WordPress is the world’s most popular website builder software and content management system (CMS). Nearly half of the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress, and it is increasing every day.
It is open source, free, and comes standard with a lot of features, enabling anyone to make any kind of website from a simple one-page personal blog to a fully equipped online eCommerce store.
One of the features that made WordPress a popular software among webmasters, businessmen, and entrepreneurs is the ability to install plugins to expand the feature level of this CMS.
Today, we’re going to see what are the best plugins everyone should install on their WordPress website.
What are Plugins?
First of all, let’s introduce WordPress plugins before jumping to the list to understand what they really are and why they are important for our websites.
A plugin is a code or script written to add new features, tools, and capabilities to the WordPress website. WordPress is already packed with a lot of features upon Standard Installation. However, more specific features for certain purposes require installing plugins.
In brief, plugins allow web admins to add features like an online eCommerce store, social media capabilities, forums, directory listings, SEO & metadata tools, extra security features, special structured data & snippets, and many more, some of which are even more specific.
The list goes on and on but while some plugins are not necessary to install, some are the cornerstones of every successful WordPress blog and website and we’re going to learn what they are.
21 Must-Have Plugins for WordPress
Installing too many plugins will slow your WordPress website speed down, and some might be even dangerous! I’ve worked on hundreds of websites across a variety of niches and types. There are certain plugins that are necessary, less important, and dangerous.
Here, I’ve talked about all of them, starting from the must-have plugins to less important ones, finishing with plugins to avoid altogether.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is one of the most important things to do to rank a website organically. It is one of the most effective, low-cost, and stable forms of content marketing. Having a high organic rank on the search engine results page is, to some extent, a dream for all webmasters.
Using an SEO plugin on a WordPress website is not necessary since WordPress will take care of many SEO-related matters by default, but installing one will help you expand your control over SEO settings.
It helps you target the keyword and Search Intent easier to drive more traffic to the site. Also, it gives you more features to implement structured data and Google search snippets.
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. With over 5 million active installations, it is considered a must-have plugin to easily improve organic ranking. Yoast SEO is free and comes standard with a lot of features that are sufficient to optimize a website for search engines. However, you can purchase it to have extra premium features.
What comes standard (free) with Yoast is, basically, everything you need to get things going with your website’s SEO like SEO analysis, readability analysis, Google SERP preview, useful Schema blocks, and many more.
Rank Math SEO
Another good plugin for WordPress SEO is Rank Math. It is also nearly as popular as the previous one. With more than 1 million active installations, Rank Math provides a lot of features for users and WP websites, some of which are free.
However, the premium version of this plugin is way more useful. It offers a lot of professional features that are perfect for managing big websites’ SEO or managing lots of clients’ websites if you are an SEO expert.
Many people usually start using the premium version of Rank Math after they start to see some organic traffic coming to their websites and their website is already making some bucks to offset the maintenance costs.
WordPress blogs, especially DIY and affiliate marketing blogs tend to get larger and heavier in less than one year. When a website gets large and the database gets heavy, problems and issues from time to time are inevitable.
This is where backup plugins come to the rescue by easily letting you backup your entire website (content, files, database, etc.) with just a few clicks or scheduling backups on a daily or monthly basis.
One of the best plugins when it comes to backing up your website is BackWPup. It is an all-in-one free backup plugin that allows you to easily backup the website’s content, images, files, configurations, plugins, and database with just a few clicks.
It also comes with scheduled backups and saving backup files on various cloud services like DropBox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. BackWPup also comes with some pro features, but all you need to get things going and easily backup and restore your website is free forever.
Another useful & professional backup plugin for WP websites is the UpdraftPlus plugin. It is packed with a lot of free features for making sure the website is always backed up and ready to restore if anything unfixable happens.
Like other backup plugins, UpdraftPlus has scheduled backups, incremental backups, easy restores, and storing backup files on cloud storage. In addition, it also features database encryption, database optimization, site duplication & migration, and some other features that you won’t find on other backup plugins.
Security & Spam Protection
Whether a new website or an old one, security should be the number one concern of every admin. There are various levels of security when it comes to WordPress.
There are security measures that are directly implemented on the hosting service and server the website is running on to protect against attacks like DDoS. Next, there are measures to block brute force and other kinds of attacks. And last is measures webmasters take to combat spammers.
While server protection is a broad concept that won’t fit into this post, with a plugin or two, ensure the security of your website in case of brute force attacks, malware, and spam.
Wordfence is the number one and the only security plugin you’ll ever need to protect your website against many forms of attacks. It has a network of more than 4 million websites (active installations) that are fully protected thanks to the power of its malicious IP blacklist. Wordfence, to this day, has successfully blocked more than 8.3 billion attacks!
