WordPress is a fantastic platform for building and managing websites. It’s user friendly and has seemingly endless functionality. But everything can’t just be built into your WordPress theme. No worries – in many cases there’s a plugin for the capability you need. And we’ve put together a list of the best WordPress plugins for your website.
Built-in functionality within a WordPress theme isn’t always a bad thing, but having every feature plus the kitchen sink built-in can cause some headaches. This makes the code ridiculously long and complex, which can slow down your site, and you often end up with many unused features that you never needed in the first place. Also, if you ever decide to switch to a new theme you could run into some problems such as losing content for features not supported by your new theme. This is where the best WordPress plugins come in.
Have no fear, the plugins are here.
Plugins make it easy to pick and choose the features you need. Plus you can take the plugin (and any related content) with you if you ever decide to update to a new WordPress theme.
We’ve put together a list of the best WordPress plugins for a variety of needs based on questions we get asked at WPExplorer. We receive a lot of requests to add built-in features to our themes, but in many cases there’s a plugin for that. So here’s our list of the best WordPress plugins grouped by feature (but in no particular order). Enjoy!
WordPress SEO Plugins
When it comes to the best WordPress plugins for a website adding one for SEO is almost always a must. First off, SEO options should never be built into your theme (if you ever switch themes you’ll lose all of your settings – yikes!). Second, unless you happen to be a SEO expert, installing a SEO plugin makes creating sitemaps, managing page titles and other wise optimizing your website so much easier. Here are our top picks.
Yoast SEO – Free
One of the most popular free plugins, Yoast SEO is a great free alternative for setting up your onsite WordPress SEO. This plugin adds an SEO tab to your WordPress dashboard so you can make quick changes to your sitemap, titles & meta, breadcrumbs, RSS and more. While the free version of the plugin is a powerful tool for most blog, upgrading to pro adds even more on site optimization settings plus priority support.
All in One SEO Pack – Free
Another freemium style plugin to consider is All in One SEO. While there is the option to upgrade for premium features and support, the free version of the plugin is an awesome way to start bettering your SEO. The plugin includes options for AMP, Google Analytics, sitemaps, WooCommerce SEO settings and more.
SmartCrawl SEO by WPMU – Freemium
SmartCrawl SEO makes SEO easy, and even includes a setup wizard to help you get started. Just install, set your options, and customize. SmartCrawl SEO also has a Moz SEO Tools panel built right in so you can keep track of how your rankings are doing. For more features (and access to 100+ other plugins) upgrade to pro via a WPMU membership.
WordPress E-Commerce Plugins
If you want to build an online store WordPress is a fantastic option, and there are quite a few awesome e-commerce plugins to choose from. Depending on how many products you have, what your selling and what theme(s) you like these best WordPress plugins for e-commerce should fit the bill.
Easy Digital Downloads – Free
Get the awesome Easy Digital Downloads plugin for free. There are even a handful of helpful extensions available on WordPress.org. This is a quick and professional way to add a payment gateway (with cart, discount options, and user data) for digital goods on your website.
Easy Digital Downloads Extensions – Premium
The Easy Digital Downloads plugin itself is free, but you can add any number of Extensions to really pump up the functionality. You can add PayPal, an affiliates system, volume discounts, shipping, MailChimp integration, social links, Pushover sales notifications and more!
WooCommerce – Free
With over a million downloads, WooCommerce is a solid and free option for creating your own online store. With many supporting WordPress themes this plugin is easy to install, use and manage. Plus there are extensions for purchase that add features.
WooCommerce Extensions – Premium
WooCommerce offers premium, advanced e-commerce extensions for their core plugin to add useful features and plugin integrations.
Cart66 – Premium
Another premium e-commerce plugin worth checking out is Cart66. This plugin includes Google Analytics, MailChimp and Gravity Forms integration as well as options to add “buy now” links to your social account, sell/host your own digital goods and more.
Give Donations – Free
Give is a free way to collect donations for your charity or event. Simply install, design your donation forms, add goals and donor levels plus more. The plugin also supports multiple payment gateways and integrates seamlessly with most themes. Want to give back to the developers behind Give? Consider a purchasing a premium extension which helps to support the completely free core plugin.
WordPress Social Sharing Plugins
While many people focus on search engines for traffic, one audience you won’t want to forget is on social media. These users are often extremely engaged and a great way to connect with them is by adding social links to you website with one of these best WordPress plugins for social media.
JetPack Social Sharing – Free
JetPack is a beast of a plugin with many useful features – one of them being social sharing. Add icon or text social sharing links to your posts so visitors to your site can easily share your work with their friends and followers.
