Essential WordPress Plugins for 2014

WordPress’s power comes from its plugins. The core version of WordPress can be used for a simple blog or content website, however without plugins your website would lack features and be susceptible to spam and malicious attacks.

With over twenty eight thousand free plugins listed in the official plugin directory and thousands more in premium plugin stores such as Getspool; it can be difficult to find the plugins you need.

In this article, I have listed what I believe to be the best WordPress plugins available online. Plugins have been grouped into categories. Some plugins, such as backup and caching plugins, should not be used in conjunction with related plugins that offer the same functionality. Most other plugins can be used together.

Caching

Caching your website content will help you improve the speed of your website. This reduces your bandwidth, improves your search engine rankings and gives a better overall experience to visitors.

W3 Total Cache – FREE

Recommended by many hosting companies, W3 Total Cache promises to speed up your website by ten times using a variety of techniques. It offers minify and HTTP compression of HTML, CSS, JavaScript and feeds. Caching and use of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can also be implemented.

W3 Total Cache

WP Super Cache – FREE

The most downloaded caching WordPress plugin is a little easier to use than W3 Total Cache. It will serve static html files to 99% of your visitors using one of three caching methods and it also supports Content Delivery Networks.

WP Super Cache

Quick Cache – FREE

An easy to use caching plugin that allows you to cache your posts, pages and custom post types.

Quick Cache

WP Fastest Cache – FREE

A great plugin that prides itself on being the simplest and fastest caching plugin for WordPress. As long as your .htacces file has the write permissions, WP Fastest Cache will configure caching and minification correctly for you.

WP Fastest Cache

Backups

Do not become complacent about backing up. Even million dollar websites have been hacked in the past and every company suffers outages from time to time. That is why it is vital to have a good backup solution for your projects. Without a backup, all of your content will be lost and your website’s value will crash towards zero.

VaultPress – From $5 Per Month

My favourite backup solution offers automated backups and restores at the touch of a button. All you have to do is activate the plugin on your website and sign in using your Automattic account. The basic plan costs $15 per month and backs up your website every hour forever. The lite plan costs $5 per month and backs up your website one a day for thirty days.

VaultPress Backups

BackupBuddy – From $80

BackupBuddy allows you to backup your website to a wide number of places including Amazon S3, Dropbox, Rackspace, FTP, email and more. You can also download directly to your desktop. It boasts a simple restore system and their magic migration system allows you to transfer your website to a new domain or hosting company easily.

BackupBuddy

BackWPup Free – FREE

BackWPup Free is a great WordPress plugin that allows you to backup your website to Dropbox, SugarSync, Amazon S3, FTP, email and more. Complete installations can be restored using a single zip file.

BackWPup

SEO

The core version of WordPress has been configured to work well with search engines; however there are many ways in which a website’s SEO can be improved. SEO plugins improve SEO functionality and attempt to give your website a better ranking in major search engines.

WordPress SEO by Yoast – FREE

One of the most advanced SEO plugins available for WordPress. It allows you to analyse your page SEO, add breadcrumbs, add a sitemap, optimise your RSS feed and much more. Settings can be exported to your other websites easily too.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

Google XML Sitemaps – FREE

A hugely popular plugin with around twelve million downloads, Google XML Sitemaps will automatically build a sitemap for search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask. It supports custom URL’s and can handle custom post types too.

Google XML Sitemaps

All in One SEO Pack – FREE

All in One SEO Pack will automatically optimise your WordPress website for search engines. It can generate a sitemap and has support for custom post types and eCommerce websites.

All in One SEO Pack

SEO Ultimate – FREE

An easy to use SEO plugin that lets you control title tags, noindex, meta tags, Open Graph, slugs, canonical, autolinks, 404 errors and rich snippets. It can also generate your author code for Google+.

SEO Ultimate

SEO Smart Links – FREE

A cool plugin that finds keywords and phrases and adds links to related posts and pages from your website.

SEO Smart Links

Contact Forms

Due to the number of spambots online, it is no longer safe to simply publish your email address on your website. A better solution is to use a contact form. This protects your email address from spammers and allows visitors to contact you directly through your website. Advanced contact forms add additional functionality such as post submission and integration with eCommerce plugins.

Gravity Forms – From $39

One of the most versatile contact form plugins for WordPress. It is very easy to use, however it offers advanced features such as conditional logic, post submission, anti-spam options, eCommerce integration and much more.

Gravity Forms

Contact Form 7 – FREE

The most popular free contact form plugin for WordPress. The form is powered by Ajax and has anti-spam features such as CAPTCHA and Akismet.

Contact Form 7

Visual Form Builder – FREE

Visual Form Builder is a fantastic contact form plugin that allows you to build complex forms in seconds. All you have to do is drag and drop the fields you want into your form. It has built-in anti-spam functionality and entries can be exported to a CSV file.

Visual Form Builder

Quform – $25

A cool drag and drop form builder that offers fifteen field types. It features conditional logic, a Javascript calendar and an option to export all entries.

