Some things just instantly make other things better.
- Ketchup, french fries.
- Coffee, mornings.
- Plugins, WordPress.
Now there may be people living on the fringes of society and decency that would deny the first two.
But no one would claim WordPress is better without plugins.
Sure, they may say there are bad plugins to avoid if you don’t want your site to crash irreparably.
And they may counsel against installing every plugin imaginable if you want your site to load sometime today.
But every WordPress-based website can be supercharged in no time by adding at least one game-changing plugin.
With 55,630+ plugins available on WordPress.org plus thousands more on premium marketplaces like CodeCanyon, though, figuring out which plugins you actually want and need could take way more time than it’s worth.
Which is why we’re saving you the time today by taking the hours and hours we’ve spent researching and using plugins on the sites we’ve built to give you a getting started point.
We’ve got the best free and paid options for 14 different types of WordPress plugins so no matter your budget or the kind of site you want to create, you should find something useful!
What are WordPress plugins?
WordPress plugins are basically bits of code that are super easy to upload and install on your WordPress website (think a couple of clicks) that expand its functionality.
Want to add a contact form that automatically emails you when someone wants to reach out?
Want to create a membership-based site complete with exclusive content and easy payments for your subscribers?
Want the flexibility and low cost of WordPress but the ease of use website builders provide?
As the saying goes in the WordPress community “there’s a plugin for that.”
And while plugins are written by programming experts in PHP (the same coding language WordPress is written in), you can easily install and use the vast majority of plugins without having to write a single line of code.
As long as you’re using WordPress.org not WordPress.com, you’ve got access to thousands of WordPress plugins for free on in the official WordPress plugin directory, plus tons of premium ones too.
Premium vs free WordPress plugins
With more free plugins than your grandma could shake a stick at in confusion and sadness, why would you want to pay for a premium plugin?
Well, two main reasons:
- Premium WordPress plugins usually come from developers/companies that create plugins professionally, meaning there’s someone whose job it is to make sure the plugin stays compatible with every new version of WordPress and secure against the latest hacks.
- Premium WordPress plugins also usually come with professional tech support, which means they have more time and interest in helping you solve whatever challenges you run into than a plugin coded by a developer for free in their spare time.
It’s worth noting that a lot of plugins also follow a “freemium” model, where you can get a very functional version for free, with the option to upgrade if you want to get more features and better support.
These tend to be our favorite plugins because you get the quality of a plugin that helps pay professionals a salary, and a clear upgrade path if you decide you really like the plugin.
All while letting you get some sweet site upgrades for nothing more than a bit of your time to start!
How to choose the best WordPress plugins for your site
Alright, so you’re sold on getting some WordPress plugins, how do you figure out which you should add to your site?
Well, step 0 (if you haven’t done it already) is to figure out the purpose of your site.
We’ve got some help for you here if you haven’t done that yet.
Now that you know what you’re aiming for with your site, you’ll have an idea what features/functions you’ll need and thus we have a starting place for our search.
Now, besides our list below, two of the best places to find the best WordPress plugins are:
- The Official WordPress Plugins Directory (free/freemium)
- CodeCanyon (premium)
Because free is good, let’s start our search in the official directory; the process is basically the same for CodeCanyon or any other premium WordPress plugin marketplace.
Let’s say we’re looking for an SEO plugin for WordPress – you’ll want to be able to rank just about any website you make in Google, and these plugins help with that.
So we head on over to the official directory and type in the obvious phrase “SEO.”
Which, naturally, turns up results for WordPress SEO plugins:
Each result will show you a few different pieces of relevant information:
- Plugin name
- Plugin rating and number of reviews
- A short description
- Who developed it
- How many active installations/users it has
- The latest version of WordPress it’s been tested with
So from a page like this, you’re doing some basic analysis to figure out which (if any) of these WordPress plugins are worth looking further into/trying.
Things to look for:
- Does the plugin description sound like what you’re looking for? (If so, time for step 2!)
- What’s the rating and how many reviews does it have? (more stars/more reviews = better)
- How many active installations does it have? (more = better)
- What version has it been tested with? (if it’s a much lower version than most results, be cautious).
Once you’ve found maybe 2-4 plugins that sound good, open them up in new tabs and let’s take a deeper look.
Here you’ll find a more detailed description of the plugin so you can get a better idea of its features and whether or not this sounds like what you need.
At the bottom of this description, the best WordPress plugins will also include screenshots for you to get a better idea of how the plugin works:
As well as an FAQ section to help you get fast answers to common questions you’ll have:
You’ll also find a couple more useful pieces of info in the sidebar.
In the first section, on top of some info you saw on the main results page, there’s also “Last Updated” info.
Last week is great, 3 years ago and this plugin is probably not being maintained.
Meaning it’s more likely to break and you’re less likely to be able to get help from the creators when it does.
Next, you’ll be able to see a more detailed breakdown of the ratings.
Just like Amazon, you can click on around to see the reviews left for each star rating.
Just like Amazon, it’s helpful to read a few positive reviews and a few negative reviews to learn what people like and dislike about the plugin.
The last thing you’ll find useful in the sidebar is info about the plugin’s support:
The more resolved issues the better, though even the best WordPress plugins with the best support won’t have every single issue resolved.
How to add plugins to WordPress
There are two main ways to install a WordPress plugin.
The first and easiest is to just head over to the Plugins section of your WordPress dashboard and do a search.
Get the deets on how to do this in our how to use WordPress tutorial post here!
The second involves manually downloading and installing the plugin.
Back in the official WordPress plugin directory, you’ll find a download button on the plugin details page:
Click that and you’ll get a zip file for the plugin.
Then you just head over to your WordPress dashboard, then plugins -> add new in the sidebar.
Then, at the top of the page, click “upload plugin” and choose that zip file on your computer and click “install now.”
Then click activate on the page that comes up and you’re golden.
Sweet, so now that we’ve got the background out of the way, let’s get into our massive list of top WordPress plugins!
Best WordPress membership plugins
Want to create your own private forum or social network to discuss world domination?
Maybe you just want to include a private community as part of your upcoming course on underwater basket weaving.
Either way, WordPress membership plugins help you easily add, remove, and manage users so you can create your own free or paid groups right within WordPress!
