Hmm … how to choose the best WordPress plugins? Security, SEO, site performance, functionality and usability are key concerns of every website owner, designer and developer. Fortunately, WordPress plugins are here to simplify your work, improve performance in each of these areas, and more.
The WordPress plugin repository serves as the official directory currently listing more than 54,800 free and open-source plugins that have been checked, inspected, and are available for downloading. Many also include paid upgrades or add-ons.
While plugins can be found elsewhere, repository inclusion recognizes the source as a credible developer, whose hand-crafted creation has been reviewed and approved.
You’d think endless possibilities lead to many perfect solutions. But how to narrow down that 54,000+ WordPress plugins into a “start strong by starting here” list?
Considerations when selecting the best WordPress plugins
In creating this cream-of-the-crop list, my considerations beyond functionality included:
- Repository inclusion: In addition to pre-screening, repository plugins also provide access to usage statistics, comments, bug reports, improvement ideas and problem documentation — giving you more insight into the plugin’s history and track record before installing.
- Value: Free plugins are easiest on your budget, but value is more than just price. Premium plugin versions provide additional functionality otherwise requiring programming knowledge, as well as support.
- Security: Regularly updated plugins thwart compromising situations, minimizing security risks and keeping your site safer.
- Support: Premium plugins generally include more ongoing support for users, and the designer’s commitment to ongoing functionality and security improvements.
- User base: Plugins with a very large user base are more likely to get support and updates, and might even have additional “community” support via discussion boards or other collaborative problem-solving spaces.
Some of the most popular WordPress plugins and capabilities — including several mentioned below — are automatically installed when you spin up a new WordPress site using GoDaddy WordPress Hosting. What could be easier?
Related: What is managed WordPress hosting
The best WordPress plugins of 2020
Read on for my must-have plugin recommendations:
The plugins are grouped by category below. This WordPress plugin list includes both free WordPress plugins and premium plugins.
All prices listed were current at the time of writing, but be sure to check the plugin website for most up-to-date pricing.
General WordPress plugins
These are my picks for the best WordPress plugins for just about every WordPress site.
Website security is something you can’t afford to overlook — and WordFence is the most popular and comprehensive WordPress security and firewall solution available, with 3M+ active installations.
- Compares core files, themes and plugins with contents of the WordPress.org repository, checking their integrity and reporting any changes to you.
- Integrated malware scanner blocks requests that include malicious code or content.
- Repairs changed files by overwriting with a pristine, original version.
- Easily deletes any files that don’t belong within the Wordfence interface.
- Checks for known security vulnerabilities and alerts you to any issues.
- Notifies you of potential security issues when a plugin has been closed or abandoned.
- Checks your content safety by scanning files, posts and comments for dangerous URLs and suspicious content.
- Premium features include real-time IP blacklisting to block the most malicious IPs, real-time malware signature updates, and checking to see if your site or IP has been blacklisted.
2. Sucuri Security
Take security a step further with Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening.
The lightweight Sucuri Security plugin nicely complements your existing security posture by offering additional auditing, monitoring and scanning functionalities, as well as recommendations and notifications.
- Monitors all events potentially impacting security, including changes occurring within the environment.
- SiteCheck, Sucuri’s free remote website scanner, remains on the lookout for any spam, blacklisting, or defacement.
- Checks the major blacklist entities to notify you whether your site has been negatively flagged for security issues.
- Should the worst happen, post-hack recommendations are presented to double up on safety after your site has been compromised.
GoDaddy WordPress hosting for the win: Sucuri Security is automatically installed on each new site.
3. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO works for users ranging from local mom-and-pop shops to the most popular sites on the internet — from businesses to blogs, and everything in between. Since 2008 Yoast SEO has helped millions of websites worldwide improve their search results.
- Templating tools enable better branding and consistent snippets in the search results.
- SEO analysis tool leads to SEO-friendly text with the right keywords in mind.
- Readability analysis ensures your content is easy to digest, and engaging for both site visitors and search engines.
- Bulk editor allows large-scale edits to titles and meta descriptions.
4. W3 Total Cache
Search engines measure and factor in website speed as part of their ranking algorithms, making it one of the most significant success factors websites must consider.
W3 Total Cache improves both search engine result page rankings and user experience.
- Reduced page load time increases visitor time on your site, improves conversion rates and site performance ratings, and leads to improved page ranking.
- Compatible with shared hosting, virtual or dedicated servers.
- Requires no theme modifications or programming compromises to get started.
Note: Many managed WordPress hosting providers blacklist caching plugins due to redundancy or conflict with the hosting environment’s built-in caching capabilities, so check if your hosting allows these plugins.
GoDaddy WordPress Hosting takes care of this for you: no need to install a caching plugin, as that’s built right into the platform.
5. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Page loading speed is an all-too-common complaint.
More than 1 million sites use Smush to optimize performance in terms of both speed and quality, by compressing media uploads and stored images.
- Strips unused data from images, providing faster loading without compromising quality.
- Optimize up to 50 images with a single click.
- Optimize images up to 5M in size, with limitations removed in the Premium version.
- Automated optimization for super-fast resizing and compression on upload.
- Works seamlessly with the most popular media library plugins.
- Smush servers do the heavy lifting, minimizing resource use on your server.
Related: How to optimize images for the web
6. Updraft Plus
Your site is a big investment. Why risk catastrophe due to hacking, security flaws, server crashes, or a plugin/theme update gone wrong? Over 2 million websites trust Updraft Plus to take care of them, should the unthinkable happen.
- Scheduled backups run automatically.
- Backups can be stored remotely in locations including Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud or via FTP.
- Quickly restore from backup with a single click.