AddThis – Free
Promote your social links with AddThis. The free version of the plugin features integration with 200 of the most popular social networks plus multiple share button styles (sidebar, inline and custom HTML) and page display settings.
WordPress CSS Editing Plugins
Need to change a button color? Tweak your page margins? Edit the font size? These are all things you could code with CSS, or you could use one of these CSS editor plugin. Just point, click and use built-in options to easily tweak your website styling.
Yellow Pencil – Freemium
While you can try Visual CSS Lite for free to have access to CSS selectors, 50+ properties, margins, paddings, live previews and an undo/redo function, you’ll need to upgrade to Yellow Pencil pro to for ultimate editing options. The pro version of the plugin adds even more properties like 800+ fonts, 300+ background patterns, 50+ animations and trendy color palettes.
CSS Hero – Premium
CSS Hero gives you full control over design aspects of your WordPress website. Use CSS Hero to edit fonts, colors, adjust layouts (padding, margin, etc), and even insert images with the built-in Unsplash integration. The plugin also features device specific editing and previewing so you can customize your site for every device.
WordPress Page Builder Plugins
To completely change the look of your website and build custom page layouts then you’ll want to consider a page builder. There are many page builders available, and for the most part the way they work is similar. You have “blocks” that can be inserted, arranged and customized on a post or page to create new layouts. But not all builders are created the same – here are our two favorites.
Elementor Page Builder – Free
If you’re looking for an affordable yet powerful page builder we’d recommend Elementor. With this plugin you can easily create custom pages with no coding required. Compatible with most themes, Elementor includes tons of page builder blocks for sections, columns, headings, text, buttons, videos and more plus pre-made templates for faster page building.
WPBakery Page Builder (formerly Visual Composer) – Premium
For full control over your posts and pages, the WPBakery Page Builder is the way to go. Included with most top tier premium themes (like our top selling Total WordPress theme), this page builder includes an easy to use drag and drop builder (front and back end), custom colors options, paddings, margins, backgrounds, icons, images, and more. Plus there are tons of extensions and add-ons available to make creating websites on the fly easy.
WordPress Caching Plugins
Caching is an important part of website speed. If your not already using a CDN, installing a plugin is a great idea. Here are our favorites.
WP Super Cache – Free
This plugin has more downloads than there are people in Costa Rica. Why? Because WP Super Cache can make your WordPress website super fast by displaying static HTML pages to most users (using Mod_Rewrite, PHP, and legacy caching to peed things up).
W3 Total Cache – Free
W3 Total Cache can improve your page speed by increasing server performance and reducing download times. It does such a good job that it’s even recommended by well known companies such as DreamHost, MediaTemple, Go Daddy and Host Gator.
WP Engine – Premium
Yes – I know that WP Engine is not a plugin, but I think they’re worth mentioning here. We use them to host WPExplorer, and because WP Engine uses managed caching there is no need for a plugin to keep your site speedy.
WordPress Notification & Opt-in Plugins
While perhaps not an absolute necessity, adding a notification or an opt-in form is a great way to get your readers to focus on new content, promote special promotions or to gain newsletter subscribers. Whatever you need these plugins are sure to help.
Sumo – Free
With the free Sumo plugin you can create notice bars, popups, scroller boxes, welcome mat and more. The plugin is compatible with more than 25+ email services, plus Sumo also includes heatmaps to see what folks are clicking plus a highlight to tweet feature. You do need a SumoMe account, but it’s free for small websites just starting out.
OptinMonster – Premium
OptinMonster is one of the leading opt-in form and lead generation software options on the web. Create fully custom opt-in including welcome mats, exit intent popups, time regulated opt-in and more. Plus you can even create targeted “follow up” messages or onsite retargeting to boost your conversions and newsletter signups even more.
Bloom – Premium
Bloom is a premium pop-up and opt-in from builder from Elegant themes. Included with your Elegant Theme’s membership, this handy plugin is a huge asset for any blog or e-commerce website. Build stunning opt-in forms to grow your subscriber list, server readers custom content (based on location or even user interaction on your website), and watch your business grow.
HelloBar – Premium
Hello Bar is a popular premium option for creating and adding notice bars to WordPress. Plans start at $4.95 per month but HelloBar makes it so easy to create your bars. Just sign up for an account, add your website and create a hello bar. To use your bar you can manually add it to your website, or simply download the custom WordPress plugin for your Hello Bar.
FooBar – Premium
Foobar is a great plugin for adding customized notification bars to your website(s). You can choose options including but not limited to top, bottom, inline, social buttons, RSS feed, tweets, scrolling messages, custom HTML, unlimited bars and much more.
