10 Must Have WordPress Plugins and 3 You Can Live Without
There are thousands upon thousands of WordPress plugins available to download for free from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. Yet surprisingly enough, the top 30 most popular WordPress plugins come with their fair share of mixed reviews. Some plugins are extremely essential and trustworthy, whereas others have excellent counterparts with enough pros to make choosing the best WordPress plugin debatable.
I created my top 10 WordPress Plugin list below, and even went as far as making a top 3 least favorite list, but before you jump to that check the 30 most popular WordPress Plugins to date as of January 18, 2015. A combination of the high number of downloads and user star rating determined the most popular WordPress plugins.
|No.||30 Most Popular WordPress Plugins||Version||Last Updated||Downloads||Avg. Star Rating|
|2||Contact Form 7||4.0.3||2014-12-14||23,205,347||4 stars|
|3||All in One SEO Pack||126.96.36.199||2015-1-7||21,256,608||3 stars|
|4||Jetpack by WordPress.com||3.3||2014-12-15||13,844,360||3 stars|
|5||WordPress SEO by Yoast||1.7.1||2014-11-26||15,122,062||4 stars|
|6||Google Analytics by Yoast||5.2.8||2015-1-8||7,643,481||4 stars|
|7||iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)||4.5.10||2015-1-12||3,912,484||4 stars|
|8||WooCommerce – excelling eCommerce||2.2.10||2014-12-16||5,781,887||4 stars|
|9||Google Analytics Dashboard for WP||4.4.2||2015-1-12||1,748,044||4 stars|
|10||WordPress Importer||0.6.1||2014-10-16||9,283,090||3 stars|
|11||Google XML Sitemaps||4.0.8||2014-11-15||16,214,424||4 stars|
|13||Page Builder by SiteOrigin||2.0.5||2015-1-12||1,165,457||4 stars|
|14||WP Smush.it||1.7||2015-1-14||1,073,680||4 stars|
|15||Wordfence Security||5.3.4||2014-12-21||4,354,386||4 stars|
|16||NextGEN Facebook – Advanced Social Media||7.7.5||2015-1-15||1,032,531||4 stars|
|17||MailChimp for WordPress||2.2.2||2015-1-13||892,378||4 stars|
|18||NextGEN Gallery||188.8.131.52||2014-12-18||11,704,084||3 stars|
|20||TinyMCE Advanced||4.1.7||2014-12-18||4,614,087||3 stars|
|21||Really Simple CAPTCHA||184.108.40.206||2014-12-17||2,956,088||4 stars|
|22||W3 Total Cache||0.9.4.1||2014-12-10||4,325,493||4 stars|
|23||WordPress Social Sharing Optimization||2.7.5||2015-1-15||859,259||4 stars|
|24||Breadcrumb NavXT||5.2.0||2015-1-10||1,764,750||4 stars|
|25||WPtouch Mobile Plugin||3.6.5||2015-1-8||6,583,520||3 stars|
|27||WP Super Cache||1.4.2||2014-12-18||6,717,259||4 stars|
|30||The Events Calendar||3.9.1||2015-1-15||1,348,032||4 stars|
**Warning: It should be noted that adding too many WordPress plugins can slow your website down. The best tip is to only use plugins that you need, and delete the ones you don’t use. It should also be pointed out that installing WordPress plugins without fully researching the developers could potentially cause harm to your website. Poorly designed plugins can allow access to your website, causing you to get hacked.
Optimize Dude’s 10 Must Have WordPress Plugins
I almost feel I shouldn’t have to explain myself with this one, but for those who are completely new to WordPress it’s simple, Akismet protects you from spam. Every WordPress installation comes with two plugins pre-installed, Akismet is one of them. You will have to take some extra steps to activate it, and it is free despite what looks like a paid set up to get your API Key.
For a complete installation guide check out this super detailed article from WPBeginner.com
2. WP Super Cache
Like I said in the opening paragraph, there are a lot of plugins that all can be considered equal. Some like W3 Total Cache, some prefer other cache plugins; I from my own personal experience like WP Super Cache. I have run tests with about a dozen Cache plugins and found that in a foot race W3 Total Cache can be slightly faster than most, yet I have also run into more problems with W3 Total Cache. Homepage cache problems tend to happen when I use W3 Total Cache and I’ve spent way too much time playing around with settings only to shave off half seconds from my load time. Super Cache on the other hand is easy and effective.
For testing your Website speed you should check out:
- GT Metrix Awesome…love these guys!
- Pingdom Tools Also great, you can test from different servers around the world.
More research on which is better: WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache:
- Speed Comparison of Super Cache and W3 Cache by Bhagwad Park at Web Hosting Hero
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast
Yoast make excellent plugins, you can quote me on that. The detail put into WordPress SEO by Yoast is extremely well thought out, as the goal of the plugin is to not only make optimizing your website easy but to be able to merge everything you need into one kickass plugin.
Each Yoast SEO Plugin update does seem to come with more enhancements to improve their plugin, and the attention to detail in perfecting the features can not be ignored. By using WP SEO by Yoast you eliminate the need for other plugins like XML Sitemaps, Post Meta boxes, and all the other one-feature plugins out there. I recommend using any of their plugins. As for Yoast as a company, I invite you to do further research if you plan to hire them for SEO services.
4. Gravity Forms
Huge fan of Gravity Forms. I’m working on a complete review, and will add a link here when it’s done.
