The WordPress Plug-ins I Can’t Live Without

Wordpress plug-ins

As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plug-ins are one of the most wonderful and useful things about WordPress. Much of the functionality you need, someone else needs, too—which means there’s probably a plug-in that provides it, without you having to hire additional help or learn how to change the WordPress code.

The big caveats:

  • Plug-ins can sometimes conflict with your WordPress theme. Add them carefully and one at a time, and make sure everything works the same as it did before.
  • Plug-ins may interfere with each other. Again, add them carefully and study the results.
  • Poorly written plug-ins can be buggy and present site security risks. You can avoid the “bad” ones by choosing highly rated and popular plug-ins throughout the WordPress community.
  • Plug-ins can make your site run more slowly, but the trade-off is usually worth it.

Without further ado, here’s my list of indispensable WordPress plug-ins.

WordPress Plug-ins I Highly Recommend

  • Backup Buddy. This premium (paid) plug-in allows you to easily and automatically back up your site. If you’re not backing up your site, it’s time to start—the peace of mind alone is worth it. If your site crashes or gets hacked, you can get everything back in place quickly using Backup Buddy.
  • Better WP Security. This free plug-in steps you through how to tighten the security of your site—to lock out hackers or intruders. Consider this plug-in essential if you don’t otherwise know how to keep your site secure or have no other preventative measures in place.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plug-in is like a friendly SEO expert looking over your shoulder (in a good way), to help you optimize your pages, posts, and site metadata. This plug-in is ideal even for people who don’t know what SEO means—in fact, it’s a good place to start. You can read more about it here.
  • Contact Form 7. Every site should have a contact form. This is pretty much the standard that everyone uses to add one. You can make it as simple or as complex as you like, and also create multiple contact forms.
  • Akismet. Essential for stopping comment spam and usually pre-installed for you.
  • Broken Link Checker. Does exactly what it sounds like—it monitors for broken links and provides an interface to correct them.
  • Image Widget. This is a simple plug-in that easily allows you to add images to the widget sections of your website (usually the sidebar and footer).
  • Relevanssi. If you’ve been blogging for a long time, or have large volumes of content available on your site that people need to search/sort through, Relevanssi is an invaluable plug-in for helping streamline the search functionality of your website.
  • Social Media Widget. I use this plug-in to provide a quick, colorful button list of all the social media sites where I’m active. You can see it on this site, in the sidebar of every page.

A Few Others I Like

  • AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget. This adds social sharing buttons above and below blog posts and static pages. There are many, many plug-ins that can add this functionality. This is simply my preferred one, not necessarily the one for you. Find out more here.
  • Disqus. This is a very popular plug-in for improving the functionality and customization of the comments section on your site—something that’s a bit more robust than the native WordPress comment system. I’m a long time and loyal user, but there are many other good systems out there.
  • Per Page Sidebars. This allows you to create a unique sidebar for every page or post on your site. Super helpful if you need that kind of customization but don’t have the money to hire a programmer.

OK, now it’s your turn. What WordPress plug-ins can’t you live without?

Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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43 Comments on "The WordPress Plug-ins I Can’t Live Without"

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[…] Note from Jane: Tomorrow, I’m teaching an online 2-hour class on how to build your own author website in 24 hours or less using WordPress. This is a live screencast session where I demonstrate, step-by-step, how to set up your site.  […]

Glenn Miller

Excellent list. I’m installing Broken Link Checker on all my sites now, and finding plenty of cleanup to do, especially on the older sites.

I also find Gravity Forms (I’m not an affiliate) to be indispensable for financial forms and mailchimp integration–but it’s not free.

What do you think of JetPack? I know that some worry about it bloating a site, but I’m finding that elements within it like Tiled Galleries and Carousel are especially easy to use, and kind of pretty.

Susi Lovell

I’ve been concentrating on getting my site up and running and, I have to confess, finding my focus. I felt overwhelmed by all the plug-ins but now feel ready to start working through this very clear and helpful list. Thank you very much.


I’ve got really mixed feelings about Disqus. Clearly I’ve got an account so it works for me. But I find that most of my readers are not the type that have them and thus I’ve had far better success with native WP comments. Ironically I had also picked up CommentLuv premium figuring it might help boost comments but so few of my readers have blogs I needn’t have bothered 🙂

Angela Ackerman

You have no idea how helpful this is–Becca and I just started a WP website and I’m still learning the ropes. Talk about great timing!


Michael Kelberer

Hi Jane,
Great post as always. I’d add the All-in-one Event Calendar by Timely – best of the breed.


I second this — I LOVE this plug-in.

