With over 50,000 plugins available just on the WordPress plugins website, along with the many others from independent parties, it’s no wonder most entrepreneurs struggle trying to determine which plugins their website needs, and which ones are the best option.
To make life easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of absolutely essential plugins for 2017, as well as a list of plugins that perform important tasks that you might find useful. We’ve not only checked every plugin to make sure it’s the best in its class and still has support in 2017, but where possible we’ve given both free and commercial alternatives.
Absolutely Essential Plugins All WordPress Sites Need
First, we’ll be covering the list of plugins your site absolutely needs. With these plugins, there’s no negotiating if you want your site to run well and be secure.
Plugins to Speed Up Your WordPress Site
People aren’t all that patient nowadays and most expect your webpages to load in a maximum of 2 seconds. If they take 3 seconds to load, you’ll lose most of your traffic. The plugins mentioned below will all help speed up your site and make your visitors happy.
WP Rocket (Caching)
Caching is a great way to speed up your site for returning visitors as it saves pages and various other elements of your site on the visitor’s computer so that when they visit again, they don’t have to wait for the pages to download from your server as they’re already on their hard drive.
WP Rocket is one of the best plugins available for caching your site. It’s a commercial plugin and will cost you $40 for a site (though other license options are available) but it’s well worth the cost seeing as there is very little you need to configure. In fact, in most cases, it will do wonders for your site right out of the box. It’s also extremely easy to use, even when you decide to tinker a little with the settings, which is another major point in its favor.★ Visit WP-Rocket
W3 Total Cache (Caching)
W3 Total Cache is the best free plugin to cache and speed up page load times for your site. It’s been around for a while, and before WP Rocket became available, it was the best caching plugin available of all of them.
It’s still a very good substitute for WP Rocket, if you don’t have the budget for the latter. The only problem you might encounter is that it might take a bit of work to configure it to run properly. However, you’ll find that most of the essential settings have already been checked, meaning that you’ll likely need to do very little tweaking to get everything running smoothly.★ Visit W3 Total Cache
Better WordPress Minify
Far Future Expiration Header
When different file types are cached, they come with a line of code that tells the browser when it should check for new updates to the page. Take your home page, for example. When someone visits your site for the first time, if you have a caching plug-in activated, their browser will download and save a copy of your home page on their hard drive. The next time they visit, the browser will look for the home page on the visitor’s computer and load it, rather than waiting to download it from the server. It will do this for a set amount of time, after which it will once a game download the page from the server, to ensure the visitor is seeing the most up-to-date version.
Far Future Expiration Header is a plug-in that allows you to set the date yourself. For example, if you have a static homepage that never changes, you can set the plug-in to the maximum of 365 days, meaning that the browser will be told it only has to check for a new version of the homepage after one year. The plug-in also comes with a simple radio button that allows you to turn Gzip on and off, which is one of the simplest ways to activate this form of compression that will further speed up your site.★ Visit Far Future Expiration Header
It’s a great plug-in, however, it can get pretty expensive since it’s available only if you become a member of the WPMU DEV website, which will cost you $49 per month. It should be noted that you get access to a lot of plug-ins and themes for the same price, which is why will be covering other plug-ins from the same developer, just in case you decide to take this route.
The advantage of having a large number of plug-ins from a single developer is that it is less likely you will have compatibility issues. If you’re not sure of the best option, a 14-day free trial is available, so you can give it a whirl before you commit.★ Visit Hummingbird
WP – Optimize
WordPress has a tendency to save every little thing, including every revision you make to post, every comment, even if you put it in spam, and so much more. Essentially, it saves everything you can possibly imagine, a lot of which you will never need again. This means it can get very complicated and bloated, which will of course affect the speed of your site.