Quform

Search

The default WordPress search engine is poor. It frequently provides irregular search results and lacks functionality that most modern search engines have. By replacing the default search engine, you can give your visitors a better search experience.

Relevanssi – FREE

Replaces the default search engine with Relevanssi. The plugin also indexes other areas of your website such as comments and shortcode content. Search terms are highlighted for visitors on result pages and it can suggest terms for visitors.

Relevanssi

WP Ultimate Search – FREE

An Ajax powered search plugin that allows visitors to search using multiple keywords and phrases. Visitors can also search in specific categories and the results template can be modified.

WP Ultimate Search

Better Search – FREE

Improves the default WordPress search engine and provides more relevant results. Popular searches can be displayed and the template can be modified.

Better Search

Search Everything – FREE

A fantastic search plugin that allows visitors to search comments, tags, excerpts and more.

Search Everything

Security

The core version of WordPress is not very secure. Therefore, it pays to be pro-active and protect your website from malicious attacks. A wide number of plugins are available that tighten up your website security and make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your website.

Limit Login Attempts – FREE

The WordPress login form remains the most common way for hackers to break into a website. Limit Login Attempts restricts will lockout a user for a set period of time after a defined number of failed attempts. Two similar plugins that are worth considering are and Login LockDown and Login Security Solution.

Limit Login Attempts

Better WP Security – FREE

Instantly scan your website for security flaws. It can raise many issues such as the strength of your admin password, whether the login page is protected and theme and plugin concerns. Many flaws can be protected with one click.

Better WP Security

Wordfence Security – FREE

A good protection plugin that offers a firewall, virus-scanning, login security and more. There is also a real-time traffic report that shows you where visitors are located.

Wordfence

Acunetix WP Security – FREE

Acunetix will scan your website for vulnerabilities and security concerns. It can also perform changes such as remove your WordPress version from your website, disabling error reporting and file permission checks.

Acunetix WP Security

Sucuri Security – FREE

A security scanner that will check your website for malware, spam and blacklisting. It can also check the integrity of your WordPress admin area by scanning important core files.

Sucuri Security

Block Bad Queries – FREE

A simple script that protects your website against malicious URL requests. No configuration is necessary. Once it is installed, it will start protecting your website in the background.

Block Bad Queries

AntiSpam

Without added security measures, the core version of WordPress is susceptible to comment spam. It is a major concern for all WordPress users. Thankfully, there are a lot of plugins that combat this issue.

Akismet – FREE

There is a reason why Akismet is included with every single WordPress installation. Whilst their spam system is not bulletproof, Akismet remains your best hope in the fight against spam. The service checks every comment against their spam database. Comments can be added or remove from the spam list.

Akismet

Antispam Bee – FREE

Akismet works well, however it does not offer many configuration options. If you want more control over how comments are checked, give Antispam Bee a try. Unlike Akismet, you do not need to sign in to use the service.

Antispam Bee

AVH First Defense Against Spam – FREE

A great plugin that blocks spammers before any content is submitted. It can check a visitor’s IP address using Stop Forum Spam, Project Honey Pot and Spamhaus. You can also set up a security check for commenters and receive an email whenever the check fails.

AVH First Defense Against Spam

Bad Behavior – FREE

A PHP based spam blocker that blocks link spam. Whereas most other anti-spam plugins look at the content that a spammer publishes, Bad Behavior also looks at the method in which it was submitted. This makes it more effective in many areas.

Bad Behavior

Stats

A large number of plugins are available that provide statistics on your website, content and feeds. Most of these plugins allow you to check stats directly through your WordPress admin area. This will help you understand your visitors reading habits better.

Google Analytics for WordPress – FREE

Enhances the statistics that Google Analytics tracks for your website. It supports custom variables for authors, post types, categories, logged in users, tags and more.

Google Analytics for WordPress

WP SlimStat – FREE

Provides a wide array of real-time analytical reports for your website including location, content, traffic sources and more. It is compatible with most caching plugins and there is a world map that displays where all visitors are located.

WP SlimStat

FeedStats – FREE

FeedStats provides statistics about your RSS feed traffic. It highlights the number of visits, time of visit and visit duration.

FeedStats

WP-Stats-Dashboard – FREE

WP-Stats-Dashboard allows to see a huge number of metrics directly through your admin dashboard including PageRank, Alexa, PostRank, Compete and more. WordPress.com stats can also be displayed.

WP-Stats-Dashboard

Word Stats – FREE

Helps you analyse your content by showing a range of word and keyword counters including the total word count and top twenty keywords. It also highlights which posts are too long or too short. I recommend checking it out if you want to get a better understanding of the quality and length of posts you are publishing

Word Stats

Simple Feed Stats – FREE

Simple Feed Stats is an alternative RSS tracking solution to services such as FeedBurner and FeedBlitz. It highlights the total number of active subscribers and provides a subscriber chiclet for displaying your feed count.

Simple Feed Stats

Social Media

Social media has become a vital part of promoting websites online. After search engines, social media services are the number one source of traffic for most websites. Do not leave traffic on the table and ensure that your content can be easily shared by visitors.