MemberPress is the go-to premium plugin for building membership sites using WordPress.
Create subscriptions, limit access to content based on subscription levels, securely accept recurring payments… it’s all here and it’s all easy to set up and maintain.
But at the same time, you get a ton of control over how your memberships work, which is the kind of flexibility that makes WordPress plugins great in the first place.
- Detailed access rules (super specific control over what content your users can access based on the membership plan and/or products they’ve purchased).
- Premium community forums (integrates seamlessly with WordPress forum plugins like BBPress so you can create your own private, paid forums).
- Plenty of payment gateways (you can use Stripe, PayPal or Authorize.net to accept payments so there’s plenty of options on how your members can pay you).
MemberPress starts at $149/year for their basic plan which we know isn’t a small commitment when you’re getting started.
BUT it comes with a 14-day money back guarantee.
AND there’s our other WordPress membership plugin recommendation is 100% free if that’s more your speed atm.
BuddyPress is definitely the top free WordPress membership management plugin.
It’s built and maintained by a solid core of WordPress developers so in this case, free doesn’t mean out of date and no support.
That being said, while it does offer some essential features that can help you build your own mini social networking site, it’s geared a bit more towards developers than beginners.
Meaning it’ll work, you just might have to work a bit harder to make it work.
- Groups (allow your members to create their own sub-groups around certain topics/conversations).
- Activity streams (members and groups have their own version of a social feed where they can see the latest happenings).
- Private messaging (your members can message each other individually or in small groups, separate from the main streams).
This bad boy’s 100% free!
Best WordPress backup plugins
As anyone who’s used a phone/the internet at all knows, sometimes tech fails us.
WordPress websites are unfortunately no exception.
But smart people know that. And they know how to code.
So they’ve created WordPress backup plugins so even beginners can keep their hard work safe from bugs and hacks.
All with just a couple of clicks to backup or restore.
Updraft is basically the first plugin we install on every site we make.
Hacks can happen. Updates can break things. And sometimes you change nothing but your site just doesn’t load right when you wake up.
UpdraftPlus makes none of these much of a hassle!
That’s because their free version lets you set up automated backups (so you don’t forget to do it), backup your site via email or Dropbox/Google Drive (so you’re covered even if something goes wrong at the web hosting level), and unlike other free options, they let you restore too (obviously important and pretty terrible that others don’t).
- Automatic backups (scheduled so you don’t have to remember)
- Cloud storage (like Dropbox or Google Drive so you won't’ lose them if your web server goes down)
- Instant restore (so you can get a working version of your site back up ASAP)
- Incremental backups (saves space by just backing up changes, not your entire site)
- Premium support (so you’ve got pro help if something goes wrong)
- Automatic backups when updating (so you can instantly revert if something goes wrong; updates are one of the most common reasons WordPress sites break)
Updraft’s premium subscription starts at $70 for your first year, then $42 after that.
They don’t offer any automatic money back guarantee, but if you contact them within 10 days of purchase and can show you have a technical issue that can’t be fixed, they’ll refund you.
Built by Automattic, the company that created/maintains WordPress, VaultPress is a solid backup solution for beginners.
Yes, you’ll pay a bit of money which isn’t 100% necessary with an option like UpdraftPlus, but for that relatively small fee (a plan that’s more than enough for beginners is just $3/month), you get word class support, very easy setup, and one-click restore or migration.
- Automated daily backups (so you’ll never lose much, if any of your work)
- 30-day backup offsite archive (so you don’t have to use your own Dropbox/Google Drive space, and you won’t lose your backups)
- Priority support (so you’re not alone when you’re at your most desperate)
Daily backup plans are perfect for the vast majority of sites and are only $3 a month.
30-day refunds if you decide for some reason you made a mistake.
Best WordPress popup plugins
They can be annoying.
They can be frustrating.
But they can also increase your email list opt-ins by 1375%.
The key is to do them smartly, tastefully, more like a fancy french restaurant than the Golden Corral buffet.
These WordPress popup plugins can help you out there.
OptinMonster is a beast of a plugin for helping you convert more of your website’s traffic into email subscribers and customers.
It comes loaded with pre-made, high-converting opt-in forms so you can swap out some text and hit “publish” in no time.
Even if you want to make a few more tweaks than that, their drag and drop builder makes building the exact form you want a breeze.
Even the best opt-in popup can fall flat if you just toss it onto every page of your site, though.
Which is where their powerful targeting and personalization comes in.
Is a user coming back to your eCommerce site and looking at one of your products for the third time?
Pop up a quick little 10% off coupon to get them to buy.
Want readers of your “How to Buy the Perfect Starter Camera” post to download your free checklist (while not bothering those that just land on your homepage)?
OptinMonster lets you make just the offer on just the right post, at just the right time (when they’ve READ the post not right when they get to it) so you can build your list that much faster.
- Drag and drop builder/templates (makes it easy to create high-converting popups)
- Simple integration with email marketing (whether you use MailChimp, Drip, ConvertKit, etc – setup is just a couple of clicks)
- Advanced targeting (so you can make the perfect offers at the perfect time without annoying people just getting to know you).
Get your popup bases covered with Basic plan starting at $9/month (billed annually).
And if you realize you’ve jumped in too deep, too soon you’re covered with their 14-day money back guarantee.
If OptinMonster is the machete of WordPress popup plugins, Sumo is more of the swiss army knife.
With OptinMonster, you’ll be able to crush any popup marketing campaign you want thanks to their advanced popup features.
BUT you’ll have to spend more time (and money) learning how to harness that power.
And you’ll need to get your own email marketing software (like Mailchimp or Drip).
Sumo, on the other hand, offers a complete popup and email marketing solution that’s great for beginners because:
- It’s just one tool to learn to grow your email list with timed popups, schedule one-off emails or drip campaigns, and win back customers with cart abandonment emails.
- They have a freemium model which means you can get started (and get a ton of value) without being on the hook for a recurring expense.
- Email opt-in popups (for growing that sweet sweet subscribers list)
- Unlimited subscribers, 10k emails a month (so you’ve got plenty of room to grow your list for free)
- Essential visitor targeting (customize how your popups are displayed by URL, device, etc to maximize signups/minimize annoyance).
