A little bit of background. I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for over a year. I have even changed the title a bit over this time. Originally, it was to be a must use plugin list, but I kept changing my ideal plugin list. As time passed, I worked on a variety projects and realized that a necessary plugin list doesn’t actually exist due to different goals and restrictions. Yes, there are plugins that I use on every site, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work the same for someone else with a different server setup. My plan for this list is to break it up into different categories based on what I find to be important and frequency of their use in my endeavors.
Note: These lists are alphabetical and in no particular ranking.
Most Frequently Used Plugins:
Akismet – This is the most popular plugin of all-time as it is one of two plugins that comes standard with WordPress. For a default plugin, it works extremely well. All you need to do is sign up for a free API and you’re good to go. Now, it isn’t 100% fool proof, but I would say it is 99.5% effective. Once and a while, the plugin has a hiccup and misses a few spam posts or so. Not a huge deal. As long as you keep an eye on it every-so-often (to put it in comparison, I look at it once daily as I have an active WordPress site), you’ll be fine.
Autoptimize – I recently starting to use this plugin as I was not happy with W3 Total Cache’s minify options on the sites that I was running on my server. I searched for an alternative to work alongside W3 Total Cache and found Autoptimize to be my go-to plugin. The plugin takes care of minifying the code as well as doing other options that allow your site to drop in times. It is practically a plug-and-play plugin, but there are a number of options as well as advanced options if need be. Although, I found this to be very simple and definitely cut down on load times dramatically compared to without W3 Total Cache or W3 Total Cache’s minify.
BackupBuddy – Backing up websites has become a major priority as of recently. It should have been more of a priority earlier, but I tend to slack majorly. BackupBuddy has changed all of that. I was recently comparing all the options of plugins and options. I wanted something that worked with 3rd parties that wouldn’t cost me an arm-and-a-leg. I was leaning towards Vaultpress, but what really dissuaded me was I had to pay a monthly price per site. This was a great pickup.
The only downside that I found was that this doesn’t support Google Drive. Not like this was a breaking point, but it would be a nice alternative since I already use it for other projects. At the time of writing this, iThemes has put out the latest version (in beta) that includes Google Drive. Dropbox Pro or Amazon S3 is perfect for this especially if you have a big site like some of mine.
Batch Comment Spam Detection – This has become a lifesaver plugin for my server. I was getting bombarded with spam comments. It was seriously out of hand. I was getting tens of thousands per day. I can’t even fathom what some of the largest blogs get as I look at this as a ton. When I would try to empty spam via WordPress, the server would eat it. I had to resort doing it through queries. It was until I found this plugin which deletes the spam in batches as the title states which saved me from aggravation.
Gravity Forms – This is such a powerful plugin for WordPress that it is used on every site that I build. I find this invaluable. Originally, I was using a plain contact form which they are a dime-a-dozen on the WordPress Plugin Repository. It wasn’t until I started trying to do more custom requests that I realized that I needed something a bit more diverse. Gravity Forms solved that quandary. The form builder is so easy to use; anyone can use it. It allows for so many different types of forms and the possibilities are endless. Combine that with all the available plugins (free and premium), you have a plugin that you’ll love.
InfiniteWP – When the number of WordPress sites that I’ve been apart of surpassed two digits, I needed to find a way to manage all the sites with their updates and such. This can be dreadful when working with just a few sites let alone many sites. When you toss in client sites and test sites, you dread each and every update. This can be an issue when dealing with updates that need to be done as soon as possible due to security flaws. I found InfiniteWP to be the ideal setup for me. While, the home isn’t necessarily a WordPress plugin, it uses a plugin to connect to all the sites. The reason I chose this was because the other options, while great, cost money upfront. InfiniteWP gives you a basic setup which is plenty for myself. It does have many great plugins that are available for purchase that will give you the same features as it’s competitors, but honestly, I don’t see myself using a majority of them which is why free is great for me and my pocket.
Jetpack – I am guilty of using Automattic’s Jetpack plugin for WordPress. Everytime I mention this, I receive polar reviews of the plugin. I can understand both points of views as it is essentially an “all-in-one” plugin. Although, I don’t use it for many of the features it offers. Rather, I use it for a very limited amount of features. The main one I rather am fond of is publicize. It allows all the posts to automatically post to social networks of my choosing. Along with that, I use their WordPress statistics, shortcodes, and the beautiful math feature to write the occasional math problem for certain posts.
Limit Login Attempts – I hate to say that this is a must need, but this is a must need. I am not certain why this isn’t built into WordPress core. This plugin does what it is named. It limits the amount of attempts a person can login into WordPress before locking down. Currently, WordPress allows for users to have unlimited amount of attempts which makes people susceptible to a brute force attack. This slows down the attempt majorly if not makes it completely impossible.
P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) – Less is more when it comes to creating WordPress sites with plugins. Although, we all face a plugin that we have to use or something that will set us apart. This is more of a maintenance plugin that you’ll use from time to time or when creating or doing updates to your site. Hell, it should actually be dormant and disabled when not in use. This plugin is meant to do runtimes on your website and see which plugins are taking the most time to load. This will help you key in on what is slowing up the website. It will break down your speeds by many different views so you can see exactly what is going wrong and how to rectify your issue.
Related Posts for WordPress Premium – This is a very new plugin in my repertoire, but it was one of the best changes I have made in a while. I am a big proponent of related posts plugins as they allow users to go through your site rather than exiting out right away. This is especially important if they didn’t go through your homepage and directly to a post. They’ll have a high chance of finding something relevant that they like and ultimately become a loyal viewer. The reason I am a fan this one in particular is it isn’t server intensive. The other plugins pull information when a post opened. If you get a surge of viewers, your server will get a surge of intensity. This plugin does all of that first and creates a cache so you don’t have to worry. It also allows you to do manual relations to add or remove posts you don’t feel is a good match.
