Besides being a beautiful, easy to use and powerful platform by itself, WordPress is also loved because of it’s high level of customization and optimization. Plugins are the best way to optimize and enrich your WordPress blog. And it’s not limited to performance only. The plugins WordPress offers range from page speed optimization, user engagement, advanced backup, full theme modification to social sharing and search engine optimization.
No matter what kind of website or blog you own, you’ll definitely find something that will make your site better. Just like with clothes some plugins are one size fits all, and other are quite specific. Almost every blog will encounter spam, security concerns and will want to expose their content to the largest audience possible. This two article series focuses on the most essential and useful WordPress plugins every blog will find useful. Whether you’re bored with the default comments platform, want to try custom fonts or just add neat social sharing options, continue reading to find the best WordPress plugins out there. The plugins are sorted into categories and only a few of them have the same features so you can find the very right ones for you.
The first part will cover optimization, forms, comments, site backup, posts, security, design & theme customization and media. Stay tuned for part 2 which will contain even more specific and targeted WordPress plugins.
The second part will cover ecommerce, SEO, social media, marketing and lot of great miscellaneous plugins.
WP Super Cache is a very fast caching engine for WordPress that produces static html files. After a html file is generated your webserver will serve that file instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts.
WP-Optimize is a WordPress 2.9++ database cleanup and optimization tool. It doesn’t require PhpMyAdmin to optimize your database tables. It allows you to remove post revisions, comments in the spam queue and un-approved comments within few clicks.
W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.
Contact Form 7 can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail content flexibly with simple markup. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering and so on.
A super customizable contact form that lets your visitors send you email. Blocks all automated spammers. No templates to mess with.
3. Gravity Forms (Premium – $39)
Gravity Forms is hands down the best contact form plugin for WordPress. Build and publish your WordPress forms in just minutes. No drudgery, just quick and easy form-building.
This is a jQuery based AJAX powered HTML / PHP contact form with Twitter Direct Messaging, easily integrated into WordPress via shortcodes and functions.
Disqus, pronounced “discuss”, is a service and tool for web comments and discussions. Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community.
GD Star Rating plugin allows you to set up an advanced rating and review system for post types and comments in your blog using single, multi and thumbs ratings.
This plugin offers a highly customizable widget to show recent comments of your visitors in your sidebars.
Full Facebook Comments moderation and management for your WordPress site. Quick and easy to set up. Insert automatically or via a shortcode.
Automatically send a ‘thank you’ e-mail to those who comment on your blog. This plugin engages visitors by reminding them to check back for new comments and interesting content.
Allows administrators to globally disable comments on their site. Comments can be disabled according to post type.
WP Customer Reviews allows your customers and visitors to leave reviews or testimonials of your services. Reviews are Microformat enabled (hReview).
Allows you to optimize database, repair database, backup database, restore database, delete backup database , drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of back ups, optimizing and repairing of database.
BackUpWordPress will back up your entire site including your database and all your files once every day.
The Editorial Calendar makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog.
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) gives you a list of posts and/or pages related to the current entry, introducing the reader to other relevant content on your site.
The Slide recommends related posts from within your site on a widget that “slides” in at the bottom of the page.
WordPress Popular Posts is a highly customizable sidebar widget that displays the most popular posts on your blog. You can use it as a template tag, too.
5. Raw HTML
Lets you use raw HTML or any other code in your posts. You can also disable smart quotes and other automatic formatting on a per-post basis.
Automatically generate the Post Thumbnail (Featured Thumbnail) from the first image in post or any custom post type only if Post Thumbnail is not set.
Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.
Adds CAPTCHA anti-spam methods to WordPress on the forms for comments, registration, lost password, login, or all. For WP, WPMU, and BuddyPress.
Secure WordPress beefs up the security of your WordPress installation by removing error information on login pages, adds index.html to plugin directories, hides the WordPress version and much more.
WordPress Website Security Protection. Website security protection against: XSS, RFI, CRLF, CSRF, Base64, Code Injection and SQL Injection hacking att
Design & Theme Customization
Widget Context allows you to specify widget visibility settings – you can choose to display them only on certain posts, front page, category or tag pages etc.
The WP Google Fonts plugin allows you to easily add fonts from the Google Font Directory to your WordPress theme.
Adds a splash page to your site that lets visitors know your site is down for maintenance. Full access to the back- & front-end is optional.
This plugin allows you to create multiple, dynamic widget areas, and assign those widget areas to sidebar locations within the Genesis Theme Framework
With this plugin you can easily create buttons, boxes, different sliders and much, much more. Turn your free theme to premium in just a few clicks.
Easily add a Favicon to your site and the WordPress admin pages. Complete with upload functionality. Supports all three Favicon types (ico,png,gif).
7. Font Uploader (Premium – $10)
This plugin lets you upload your own font files and apply them to any element of your website without requiring a knowledge of html or css.
WPtouch: A simple, powerful and elegant mobile theme for your website. WPtouch automatically transforms your WordPress website into an application-like theme.
9. Widget Logic
Widget Logic lets you control on which pages widgets appear using WP’s conditional tags. It also adds a ‘widget_content’ filter.