- Unlimited emails and Sumo-driven revenue (so you can message your list as much as you want, and convert more subscribers/visitors into $$$)
- A/B tests (so you can compare versions of a popup and figure out which converts the best)
- Remove Sumo Branding (essential for making your site/brand feel 100% pro)
Free is free obviously; their premium version is $39/month with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Best WordPress security plugins
Whether it’s avoiding hacking headaches or maintaining trust with your visitors, keeping your website secure is as essential as keeping your house secure.
These WordPress security plugins help you hinder hackers and spank spammers so you can stay focused on building/running your site.
Up first we’ve got everyone’s favorite WordPress spam plugin, Akismet.
The main targets of spam on any site you build will be the comment sections of posts and pages and any contact forms you have.
For the second (forms), CAPTCHAS are a big help (see our list of best WordPress form plugins below, they all include CAPTCHA support).
When it comes to comments, Akismet’s your go-to.
Built by Automattic (the team behind WordPress itself), the plugin makes fighting spam easy peasy.
Just install and setup the plugin when you have a couple of minutes, then their system will automatically mark any potential spam comments for you so you can review them yourself (or just leave ‘em be – Akismet’s probably right).
- Automatic spam detection (checks every incoming comment and filters the ones that look like spam so you/another human can review them)
- URLs in comment body (reveals any hidden or misleading links – spammers will try to use these to sneak past your guard)
- Automatic spam discard (outright blocks the worst spam to save you disc space and boost your site speed)
- Enables use on commercial sites (aka ones that make money)
- Advanced stats (so you can better understand how spammers come at you)
- Priority support (so you can solve your spam problems ASAP)
Akismet’s Plus plan is all you’ll need for just $5/month per site.
If you buy annually you can get a full refund within 30 days, if you pay monthly though you’ll just have to cancel and drink one less coffee (no money back there).
Compared to Akismet, Sucuri is more of an all-around WordPress security plugin designed to help you protect your site from hacking (and fix it if it gets hacked).
Most of the essential features like site scans and basic website hardening come standard in the free version.
If you decide to upgrade to the paid version you’ll get access to their Website Firewall to protect against things like brute force and DDoS attacks, and they’ll help fix your site if you do get hacked (which is something you’d have to pay hundreds of dollars for without them).
And with users like Yoast (the SEO plugin), Rainmaker Digital (a pretty big digital marketing company), CrossFit (the gym/workout company), and WP Engine (one of the best WordPress hosting companies) – you’ll be in some good company working with them.
- Ongoing security auditing (logs every security-related event so if something happens you/a security expert will have a record to figure out how to fix it).
- Remote malware scanning (scans your website for virus infections using Sucuri’s servers so your website will run faster/you’ll be notified if there’s a hack).
- Security hardening (applies a bunch of technical tweaks to your website setup to make it harder to hack based on Sucuri’s experience cleaning hundreds of websites a day)
- Website firewall (protects your website from things like DDOS and brute force attacks)
- Malware removal (instead of just letting you know when you’re sites been hacked, they’ll fix it for you)
- WordPress CDN (lets you connect your site to their Content Delivery Network for faster load times)
Paid plans start at $199/year for their “Basic” plan which is good for most sites; 30-day money back guarantee.
WordFence Security (freemium)
WordFence is another solid all-around WordPress security plugin that offers security standards like website scanning, a firewall, and brute force hacking protection.
The plugin also offers real-time traffic reports for web crawlers and bots, logins to your site, and 404 errors so you can get a clearer picture of potentially suspicious activity – something that helps it stand out from competitor Sucuri.
Their firewall also comes in the free version (where you have to pay for it with Sucuri) which is nice, though Sucuri comes out ahead in that they offer some performance features and hack fixing/repair in their premium.
- WordPress firewall (blocks malicious traffic from loading and accessing your site)
- Security scanner (checks your website files and code for hacks)
- Login security (login page CAPTCHA so bots can’t try to brute force break-in)
- Real-time IP blacklist, firewall rule, and malware signature updates (so as soon as hackers start using a new technique to break into websites, your site will be protected)
- Reputation monitoring (checks 3 major IP blacklists to make sure YOUR SITE hasn’t been put on them because hackers have broken in)
- Premium support (so you can get questions answered and hacks fixed asap)
A license for one site starts at $99/year, with discounts for more licenses (for more than one site) or when you pay for multiple years in advance.
Their refund policy is unclear but they do say it’s at least possible to get one if you ask.
Best WordPress gallery plugins
A picture is worth…
Nah, we won’t go that cliche, you already know you want to put pictures, graphics, etc on your site.
Which you can definitely do with raw WordPress.
These WordPress gallery plugins give you some advanced options, though, if you’re going to build an image-heavy site.
Envira Gallery (freemium)
Envira makes creating WordPress galleries easy – no developer required.
They’ve put a ton of time and effort into making their drag and drop gallery creator super beginner-friendly while also including tons of customization options and performance improvements.
Translation: you’ll be able to get started fast but as you get comfortable, you’ll be able to do just about anything you want with Envira.
The free version is definitely enough to get started and add a few galleries to your site, but there’s a lot of great stuff packed into the premium options that those are definitely worth considering if you’re going to be working with images a lot.
- Drag and Drop Builder (makes it easy to create spectacular looking galleries)
- Performance and SEO optimized (so you don’t have to worry about your images slowing down your site and they can help you rank in search engines)
- Mobile ready (so your galleries will look great on phones too!)
- Advanced display options (set different options for mobile, get access to pre-built gallery themes, split your galleries into multiple posts and more)
- Image protection (add watermarks and restrict visitors’ ability to right-click and download images)
- Social media and ecommerce integrations (make it easy for people to share your photos on social media or buy them from you on your site)
Plans start at $29/year for “Basic” but if you’re really going to be using this thing enough to pay, you’ll probably just want to go straight to their $99 pro version as it’ll give you access to everything.
But you’ve got a 14-day money back guarantee so definitely explore your options.
NextGen Gallery (freemium)
NextGen is another can’t go wrong WordPress gallery plugin.
One of the key ways it sets itself apart is its focus on image/media management, making it easy to batch upload, delete, rearrange, and sort images into galleries, as well as edit metadata and thumbnails.
