While WordPress offers a ton of features and flexibility, there is still a lot of functionality missing from the core software. The best way to fill in the missing pieces, of course, is to get yourself the right plugins.
Plugins offer all kinds of customization for site admins, however, with almost 40,000 options to choose from it the WordPress Plugin Directory, not to mention all the premium products available, it can be difficult sorting the good from the, well, not so good.
So here’s a collection of free and premium must-haves, the plugins that can help take your site from good to great. I’ve included options for everything from caching the image optimization to security and membership.
Do you have a favorite plugin from this list? Have we missed one that you think is absolutely essential for every WordPress site? Let us know in the comments below.
W3 Total Cache is designed to increase the page load speed for WordPress sites, which will improve your visitors’ overall experience.
The plugin helps to increase server performance by reducing download times. By reducing page load times, overall site performance improves which helps your site’s rank in search engines.
W3 Total Cache can also help to improve web server performance during high traffic periods, which is crucial for larger websites.
Jetpack offers a suite of powerful features for your WordPress site. Enhanced security, improved site performance, plenty of content tools, and visitor engagement features are all part of this plugin.
Additional features include spam-free Comments, Social Sharing, Related Posts, Post by Email, and much more.
Jetpack even offers a mobile theme option that is lightweight and responsive, designed for phones and tablets.
Akismet helps to filter out any comments on your blog that look like spam. The plugin automatically checks comments against the Akismet Web service.
All comments will have a history for users to view that shows which comments were flagged or cleared by Akismet. In addition, those comments that were marked as spam or unmarked by a moderator will be highlighted in the history.
The Google Analytics + plugin allows users to easily track and view search stats for an individual site or collection of sites without leaving WordPress.
Instead of logging into your Google Analytics account, this plugin brings the data into your dashboard. Functionality within the dashboard allows for easy navigation when viewing a single site as well as multiple sites.
This must-have plugin will automatically generate an XML sitemap for your site. Having an XML sitemap is crucial in helping search engines better index your blog.
With a sitemap, web crawlers can see the structure of your site and retrieve the results more efficiently.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo will be notified every time you create a post about your new content.
iThemes Security helps to fix common holes in your WordPress site from potential automated attacks. Many WordPress administrators generally don’t know they have these holes or vulnerabilities, but iThemes Security can help.
Because of unknown vulnerabilities from other installed plugins, your site can be an easy target for attacks. iThemes Security works to identify and protect these holes in your site.
Multiple contact forms can be created and managed through this plugin. No need for extra coding with the Contact Form 7 plugin, as the form and mail contents can be easily customized through the settings.
The Contact Form 7 also supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, and Akismet filtering to help with spam.
Snapshot can help to backup and restore your entire WordPress site. There is no need to hire external services to help back up your site with Snapshot.
Site administrators can create and store as many snapshots (or backups) as they want. At any time, a single click of a snapshot can help restore your site to the point in time it was taken.
Login Lockdown will help to limit the number of login attempts from a given IP for a set amount of time. Every time there is a failed login attempt on your WordPress site, Login Lockdown will record the IP address and timestamp.
If a certain threshold of failed login attempts is passed in a short amount of time, the login function will be disabled from the IP range. This feature will help to prevent brute force password discovery attempts.
Lock out times can also be customized to fit your site’s needs.
Ultimate Branding is a WordPress plugin that can help site owners display their colors, logo, company name, etc. across their entire site.
With Ultimate Branding, any WordPress branding can be changed to your brand. Instead of seeing the WordPress name and logo, your company name and logo can be displayed without needing to update a single line of code.
Appointments + is a premium plugin that is perfect for small businesses like salons, studios, and clinics. Basically, anyone who needs to manage and take appointments.
By enabling customers to book appointments directly through your WordPress site, there is no need to switch between your company website and booking system any longer.
The plugin will even integrate with PayPal to help collect payments and deposits from customers without any extra coding.
MarketPress eCommerce is one of the most comprehensive eCommerce plugins available today for WordPress. Users can create individual e-storefront marketplaces all the way up to large eCommerce networks.
With the premium MarketPress eCommerce plugin, users will get the features they need to sell any type of product – including digital downloads and material goods. There is no need for any add-ons or extensions with this all-in-one tool.
Are you looking to offer the members of your site premium content that is not available to anyone else? The Membership plugin can help you create your own membership site by granting limited access to visitors and save premium content for paid customers.
Through this plugin, you can limit access to pages, posts, categories, videos, audio, images, PDFs, etc. The site administrator can control who sees what and when for their site.
Pro Sites will help you create a profitable network of sites that can offer access to things like themes, plugins, storage, and domain mapping.
The plugin makes it easier for you to offer premium services to your customers. For example, site admins can offer tiered memberships to products and services they offer.
The Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) can display a list of posts or pages that relate to the current post. This feature provides a great opportunity for your readers to see other relevant content from your site.
Users have the option of displaying only content found on their site or can make extra money by displaying sponsored content.
WP Smush helps to strip down unnecessary information from your images, thus reducing their file size. The good thing is that by removing all of this information from your images, the quality is not impacted.
The end result of smaller image sizes is faster site loads, which search engines like Google love.
BJ Lazy Load can help your WordPress site load faster and save bandwidth. By replacing most images on your site with a placeholder, the plugin loads the content as it gets close to entering the browser screen when a visitor scrolls the page.
The plugin works for all post images, thumbnails, gravatar images, and content iframes. Other images within your site can also be included by using a delivered function.
Have you ever needed to backup or move an entire WordPress site from one location to another? The Duplicator plugin can duplicate, backup, move, and transfer a site.
The plugin can also serve as an easy utility for those administrators looking to backup their sites.
