WordPress plugins

My Most Useful WordPress Plugins (My “Cheat Sheet”)

These are life-saving WordPress plugins that I use on many of my clients’ and my own sites.  Alright, maybe “life-saving” is a slight exaggeration, but these can definitely cure some of your worst WordPress headaches. I have tested each of these (except where noted) and vouch for their quality. I hope you find them as useful as I have. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Best Accessibility Plugins

  • Divi Accessibility (GitHub)
    This plugin fixes some of the accessibility problems with Divi, and lets you see where your site is in violation so you can fix others. For example, it has a tool that flags text that does not meet the minimum contrast requirement for readability. Note, just installing this plugin won’t make your site 100% accessible! Note, due to a complaint from Elegant Themes about “Divi” in the name, this plugin has moved to GitHub. The good news is that it will still be maintained!
  • WP Accessibility
    This plugin by respected web accessibility consultant Joe Dolson fixes some of the technical accessibility problems with WordPress sites. It is not a 100% drop in solution to make your site compliant with accessibility guidelines! Be wary of any accessibility plugin that makes such claims. Read more about WP Accessibility.

Best Admin Plugins

  • Admin Columns
    I hate it when plugins add columns to the “All Pages” and “All Posts” admin area, cluttering them up with useless info. Admin Columns lets you purge useless columns. You can instead display custom fields in the columns – really useful for customizing! The paid version is even more amazing, allowing you to do advanced filtering and even bulk custom field editing right from the list view!
  • Adminimize
    Get rid of confusing and unnecessary menu items in your admin area so your clients don’t screw up the nice site you’ve just made for them.
  • Custom Dashboard Page
    The default WP dashboard is basically useless. This allows you to assign any page to be the new admin dashboard page!
  • Plugin Notes
    This is something I could have used on many client sites where the client sometimes installed strange plugins. It allows you to add notes such as why a plugin was installed and who installed it.
  • WP Help
    Create help notes in the admin area for your clients.  Document custom post types, custom fields, weird plugins, whatever you want.  I use this on almost every site now, both for my clients, and for myself, when I’ve forgotten how the site works six months from now.
  • WP Rollback
    This plugin will allow you to “roll back” plugin updates. Can be a life-saver if a plugin update messes up your site. Honestly I usually just do it through FTP, but if you don’t have that ability, use this.

Best Ad Insertion Plugins

  • AdRotate
    Allows you to create ads to place on your site using a shortcode. Ads can rotate through the same location on your site. Includes analytics capabilities.
  • WP Simple Adsense Insertion
    Gives you a shortcode to easily insert Google Adsense ads anywhere you want in your content.  There are plugins that auto-insert ads in your content, but I believe that you should hand-insert them.

Best Anti-Spam Plugins

  • Akismet
    It comes pre-installed with most WordPress installations, and it is good if you don’t mind having to register it on WordPress.org. It is free for non-commercial applications.
  • Advanced noCaptcha & invisible Captcha
    Use this to add a Google Captcha V2 or V3 to your Contact Form 7 form.
  • Antispam Bee
    I admit I haven’t used this yet, but many say this is the best free (non-Akismet) antispam plugin for WordPress now, especially since WP Spam Shield is gone. The downside is that it doesn’t work with Jetpack comments.
  • Contact Form 7 Honeypot
    This plugin uses the “honeypot” tactic to filter out bot form submissions. You need to add a hidden field to your forms for this to work. I tried it and it did cut down on a significant amount of Contact Form 7 spam.

