But not all plugins are created equal. Some of them have bad coding that messes with your theme. Others are riddled with bugs, making them almost useless in terms of functionality. That’s why we want to highlight the best WordPress plugins so that your website is running at its peak performance at all times.
And we’re sure you’ve heard of the go-to plugins like Jetpack, Contact Form 7, and Yoast, so we’ll spare you the twelfth explanation you’ve heard about those. Instead, we’ll focus on must-have, lightweight, and highly functional plugins that don’t get the chatter they deserve, yet can still be incredibly useful for anyone who wants to launch a blog or website.
These developers, website owners, and business people have specified what they see as the best WordPress plugins, along with why they think so and how they might use them on their own websites.
We talked with a total of 30 experts, all of whom spread some light on these best WordPress plugins, and allowed us to understand what all WordPress users should be thinking about when choosing a plugin.
Here’s the question we asked them:
Without further ado, here’s the leaderboard – the best WordPress plugins that kept popping up the most:
The expert consensus: Best WordPress plugins that every blogger needs, and why they’re so special
1. Pretty Links
- What it does: Pretty Links allows you to take any current and future links on your website and shorten them for a cleaner look. Not only that, but you’re able to track where all of the clicks come from through these links.
- Why you need it: Since bloggers are often inserting affiliate links, it makes sense to shorten them to make them look less messy. If you’ve ever worked with affiliate links, you know how long and intimidating they can appear. The plugin also works great for checking where your visitors are coming from and which links are being clicked on the most.
2. Broken Link Checker
- What it does: The Broken Link Checker plugin does pretty much what the name implies. It constantly scans your website to identify any broken links. Then, you receive a notification to fix that link. The scanning includes broken images and redirects.
- Why you need it: When you have a broken image or link on your blog, the user interface becomes complicated and the search engines start to take notice. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to remove or replace links that lead to nowhere, allowing you to boost your SEO rankings and make your readers happy.
- What it does: Optimole takes whatever images you upload to WordPress and automatically optimizes them for better performance. This might mean that the file format is changed or the file size is reduced. It optimizes image uploaded by any other plugin and even scans to make sure that your previously uploaded images are good to go. On top of that, Optimole also hooks your site up to an image CDN – making loading images on your website much quicker.
- Why you need it: Your media is usually the culprit when you start seeing slow load times or server overloads. Therefore, it’s important to optimize images by making them smaller or changing the file formats. However, doing this manually would take way too much time. Therefore, the Optimole plugin does it all for you in the background. Afterward, you’ll see faster page loads and a better user experience.
4. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
- What it does: Smush Image Compression and Optimization is similar to Optimole except it has a much larger following. In short, Smush scans your site for images and optimizes them by either decreasing the file size, resizing the image, or adjusting the format. This automated optimization is done for previously uploaded images and those you plan on adding in the future.
- Why you need it: Large images sizes may slow down your site. Because of this, you may see readers getting frustrated with the slow load times. In addition, the search engines don’t like to see this. Therefore, Smush Image Compression and Optimization does the work for you by making image sizes smaller in an automated fashion.
Important! Don’t use more than one image optimization plugin at the same time. If you want to use Smush, don’t also use Optimole, and vice versa.
Additionally, consider the other popular plugins in the realm of image optimization. Here’s a comparison that might come in handy: Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel.
5. Revive Old Posts
- What it does: The Revive Old Posts plugin shares older blog posts to social networks. For instance, you might have an old (yet quality) post from awhile back. This post has been pushed towards the archives so not many people get to see it anymore. Therefore, this plugin revives it by sharing it with new people on places like Facebook and Twitter.
- Why you need it: This is an extremely important plugin, since it eliminates the reliance on time when it comes to getting a response for your posts. There might be an excellent blog post from years ago that people would really enjoy today. Furthermore, you get to fill your social feed with content and push more traffic to your blog.
6. MailPoet Newsletters
- What it does: MailPoet Newsletters brings email newsletters to your WordPress dashboard. Users can signup for your email list on your blog. Then, you’re able to build the newsletters from WordPress and send them out to anyone who’s subscribed.
