I know what you’re thinking. You’ve already seen 15 best WordPress plugins posts this month and you can’t possibly read another one. Trust me, I feel your pain. It seems like every popular website has some arbitrary list of the best WordPress plugins of 2015, 2014, and 2013, on their blog. The thing is, most of them are totally full of crap.
I’m going to say it right now: I hate most WordPress plugins. They’re terrible. They’re poorly coded, hard to use, full of bugs and security holes, and they’ll slow down your website. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either misinformed, being disingenuous, or has an ulterior motive (like affiliate revenue).
This Ain’t Your Average Best WordPress Plugins Post
This isn’t just some half-baked list of untested plugins that seem super cool and might make me a bunch of affiliate money. No, this is something much better than that. This is a list of the best WordPress plugins ever created since the dawn of time. Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously, I’ve spent a TON of time choosing, reviewing, and testing every single plugin on this list.
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These are WordPress plugins that solve real problems and do so in a way that won’t damage your website. I can’t promise they’re 100% free of security issues or bugs, but I can tell you that everything listed in this post is far above average when it comes to code quality, usability, performance, and attention to detail.
These Plugins Have Been Through The Wringer…
All the plugins in this post have poked and prodded by yours truly. I’ve seen under the hood and I’ve even run performance tests on some of the larger ones. They were all installed on a WP_DEBUG-enabled multisite network with lots of other plugins. I looked for potential conflicts, slow-downs, and any obvious bugs.
Sadly, a few plugins didn’t make the cut because of code quality. If I wouldn’t feel comfortable running a plugin on my own personal or business website, it is not on this list, period.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into it! In no particular order, these are what I consider to be some of the best WordPress plugins ever made:
Best SEO Plugin
Since I’ve spent a lot of my time working on things related to SEO, it makes sense to start things of with the best SEO plugin of all time: WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s almost become cliche to even bother including Yoast’s plugin in a list of the best WordPress plugins, but it certainly has earned its place at the table.
Every site I’ve made or worked on as long as I can remember has used WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s an invaluable tool for optimizing your website’s SEO and making sure you’re bringing in as much organic search traffic as you possibly can.
There really isn’t much direct competition to Yoast anymore, although there are a few alternatives out there. I’ve personally tested all of them and I can say without a doubt that they don’t hold a candle to WordPress SEO. In every aspect that matters, Yoast wins. The team at Yoast is always improving the core features in WordPress SEO so you can use it without worrying about being on the cutting edge of SEO best practices.
Best Caching Plugin
Every WordPress site needs to have some kind of caching enabled. If you’re using a managed WordPress host like Pagely, it’s already taken care of for you. If you’re not, then you need to use a caching plugin of some kind. Without it, your site is almost guaranteed to load slowly and cause your visitors to turn around and leave. WP Rocket is a relative newcomer in the WordPress caching space and they’ve taken things by storm.
Before WP Rocket, the best all-in-one caching solution was W3 Total Cache. If you’ve ever used W3 Total Cache, you know what a total pain in the neck it is to configure. If you’re new to WordPress, you could easily lose an entire day trying to understand W3. Plus, if you don’t set it up right, it can actually slow your site down. That’s not what I’d call a good user experience.
In contrast, WP Rocket has very few options to configure. In most situations, you just need to install and enable it and your site will be faster. For a caching plugin, that’s HUGE. Even other more lightweight alternatives like Batcache require some level of configuration in order for them to work correctly. The ease of use and effectiveness of WP Rocket is why we use it all the time and why I’m giving it the new title of the best caching plugin for WordPress.
Best Social Sharing Plugin
Yup. I said it. Jetpack is the best social sharing plugin for WordPress. Now, the WordPress developer community might not agree with me here, but it’s the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I have some issues with Jetpack. I feel it does TOO much, but in reality, most of the features in Jetpack are things that real WordPress users need every single day.
Jetpack Sharing is Simple and it Works
Personally, I wish the Jetpack developers would reign things in a bit and stop adding so many features to the plugin, but that’s a debate for another time and place. As far as social sharing goes, you won’t find a simpler, more high-performance option out there. In fact, it’s even what we use right here on our own site.
