For the less technical readers, a plugin is a piece of software that can be added to a WordPress website to add new features or functionality. If you want your site to do something above and beyond what comes with a basic WordPress download or perhaps with your WordPress theme, can usually find a plug-in that will provide exactly what you want. That’s one of the biggest advantages of using WordPress over other website building software programs.
In the WordPress repository, there are now 55,571 plugins. Given that number, you can imagine finding the right plugins can be time-consuming. With so many options, it can be hard to know which plugins to use. Once you choose a plugin, you’ll need to upload it to your site to see if it works the way you need it to and make sure it doesn’t conflict with your theme or other plugins you’re using.
For example, let’s consider recipe plugins. Food bloggers have specific needs for how the recipe portion of their post is entered and displayed. First, consistency with how the recipes are formatted can best be achieved using a plugin that provides the right content in the right way to appear in Google recipe searches and to display optimally on Pinterest.
A food blogger will find it hard to make a decision when they discover there are over 30 recipe related plugins in the WordPress plugin repository. When this happens, it helps to start with a search for review articles that will help narrow the contenders down to a manageable number.
Often it takes trying several plugins before finding one that’s easy to use and provides the needed features. Be sure when going through this testing process you deactivate and delete each rejected plugin, before adding another to the site.
To save you a little legwork, we’ve put together a list of plugins for 2018 that we use ourselves to provide a variety of common jobs often needed on a WordPress website.
WordPress Plugins You Can Count On:
- Classic Editor – The imminent release of WordPress 5.0 will include the new Block Editor ( Gutenberg). We recommend using this plugin to keep the Classic Editor in place until you’ve tested your website with the Block editor and made a conscious choice to use it.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Connects Google Analytics to your website and creates a robust widget in your dashboard. It shows a variety of views of your web traffic, where it came from, your bounce rate, and more. Quick, easy monitoring without having to leave your site to go to your Google Analytics page.
- Yoast SEO – Allows you to see – right on your post page – what your search engine result would look like before you optimize the post. You’ll get plenty of motivation to change titles and descriptions that will rank you higher in search engine optimization, while still using readable titles for your pages or posts. When you try your hand at optimizing your content, this plugin will show you – prompted by a series of colored-light-icons – whether you have succeeded and how you can do better. It also creates XML sitemaps for your site automatically.
- Gravity Forms A honey of a plugin that’s well worth the money. It costs $59.00 for a single site, $159.00 for up to three sites, and $259.00 for a developer’s license that’s good for unlimited sites. You’ll create forms in a breeze – even the complex and interactive ones. Heavy on user-friendly, it provides add-ons for other programs, like Paypal, Freshbooks, and MailChimp.
- Collapsing Categories – I love this plugin for sites that have a lot of content and want to display categories and posts on their sidebar. Collapsing Categories allows you to show the categories and then expand them to show the post titles within each. Make it easy for people to find your content!
- Add to Any Share Buttons – Share buttons for your pages, including the Add To Any, universal sharing button, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and many more.
- Revision Control – Some people never even notice that WordPress has a revision control system built right in, and, that it’s visible from the bottom of your Edit Posts or Pages view. If you’re an editing fool, you may wind up with a lot of revisions in your history. This plugin allows you to avoid the bloat. Hint: Live dangerously. Set it at two.
- Easy Recipe Plus – We use this plugin for all our clients with food blogs and E-commerce Food Sites that add recipes online. It creates a custom-post-type that allows you to enter the recipe and display a schema ready, sharable, formatted “recipe card” while offering readers the option of an easy download. You’ll have several templates to choose from, and you can change the fonts, colors, margins and such to integrate with your site design.
- Simple 301 Redirects – Creates a list of URLs that you would like to 301-redirect to another page or site. If you’ve changed from an HTML site or you’ve changed the structure of your URLs, this plugin is essential for keeping your traffic and avoiding 404 errors.
- ManageWP We use this powerful plugin to monitor and maintain our client’s websites when they have subscribed to our maintenance program. It saves us many headaches to manage all plugin updates from one dashboard. ManageWP also provides a helpful monthly report that lets us let our clients know what we are doing for them.
- Updraft Plus – A migration tool for no sweat WordPress backups and site migrations. You’ll need the premium version to access the migration features.
- Media Grid – An inexpensive, premium widget that we use for creating portfolios. It creates a grid of items that link to a full-page view of each item. Offers plenty of other options such as opening the image in a lightbox which is handy for photography sites.
- Folders – I love this plugin. It gives you the ability to organize your pages and posts into folders, with names of your choosing. It’s a huge help when working on large websites.
- Pop-up Ally – Our go-to plugin for creating opt-in forms of all types (not just pop-ups) to your website. Allows for easy styling so your opt-ins coordinate with your branding.
- WP-Store Locator – Lets you create a map with your store locations on it. Allows you to load multiple locations with a CSV file in a jiffy.
- Instagram Feed by Smash Balloon – Display Instagram photos from any, non-private Instagram account directly on your site, so you can look cool and increase your number of followers.
- Genesis Columns Advanced allows you to easily create columns on pages or in text boxes you’ve added to HOME page widget areas. Download for free.
- Short Pixel Image Optimizer – Increase your SEO by decreasing site load times due to bloated images. ShortPixel optimizes images automatically while keeping the quality of your images. This plugin is a lifesaver for using with clients who upload large images to their sites which slow their sites down and make them a pain to back up. This plugin reduces image size and removes metadata, without compromising quality. There is a small charge for the premium version but well worth it.
- Uber Menu– When you have a complicated menu with dropdowns and submenus, Uber Menu comes to the rescue. You can style it such that it’s super easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for.
- Custom 404 Error Page – A free plugin that allows you to create a custom page that displays when a visitor gets a 404 error. Use it to add a bit of whimsy to your user experience.
- WP Mail SMTP – If you are having trouble with WordPress forms not being delivered, it could be due to configurations of the web host. This plugin allows you to use an SMTP server (and even Gmail’s SMTP server) to send your mail, instead of the included PHP’s mail function which can cause the conflict.
- Ad Sanity – Manage ads on a website, without headaches. It’s as simple as adding a post or a page. You can display ads in sidebars, posts or pages. You can set them to display for a time-limited period or to keep running. Also tracks views and clicks.
- Anti-Spam – We use this powerful, anti-spam plugin and have found it to eliminate most all comment spam. Best of all, it’s FREE!
- Woo Commerce – Our go-to, e-commerce plugin. It now powers over 39 percent of all e-commerce sites in the world. Fully handles the commerce part of the system for products, events, memberships sites, and more.
- Abandon Carts Pro – Woo Commerce’s premium plugin captures abandoned carts by logged-in users and guest users. At $119 per year, it’s expensive, but if you’re selling products, you’ll find that reminding customers about their abandoned orders & then offering them a discount to complete the sale makes it well worth the money.
- Securi – Security is a big concern for online business. Securi’s web application firewall is probably one of the best site protection services you’ll find. You won’t have to worry about DDoS, malware threats, brute-force attacks, and other nefarious actors since they’ll monitor your site and protect it. There’s a free version which monitors your site for malware, but the premium plan which includes site cleaning, in case your site gets hacked.