Wordfence is free and only a handful of its features are available for a premium license. What comes free is more than enough for all kinds of webmasters. Free features include malware scan, malicious IP blocking, web app firewall, login security, and two-factor authentication.
Antispam Bee is a free-forever effective solution to combat spam comments and trackbacks on the WordPress website. It is very easy to configure and use and does almost all the work automatically.
Antispam Bee uses various collective methods and smart algorithms to catch spam comments. Then, the plugin will automatically mark them as spam, immediately delete them, or send them to the trash for a set amount of days so users can check them before fully deleting them.
Akismet (which for over 5 years I thought it is called “Aksimet” for some reason!) is an all-in-one spam protection solution for large websites and blogs. It comes with professional tools and smart algorithms based on Akismet API to stop spam attacks and delete spam comments and trackbacks.
This WordPress plugin is free for personal websites that are not monetized in any way. Otherwise, you have to purchase the license to use premium features while helping the project. Akismet is also one of the two default plugins that come with WordPress standard installation.
Disable Comments is a straightforward plugin that defines itself. If you want to disable comments altogether and get rid of this feature from WordPress core, then this plugin is what you need.
By installing Disable Comments and activating it, all comments and comment settings will be disabled and hidden from the WordPress dashboard. You can also choose to disable comments just for certain post types (posts, pages, media, etc.) but it is mostly used to easily remove comments from WordPress entirely.
Site Speed Plugins
Site loading speed is one of the most important metrics for organic SEO ranking on Google. That is why using a site speed and cache plugin to efficiently manage website cache and loading speed. There are a lot of them on WordPress Plugin Repository but not all of them are good.
The main idea behind using a good site speed and cache plugin is to do a lot of A/B testing. It’s simple. Install a plugin first, then play with its settings and check if the loading speed improved. You can use services like Google PageSpeed Insight or GTmetrix to analyze your website’s page loading speed and issues associated with it.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is the most popular cache & site speed plugin that you can find for your WordPress website. It is packed with a lot of features that satisfy all sorts of websites regardless of their scale. It offers CDN support, database caching, object caching, minifying CSS/JS, and a handful number of methods to cache pages and load them efficiently for the visitor.
W3 is, without doubt, a professional cache plugin suitable for power users and skilled webmasters, but the good thing is not only it is easy to use for beginners, but also the free version comes with incredible features and controls that can’t be found on other plugins.
Designed by LiteSpeed Technologies, the LiteSpeed Cache plugin is one of the best cache management and site speed optimizer plugins for WordPress websites. It comes with a lot of features for free and also includes a limited level of QUIC CDN network free of cost.
Although the LiteSpeed Cache plugin works best with LiteSpeed web servers, you can use it to benefit from caching system and improve your site’s speed even if you’re on Apache or Nginx web servers.
Another great example of WordPress cache plugins is Autoptimize. It is one of the easiest plugins for managing website cache and improving site loading speed that can be used by almost any user no matter skilled or new to WordPress blogging.
Autoptimize essential features are free. They include Java script optimization, CSS optimization, HTML optimization, CDN configuration, lazy-load image, and many more. There are premium features too like Critical CSS that can help your site load incredibly faster.
Jetpack is not an ordinary WordPress plugin. You simply can’t place it under just one category because it is the Swiss Army Knife of plugins for WP. With more than 5 million active installations, Jetpack offers WordPress site speed improvement, security, backup, CRM, social media growth, and even SEO configuration.
One of the spectacular things about this plugin is the free version. Most of the features are completely free and the premium version only includes site backup, an anti-spam system, Google Analytics integration, ad network configuration, and some more.
AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages is an HTML framework created by Google to instantly load AMP-compatible mobile pages. AMP Plugin for WordPress is not cache management or site speed plugin, rather it converts your website pages into AMP-compatible codes to load instantly as the user clicks your link on mobile SERP.
AMP project is free and open-source and no particular configuration is needed. You can use it immediately after installation. All you should do is to choose what post formats (pages, posts, media, etc.) should be converted into AMP pages and what theme should be used. It is easy and straightforward.
Image Optimization Plugins
Image optimization is also one of the crucial tasks to do to increase site loading speed. More optimized photos and images mean fewer kilobytes to download, thus less loading time. A good image optimization plugin uses efficient lossless compression algorithms to make it load faster.
Most webmasters & admins don’t use such plugins. They tend to upload already-optimized images and scripts like lazy-load to improve page speed, but for large blogs and websites, this is not an option. Manually compressing images is just time-consuming so using a plugin to do all the work is the right choice.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer (and other ShortPixel plugins) is one of the most effective image optimization plugins for WordPress. It has a smart lossless compression algorithm that can reduce the size of the image by more than 70% without any noticeable loss of quality.