Best Backup / Migration Plugins

  • All In One WP Migration
    Install this plugin at your source, download an archive file, then import that file into your destination WordPress site with the plugin installed and it will copy everything over. A painless way to migrate WordPress sites, especially when other plugins fail due to hosting limitations! Free version works for up to 512MB sites. There’s a paid extension for Multisite, but it’s worth every penny if you need to migrate Multisite.
  • Auto Upload Images
    Let’s say you’ve used the WordPress Importer to move some posts to a new site. The posts are migrated, but the image URLs are still pointing to the old site, and none of the images are actually migrated. The solution is the Auto Upload Images plugin! Just install it and re-save the post. All images will be migrated and URLs adjusted in that post like magic! Just be sure to de-activate it when done!
  • Blogger Importer Extended
    If you need to import a Blogger blog to WordPress, look no further than Blogger Importer Extended. The “recommended” importer didn’t work for me. This one imports not only the blog text, but also images (into the Media Library), comments, and tags! Wow!
  • Duplicator
    This is my “go-to” plugin for manually backing up and moving WordPress sites (as opposed to scheduled backups). Highly recommended! The paid version will migrate WordPress Multisite.
  • WP Migrate DB Pro
    This is an invaluable tool for keeping staging, dev, and production sites in sync. It just handles the database and media files.  It will automatically do a search-and-replace in the database if you need to migrate from dev to production or move to a new URL.

Best Caching / Speed Optimization Plugins

  • Autoptimize
    This plugin will do things to speed up your site like minification of your CSS and JS. Also helps increase your speed scores if your client is into that. Less extreme than PhastPress below.
  • WP Fastest Cache
    WP Fastest Cache just works without any fuss! Don’t take my word for it; look at the ratings.
  • PhastPress
    If you have a client who is obsessed with improving their website’s speed score (regardless of how many times you tell them that the only thing that really matters is the actual load time), check out PhastPress. Simply installing and activating this plugin improved my site’s Pingdom score from 75 to 98. In my case, the actual perceived load time was the same or a bit slower though. But, like I said, if you have a client that is obsessed with these scores, PhastPress will do the trick!

Best Code Insertion Plugins

  • AddFunc Head & Footer Code
    Adds whatever code you specify (usually tracking) to the head or footer of your site!
  • Per Page Add to Head
    Just like the previous plugin, but lets you add different head code per page. Good for tracking pixels.
  • Include Me
    This is for adding content in the form of PHP files to your content.  I use it for adding content that is shared across of Multisite network.
  • Reusable Text Blocks
    After Global Content Blocks went away, I went into withdrawal until I found Reusable Content Blocks. This allows you to create chunks of content or code that you can put almost anywhere using a shortcode. Note, if you use the Gutenberg editor, I would recommend using the native Gutenberg Reusable Blocks instead.

Best Commenting Plugins

  • DCO Comment Attachment
    If you use WordPress’ native commenting system, this plugin allows users to upload file types of your choosing, including images, videos, and PDFs, to their comments. File size limits are selectable.
  • WP Open Comment Links in New Window
    I hate it when links in comments open in the current browser window. This plugin opens a new window for comment links, which is how WordPress comments should have worked in the first place.

Read my more detailed look at commenting systems here.

Best Database Plugins

  • Better Search Replace
    This is a really lightweight, easy-to-use database search-and-replace tool that searches through custom fields (specified by you). I’ve used it to swap out particular shortcodes for a different one, as well as to update URLs in the database before launching sites.
  • WP Optimize: Clean up your database
    Remove old post revisions and spam comments to save space and speed up your site.  Run on an old side whose database has become bloated, then uninstall.

Best Debugging / Development Plugins

  • Database Browser
    Let’s say you’re working on a client site with no access to PHPMyAdmin but you need to see the database. Voila! This plugin lets you do that!  Just uninstall after you’re done though! You can also export the database to CSV, possible providing a poor-man’s migrating feature.
  • Debug This: See your WP query
    See exactly what query WordPress is running. Great for debugging WordPress query problems in your code.
  • Theme Check: See how messed up your theme is
    Checks your theme for anomalies.
  • P3 Plugin Profiler: See which plugins are bogging down your site
    Is your site loading too slowly?  Wondering how much each plugin contributes to the load time?  This plugin will give you a nice pie chart of exactly how much time each plugin adds. You can uninstall it when you’re done.
  • Query Monitor
    Similar to Debug This, but this has more emphasis on the WP queries on your site. Very useful.
  • Server IP & Memory Usage Display: Find out your memory usage
    Displays how much RAM  your site is using, along with PHP and WP limits. Very useful!
  • What the File: Find out which template file is being used
    Besides having the best name for a plugin ever, it’s a great diagnostic tool.  Tells you which theme files are being used by any WordPress page so you can figure out which you want to tweak.  Invaluable if you are doing template development or debugging!

