The WordPress Plugins I Can’t Live Without

Wordpress plug-ins for writers

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 FormsGravity 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?

Posted in Digital Media and tagged , , .
Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

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 co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

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. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

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.

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60 Comments on "The WordPress Plugins I Can’t Live Without"

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Glenn Miller

Excellent list. I’m installing Broken Link Checker on all my sites now, and finding plenty of cleanup to do, especially on the older sites.

I also find Gravity Forms (I’m not an affiliate) to be indispensable for financial forms and mailchimp integration–but it’s not free.

What do you think of JetPack? I know that some worry about it bloating a site, but I’m finding that elements within it like Tiled Galleries and Carousel are especially easy to use, and kind of pretty.

Susi Lovell

I’ve been concentrating on getting my site up and running and, I have to confess, finding my focus. I felt overwhelmed by all the plug-ins but now feel ready to start working through this very clear and helpful list. Thank you very much.

troublesometots

I’ve got really mixed feelings about Disqus. Clearly I’ve got an account so it works for me. But I find that most of my readers are not the type that have them and thus I’ve had far better success with native WP comments. Ironically I had also picked up CommentLuv premium figuring it might help boost comments but so few of my readers have blogs I needn’t have bothered 🙂

Angela Ackerman

You have no idea how helpful this is–Becca and I just started a WP website and I’m still learning the ropes. Talk about great timing!

Angela

Michael Kelberer

Hi Jane,
Great post as always. I’d add the All-in-one Event Calendar by Timely – best of the breed.

stephaniecain

I second this — I LOVE this plug-in.

Lexa Cain

I’m on blogger and I’ve never felt so alone… No, seriously, I appreciate all the info and will check and see if there are parallel widgets for blogger. Thanks! 🙂

OMG its HUGE
1. Geo-mashup is great for adding a Google map to a post or page. 2. Dagon design site map is a great site index and one can list posts and pages. 3. Image watermark is a really good watermark tool. Especially useful if one adds a lot of your own images or photos. 4. Lightbox plus colorbox for adding fancy Lightbox styles to your photos. Photos can fade in and out, have fancy borders and frames, have next and previous buttons etc. 5. Page Mash or Post Mash for sorting your posts or pages. Especially useful when one wants to… Read more »
chuck_moran

Jane, this is a great list. I love Akismet for slamming spam. I tried a number of solutions (including captcha types, which don’t work and I think just make visitors mad anyway) before finally posting up $5/month for Akismet. The spam tide stopped completely. You can pay what you think it’s worth, too. Nothing better. I also like Google Analyticator so I can get a quick glance at my stats right in my dashboards. Looking forward to checking out the plugins on your list that I don’t know about. Thanks!

Anthony Lee Collins
Broken Link Checker sounds like exactly what I need. I have 8+ years of content, so I know there are bum links in there. In addition to some of the ones you mention, I use PHP Code Widget and Widget Logic (to have more control over widgets, both in content and in where they appear), WordPress Mobile Edition (delivers a separate theme when a user visits from a mobile device), WP Unformatted (to reverse the “smart” quote converter, and when necessary to disable autoformatting), WordPress Database backup, Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, Print Friendly and PDF (though I also have a… Read more »
Laura E. Kelly

Love all the plugins you listed, especially Broken Link Checker and Relevanssi. But the one plugin that’s made all the difference for me is “Display Widgets.” It allows you to easily show or hide a widget in the sidebar or footer widget areas of a particular page by checking off the page name. (It automatically adds that ability to every widget.) Sounds like it performs a similar function to the Per Page Sidebar plugin you mention, which I’ll check out, too. See Display Widgets in action on the different pages in http://amorebeautifulquestion.com

Peter McCarthy

Great list, Jane. I go in for the geeky ones. Yoast is a must-have, in my opinion. Some other ones I love are W3 Total Cache for speed, BJ Lazy Load for same, and SmushIt for reducing image sizes. Speed freak, me. Thanks for the post. I am going to try a couple of these. – PM

WrittenWebDesign

Def agree on Contact Form 7 – best contact form (esp. for authors I think), hands down. Will add::: Akismet! (that’s not too obvious is it? Super useful.) Wordfence. Advanced Category Excluder. Widget Logic! Exec PHP! WP-Cycle. Every Plugin that StudioPress puts together (as I’m a Genesis Developer.)

Lisa McKay

Thanks Jane. I’m redesigning http://www.modernlovelongdistance.com at the moment and this is super helpful. When you’re doing it all yourself it’s so easy to get bogged down by too many choices and not know which way to go. This list is a great place to start. Best, Lisa

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[…] WordPress Plug-Ins I Can’t Live Without by Jane Friedman: Wrting, reading and publishing in the digital age: As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plug-ins 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 plug-in that provides it, without you having to hire additional help or learn how to change the WordPress code. […]

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[…] The WordPress Plug-ins I Can’t Live Without- As every WordPress site owner knows (at least those of you who self-host), plug-ins 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 plug-in that provides it. […]

Andy Feliciotti

Great list! I already use most but I totally agree on “Better WP Security” for anyone saying WordPress isn’t secure this plugin is fantastic.

Dan Knauss
That doesn’t really make sense. I think BWPS and similar plugins make it seem like WP isn’t secure because you need them, or Sucuri, or something else like that. The truth is the WP core is secure, and a well built WP site with timely upgrades is secure. Good plugins and themes are secure. But bad hosting, bad plugins, bad themes, and people who don’t set things up right or maintain properly them create a lot of vulnerabilities. Stuff like BWPS helps that class of user in a bandaid kind of way. A lot of its measures are more like… Read more »
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John Crooks

I love JetPack and Tweetily. They do so much of my social media work! Also, JetPack (free version) features some nice side-bar options.

Vikas Singh

Nice article. Recently I came across a very nice WP plugin. The new bloggers flood their blog with all the high-resolution images to make it nice and attractive. But for the matter of fact, that reduces the speed of the website and it takes a lot of time to load which hampers the user experience.

Use ‘wp smush’ to reduce the size of images and keep the quality good. The free version will allow 50 images to smush at a time, then you need to start the process again for next 50 images. Premium version will take this restriction off.

Nate Hoffelder

Here’s a second AMP plugin to add to your list:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/accelerated-mobile-pages/

It adds a lot of features to AMP pages like comment sections, site logo, menu, etc.

Nate Hoffelder

I don’t see a firewall plugin. This is a must-have for 2017.

I like All In One WP Security because it also blocks robo-spam.

Nate Hoffelder

I recently discovered the Revive Old Posts plugin:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/tweet-old-post/

this lets you auto-share and auto-tweet previously published posts and pages. The free version is great.

Nate Hoffelder

Do you like to have properly formatted images in your RSS feed?

Then check out Align RSS Images:
https://wordpress.org/plugins/align-rss-images/

I am surprised by how few people use it.

Angela Booth

MyBookTable. Love it. Helps you to market and sell books — and more.

Brian Ference

unfortunately, the AMP plugin doesn’t appear to work as both my site using it and yours, even this page, fails the check: https://search.google.com/test/amp?id=GwLfPQx2_3PoDegO9XmavA

Nate Hoffelder

you have to add /amp/ to the and of a URL if you want to test the AMP page for compliance

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Shin

Hi I loved the Wpdiscuz..until they started sending subscription confirmation emails to my guests. Is there any way I can disable this? I just want them to receive a mail when I reply to their comment!

wpDiscuz