ShortPixel is free with limitations! You can compress up to 100 images per month with a free package, but for a small price, you can either subscribe to a monthly package or buy one-time credits to compress more images depending on your needs.
Other plugins that ShortPixel company provided for WordPress site owners are ShortPixel Adaptive Images, Enable Media Replace, Resize Image After Upload, and a few more, all helping you to optimize your site’s images to their maximum limits.
Surely there are more image optimizer plugins on WordPress Plugin Repository, but this one is actually the best of them all with an easy user interface and fast optimization speed (which is vital for large blogs with lots of images).
Site Editors & Page Builders
Site Editor & Page Builder plugins are the category of plugins that allow you to create professional pages using a lot of tools, widgets, and blocks. They expand the stylings & customizations you normally have with the default WordPress editor.
However, since WordPress 5.0, the default editor turned into the Gutenburg editor which is an interactive site builder with a lot of features that third-part plugins provide. Also, since WordPress 6.0 a new feature called FSE or Full SIte Editor was added to the WordPress that allows site-wide configuration and edits without coding or extra efforts.
But, third-party page builder plugins are still leading the market due to their extra professional capabilities and features. If you are a professional website designer or just want to create an outstanding page (mostly for business websites) then be sure that default editors aren’t enough!
Elementor is one of the most popular page builder plugins for WordPress. It is packed with a lot of f tools (or elements) that you can use to design fantastic web pages. The free version has a lot of features that pretty much every user can learn in a day or two. The premium version also comes with extra goodies like animations, special effects, professional elements, and so on.
Elementor is also a theme editor and works with most of the popular WordPress themes and even has a dedicated theme called Hello Elementor that is fully compatible with all of its features and capabilities.
Beaver Builder is also an example of a good, reliable, and free page builder and theme editor plugin for WordPress. It works with a lot of themes and has professional elements and tools to design modern-looking pages with animations and effects. Compared to Elementor, Beaver Builder, in my view, is more professional and a little difficult to work with. So if you want to use it yourself, learning may take longer. The best is to hire a professional website designer to handle this wild Beaver!
Classic Editor is a simple plugin that brings back the old WordPress editor and disables the Gutenberg editor. This is especially useful for blog posts with multiple content writers who publish content fast on a daily or weekly basis. The Gutenberg editor is a little complicated for constantly writing and editing content (especially long content) so site admins install Classic Editor to get rid of the Gutenberg editor and bring back WordPress’s old WYSIWYG text editor.
Plugins for Specific Purposes
Now, let’s talk about certain plugins that are for certain uses and purposes. They are not required unless you are sure you’re going to use its features, otherwise, they are an extra weight on your website. They add unique and broad capabilities to your simple WordPress website and turn it into, for example, an online shop, social network, or forum software.
Pretty Links is one of the golden plugins that affiliate sites use to manage all their affiliate links. They simply create a unique link for each product they are marketing/reviewing on their website and redirect it to the affiliate link that the affiliate network provided. This way, they can easily manage the target URLs and change them across the site effortlessly, and track clicks and other analytic data to improve their website and affiliate business.
WooCommerce is the best eCommerce solution for WordPress. It is a fully featured online store creator plugin that allows almost everyone to establish an online shop and start selling physical products, digital downloads, online services, or subscription services. Most of the features on WooCommerce are free and there are a lot of addon plugins to add even more features to this online store maker package. All you need to do after installing WooCommerce is to configure the store details, add a payment method, and add some products to start selling online.
bbPress is a WordPress plugin that turns your website into a forum (or bulletin board) software. It is free and easy to manage and maintain. bbPress provides a lot of tools to manage forums, topics, replies, users, and user profiles. Also, there are addon plugins for bbPress for extra features that expand the default capabilities of the bbPress. The best situation to use bbPress is for small business websites that have a community of a couple of thousand members. Larger community forums are harder to manage with WordPress & bbPress so it’s better to migrate to a dedicated bulletin board software.
Another plugin that adds certain features to WordPress is BuddyPress. It is a popular plugin that turns standard WordPress into a social network site with user profiles, messaging, groups, teams, and communities. BuddyPress is free to use and also easy to manage. It is good for small communities that are not expecting high-level features from social networks. It only has the basics and essentials. There are also addon plugins on the WordPress repository for BuddyPress to add more features to the standard plugin.
“Think Twice” Plugins!
While there are plugins that are absolutely essential for a good and secure WordPress blog/website, there are plugins that are not necessary. Some plugins are really a burden for your website and you have to think twice before installing them. See if you really need those features and see if you can get those features off-website.