WP – Optimize cleans up your WordPress database, removing all the data that is unnecessary. It has a manual and an automated setting, meaning that you can manually choose what to delete, or you can set it to run automatically so you never have to worry about database bloat again. All you have to do is go to the settings page, tell the plug-in how long it should save the backup information, and then tell it how frequently it should run.★ Visit WP – Optimize
Comment spam is still a major issue, and trying to handle it all manually is impossible. This is where Akismet comes in, as this plug-in has the ability to stop comments that appeared to be spam from being posted on your blog.
Don’t worry, because you’ll be able to review every comment the plug-in flagged or removed, and restore it if it made a mistake. No, Akismet is not infallible, but it does a very good job and will save you a lot of time and aggravation.★ Visit Akismet
Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Images are often responsible for slow page load speeds, which is why you absolutely need Smush Image Compression and Optimization. This plug-in optimizes your images so they take up as little storage space as possible without compromising quality.
This is another plug-in from the WPMU DEV team, but there is a free version available, as well as a premium one. WP Smush PRO, of course, comes included in the WPMU DEV membership, along with Hummingbird and a host of other plug-ins. Even if you aren’t getting the membership, we still advise you get the free version as it will do wonders to speed up your site.★ Visit WP Smush
BJ Lazy Load
BJ Lazy Load can also help increase the speed of your website. What it does is to put a placeholder instead of the images that aren’t on screen. So, the images only load when they come close to appearing in the screen of the browser, without forcing the visitor to wait for everything on the page to load before they can see the page properly.★ Visit BJ Lazy Load
Plug-Ins to Keep Your Website Safe
Website security is one of those essential things that you can’t overlook. Not only do you run the risk of having your site hacked or it simply breaking down, you also run the risk of hurting your visitors, which is the last thing you want to do. This is why we consider security plug-ins to be absolutely essential elements for any website.
Force Strong Passwords
No matter how often we’re told that we need a strong password for every account we have, we still have a tendency to choose the simplest one that we can remember. And this can expose your site to major issues, especially if there are other people with administrative rights.
The Force Strong Passwords plug-in ensures that everyone with an account on your website has to use a strong password, because it won’t let them register without one. Once you have the plug-in installed, you won’t have to worry about anyone accessing your site without authorization because some special snowflake used password as the password.★Force Strong Passwords
RapID Secure Login
To really secure your website, you can also set up this plug-in that requires two factor authentication people to sign in. The advantage is that it’s pretty easy to do with this plug-in, and in no time at all you can be using your smart phone to sign into your site. Install RapID Secure Login and you’ll greatly reduce the chances of anyone gaining unauthorized access to your website.★ Visit RapID Secure Login
An increasingly common problem webmasters experience is attacks from unwanted bots. The BruteProtect plug-in is quite defective at blocking many of these bots from attacking long before they managed to gain access to your site. However, note that it’s not perfect, and it certainly shouldn’t be the only security plug-in you rely on.
Note that if you install the JetPack plug-in, BruteProtect comes included, so you won’t have to download it separately.★ Visit BruteProtect
Wordfence is one of the most popular security plug-ins available, with over 1 million active installs, and for good reason. The developers of the plug-in have a database with every version of WordPress as well as every theme and plug-in that has ever been part of the directory. This way, when you run a scan, the plug-in can compare the original files from the developer’s server with the ones that are on your server, which allows it to detect any issues. If it does find any problems, you can replace the broken files with the original ones, even if you don’t have a backup of them yourself.
So, Wordfence can scan your site, find any potential problems including things such as malware, and identified files in your WordPress folder, updates you haven’t made yet, comments that have URLs which are not deemed safe, and much more. It also comes with a firewall that helps stop attacks, and features a whole host of other tools.
It is a great security plug-in that we highly recommend, and has free and premium versions available.★ Visit Wordfence
Defender is also an excellent security plug-in that comes from the WPMU DEV team. In other words, if you opt for Hummingbird, you will also be able to use Defender within the same subscription price.