Best Divi Builder Plugins

These plugins work great with the Divi Theme or Divi Builder Plugin.

  • Divi Bars
    This is not a free plugin, but it’s useful for adding a thin slide-in bar along the top or bottom of your site for announcements, etc. That is requested so often by clients that I bought a lifetime license for this.
  • Simple Divi Shortcode: Place any Divi element inside another!
    This great plugin allows you to instantiate any item from your Divi library using a shortcode. I use it to place Divi elements inside of other Divi elements such as accordions or tabs.

Best Editor Plugins

  • Confirm Publishing Actions:
    Have you ever accidentally clicked “Publish” when trying to save an unfinished post, inadvertently emailing hundreds (or thousands) of Jetpack subscribers your half-done article? This plugin adds a popup confirm box when you try to update or publish a page or post. It saved my ass while writing this very blog post in fact.
  • Disable Visual Editor WYSIWYG: Protect a page or post from getting clobbered
    The WordPress Visual Editor has a way of screwing up JavaScript and even some HTML (especially blank space). Use this to disable the Visual Editor tab on any pages or posts that you specify, so that they can only be edited in the more benign Text mode.  Easy to undo per page if you need to.
  • Re-Add Text Underline and Justify
    The folks at WordPress inexplicably removed the underline and text-justify buttons from the editor in version 4.7. This plugin simply gets it back. It has no parameters and no fuss.

Best E-Commerce Plugins

Note, I now recommend Shopify for all of my clients who want to get into e-commerce. But, if you really want to use WordPress…

  • Easy Digital Downloads
    If you want a simple solution for selling digital content from your website, look no further.
  • WooCommerce
    The de-facto standard WordPress e-commerce plugin. Tons of features and options through plugins. Very configurable through the use of actions and filters.  Kind of a steep learning curve though, and takes a web developer to do updates. Not recommended for beginners (use a service like Shopify instead). If you do want to use Woo, I recommend the Storefront WP theme.
  • Custom Product Tabs for WooCommerce
    Add new tabs to your WooCommerce product pages! This is cool because you can create “global” tabs that you re-use on multiple products or tabs for specific products.
  • WooCommerce PDF Invoices & Packing Slips
    Does just what the title says. Has just the right number of customization options.
  • WordPress Simple Paypal Shopping Cart
    If you don’t want to deal with the complexity of WooCommerce, and only have a few things to sell, this is a good choice. You can set up a store in minutes. It can handle physical or digital products.

Best Events Management / Calendar Plugins

  • Events Made Easy: Set up a complete events management website
    A very powerful events management plugin with lots of customization possibilities. Takes some time to learn, but it’s worth it if you do events sites.  Does not require user login for people to sign up for events – just name and email address. This is my favorite events management plugin. I’ve never had to use a different one.

Best Feature Solutions

  • Accordion Shortcodes
    If you need accordions on your site, this lightweight plugin provides a simple shortcode solution with no CSS styling so you can make them look like whatever you want. Accordion sections can default open or closed.
  • Another WordPress Classifieds Plugin
    Great solution if you want to set up a classified ad section on your site.
  • Category Posts in Custom Menus
    In your category menu items, this allows you to have a dropdown menu with a preset number of posts from that category, automatically updated when you add more posts! This is one of those features that I think should have been built into WordPress core.
  • Draw Attention
    This is an awesome plugin ideal for creating floorplans and photos with interactive hover effects. You literally draw the hover areas which can trigger content in a sidebar. Think, shopping mall floor plan.
  • Jetpack: Add the kitchen sink
    Most people either love or hate Jetpack. I have mixed feelings. It offers a painless way for people to subscribe to your blog, some nice on-site analytics, a great photo gallery, and useful Widgets.  Just be sure to deactivate everything you’re not using, because Jetpack can really bloat your site.
  • TablePress
    An easy way to insert user-updatable tables in your content!
  • WordPress Book List
    Wow, if you need to display a set of books that you are recommending, or that you want to boast about reading, this is the plugin to do it. Simply copy the books’ ISDN numbers from Amazon, and it will import the cover image, description, author, and a whole lot of other stuff you probably don’t need. Amazing!
  • WP Display Files Pro
    This is the perfect plugin if you want to display a directory tree from Dropbox (or other supported service) on a WordPress page. Click on any file to download. $29.
  • WP Sticky Sidebar
    Works great to make your sidebar “sticky” as the user scrolls down!
  • WP Tiles
    If you want tiled images in your posts without Jetpack, check out this plugin!