Best Contact Form Plugin
After all these years, Gravity Forms is still the best. Even though quite a few have tried, nobody has managed to tarnish their crown as king of the WordPress form plugins. Just about any feature or integration you can think of already exists for Gravity Forms. You can use Gravity Forms to build everything from simple email opt-in forms to complex billing or scheduling application forms.
Gravity Forms Gets The Job Done. Period.
I can’t think of any site I’ve built over the last few years that didn’t use Gravity Forms. I’ve even tried to stop using it because I don’t like certain nit-picky developer things about it, but I always end up crawling back. The other plugins just can’t compare to the ease-of-use and the countless add-ons and integrations for Graivty Forms.
There’s no free version of Gravity Forms because they’ve never had a need to create one. That’s how good the plugin is. In a market where competitors are giving away free alternatives, Gravity Forms continues to grow and prosper with only a premium option. I really don’t think there’s any more that needs to be said about it.
Best Backup Plugin
Backups are tricky. In order for them to be effective they need to be automatic, reliable, and easy to restore. The only plugin that can be considered all of these things is VaultPress. The reason for this is that VaultPress isn’t really a backup plugin. There is a plugin component to it, which can also be installed via Jetpack, but the real heavy lifting is done by software on Automattic’s servers.
WordPress Backup Plugins Don’t Make Any Sense.
To put it simply, creating backups of your site with a WordPress plugin is just not a very good idea. There are a lot of popular backup plugins on the market, both free and commercial, but all of them depend on things that can fail in countless ways.
A backup plugin has to depend on your server, PHP, your database, WordPress, and in many cases additional WordPress plugins. Because of this they will never be a bulletproof backup solution. Using them might make you might feel safer, but you’ll probably wind up feeling pretty lousy when your site needs to be restored.
There’s just no replacement for a consistent off-site backup that can be easily restored. With VaultPress, one click and a couple minutes of waiting is all it will take to bring your site back online if it’s ever lost for any reason. To me, that makes it more than worth every penny.
Best Site Migration Plugin
WP Migrate DB Pro really streamlines the process of moving a database and your media library from location to another. It’s incredibly slick and the way the Delicious Brains team has simplified such a complex process is impressive.
We’ve all been faced with the task of moving a site from one web host to another (if you haven’t, you’re lucky!), or even from a remote server to our local development environment. Moving the database and files back and forth can be a real chore, unless you’ve got the right tool for the job. WP Migrate DB Pro is that tool.
Best Redirection Plugin
Whether you’re running a small business website or a popular foodie blog, at some point you’re going to need to set up redirects. In the past, this was a pretty big pain in the neck. You basically had to learn how to configure a web server using .htaccess files or server configs.
Endless Regex Server Config Nightmares Begone!
The hours I’ve spent reading, writing, and testing redirects is something I prefer not to think about. Thankfully, you don’t usually need to worry about that anymore thanks to Safe Redirect Manager. Whether you deleted a post, changed a permalink, or made some other structural change, it’s extremely important to always redirect the old location to the new.
Before Safe Redirect Manager, there really wasn’t a good way to do this in WordPress. There are a few other plugins that attempt to accomplish this, but they’re either really old, very poorly coded, or both. If you need a plugin to manage redirects for any reason, this is the one you should use. Hands down.
Best Security Plugins
Security is another area where things get a little weird. Trusting the security of your website to a plugin, which depends on things that can and will fail, is also not a good idea. There are things plugins can do to help improve the overall security of your website, but an “all-in-one” security plugin is just a bad idea that needs to die.
Instead of getting off on a tangent about the concept of security plugins, let’s take a look at some of the best plugins out there to enhance your overall security plan.
One of the best things you can do to improve your WordPress site’s security is make sure every user on the site is using a strong password. This greatly reduces the risk of someone gaining unauthorized access by guessing or using a script to break the password of one of your administrators.
That’s the Kind of Thing an Idiot Would Have on His Luggage!
Force Strong Passwords does exactly what it says. The sooner you enable it, the sooner you can stop worrying about your site getting hacked because of someone using 12345 as their administrator account password. Go install it right now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
If having strong passwords is a step in the right direction, setting up two-factor authentication is a major leap forward for security. Clef makes it simple, easy, and even kind of fun to use two-factor authentication. You can create an account for free and start logging in with your smart phone in almost no time at all.