Gravity Forms for WordPress is a full feature contact form plugin that features a drag and drop interface, advanced notification routing, lead capture, conditional logic fields, and the ability to create posts from external forms.
Redirection is a simple but effective WordPress plugin to manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.
Features: Easily map 301 redirects. Custom ‘pass-through’ redirections allow you to pass a URL through to another page, file, or website.
6. Master Slider
I haven’t had to use a lot of sliders in the past, but have found that most slider plugins are bloated with heavy script that can slow down your website. Master Slider is easy to use and looks great on Responsive websites, which I point out is a must have feature in a previous article.
You can watch a full video on Master Slider here.
This plugin might not be for everyone, but I have found it to be helpful for bloggers. Widget Context WordPress Plugin allows you to show or hide certain widgets on specific sections of your site (pages, posts, archives, search, etc.). It also features section targeting by URLs for maximum flexibility.
So let’s say you are pitching a product like Fantasy Football Trophies, you create an awesome article and then promote the product using this plugin by making ads of Trophies that appear just for that page. You could do this with any or all articles/products you are promoting. It allows you to control your sidebars and widgets more effectively.
8. Scroll Triggered Boxes
Scroll Triggered Boxes describes their plugin as the best non-obtrusive call-to-action WordPress plugin. Some would say that being obtrusive is the best way to get email signups. There is a fine balance, almost an artform to avoid pissing off your readers with pop up requests to join newsletters. Scroll Triggered Boxes does a great job in a subtle way of always presenting a non-threatening signup form.
With that being said, if you really want to build your email list you’ll unfortunately have to get in peoples’ faces. By the way, this is a perfect time to mention you should sign up for WordPress Dudes newsletter at the bottom of this article 🙂
9. WP Smush.it
If you can’t get in the habit of compressing your images, WP Smush.it WordPress Plugin will do it for you. I wrote an article about 5 tips on improving website speed, one of which is to crop and compress every image before you upload it to your WordPress site. WP Smush.it does a pretty good job of compressing images, and does it automatically as you upload the image.
10. Capability Manager
Despite the fact this plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years, I love Capability Manager for blogs that have multiple writers or allow guest bloggers. The concept is simple: you create a new User role and dictate what that role can and can’t do. So if I have a team of bloggers, I can give them full control of their own posts, maybe allow them to upload their own images, but not have the ability to publish articles. That way I can edit the article and double check that the post is high quality. Another option is creating a guest blogger role, where a guest blogger can have all the features added to their “about the author” bio at the end of an article, but uploading any image, or publishing content is restricted. This allows you to save time with back and forth emailing a person that wants to guest post. You can simply create a user role on your site for that person and allow them limited access.
There are probably other versions of this plugin, perhaps ones that get updated more often, but for at least a few years now I’ve used this plugin for a website with large staff.
3 WordPress Plugins I DO NOT Recommend
1. Jetpack by WordPress.com
Why WordPress Jetpack is not worth using
Jetpack for WordPress is a meta-plugin (single plugin with several features maintained by one entity) that will give your WordPress site access to over twenty-four known plugins with one install. With it, you can engage with other WordPress users, increase your site’s performance, and rely on updates and enhancements from the same people behind WordPress. But what seems to be a somewhat small boost to your site’s efficiency may just be too overwhelming and all hype. Here are some points to consider that may deter you from downloading/using this plugin:
- Too many features that bloat your site. It is nice to know that with a single plugin you have access to a bunch of features that you may have been using separately from different plugins. However, there are many add-ons that you will not use. Take for example, Beautiful Math that uses LaTex (Lamport TeX), which is a markup language for encoding complex mathematical equations. It may sound impressive to have such an advanced and dedicated form of language for mathematicians on your sites, but how many will actually use them? Another feature worth mentioning is After the Deadline, a Proofreading tool. Though this feature may work amazingly well, especially for grammar nazis, it can be viewed as overkill. There are other features that may seem to be of little use to you. Check out the complete list of the features included before deciding to download Jetpack.
- Pre-activated Add-ons. You may feel that your hands are tied once you install Jetpack since all features are automatically pre-activated. This limits your options to choose a particular feature to use based on your current needs, and you will end up having more resources to configure on your end as an administrator.
- There are certain features that have an alternate stand-alone plugin if you need them. If you find using Jetpack too overwhelming with all the extra clutter it offers, it is a relief to know that there are other options you can use to substitute the functionality Jetpack modules have to offer. Why get one plugin and be forced to use all its features when you can individually choose a few that equally provide the same performance? One example is WordPress.com Stats, which can be substituted by adding Google Analytics.
2. Any Social Media Share Plugin
I’m already predicting someone freaking out at that headline without reading my explanation -lol.
Don’t get me wrong, you definitely NEED social share buttons on your website. Without them your website has little chance of having articles shared on Twitter and Facebook. Adding just the right amount of share buttons and in the perfect spots is important for your website’s success, but you don’t need a plugin to achieve this. I specifically wrote an article with a short video on how to add social media buttons to your website without using a plugin, I suggest you check it out.
3. Contact Form 7
This goes hand in hand with my love of Gravity Forms. If the WordPress plugin Contact Form 7 is working for you without problems, you’re lucky. I hate to use scare tactics, but expect at some point in the future a missing email problem to occur. Simply research the history and heartache of this plugin, and you’ll find people dealing with problems. Personally I don’t get it. If you have a website that offers a service, why would you take the chance of missing out on a potential customer? It seems like a no-brainer to me.
Working on a Gravity forms review, I will add a sample of it here and a link to the article when complete.