard.
Best for Pinterest: Pin It Button For Images
Displays a Pin It button directly over your images and helps you drive traffic from Pinterest. Perfect for sites that feature great imagery (fashion, travel, food blogs).
Best for allowing visitors to share on Twitter: Better Click To Tweet
Allows you to insert “click to tweet” boxes into your content and prompt your visitors to share more of your posts on Twitter.
Best for getting shares in exchange for access: Social Locker
When used for PDF reports and similar, it can help increase your social media presence by making your visitors tweet, plus one, or Facebook like to get access to the content.
Best for tracking social shares: Social Metrics Tracker
Easy overview of how many shares your content has got on the different social media networks.
Best for managing a content calendar: CoSchedule
Helps you organise your content calendar and the posting schedule, and take control of your content strategy.
Best for keeping your blog safe: Sucuri
A set of tools here to help you keep your blog secured. Security monitoring, malware detection and more. An alternative to this is Wordfence.
Best for pagination: WP-PageNavi
Adds a more advanced paging navigation interface.
Best for customized sidebars: Custom Sidebars
Create your own custom widgetized areas and sidebars. Allows you to pick on which pages a certain sidebar should show.
Best for browser push notifications: OneSignal
Your visitors can opt-in to receive browser push notifications from you. This plugin works for Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers.
Best for alerts on top of the screen: Notification Bar
A quick and easy way to send alerts and other calls to action on the top of your site design.
Best for improving the author box: Fancier Author Box
Give more identity to your single or multi-author website with nice looking author box at the end of posts.
Best for sticky widgets: Q2W3 Fixed Widget
Allows you to put in a sticky widget in your sidebar so it scrolls through alongside the visitor. This helps you never have any blank space in your sidebar.
Best for table of contents: Table of Contents Plus
Automatically creates a table of contents for your long form posts and allows you to display it in a beautiful and user-friendly way.
Best for affiliates: Linker
Track all the outbound links and clicks on them. Very useful for bloggers using affiliate marketing to monetize their sites.
Best for improving the navigation: Max Mega Menu
Boost your navigation menu with this mega menu and fly out menu. It’s responsive, retina and touch ready.
Best for embedding video: Fluid Video Embeds
If you are a video blogger and work a lot with video embeds, this plugin is a big time saver. It auto resizes your videos to full-width and keeps the original aspect ratio.
Best for fonts: Easy Google Fonts
Most premium themes allow you to change fonts, but if you don’t run a premium theme, this plugin makes it easy for you to use a different font (more than 600 available) to spice up your site.
Best for improving the search: Swiftype Search
This replaces the default search form. It is very much like Facebook or Google search. Upon starting to type a search query, your visitor will get a drop down of different options and results. Comes with detailed analytics and controls.
Best for displaying related content: Yet Another Related Posts
Displays a list of related posts at the end of your articles. Allows customization of the display – you can even show thumbnails of the posts.
Best for responsive sliders: Soliloquy
Nice and simple way to create post and image sliders for your site.
Best for related post flyouts: upPrev
This is a New York Times-style alternative to related posts. It displays a fly out in the bottom right corner of the screen with a related post.
Best for podcasting: PowerPress Podcasting
The most popular podcasting plugin for WordPress. Supports iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and more. Covers all your podcasting needs.
Best for translations: Google Language Translator
Allow translations with a single click between 58 languages on your site.
Best for food recipes: ZipList Recipe
If you run a blog with food recipes this plugin adds all the necessary microdata to your recipes so that they will show up in Google’s Recipe Search.
Best for pop-ups: Scroll Triggered Box
If you’re trying to convert more of your visitors, it’s worth testing pop-up boxes. This plugin offers a beautiful and straightforward solution.
Best for accepting donations: PayPal Donations
Some bloggers monetize their sites by accepting reader donations. This plugin helps you do just that. Add PayPal buttons in your content or the sidebar.
Best for including charts: Visualizer
Make your posts more shareable and social media friendly by creating and adding a variety of interactive charts with this plugin.
Best for showing maps: Leaflet Maps Marker
Need to show maps in your posts? This is a simple and great looking solution that works with Google Maps.
Best for showing future content: Show off Upcoming Posts
This plugin displays your upcoming scheduled posts in a sidebar widget.
Best for frequently asked questions: Quick and Easy FAQs
Do you have a frequently asked questions section of your site? This plugin helps you display it all in a nice and easy format.
Best for analyzing your words: Word Stats
Gives you a quick overview of all the words you have published: counts words, counts the number of times you mentioned a certain keyword, and does a readability analysis of your posts.