There is a plugin for everything these days.
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. Basically, if you want your site to do something above and beyond what comes with your theme, you’ll want to find a plug-in to fill your heart’s desire.
Usually, when you are looking for the right plugin to meet your needs, you’ll have to upload it to your site to see if it works, test to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the theme or other plugins. In the WordPresss repository alone there are over 48,117 plugins with 1,503,133,440 total downloads. So as you can imagine, finding the right plugins can be time-consuming if you don’t get it on the first try.
I was planning on sharing with you a post I wrote in 2011 but as so many new plugins have become available and others have gone out of date, we put our heads together and came up with a list of 33 of our favorite plugins that you can count on:
- WP-Spam Shield – We have been using this powerful anti-spam plugin and have found it to eliminate most 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.
- 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.
- Yoast SEO – This plugin allows you to see, right on your post page, what your search engine result would look like before you optimize the post. This gives you a lot of motivation to change the title and descriptions to work better for search engine optimization while still using readable titles on you pages or posts. When you try your hand at optimizing your content,this plugin will tell you with a series of colored lights whether you have succeeded and how you can do better. This plugin also creates xml sitemaps for your site automatically.
- 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 developers license good for unlimited sites. You can create forms in a breeze, even complex and interactive forms. It is very user-friendly and there are add-ons for other programs like Paypal, Freshbooks, and MailChimp.
- Collapsing Categories – I love this plugin for sites that have a lot of content. It allows you to show the categories and then expand them to show the post titles within each. Don’t bury your content any longer!
- Social Media Widget – This is a plugin that makes a widget for you to make an authors box and to automatically add follow buttons to your sidebar. ( tip for newbies: to add the html in the little box, just write it first in a post and copy the html and paste it into the widget’s text info box).
- Add to Any Share Buttons – Share buttons for your pages including AddToAny’s 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 visible from the bottom of your edit Posts or Pages view. However, if you are an editing fool you may wind up with a lot of revisions in that history and you can avoid the bloat with this plugin. Hint: live dangerously, set it for two.
- Easy Recipe – We use this plupgin for all of our clients with food blogs and Ecommerce Food Sites that add recipes online. It creates a custom post type that then allow you to easily enter the recipe, have it display in a defined format and gives readers the option of an easy download.
- Simple 301 Redirects – Create a list of URLs that you would like to 301 redirect 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.
- Co-Schedule – This plugin is a premium plugin that allows us to plan, promote, and execute blog posts and social media posts from the WordPress post page or the Co-Schedule dashboard. It makes it very handy to do the post and social media updates all in one place, at one time.
- Member 2 Pro – Easily create a popular and profitable membership site with this powerful and scalable membership plugin for WordPress.
- 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.
- 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.
- Note Widget -This plugin makes it simple to edit text live in the WordPress front-end Customizer and see how the copy will look without a lot of back and forth. We love using it to create new layouts within Genesis home page widget areas.
- Media Grid – This is an inexpensive premium widget that we use for creating portfolios by creating a grid of items that then link to a full page view of the item. It has plenty of other options such as opening the item in a lightbox, which is handy for photography sites.
- Woo Commerce – This is our go to eCommerce plugin. It now powers over 39 percent of all ecommerce sites in the World. It handles the commerce part of the system for products, events, memberships sites and more.
- Abandon Carts Pro – This Woo Commerce premium plugin captures abandoned carts by logged-in users and guest users. It is expensive at 119.00 per year, but if you are selling products, by reminding customers about their abandoned orders &offering them a discount to complete the sale, you will recoup this fee in no time.
- Woo Commerce – Gift Cards – This free plugin makes it easy to set up a gift card program for your online store.
- 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.
- Pop-up Ally – This is our go to plugin to create opt-in forms of all types, not just pop-ups, to your website. It allows you to easily style them to go with your branding.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ultimate Branding – This WPMU Dev plugin lets you customize the sign in page of your WordPress site. It also lets you display your colors, logo, company name and brand messaging across your entire site.
- WP Easy Columns – Easy Columns provides the shortcodes to create a grid system or magazine style columns for laying out your pages or posts on demand. You can use any combination of 1/4, 1/2, 1/3, 2/3, 3/4, 1/5, 2/5, 3/5 and 4/5 columns. Very handy.
- WP- Smush Image Optimizer – This free plugin is a life saver for people who upload large images to their sites that can end up slowing them down and being a pain to back-up. It reduces the size of the images and removes the metadata without losing quality. You can set the width and height for the images and it will resize them as they come in to your media library and you can run the plugin on the images already on your site.
- Uber Menu– When you have a complicated menu with dropdowns and submenus, Uber Menu comes to the rescue. It can be styled to make it super easy for visitor find what they are looking for.
- 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. You can create a link for downloading if so desired.
- W3 Total Cache – This plugin is used by all the pros to make their sites load faster by caching every aspect of your site. This is great for readers and also a factor in ranking.
- Limit Login Attempts -This free plugin adds a good security feature by blocking login attempts after a certain number of tries. This twarts Brute force attacks and people trying to break-in to your site.
- 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 a bit of whimsey to your user experience.
- 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.
- Beaver Builder – This is a powerful drag and drop page builder system for WordPress sites. It comes with its own themes but we use it with Genesis Theme Framework to save time and create new site designs without writing code.
- Easy Custom CSS– This is great plugin to that makes it easy to add custom CSS to pages and posts.