Best Form Plugins

  • Contact Form 7: The classic lightweight contact form plugin
    This is a super popular clean and simple lightweight contact form plugin, but it’s for coders only. Editing requires messing with HTML and CSS in most cases. For database storage of submitted forms, I use Contact Form 7 Database Addon. There is built-in support for reCAPTCHA V3, but it doesn’t work in all cases for some reason. Instead, you can use the Advanced NoCaptcha ReCaptcha plugin to add reCAPTCHA V2 and it works like a charm.
  • Ninja Forms
    Ninja Forms is much easier to use than CF7. It’s all drag and drop. Note, be sure to adjust the “From” email address to match your site’s domain or else emails sent might be held in spam filters. Storing of email in the database is included. Note recent comments indicate there may be some problems with the latest version, so check on that before using.
  • WP Fluent Forms
    This is a newer form plugin but has amazing reviews on its WordPress page as well as on various Facebook Groups. Full-featured drag-and-drop form creation with tons of third-party integration (in the paid version). Will even support multi-page forms. Has full analytics and storing of submissions.

Best Forum / Question-and-Answer Plugins

  • DW Question & Answer
    OK, I have not used this personally, but it has good reviews and looks good. Enables you to set up your own version of Quora or Stack Overflow. Best of all, it’s FREE.
  • CM Answers
    Another Q/A plugin which I have used. It’s good but requires a good deal of setup and CSS to make it look good.  There is a pro version which you might need to buy to get the features you need.

Best Front-End User Upload Plugin

  • User Submitted Posts
    This plugin gives you a shortcode which generates a front-end form that allows people to upload posts with title, content, and featured image (among other things). Don’t worry, the post will be uploaded in a Pending status so it won’t appear immediately in the front end.

Best Gutenberg Plugins

  • Accordion Blocks
    Adds the much-needed accordion block to Gutenberg. You need to style it yourself using your own style sheet, but it’s lightweight and just works.
  • Lazy Blocks
    This plugin allows you to easily create Gutenberg blocks with just a little bit of coding to render the output. It even supports repeaters and WYSIWYG editors! Fantastic!

Best Custom Post Type / Custom Field Plugins

  • Advanced Custom Fields: Add custom fields to Pages and Posts
    One of the most commonly-used plugins to customize WordPress sites.  Lets you add custom fields to pages and posts. Often used together with the next plugin, Custom Post Type UI. The free version is very usable but there’s a paid pro version that adds some cool features like repeater fields.
  • Bulk Move
    Moves posts from one taxonomy to another.
  • Custom Post Type UICreate custom Post types
    Great for creating custom post types and taxonomies to use in your own theme or plugins. In the latest version, they revamped the UI which made it more cumbersome to use, but it’s still worthwhile. It even generates code that you can paste into your theme or plugin, allowing you to delete this plugin afterward, which is awesome. Works great with Advanced Custom Fields.
  • Pods – Custom Content Types and Fields
    This plugin combines the functionality of Advanced Custom Fields and Custom Post Type UI, allowing you to create custom post types and the fields that go with them (or with built-in post types). It can do some impressive stuff that Advanced Custom Fields can’t do.
  • Radio Buttons for Taxonomies
    If you would like to limit Categories or custom taxonomies to one per post, this plugin does it by changing the checkboxes to radio buttons. Simple and just works!
  • Taxonomy Switcher:
    Kind of a narrow use case, but came in really handy for me on a project. Allows you to switch a bunch of taxonomy terms from one taxonomy to another.