WordPress Notification Bar – Free
If all you want is a basic notification bar, you might want to give WordPress Notification Bar a try. This plugin lets you add a simple notification bar to the top of your website with options for text, callout button and color customization.
WordPress Slider Plugins
Sliders are an easy way to add visual interest or pack in more content (via post slider) on your website. There are tons of great free and premium slider options, but in our humble opinion these are the absolute best.
Slider Revolution – Premium
The Slider Revolution WordPress Plugin is full of options. Make your slider full width, full screen, responsive, captioned, fast, slow, or choose from any number of customizations for typography, links, buttons, animations, transitions, etc.
Layer Slider – Premium
For the ultimate in slider customizations you have to take a look at the Layer Slider WordPress Plugin. You can create and perfect your sliders down to the pixel, millisecond, and even percentage of a degree rotation. There’s no question why this plugin is so popular.
NivoSlider – Premium
A fabulous plugin, the NivoSlider is a tried and true WordPress slider plugin to add to yoru website. There are multiple transitions, a handful of slider types (manual, category, sticky, etc.), preset css styles, and for quick setup it’s integrated with 500px, Flickr and Instagram.
Soliloquy – Freemium
Soliloquy is an awesome responsive slider plugin. You can get the lovely Soliloquy WordPress slider plugin for free by trying out the lite version. The slider is responsive, has drag & drop image uploading, and if you ever want more you can purchase the full premium version or a support license for extra help. For those who need or want more features addons are available for slider themes, thumbnail navigation, Instagram integration, featured content slides, dynamic cropping, carousel, lightbox, edit screen preview and image filters.
SlideDeck – Free
Create neat and tidy sliders using SlideDeck. The plugin supports image, text, videos and HTML and includes a side-by-side editor so you can see your changes in action as you make them. Plus Soliloquy features a drag & drop slide order and supports 14 different content sources.
WordPress Advanced Menus Plugins
Most WordPress theme include basic menu functionality. This means a simple menu with dropdown and a few set menu locations. If you want to add post excerpts, include images, add custom layouts, etc then a plugin is definitely the perfect solution.
UberMenu – Premium
If you want more in your navigation, Ubermenu is a mega menu plugin you need to checkout. Add images, shortcodes, descriptions, use drag & drop widgets, choose sub-menu effects, create vertical or horizontal menus, and customize just about everything.
Mega Main Menu – Premium
Another great menu option is the premium Mega Main Menu plugin. Choose from 10+ dropdown styles, pick any color (even gradients), select a custom Google font, choose from 1600+ built-in icons and more. Mega Main Menu is full of features – it’s even compatible with WPML for easy language translations.
WordPress Contact Form Plugins
Whether you’ve built a blog or a business website offering users an easy way to contact you might be helpful. Most themes won’t include this feature built in since there are already many powerful form plugins available, which is why we simply had to include contact forms in our best WordPress plugins list.
Gravity Forms – Premium
There is no end to the magic Gravity Forms can create. You can make forms with multiple pages, entry confirmations, addresses, check-boxes, drop-downs, radio buttons, pricing fields, etc. You can also schedule your forms and enable form-to-post features.
WPForms – Freemium
WP Forms is a powerful form builder plugin with tons of options for building contact forms, booking forms, quote requests, subscription forms and more. You can get WPForms Lite for free from WordPress.org to start building your own responsive forms, with the option to upgrade later on if you want more features.
Contact Form 7 – Free
This plugin does just what it says. Contact Form 7 creates lovely and straightforward contact forms with fields like name, subject, and message. You can enable email confirmations and install the Really Simple Captcha to prevent spam.
WordPress Backup Plugins
You should be taking regular backups of your website as a part of your standard WordPress security process. Doing this manually can be time consuming (and easy to forget), which is why using a plugin is such a great option.
VaultPress – Premium
We love VaultPress – it is a great level of protection to have just in case disaster strikes. It takes daily backups (or real-time ones if you upgrade), keeps an archive of them, and VaultPress will even help you if you need to restore your site.
BackupBuddy – Premium
BackupBuddy is a great solution to backup your entire WordPress installation, plugins, widgets, content and more. Need to do a full restore? No problem – upload your backup file and importbuddy.php and you’re back on track!
BackUpWordPress – Free
Easily backup your WordPress website everyday using the BackUpWordPress plugin. The plugin uses mysqldump and zip functions to backup your installation, and you even have the option to have the backup files emailed to you.
WordPress Security Plugins
Keeping your WordPress website secure can be a stressful process. There’s all kinds of Malware to worry about, brute force attacks to prevent and backups to take. Which is why it much simpler (and safer) to put your trust in one of these best WordPress plugins for security instead of trying to DIY.
