I've been using WordPress since 2004 (less than a year after it launched). I launched my own WordPress blog and wrote my very first blog post on Jan 24, 2005.
And in all those years of working with WordPress, developing WordPress plugins, building my own WordPress websites, and helping my clients build their own websites, I've found the following to be among *the very best* and "must have" WordPress plugins I use (or have used) - and highly recommend.
I've separated them loosely into multiple categories, like Making, Managing, Marketing and Monetizing. Most of these are best-of-breed plugins. But doesn't mean you should install all of them. In fact, trying to install a plugin just-because is a sure-fire way to make sure you never launch anything :-). So don't do that. Use them IF and ONLY IF you absolutely need to implement a specific feature.
And be sure to bookmark this page, as I add and remove plugins over time as plugins evolve.
Legend: * (f) Free * (p) Paid * (fr) Freemium (Free tier, Premium extras)
Thrive Architect & Shapeshift Theme (p): Thrive Architect is among the best visual page builders for WordPress that has a lot of templates, drag-and-drop editing, and more. They have a theme called Shapeshift that allows you to heavily customize your theme itself - so a theme builder for a theme.
PowerPress (f): The best plugin to create your own Podcast RSS feeds if you wish to control the feed from your own website.
WordFence (fr): The best WordPress security plugin. The first plugin I install on any new WordPress website I create.
Pretty Links Lite (fr): The best link-shortening, link-tracking, redirection plugin for creating shorter affiliate links, audio/video friendly links that are easier to mention on a podcast or video, instead of super-long and ugly links.
Duplicator (fr): Makes it really easy to migrate WordPress websites from one hosting account (or domain) to another. And also creates backups of your entire WordPress website, including the database, images, themes, plugins, etc. Plenty of third-party integrations for storing the backups on Dropbox, Google Drive, etc, and also in a folder on your own website (not recommended to have the files stored only on your own website because if there's a crash, you'll lose everything, including the backups. Honorable mention: Updraft Plus
Really Simple SSL (fr): Helps your entire website be secure. Your web host is the one that will provide you the SSL certificate, but this plugin makes sure any insecure URL's - like images, theme files, download files, etc are all force-redirected to SSL, so that you don't get any kind of "Mixed Content" error, which can sometimes cause your website or some of the pages to break, or not load at all.
Smush (fr): Optimize images, turn on lazy loading, resize, compress & improve your Google Page Speed
WP Super Cache (f): Fantastic content caching plugin, from the creators of WordPress. Converts all pages and posts into HTML files so that your website content can load really fast.
Redirection (f): There will be times when you have an old post or page that has gathered some Google-juice in the search rankings. And if you come up with a completely new and updated post, don't just delete the old post and waste all those incoming links it has collected. Instead, just redirect it to the new post, using this plugin.
Disabling File Uploads (f): This is not a plugin, but easily the most powerful security tip. Simply turn off file uploads on your website using the control panel or using the php.ini file in your website root. And no hacker can upload malicious files to your website and do any kind of harm to your website or data. Of course, you would have to briefly turn it off every time you wish to upload images or other assets to your WordPress Media folder, but that is a small price to pay for peace of mind knowing that your website is as secure as possible from malicious file uploads.
Head, Footer and Post Injections (f): Gives you a central location to insert various analytics code from Facebook, Google, Pinterest etc. If you usually put them inside your current theme's settings, and you change your theme at some point, you would normally lose all of those code and they would no longer load on any of your Posts or Pages. But because this plugin works independent of your theme, it will work with any theme you use on your website.
Coming Soon Page, Under Construction & Maintenance Mode (f): An awesome plugin that lets you lock down your WordPress website when you're performing maintenance on your website, like upgrading WordPress, or other themes or plugins. Very helpful even when switching to a new theme while you make sure everything looks and works right. You can customize the message to say "Coming Soon" or "Under Construction" (for new websites in development), or "We'll be right back in a couple of hours as we're upgrading our website" kind of message.
WP Log Viewer (f): This is primarily for WordPress plugin and theme developers, but can also be useful in seeing if any of the plugins or the theme you are using is creating any errors.
WP Mail SMTP (f): If you're on shared hosting, then email deliverability can be an issue at times - like emails sent by WordPress to the admin, to the users (forgot password), email alerts from plugins like WordFence, etc. That's when this plugin comes in handy to take the email sending part away from your host, and instead being able to use a third-party SMTP (email sending) service. So the emails are still initiated by WordPress, but sent via a third-party email provider. It's like using FedEx instead of a local courier service who hasn't been delivering your mail consistently.
Hide Admin Bar Based on User Roles: WordPress has this annoying feature where it shows an admin bar on your WordPress Pages and Posts, even to non-admin users who happen to be logged in to WordPress. It can be very confusing for regular users who know nothing about WordPress, to see a button at the top of all of your pages, click it, and then be taken to a weird-looking page (basically the WordPress admin backend with limited capabilities as a "subscriber"). This plugin lets you hide the admin bar on the front-end (on your pages and posts) for all users, for guest users, or based on roles.
MashShare (fr): Allows you to add social media sharing buttons and widgets to your content.
Ninja Forms (fr): A contact-us form that allows you to deeply customize the form fields, and also allows you to add a Captcha to the form to make sure only humans (and not bots) are submitting it.
Thrive Leads (p): Lead generation plugin that lets you design great-looking, high-conversion list signup forms with a powerful drag-and-drop editor to build your list and integrate the forms with a number of different email providers. Offers many ways to display the forms like popup boxes, sticky, in-line, 2-step etc.
Yoast SEO: Helps you with your search engine optimization (SEO). Customize your title, keywords, meta-tags, Google snippets, open graph tags, create XML sitemaps (to submit to Google Webmaster Tools), etc.