The free version also strikes a nice balance between easy to use and customizable.
You’ll only get access to three essential gallery styles and two album styles, but all of these are fully customizable (whereas Envira makes you pay for some of its more advanced customizations and themes).
Our impression is that NextGEN is a great option for photographers/artists who want to regularly add new images and make them look great without having to do a ton of work to set things up.
Envira’s probably better for websites that don’t change images as much but could benefit from more advanced customization and performance options.
- 5 basic album and gallery styles (enough to get started with solid-looking photo collections)
- Enhanced gallery/ media management (makes it easier to manage your photos and reuse certain collections across your site)
- Advanced gallery display options (while the style templates might be basic, you’ll get a lot of control over them)
- 9 premium album and gallery styles (for super fancy double backflip type stuff that wows website visitors)
- Full-screen lightbox (to really put your images front and center)
- Image Protection (to prevent people from being able to download your images)
$79 a year gets you started with their Plus plan that adds more advanced display features.
No word on their site when it comes to money back/refunds.
Best WordPress SEO plugins
Free traffic from Google. Loads of it.
That’s the whole point and purpose of “search engine optimization” aka “get me to the #1 spot on Google so the exact customer/audience member I can help the most finds me.”
WordPress SEO plugins won’t get you there on their own, but they’ll help make it possible.
Yoast SEO (freemium)
SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and that’s technically what it is.
But when 90% of searches are made on Google, it kind of actually means “Google optimization.”
And when it comes to “WordPress SEO plugins,” everyone basically means “Yoast.”
The free version is great, covering all the basics of SEO you need in posts (like editing meta descriptions) and outside of them (like having XML sitemaps so Google can figure out what your site is about faster).
And the plugin has this red, yellow, green light system for pages and posts that lets you know whether they’re properly optimized around your target keyword or need improvement (with specific action items).
While super-advanced search engine optimizers might want to dig deeper and further to get every last ounce of optimization they can, this plugin’s more than enough for the other 90% of us.
- XML sitemaps (makes it easier for search engines to find your content – no need for a dedicated WordPress sitemap plugin)
- SEO and readability analysis (gives you red, green, and yellow lights for each page/post so you’ll learn what you need to do to optimize your content)
- Meta information editing (set canonical URLs, meta descriptions, slugs and more without having to get into backend code).
- Internal linking tools (makes internal linking suggestions and includes a redirection tool so you can maintain your optimization beyond keyword usage)
- Video, Local, and WooCommerce SEO integrations (additional SEO tools for more advanced situations)
- Premium support (answers = faster)
If you do decide you want to get black-belt with the premium version, you’re looking at $89 a year for one site, 30-day refunds.
All in One SEO Pack (freemium)
Because we’re all about giving you options here, All in One SEO.
Really, it’s great too!
All the same basics are covered when it comes to SEO (meta descriptions, sitemaps, etc).
And it even has some more advanced controls/features like Schema.org markup in the free version.
But it doesn’t look as slick as Yoast and while it’s technically beginner friendly, we feel if you’re really going to take advantage of the extra benefits of this plugin over Yoast you’ve got to be a bit further in your knowledge and skill with SEO.
- XML sitemaps (so search engine bots can find your site content more easily)
- Schema.org markup and Google amp (these are more advanced tools for getting to the top of certain highly competitive searches – nice to have them in a free tool)
- Automatic title optimization and meta tags (handy for beginners who aren’t quite sure what to do here)
- Video and ecommerce SEO (for more advanced sites)
- Support for Google Tag Manager and more advanced Google Analytics (so you can track how people use your website more closely)
- Premium support (because at this level, you’ll want a pro to help fix things)
Premium starts at $79 a year but there are no refunds so be sure you need it before you buy.
Best Google Analytics WordPress plugins
Knowing where your visitors are coming from and what pages and posts on your site are most interesting to them is an essential component of creating and growing a pro website.
Google Analytics makes that possible by capturing information about the people that visit your site (anonymously, nothing creepy) and compiling it into super useful reports.
As you get more comfortable with the whole website building world, you don’t technically need a plugin to get Google Analytics running on your site.
But these Google Analytics WordPress plugins make it easy to get started.
MonsterInsights is by far the best known Google Analytics plugin for WordPress, and it delivers exactly what you want: an easy way to install and view your GA data right inside the WP dashboard.
So you’re saving time on the install (not having to learn the technical details of getting Google Analytics to work) and on the maintenance (don’t have to learn how to read the not-so-beginner-friendly Google Analytics reports).
You’ll be able to get basic stats like the number of visitors and pageviews in the free version – plenty of info for a new site/beginner website creator.
And once you’re ready to get more sophisticated, you can go grab the Premium version(s) to get ecommerce tracking, real-time data, and more.
- Super easy setup (they’ve got an onboarding system that takes you step by step through the setup process – no confusion needed!)
- WordPress dashboard stats (get your essential site stats right in your WordPress dashboard)
- Affiliate link and download tracking (so you can see when and where your visitors grab a free guide or click a link that could earn you $$)
- Ecommerce tracking (so you can get insights into your product pages and sales)
- Forms tracking (so you can see how people interact with your contact and other forms)
- Detailed page insights (lets you view more information about how individual pages/posts perform right inside WordPress)
Their premium plans start at $99.50/year and come with a 14-day money back guarantee.
While MonsterInsights is the monster plugin for WordPress Google Analytics, Analytify gives them a good run for their money.
While not quite as polished, it’s still very easy to install and use.
AND they offer some more advanced stats like Social media and search in their free plugin, which means you can get more out of it before you’ll want or need to upgrade to their pro version.
Lastly, at less than half the price if and when you do want that pro version, Analytify is definitely worth checking out to meet your Google Analytics WordPress plugin needs!
- 1-click install (a lot simpler than manually adding Google Analytics, a bit easier than MonsterInsights).
- Analytics dashboard in WordPress (view your essential site stats right inside WP)
- Social media and search stats (see what keywords people use to get to your site and which social media sites they come from; this is a premium feature in Monster!)