ShareThis – FREE

ShareThis is one of the easiest ways for visitors to share content. It allows content to be shared on over 120 social media channels. There are a huge number of sharing styles to choose from and the ShareThis website displays statistics on the number of shares and clicks you have.

ShareThis

Shareaholic – FREE

Formerly known as SexyBookmarks, allows you to add many social media sharing buttons and there is an option for related posts too. Statistics about shares are also displayed.

Shareaholic

Social Metrics – FREE

One of my favourite social media plugins. Social Metrics displays a list of your posts with details of how many shares it has on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. A premium version is available that tracks more social media services.

Social Metrics

Social Networks Auto-Poster – FREE

Automatically send updates about your new blog posts to over twenty different websites and services. Additional features include the ability to import Facebook comments as normal comments, replies from Twitter as comments and auto-reposting of random posts in the future.

Social Networks Auto-Poster

Email Marketing

The user system within WordPress can be used to manage an email marketing list that allows you to send newsletters, email blasts, autoresponders and more. Alternatively, WordPress can be integrated with popular email services such Aweber to help increase sign ups to your existing email list.

Benchmark Email Lite – FREE

Benchmark Email lets you build an email list directly from your own website. Posts and pages can be emailed to subscribers and you can view live reports opened, bounced, unsubscribed, forwarded, unopened email and clicked links. The sign up form is highly customisable too.

Benchmark Email Lite

WordPress PopUp – FREE

Display pop-ups to visitors such as banner ads, messages or your newsletter subscription form. It allows you to set the delay in seconds for when the pop-up is displayed. You can also customise who sees your plugin. For example, you can only show to people who have never left a comment or to search engine visitors.

WordPress PopUp

SendPress – FREE

Build and manage your email list directly through your website. It has a fantastic email template builder that allows you to easily style your newsletters. Emails can be queued into the future and reports are provided for each email.

SendPress

MailPoet Newsletters – FREE

A great newsletter plugin that can send post notifications, newsletters and autoresponders. Emails can be created using the WordPress visual editor and there are over thirty themes to choose from. Subscribers can be imported from email marketing services such as MailChimp and Aweber.

MailPoet Newsletters

CircuPress – From $4.95 Per Month

An email marketing service that was created specifically for WordPress users. It has fantastic WordPress integration. All emails, subscribers and email templates are handled through WordPress, however delivery is handed by CircuPress. Their basic plan costs $4.95 per month and allows 10,000 emails to be sent.

CircuPress

Ninja Popups for WordPress – $18

The most affordable premium newsletter pop-up plugin for WordPress. Comparative plugins retail for around $97, however Ninja Popups only costs $18. It integrates with every major email marketing service and has a huge selection of pop-up styles to choose from. Conversion statistics are also provided and there is support for all major social media services.

Ninja Popups for WordPress

MyMail – $35

If you want to send newsletters directly through your website, MyMail is one of the best options. Newsletters can easily be created through the visual editor and autoresponders can be set up to send welcome messages to new subscribers. It includes many widgets and provides statistics on email opens, bounces, clicks and unsubscriptions.

MyMail Email Newsletter Plugin

Mobile

More and more people are using mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones to browse the internet. Therefore it is important to offer a good viewing experience for your mobile visitors.

WPtouch – FREE

Instantly enables a fast mobile enabled design for your mobile visitors that is touched enabled. Visitors can switch back to your regular design if they wish.

WPtouch

WP Mobile Detector Mobile Plugin – FREE

WP Mobile Detector allows you to show a different design to mobile visitors. It can detect over 5,000 mobile devices. You can define your own mobile theme or use one of the many that are included. Statistics are also provided for mobile visitors.

WP Mobile Detector Mobile Plugin

WiziApp – FREE

Create your own HTML5 mobile App for iPhone, Android and Windows. The plugin lets you customise every aspect of the app such as the splash screen, notifications and sharing. Adsense can also be displayed to earn you extra income. The app can then be submitted to the major app stores.

WiziApp

Events

WordPress can be used to manage events directly through your website. Events can be managed and viewed through the backend or frontend.

The Events Calendar – FREE

A professionally designed event plugin that lets you easily manage events through a calendar. It has many features such as Google Maps integration, widgets and event taxonomies.

The Events Calendar

WordPress Event Calendar – FREE

Allows you to create unlimited event calendars and events. It is very easy to use and you can change the look of the calendar through a theme styler.

WordPress Event Calendar

Post Scheduling

The following plugins will help you schedule your articles more easily. These are particularly useful for multi-author websites and websites that publish a lot of articles.

Drafts Scheduler – FREE

I use Drafts Scheduler every week on one of my small content websites. It allows all draft posts to be scheduled over a defined period. The post interval can be selected and posts can be scheduled randomly or in order.

Drafts Scheduler

Editorial Calendar – FREE

Editorial Calendar will help you organise your posts more easily. Posts can be dragged and dropped into different days. There is also a quick edit function that lets you quickly create and edit posts.

Editorial Calendar

CoAuthoring

Too many cooks can sometimes spoil the broth, though it does not have to be that way. There are plugins available that allow multiple authors to work together more effectively.