- Why you need it: Not only does MailPoet have a free plan, but it’s a much easier option for collecting email addresses and sending out those newsletters. You no longer have to jump to another program for creating your emails, and it also has some pretty nice templates to start with.
Further reading: If you’d like to take a look at some other options in the market, here’s a comparison of the best email marketing solutions available.
- What it does: CoSchedule is one of the best WordPress plugins for several reasons. It provides a beautiful editorial calendar inside of WordPress for planning and assigning articles to your writers. You can also collaborate on the blog posts, while also using the tool to promote them after publication.
- Why you need it: Multi-author blogs require some sort of organization tool for planning, editing, and scheduling blog posts. With CoSchedule, you get a wonderful view of your entire content strategy, and you can organize it however you want. This not only helps you as an admin, but your writers will thank you as well.
8. User Switching
- What it does: The User Switching plugin lets the admin of your blog switch between accounts for different views of the website. For example, you might want to logout as an admin and examine what your customers are seeing on the frontend.
- Why you need it: This plugin is ideal for testing environments where you’re going to be jumping from one user account to another to see the results of changes. We also like it for regular blog admins who would like to understand what the website and user experience is like for the readers.
Even though we’re talking about some popular and some less-popular WordPress plugins here, it’s worth pointing out that some trends have emerged when compiling this list. A number of experts shared their picks in similar plugin categories.
For instance, our experts feel that image optimization is extremely important. With plugins such as Smush or Optimole, it’s clear that bloggers and webmasters care about how much bandwidth their sites consume and how important having this under control is for them.
Another trend is using what can be called helper SEO plugins or link manipulation plugins. For instance, plugins like Broken Link Checker or Pretty Link are among the most popular on the best WordPress plugins list. If we looked a little deeper here, we could probably make an argument that the features those plugins offer are the only missing elements in the big SEO plugins like Yoast SEO.
Moving on to the best WordPress plugins – based on expert opinion:
Experts talk about the best WordPress plugins you should be using
Custom Post Type UI + CPTR. Since we don’t do only written content at 1stWebDesigner, but also podcasts and videos every week, it’s really helpful to have tailored and customized settings for every one of our different types of posts. As well as manually picking related content below our posts lets us bring back some older posts, yet still good performing ones.
Plainview Activity Monitor. This shows you failed logins to your site which also shows you the passwords used and other stuff that users do, which is really useful if you have a multi-author blog.
User Switching. Really needed if you have a membership site, you can log in as someone and you see the site as if you have used their details to log in. Great for troubleshooting issues from support tickets.
Broken Link Checker. Helps you keep track of broken links so you can fix or get rid of them.
Robots Meta. Allows you to determine whether or not Google indexes a page or not (among other things). This is helpful for hidden pages and other parts of my site that I don’t necessarily want Google to find.
Pretty Link or ThirstyAffiliates. Two great WordPress plugins for managing link redirects through your site. Don’t worry about having to change hundreds of links when old affiliate relations die, with these best WordPress plugins you can do it in one click.
LeadPages. Most people are using LeadPages templates through the main site URL, however, with the Leadpages plugin, you can quickly and easily host these pages through your own site while also using your domain name as the redirect or main url. This will increase conversions and look much more professional.
Captcha on Login. Brute force attacks are a regular occurrence for most sites, especially on login pages. An easy way of stopping them is by adding a captcha to the login screen with this plugin. After using this plugin, bots eventually stopped and it ultimately reduced the load on my server.
CoSchedule by Todaymade. You need to manage your editorial calendar and this tool makes it easier. It’s got task management built in and makes it easy to schedule social messages. It’s not free, but it’s a huge time saver.
Comment Redirect. Provides an easy way to redirect first-time commenters to a thank you page. Use the page however you like, encourage email sign-ups, social media follows or whatever suits your site, but it’s a nice touch that goes a long way to helping you stand out.
WP-Optimize. Acts like a giant broom for your WordPress database and cleans everything with the touch of a button. This is also great for client sites when they are uncomfortable with logging in to PhpMyAdmin.
Broken Link Checker. Broken links can negatively affect the reading experience because it’s frustrating to click on a link that doesn’t work. This WordPress plugin makes monitoring and fixing broken links on WordPress-powered sites easier.