The security plug-in does pretty much what the premium version of Wordfence does, such as allowing you to scan for vulnerabilities, but it also allows you to clean up existing issues with one click. It also worked to improve the security of your site to make sure catastrophes don’t happen again.★ Visit Defender
As the name implies, this plug-in creates a backup of your entire WordPress website, which it then stores in the cloud, using the service of your choice, including Dropbox, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud and more, you even have the option of emailing the backups to yourself.
While BackupBuddy is an extremely popular plug-in, it is a premium one. There are a few pricing options to cover a wide range of budgets, which you can find here.★ Visit BackupBuddy
This is a free WordPress backup plug-in and while not as effective as BackupBuddy, it is still a good option if you don’t have the budget for a premium plug-in.★ Visit BackWPup
As promised, were including the offering from the WPMU DEV team, which you will get as part of your membership to their site. Snapshot Pro does everything you’d expect from a backup plug-in, but it takes things a step further by treating backups to your backups, ensuring that if something happens to the original backup, you will still be able to restore your website.★ Visit Snapshot Pro
WordPress Plug-Ins That Are Good to Have
From our point of view, the only absolutely essential plug-ins you need are for security and speed. There many other useful plug-ins which we will cover, but our opinion is that sites can survive without them, whereas speed and security are nonnegotiable.
However, we feel this guide would be incomplete if we didn’t look at a series of plug-ins that can make your life easier in many respects, helping to automate some tasks and improving the user experience overall. We reiterate, though, that these plug-ins, while they may be good to have an certainly useful, are not absolutely mandatory, though we are sure many will disagree with us.
Plug-Ins for Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization has changed a lot since the days when keywords reigned supreme, which is made many SEO plug-ins redundant. Nowadays, the best SEO is all about creating great quality content. However, that doesn’t mean the following plug-ins won’t be useful, and they might give you a slight competitive advantage.
All-In-One SEO Pack
A little while ago, we would have said the Yoast plugin ruled supreme in the SEO space, but, unfortunately, the latest updates have pretty much broken it. And support for the free version of the plugin is practically non-existent.
The good news is that All-In-One SEO Pack is still a great plug-in and highly popular, considering it has more than 1 million active installs. Plus, the developers care and do provide support, even for the free version. This plug-in has everything you’d expect from an SEO plug-in, but also allows you to activate only the features you want to use. It also comes with a built-in XML sitemap generator, which means one less plug-in for you to install.★ Visit All-In-One SEO Pack
This is the WPMU DEV premium plug-in for SEO. As you’d expect, it does everything that All-In-One SEO Pack does, but also includes reports from the SEO industry from Moz, as well as automated keyword linking and a number of other features. Like with all other WPMU DEV plug-ins, you get access to it under the same membership.★ Visit SmartCrawl
All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets
You know the cool review stars, video thumbnails and other useful pieces of information you see next to a search result? Well, if you want your entry in the SERPs to show up the same, helping you set yourself apart from the competition, then use this plug-in.★ Visit All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets
This is a useful plug-in to spy on your competition. It lets you figure out what keywords they are paying for, which ones they are ranking for and much more. It’s a good way to improve your marketing and SEO strategies so you might eventually outrank the competition.
While these SEO plugins are useful, we have to say again that if your content is poor, no plug-in can help you rank near the top of the SERPs. Conversely, great content will help you get to the top, even without these plug-ins.★ Visit SEMRush
Plug-ins for Images, Site Design and More
WordPress allows you to do a lot to create a great looking site, but there are some plug-ins that can make certain tasks easier.
WordPress makes it relatively easy to create galleries for images, but they aren’t exactly what we call impressive. Envira Gallery, on the other hand, gives you the tools you need to put together stunning galleries that will impress everyone. You can put together as many galleries as you like, place them anywhere you like, build albums, and even set the images to open up in pop-ups, and that’s not all. It’s a very useful plug-in.★ Visit Envira Gallery
This plug-in makes it easy to work with images, allowing you to edit and add images for different sizes on different screens, making them fully responsive. It’s a very useful plug-in that allows you to do a lot with image files, including helping improve page load speed thanks to the responsive images.★ Visit Gallery
If you want to use relatively good-looking tables on your website, you will need TablePress. It not only allows you to create tables that look good, but also tables that can be searched and filtered, which you can’t really do on your own, unless you have a tech streak a mile wide.
