This is a tough post to write.
But the best all-around?
In order to give myself some direction, I’ve decided to focus mainly on plugins I use on this website.
The plugins listed below are all exceptional and frequently recommended throughout this site. They’re easy to use, customizable, and either affordable or completely free.
Best WordPress plugins
These plugins have outstanding ratings from their users and have been downloaded thousands (even millions) of times which makes them easy to recommend.
Here are the best overall plugins for WordPress websites.
WPForms is the perfect plugin for creating contact forms. There are no limits on how many forms you can create or how many entries the forms can handle.
The best feature included in this form plugin is the drag-and-drop form builder. Using this system, you can add fields and rearrange them however you want. This makes it easy to create the perfect form for whatever your needs are. Each field also has a variety of configuration options. For instance, the name field can be used to collect just the first name or first and last name.
When you create a form with WPForms, you can use a shortcode or the WPForms Gutenberg block to insert it into any post or page. With this system, you can reuse forms on multiple pages, update forms without editing posts, and swap out forms whenever you want. It’s a very flexible way to add forms to WordPress.
2. WP Rocket
If you want your website to load faster, WP Rocket should be at the center of your strategy. In my massive tutorial on every way to speed up WordPress, I consistently come back to this plugin due to its huge number of performance-boosting features.
The main feature included in WP Rocket is its high-speed caching system. Unlike other complex performance plugins, WP Rocket starts working the moment you install it. There’s absolutely nothing you need to do to configure it.
In addition to the caching, WP Rocket has file optimizations like HTML minification and CSS delivery optimization. There are also more advanced features like DNS pre-fetching and some simple options like disabling emoji support which can offer a small performance boost. WP Rocket is essentially a swiss army knife of performance optimization, and it’s a plugin I use on all my sites.
Every WordPress website should build an email list. With your email list, you can stay in touch with your readers so they keep coming back to read more. Sure, you can send promotional emails and notify them about sales, but the simple act of staying in touch will do wonders for the success of your website.
To build an email list, you need a plugin that can display optin forms throughout your site, and MailOptin is my favorite plugin for doing that. With MailOptin, you can display email signup forms in many different ways. There are popups and slide-ins and you can choose exactly which pages to display them on. There’s also a widget that can be added to any widget area, and shortcodes which let you add forms within posts and pages.
MailOptin has lots of pre-designed forms, but they only serve as a starting point. All of the text, images, and colors are completely customizable. On top of all that, MailOptin also includes split-testing which lets you steadily optimize and improve the performance of your email signup forms.
Elementor might be the most impressive plugin ever made. It’s a page builder plugin that allows you to create entirely custom page designs without writing a single line of code.
With Elementor, you can use the editor to add dozens of different types of widgets into posts and pages. Each widget you add is extremely customizable. You can change everything about it which is what makes Elementor so powerful. Adding these widgets into posts and pages is just the beginning.
What makes Elementor more useful is its ability to create entirely custom page templates. You can use the Elementor editor to make complete sales pages using only content created with Elementor. Better still, there are pre-designed pages sections and even entire pre-designed pages available. In other words, you can click a few buttons and insert a finished sales page into a blank template. Then all you need to do is swap out the text and images with your own.
Elementor is an awesome plugin and there’s really nothing else like it for building websites without code.
5. Yoast SEO
One of the best ways to get traffic to your website is to rank well for keywords in Google. The practice of optimizing your site to get traffic in this way is called Search Engine Optimization, or “SEO” for short. SEO is largely a matter of keyword research and content creation, but there are tools like Yoast SEO that can help.
What most people don’t know is that Yoast SEO makes a lot of changes to your site’s code automatically when you install it. Your site is better optimized for search traffic right away with this plugin. Furthermore, you can configure it to add important SEO changes like adding a sitemap, including Open Graph data for Facebook, and even adding automatic pagination links.
Yoast also has some add-ons for video and news websites which can enhance your listings in Google and lead to even more search traffic.