- Real-time stats (see where visitors are on your site – RIGHT NOW)
- Ecommerce integration (for use with WooCommerce)
- Priority support (solve problems and get answers faster)
Their pro plan costs just $39 a year which is pretty great, though you’ll need to pay extra if you want ecommerce integration.
Decide it’s not for you and you can get 100% of your money back for 14 days.
Best WordPress migration plugins
Every once in a while you might find yourself wanting to switch web hosts to get a better price or service.
Sometimes you create a lot of great content under one URL but are able to snag a better one and need to get things moved over.
Or perhaps you’re launching a new site update and want to build out the new version under a different domain name before moving everything over to your live site.
In these cases and more, you’re going to want to have one of these WordPress migration plugins to save you hours in the process.
Duplicator does just what its name suggests – duplicates your website for backup or migration.
It’s a solid WordPress migration that will help you get the job done a lot faster than any attempt to move things manually yourself.
It’s particularly useful, though, for those of you who want to get into the webmaster game (building and running multiple sites for yourself or other people).
Why? Two reasons:
- It’s a bit more technical to set up and use than our other migration plugin recommendation (there’s a solid quick start guide and it’s not too terribly difficult but there’s an extra layer of work/learning here).
- One of it’s strongest features is the ability to create site “packages;” eg if you like to use a certain set of plugins, themes, or pages, you can create a template website, “package” it up with Duplicator, then any time you need to make a new site, just load up your package and you’re done.
- Backup files and database (you’ll need copies of both in order to get a 100% copy of your current site)
- Filters (so you can exclude certain parts like posts or plugins from your backup/migration)
- Migration wizard (steps you through the process = makes things easy)
- Cloud storage support (save your backup/migration files to Dropbox, Google Drive, etc)
- Automatic Database creation (so you don’t need to manually create a new database/database user when you migrate)
- Large site support (lets you move multi-GB sites)
Pro plans at $59/year for up to 3 sites, and you’re more than covered against buyer’s remorse with their 60-day money back guarantee.
60 money back guarantee.
All-in-One WP Migration (freemium)
Are you a WordPress beginner who’s found yourself in need of moving a website (hey, the best of us have spent dozens of hours on a site before realizing we were paying too much for bad hosting)?
Or maybe you’ve got some solid WordPress experience, you just really like to save time.
Either way, we definitely recommend All-in-One WP Migration if you’re in need.
One-click to export, one-click to import, done.
It’s really that simple and we were shocked that it worked the first time we used it (not that we had any reason to doubt the team who made it, we just have a sense of how difficult WP migrations can be).
If you have a bigger site (over half a GB once it’s zipped up), you’ll need to buy one of their premium extensions to import your backup to a new WordPress install, but if you’ve got the cash (starting at $69), it’s well worth it.
If you don’t, you’re not going to go wrong with Duplicator (you’ll just need some extra time to figure out how to make it work).
- Minimal setup (doesn’t need any special code, configuration, or a ton of options to be figured out; just install and run)
- Export in one click (seriously easy; click export, click your destination (file, Dropbox, etc), wait a couple of minutes, done).
- Import in one click (seriously easy; select where you’re file’s coming from, wait a few minutes, done).
- Unlimited file sizes (so you can import a backup from your computer or cloud storage no matter how big your site’s backup file is)
- Cloud storage support (export/import from Dropbox, Google Drive, etc)
- Premium support (just in case you run into trouble)
Most of their extensions are $99 apiece, one-time payment which is nice…
But they don’t offer refunds so make sure you need them before you buy them.
Best WordPress ecommerce plugins
Whether you want to sell your handmade oven mitts, dropship some sweet snowboarding gear, or sell courses and ebooks, your website’s going to need:
- A way for people to say “I want to buy this stuff”
- A way to process payments
- A way to make sure things get shipped/sent where, when, and to whom they’re supposed to.
WordPress ecommerce plugins do all that and more.
When most people think about building an ecommerce website, they think Shopify.
It’s a solid choice.
BUT it can be expensive, and while they have a great community with lots of support and extensions, you’ll bump into boundaries at a certain point where you won’t be able to do something you want to because “that’s just how Shopify is.”
Which is why people like to do ecommerce through their WordPress websites.
And WooCommerce is the go-to for that.
Like WordPress itself (it’s run by the same company), this WordPress ecommerce plugin is 100% free to use, with plenty of free and paid themes and “extensions” (the WooCommerce version of plugins) to customize your store exactly how you want.
- Ecommerce pages (lets you create specially designed product cart, and checkout pages to sell your stuff)
- Payment options (gives you the ability to securely accept and receive money from your customers)
- Shipping and tax calculators (so you can set it and forget it when it comes to sending packages and tax $$).
- Premium themes (get plug and play styles for your website specifically built for WooCommerce and doing bizniz).
- Premium extensions (these let you do things like create subscriptions, bundles, memberships, and more)
The WooCommerce plugin itself is free and has plenty to get a basic store up and running.
From there premium themes and extensions range anywhere from $29 to $300; how much you’ll end up spending depends on what you’re trying to do and how much you want to drop.
30-day money back guarantee on anything you don’t like.
See yourself building a massive ecommerce empire, a brand with thousands (millions) of fans buying products they love from you day and night, across the world and the internet?
Then Ecwid is probably the WordPress ecommerce plugin for you.
Like Shopify, the company has built its software and services from the ground up for ecommerce – meaning they’ve incorporated a feature set that makes selling products online super easy, though you’ll trade that for 100% control over getting it to do what you want.
Unlike Shopify, they’ play well with WordPress (so you can have just your shopping cart/sales stuff handled by Ecwid while WordPress handles your content).
AND they have a free plan, so you can set up your store without committing to a monthly fee.
While not quite as flexible as WooCommerce, they’ve got a really solid “solution” for creating an ecommerce business – meaning they’ll help you manage inventory and market your biz in addition to enabling you to sell online.
- Product catalog management (so you can keep track of everything you sell and easily make changes to price, description, etc)
- Marketing tools (makes it easy to manage Google Analytics, coupons, Facebook ads, etc from the dashboard inside of WordPress)
- Reports (go beyond store revenue with time to purchase, sales by category, and more – for free, in WordPress)
- More sales channels (sell on Facebook, Insta)
- Mobile app for management (so you can track your sales, inventory, etc on the go)
- Additional store tools (like gift cards, coupons, and inventory management)
Premium plans start with “Venture” which is $12.50/mnth when you pay annually.