All you have to do is install the plug-in and use the options to put together any table you want. You can even import or export tables from spreadsheets, edit a cell or more, hide columns or rows, and use a host of other options to create the perfect table.★ VisitTablePress
BeaverBuilder is an effective page builder that allows you to create lightweight pages that load quickly. You can create layouts that are as simple or as complicated as you like, allowing you to customize themes to your heart’s desire.
However, if you find that BeaverBuilder isn’t helping you achieve what you want, then you might want to get a professional to do the work for you because other plug-ins will make things much worse.★ Visit BeaverBuilder
If you don’t know CSS but would still like to make changes to your site’s design, then you will need CSS Hero. This plug-in will let you change any WordPress theme as you see fit without you having to know anything about CSS. CSS Hero let’s you make changes using a WYSIWG interface, so it’s almost like using a relatively simple graphics program to make changes to your site, which CSS Hero “translates” into the CSS that WordPress understands. It’s a pretty great plug-in, but it is a premium one. However, at only $29 per year for a site, it’s still a much better deal than trying to learn CSS.★ Visit SEMRush
If you love sliders but have never managed to create a decent looking one, then Soliloquy is the plug-in for you. It allows you to create beautiful sliders you can use to present anything from your products and services to different posts and announcements. The sky’s the limit, except that with Soliloquy, it will always be a beautiful one.★ Visit Soliloquy
Display Widgets lets you modify the content of your sidebar so you can have different sidebars on different categories and different pages. You don’t need to know anything about coding to modify the sidebars however you like. You simply click on a checkbox to tell the plug-in where it should display widgets and where it shouldn’t and you’re done.★ Visit Display Widgets
Content Aware Sidebars
Content Aware Sidebars takes things to the next level and allows you to, essentially, convert your sidebars into anything you like. You can even use a contact form inside the sidebar, if you so choose. It’s an excellent plug-in with a lot of functionality and is generally considered to be very robust option with clean code that is unlikely to break anything else on your site.★ Visit Content Aware Sidebars
Plug-Ins for Site Management and Troubleshooting
Sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes you just need a plug-in to make certain tasks easier to perform.
Broken Link Checker
Broken links are unavoidable, especially on sites that have been around for a while. You link to a piece of content that gets moved wrong or is taken down without you knowing and you end up with a broken link. The problem is that broken links can irritate your visitors. They’re looking forward to learning more, click on the link and… nothing. It can be disappointing and annoying, and it’s not something you want your visitors feeling all the time.
The Broken Link Checker plug-in goes through your site on a regular basis, finding any broken links. It will send you an email of the broken links it found as well as their location, making it easy for you to fix the problem quickly and easily.★ Visit Broken Link Checker
WP Migrate DB
If you’ve ever wanted to change hosting companies, you are probably aware that one of the things you have to do is to move your site to the new server. It might even be why you decided against moving to a new host, even if it was a much better option, simply because the idea of migrating your site was too daunting.