Edit Flow – FREE

A useful collaboration plugin that allows multi-author websites to work together more effectively. Authors can be grouped into groups. It also features an editorial calendar, editorial comments, custom statuses, notifications and more.

Edit Flow

CoSchedule – From $10 Per Month

A drag and drop social media editorial calendar for WordPress that features automatic social media publishing, editorial comments, team assignments and communication tools.

CoSchedule

Revisionary – FREE

Revisionary allows eligible contributors to submit changes to published articles. Proposed changes can easily be seen through the WordPress revisions page. Editors can then choose to authorise these changes or reject them.

Revisionary

Post/Page Duplication & Modification

The following plugins will help you duplicate your articles and change their post type.

Duplicate Post – FREE

Allows you to clone a post or page. You can select what is copied exactly during the cloning process.

Duplicate Post

pTypeConverter – FREE

A useful plugin that lets you change posts to pages and vice versa. A good alternative is Post Type Switcher.

pTypeConverter

Visual Editor

The default visual editor is limited essential tags such as bold, italic and lists. You can replace this with a more feature rich editor that offers more functionality. This will help you style your articles quicker.

Ultimate TinyMCE

Replaces the default WordPress TinyMCE editor with a beefed up editor. It offers many advanced options such as tables, emoticons, video support and more.

Ultimate TinyMCE

TinyMCE Advanced

Another good TinyMCE replacement is TinyMCE Advanced. It features search and replace, CSS editing, tables and more.

TinyMCE Advanced

Syntax

Syntax plugins can be used to highlight code in your posts and pages. Many also add functionality to your theme and plugin editor.

SyntaxHighlighter Evolved – FREE

SyntaxHighlighter Evolved allows you to publish code in your website. It allows you to display line numbers and make URL’s clickable.

SyntaxHighlighter Evolved

Better WordPress Syntax Highlighter – FREE

Another good option for highlighting syntax code in your articles. Code can be parsed using a unique shortcode or using pre or code tags.

Better WordPress Syntax Highlighter

Crayon Syntax Highlighter – FREE

A visual and HTML editor that features line wrapping, copy and paste and support for bbPress.

Crayon Syntax Highlighter

HTML Editor Syntax Highlighter – FREE

A simple plugin that adds syntax highlighting to the visual editor. It offers a fullscreen mode and the ability to save posts and pages using commands.

HTML Editor Syntax Highlighter

Downloads

By taking advantage of custom post types, WordPress can be used to manage files and documents. Files can be inserted directly into your website using shortcodes and then downloaded by visitors.

WordPress Download Manager

An easy-to-use download manager for files and documents. It features drag and drop uploads, password protection and a download counter. Download links can be inserted directly onto your website using shortcodes.

WordPress Download Manager

CM Download Manager

Allows you to manage files and documents easily. Files are filed in a directory structure and there is a download counter that displays the number of downloads. Visitors can also preview music files before they download them.

CM Download Manager

Page Navigation

Page navigation plugins allow you to replace the default “older” and “newer” navigation links with a numbered navigation interface.

WP-PageNavi

The number of pages, the terminology that is used for links and the styling of navigation links, can all be modified through the settings area. I recommend installing WP PageNavi Style if you are looking for an easy way to style your navi links.

WP-PageNavi

WP-SEO-Paginate

An alternative to WP-PageNavi is WP-SEO-Paginate. It works in a similar fashion, though can also be used to paginate comments.

WP-SEO-Paginate

Menus

This section lists plugins that will enhance or modify your admin and front-end menus.

UberMenu – $16

UberMenu is the most popular WordPress plugin on the CodeCanyon marketplace. The plugin allows anyone to create complex navigation menus easily. It allows you to add elements such as images, columns, search bars and maps to your menus. Menus are responsive and the plugin comes with over twenty pre-defined styles.

UberMenu

JQuery Vertical Mega Menu Widget – FREE

Adds a flyout jQuery powered mega menu to your website. Three animation effects are available and there are eight sample skins to choose from.

JQuery Vertical Mega Menu Widget

Nextend Accordion Menu – FREE

Lets you create stylish HTML5 and CSS3 powered accordion menus. There is a user-friendly interface that allows you to customise the design and the menus are touch enabled for mobile devices.

Nextend Accordion Menu

Admin Menu Editor – FREE

Allows you to rename, reorder and hide admin menus. Custom menus can also be added and you can define the user level required to view a particular menu link.

Admin Menu Editor

eCommerce

WordPress has become a major player within eCommerce over the last few years. To the point where WordPress is competing against eCommerce scripts that have been established for many years. It is easy to understand why. WordPress eCommerce plugins offer a lot of features and allows shop owners to tap into the flexibility of WordPress.

Easy Digital Downloads – FREE

Developed by popular plugin developer Pippin Williamson, Easy Digital Downloads allows you to sell digital files directly through your website. It allows multiple products to be purchased at once and bundled products. Earnings and sales charts are displayed too. There are dozens of quality add-ons and themes available for the plugin as well.