Security Ninja – Free
Security Ninja uses over 50+ security tests to make sure your website stays safe. The plugin reviews your site for weaknesses, helps you take preventative measures, has a debug mode and even has its own code snippets to make fixes easy. And if you just want even more protection the developers offer a pro version to offer even more help in keeping your WordPress website safe.
iThemes Security Pro – Premium
Now brought to you by iThemes, Security Pro will help you keep your site safe with measures such as site scans, trouble bot/user bans, obscured sensitive data, file change detection, two factor authentication and more. Best of all, you can give it a test run with the free lite version of the plugin.
WordPress Link Cloaking Plugins
For affiliates using a link cloaking plugin can be super helpful. This way you can not only create more appealing links for readers to click on, but you can also keep track of which custom links are converting thanks to the help of a plugin.
PrettyLink Lite – Free
If you want simple link cloaking with basic hit tracking, PrettyLink Lite is a great option. This plugin allows you to created custom links, nofollow links, link groups, forward parameters and redirection links. The plugin also tracks the hits on each link. Plus they do offer a pro version if you want more features like Google Analytics, the ability to generate QR codes, automated elements like URL replacement, etc.
WordPress Font Option Plugins
Many themes includes custom styling options via the live theme Customizer. However, there are just as many themes that don’t. So if you want to change your fonts you’ll either have to do so manually (the hard way) or via a plugin (the easy way).
Use Any Font – Free
Use Any Font is a quick and simple way to add custom fonts on your WordPress website. Simply upload your custom font file (ttf, otf, woff) right in the WordPress editor, or embed them using @font-face css. The plugin works great with most page builders and is a fast way to add any custom font (not just Google).
Easy Google Fonts – Free
The free Easy Google Fonts plugin does exactly what it says – makes adding and using Google Fonts easy. The plugin enables you to choose from more than 600+ custom Google fonts, preview font changes live in the Customizer, create your own font rules (admins) and more. Best of all – no coding required. All the controls are easy and intuitive.
WordPress Related Posts Plugins
One of the simplest ways to increase the time a reader is on your website is to include links to articles that are similar to whatever it is they’re reading on your website. How do you do this? One easy way is with a related posts plugin.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – Free
YARPP is probably the most popular related posts plugin on WordPress.org. With well over 2 million downloads, this plugin is a great way to add thumbnails for related posts, pages and custom post types to keep readers on your website.
WordPress Author Box Plugins
Give your authors a bit of credit for articles that they write on your blog with an author box. This way you can display their bio, social links and even image at the end of posts so your readers to learn more about them (bonus: it also gives guest bloggers/authors and incentive to write for you fore free since they’ll be able to link to themselves).
Simple Author Box – Free
Consider giving your authors’ a bit more credit with the Simple Author Box plugin. This adds a section to each of your posts with an author bio, social links, and Gravatar image. It’s also RTL ready and fairly easy to customize with a little CSS coding knowhow.
WordPress Event Management Plugins
For any nonprofit, restaurant, theater, or even corporation having an events calendar can be useful to show what’s coming up and what has already happened. Whether you want to post employee schedules, happy hour times or upcoming fun raisers these events management plugins are the best for the job.
Events Calendar – Freemium
If you’re looking for a great online calendar and events management system checkout the Events Calendar by Modern Tribe. The plugin supports events creation options such as venues, organizers, month/list/day views, events search, Google maps embed, custom widget, event taxonomies, and tons more (especially in the pro version of the plugin). Plus it’s compatible with most popular themes and frameworks.
Event Espresso – Premium
Serve up some piping hot events to your readers with the Event Espresso WordPress plugin. Manage the events from beginning to end, including a calendar, invites, registration, wait lists, billing, coupons, confirmation emails, social sharing, multiple languages and so much more.
Events Manager – Free
Events Manager is a popular (and free) options for managing events through your WordPress website. The plugin has lot of features including (but not limited to) event registration, recurring events, BuddyPress support, Google maps, event submissions and more.
WordPress Lightbox Plugins
Add impressive image lightboxes to your website with any of these plugins. They’re easy to install and use, and make it possible for your to showcase the full glory of your photos in full size.
Foobox – Premium
This fully responsive and mobile ready lightbox plugin is the perfect addition to portfolios and galleries. Foobox has built-in social sharing, a slideshow function, and automatically works with WordPress Galleries upon installation.