Best Cron Plugin

  • WP Crontrol
    I use this to run scripts at recurring intervals. You set up a WordPress action hook, and this executes it at your specified times.  Works great!

Best SMTP Email Plugins

  • Post SMTP Mailer/Email Log
    I haven’t tried this one myself but it has great reviews and is totally free. I’d like to try this the next time I need to set up emailing with Outlook, because I couldn’t get that to work with WP Mail SMTP below. This might become my new “go to” emailer.
  • WP Mail SMTP
    Web server email is usually not reliable. So, switch to this plugin, which utilizes the far more reliable SMTP service that many hosting providers give you for free. Requires a third-party SMTP email account. Note, I read that this doesn’t work with GoDaddy shared hosting unless you use their SMTP email. Note, this plugin requires the paid version if you want to use it with Outlook. But, I had a client who couldn’t get it to work. See Post SMTP Mailer/EMail Log above.

Best Audio Player Plugin

  • WonderPlugin WordPress HTML5 Audio Player
    This is a responsive HTML5 audio player that does a good job of displaying both single songs as well as albums. There are a variety of good skins to choose from. The free version has plenty of functionality. I was skeptical about this plugin at first because it’s not in the WordPress repository, but it’s been working great for me so far. I haven’t found another player that is as good at displaying albums/playlists.

Best Google Analytics Plugins

  • Google Analytics for WordPress
    This is a lightweight plugin that doesn’t track outgoing clicks, but it does simply add the Google Universal Analytics code and exclude admin visits.

Best Image Plugins

  • Imsanity
    I needed a simple plugin that would prevent clients from uploading huge images. Imsanity does the job. It also can re-size large images already uploaded.  This just works! It has a five star rating. Zip file size is 151kb compared to 7.64mb for EWWW, another popular image optimization plugin.
  • Regenerate Thumbnails
    Regenerates your image thumbnails according to the latest settings. You should do this every time you switch WP themes. In my case, I had a site which I switched to Divi. Divi couldn’t find it’s image sizes, so the full-sized images were served up. Regenerating thumbnails shaved off 2.7MB from the page size!

Best Mailchimp Form Plugin

  • Mailchimp for WordPress
    Create an API key in Mailchimp, enter it into this program, then start creating very usable Mailchimp signup forms in your WordPress admin. After form submission, site will redirect to a page of your choice.

Best Map Plugins

  • HTML5 Maps
    If you need a simple clickable map of the United States or other country without showing roads, this plugin is awesome. There are a variety of countries to choose from, or even individual states. If you pick the U.S. map, each state is clickable. You can define what happens on hover and click, and you can have tooltips, popups (with a free third-party plugin), link, or information appearing below or to the side of the map.  You can also define clickable points. If you need to define groups of states, get the premium version.
  • Leaflet Map
    If you need an alternative to Google maps showing pins, popups, roads, etc., look no further than Leaflet Map. Maps and pins are really easy to create using shortcodes. Use this whenever you can instead of Google Maps.
  • WP Google Maps
    WP Google Maps is great when you want to include a Google Map on your site showing pins or regions. The pro version allows users to get directions and has other features. This is probably the most popular Google Maps plugin, with over 400,000 downloads.

Best Mega Menu Plugin

  • Max Mega Menu
    Look no farther than this plugin if you need a mega menu on your site! It does what you need with accessibility support (unlike the native Oxygen Builder menus).

Best Mobile Detect Plugin

  • WP Mobile Detect
    I use responsive design, but there are cases where you can’t avoid having to detect whether your site is being displayed on a mobile device or not.  Unfortunately, this seems to be an abandoned plugin, so caution is advised.

Best Modal Popup Plugin

  • Popup Maker
    Whether you need a popup that happens automatically after page load, or upon button press, this is simply the best modal popup plugin that I’ve found. You can create popup themes to customize padding, shadow, background opacity, and many other parameters. You can put any content in the popup that would normally go in a WordPress page or post.  They just did this one right!