Social Sharing Buttons are items or buttons that allow you to share the article you are reading. It was one of the best ways to drive direct traffic from various social networks considering your visitors are willing to share it on social media.
Well, it is old-school now. Social button plugins mess up your site loading speed because they have to lead to different scripts (JS), icons, and stylings. They also may conflict with some of the theme’s elements and make everything slow as a snail.
If you really need to include social sharing buttons, make sure to use themes that have native social sharing features. This way, the effect of these types of plugins on your website will be reduced a lot. Just remember this: Fewer plugins equals faster load speed, which is an incredibly important metric for Google SEO ranking.
Structured Data & Snippets
Certain structure data and snippets allow your website to stand out when it is on the Google search results page. Things like star rating, FAQ, How-to, Recipe, etc. are good for more clicks, but they also can destroy your rating if employed incorrectly.
Make sure the plugin that is generating your structured data is up to date and the snippet you are going to use is related to your niche and website form. Don’t overuse them! Plugins like Yoast SEO already come with popular structured data blocks (FAQ & How-to) that are used by a variety of niches and websites. So avoid using badly maintained plugins for generating structured data.
One of the essential sections for any website is the “Contact” page where your users/customers can contact you directly via a form. WordPress doesn’t have a contact form by default so you have to use plugins to add this feature, or should you?
For small websites and new site owners, it is best not to use an on-site contact form especially if file attachment fields are involved. This is for security reasons and spam attacks that might hit any WordPress website.
The better alternative is to use Google Forms or similar services or just leave an email so users can send you emails and you can read them safely without jeopardizing your site’s security. But if you want to use plugins for contact forms, Contact Form 7 and WPForms are the best ones you can find.
Tables & Charts
Including tables for showing data in an orderly fashion is a good way to engage your audience to understand data better. WordPress has the table block (Gutenberg Editor) with standard installation but some prefer to install third-party plugins to add extra features.
All a simple data table should have is already available on WordPress. Using another plugin is not a good idea since table plugins run dedicated scripts to render tables. If you really need professional table features (for affiliate marketing purposes for example) page builder plugins have what you need!
One of the categories of plugins for WordPress is called duplicators. The name stands for ti self. they duplicate whatever is published on a WP website like posts, pages, product listings, etc.
Such plugins are useful for websites with articles with certain formats and structures. Otherwise, they are useless, and if it is not a well-maintained plugin, a security risk for your website.
If you need such plugins for just duplicating a few posts, install one, do your work, and get rid of them afterward.
“Oh Hell No” Plugins!
Now, let’s talk about the serious stuff; Plugins that are defiantly a danger to your website, and I’m going to tell you how to spot them easily!
When you want to install a plugin, you go to the Plugin page from the WordPress dashboard. Then your search for what you are looking for and then hit install to get all things done. But wait! Before clicking the “Install Now”, check 5 factors to make sure it’s a good reliable, and safe plugin.
First, see how many installs the plugin has. Anything under 10k might not be suitable.
Second, take a look at star rating and how many people rated for the plugin. If it is less than 4 stars, forget about it, and if the rating is high but the number of people is like 50 people, the rating is not valid.
Third, see when was the last update for the plugin? is it recent or just a long time ago? For most plugins, up to 1 month ago is perfect. More popular plugins under a week or two are good, but if it is older than that, then let them go because it is an abandoned project and might have a lot of security flaws for hackers to use against your website.
Forth, check the compatibility checkmark. It shows if the plugin is compatible with your current version of WordPress. However, if the first three factors are good, you can skip this one. Developers may test the plugin later so it’s fine to use “Untested with your version of WordPress” plugins.
Fifth, everyone who rates the plugin usually leaves a comment. Click on the plugin card and check the review tab and read a couple of comments, especially those who rated less than 3 stars. You might find some hidden issues that people pointed to that helps you decide better whether you need the plugin.
We took a look at the best plugins for every WordPress website in 2022. I divided them into different categories for a better understanding of their usage. If you have a WordPress website, this post helps to install the right plugins and get more features out of WordPress.
I also talked about several plugins that might not be necessary for multiple reasons. While I discourage installing most of them, I introduced some of the alternatives to taking some operations off-site.
In the end, I showed you how to recognize plugins that you should avoid for security reasons. Distinguishing good plugins from bad ones can seriously help you maintain a safe website and avoided malware or spam.
Everything you need to know about WordPress plugins is packed within this post. If you don’t have a WordPress website yet, it’s fine. Bookmark this page or make a note of the plugin list to install the right ones when you started your own website.