Plugins can literally make or break a WordPress installation. Some, I use as the job demands. But others are on a list of must-have favorites that I install the moment I log in to a new WordPress dashboard.
I’m always on the lookout for new plugins — and ways to get rid of unnecessary ones. I run between 15 to 35 plugins per WordPress install, depending on the site. Yes, I think that less is more when it comes to plugins. But I’d rather recommend a plugin that won’t change with theme updates rather than suggest that too many people hack their functions.php file. (And the truth is, it’s not plugins slowly your site down, but poorly coded plugins.)
Here is the list of the plugins I install for my friends and clients. (Don’t miss my 5 minute guide to WordPress plugins that will help you navigate the options on this page!)
(Did you know? When you go to add new plugins in your WordPress dashboard, you can enter a username under “Favorites” and see anyone’s favorite plugins. My username is gretchenlouise. Find my ever-changing list of favorites–and the plugins I’m trying–on my WordPress.org profile.)
Lead Generation Solutions
- Thrive Leads: Thrive Leads is what I use on my sites. It’s easy to create beautiful optins with a drag and drop editor. It has great analytics. But the best thing of all is that it’s a one-time payment and lifetime updates.
- OptinCat (affiliate link): Their free plugin has great features (including a conversion graph on your WP dashboard), but upgrade for more options, especially with popups.
- OptinMonster (affiliate link): OptinMonster is pricey, but cream of the crop all-in-one optin solution. It’s always a pleasure to use.
- Social Warfare (affiliate link): Hands down, this is my favorite social sharing plugin. The free version is great, but the pro version gives you so many more options for making your posts shareable.
- Jetpack Sharing
- Scriptless Social Sharing
- Simple Share Buttons Adder
- Shared Counts: This plugin says it will restore your share counts from before your permalink changed to SSL. No other permalink changes are able to be restored, however.
- Tasty Pins (affiliate link)
- Frizzly: A free, on-hover image sharer.
- jQuery Pin It Button for Images: If for any reason Social Warfare’s on-hover Pin It button doesn’t work, try this one.
- Highlight and Share: Love this feature! Hope Social Warfare gets it soon.
- Simple Social Icons
- Jetpack Social Icons
Comments & Spam
- Akismet: It doesn’t quite catch it all alone, but it’s a good start at combating spam in WP.
- Comment Probation: Don’t necessarily want to give someone all commenting rights after approving one of their comments? Put them on probation.
- Comment Mail
- Yoast Comment Hacks: More options and cleaner notifications on the admin level.
WordPress Backup Solutions
- ManageWP (affiliate link)
- Jetpack Personal Plan with Backup Essentials (affiliate link)
- WP Rocket
- WP Fastest Cache
- Cache Enabler
Backups, Optimization, & Security
- Broken Link Checker
because otherwise I’d never notice
- Sucuri Security or Wordfence
site health updates, scans, and one-click security features
- Limit Login Attempts Reloaded or Loginizer
keep the hackers at bay by blocking their IP address after a specified number of failed login attempts, or install a complete firewall solution
- Move Login
- Stop XML-RPC Attack
- No Self Pings
get rid of the annoying pingbacks when you link to your own posts
- Redirection or Safe Redirect Manager
the quick, safe, and easy way to set up redirects (without having to hack htaccess)
SEO and Analytics
- WordPress SEO
set your default Facebook thumbnail, add custom text to your RSS feed, create a sitemap, and so much more — all in one plugin!
- Google Analytics for WordPress and Google Analytics Dashboard
easily install Google Analytics to your site, prevent Google from tracking visits by you and other site authors–and then put your Google Analytics stats right in your dashboard where you can keep an eye on them (see instructions & more from WPBeginner here)
- Ninja Forms (free) or Gravity Forms (pro–affiliate link)
add any number of highly customizable contact forms for your site
- Auto Post Thumbnail
automatically set the first uploaded image as the featured image thumbnail when you hit “publish” (can be problematic with custom post types like slides)
Plugins to Extend the Genesis Framework
- Genesis Simple Sidebars (or WooSidebars)
- Genesis Simple Menus
- Genesis Simple Hooks
- Genesis Simple Edits
- Genesis Widgetized Archive
- Genesis Sandbox Featured Content Widget
- Genesis Featured Page Advanced
- Genesis 404 Page
- Genesis Printstyle Plus
- Send Images to RSS
my dream suite of features for a custom RSS feed summary (read more here)
- Align RSS Images
makes your RSS images display in the same alignment as they do in your post (not necessary for custom feeds)
- Remove Amazon Links from RSS Feed: Did you know it’s illegal to have Amazon affiliate links in your RSS feed? If you’re publishing a full feed and using affiliate links, you need this plugin.
- Simple Feed Stats: If you don’t use a feed burner, this plugin will give you an idea of how many people are reading your RSS feed.
Related Posts Plugins
- Related Posts by Sovrn (formerly Zemanta)
- Jetpack Related Posts Module
- Beaver Builder (affiliate link)
drag and drop design for any theme (there’s a free version, too!)
- WP 101 (affiliate link)
brings WordPress tutorials right into your dashboard
- JetPack by WordPress.com
a host of features all in one plugin, including share buttons, a contact form, and related posts
- Editorial Calendar
if you schedule your posts in advance, this drag-and-drop plugin may be a lifesaver!
- Search Regex
change your site URL and need to change every image link? easy. want to eliminate your last name from your posts? simple.
- Widget Logic or Dynamic Widgets
define appearance of widgets based upon what pages, categories, etc. they should be in (WL allows you to write all the PHP rules yourself — DW gives you checkboxes for each page/category/etc.)
- Generate Post Thumbnails
if you began blogging in something other than WordPress, this plugin is invaluable for using thumbnails–it generates thumbnails from the first image to appear in the post, even if it’s on an external server!
- Import External Images or Media Tools or Blogger Image Import
handy for importing images into your Media Library when you move a site from Blogger or WordPress.com, but test first, because they don’t always work properly!
- Unattach and Re-attach Media Attachments
helpful tool at times!
- CodePress Admin Columns
eliminate all the extra columns that pugins like Yoast’s SEO plugin add to your post/pages views
- P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler)
find out which plugins are making your site load slowly
great tool for optimizing your database and removing post revisions from within the WordPress dashboard
- Maintenance Mode
for when I’m in the midst of a big site change
- MyBook Table
must-have plugin for authors
Plugins for Group/Contributor Blogs
- Draft Notifier
get an email when one of your contributors submits a draft for review
- Edit Flow
full of features for the flow of editing posts and providing editorial comments
redefine roles and capabilities of your site contributors (or keep your site hidden from anyone but logged in users when it’s in development)
- Public Post Preview
handy option to give guest posters a public preview link to see their post before it goes live
- WP Biographia or Fancier Author Box or Fanciest Author Box (paid plugin)
thank your writers with a beautiful bio and links to their social media profiles
- Author Avatars List
easily create a page showing all your site’s authors