Easy Digital Downloads

JigoShop – FREE

Packed full of features, JigoShop has been a popular eCommerce solution for many years. It offers many great features such as variable product support for sizes, grouped products, digital products and more. Many extensions and themes exist for extending the plugin.

JigoShop

WooCommerce – FREE

Launched as a fork of WordPress only two years ago, WooCommerce quickly grew to be the most popular eCommerce solution for WordPress. Many features come as standard such as multiple checkouts support, offline gateway support, Google Analytics integration and social media sharing. There are hundreds of premium extensions and themes available for WooCommerce, which is why the plugin is so flexible.

WooCommerce

WP e-Commerce – FREE

A highly customisable eCommerce solution that offers advanced discount options, multiple shipping options and great payment gateway support. There are over a dozen premium extensions and many community themes available.

WP e-Commerce

MarketPress – FREE

Developed by WPMU, MarketPress features digital download support, great integration with existing WordPress themes, coupons, Google Analytics integration and more. A pro version of the plugin is available for only $19.

MarketPress

Membership

Membership plugins can be used to create user groups and change what users can see and do. This can be used to restrict content to those who are eligible.

Members – FREE

A user a content management plugin that allows you to control what users can do and see on your website. Content can be restricted to certain users and user groups. You can even protect content using shortcodes.

Members

s2Member – FREE

The s2Member framework plugin allows you to restrict content to certain users and user groups. It supports payments using the PayPal Website Payments Standard, Authorize.Net, Google Checkout, ClickBank and more. In addition to protecting written content, it can also protect audio and video streams.

s2Member

Restrict Content Pro – From $42

A comprehensive premium content manager that allows unlimited subscription packages to be created. It offers discount codes, payment tracking, user role management, content restriction and more. Many extensions are also available for the plugin.

Restrict Content Pro

MemberPress – From $99 Per Year

Helps you manage manage subscriptions to premium content and digital products. Content can be dripped to customers over time and the plugin includes a built-in affiliate program for promoting your product.

MemberPress

Paid Memberships Pro – From FREE

A paid membership plugin that helps you sell a membership site, premium content, digital products and more. You can accept payments for video streaming and drip feed content to customers.

Paid Memberships Pro

WishList Member – From $97

A powerful membership solution that helps you protect your content. It features a complex membership system and integrates with most major payment systems. I used this particular plugin a few years ago for a WordPress theme store and was pleased with how easy it was to use.

WishList Member

DigitalAccessPass – From $97

A feature packed membership solution that supports recurring subscriptions, content dripping, unlimited membership levels, trial offers and much more. It can also be used to sell access to live events and coaching programs.

DigitalAccessPass

User Permission

The following plugins let you control exactly what users can and cannot do. For example, by default contributors are not allowed to upload images. This can be resolved using a role editor plugin.

User Role Editor – FREE

User Role Editor lets you change the capabilities of every user group and every single user on your website. Settings can be exported to a local file and then imported onto another website. This allows you to quickly configure user roles across all your websites in the same way.

User Role Editor

Advanced Access Manager – FREE

A great access manager that boasts an easy-to-use interface. In addition to backend capabilities, it also lets you control what users can view on the front end of your website. For example, you configure it so that widgets are only displayed to certain user groups.

Advanced Access Manager

Community

This section lists plugins that can use the WordPress user system to create an online community.

BuddyPress – FREE

Developed by Automattic, BuddyPress allows you to build a social media network at the touch of a button. It features user profiles, activity streams, groups, discussion forums and more. Many modern WordPress themes offer BuddyPress integration.

BuddyPress

bbPress – FREE

bbPress is another project by the people at Automattic. It allows you to add a discussion forum to your website. The plugin is very simple in many regards, however it integrates with WordPress perfectly as it users the same user-base. There are plugins available that extend the plugin beyond the minimum features that the core version offers.

bbPress

Simple:Press – FREE

Simple:Press is a discussion forum plugin for WordPress. It offers more functionality than bbPress, yet it still integrates with WordPress perfectly. If you are looking for more features for forum members and more control over how your forum is maintained, Simple:Press is the better option.

Simple:Press

Podcasting

Podcasting services such as iTunes use RSS feeds to track the latest episodes from podcasters. Using a podcasting plugin, WordPress users can manage their podcasts and publish them on their websites using audio and video players.

Blubrry PowerPress – FREE

A fantastic podcasting plugin that offers integrated HTML5 and flash media players, video support and support for multiple podcasts. iTunes is fully supported too and statistics about downloads can be displayed through your WordPress admin area.

Blubrry PowerPress

Podcasting Plugin by TSG – FREE

A good podcasting plugin that enhances WordPress’s native podcasting features. It features full iTunes integration, multiple podcasting support and audio and video players.

Podcasting Plugin by TSG

podPress – FREE

Features automatic feed generation with iTunes support, multiple format support and an automatic media player. Download statistics can be seen directly through your admin area.

podPress

Seriously Simple Podcasting – FREE

Seriously Simple Podcasting lives up to its name by using the default WordPress interface with very few settings to configure. Podcasts can be played using the build-in media player that was introduced in WordPress 3.6.