EWWW Image Optimizer. I write a lot about Web image optimization because I truly believe that non-optimized images are one of the major causes of slow web pages, which in turn is terrible for the reading experience. The problem is, optimizing images manually requires a little bit more time and effort, and many site owners aren’t comfortable using image optimization tools. This plugin helps make image optimization seamless for authors.
MailPoet Newsletters. Very easy to use plugin. We use it to send out our newsletters and get our readers subscribed to our emails.
Leadin. Cool plugin for those who want to know their visitor’s behavior. It shows where your reader (the one who contacted you only) came from, which pages are visited before and after contacting you through a contact form on your website.
Daily Blog Tips
RSS Footer. A very useful WordPress plugin to add stuff to the bottom of your RSS Feed. I use it to add advertising banners, for instance.
WPtouch. Having a mobile friendly website is a must today, so if you don’t have a mobile version yet you can use this plugin to create one on the fly.
DIY Video Guy
Pretty Link is great for two things. First, being able to have shorter redirect links to specific pages or other websites you’re linking too. Second, it tracks how many times those links are used, which is also really helpful.
Backup Buddy is a life saver. If anything happens to your WordPress site where it gets hacked or a simple line of code in a plugin screws everything up, BB will make sure you have a recent backup ready to restore to.
Writers in Charge
Hybrid Connect. This WordPress plugin also comes from the developer of WP Sharely, and it is basically a plugin for creating opt-in forms; it has a lot of options including allowing users to create in-post forms, sidebar forms, pop-ups and slide in forms. Hybrid Connect also allows you to collect opt-ins via email or Facebook login, and it has a lot of customization as well as tracking to let you know where subscribers are coming from.
Gravity Forms. This is another premium WordPress plugin for creating slick contact forms; it has a built in anti-spam option, tracking for your forms, integration with several top service providers like AWeber for email list building, and a lot of other customization options.
Subscribe to Comments. It notifies people by email for new comments that are left on your blog.
Click to Tweet. It helps you get more social shares.
NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster. Autoposts each new entry to social networks. It gets the post out on social media as each entry is published and helps ease the load on a network/blog manager/editor/social media coordinator, especially when working with many blogs and authors. I don’t recommend using it as a standalone solution, though. Re-sharing posts manually at different times makes it optimal.
Pippity. Makes it easy for newsletter subscription; settings can be customized to make it user friendly (i.e. not in your face popups all the time); easy integration with newsletter services like aWeber.
Fanciest Author Box. We love Fanciest Authorbox for adding author bios – which is a definite must have for any multi-author blog.
Pretty Link. We use Pretty Link Lite for affiliate links because, well, affiliate links are ugly 🙂
Do It With WordPress
Public Post Preview. It’s so nice to be able to just send a draft for someone to look at without having to publish it.
Anti-spam. This has been the plugin that has been the most effective for me for stopping spam (in addition to Akismet).
Query Monitor. Query Monitor is great because it is very comprehensive. It can do a lot of stuff that other debugging plugins can’t, like auto Ajax debugging and the ability to filter results by specific plugin or theme. I use this plugin mostly for debugging database and query variables, but it also comes in handy for testing HTTP requests, WP hooks, PHP errors, and much more. It’s one of the best WordPress plugins that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, IMO.
Admin Post Navigation. Over the years, I’ve published hundreds of articles and tutorials at Perishable Press and DigWP.com. On the front-end, navigating all of these posts is a breeze, as I have full control over the theme template and can use choice template tags as desired. But not so much in the WP Admin Area, where it is sometimes necessary to navigate from one post to the next to make updates, edits, and so on. To make this post-to-post navigation possible in the Admin Area, I use a plugin called Admin Post Navigation, which does one thing and one thing well: it adds “Previous” and “Next” links to the Edit Post screen to make serial post editing much easier.
Enable Media Replace. If deleting an image and re-uploading a new one with the same name never made sense to you, you need this plugin.
Regenerate Thumbnails. Changing featured image sizes on your site simply wouldn’t make sense without it.
Fluent in 3 months
Simple:Press. To build a community around your blog, simple-press is the easiest way by far to set up a forum that piggy-backs off WordPress’ system. I’ve scaled this to tens of thousands of users and it performs very well because of its non-bulky code.