Need to make a clone of your production site for testing purposes? Yep, the Duplicator plugin is perfect for making a backup of a WordPress site for testing and validation.
Infinite SEO, a powerful WordPress search engine optimization plugin, can help to boost your sites rankings. This plugin can handle all of your SEO needs in one tool.
The meta for each post and page can easily be customized through Infinite SEO. Optimization tools, Moz integration, and automatic sitemaps are all added features of this plugin.
The Floating Social plugin enables users to display social share buttons on their site, which follow readers as they scroll through content.
This plugin is easy to install and configure. Users can activate only the media share buttons they want to include on their site. The social media buttons and links are responsive and can be adjusted in size and color.
Relevanssi can replace the default search option on your site where results are sorted in order of relevance, instead of by date.
The plugin is customizable so that it can be setup to do fuzzy matching on partial words. Content can be found by matching on just one search term or it can be required that all words be found.
There is a free version of Relevanssi that supports a single site, while the premium version offers multi-site support along with other features.
Using Theme Check is a quick way to test that your active theme supports all of the current WordPress standards and best practices.
Through a simple admin menu, Theme Check will display all the results after a test is run.
Web developers should certainly take advantage of this plugin to make sure their theme supports the latest WordPress standards.
Broken Link Checker monitors the links found in your posts, pages, comments, blogroll, and more. The plugin identifies any broken links that no longer work, missing images, or any redirects.
Once broken links are identified on your site, links can be edited directly from the plugin page to avoid manually updating each post.
The Disable Comments plugin enables administrators to globally control comments on their site. Comments can be disabled according to post type, on pages, attachments, etc.
This plugin works well if you want to disable comments on certain post types or on your entire site. However, if you plan to selectively disable comments on individual posts, then this function is better handled directly through WordPress.
The Regenerate Thumbnails plugin enables you to regenerate thumbnails for image attachments. You have the option to regenerate the thumbnails for all image uploads, individual images, or specific multiple image uploads.
This plugin is very helpful if you have altered any of your thumbnail dimensions or have changed to a new theme that features different image dimensions.
Easy Updates Manager enables you to manage all of your WordPress updates for a single site or Multisite install. There are tons of settings included within the plugin making it highly customizable.
Features include options to automatically update WordPress major and minor releases. Site administrators can also opt to automatically update plugins, themes, and much more.
Redirection can help manage 301 redirects and keep track of 404 errors without digging into .htaccess files. This plugin can be very useful if you are migrating pages from a different website and changing the directory structures of your WordPress installation.
A redirection can be setup to pass a URL through to another page, file, or website. Any URL can be redirected, not just those that no longer exist.
With TablePress, you can easily create tables that can be embedded into posts, pages, or text widgets by using a Shortcode. No special coding is necessary as table data can be entered directly into a spreadsheet interface.
Tables can contain any type of data, including formulas. Sorting, pagination, and filtering add additional functionality for TablePress. Tables can also be imported and/or exported from/to Excel, CSV, HTML, and JSON formats.
Edit Flow makes it easy to communicate with your team members directly within WordPress. It can be customized to fit your specific workflow needs.
Features include a calendar that offers a view of your scheduled content. Custom statuses can be created to define specific stages of your editorial workflow. Writers and editors can have private discussions through editorial comments all from within WordPress.
The WP Mail SMTP plugin reconfigures the WordPress delivered mail function to use SMTP. It offers a setup page that enables you to configure various email options. These options include specifying an SMTP host and SMTP port, specifying the from name and email address for outgoing mail, setting SMTP username and password, and more.
Gallery offers tools that will assist in adding and editing images for different views on your site that are 100% responsive. Photo galleries and albums can be easily added to posts and pages within WordPress as well as to multiple widgets.
The plugin can also make it easy to rename, upload, remove, and copy images in just a few steps. Image descriptions and tags can also be added through this tool.
The All In One Schema.org Rich Snippets plugin can help give search engines a useful summary of your content to display. These useful snippets of information for your content can help you stand out from your competition.
The plugin supports the following content types: review, event, people, product, recipe, software application, video, and articles.
The Fast Secure Contact Form plugin enables you to easily create and add forms to your WordPress site. Multiple forms can be created with an option to redirect visitors to any URL once the message is sent.
Contact forms created by this plugin can easily be customized to fit your site. Extra fields of any type can be added, including: text, textarea, checkbox, checkbox-multiple, radio, select, select-multiple, attachment, date, time, hidden, password, and fieldset.
The plugin also includes CAPTCHA and Akismet support to help block spam.
Display Widgets enables you to change your sidebar content for different pages, categories, and more. No more extra coding is required to create multiple sidebars for different scenarios on your site.
All you need to do is click a checkbox on or off for where you want widgets to display or be hidden.
The Advanced Custom Fields plugin gives WordPress users the flexibility to visually create custom fields for their site.
Custom field input types include: text, textarea, wysiwyg, image, file, page link, post object, relationship, select, checkbox, radio buttons, date picker, true/false, repeater, flexible content, and gallery.
Often times when a WordPress site loads slowly, it is a result of multiple plugins running. The P3 plugin can help WordPress administrators identify plugin(s) that are causing slowness on their site.
By measuring the load times of plugins running on a site, administrators can make decisions on what to do with those that are under performing.
Black Studio TinyMCE Widget enables you to insert rich text and/or media objects directly into your sidebars without any HTML coding through a visual editor.
As a default, WordPress text widgets lack the editor capabilities that are offered in posts and pages. The Black Studio TinyMCE Widget overcomes these limitations by providing a clean visual interface to add media and text.
Those that prefer to switch from a visual editor to HTML (like posts and pages) also have that option.