Passwords have almost become an entire security problem all by themselves. There are a lot of people out there who claim the age of the password is over and I can’t say that I disagree with them. Managing passwords safely has been a real challenge for us at WP Site Care. Clef is like a glimpse into what the future might be like. If you’re sick of dealing with passwords and want to make your site a bit harder to gain unauthorized access to, definitely give Clef a try. It’s pretty sweet.
Another easy security win is blocking unwanted bots from attempting to login and otherwise attack your website. BruteProtect, which is now also bundled in Jetpack, is a great way to stop most automated attack scripts from ever having a chance to break into your site.
Like anything else in the security field, it’s not perfect, so you can’t depend on it as your only security measure. Still, having it can make a huge difference in your overall vulnerability because so many malicious scripts are blocked by default. This is definitely one that I recommend using on every site you set up.
Best Page Builder Plugin
Alright… this is one that I struggled with for a long time. I’m still not totally sold on the concept of page builders in general, but I know they’ve been all the rage lately. There are quite a few competing page builder plugins out there right now and I don’t think this list would be complete without a recommendation.
I’m Still Not Sure About Page Builders…
I’m not necessarily in love with BeaverBuilder, but I do think it’s pretty cool. I chose it because it’s the best, most high-performance page builder on the market. It uses a lot of core WordPress functionality to do its job and the code quality is substantially better than most other page builders that I’ve looked at.
I’m not going to name names, but there are a few page builders out there that can seriously destroy your page load times, pollute your content with shortcodes, and just generally make a mess out of your website. On the other hand, BeaverBuilder works using WordPress core features like widgets and will allow you to keep all of your content should you ever decide to stop using it. The styles are fairly lightweight and are loaded only as-needed, plus they work with just about any theme out of the box.
If you’re looking for a sane way to build more complicated page layouts than most default WordPress themes allow, I think BeaverBuilder will definitely meet your needs. If for some reason you can’t make it work for you, then I really think you should consider hiring a professional. The page builder concept won’t solve every problem. Sometimes a little custom code can go a long way.
Best Related Posts Plugin
Related posts. This seems like a plugin that’s been made and remade and then remade again more times than I can count. I’m not even sure how many related posts plugins are on the WordPress plugin repository now, but for some reason almost all of them are really terrible.
Related Posts for WordPress is completely different. Instead of performing complex database queries on every page load, RPFWP builds its own relationships and then references them for lightning fast queries.
The engine which powers the relationship building is very intelligent and will detect similarities in your content regardless of how you’ve categorized and tagged your posts. In addition, the plugin lets you modify relationships on the fly from the post edit screen so you can relate many posts to a single one for improved internal linking and SEO.
Best Image Gallery Plugin
For the longest time the only real option for a robust gallery system in WordPress was called NextGen Gallery. It’s still extremely popular today, despite being one of my least favorite plugins ever made. Thankfully, in recent years a number of more modern options built using newer WordPress features have appeared.
This one was a tough call, but in the end the plugin that was the easiest to use won out. Foo Galleries makes creating and displaying image galleries a really nice experience. It uses the native WordPress media uploader and the entire experience is very similar to building a standard WordPress gallery. It has quite a few add-ons including a NextGen gallery importer to make migrating much easier.
I think eventually we may get to a place where this type of a plugin is somewhat irrelevant, but we’re not quite there yet. Unless the core WordPress galleries become more modular and integrate a few features from plugins like this one, there will continue to be a demand for gallery plugins. If you find that you’re having trouble managing all the media on your site, give Foo Gallery a try.
Best Image Plugins
Working with images in WordPress can be a little annoying sometimes. We already talked about the best image gallery plugin which was created because of some core issues with the way image galleries are handled in WordPress. Things have come a long way in this area in recent years, so the list of plugins I still use related to images has gotten a lot smaller. That said, there are still a few that I depend on quite a bit.
Sometimes you just need to display an image in a sidebar. Maybe you need to link it to something or add a little bit of text to it, but other than that you really don’t need it to do much. That’s exactly what Simple Image Widget excels at. The plugin is a perfect mix of a nice, simple interface and basic functionality that just works.
If you need to display in image in a sidebar of any type, this is the plugin you want to use. It can even be extended very easily to do other things like create an image slider or a gallery widget, but it’s pretty unusual that I need to do that. 9 times out of 10 it works perfectly right out of the box.
