Plugins are like software that extends your WordPress blog. You can use a plugin to improve the look and feel of your blog design or to add new features or functionality to your blog.
Over the years I have tested many of the most downloaded WordPress plugins. Activating a handful of essential plugins is one of the first things I do after starting a new blog.
In this post, you will learn how to install a WordPress plugin to your blog. I will also share some of the best plugins that you must have.
Discover best free plugins in the official plugin directory
There’s a plugin for everything. As of October 2017, there are more than 52,000 free WordPress plugins in the official plugin directory. There have been more than a billion and a half plugin downloads in total.
Take a look at the official directory or see the plugin section of your WordPress blog admin dashboard. Just click on Plugins in the left-hand sidebar of your dashboard and click on “Add New”.
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.
Every plugin features a page with the plugin 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 some of the signs to look out for to find a good WordPress plugin:
- High number of downloads and active installs
- Regular updates and a recent latest update date
- Good ratings and reviews from the users
- Developer that’s accessible and answers user questions
- Compatible with your WordPress blog version
How to install a WordPress plugin on your blog
Most plugins can be implemented to your blog with little hassle. You don’t need to know how to code. Just install a plugin, activate it, and job done.
When you find a plugin that you want to try within your WordPress dashboard, click on the name, and then click on the “Install Now” button.
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 set them up.
If you wish to delete a plugin, go to the “Plugins” section and click on the “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 first.
Keep in mind that adding too many plugins can make your blog heavy and slow to load.
More plugins can also add more security vulnerabilities to your blog. It’s not uncommon to hear about thousands of blogs being exposed to different attacks due to a bad plugin.
It’s also more likely that you could introduce code conflicts between plugins and any custom work you have done on your theme design.
You don’t want your plugins to break your blog or the latest WordPress update to break your plugins.
Make sure you only use plugins that are necessary to achieve a better usability and user experience.
Don’t go overboard installing too many. Keep it simple, light and fast.
Keep an eye on your blog’s 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 blog down: P3 Profiler. Install it to measure the impact of plugins on your page load.
Take a look at my guide for more ways to speed up your WordPress blog.
Now let’s get started with a list of best free and premium WordPress plugins that you should explore:
The mother of all plugins: Jetpack
Jetpack is an all-in-one plugin that offers many features and is created by the folks that make WordPress.
Jetpack is one of the very few plugins I would recommend to any blogger.
Using Jetpack can help you reduce the number of other plugins you need to run on your blog.
By installing Jetpack you can integrate the following features into your blog:
- Akismet anti-spam filter to block and remove spam comments,
- two-step authentication to make your blog login more secure,
- visitor stats to learn about your visitors and how they use your blog,
- contact form to allow people to get in touch with you,
- the ability to automatically share your newly published posts to your social channels,
- social media icons for your sidebar so people can follow your social profiles easily,
- social media sharing buttons so people can share your content,
- related posts so people can explore your blog,
- the ability for users to subscribe to posts and comments,
- mobile responsive design to make your blog looks great on mobile devices,
- infinite scroll to have a more engaging presentation of content,
- advanced spell checking to help you write better content,
- prevent brute force attacks to further secure your blog,
- monitor downtime to alert you when your blog is down,
- CDN to speed up the loading time of your images,
- image gallery to beautiful display your blog photos,
- the ability to automatically update your plugins,
- generate XML sitemaps and help search engines discover your content,
- ability to verify your blog with search engines such as Google.
Do install it and review all the different options before continuing your plugin hunt. Chances are Jetpack will cover all your plugin needs.
50 best WordPress plugins (if you need more than Jetpack)
Here’s the rest of the list of the best WordPress plugins.
I don’t advise you to activate all of these on every blog. Review the list and see if some of these are relevant to your needs.
They are all great and recommended plugins but not all of them are useful for every blog.
On top of the Jetpack plugin, you may only need to add two or three additional plugins from the list below and have all your needs covered.