No refunds when you sign up BUT you can do a lot for free so you’ll get a good idea of whether or not you’ll want/need the paid versions as you build.
Ultimate Gift Cards (freemium)
Have you ever thought about the prospect of offering personalized gift cards to your clients? Well if so, the team at Make Web Better offers a spectacular plugin for the job!.
I mean, it is a great idea after all.
The Ultimate Gift Cards plugin is built for WooCommerce, which is why it follows suit on this list. It lets you manage and add brand-tailored gift cards to your online website.
Not only can admin (you) create and sell gift cards based on fully customizable templates, things like balance notifications and gift vouchers are easily dished out through this plugin.
It gives clients a good reason to actually read your emails (or SMS, if that’s how you roll).
Straight-forward, reliable, and well-valued… This is definitely a worth-wild plugin sure to both expand your brand and improve customer experience.
- Pricing Compatability (prices will automatically be converted to the local currency when clients are purchasing your gift cards)
- Send Gift Cards (you can send gift cards to your customers via email and notify them too)
- Redeem Gift Coupons (customers can go to your retail store to redeem gift coupons)
- Customization (Pro version allows for full customization with your gift card templates)
- Gift Card Purchases (your customers can actually purchase products as a gift card if you choose)
- WhatsApp Sharing (share your cards directly to customers through WhatsApp)
The Ultimate Gift Cards plugin comes in both a free and pro version.
The free version is a great starting point, offering some sweet gift card templates. Upgrading to the pro version from there will cost you a one-time fee of 92 bucks for one site, $199 for 5 sites, and $265 for 10 sites.
30-day money-back guarantee.
Best WordPress social media plugins
The whole point of having a website is to connect with people from around the world, beyond your local community.
Which is what social media is all about, too!
Whether you want to share stuff from your social feed on your website, or want to make it easy for people to share the sweet sweet content on your site with their networks, WordPress social media plugins can make it happen.
Smash Balloon Social Photo Feed (freemium)
Fun fact: it used to take hours to download one low-res photo from something called a BBS.
These days, we waste hours scrolling hundreds of photos on Instagram, FB, etc.
Maybe it’s not all a waste (Gary Vee’s gotten us pumped to tackle some big challenges)!
Whether you just want site visitors to drool over your puppy pics or you’re trying to get some more engagement on your digital nomad account, Smash Balloon makes it easy to share Instagram content on your website.
When you do that, it’s a win-win: people stay on your site longer and are more likely to come back.
And more people are likely to see and engage with your Insta content so you can keep it growing.
- Show content from user feeds (show all the latest Insta posts from any public account)
- Display options (get your feeds looking spiffy with tons of visual customization options)
- Shortcodes (makes it easy to drop one or a ton of Insta feeds anywhere on your site)
- Display hashtag feeds (so you can show all the content from a hashtag rather than a particular user)
- Show captions, likes, comments (so people who visit your site can see engagement on posts, which could keep them on your site longer/make them more interested in you)
- More feed layout options (for when you want to get fancy with dat feed)
Premium subs start at $49 for one site and a year of support/updates; 30 days to get your money back if you don’t really want it.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen a lot of social media sites come and stay and go (really glad we didn’t bother with G+).
The same’s been true with WordPress social media sharing plugins.
Unlike ecommerce/Woocommerce for example, we haven’t really seen a clear, consistent winner when it comes to adding those “Share this post on Facebook/Twitter/[insert site here]” buttons to our juiciest of content.
Some look great but are buggy. Others work well but only for one or two sites.
ATM and for a minute it seems AddToAny is the best option.
It works well. It’s free. It does what you want it to (lets you add share buttons for a ton of sites, either at the top/bottom of your posts or floating along the side).
- Choose where to share (add sharing buttons to the top/bottom of your content or have them float alongside as people scroll)
- Share on over 100 sites (basically: if it’s a social network, there’s a button for it)
- Share counts (track the when/where of shares in Google Analytics AND show your visitors how many times your content’s been shared)
AddToAny’s a community created plugin so she’s free for now and forever!
Best WordPress form plugins
Websites and forms go together like hot dogs and ketchup/mustard (whichever’s your favorite).
Technically you can have a hot dog without, but jeez you should really reevaluate your life if that’s where you’re at.
From surveys to collecting leads for your email list, collecting information on a potential client or just giving people a place to say “hey,” WordPress form plugins make it easy to get messages and information from visitors and have it sent to your email inbox, marketing software, etc.
If you’re just trying to get a basic contact form up fast, WPForms is your go-to (which is why it’s the one we use in our How to Create a Contact Form in WordPress guide).
The free version covers the essentials of “Name, Email, Message” plus a bit more.
The drag and drop builder combined with their helpful getting started videos mean even if this is your first time in WordPress you’ll have your form ready to publish in minutes.
And, while the premium versions can get expensive at the highest tiers, they options there mean you have plenty of room to get access to more features when and as you need them (so you don’t have to re-learn a new plugin when you need it to do more).
- Drag and drop builder (solid-looking forms that do what you want, easy as pie to make)
- Essential form templates (prebuilt contact and newsletter signup forms so you don’t have to start from 100% scratch)
- Helpful getting started videos (walks you step by step through how to set up and launch your first forms – right inside WordPress)
- Advanced fields (capture phone numbers, addresses, take payments, etc)
- Multi-page forms with conditional logic (get more information from people without overwhelming them with too many fields to fill out at once)
- Premium Support (not really needed for the free version but with some of the fancy extras you’ll get when you pay this can come in handy)
Paid plans start with “Basic” for $39.50 which is well worth it if you like the free version (it “basically” removes the main restrictions you’ll find annoying in the free version so you can cover 87% of your form building needs).
14-day money back guarantee if you’re not 100% happy with the purchase.
Gravity Forms (premium)
The headline on Gravity Forms’ homepage basically sums up what we’d say about it:
“..The Easiest, Most Trusted Tool to Create Advanced Forms for Your WordPress-Powered Website.”
Easy? Yes, it is.