One of the newer developments in modern web design is the concept of responsive images. Basically the idea is that you should serve different image sizes to different devices to always load the smallest possible image. Usually doing this in WordPress is kind of a pain if not impossible for most users. Thankfully there’s now a plugin that can handle it for you!
RICG Responsive Images will automatically use the included WordPress image sizes and swap them out based on the size of the device viewing your website. Mobile phones will get a small, scaled-down image while desktops will get the full size. This is just one extra trick to help make sure your site always loads fast no matter how people are browsing it.
One of the more well-known limitations of WordPress’ media handling is that when new image sizes are added or removed, your image thumbnails need to be regenerated. If you don’t do this, you won’t be displaying the correct image size to your visitors regardless of what settings you choose.
Force Regenerate Thumbnails is a handy little plugin that will rebuild all of your existing image thumbnails and delete any sizes which are no longer needed. If you ever change your image sizes in the WordPress settings, change themes, or add plugins that use custom image sizes, this is definitely a plugin you’ll want to have installed.
While we’re on the topic of image sizes, another common issue that crops up is users uploading HUGE images to their website. For the vast majority of websites, there’s absolutely no reason to upload an 8000 x 6000 image, but people do it anyway. Most of the time it’s because they don’t know any better.
Rather than wasting unnecessary energy explaining to your site’s authors why they need to resize images before uploading, Imsanity will let them upload anything they like and automatically resize it to the maximum you allow. This can be a huge bandwidth saver and actually wind up saving you some money on your hosting in some cases. If you have a lot of people uploading images to your site, I’d definitely recommend installing this one.
Best Editorial Calendar Plugin
It’s no secret that we love CoSchedule. We published an entire post on how to promote your blog with it. CoSchedule really is a life saver for a mutli-author blog, especially when you’re publishing a lot of content. It lets you schedule and track everything from content-creation tasks to social media promotion.
Sometimes SaaS Just Works Better.
Because CoSchedule is a SaaS product rather than a traditional plugin, they’re able to iterate and improve it much faster than most plugin authors. They’re in full control of the system that powers the scheduling features, so they can make it better without worrying about 20,000 different conflicting plugins and themes.
If you need a way to keep track of who is doing what on your site, you won’t find anything better than CoSchedule. It’s helped us get our blog back on track this year and that’s made a big difference to our bottom line as a company. I really can’t say enough good things about it.
Best eCommerce Plugin
I don’t want to go too far down the rabbit hole that is eCommerce, but I do feel like I need to touch on it for this post to be complete. Over the last few years, WordPress has really exploded in terms of eCommerce capabilities. When I first started using it, the only option available as WP eCommerce which, at the time, was honestly not very good.
Times Have Changed. WordPress is an eCommerce Platform Now.
Since then a ton of options have become available and even WP eCommerce has come a long way since the old days. Still, the one plugin that stands out above the rest is WooCommerce. There’s simply no comparison when you look at the feature set and the available extensions for WooCommerce. It’s turned into the largest growing eCommerce platform on the web and has even surpassed Magento, the long-time king of open source eCommerce.
I will say that WooCommerce does add a decent amount of code overhead to your site. If you’re going to run it, I really think you need to invest in a fast web hosting account. You can run it on a basic shared server, but you’ll probably notice that things aren’t as snappy as they were before you installed it. That’s really just the nature of the beast when it comes to eCommerce. If you’re going to do business online, you need to invest a little more than people running a traditional blog or brochure site.
Best Membership Plugin
A comparison of membership plugins really could be a post all by itself. In fact, WordPress businessman Chris Lema has written on the topic on more than one occasion. It’s hard to really pick a “best” membership plugin because the category is so broad and people have very different needs for their membership sites.
That said, there was a clear winner in terms of ease-of-use and code quality: Restrict Content Pro by Pippin Williamson. None of the other membership plugins even come close to RCP when it comes to adhering to WordPress principals, coding best practices, and general usability best practices. It may not be the most feature-filled offering on the market, but it definitely has enough to get the job done for a lot of types of membership sites.
Plus, if the core plugin doesn’t do enough for you, there are a number of add-ons currently available. Pippin has been working on the plugin pretty actively lately so it’s a safe bet that the number of extensions and integrations will be increasing soon. Another reason I chose this as the best is because it’s easy to extend. Whether you do it yourself or hire a developer to build a membership site, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with Restrict Content Pro.
