Note from Jane: This post is occasionally updated to keep up with changes in the WordPress ecosystem and reflect the evolution of my own site.
As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plugins are one of the most wonderful and useful things about WordPress. Much of the functionality you need, someone else needs, too—which means there’s probably a plugin that provides it, without you having to hire additional help or learn how to change the WordPress code.
But before I get to the list of plugins I love and recommend, there are some risks to using them:
- First, plugins can sometimes conflict with your WordPress theme. You should add them carefully and one at a time—and ensure that everything works the same as it did before.
- Plugins may also interfere with each other. Again, add them carefully and study the results. If something “breaks” soon after you add a plugin, that’s the most likely cause of the problem.
- Poorly written plugins can be buggy and present site security risks. You can avoid the “bad” ones by choosing highly rated and popular plugins that are frequently updated. (Anything that hasn’t been updated in more than a year is best avoided.)
- Plugins can make your site run more slowly, but the trade-off is usually worth it. If you don’t actively use a plugin, it’s best to deactivate and delete it.
Without further ado, here’s my list of indispensable WordPress plugins.
WordPress Plugins I Highly Recommend
- WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plugin is like a friendly SEO expert looking over your shoulder (in a good way), to help you optimize your pages, posts, and site metadata. This plugin is ideal even for people who don’t know what SEO means—in fact, it’s a good place to start. Read more about it here.
- Jetpack. This is the plugin developed by the WordPress folks themselves and is kind of like getting about two dozen plugins in one. I use Jetpack for lots of functionality across my site, such as: sharing buttons at the end of blog posts and pages, show related content after posts, brute force attack protection (makes your site more secure), better image loading, and downtime monitoring. If you upgrade Jetpack, it can also provide you with security scanning and backups of your site.
- Contact Form 7. Every site should have a contact form. This is pretty much the standard and free version that most people use. You can make it as simple or as complex as you like, and also create multiple contact forms. This used to be my go-to plugin for forms until I bought the premium plugin Gravity Forms. (See next item.)
- Gravity Forms. Gravity is hands down the best plugin for building advanced and feature-rich forms on your site. If you add Stripe functionality—also available from Gravity at an additional cost—then you can accept credit card payments through your Gravity Forms. Just make sure your site is secure (has an SSL certificate) before you accept payments directly through your site.
- Akismet. Essential for stopping comment spam and might even be pre-installed for you.
- Image Widget. This is a simple plugin that easily allows you to add images to the widget sections of your website (usually the sidebar and footer).
- AMP. Google search prioritizes results that are mobile friendly, so everyone should have a site that looks great and works well on mobile devices. One way to do that is to optimize for AMP (Google’s initiative to make websites load fast on mobile). The AMP plugin accomplishes that without you having to know or do anything fancy.
- Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP. This makes sure that the AMP plugin plays well with your Yoast plugin, plus gives you customization options for AMP.
- Comments – wpDiscuz. A long time ago, I used Disqus for comments, but the load time and reliability weren’t so great. This is the solution I chose, and I like it much better.
- Email Address Encoder. This ensures that spammers and other bad actors can’t scrape your email address from your website.
- Redirection. This helps manage 301 redirects and keeps track of 404 (page not found) errors. Basically, this means that if permalinks of my pages or posts change for some reason, I can redirect people easily and quickly.
A Few Others I Like
- Magic Action Box Pro. This premium plugin creates call-to-action “boxes” at specific places on your site—e.g., at the beginning and end of every blog post or static page, or wherever you manually add it. If you consistently have a range of books or products to offer your readers, you’ll love this. Try it for free by downloading the “lite” version.
- Relevanssi. If you’ve been blogging for a long time, or have large volumes of content available on your site that people need to search/sort through, Relevanssi is an invaluable plugin for helping streamline the search functionality of your website.
- User Role Editor. If you manage contributors to your site, or use outsiders to help edit or manage your content, this plugin can help you manage what permissions they have behind the scenes.
OK, now it’s your turn. What WordPress plugins can’t you live without?
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.