Choosing a WordPress plugin can be a conundrum for the best of us. You’ll find yourself needing some feature or functionality and the good news is that there’s a plugin for that. The bad news is that there are 48,117 plugins in the WordPress repository, so it’s likely that a search will pull up at least ten plugins that say they do that thing that you need.
So, how do you choose a WordPress plugin? Here are five steps to get you started. And be sure to read to the end of the post to get a list of 40 plugins that we know and love.
- Google “Best WordPress Plugins for…….” and see what others are saying about the various options.
- Before loading a plugin to your site, check that it’s compatible with the latest version of WordPress. If not, it may not be a deal-breaker. Check the plugin’s changelog to make sure the developer is still actively maintaining it.
- Look at the number of active installs and the quality of the plugin’s reviews. If it’s extremely popular you can trust it. But, check out some others as well. Just because he’s the most popular guy at the dance doesn’t mean he’s the best one for you.
- Take it for a test drive. Upload, activate, and configure the plugin. If you can’t get it to work in a reasonable amount of time, delete it and choose another. If it works does it do the job you need it to do? If you aren’t entirely pleased, don’t settle. Check out a few of the other contenders.
Once you’ve found a good plugin, you’re not out of the woods yet. Keep an eye on your site and if you begin to see any strange behavior on your site, remember that you added a new plugin. The problem could be caused by a conflict with another plugin or your theme. Deactivate the plugin and check to see if the problem has been resolved. If not, change themes and check to see if the problem still occurs.
40 Plugins We Know and Love
To save you some trial and error I’ve included a list of 40 plugins that our team can vouch for. And just for good measure, I’ve added the two theme frameworks we recommend.
Plugins – Any Theme
- Add to Any Share Buttons – Share buttons for your pages including AddToAny’s universal sharing button, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and many more.
- Anti-Spam– We have been using this powerful anti-spam plugin and have found it to eliminate almost all of our comment spam, contact form spam, registration spam, trackback spam, pingback spam, and every other type of WordPress spam. Best of all it is totally FREE.
- Collapsing Categories – This very handy plugin allows you to show your post categories and then expand them to show the post titles within each.
- Co-Schedule – This plugin is a premium plugin that allows you to plan, promote, and execute blog posts and social media posts from the WordPress post page or the Co-Schedule dashboard. It makes it easy to create a post and your social media updates – all in one place, at one time.
- Custom 404 Error Page – This is a free plugin that allows you to create a custom page to display when a visitor gets a 404 error. Add some helpful content to the page and or a bit of whimsy to your user experience.
- Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades – Makes it easier to upgrade premium themes and plugins without having to download the new version and update them by hand. Each time before your site is updated, this plugin saves a version of your old theme to a zip file in case there was a problem with the upgrade.
- Easy Recipe – We use this plugin for all of our clients with food blogs and eCommerce Food Sites that add recipes online. It creates a custom post type that then allows you to easily enter the recipe, have it display in a defined format, and gives readers the option of an easy download.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – This plugin hooks up your Google Analytics to your website and creates a robust widget in your dashboard that shows a variety of views of your web traffic, where it came from, your bounce rate, and more. It offers quick, easy monitoring without having to leave your site go to your Google Analytics page.
- Gravity Forms This is a honey of a plugin and worth the money. It is 39.00 for a single site, 99.00 for three sites, and 199.00 for a developer’s license that allows use on an unlimited number of sites. You can create forms in a breeze, even complex and interactive forms. It is very user-friendly and there are extensions to connect the forms with other apps like Paypal, Freshbooks, and MailChimp or provide additional functionality.
- Image Widget – This little plugin adds a widget to your site that lets you easily add an image to a sidebar or other widget area without using html. This is handy for clients to use to add or change out their widget area images themselves.
- Instagram Feed by Smash Balloon – Display Instagram photos from any non-private Instagram account directly on your site to look cool and increase the number of followers to your account.
- Limit Login Attempts -This free plugin adds a good security feature by blocking login attempts after a certain number of tries. This thwarts Brute force attacks and people trying to break in to your site.
- Live Chat – This is an application that can be easily added to your WordPress website to offer visitors the option of asking you questions while on your site. There are several options of how to get notified and respond when the chat is active.
- MangeWP – Keep up with your multiple WordPress websites making it easy to see that they are backed up, up-to-date, and malware-free. You can also use ManageWP to clone and migrate websites.
- Media Grid – This is an inexpensive premium widget that we use for creating portfolios. It lets you create a grid of images that each link to a full page but it also offers other options such as opening the item in a lightbox which is useful for photography sites.
- Note, A Live Edit Text Widget is a free plugin that’s a very handy bridge for when you’d like to add additional widget areas but aren’t ready to code. In addition, the Note, a Live Edit Text Widget will allow you to design the content in the widget areas live while viewing the page. This saves you from having to pop back and forth from edit-mode to the page view to check how the content looks. Another nice option is being able to use it to magically turn a link into a button.
- Pop-up Ally – This plugin from Nathalie Lussier is our go for creating opt-in forms of all types, not just pop-ups. It allows you to easily style them to go with your branding.
- PDF Viewer – When you have pdfs to upload to a website, you can use the PDF viewer plugin to upload them as a viewable document that the visitor can flip through right on the site. It will also create a link for downloading the PDF.
- Revision Control –WordPress has a revision control system that you’re your revisions on the bottom of your Edit Posts or Edi Pages views if selected in the page options. However, multiple revisions can slow your site down. This plugin allows you to avoid a bloated database. It’s best to use this plugin to set your revisions to keep two.
- Securi – Offer’s a free plugin that monitors your site for malware and security issues. Securi is our go-to resource for cleaning hacked sites for $199 and then they will keep it secure for a year. But even better is to use this premium service to scan and prevent hacking in the first place, which includes site cleaning, in case you do get hacked.
- Simple 301 Redirects – Create a list of URLs that you would like to 301 redirects to another page or site. This is essential for keeping your traffic and avoiding 404 errors if you have changed from an HTML site or you changed the structure of your URLs.
- Uber Menu – When you have a site with a complicated page structure needing more than a simple drop-down menu, Uber Menu comes to the rescue. You can and style the Uber Menu with categories to make it super easy for visitors to find what they are looking for while matching your branding.
- Updraft Plus – This is the tool we recommend for easy WordPress backups and site migrations. There is an upcharge for the version with the migration features.
- WP-Store Locator – This plugin lets you create a map with your store locations on it. You can load multiple locations with a CSV file in a jiffy.
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer is a WordPress image compression plugin with many advanced features. To use it, even with a free account, you need an API code that you can get with your email address. It allows you to compress up to 100 images per month before you need to get a paid plan. It stores your original images in a separate folder before compressing them. It also allows you to compare the original file with the compressed version to see the quality difference.
- Yoast SEO – This plugin allows you to optimize your pages or posts from your WordPress website’s page or post edit screen. You can change the words of your to optimize your titles and meta descriptions for a keyword phrase to provide better search results. The basic version does everything most people need it to do.