Each site is different, and a plugin that’s useful for one might be completely useless for another. Still, there are a few best WordPress plugins that have a permanent home on whatever installation I work on. The list is the same today as it was the year before. So here’s it is without ado!
Automattic’s Jetpack plugin is the single most important add-on you can have on your site. It wins out due to the sheer number of functionalities it can take on. Here are a few important things it can do for you:
- Create related posts (using Automattic servers!)
- Custom CSS based on theme
- Free CDN for your images
- Subscriptions for comments
- Automated social sharing
Normally, I would require a plugin for each and every one of these things. There’s a lot of other stuff it can do as well, but these are just a few that I personally find invaluable. You can turn individual features on and off. The plugin used to have performance issues that have since been ironed out. And each of these functions is customizable with its own hooks and filters. If I had to pick just one plugin to have on my site, Jetpack would be it.
I used to have a somewhat lax approach to security up until a few years back when my own site was hit with a massive DDoS attack, crippling it. One of the tools I used to get my site up and running was Bad Behavior and it still finds a place on my site today. Bad Behavior goes way beyond merely using a list of banned IPs. It also checks user behavior and protects your site from certain cross posting attacks.
In addition, it integrates with Project Honeypot (which you should definitely sign up for), which keeps a constantly updated list of suspicious IPs associated with e-mail scraping, hacking, comment spam, and other undesirable activities. Here’s a screenshot of Bad Behavior’s statistics on my own website:
Pretty useful right?
iThemes (formerly Better WP Security)
While Bad Behavior merely blocks certain IPs from your site, iThemes covers all other aspects of WordPress security. Using this plugin, you can:
- Rename your login and admin pages to bypass brute force attacks entirely
- Enable failed login limits
- Secure important WordPress files from public access
- Change database prefixes
And lots of other things..
Along with Bad Behavior, this might seem like overkill. But trust me – spending a few minutes securing your WordPress site will save you oodles of headaches later on. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t wait for something to go wrong, because believe me – something will go wrong! It’s never too early to start thinking about security, and iThemes is one of the best WordPress plugins you can find.
Floating Social Bar
The Floating Social Bar was developed by the team at WPBeginner, and solves this problem by only loading the external scripts when someone hovers over them. Before that, it stores the current count of shares in the post meta data. This way, it provides interactivity and information without the expensive resource loading faced by other plugins. In addition, it provides a simple clutter free interface that “sticks” to the top of the page as you scroll down the article.
Elegant, useful, and efficient. What more do you need?
An SEO plugin for WordPress is a must. And after thinking long and hard, I’ve come down on the side of Yoast SEO. It has the all important “on-page SEO” checkmarks when you’re writing your article so you don’t miss any important steps. It allows you to change your title tags, meta keywords, and descriptions. All important SEO functions are filtered down into one plugin.
For a long time I used to recommend SEO Ultimate, which is still a strong contender for the best SEO plugin. It has many features that Yoast doesn’t have like the Deeplink Juggernaut which allows you to really build up your internal links. However, the lack of a real time “traffic light” system to tell you whether your current post is optimized or not makes me give it up in favor of Yoast SEO. That’s really a killer feature not just for you, but for any other author on your site. So till that’s added, I’m going to go with Yoast SEO over SEO Ultimate.
W3 Total Cache
No WordPress site is complete without a caching plugin, and W3 Total Cache is one of the best. There are a few other strong contenders such as WP Super Cache and WP Rocket. But the latter is a paid tool, and the former might not have as many options as I’d like. If you want more of a “Install and forget” plugin, then WP Super Cache might be better, but for real fine tuned caching, nothing beats W3TC. Still, this is a matter of taste and any of the others can easily be a replacement for best caching plugin. W3 Total Cache simply happens to be my personal favorite.
Best Site Specific Plugins
As I mentioned earlier, these are “all rounder” plugins that will help you regardless of your site design or content. But there are many indispensable plugins for specific types of sites. For example, if your site is commerce oriented, you can’t live without WooCommerce. If you need social network features, then BuddyPress is an industry standard. But they’re not applicable for all kinds of WordPress sites, so they didn’t make the cut in the list above.
But these 5 WordPress plugins should get you started well on your way to creating a fantastic site!