SearchWP – It is notorious in the WordPress world that the biggest feature that lacks is the capability of the default search engine. This allows you to choose the post types, taxonomies, and custom fields used for searches while weighing their priority. You’re also able to create multiple searches depending on your site’s needs. If you use many PDF’s, the search engine is able to index that content from your media. Best of all, you’re able to get statistics on what users are searching. Your users will have a better experience with the search and not be disappointed.
W3 Total Cache – This is one of the biggest plugins known to WordPress and for a good reason. It improves the user’s experience as it increases performance on the server, lowers download times, and provides the ability to use a CDN. This plugin allows you to cache the browser, page, object, and database. It is a fact that after ~4 seconds, users are more and more likely to exit out of your site without giving it a chance. Google does something similar as it ranks you on their search engine by including this. This plugin improves those speeds and is able to handle high traffic periods. This is used by major corporations as well as the big players in SEO. It is no wonder why everyone loves this. While, I use Autoptimize for the minify, this works well too (depending on your setup). Plus, this works great with WordPress SEO and Genesis Child themes (if you buy pro).
WordPress SEO – Search Engine Optimization is necessary on every site. Many people pay hundreds if not thousands to reach the top of Google for their said keywords. WordPress SEO is by a big name in the industry, Yoast, and provides the significant boost to take you to the next level. WordPress by itself is solid for Search Engine Optimization along with good content, but this allows you to cover the small things you may not think of such as Breadcrumbs, Sitemap, Meta Elements, and other technical perspectives. If you want to achieve high positions on Google as well as other search engines, you should absolutely download this.
WP Smush – This has been a controversial post for the last month or two. Prior to that, it was the go-to plugin. What this plugin does is take the photos you upload, run a compression script, and then upload to your site. This allows your images to be smaller without losing noticeable quality which inturn allows your posts to load quicker. This used to use Yahoo’s service until one day they took it offline without any notice. Alternative solutions appeared, but they either had to install scripts on your server or go through a premium solution. WPMU DEV took over the plugin prior to all of this and offered their own service for their monthly subscription. This is what caused the controversy. Although, they stepped up to the plate and created a better (and free) solution.
BJ Lazy Load – When working on the redesign of my multi-author site, I really put a focus on performance. We feature a number of outside scripts as we embed music from outside sources as well as post their album cover. This can boggle down a load time. By adding this plugin, the loading of the images and scripts are delayed until they scroll down to the area where it is shown. This helps everyone out as users prefer fast. Team this up with WP Smush, W3 Total Cache, and Autoptimize, you have a create combination.
Blubrry Powerpress – I’ve been podcasting for the past year and Blubrry Powerpress has been a phenomenal tool. This plugin provides everything you need to get up on iTunes (as well as other podcast venues). It also provides the ability to do multiple podcasts with no issue at all. I haven’t used the feature, but apparently there is options for video podcasting. Overall, they do a great job and allows you to get your podcast out to the public inhouse.
Download Monitor – On EDM Assassin, we put out weekly mixes and tend to put out more than one in a week. In order to keep tabs on all of the downloads, we use this plugin to manage all of the mixes. It is a well written plugin that handles all of the downloads and gives you options (which I don’t need, but you may use) as well as provides analytics that is great to share.
Members – WordPress roles out of the box is real good. You don’t really need to do much and it covers practically every role that you’d need. Although, to get the ideal setup, you sometimes need to change it up. Members is a great plugin that allows you to edit roles or create new ones, but isn’t too intense. This is for people who aren’t looking to create a whole member system (although, I am pretty sure it is possible). This is just to do small time things and for that, this plugin is perfect for just that.
Revive Old Post Pro – This is my golden plugin. I believe being constantly active and consistent on Twitter is imperative to running a good social media account. This plugin connects with your Twitter to allow posts to automatically post at your convenience. I have set up a strict schedule. You can change it up to fit your needs or your accounts needs. Match it up with the publicize feature on Jetpack as well as your analytics and you have a combination for success. There is a free version, but I prefer the pro because of the additional features.
Social Locker – Sharing is caring on the internet, but as my mother always told me, “Nothing is free. You’re always paying someway, somehow.” This plugin trades a simple like or follow on a social media account in exchange for access to a link, a download, information, etc. This is good for boosting your profiles up in order to get a bigger social media reach. It is important to use this in moderation as social paywalls tend to annoy people including myself. I believe the ideal way is to provide options and an optional out.
Soliloquy – There are so many sliders for WordPress. They’re another type of plugin that is a dime-a-dozen. Many are pretty bad for different reasons such as: security holes, missing features, not enough options, performance issues, responsive issues, SEO, photo sizes, etc. Soliloquy solves all of it. Actually, the only problem with Soliloquy is the price, but truly, you’re paying for the quality of it. I’m comfortable knowing that I don’t have to worry. It works well and it is easy to use.
The Events Calendar Pro – It has been more and more frequent that this plugin has been needed on my sites as well as clients. There are only a number of decent Event Calendar plugins, but to find one that is easy to use as well as visually appealing was hard. Originally, this plugin didn’t make my list when I started working with this plugin. By the time I got to end, they added mobile responsive views which now makes this plugin the best Event Calendar plugin you can get. There is a free version, but I prefer the pro because of the additional features.