- Premium features include incremental backups, additional storage destinations (e.g., OneDrive, Asure, SFTP), backup to multiple destinations, and database encryption.
GoDaddy Managed WordPress hosting saves the day: backup and restore functionalities are part of the package; no plugin required.
Related: How to backup a WordPress site
7. Really Simple SSL
Really Simple SSL automatically detects your settings and configures your website to run over HTTPS.
- Incredibly simple to use: all you have to do is secure an SSL certificate, activate the plugin, and enable SSL with a single click.
- Premium version includes a mixed content scan to let you know what needs attention.
GoDaddy Managed WordPress hosting makes this even simpler: acquire your SSL through GoDaddy, and connection to your site is a breeze; no plugin required.
8. Gravity Forms
Create amazing custom forms with Gravity Forms.
Gravity Forms does not have a free version, but it’s well worth the reasonable $59 fee for the basic version. It’s the easiest, most trusted tool available to create forms for your WordPress site.
- Easy to select the fields, configure options, and embed forms on your site.
- Advanced field options allow for file uploads, surveys, payments, user registration and more.
- Numerous add-ons facilitate integration with many popular web applications and online services, including PayPal, Stripe, Slack, Dropbox, Freshbooks and more.
GoDaddy Managed WordPress hosting brings you a hefty bonus: Gravity Forms is automatically installed on each new site.
WordPress plugins for ecommerce
Have an ecommerce site? Here are the best WordPress plugins for WordPress sites that need ecommerce functionality.
With more than 5 million active installations, WooCommerce is by far the most popular way to create your eCommerce site. Twenty-two percent of all online stores use WooCommerce, and it runs a whopping 93% of all WordPress ecommerce sites.
- Supports selling both physical and digital products, including variations such as size, color, or complex configurations.
- Secure payments by credit card and other options.
- Extensive configuration options for shipping and tax calculations.
- Easy integration with Google Analytics and Facebook.
- An abundance of support via 900+ WooCommerce themes available in the directory, and 6,000+ plugins including “WooCommerce” in their title.
GoDaddy now offers WordPress ecommerce hosting plans powered by WooCommerce. They come bundled with premium extensions like Subscriptions and Bookings.
10. Easy Digital Downloads
Easy Digital Downloads provides a complete ecommerce solution for selling digital products including software, documents, ebooks, graphics, music, or any other type of media file. With 60K+ active installations, it’s one of the most popular ways to deliver products.
- The free version supports PayPal Standard and Amazon Payments. Payment gateways supported through free or premium extensions include Stripe, PayPal Pro, PayPal Express, PayPal Payments Advanced, PayPal Adaptive Payments, Braintree, Authorize.net, 2Checkout and more.
- Add-on plugins from the EDD Extensions Catalog include software licensing, recurring payments, commissions, reviews, and offering recommended products to customers.
- EDD has been translated into more than two dozen languages.
WordPress plugins for blogs
For blogs, here are some popular WordPress plugins.
With 5M+ active installations, Akismet is hands-down the best comment spam filtering service around, catching spam comments before they land in the moderation queue.
Akismet comes pre-installed with every new WordPress instance, although activation requires setting up an API Key. The “Get a WordPress key” link gets you right to the page explaining plans and pricing.
- Akismet’s algorithm actually learns from data collected by participating websites, so over time, when more websites report similar comments as spam, Akismet learns how to identify them as such.
- Filters out spam contact form submissions.
- Comment status history lets you easily see which comments were caught or cleared.
- While Akismet is free for non-business and personal sites, there are paid plans for business sites. With everything on an honor system, the cost is up to you.
12. NextGEN Gallery
NextGEN Gallery is easy for simple photo galleries, but also powerful enough for the most demanding photographers, visual artists and imaging professionals. 900K+ active installations support recognition as the industry’s standard gallery plugin for more than a decade.
- Backend gallery management system includes options to batch upload photos, import metadata, add/delete/rearrange/sort photos, edit thumbnails, group galleries into albums or slideshows and more.
- Wide array of options for controlling size, style, timing, transitions, controls, lightbox effects and more.
- Many gallery extensions provide more customized formatting and presentation.
WordPress plugins for business
Improve your business with these high-performing plugins
13. MonsterInsights Google Analytics Dashboard
With more than 2 million active installs, MonsterInsights is the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress. Effortlessly connect your site with Google Analytics, then move to using data to improve your business by ramping up subscribers, traffic and revenue.
- Built-in dashboard lets you see all of the useful information about your visitors from inside WordPress.
- Get right to the stats that matter most, when it comes to knowing your audience, understanding how visitors find your site, which content gets the most attention, and which forms can result in improved conversions.
- Customized tracking for authors, post types, categories, tags, user ID, Google AdSense Ads, affiliate links and more.
Seventy percent of site visitors leave, never to return again. Counteract that with OptinMonster pop-ups which get more interested people on your email list, generating more leads and conversions, and boosting sales.
- 100% responsive mobile-friendly library full of professionally designed, prebuilt pop-up and opt-in templates, which can be customized down to the last detail.
- Easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder — no programming experience required!
- Easy integration with all major email marketing services.
- Segment email list and group subscribers based on their interest and interaction with your website, leading to higher open rates, higher click-through rates, increased sales, greater revenue, greater customer retention, and lower unsubscribe rates.
The best WordPress plugins will improve your site’s usability, safety and efficiency
Having the right set of plugins leads to improved usability, safer and more efficient management of your website, and the ability to grow your business.
While you might not need everything on this list, it’s a good bet there’s something on it to help you better manage your site. And if you’re ready to take it a step further, check into GoDaddy WordPress hosting for a solution meeting many critical site needs through a combination of provided functionality and automatically installed plugins.