Best Multilingual Plugin

  • WPML
    This is one of the few plugins on this page that I have not tested myself, but I have it here because so many folks on the forums have endorsed it. It’s also not free, but it’s affordable for what it does.

Best Multisite Plugins

Note, I no longer recommend WordPress Multisite except for some very specific use-cases. Read why here.

  • BackWPUP Free: Back-up your WordPress multisite
    This is one of the few free backup plugins that works with multisite. I just started using it and I like it! It allows scheduling of backups to a folder or different storage services. If this works well, I might start using it on my regular WP sites!
  • Multisite Plugin Manager: Show or hide plugins from local admins
    If you go to your Network Admin -> Settings -> Network Settings and scroll to the bottom, you can turn on or off visibility of plugins to the child sites. But what if you some plugins visible to local admins and others not? Use Multisite Plugin Manager to do this.
  • NS Cloner: Replicate a multisite child site on your network
    This is a wonderful tool to copy a Multisite network sub-site.  Great for replicating sites on your Multisite network.
  • Unfiltered MU: Allow multisite Admins to add HTML tags to admin fields
    I discovered that WordPress filters out HTML tags for Multisite regular Admins (but not Super Admins). This is annoying and prevents regular admins from adding Google Analytics code, for example, to a theme’s admin field. This plugin undoes that “feature”. This is pretty much needed on every Multisite install.

Best Pagination Plugins

Most WordPress themes do not have page numbering on your archive pages by default (they usually just have “previous” and “next” links). These plugins add more fancy page numbering and navigation. But they do require template modification!

  • WP-PageNavi
    Adds pagination navigation controls to your post archive pages. Very customizable and easy to use as long as you know how to modify your template files.
  • WP-Paginate
    Also adds page navigation. Also requires template modification. A bit simpler appearance out of the box. (Note, for custom queries, your query variable must be named $wp_query).

Best Poll / Questionaire Plugins

  • WP Polls
    This is a good free plugin for generating a single poll question at a time. It’s not so great if you need lots of questions.

Best Post Plugins

  • Yoast Duplicate Post
    Great if you need to make copies of pages, posts, or even custom post types (when set up to allow that). Will even copy custom fields! Another plugin that does this well is Post Duplicator. Jetpack also has this functionality built-in.
  • Page Links To
    Oh man, I wish I had known about this plugin before. Basically, in any listing (archive) view, it replaces a link to the Post or Page (or custom post type) with an alternate link that you can specify. This is great for portfolio pages where you want the project images to link to an external URL, not a page on your own site! (Note that Yoast SEO has this functionality built-in).
  • Post Types Order
    This plugin adds a cool drag-and-drop interface to the admin to order your Posts any way you want. It also works with custom post types, which can be very cool!
  • Post Type Switcher
    This is a handy little plugin that switches post types, whether it is a custom post type, post, or page to anything else. One cool feature is the bulk switcher that lets you switch a whole page of posts.
  • Secondary Title
    It’s good practice to have a subtitle for your posts and pages. This plugin adds a new subtitle field for just that purpose.

Best Privacy Plugin

  • Cookie Notice for GDPR & CCPA
    There are so many bad cookie consent WordPress plugins out there. This one has a five-star rating, is updated regularly, and has over a million installs. The look is clean and sleek, right out of the box. This is the one you need. Oh, and it’s FREE!
  • Ultimate GDPR Compliance Toolkit for WordPress
    This is a paid plugin, but for only $19, it’s a really comprehensive GDPR solution, especially when it comes to managing cookies.

Best Redirection Plugin

  • Redirection
    A better way to redirect URLs is to do it in your .htaccess file (even better is to do it in your hosts file, but you might not have access to that).  I like Redirection because it allows me to set up my redirects, then export code which I put into my .htaccess file.  I then deactivate Redirection because doing redirects in a plugin can slow down your site, and if you’re not careful the logs can bloat your database.

Best RSS Feed Plugins

RSS isn’t dead!  If you want to show a feed from several other sites on your site, RSS is the way to go.