Seriously Simple Podcasting

Images

Images are at the heart of every good blog and magazine. In this section, you will find plugins that will help publish images on your website and plugins that help reduce image load.

WP Smush.it – FREE

Greatly reduces the size of your uploaded images by using Yahoo’s Smush.it API. It can optimise jpeg compression, convert gif’s to png’s and remove unused colours from indexed images. It can place a lot of stress on your server, however WP Smush.it is a sure fire way to reduce the file size of your images.

WP Smush.it

Lazy Load – FREE

By default, your website will load all images at the moment a person visits your page. This can be a lot of information to download if a page has many images. To address this issue, Lazy Load will only load an image when it is visible on the page. Doing this ensures a better experience for users and your search engine ranking should improve due to the decreased page size.

NextGEN Gallery – FREE

NextGEN Gallery is by far the most popular gallery plugin for WordPress. It allows you to add feature rich galleries to your website in seconds. Features include thumbnail galleries, slideshows, watermarks, lightbox effects and more. Galleries can inserted directly into posts and pages using shortcodes.

NextGEN Gallery

Lightbox Gallery – FREE

A simply yet beautiful plugin that allows images to be viewed using a lightbox gallery.

Lightbox Gallery

FooBox – $27

A lightbox gallery plugin that supports images and video. It is optimised for mobile devices and displays social media sharing buttons on images to encourage visitors to share your photographs.

FooBox

Featured Image Creation

Featured images are integrated into all modern WordPress themes. These thumbnail images are important as they are displayed in related post widgets and in social media services such as Facebook.

Automatic Featured Image Posts – FREE

A simply plugin that allows you to create a new post with a featured image every time you upload an image.

Video Thumbnails – FREE

A good plugin for video bloggers. Video Thumbnails will automatically generate a featured image thumbnail whenever you add a video to a post. It supports twelve video services such as YouTube, DailyMotion, Facebook and Vimeo. It also works automatically with many WordPress video embedding plugins such as Viper’s Video Quicktags.

Video Thumbnails

Video Embed & Thumbnail Generator – FREE

A video embed and thumbnail generator all rolled into one. The plugin can embed videos from popular services, encode HTML5-compliant videos and automatically generate featured images from a wide range of video services. Another great option for video bloggers.

Video Embed & Thumbnail Generator

Video

WordPress is a good platform for publishing videos online. Videos can be uploaded directly to your own website or through video services such as YouTube. The following plugins improve WordPress’s native support for video.

VideoPress – $59.97 Per Year

If you are not a fan of YouTube, you might want to consider VideoPress. Automattic’s ad-free video hosting service allows you to upload videos of up to 1GB in size by simply dragging and dropping via the WordPress media uploader. It works in conjunction with WordPress’s privacy rules so that only authorised users can view videos.

VideoPress

Video Gallery – $15

A stylish video gallery plugin for WordPress that supports YouTube, Vimeo and self-hosted videos. There are two pre-defined skins and a skin generator if you want something unique. HTML5 videos are shown to visitors who view your website using an iPad, iPhone or iPod. Even Cydia users can also use this plugin check here for more details.

Video Gallery

JW Player for Flash & HTML5 Video – FREE

A versatile video player that lets you embed flash and HTML5 videos. It can also display YouTube videos using JW Player 6. The plugin integrates with WordPress’s existing media functionality and it allows you to create playlists by dragging and dropping videos into the order you want.

JW Player for Flash & HTML5 Video

WordPress Video Player – FREE

Allows you to easily publish HTM5 and flash videos on your website. It offers features such as image previews, watermarks, transparency levels, flash effects and more.

JW Player for Flash & HTML5 Video

WordPress Video Gallery – FREE

A great looking video gallery plugin that is highly customisable. It works with all major video formats and lets you display recent videos, popular videos and featured videos. Videos can be monetised with pre, mid and post video advertisements.

WORDPRESS VIDEO GALLERY

Sliders

Slideshows allow you to rotate images, videos and content. It is a great way of highlighting your best content to visitors.

RoyalSlider – $20

A stylish slider that lets you rotate images, video and any type of content. Sliders are enabled and touch enabled so that mobile users can navigate your slides easier. It comes with four unique skins and there is an option to display slideshows in fullscreen.

RoyalSlider

Slider Revolution – $16

Slider Revolution is a mobile optimised slideshow plugin that is optimised for desktops, laptops and mobile devices. It features a custom caption animation builder, many image background options, alt tag support, self-hosted video support and more. Slides are touch enabled for mobile users too.

Slider Revolution

LayerSlider – $15

A fantastic slider that offers over two hundred 2D and 3D transitions and parallax effects. It features three types of navigations, twelve skins, auto-play support for YouTube and Vimeo, lazy loading and more. As you would expect, the plugin is optimised for mobile devices as well.

LayerSlider

Link Cloaking

Cloaking your links allows you to mask ugly affiliate URL’s. It also allows you to track how many times links are being clicked.