Trusted? Well “most” is a big word but it’s a solid plugin supported by a solid team.
“Advanced” – this is the operative word.
Yes, it’s easy to use so there’s no need to be afraid of it if you’re a beginner; you’ll get a form up on your site in minutes.
BUT it is a premium-only plugin (which you really don’t need to pay for when you’re starting out, see WPForms above).
And where Gravity Forms really shines is in the incredible amount of functionality they’ve packed in – and that’s before you start diving into the 30+ integrations with other marketing software they have.
Which means if you want to do it with a form, it can be done with Gravity Forms.
- Drag and drop builder (easy to get started fast; instructions are laid out step by step right inside the form builder)
- Multi-page forms and conditional logic (capture lots of info in a user-friendly way)
- Integration with tons of marketing platforms (works with pretty much any email marketing software as well as tools like Slack and Zapier for loads of automation magic)
Plans start at $59/yr for a basic license that’ll get you essential features and 15 integrations.
30-day refunds mean you’ve got plenty of time to figure out if she’s worth keeping.
Best WordPress cache plugins
According to Google, 53% of mobile users will abandon a site that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
And depending on who you ask, mobile traffic accounts for anywhere from 40-60% of website traffic globally.
What the heck does this have to do with WordPress plugins?
Your sites have to be fast, and that’s a bigger challenge with mobile phones that don’t have as much computing power as laptops/desktops.
One of the key strategies for speeding up websites is to use caching, which basically means saving some or all of your website data in more than one place so people all around the world can get to it faster.
Technically there’s a lot more to it than that… which is what makes WordPress cache plugins so helpful.
WP Rocket (premium)
You’ll pay a premium for WP Rocket, but this is one we’d say is worth it – even for beginners.
In addition to the basic page caching a caching plugin has to offer, they’ve baked in a ton of optimizations to make your website load faster; things you might otherwise need at least 2 or three other plugins to do.
And it’s very, very easy to use. Just hitting the “install” button loads the plugin with basic settings that won’t break your site (a thing that can happen with any caching plugin when your website’s code/caching settings aren’t done right) but will speed things up.
Then you can customize/test from there to find the best settings for your site with the help of their guides and videos.
- Quick setup (assuming your site isn’t super complicated, you can basically just hit install and get an instant speed boost)
- Page Caching with Browser and CDN support (these are the essential components of a WordPress caching plugin – WP Rocket covers them…)
- Loads of other optimizations (…beyond caching, WP Rocket also offers performance enhancements like lazy loading, database optimization, and GZIP compression so you don’t need to install a bunch of other plugins to get your site 100% optimized)
For one site, you’re looking at $49 a year for your first year, half-price after that when you renew before your license expires.
If you find this plugin just isn’t your jam, you’ve got 14 days to get your money back.
W3 Total Cache (freemium)
W3 is another great WordPress cache plugin, this time featuring a free version!
Now normally we’re all for these; in most cases, it makes sense for beginners to get as many free versions of things as they can because your website wants and needs will end up changing a lot as you learn and grow.
So it’s usually better to not spend hundreds on primo themes and plugins you might not even use 6 months from now.
If you’re really strapped for both cash and cache, W3 is a solid plugin that will help you speed up your site.
BUT it’s not so easy to set up or use, so if you have the $49 for a year’s worth of WP Rocket we’d recommend going with that.
- Page, browser, database caching (basically if it’s a part of a website that can be cached, W3 has you covered)
- Static file CDN (have parts of your site’s code that don’t get updated based on user inputs hosted on a CDN for faster delivery)
- Minification (removes spaces from your site’s HTML/CSS files so they’re smaller and quicker to load)
- Full site CDN (lets you have all of your site code hosted on your CDN not just the static files)
- Advanced caching stats (logs and stats to let you better troubleshoot and monitor your site’s performance)
- Enhanced caching (allows caching of some of the more technical pieces of code than standard HTML/CSS caching)
W3 pro will cost you $8.25 a month, you can get your money back for 30 days if you’re not happy in the first month.
Best WordPress page builder plugins
WordPress is great because:
- The software itself is free (and hosting can cost as little as a few bucks a month).
- It’s basically 100% customizable… depending on your skill level.
To number 2, WordPress out of the box lets you do a lot with zero coding skillz.
Then you start adding themes and plugins and there’s a ton you can do with some typing and button clicks and youtube research.
When it comes to making your website look the way you want it too, website builders like Squarespace and Wix generally have an edge with their “What you see is what you get” drag and drop website creation tools.
Except there are WordPress page builder plugins like the ones below that let you get the same easy to build experience.
Beaver Builder (freemium)
As great as Squarespace and Wix are, they can be expensive.
And they’ve done a great job at giving their users a lot of control over the design and functionality of their sites, but that level of control comes at the cost of steep learning curves to get things looking and working great.
Beaver Builder, on the other hand, is free to get started with.
And, while the free version does have limited options, it has enough that you can make a solid, basic, mobile-friendly website pretty easily.
If you’re more of a business owner just looking to get a website built for yourself or you don’t want to dive super deep into learning how to make a ton of ultra-custom websites, we’d probably go with Beaver Builder as it’s a good balance of easy to use and customizable.
- Easy to use (there’s a getting started guide and getting pages setup is well designed; the basic options are easy to find and the more advanced stuff is there but hidden so you’re not bombarded all at once)
- Highly customizable (even in the free version, there are some pretty advanced customizations like CSS IDs and border-radius controls so you won’t feel stuck as you learn how to use these)
- Mobile-friendly (the plugin does a good job of making your layouts work well on devices of every size and includes controls to let you make adjustments for phone/desktop versions of your pages)
- Premium support (solve problems… faster)
- Premium modules (add more advanced elements like contact forms, maps, and buttons)
- Templates (get access to pre-built, professionally created page layout so you just need to customize for your needs, rather than having to do everything from scratch)
Paid plans start at $99 for a year’s worth of access.
You’ll have 30 days to get a refund if you’re not for it.
If you’re in this website building game for the long haul…
If you’re ready to spend a good bit of time learning how to use the tools you’ll need to make completely badass websites time and again…
If you don’t mind diving deep to see just where your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual limits lie…
Lol drama aside, this is another great WordPress page builder plugin we’d definitely recommend.