Best Local Business Plugins
Google Local reviews are a really important part of performing well in local search. If you’re running a local business, you absolutely need to get real reviews from real people on your website. This plugin is a fantastic way to display reviews you already have as well as encourage customers to leave you more reviews on your Google Local page.
Google Places Reviews is easy to setup and can be inserted into any page or post by using a simple shortcode. You can also display your reviews in a sidebar using the built-in widget. Whichever way you choose to display your reviews, the plugin has a sensible amount of options and just enough styling to make sure everything looks nice. If your customers are leaving you reviews on Google+ Local, getting them front-and-center on your site is a great idea and this plugin will do it beautifully.
Business Profile is actually a lot cooler than it sounds. It’s actually a local SEO plugin in disguise. If you own a local business, you probably already know how important it is to bring in local search traffic. One of the best ways to help with that is to establish your website as the home-base for your business by including local schema.org data throughout your site.
Business profile makes it super easy to do exactly that. It’s a free alternative to Yoast’s Local SEO add-on minus a few of the more advanced features. I’m actually working with the plugin author Nate Wright to improve the plugin and bring in some new features like multiple locations as well. If you’re looking for a way to enhance your local business’ SEO, definitely check out Business Profile and keep an eye out for new features over the coming months!
For lots of local businesses, Yelp is the number one place their customers find them. This is especially true of restaurants and any type of service-based industry. Having a high rating on Yelp is pretty much a guaranteed way to get more business in your door.
WordImpress, the same people behind the Google Places Reviews and the Yellow Pages Reviews plugin have also made this fantastic Yelp Widget Pro. The options are just as easy to configure and the output is just as clean as the other two review plugins. No matter what theme you’re using, this is a no-brainer for any local business owner.
Since we’re talking a lot about reviews for local businesses in this section, I thought we ought to go ahead and include one more from our friends at WordImpress. Yellow Pages Reviews is similar to their other local business plugins. It lets you add customer reviews from the Yellow Pages quickly and easily.
Although the Yellow Pages don’t have quite the draw that they did 15 years ago, they’re still a pretty big player in the local world. Any local business owner can tell you that they still get at least some of their business from local business directories and the Yellow Pages is still one of the best. This plugin might not make sense for every local business, but if you’re really dialed into marketing your business locally, I’d definitely consider adding it along with Yelp and Google+ Local.
Best Google Maps Plugin
Google Maps is a really common component for modern websites, but adding them in WordPress can be a challange. There have been a LOT of attempts to build a comprehensive Google Maps plugin over the years, but most of them have a lot of issues. Out of all the Google Maps plugins I tested, the only one that stood out was Google Maps Builder by WordImpress.
The Google Maps Builder plugin is designed from the ground up with the user in mind. Everything about it is simple, friendly, and easy to configure. You have full control over the size, style, and even custom map makers. Just about every option you can think of is included in the plugin and yet somehow none of them are overwhelming to use.
You can create as many maps as you like and place them anywhere you like on your website. There’s a handy shortcode and developer-friendly template tags if you’re wanting even more control. The one thing it is currently missing is a widget, although I believe there are plans to add one in the future. If you need to add a map to your website for any reason, Google Maps Builder won’t let you down.
Best Testimonials Plugin
We’ve already talked about bringing in customer review from external local sites, but how about adding your own testimonials directly to YOUR website? There are quite a lot of testimonial plugins out there, but Good Reviews for WordPress really hits it out of the park.
It’s very well-coded so you can depend on it and it only has enough features to do its job. It includes minimalistic styles that ensure your reviews display nicely without adding a bunch of bloat. Good Reviews is a smart, well-planned system for adding and displaying customer reviews to your site. In my book, that’s all you need.
Best Event Calendar Plugin
Event calendars… this was another challenging one for me. Just about every time I’ve had to work with an event plugin of some kind, it’s been a royal pain in the ass. Most of them are convoluted, hard to use, and even harder to customize. They’re full of features that only 10% of users will ever need which makes them bloated and confusing.
Event Organiser is different. I’ve been keeping an eye on development of Event Organiser for quite a while and it’s matured into a very versatile and useful plugin. There’s even a pro version with more advanced options like paid events, plus extensions for things like discount codes and data exports. The plugin is fairly easy to configure and use, which is in stark contrast to some of the other options out there.