Pretty Link Lite – FREE

The lite version of Pretty Link is perfect for cloaking links and tracking hits. It is very easy to use and redirects visitors to the correct URL in seconds. The pro version of the plugin costs $37 and features many advanced tracking options such as conversion tracking, pixel tracking and Google Analytics tracking.

Pretty Link Lite

Simple URLs – FREE

Simple URLs works in a similar way to Pretty Link Lite. Link details and the number of clicks the link that has been generated are stored in a custom post type.

Simple URLs

Easy Link Tracker – FREE

A link tracking plugin that redirects URLs using 301 redirection. It can also track events using Google Analytics.

Easy Link Tracker

Widget Control

By default, widgets are displayed on all areas of your website. These plugins will let you control exactly where widgets are displayed on your website.

Widget Logic – FREE

Widget Logic is a great solution for controlling where widgets are displayed on your website. All you have to do is enter the relevant WordPress Conditional Tag to the widget you want to limit. I use this plugin on most of my websites. For example, I stop the about widget from being on my about page by adding !is_page(about) to the widget logic field.

Widget Logic

Widget Context – FREE

Widget Context is a simple way of controlling where widgets are displayed. Unlike Widget Logic, Widget Context allows you to define where posts are defined using checkboxes. You simply check the areas of your website that you do not want widgets to be displayed e.g. blog index. You can also exclude widgets from being displayed on pages with a defined number of words. Alternatively, simply enter the URL of the pages that you do not want to display the widget on.

Widget Context

Related Content

Publishing related posts on your website is a great way of keeping visitors on your website for longer. The most common place to publish related articles is directly underneath blog posts and pages.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – FREE

Automatically inserts related posts under your articles using featured images. It supports posts, pages and custom post types. Related articles can also be inserted into your RSS feed and the built-in templating system lets you control how results are styled.

Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

nrelate Related Content – FREE

A versatile related posts plugin that can automatically insert related content under your articles. You can also insert related content using a shortcode, a widget or directly through theme template. There are lots of predefined styles to choose from so you are sure to find a design you like.

nrelate Related Content

Other Useful Plugins

This section lists several other WordPress plugins that we believe you will find useful.

WP-Invoice – FREE

An invoicing and billing plugin that lets you setup recurring billing for clients. It features WP-CRM Integration, support for minimum and split payments and receipt pages. Invoice and receipt templates are easily customised and existing invoices can be reassigned for other clients. An essential plugin if you are a freelancer online.

WP-Invoice

Visual Composer for WordPress – $25

Visual Composer lets you build complex content websites using drag and drop. Over forty widgets are available including sliders, video players, image galleries, buttons, charts and more. All modules are optimised for mobile devices and the template system allows you to easily copy over your existing layouts to other areas of your website.

Visual Composer for WordPress

Broken Link Checker – FREE

Broken Link Checker can check your website for broken links, missing images and missing redirects. It will monitor your website every day and notify you of any issues through your admin dashboard or by email. Links can be edited directly through the plugin page so you do not have to go into each post and page and manually edit them. There is also an option to prevent search engines from following broken links.

Broken Link Checker

ManageWP – From FREE

ManageWP is the best solution to managing multiple WordPress websites. It allows you to effortlessly update the WordPress core, themes and plugins. Other features include uptime monitoring, traffic alerts, a great notification system, SEO tools,

ManageWP

Codepress Admin Columns – FREE

Codepress Admin Columns lets you reorder the columns that are displayed in your administrative screens. Eighteen unique post type columns are added such as featured images, word count, post formats, number of attachments and custom fields. Dozens of other unique columns are available for user columns, media columns, comment columns, link columns and custom fields. All of these options help you display the information you need when working on your website.

Codepress Admin Columns

Revision Control – FREE

Revision Control gives you complete control over how many revisions are stored on your website. It also allows you to manually remove existing revisions from your database.

Revision Control

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) – FREE

Developed by GoDaddy, P3 will scan your plugin list and show you how much they are slowing down your website. It shows a breakdown of the load time of every plugin and the number of MySQL queries per visit. This helps will help you decide which plugins to keep and which to remove.

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)

Anthologize – FREE

Anthologize allows you to create an eBook using the content from your website. Posts can be grabbed from your own website, imported from external feeds or added directly through the plugin. All major eBook formats including ePub and mobi are supported.

Anthologize

Jetpack by WordPress.com – FREE

Last but not least is Jetpack by WordPress.com. This plugin could probably be placed as it offers so much functionality. It is essentially thirty one plugins packaged together. Modules can be activated and deactivated as you please. The plugin is updated every month and new modules are being added frequently.

Notable modules include the fantastic stats add on, Jetpack comments, social media sharing integration, reader subscription, tiled galleries and an uptime monitoring service.

Jetpack by WordPress.com

I hope you enjoyed this list of essential WordPress plugins. If so, I encourage you to subscribe to WP Hub as we have some fantastic articles on the horizon.

Please feel free to share any great plugins you use that did not make our list via the comment area.

This article was authored by:

Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity, Internet Marketing and Social Media on his personal blog and and provides technical support at Rise Forums. He can also be found on Twitter: @KevinMuldoon and Google+.