The good news is that you can use WP Migrate DB to move your site quickly and easily. There is a free version available, but it doesn’t handle media files, meaning you will have to move those manually. The Pro version of the plug-in will migrate your media files as well as everything else, and even has a multisite add-on. So, if you never again want to be beholden to one host for fear of the migration process, then you definitely need to get WP Migrate DB. To really make life easy, go for the Pro version and move everything with a few clicks of the mouse.★ Visit WP Migrate DB
Safe Redirect Manager
Setting up redirects at some point in time will become a necessary, regardless of what type of website you are running. Once upon a time, the only way to do it was through server configs or .htaccess files, but things have changed. Safe Redirect Manager is an excellent plug-in that helps you manage your redirects so that any structural change you make, including deleting posts and changing permalinks, will be covered and your visitors won’t end up in the wrong place. Just a few clicks of the mouse, and you’re done.Visit Safe Redirect Manager
Plug-ins for Marketing
This is where we’ve included all those plug-ins that you’ll find useful to improve the user experience, generate vital marketing information and more, all with the end-result of improving your conversion rates and making your website even more successful.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP)
YARPP is a powerful plug-in that combs through your content and displays other posts users might find relevant, based on the current post they are reading. It’s a great plug-in because users tend to spend more time on a site because of it, as most will click to see a related post to the content they are currently reading, especially if you are providing excellent quality content.
This plug-in can also give you the opportunity to earn a little extra cash if you choose to show sponsored content on your page. However, if the sponsored content isn’t good quality, you could end up annoying your visitors and might be better off ignoring this option. The only way to figure out if it works well is to actually test it.★ Visit Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
Google Analytics +
Google Analytics + is an excellent plug-in if you want to understand your traffic better. It brings all the information in the Google Analytics tool to your dashboard, making it easy for you to see things like number of visits, how many page views you get, what your bounce rate is, how long people spend on your site on average and more. All this is vital information if you want to improve your site, but it’s also essential when you are negotiating prices for advertising.★ Visit Google Analytics +
Good Reviews for WordPress
You likely already know how powerful testimonials are. They are the equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing online because they are personal endorsements from people who have used your product or service. This makes other people even more open to the idea of doing business with you, because you’ve essentially been validated by their peers.
Good Reviews for WordPress allows you to stylishly display testimonials on your site. It’s a great plug-in because it’s pretty lean and doesn’t negatively impact the speed with which your pages load. It’s also pretty easy to use and won’t break your site.★ Visit Good Reviews
Giving people the opportunity to share your content is powerful, because, once again, they’re personally endorsing whatever you’ve published. To take things a step further, though, you need to build interactive content. You know, when you see a Twitter button allowing you to tweet a particular statement within an article? That’s now known as interactive content because your visitors can actually interact with your content. And it’s very powerful.
With Tweet Dis you can create a variety of tweets that visitors can immediately post, such as box tweets, inline tweets and more. You can also change the various themes it offers to suit your style. So, not only does this plug-in make it easier for you to get more shares, and therefore more visitors, but it also helps to further break up the article, making it more visually appealing. And, of course, it’s easy to use. Simply highlight the text you want to use and click on the Tweet Dis button. Select the options you want and you’re done. It takes about half a minute but the return is immeasurable.★ Visit Tweet Dis
As previously mentioned, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to share your content, so you have to give them the buttons to do it. Jetpack has an amazing module for social sharing. Though it has a lot of other features – some might say too many – it’s worth installing for the social aspect alone. It has some great buttons but also comes with a wide range of other features as well that make it a great option.★ Visit Jetpack
Comments Not Replied To
This is a great plug-in for large blogs as it allows you to see, from the dashboard, what comments haven’t been replied to by the author of the post. Comments can add up quickly and it’s easy to miss a few. You might not think it’s a big issue, but for the commenters who have fallen through the cracks, we can guarantee it’s a massive problem. They’ll think they’re not worth your time, even though others are, and they will stop visiting your site.