In addition to being a more user-friendly plugin, the place where Event Organiser really shines is when you need to customize or extend it. Unlike some of the other more well-known events plugins, Events Organiser is well… organized. It has a very easy-to-understand template system and can be extended by even novice level developers without much difficulty. It’s not perfect, but overall it’s a very well-done plugin with a sane amount of features. If you need to manage events within WordPress, Event Organiser is the first place I’d recommend you look.
Best Podcasting Plugin
Podcasting is another area where there are quite a few “interesting” options available. Luckily, there is at least one sane option that really stands out above the rest. You may or may not know that I used to run a little podcast called WP Bacon not too long ago and I fully depended on Seriously Simple Podcasting to run the site. It’s gotten even better since I used it and now includes just about any feature a serious podcaster could want.
Seriously Simple Podcasting will automatically generate your iTunes RSS feed for you, insert your podcast player directly into your post content, and allow you to host your audio files either directly on the site or at a 3rd party service like Amazon Web Services or Libsyn.
Because the plugin is lightweight and well-coded, it’s also really easy to customize. I have some first hand experience with extending this plugin and I can tell you that it’s about as easy as it gets. You can even roll your own custom player if you like since it uses the built-in WordPress audio player to handle playback.
Best Music Player Plugin
One area in WordPress that hasn’t received a ton of attention is audio. WordPress does a fairly good job at handling audio out of the box, but it does leave a bit to be desired. Luckily, our good friends over at AudioTheme specialize in pushing WordPress to the limits of what’s possible when it comes to audio.
Cue is a really cool little plugin that makes adding audio playlists to your site as easy as adding a standard WordPress media gallery. If you’re a musician, artist, podcaster, or public speaker, Cue can be an extremely valuable addition to your web presence.
If you want to step things up another level, AudioTheme also creates niche WordPress themes geared specifically towards people in the music industry. If that sounds up your alley, definitely check them out. Their products are top notch.
Best Custom Fields Plugin
This one is more for developers and technically-inclined site builders. One of the major advances in WordPress during recent years is the advent of building custom layouts and templates using custom meta data. The most popular plugin to do this sort of thing is called Advanced Custom Fields. ACF is a nice plugin and has a very clean user interface, but it’s also had some instability and data loss problems over the years.
ACF is Pretty, But Custom Field Suite is a Workhorse.
While ACF has continued to grow, add features, and move through a few shaky updates, Custom Field Suite has improved the core features and kept things lightweight, fast, and incredibly stable. If you build a site on Custom Field Suite you can depend on it. You won’t need to worry about an update breaking sites or costing you time and money.
If you’re looking for a way to build a complex WordPress website with lots of unique layouts and you’re comfortable writing a bit of HTML and PHP, look no further than Custom Field Suite. It has all the tools you’ll need to build an awesome site that will stand the test of time.
Best Search Plugin
If you’ve ever read our blog before, this one should be really obvious. We really do think SearchWP is the best WordPress search plugin on the market. I’ve used it on quite a few site builds over the years and it’s always come through with flying colors.
SearchWP replaces the default WordPress search engine with a much more accurate search that you can dial in exactly how you want. It also allows you to create custom supplemental search engines to search for specific things within your site. We even used it to make a WordPress image search a while back.
With all that plus a ton of really useful add-ons and integrations, there’s really no comparison. SearchWP blows the default search out of the water and stands head and shoulders above any of the other WordPress search plugins available today. If you don’t already have a license, I’m not really sure what you’re waiting for. Go buy it!
Best Content Management Plugins
A big part of running a WordPress site involves managing content. The more content you produce, the harder keeping everything organized can get. It’s becoming pretty typical for modern WordPress sites have 100’s of posts, multiple custom post types, and who knows how many pages. It can all get a bit overwhelming, but there are some plugins out there to make things easier.
Let’s face it. The WordPress admin interface isn’t that great. There’s been some progress in updating it and making it more modern, but in a lot of ways it’s still stuck in yesterday. One of the most annoying issues that I’ve come across is that the posts edit screen, the one with all the admin column data, is always either extremely cluttered or lacking important information.
Custom Admin Columns Are No Longer Only for Coders.