VaultPress. If I had to recommend one of the best WordPress plugins, this would be it. It’s a paid service, but it has saved my skin several times. No matter what, every single hour my entire site is backed up to VaultPress’ servers, and there is a simple one button click backup implementation. When I’ve done irreversible things to my site on my own server and it’s down, and my site admin is asleep, this plugin lets me essentially press “undo” and go back to the most recent working snapshot. You can do it to just the theme, just the database or certain other small parts, in case your changes were fine in other parts, or you don’t want to lose conversations or blog posts unrelated to a crash.
Another awesome plugin some may have heard of is EWWW Image Optimizer it does exactly what it says on the tin. It bulk optimizes images for your blog, reducing bandwidth, and of course, load time. A really nifty plugin and one that I use all the time.
Finally one of the best WordPress plugins for redirection (I find) is the Simple 301 Redirects plugin. It’s a great way for non-techies to create 301 redirects. So if you’re in your Google Webmaster settings page and discovering errors or URLS that can not be found, then simply copy and paste and redirect them to a similar page or a new one.
WP Daily Themes
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin. The perfect plugin to defeat automated spambots and spam messages with a simple checkbox.
Reduce Bounce Rate. Get the real Bounce rate and page views in Google Analytics. Easy and simple to use.
Enhanced Media Library is the best for categorizing media to make it easy to reuse images or PDFs, or whatever.
Contextual Related Posts is the best performing Related Posts plugin there is (besides Jetpack’s).
This one is paid, but for analyzing your post performance, Analytify is the easiest and most convenient way to see how visitors are finding your individual posts.
All Blogging Tips
SEOPressor. We already know how important SEO is. There are many SEO plugins, but I think SEOPressor is the best. It shows keyword density of your keyword in the WordPress editor. It shows an over-optimization warning in case you have added extra tags, keywords, h1, h2, h3 tags. It also supports rich snippets. The best feature is LSI keyword. LSI keywords help you to find relevant keywords from your main keywords, using LSI keyword will make it easy for you to rank in Google.
MBP Ninja Affiliate. If you’re into affiliate marketing then this is one of the best WordPress plugins. I’ve been using it for years and I’m very happy with it. This plugin automatically converts your keywords on your posts into affiliate links. It is a powerful plugin which helps you to manage, track, cloak and shorten an unlimited number of affiliate links from one settings page. This plugin helped me a lot in saving my time and managing all affiliate links from one dashboard. Ninja plugin is a must-have plugin for serious affiliate marketers.
One of the primary appeals to WordPress in the first place is how much it (and its amazing community of designers/developers) have empowered the world to do great things with WordPress and its available themes and plugins. Because of this, I think some theme and plugin authors go a little “empowerment crazy” with their products because it’s an easy sell–“Look how much you can do with this one tool!”
The right way is not always the plug and play way, and there is such a thing as too much in one package. With that in mind, here are my three picks:
Code Snippets by Shea Bunge. Sometimes less is more. One of my favorite ways of reducing unnecessary bloat is by finding useful code snippets I can substitute for whole plugins. In this way, the Code Snippets plugin has actually cut down significantly on the number of plugins I have installed–and therefore also cut down on the number of plugins I have to configure, update, and maintain.
Shortcodes Ultimate by Vladimir Anokhin. So many themes come with their own sets of shortcodes that are not separated out into another plugin. And some, if they are separated out, are designed to work with just that theme and not at all (or at least not well) with others. To me, aside from being against WordPress standards and best practices, is a disservice. Which is why instead I have really come to love using this massive (free) shortcode bundle by Vladimir Anokhin designed to work well with any theme.
Reviewer WordPress Plugin by evoG. Similarly, many WordPress themes come with review capabilities built in. This looks great as a selling point but many customers do not realize creating a bunch of content using theme specific custom post types, such as a review, locks them into that theme forever. Or it signs them up for a bunch of work later on, if they ever decide to switch themes. This plugin is one that I’ve used on my site and love. It may not be the review plugin for everyone, but the point is that if you’re reviewing things on your blog – use a plugin! That way if you need to change themes down the road you don’t leave a bunch of your best content behind in the process.