  • Featured Image in RSS Feed
    Adds the featured image to your RSS feed. Or, if you’re comfortable adding a bit of code to your theme, use this solution.
  • FEEDZY RSS Feeds Lite
    This is the best way I’ve found to add a blog feed from another site to your site. Supports caching. Free version supports images too!

Best Search Plugins

  • Better Search
    One reviewer said this plugin should be standard for all WordPress installs. It’s a lightweight plugin that just gives better search results and control. Plus, it logs searches so you know what your users are looking for. If you think people will be doing searches on your site, you need this plugin’s functionality at a minimum.
  • Relevanssi
    This enhances the WP search in many ways including fuzzy matching, weighting, boolean logic, searching custom fields, and others. Many say this is the best search plugin. One nice thing is that it shows the search term highlighted in the search result excerpt. However, this is a heavy-duty plugin and there is some setup and pre-caching required.
  • ACF: Better Search
    I used to use Search Everything to make sure searched looked in Advanced Custom Fields, but that is no longer supported.  ACF: Better Search works just as well and is supported!

Best Security Plugins

  • Advanced Automatic Updates: Stay ahead of hackers
    Update your WP core and/or plugins automatically. Sends you an email when updates are done. Not suitable for all sites, because a plugin update could break your site, but I use this on all of my non-critical blogs to save me a ton of time and keep them secure.
  • Disable REST API
    Did you know that your WordPress site’s REST API is enabled for anyone to use? That means someone can easily download all of your posts with a simple script (I know, I wrote one). I use this on all of my blogs
  • Disable XML-RPCProtect your site from DDoS attacks
    XML-RPC is a fairly useless feature for WordPress (remote publishing anyone?) The one thing it is good at is attracting DDoS attacks on your site. This plugin disables xmlrpc.php by adding code to your .htaccess file.  One of my clients has a high-traffic site which was attacked about once a month.  This stopped it. Note that disabling this will prevent the Jetpack Publicize module and probably other modules from working. Note that WordFence now has this functionality.
  • Minimal Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode
    Puts put an “under construction”, “coming soon” or any message you want as your front page while you’re working on your site. Log in to bypass it.
  • Rename wp-login.php: Prevent brute-force login attacks
    Doesn’t literally rename the file, but does some tricks to redirect. Great for preventing brute-force attacks trying to log into your site. Also lets you rename /wp-admin.
  • WordFence: Protect your site from hackers
    I use this on ALL of my sites to protect against hackers. Does regular scans for malware and blocks known evil IP addresses. Just be sure to disable “live traffic logging” because it bloats your database faster than a bean-and-cheese burrito from Taco Bell. Note, this plugin is disallowed on WP Engine hosting for that and other reasons.

Best SEO Plugin

  • The SEO Framework
    Although Yoast reigns king, it has a huge codebase, gets updated too frequently, and has been documented to slow down sites. I’m experimenting with The SEO Framework because it claims to be lighter weight. The SEO Framework zip file is 350KB while Yoast’s is over ten times larger at 3.91MB. I like the UI better, and it’s overall less intrusive than Yoast. It’s got a five-star rating in the WordPress repo. One thing, though, is that if you want to eliminate the category base in your URLs, you’ll have to install a separate plugin to do that.  I like Remove Category URL.
  • Yoast SEO:
    This is the most popular SEO plugin and works well. Some have complained lately that Yoast SEO gets updated too often and is getting bloated with too many features that no one wants, however.

Best Session Management Plugin

One use of sessions in WordPress would be to authenticate users with a third party service or API. Here are a couple of plugins that will help by storing the session in the database instead of a file.

  • WordPress Native PHP Sessions
    Implements PHP’s native session handlers and stores sessions in the database. Note that I have not yet tried this plugin, but it has good reviews.
  • WP Session Manager (Github)
    This WordPress session management plugin is not in the WP repo, but in GitHub. It was used on a project that I worked on though.

Best SSL Plugin

  • Really Simple SSL
    After you get your SSL cert, install this plugin. It’s got great reviews and just works by modifying your .htaccess file.