Since I know how to code, I can take care of this issue by creating custom admin columns on a case-by-case basis. I even wrote a small plugin to clean up some of the mess that the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin adds. But what about everyone who can’t code? Before Admin Columns was released, they were pretty much stuck with whatever WordPress and their plugin authors gave them. Not anymore!
Now you can add, remove, reorder and customize nearly every aspect of your admin screens just by changing some settings. On a smaller site this kind of thing might not be a huge deal, but on larger sites with lots of different data types a well-organized admin panel can make a HUGE difference. If you find yourself getting lost in the WordPress admin panel, give this plugin a try for sure.
Sometimes you just need to copy one item to another. While I’ll never recommend adding duplicate content to your site, it is very common to have similar content on a lot of different types of sites. You might be setting up PPC landing pages or service description pages, or 100s of other possibilities that follow a similar content structure.
If you’re anything like me, it’s a heck of a lot easier to edit existing content than it is to keep starting over from scratch again and again. With Duplicate Post you can write one boilerplate piece of content and then clone it again and again until you’re finished. It’s not useful on every site, but definitely comes in handy from time to time.
Internal links are important. Very, very important. Linking from one page to another within your content is critical to making your site as SEO-friendly as possible. WordPress makes this pretty easy by allowing you to search your existing content when adding a link in the editor. Unfortunately, on larger sites the amount of results that you’ll get back when searching can be extremely overwhelming. Better Internal Link Search fixes this issue, plus a whole lot more.
In addition to making the link search more accurate, this plugin also includes some really handy features such as being able to search draft posts, find links to taxonomy archives, and even search some predefined external sites by using search modifiers. Looking for some reference material on Wikipedia? No problem! Just add -wikipedia to your search query and you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. This is must-have for just about any WordPress website.
Did you know that WordPres has a built-in system for controlling the order of hierarchical post types like pages? Normally the only way to control it from the admin is by changing the order number in the “Page Attributes” metabox that displays on the page edit screen. As you might guess, doing that can get pretty tedious, but Simple Page Ordering makes it… well, simple.
With Simple Page Ordering installed, you can actually drag and drop to sort any of the hierarchical post types on your website. This is particularly useful when you have custom post types to display things like testimonials, staff members, or portfolio projects. With everything set up correctly, you can just drag and drop in the admin to change the order things are displayed on the front-end of your website. It’s really handy on more complex sites.
Do you ever get sick of answering the same questions over and over again? If you run a WordPress site with a lot of users, I’m sure you probably do. This handy plugin from Mark Jaquith was an easy choice for the best WordPress plugins because it allows you to create your own custom documentation for just about anything.
Didn’t I Just Tell Him How to Do This Yesterday…??
Whether it’s instructions for adding a certain type of content to the site or guidelines on how to format different types of content, WP Help can make quick work of setting up internal documentation. It’s especially helpful on multisite networks because the documentation can be synced across as many sites as you like.
If you’re looking for a way to keep your site’s users educated, install WP Help and give it a try. It’s pretty intuitive so you should be creating killer docs in no time.
Best Front End Editor Plugin
The concept of front-end editing in WordPress is fairly recent. Basically the idea is that you write your posts and pages directly on the front end of your website rather than from inside the WordPress admin panel. There have been a few different approaches to doing this from a number of different developers and companies, but out of all the ones I’ve tried Editus is the most promising.
In addition to being able to perform all the normal editing functions in real time, Editus also has integrated support for Nick’s other plugin Aesop Story Engine. If you combine the two plugins together, you get an even better experience as you can build out really dynamic imagery and storytelling mechanics without ever entering the WordPress admin panel.
Editus is still in beta, so not everything is 100% finished yet, although the plugin is very stable and works without any issues. Nick Haskins has put a ton of time, thought, and effort into how Editus should work and you can really tell while using it. If you find the normal process of writing in WordPress to be less-than-exciting, grab a copy of Editus and breathe some new life into your blogging experience.
Best Sidebar Replacement Plugin
Contextual sidebars is something that I’ve been advocating for as long as I can remember. Using different sidebars for different sections of your website is a great way to enhance your SEO, make your email opt-in forms more compelling, and just generally improve the user experience of your website.
Contextual Sidebars Sound Cool, But What the Heck Are They?