Comments Not Replied To solves this problem. It reduces the chances of you missing a comment to zero, and it makes your life much easier.★ Visit Comments Not Replied To
Commenter Emails is a great plug-in that allows you to build a list of emails from the comments people have left. This is powerful because you can segment your email list and create personalized offers for people who comment regularly on your blog. This will not only encourage them to keep commenting, but will also entice others to come out of the woodwork and stop lurking.★ Visit Commenter Emails
Contact Form 7
A basic thing in marketing is making sure your customers can get in touch with you, and that’s precisely what Contact Form 7 does. It lets you create contact forms with a few clicks of the mouse. However, the results are relatively simple and not all that attractive.★ Visit Contact Form 7
Gravity Forms is a premium alternative to Contact Form 7 that allows you to create stylish contact forms. The fact is that you can use this plug-in to build any type of form you can imagine, from the simple contact form to complicated billing forms. And that’s precisely why it’s so powerful and is still the best on the market.★ Visit Gravity Forms
Though not everyone is fond of pop-ups, the statistics show that they are highly effective. Some say they are the best way for you to get those conversion rates way up. Like with any other tool, if used properly and without being irritating, your visitors won’t mind. In fact, they might be happy they can sign up without having to go to a different page.
Optin Monster is one of the most cost-effective premium plug-ins for pop-up creation. You can pretty much create the pop-up any way you like, as the plug-in gives you the ability to modify any aspect of it.
Though we’d love to be able to recommend a free version, there really isn’t a free plug-in that can come close to what Optin Monster does.★ Visit Optin Monster
Leadpages is an alternative to Optin Monster. It’s more expensive than the latter, but the advantage is that you can also make landing pages with it. And the landing pages Leadpages helps you create come out looking really good and have been proven to generate really good conversion rates. So, the higher price is definitely worth it considering you can do so much more with Leadpages.★ Visit Leadpages
Plugins for Content
The following plug-ins making managing your content much easier, and some of them even help you create some of that content.
Better Internal Link Search
Internal links aren’t just vital for SEO, but they also improve the user experience by serving up related content to visitors. A good internal linking scheme will even keep visitors on your site longer simply because they know they have more content to read that will interest them.
Now, it’s a good idea to create all your internal links manually, even though there are automated tools to help you. What Better Internal Link Search does, though, is make it easier for you to find the best content to link to. The WordPress search box for internal links isn’t all that great, especially for sites with lots of content. Better Internal Link Search returns more accurate results, but also allows you to search among your drafts and even search some external sites. It’s a really useful tool to make internal linking much easier.★ Visit Better Internal Link Search
Coscheduler is a premium plug-in that allows you to see at a glance what your posting schedule is, both on your site and on social media. It loads up an awesome calendar that displays everything you have scheduled. You can drag stuff around to change the time and dates, edit the posts, copy them and just, generally, make sure everything is in order so you are serving your visitors with great content regularly.★ Visit Coscheduler
Simple Page Ordering
Changing the order of pages in your WordPress dashboard is an exercise in cruel and unusual torture. To do so, you have to change page’s order number, which gets really old, really fast. Simple Page Ordering is a plug-in that lets you order your pages by simply dragging and dropping them, making life so much easier.
All you have to do is drag and drop pages in your dashboard to make sure they are displaying in the order you want them to, without having to go through any complicated or tedious process.★ Visit Simple Page Ordering
If you need to set up an FAQ section, or create a set of guidelines, or essentially put together any form of documentation, then WP Help is the best option. Not only does it make it simple to put together any sort of internal documents you need, it can also sync them across a multisite network, which can certainly save a lot of time and aggravation.★ Visit WP Help
So, this turned out to be a pretty long list of plugins. And the fact is that there are many more great plug-ins out there that can help you do anything under the sun. However, if you load your site up with too many, you could end up slowing it down significantly. Furthermore, sometimes plug-ins don’t play nice together, and can cause even more problems.
We recommend starting with the essential ones and then only including the ones from the good to have list that you really, truly need. Remember, in some cases, we’ve provided a few alternatives to achieve the same thing, so you definitely shouldn’t be installing all the plug-ins in this list.
Noor is a well-known webhosting blogger and industry analyst. Since 2006, he has tested a wide variety of web hosting services and posted the results on his popular blog, InlineHostBlogger.com. For each review, he extensively tests each web hosting company personally, or with his hand-picked team of technicians.