A lot of WordPress sites don’t make much use of the built-in search engine. Small blogs don’t really need it, and anyone who tries it out discovers the same thing: the WordPress search engine stinks!
The good news is that if you want to make use of search bars on your website, there are search plugins that can make dramatic improvements. The Relevanssi plugin, in particular, stands out because it’s extremely customizable and completely free.
By default, WordPress only checks a posts title and content for search keywords. With Relevanssi, you can also include the category name, tags, and custom fields to decide if a post is relevant to the search. Even better, you can assign a “weight” to each of these factors. For instance, you can give titles a higher weight than the content, so if someone searches for “marketing,” posts that have the word “marketing” in the title will show up before posts that only have the term in the content.
If you’re interested in getting search engine traffic, then you definitely want to install the Yoast SEO plugin already recommended in this post. Another plugin you can’t pass up is Schema.
The Schema plugin can automatically add structured data to each of your posts and pages that make it easier for search engines to understand. This data is adding according to the guidelines presented by the official Schema.org website and works with any SEO friendly WordPress theme.
The benefit of adding this data is that you can get your post’s publication dates into the Google search results pages, photographs from recipes, and ratings from reviews. Because this is so beneficial for your search rankings, most plugins that do this come with a high price tag, but the Schema plugin is totally free. That makes it a must-have plugin in my opinion.
The WP Rocket plugin mentioned earlier is fantastic for speeding up WordPress, but the one thing it doesn’t do is image optimization. Optimizing your images is hugely beneficial for performance, and Optimole is my favorite plugin for this feature.
Optimole is another plugin that starts working right away without needing any configuration. It optimizes your images in three different ways.
First, Optimole will run your images through a compression algorithm which will reduce their file size by about 50-70%. Next, it will lazy load the images so that visitors don’t have to wait and download them until they appear on the screen. The last thing Optimole will do is to automatically resize images based on the visitor’s screen size.
I used the ShortPixel plugin on this site for a long time and still think it’s great, but the auto-resizing feature in Optimole makes a big difference and requires no additional effort to implement which is why I switched plugins.
Every WordPress website should be tracking visits. Otherwise, you’ll have no clue how many people are visiting your website. Adding analytics is simple and the best analytics solution is Google Analytics. The one problem with Google Analytics is that it’s overwhelming for beginners, and that’s where MonsterInsights comes in.
MonsterInsights has a straightforward process for implementing Google Analytics on your site. You’ll have tracking installed in a matter of minutes, and you don’t need to work with the tracking code or any code at all. Even better, the implementation is quite customizable, so you can control how the tracking works.
For beginners, learning the Google Analytics dashboard can be overwhelming. That’s why MonsterInsights includes simplified reports right in the WordPress admin dashboard. This makes it easy to review how many visitors you’re getting every time you login to your site. And if you want the robust full reporting provided by Google Analytics, there’s nothing stopping you from logging into your account and running reports there too.
The funny thing about social sharing buttons is that people don’t click them very often. However, people are more likely to share your post when you add share buttons because seeing the buttons reminds them to share it. They’ll usually copy & paste the URL or share it some other way besides using the buttons.
The takeaway is that you don’t need some fancy, complex share button plugin to get more social traffic. Furthermore, social sharing plugins are notoriously bloated and can slow down your site a lot. That’s why I started using and recommending the Scriptless Social Sharing plugin.
Scriptless Social Sharing is a simple plugin for adding share buttons and loads extremely fast. You can add the buttons above or below your posts and choose from a handful of the most popular social networks. If you combine this with a sentence in your post directly asking people to share, you’ll get great results without the slow load times of more bloated plugins.
Which plugins are best for your site?
It’s hard to assemble a list of plugins that will help you the most without knowing your site’s goals.
That said, I can’t imagine a WordPress website being built without any of the plugins listed above. They’re all so incredibly useful and well-made.
If you found a new favorite in this collection of the best WordPress plugins, please share it with someone else before you go.
Thanks for reading!