WP Content Slideshow is the perfect Slideshow for WordPress. It displays up to 5 Posts or Pages with Tile, Description and Image for every Post.
The Easing Slider comes with various options that allow you to choose different sources to get the images from and also multiple styling options so that you”ll never have to edit any files directly & with ease. Create your own unique elegant slider.
NextGEN Gallery is a full integrated Image Gallery plugin for WordPress with dozens of options and features.
Allows you to integrate Flickr photos into your site. It supports user, set, favorite, group and community photostreams.
A filter for WordPress that allows easy video embedding of supported sites. Support for 65 different video sites.
5. oQey Gallery
oQey Gallery is a premium grade plugin for managing images and video, creating photo slideshows with music, photo & video galleries that works fantastic.
uBillboard is a Premium Slider for WordPress. It is a jQuery based slider with a multitude of transitions and options so you can customize it all you want without being overwhelmed with options you never wanted or needed.
This plugin used to add the lightbox (overlay) effect to the current page images on your WordPress blog.
WP e-Commerce is a free WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin that lets customers buy your products, services and digital downloads online.
Jigoshop is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress developed by professionals with years of experience delivering online shops for global brands.
Transform your WordPress website into a thoroughbred online store. Delivering enterprise-level quality & features whilst backed by a name you can trust.
uPricing is the ultimate and unique solution for all your WordPress related pricing page needs. Creating pricing tables has never been easier. uPricing comes with easy to use jQuery powered admin interface that lets you create and edit your pricing tables.
Easy, simple setup to add a PayPal Donation button as a Widget or with a shortcode.
All in One SEO Pack is the best SEO plugin out there which will automatically optimize your WordPress blog for search engines.
WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress.org users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently.
Automatically add links to posts or pages that are being published to your Facebook wall, pages or groups. Simple one time setup and forget. The way links appear on Facebook can be customized.
Posts a Twitter update when you update your WordPress blog or post to your blogroll, using your chosen URL shortening service. Requires PHP 5 and cURL
3. Digg Digg
Digg Digg allows you to integrate popular social buttons into WordPress easily.
The ShareThis plugin seamlessly enables users to share your content through Email,Facebook,Twitter, Google +1, Like, Send and many more.
BuddyPress lets users register on your site and start creating profiles, posting messages, making connections, creating and interacting in groups and much more. A social network in a box, BuddyPress lets you build a social network for your company, school, sports team or niche community.
bbPress is forum software with a twist from the creators of WordPress.
The Google + Plugin integrates WordPress with your G+ Profile and Page – now with BuddyPress and Post Format support.
A widget that properly handles twitter feeds, including parsing @username, #hashtags, and URLs into links.
This plug-in lets you collect subscribers on your blog with a single or double opt-in subscription process. Double opt-in is law compliant and it means the user has to confirm the subscription following simple standard instructions sent to him via email.
Easy management of 125×125 ads on your blog. Ads can be run for a specified number of days, and will automatically be taken down. Track clicks too.
s2Member (membership with PayPal) offers powerful membership capabilities. Protect members only content. The s2Member Framework integrates with PayPal very easily and fully supports recurring billing.
The WordPress mailing platform.
Subscribe2 provides a comprehensive subscription management and email notification system for WordPress blogs that sends email notifications to a list of subscribers when you publish new content to your blog.
Adds a widget that allows your users to sign up for your MailChimp mailing list.
7. Simple PopUp
A simple, attractive, extremely fast and non annoying pop up box for your WordPress Blog. It’s power lies in its ease of use.
Want to replace the old ← Older posts | Newer posts → links with some page links? This plugin provides the wp_pagenavi() template tag which generates fancy pagination links.
This plugin adds a checkbox, “include this page in menus”, which is checked by default. If you uncheck it, the page will not appear in any listings of pages (which includes, and is usually limited to, your page navigation menus).
This plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.
ManageWP Worker plugin allows you to remotely manage your blogs from one dashboard. You can read our review here.
Redirection is a WordPress plugin to manage 301 redirections and keep track of 404 errors without requiring knowledge of Apache .htaccess files.
Redirects the main feed and optionally the comments feed seamlessly and transparently to Feedburner.com.
Provides unofficial fixes for selected WordPress bugs, so you don’t have to wait for the next WordPress core release.
Track your WordPress site easily and with lots of metadata: views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and page views.
Adds an AJAX poll system to your WordPress blog. You can also easily add a poll into your WordPress’s blog post/page.
The lazy and the productive will love it : all admin links available in a neat horizontal CSS driven drop down menu. No need to click on “Manage” then “Pages” to edit pages. And plenty more space on your screen.
12. Pretty Link Lite
Shrink, beautify, track, manage and share any URL on or off of your WordPress website. Create links that look however you want using your own domain name.
Integrate Google Maps into your WordPress blog easily without using API or any code.
Advanced Access Manager is a new way of controlling access to your single blog or multi-site setup. This easy to use interface is a very helpful tool for experienced WordPress users.
Do you know and use any other plugins besides the ones we suggested here? We would really appreciate your feedback here, but we are pretty sure this list will be very comprehensive for you and will satisfy most peoples needs!