Kevin Muldoon has authored 833 posts.Visit Website

Showing 25 Comments

  • Oh! Quite Interesting but too long to analyze all the plugins in a single day. Seems to be lot of hard work at your end. Keep it up !

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  • Michael Scott (Admin)

    Yeah this is a ‘bookmark’ post if there ever was one;)

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  • A really interesting and useful list. Many I already use but lots of new pointers. Thank you.

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  • Thanks for the list. Contains some nice gems.
    I would also like to suggest this download manager: http://mikejolley.com/projects/download-monitor/
    Works perfectly for me!

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  • Kevin Muldoon (Admin)

    Good suggestion Deech. I’ve never seen that before. I’m using http://www.wpdownloadmanager.com/ at the moment to manage the download of my ebook. Simple interface and features such as password protection and counters :)

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  • Leo

    Hey Kevin! Great post.

    Just a few thoughts.
    1) YARPP has been known to be a resource hog. That’s why WP Engine bans it from it’s servers. Same goes to Broken Links checker plugins. Best is to use services that are external.

    2) In place of YARPP, I’m using Contextly. It’s quite good :) And gives better content than nRelate.

    3) For Link Cloaking, do consider ThirstyAffiliate. I tried them and they’ve been first class.

    4) For Membership, I bought Premise before StudioPress took it off the market. It’s worth every penny. I also bought S2Member Pro :) S2Member Pro is on lifetime.

    5) For useful plugins, do consider Mike Jolley’s WP Job Manager. Mike is WooCommerce’s lead developer. It’s really light and requires some theming if you are not getting the Astoundify theme off Themeforest.

    6) Btw, WP All Import plugin is also on lifetime till the 25th of this month. It’s worth it.

    7) And Advanced Custom Fields is really worth it. Essential tool if you plan to develop sites, or advance your own site.

    8) For mailing, do check out OptinMonster by Thomas Griffin and Syed Balkhi. It’s on lifetime for a limited time. Has an exit intent capability :) Many people are using this.

    9) For Sliders, check out SoliloquyWP. It’s also from Thomas Griffin. I moved from SlideDeck to Soliloquy :)

    10) For events, check out Tickera. Lifetime for now, and comes with an iPhone/Android app for scanning tickets. Version 2 will be out in Feb (and I’m not sure if it’ll still be on lifetime then)

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  • Wow! Excellent list. A lot I’ve used before, but a lot that are new to me. Will be checking out all the shiny new ones :-) Would be great if you had a similar post for WordPress themes that are particularly useful for podcasters. Thanks!

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  • Awesome list of plugins. Almost i am already using many of them you have listed. Very usefull and thanks for sharing :)

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  • Excellent collection! Really good work indeed.

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  • Perhaps the best list I have come across in a long time. Kevin keep up the good work!

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  • JetPack comes with a lot of bloat that has to be deactivated, otherwise it creates massive drag on performance (and it is a resource hog). That said, there are some features I like.

    WP-Total-Cache does work wonders in improving site load times, but the real pain is getting it set up (took me a whole day).

    Unfortunately, using WP-Total-Cache means that the WordPress.com stats are pretty much worthless. Most hits to the site don’t register due to how JetPack/WordPress.com gathers stats. That wouldn’t bother me so much, but I rather liked the “Top Posts/Pages” widget that is part of JetPack and depends on WordPress.com stats. It was neat seeing when certain, unexpected old post started trending for some reason. Now, I have to find a replacement.

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  • Wow you did alot of work. Glad to see alot of my plugins on your list. This article deserves sharing!

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  • Awesome list of plugins,love many of these.

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  • Great collection :) really helpful covering all section of wordpress. Thank you so much.

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  • This is a bookmark post for sure, and one I will recommend to all. Just what I was looking for. Lots of research, and knowhow for the world to appreciate. Thanks!

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  • Extremely helpful post. I have wasted untold hours trying to solve simple problems because I couldn’t find the right plugin. Great Article. Thank you So Much

    -Rusty Wilson
    http://www.cybercareercoach.com

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  • A quick look at all the paid plugins and I’m quiet happy that I bought a theme, which already includes most of the premium features like slider and video funktionalities.. Indeed a very helpful post, thank you!

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  • Great list, there are a few in here I’m going to check out. There is one I feel should have some consideration that I’ve been using on all my sites, UpdraftPlus. It’s a backup plugin, and it’s quite useful.

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  • AJ

    Thanks for taking the time out to compile this extensive list. Much appreciated

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  • SJ

    Profile Plugins:
    UserPro – User Profiles with Social Login
    User Profiles Made Easy – WordPress Plugin

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  • Nice collection!

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  • Thanks for this huge list of plugins! This is a nice bookmark post.

    I’d like to mention one missing plugin : WP Rocket, which is a great caching plugin developed by a French team.

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  • Hi!

    Very useful plugins list. Really a “bookmark post”.

    But I found one very useful plugin missing here. Under email marketing, you forgot the plugin PopUpAlly. It is better plugin for email optin popups.

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  • Really all the plugins are worthful and very useful

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  • Bookmarked. Very complete list. thanks!

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