I’ve tried to include the main use case for each recommended plugin too to help you discover those that will help you the most.
Let’s get started.
WordPress plugins to monetize your blog
Best for selling products or subscriptions: WooCommerce
Use WordPress to create your own online store to sell your products or services. Or to sell subscriptions and memberships. Created by the same people who have created WordPress.
Best for Google Adsense and other banner ads: Ad Inserter
Makes it easy to insert banner ads from Google Adsense and other marketing platforms into your blog content. An alternative to this is Quick Adsense.
Best for selling memberships: Members
Best for affiliate marketing: Linker
Track all the outbound links and clicks on them. Very useful for bloggers using affiliate marketing to monetize their blogs.
Best for accepting donations: PayPal Donations
Some bloggers monetize their blogs by accepting reader donations. This plugin helps you do just that. Add PayPal buttons in your content or the sidebar. An alternative to this is the Patreon button plugin.
WordPress plugins to integrate social media to your blog
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 blogs that feature great imagery (fashion, travel, food blogs).
Best for adding social media sharing buttons: Shareaholic
This is a very extensive and flexible plugin that allows you to easily implement social sharing buttons on your content. Let your visitors spread the word about your content to their networks.
Best for sharing your quotes 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 quotes on Twitter.
Best for getting shares for content access: Social Locker
Use it for PDF reports and similar. It can help increase your social media presence by making your visitors tweet 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.
WordPress plugins for blogs written in multiple languages
Best for multilingual content: Polylang
For all you running multilingual blogs. This plugin makes the process of having multiple versions of your content in different languages very straightforward and user-friendly.
Best for translations: Google Language Translator
Allow translations with a single click between 58 languages on your blog.
WordPress plugins for speeding up your blog
Best for caching 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 blog faster and easier to load. EWWW Image Optimizer is an alternative to this.
Best for loading your pages faster: BJ Lazy Load
For image heavy blogs. 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.
WordPress plugins for tracking visitor data and usage
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 blog.
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.
WordPress plugins to keep visitors longer on your blog
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 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 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 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 pagination: WP-PageNavi
Adds a more advanced paging navigation interface.
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 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 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.
WordPress plugins for search engines optimisation
Best for SEO in general: WordPress SEO by Yoast
A good SEO solution. It combines what two of the most popular plugins ever used to do. It 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 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 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 blog. This plugin makes it a one-click process. An alternative to this is Velvet Blues Update URL’s.
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.
WordPress plugins for blog comments
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. An 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.
WordPress plugins for calls-to-actions and conversions
Best for pop-ups: Scroll Triggered Box
Best for building your email list: Mailchimp for WordPress
This plugin makes it easy to integrate your Mailchimp newsletter to your blog. Easily insert subscribe forms and other calls-to-action in order to get more of your visitors to subscribe to your mailing list.
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 blog design.
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.
WordPress plugins for better content
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 blog. See more on moving your blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.
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 managing a content calendar: CoSchedule
Helps you organise your content calendar and the posting schedule, and take control of your content strategy.
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 blog? 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 and helps you write better. It counts words, the number of times you mentioned a certain keyword, and does a readability analysis of your posts.
Best for podcasting: PowerPress Podcasting
The most popular podcasting plugin for WordPress. Supports iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play and more. Covers all your podcasting needs.
WordPress plugins for backups and security
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 keeping your blog safe: Sucuri
A set of tools here to help you keep your blog secure. Security monitoring, malware detection and more. An alternative to this is Wordfence.
WordPress plugins to improve your blog’s look and feel
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 improving the author box: Fancier Author Box
Give more identity to your single or multi-author blog with nice looking author box at the end of posts.
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 fonts: Easy Google Fonts
This plugin makes it easy for you to use a different font (more than 600 available) to spice up your blog.
Best for responsive sliders: Soliloquy
Nice and simple way to create post and image sliders for your blog.