Lexa Cain

I’m on blogger and I’ve never felt so alone… No, seriously, I appreciate all the info and will check and see if there are parallel widgets for blogger. Thanks! 🙂

1. Geo-mashup is great for adding a Google map to a post or page. 2. Dagon design site map is a great site index and one can list posts and pages. 3. Image watermark is a really good watermark tool. Especially useful if one adds a lot of your own images or photos. 4. Lightbox plus colorbox for adding fancy Lightbox styles to your photos. Photos can fade in and out, have fancy borders and frames, have next and previous buttons etc. 5. Page Mash or Post Mash for sorting your posts or pages. Especially useful when one wants to… Read more »

Jane, this is a great list. I love Akismet for slamming spam. I tried a number of solutions (including captcha types, which don’t work and I think just make visitors mad anyway) before finally posting up $5/month for Akismet. The spam tide stopped completely. You can pay what you think it’s worth, too. Nothing better. I also like Google Analyticator so I can get a quick glance at my stats right in my dashboards. Looking forward to checking out the plugins on your list that I don’t know about. Thanks!

Anthony Lee Collins
Broken Link Checker sounds like exactly what I need. I have 8+ years of content, so I know there are bum links in there. In addition to some of the ones you mention, I use PHP Code Widget and Widget Logic (to have more control over widgets, both in content and in where they appear), WordPress Mobile Edition (delivers a separate theme when a user visits from a mobile device), WP Unformatted (to reverse the “smart” quote converter, and when necessary to disable autoformatting), WordPress Database backup, Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, Print Friendly and PDF (though I also have a… Read more »
Laura E. Kelly

Love all the plugins you listed, especially Broken Link Checker and Relevanssi. But the one plugin that’s made all the difference for me is “Display Widgets.” It allows you to easily show or hide a widget in the sidebar or footer widget areas of a particular page by checking off the page name. (It automatically adds that ability to every widget.) Sounds like it performs a similar function to the Per Page Sidebar plugin you mention, which I’ll check out, too. See Display Widgets in action on the different pages in

Peter McCarthy

Great list, Jane. I go in for the geeky ones. Yoast is a must-have, in my opinion. Some other ones I love are W3 Total Cache for speed, BJ Lazy Load for same, and SmushIt for reducing image sizes. Speed freak, me. Thanks for the post. I am going to try a couple of these. – PM


Def agree on Contact Form 7 – best contact form (esp. for authors I think), hands down. Will add::: Akismet! (that’s not too obvious is it? Super useful.) Wordfence. Advanced Category Excluder. Widget Logic! Exec PHP! WP-Cycle. Every Plugin that StudioPress puts together (as I’m a Genesis Developer.)

Lisa McKay

Thanks Jane. I’m redesigning at the moment and this is super helpful. When you’re doing it all yourself it’s so easy to get bogged down by too many choices and not know which way to go. This list is a great place to start. Best, Lisa


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[…] WordPress Plug-Ins I Can’t Live Without by Jane Friedman: Wrting, reading and publishing in the digital age: As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plug-ins are one of the most wonderful and useful things about WordPress. Much of the functionality you need, someone else needs, too—which means there’s probably a plug-in that provides it, without you having to hire additional help or learn how to change the WordPress code. […]


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[…] The WordPress Plug-ins I Can’t Live Without- As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plug-ins are one of the most wonderful and useful things about WordPress. Much of the functionality you need, someone else needs, too—which means there’s probably a plug-in that provides it. […]

Andy Feliciotti

Great list! I already use most but I totally agree on “Better WP Security” for anyone saying WordPress isn’t secure this plugin is fantastic.

Dan Knauss
That doesn’t really make sense. I think BWPS and similar plugins make it seem like WP isn’t secure because you need them, or Sucuri, or something else like that. The truth is the WP core is secure, and a well built WP site with timely upgrades is secure. Good plugins and themes are secure. But bad hosting, bad plugins, bad themes, and people who don’t set things up right or maintain properly them create a lot of vulnerabilities. Stuff like BWPS helps that class of user in a bandaid kind of way. A lot of its measures are more like… Read more »

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John Crooks

I love JetPack and Tweetily. They do so much of my social media work! Also, JetPack (free version) features some nice side-bar options.

Vikas Singh

Nice article. Recently I came across a very nice WP plugin. The new bloggers flood their blog with all the high-resolution images to make it nice and attractive. But for the matter of fact, that reduces the speed of the website and it takes a lot of time to load which hampers the user experience.

Use ‘wp smush’ to reduce the size of images and keep the quality good. The free version will allow 50 images to smush at a time, then you need to start the process again for next 50 images. Premium version will take this restriction off.