The idea of contextual sidebars has been one of those things that I try to explain to people and they look at me like I’m crazy. The main issue was that implementing contextual sidebars required custom code and it sounded really complicated when I explained it out loud. There just weren’t any good plugins to replace widget areas contextually throughout your site. The few attempts that have been made just weren’t robust enough to do the job, but that’s finally changed with Content Aware Sidebars.
This is a really powerful plugin that can be used in a lot of different ways. The easiest example is to replace the default sidebar on contact page with one that has contact information instead of blog posts or a contact form. Another would be to use a different sidebar in every category throughout your blog to improve your internal linking for SEO. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Suffice it to say, this is really cool plugin and you should definitely give it a try.
Best Anti-Spam Plugin
One of the biggest issues with WordPress comments is spam. Whether your blog is fairly new or has been running for years, you’re going to attract more than your fair share of spam bots. There are a lot of spam blocking plugins out there, but in my opinion you won’t find one better than Akismet.
Akismet Might Lose a Battle or Two, But It’ll Win the War.
It’s true that Akismet goes through up and down periods of effectiveness. This is because spam is always changing. As blocking techniques improve, spammers adapt and change their methods to get around them. When the spammers are winning, you might notice that Akismet misses a bit of spam or starts being overzealous and marking legit comments as spam. This doesn’t mean the plugin sucks.
A lot of people will give up at the first sight of problems and switch to another anti-spam plugin because it’s more effective in the short term. The problem with this is that while these other plugins might work for a time, it’s only because they’re unpopular. As soon as a popular site implements the plugin you’re using, spammers will crack it and your site will be hit with a massive wave of spam. Aksimet on the other hand will continue to adapt and continue to be effective in the long term. I see this as the better option, but the choice is yours to make.
Best Comment Plugins
Now that we’ve dealt with spam, let’s talk about comments. Comments are the lifeblood of any blog. They’re your community and your chance to really build a relationship with your readers. There’s been a recent trend to disable comments and push the conversation to social sites like Twitter, but I really don’t think this is a good idea for most publishers.
The WordPress comment system is pretty robust by default, but lets take a look at some plugins that provide little enhancements to make it even better.
Commenter emails is a handy little tool that will allow you to export a list of the emails of everyone who has left a comment on your blog. This can be useful for a lot of different things like creating a new segment of your email list to send more personalized emails to people who have left comments. You could also use the emails to find your blog commenters and add them on social media.
There are plenty of creative ways you could use the export, just be careful. You don’t want to start sending email directly to this list because they never opted in to receive bulk email from you. Keep it above board!
Disable comments is a simple plugin that does exactly what you think. Most WordPress themes don’t include a way to disable comments on all pages, posts, or custom post types with a single option. If you’d like to have full control over where comments are allowed on your site, Disable Comments is the plugin you’ve been looking for.
All it takes is a few clicks to turn off comments for every entry of any public post type. You can choose to update the value in the database to keep comments disabled even when the plugin has been removed, or just use an option in the plugin to control things. This plugin is well-coded and has been around for quite some time. I use it on almost every site I build.
Last, but most certainly not least is a plugin from Pippin Williamson, Andrew Norcross and Tom McFarlin called comments not replied to. As the name implies, this plugin makes it a lot easier for you to figure out which comments on your blog you haven’t replied to yet. If you’re blogging on a regular basis, you already know how fast comments can stack up and how important it is to keep up with them if you want your community to thrive.
This simple plugin adds a new admin column in the WordPress comments administration panel to allow you to quickly see whether or not a particular comment has been replied to by the author of the post. It’s a small improvement that can make a big difference on large, popular blogs.
Wow. That Was a Lot of Plugins.
Jeez, maybe I don’t hate WordPress plugins as much as I thought I did. 😉 In any case, that’s my take on the best WordPress plugins around. They may not be the best for everyone or for every situation, but from my perspective they’re certainly at the top of the list no matter how you slice it.
Did I Miss Your Favorite Plugin?
Even though it feels like I reviewed every plugin ever made since the dawn of time, I know there’s still a lot of great hidden gems out there. If there’s something I missed that you feel needs to be added, let me know in the comments and I’ll check it out. If it makes the cut, I’ll add it to the post.
I hope you found this useful. If you have any feedback on my testing methodology or want to know why I chose one plugin over another, let ’em rip! Comments are open!