CoolCastPlayer.com (p): Lets you create a beautiful audio player for single audio files as well as for your podcast. I use it for my own podcast - see the podcast feed player at the top of my website). Also lets you create the player just once, and then embed it on any WordPress Page or Post (like you can see at the bottom of this post). You can even embed it on any WordPress website even if it's not even installed there).
Intagrate Lite: Turn your Instagram posts into actual blog posts, with all of the content and images stored right on your WordPress website. Fantastic plugin for repurposing content. Every time you post on Instagram, this plugin will create a post (you can set it to be in "Draft" mode) in your website, and will save the image locally to your WordPress Media section. You can then go in later and edit the title, tweak the content, and then hit publish. Allows you to create your personal or business blog fresh, without having to manually re-post the content.
Voice Recorder (p): Lets your audience leave you voicemail and voice recordings directly from your website, using a regular web browser, from any device - computer, phone or ipad. They don't have to install any software, download any apps or browser plugins. Stores the voice recordings as high-quality .wav files in your website, where you can listen to them and download from the WordPress admin section. Use it to get Questions about your Product or Service, questions you can use in your Podcast or YouTube show, for Q&A's for your Content Marketing or Online Courses, Answers for a Contest or Challenge you're running, to get Testimonials, Feedback, Engagement, and even Pre-Sales Queries.
FB Lead Machine (p): Lets you build an email list quickly and conveniently, using a Facebook sign-up process. So they don't have to enter their name or email - just click on a button, and sign up through Facebook's API's. You can use it to add people to your email list, integrates with a number of email providers, lets you unlock content on a page (like a coupon, or premium content), etc.
Smart Quiz Builder (p): Build a list, create engagement and excitement with surveys and quizzes. You can use it to create any type of quiz, like Personality Quizzes ("What Type of Entrepreneur Are You? What kind of Disney Princess are you?", Assessment Quizzes (multiple choice, yes/no and true/false answers), Scoring Quizzes (where the result is based on the total number of points they get - like with an actual test in your online academy.)
You can do surveys, with multiple choice, true/false, yes/no and fill-in-the-blank answers. You can personalize the results with their name, collect their email if you want to build a list, and the most amazing feature is Smart Branching, where at every step of the quiz, based on their answer, you can present them with a different path with different questions.
DigitalAccessPass.com (DAP) (p): Arguably the best WordPress Membership Plugin. Helps you secure and deliver WordPress content, drip content, offer the same content as part of different products and memberships, has a course management system, affiliate module, ability to drip/send email broadcasts and autoresponders, offer multi-tier commissions, custom commissions for partners, create free and paid products, add users manually, automatically create member-pages, user profile, user registration, put content behind a paywall, automated payment management, content access management depending on membership level, partial-content protection, sneak-peek, tag-based content protection, and so much more. No other plugin even comes close to offering the level of security, delivery options, customizability, power, features and scalability, and integrations with a number of third-party systems from Zapier to email services like Aweber, ConvertKit, etc - like DigitalAccessPass.com can.
SmartPayCart.com (p): Powerful & easy-to-use Shopping Cart platform for WordPress. Drag & drop checkout page builder, order bumps, multiple payment plans, 1-click & member's area upsells, visual funnel builder, one-off & subscription products, pre-applied coupons, order receipts, dunning management, full tracking & reporting. Supports PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.net. EU VAT / GST Calculations, Physical Products with Flat Shipping Rate, Smart Tags to integrate with third-party services like Drip, ConvertKit & ActiveCampaign, tracking cart abandonment, etc.
S3MediaVault.com (p): Amazon S3 Video & Audio Player and Content Security for WordPress. Protect and Securely Embed Video, Audio, PDF, and other media from Amazon S3 into your website. Supports both S3 & CloudFront. Create single Video and Audio players, Secure download links for all media, Video & Audio Playlists, impossible-to-download Video & Audio Streaming (if you need that extra security where not even your paying members should download your content), support for Captions, In-Video Ads, Transcriptions, Watermarks and Logo display in videos, pause video at cue-point to show a call-to-action, clickable timestamps to help your viewers skip to certain sections of the video, fully customizable video player, Adaptive Streaming that streams the video at the most optimal quality suitable for your viewer's internet speed, allows them to change the resolution higher or lower (like YouTube), and more.
Woo Commerce: eCommerce plugin for WordPress, especially useful for physical products. Core product is free, but has a number of free and paid extensions. The best themes and extensions are paid, so the costs can add up over time. Plus if you are using multiple extensions from multiple vendors, there is no centralized support - you may have to contact multiple vendors if you need support, and it can get complicated when one vendor tells you that the issue is with another vendor's code. The best and most efficient option is to use Smart Pay Cart, of course 🙂
My Dream Team of Plugins
Here's the initial list of plugins that I first install, almost in this order, when I create a new membership site (all of them have been covered above).
- Really Simple SSL
- Yoast SEO
- Thrive Architect
- Disable File Uploads
Click here to check out the entire suite of tools and products I use in my business.
Did I miss any plugins? Let me know your favorite ones in the comments below (all the way at the bottom of this page)
Disclosure: A few of these are plugins are from my company, and some of the paid products may use referral links. If you click on them and go on to purchase any of the paid plugins, this website may be compensated. There's no additional cost to you if you use those links, but it does help support this website and our content creation team. We only promote products and services that we use, have used, and highly recommend - regardless of whether they're free or paid, and whether they offer a referral program or not. So please do your due diligence before using any of the recommended products, as we're not responsible for their quality, performance or support.
Check out my podcast SubscribeMe.fm below (feed powered by CoolCastPlayer.com)