As someone who is always writing about themes and plugins, there are of course more that could have made this list. So in closing, I also want to take a second to thank everyone in the WordPress community working hard to design and develop the tools we’ve all come to use and love.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP). A good replacement for nRelate, that shows related content below each post.
Broken Link Checker. Checks content for broken links.
EWWW Image Optimizer. Gives you more image optimization options.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler). Good for getting a baseline on plugin performance.
Developer. Excellent if you need to take a closer look under the hood.
Stream. Great for sites that lots of people are working on.
SearchWP by Jonathan Christopher, improves the site search and adds a lot of features to the basic search. Of course there are a good number of search plugins, but this one stands above from the rest. Cost: $29 / single license.
Shrink-O-Matic. This is a fantastic app (not a WordPress plugin), that lets you optimize images on your Windows or Mac. Very handy for optimizing images and does not cost a dime. Alternatively, you can use WP Smush.it, if you don’t want to use an offline app.
Display Widgets is a great little plugin. Basically, it adds checkboxes to each widget to show or hide on site pages. This allows me to customize what I show on my pages sidebar versus my widget sidebar.
This is a great way to A/B test different CTA boxes and really hone in on your audience. You can show different widgets based on a post category or even a custom taxonomy. This can be awesome for affiliate marketing.
Let’s say you have a WordPress category and a PPC category. Now you can create separate affiliate widgets for each category and now the ads on the sidebar are directly related to the article they are reading. This will dramatically increase their CTR.
Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Many people I talk to still don’t even know what Google Tag Manager is. Basically, it is a free management tool from Google that allows you to manage and deploy your scripts from one location. Such as Google Analytics, AdRoll, Facebook Conversion Pixel, etc.
This free plugin by duracelltomi.com is running on all of my sites. It allows me to stay organized and keep my WordPress sites clean.
ZigWidgetClass. Another great little free WordPress plugin by zigpress.com. This plugin allows me to easily add custom CSS classes to my widgets. What do I use this for? I use it to deploy media queries so that I can hide certain widgets based on their resolution size.
For example, on my site I have an optin box in my sidebar and my footer. On a mobile device there is no reason for it to show twice, so I add my class which pulls my media query and hides one of them.
Words by Birds
Snapshot. It’s like a time machine for your WordPress site that can backup and restore your entire install and even includes Dropbox and S3 integration.
Custom Sidebars Pro. You can control all aspects of every widget area on your site with this handy plugin. It has a beautiful UI, which makes it even more fun to use.
Community Experience Lead and general plugin connoisseur from the team at Slocum Themes
Disable Comments. Despite the large number of downloads (1.2 million) and the obvious title, so many of our viewers and customers want to remove their comments and have no idea that this solution exists.
The use of this WordPress plugin is simple. Install the plugin, go to your WordPress Settings > Disable Comments and check the box to disable all comments. The plugin also allows you to choose whether to display comments on a more case-specific level.
Advanced Tagline. This plugin hasn’t been updated in a while (6 years) but we have found that the solution still works for the most part and is fun.
Tapping into the WordPress “tagline” or “slogan”, you can create a number of slogans and display one of them randomly or sequentially every time a user loads the page. The application for thought bloggers, spiritual organizations, and businesses is tremendous.
Conductor. For displaying blog content, there is no greater plugin out there than Conductor. While it is the one option on my list that costs money (starting at $97), Conductor works with almost any existing WordPress theme and allows you to display a grouping of your content the way YOU want.
Want to display 8 blogs from the “Dog” category at a smaller size, and only show the featured image and the title? You can do that.
Want to make your most recent post a large featured post on your front page? Done.
Powerful stuff. I can’t rave about it enough.
Revive Old Post. Use it to re-share the best pieces of content from your blog.
WP Rocket. It takes 5 minutes to set up and speeds up your site considerably, implementing a lot of proactive best practices.
Kraken Image Optimizer. It automatically optimizes every new image that you upload to your site. No additional work needed on your part.
As you can see, the best WordPress plugins are those that save me time.
Here’s the complete list of the best WordPress plugins from our experts; each one under its general category:
Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%: