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.
- Magic Action Box Pro. This paid plug-in creates call-to-action “boxes” at specific places on your site—e.g., at the beginning and end of every blog post or static page, or wherever you manually add it. If you consistently have a range of books or products to offer your readers, you’ll love this. Try it for free by downloading the “lite” version.
- 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?