Lightbox Gallery – Free
Lightbox Gallery is a free plugin that is a great way to add lightbox functionality to your galleries. Plus the plugin has been localized for a variety of languages, has a tooltip caption option, includes pagination, and your can choose a Highslide JS display option.
WordPress Coming Soon & Landing Page Plugins
Still working on your website? Easy – try one of these coming soon plugins in our best WordPress plugins list. With one of these installed you can still tease that your site is coming on social media, collect newsletter subscribers or even adda countdown while still having the flexible to work on your website (on the backend).
WordPress Landing Pages – Free
WordPress Landing Pages is a quick and easy way to put together landing pages while you work on your website. Plus the plugin fully integrates with Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, and Ninja Forms so you can collect information from those who land on your page.
Thrive Landing Pages – Premium
With Thrive Landing Pages you can easily turn any WordPress website into a well oiled marketing machine. Simply install the plugin and use the included customizable templates (225+ of them) to quickly create targeted pages for your products, services, online courses, etc. The plugin is also translation ready, utilizes a drag and drop builder for an easy/intuitive interface and is fully responsive so your pages always look great.
WordPress Testimonial Plugins
Add real life customer testimonials to your website with one of these easy to use plugins. This way you won’t have to custom style your testimonials as you add them to a page or widget, since these plugin include all the styling (and easy insert options) you could possibly need.
WP Product Review – Freemium
Add testimonials and reviews with WP Product Review. While there is a lite version available that works great, the premium version of the plugin adds custom shortcodes, colors, review table designs, icons, and even a comparison table.
Symple Shortcodes – Free
For a quick and minimal solution, Symple Shortcodes includes a basic testimonials shortcode. You can add the person or company’s name, the testimonial and an image. Just insert the shortcode just about anywhere by using the Symple icon in the rich text editor.
WordPress Post Rating Plugins
One feature often not included in themes is a post rating or review option. It’s a great way to get feedback from your readers, or to allow “voting” on user submitted posts (sort of like Buzzfeed). In any case, this is simple to add with a plugin.
LoveIt Pro – Premium
This cute LoveIt plugin that allows users to “heart” your posts, pages, portfolio items, etc. Each user can love something once and a notification will popup if they try to love it again. The plugin also enables you to track popular content and has a “most loved” widget.
WP Post Ratings – Free
If you just want a traditional 5-star rating system, WP Post Ratings is a popular and well tested plugin that will get the job done. Readers can submit their vote for content, the plugin takes an average and then it displays the rating (however you can always upload a custom image).
WordPress Restricted Content Plugins
Keep parts of your website private for subscribed users or create premium memberships with these powerful restricted content plugins. With the help of one of these plugins you can easily start a premium blog full of exclusive tips, create a “customers only” support section on your e-commerce website, or any else.
Restrict Content – Free & Pro
Easily restrict content in pages, posts or blocks of content to registered members only with the Restrict Content free WordPress plugin. Just active the plugin and restrict content by simply selecting the user level to restrict by, or by using the shortcode for a block of content. Upgrade to Restrict Content Pro to add an unlimited number of membership levels, manage subscriptions, record payments, issue discounts, and of course restrict content.
WordPress Share to Download Plugins
A quick way to build you social media followers is to offer free good on your website and require a like, share or tweet in exchange. Simply install one of our top plugin picks, add your freebie and watch your social stats improve.
Social Locker – Premium
Use the Social Locker to lock premium content (like posts, discount codes, images, videos, special offers, downloads, etc.) until users share your content using social media. The plugin inserts a locked content screen that includes a number of popular social media options. Or give the Social Locker Free Edition a try. It’s the same idea as the premium version of the plugin – users must socially share your content to access it. This plugin includes a free trial of the premium features, but you’ll have to upgrade if you want to keep them.
Locker Cat Social Locker – Free
Have users like, tweet or share your content with the simple and straightforward Locker Cat plugin. The plugin includes an easy shortcode you can use to partially hide your content on posts and pages. Readers are then prompted to “share” to view the entirety of your content, making this plugin a great means of viral social marketing (especially if you add some hashtags in the tweet).
So there you have it – a list of some of the very best WordPress plugins that should address most of your WordPress wants and needs. If we missed a functionality your clients often ask for, or if there is a plugin you’re constantly recommending, leave a comment below and let us know about it!
So next time you want to ask a theme developer to add some extra functionality to a theme or are wondering why it isn’t there in the first place…ask yourself…is there a plugin for that? Almost always the answer is YES!
Note: While this is a round up of the best WordPress plugins in our opinion we do not recommend installing all of these. You should only install plugins you have determined are necessary for your website. Installing too many plugins can potentially lead to conflicts or even slow down your website if they’re resource intensive.