Best Tab Plugin

  • Tabby Responsive Tabs
    If you need a really simple tab shortcode plugin, this one does the trick. It’s easy to use and lightweight. Plus, there are cats on the info page! Great unless you need to use the same tabs in multiple places on your site, in which case you should use a tab plugin that utilizes a custom post type for the tabs.

Best User Access Plugins

  • Members
    Creates a new “Roles” admin menu item under “Users” that allows you to edit the capabilities of all WordPress roles, and to create new ones with custom capabilities.
  • Unconfirmed
    Oh man, this plugin is a lifesaver if you’ve ever been in this situation: You’ve created a new user and had the site email them their password.  The problem is, they didn’t receive the email. Now you’re stuck. Their account isn’t activated so you can’t reset their password.  You can’t even delete their account.  You have to wait a few DAYS to try again.  This plugin lets you see all unconfirmed users and manually confirm them, so you can re-send the email or create a new password for them. Invaluable!
  • User Access Manager
    This is a more advanced user access plugin for when you need the big guns.  This allows you to put users and any post type or page in groups. Then, only people in those groups can edit that content. Can also limit visibility on the front-end as well. It’s kind of tricky to set up due to minimal documentation, but if you fiddle with the settings (a lot) it will do what it claims. I haven’t found a comparable free plugin that does this.
  • User Role Editor
    Pretty much required if you use Ultimate Member on Multisite and want local admins to be able to approve or edit users. Also great for creating new user roles with specific limited capabilities.

Best User / Membership Plugins

  • Custom User Profile Photo
    Your user photo comes from your Gravatar profile, which you may not want for all of your sites. This plugin lets you customize your user photo.
  • Export Users to CSV
    Exports your users to a CSV file. Note, you may have to adjust your php.ini settings to allow greater export file size.
  • Import Users from CSV
    This plugin works great for importing members in a CSV file. Works great with Ultimate Member.
  • Ultimate Member
    This is a very popular membership plugin that has tons of features. Pretty flexible with some learning curve. Good plugin, but updates tend to break things, so beware.

Best Social Media Plugins

  • Scriptless Social Sharing
    This is a super lightweight and simple plugin for displaying the major social network sharing buttons. It just works with no hassles! However, note that it won’t show sharing buttons on archive pages, and it doesn’t show share counts.
  • Simple Social Icons
    Jetpack has a social icon widget, but if you’re not using that, this is a simple plugin to display links to your social network pages.
  • Spotlight Social Photo Feeds
    This is a shiny new plugin for displaying Instagram images on your site. Very easy to use and looks great on the front end!

Best Weather Widget

  • wp-forecast
    This is the best weather widget I’ve found. Unlike a lot of the others, it doesn’t require obtaining an API key to use. It is super configurable with lots of options. And it’s accurate (one other I tried wasn’t). The only slight downside is that it requires CSS styling, but that is kind of an advantage if you’re a developer (not so good if you’re not).

Well, I hope this list was useful to you.  For more lists of great plugins, check out WP Site Care’s list of best plugins and WP Review’s Top 30 Best Plugins. What are your favorite WordPress plugins?  Please leave a comment below! – Brian

9 thoughts on “My Most Useful WordPress Plugins (My “Cheat Sheet”)

  1. Thanks for this guide. it is more informative about best-wordpress-plugins..you clear User Access Plugins, Best Social Media Plugins also, if you clear SSL Plugin, I would be helpful to you.
    The recommendation is particularly helpful.

  2. Maybe you can help me figure out how to add the UserWay widget to GoDaddy. The menu won’t work because GoDaddy wraps the embed code script inside an iFrame, which breaks the widget. UserWay says there has to be a way around it, but GoDaddy says it has to be an html??

  3. great list but i would like it if you could add Backup&restore dropbox-https://wordpress.org/plugins/dropbox-backup/.i can assure you that it is the best and most reliable of all backup plugins

  4. I just want to say that I like your posting. In fact I am using your site regularly. Your articles are very effective and i am very thankful to you for sharing this site with knowledgeable content .

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