Compared to Beaver Builder, you’re going to get more options in the free version with just as much customization capability.
And you’ve got a lot you can do with the paid version.
But we feel these extra options and features mean it’s a bit harder to learn, so while you’ll save 90% of the time you’d spend trying to do some of the same things in WordPress itself without a page builder plugin, if you want the absolute easiest, most straightforward experience go with the free version of Beaver.
For the rest of you, Elementor is a solid, solid plugin.
- Loads of widgets (add text, videos, images yes – but also star ratings, progress bars, icon boxes; tons of pretty advanced stuff for a free plugin)
- In-depth custom effects (add things like box shadows and element animations with just a few clicks and some playing around with how bouncy you want to make that star shooting across your page)
- Global styles (lets you set a color scheme, fonts, and a ton of other design options across your page/site so you don’t have to manually make sure every button has the same exact shade of green)
- Global widgets (lets you create custom layouts and widget designs, then reuse them across pages on your site eg if you spend 2 hours creating a contact form that looks 100, you can just copy/paste from there).
- Pro widgets and templates (lets you start with professionally designed page layouts and include more advanced widgets like countdown timers, media carousels, and pricing tables)
- Popups and ecommerce (the pro version lets you build your own website popups and design ecommerce pages for WooCommerce to help you get more sales)
Elementor paid pans start with “Personal” for one site, $49/year with a 30-day money back guarantee.
Best WordPress optimization plugins
Re: WordPress caching plugins/”your site has to load fast or people will leave” stats…
Your site has to load fast.
Caching is one way to help out site speeds, but there are a few other methods/things to do on the “make my site load like Ricky Bobby around the track.”
That’s where WordPress optimization/performance/image compression plugins come into the game.
EWWW Image Optimizer (freemium)
If there’s one thing we know for sure about modern websites, it’s that they HAVE TO HAVE images.
But we also know that image files are a lot larger than text files, which on a website means slower loading times.
Thankfully, we’ve got solutions to these kinds of problems:
- Image compression (make those files smaller through the black magic of hardcore computer science)
- Lazy loading (only loading images when people start to scroll down the page, so they can see the content before 100% of it is loaded)
- Content Delivery Networks (take a load off your web host’s servers and put website data closer to your visitors so everything loads that much faster).
EWWW is a WordPress image optimizer plugin that delivers all of these and more.
And while it has some powerful speed demon features that are paid and a bit more complex to set up, it’s got a free mode and some basic “get started” options that make it a solid plugin for WordPress performance plugin beginners and experts alike.
- Basic compression (reduces file sizes a bit for faster loading)
- Lazy Loading (only loads images when people start to scroll close to them – so people can see the top of your page faster than if they had to wait for an image at the bottom to load first)
- Metadata removal (gets rid of things like date, location, names, etc. that may be stored in an image’s file so that nothing but information on the pixels remains; saves space/saves loading time)
- Premium compression (makes your images that much smaller/faster to load)
- Automatic image resizing/scaling (makes sure images are just the right size for the screen your visitor is using, meaning not too small on desktop and not too big on mobile)
- Image CDN (takes a load off your main host’s servers by loading images from data center locations around the world – a lot faster because the data is closer and your web hosts servers aren’t having to do as much work)
Premium Image compression starts at just $0.003 per image (that’s $3 for 1k images for those of you who aren’t so fond of math).
Their other image optimization services (Image CDN, auto-resizing/scaling) start at $9.
Both have 30-day money back guarantees.
So looking at the plugins we’ve covered so far, speeding up WordPress websites basically means a few things:
- Making files smaller so they transfer faster.
- Moving files to different locations (like other web servers or your visitor’s computers) so they transfer faster/less computing power is needed for your website’s main web server.
- Some other computer/programming/science magic to make stuff faster.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress performance plugin that does a little bit of each of these.
Image compression makes your biggest files (images) smaller so they load faster.
Caching saves parts of your website that don’t change on your visitor’s computer so they can get them instantly when they come back to your site.
And database cleanup does some rearranging of backend computing stuff so that your web server doesn’t have to work as hard to load your site.
All of that makes WP-Optimize a solid performance plugin on its own, or as a supplement to other plugins like EWWW or WP Rocket.
- Database cleaning (clears out unnecessary data so loading your site uses fewer computing resources)
- Image compression (makes image files smaller so they load faster)
- Caching (tells visitors’ browsers to save your pages/posts so they load from their computer not your web host’s servers when they revisit – if there aren’t any changes)
- Optimization scheduling (put regular maintenance/optimization on autopilot)
- Lazy loading (loads images only when users scroll near so your pages can be shown to visitors without having to wait for every image to load)
- Premium support (WordPress performance optimization can get tricky – these pros will help if something goes wrong)
Premium starts at $39/year for one or two sites, but be sure you know you want premium before you buy – they have a 10-day refund policy but you have to show them the plugin doesn’t work.
If you just don’t like it they don’t promise they’ll refund you.
More WordPress knowledge for ya
Whew, we’ve made it through. All of us. Together.
With that covered, you’re probably pooped out on this WordPress stuff for a minute.
That’s fine, take a minute to relax and digest and dream.
If and when you’re ready for more, we've got plenty more super helpful posts for you!
8 thoughts on “The 29 Best WordPress Plugins for Just About Any Site ”
Wow, a superb collection of useful and essential plugins.
I would like to suggest a Portfolio Designer WordPress plugin. This plugin displaying your gallery in an eye-catching way. It comes with a 50 hover effect, and you can choose any type of layout such as grid, masonry, slider, etc.
Thanks for the recommendation Michael, added to our “future updates” list!
Thanks, Dale McManus! You have been an excellent mentor throughout this tutorial! Have learnt a lot from you! Recently, I have created some website;)
HELL YEAH KEEP IT UP TARIQ!!
This is a nicely put and very well organized list of plugins, appreciate the effort you put in. Alongside the security plugins I think you should also have a category for Email Validation plugins, Contact form spam is so rampant nowadays making it vital to validate emails in real time to cut down on fake inquiries.
The contact form spam is real… added to our “post improvements” list!
Thanks it helped me a lot.
You’ve got it Mary!