With tens of thousands of WordPress plugins available, finding the ones you need can be a challenge to say the least. When we were putting together the list of what we think are the top WordPress plugins, we took many things into consideration. We wanted to create a comprehensive list that includes everything from the best plugins that enhance design flexibility, improve a website’s page speed and performance score, help with SEO, GDPR compliance and plugins that add other useful functionality.
The end result is that we created a well rounded list of the top WordPress plugins for 2018 (most of which will be useful for years to come) that cover a ton of web design needs. The plugins on this list will make it easier for you to design gorgeous websites, create just about any type of advanced functionality (without the need to be a programmer), build a mailing list, sell online products, have a lightening quick website and a whole lot more. These are the plugins that we use day in and day out when creating websites for our clients and we’re excited to share our list with you!
Here’s our list of the top WordPress plugins
The Beaver Builder Pro plugin adds page builder functionality to WP pages. It comes as part of the Beaver Builder theme but can also be used with other themes. For example if you use Genesis with the Dynamik Website Builder but also want more design flexibility that page builders provide, installing the Beaver Builder pro plugin will give you the design freedom you are looking for.
This plugin is jam packed with all sorts of design features. It has an easy to use drag and drop interface that gives you complete design control over the content area of your website’s pages. It also has tons of modules ranging from accordion tabs, content sliders, pricing tables, call to actions, subscribe forms and a ton more. On top of that, while you can most certainly design all of your pages from scratch, the Beaver Builder Pro plugin comes with almost 30 professionally designed home page templates and over 20 content page templates, all of which can easily be customized. This is really helpful if you are a new to web design or even if your a seasoned web designer who’s having a day where the creative juices just aren’t flowing (we all have those days).
One last comment about the Beaver Builder Pro plugin. Before Beaver Builder I used to be a die hard user of Visual Composer. But after test driving this plugin I was hooked and never looked back! So it’s safe to say that out of all of the plugins that we included in this list of top WordPress plugins, because of the design flexibility it provides, this one is by far my favorite!
By now you’re probably familiar with the term GDPR. But in case you’re not, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a new EU law that focuses on protecting the personal data and privacy of citizens of the EU. Even if your company isn’t based in the EU, there’s a good chance that you still need to take measures to make sure that your site is GDPR compliant. If you’re unsure whether or not this impacts you or are unclear about what GDPR entails, I recommend checking out this GDPR article published by Forbes.
So how do you make sure that your site GDPR compliant? The simplest way is to use the Ultimate GDPR plugin. This plugin meets all of the GDPR requirements. It includes features like data access which allows users to access their personal data that is stored on a site. It also includes the “Right to be Forgotten.” Under GDPR requirements users have the right to be forgotten which allows them to request that a website deletes any of their personal stored data. It also includes features such as cookie consents and integration with Google Analtyics. So while you can manually take steps to make your site GDPR compliant, Ultimate GDPR takes out all of the guesswork and will make your life much easier.
WP Triggers is so versatile that it’s hard to describe everything that it can do. It’s a database driven plugin that gives you the ability to display different information based off of a certain interaction made by a website visitor. Think of it as if the visitor does action A, you can have WP Triggers set to show them result B.
Here’s just one example of when this kind of functionality comes in handy:
Zip Code Search:
Let’s say you offer a service such as house cleaning, furniture delivery, food delivery, etc. To avoid a situation where someone outside of your delivery radius places an order for your service, you can easily set up a zip code search box using WP Triggers.
Before anyone can place an order for your service they’d first have to enter their zip code into the trigger box. If they’re within your service area you can set it to automatically redirect them to a page to request your services. But if they’re outside of the area that you service, you can set it to automatically redirect them to a page that says something like “Sorry we currently do not service your zip code.” Which will save you from the aggravation of having to contact the person who requested service to tell them that you can’t help them.
Here’s a few more examples of how you can use WP Triggers.
This plugin is a huge time saver! You’re probably aware by now that Google is pushing for all sites to have a valid SSL certificate. However, while getting a SSL certificate installed on a site isn’t all that difficult, getting the green padlock to display can be a bit tricky.
Often when an SSL is installed the green padlock doesn’t automatically display. Instead you are left with a gray padlock that has a yellow triangle over it, indicating that there is “mixed content” on the page. As in some of it’s secure and some of it isn’t. While you could run the site through why no padlock and then manually fix the issues…there is a much better way. And that’s where Really Simple SSL comes in. It’s literally only takes 1 click and will automatically configure everything to be https friendly! It’s really that simple.
When it comes to making a site accessible for more visitors, this plugin is one of the top WordPress plugins to get the job done. SOGO Accessibility does a great job making a website more accessible for the visually impaired. It adds an accessibility button to the website (and provides options to choose where it displays). When the button is clicked on it displays a list of options to help make the site easier for people view. It gives the ability to enlarge the font size, change the site to black and white mode and has other settings such as contrasts white and contrast dark.
When it comes to creating advanced functionality for a website, while there are tons of WordPress plugins that add various types of functionality to a site, for the most part you have to work within the settings the plugin developer provides. So what do you do if you need to create custom functionality such as a database driven application, but have absolutely no idea how to write PHP statements and tie them into a MySQL database? The answer is…you get Toolset!
Toolset is actually a group of related plugins created by “On The Go Systems” for creating database driven websites WITHOUT having to manually program them. Which means it gives you the freedom to custom create advanced functionality without needing to be a programmer…making the Toolset plugins some of the top WordPress plugins of all time!
With Toolset you’ll be able to take on bigger, more complex projects that you may have shied away from in the past. And guess what? Bigger, more complex projects equal more money making.
FYI…some examples of a database driven application include showing available properties in an apartment complex, a shopping directory, marking cool locations in your city on a map, an employee portal and a lot more.
Achieving an optimal page load speed is very important. There are several factors that contribute to how fast or slow a website loads. A couple of examples include properly compressing images and leveraging browser caching (further down the page, you’ll find two of the top WordPress plugins that will help you with both).
This plugin consists of basic and advanced settings. The basic settings provides three check boxes (one to optimize HTML, one to optimize the Java Script and one to optimize the CSS). Simply selecting these three options usually makes a significant improvement in the website’s performance score.
To see the full effect of Autoptimize, before you install it, first run a speed test of your site with something like Google’s page speed insights or Pingdom’s website speed test. From there install Autoptimize and simply check all three of the boxes that appear on the basic settings screen. Then rerun the site back through Google or Pingdom and you should see a significant improvement. If the score still isn’t quite where you want it, go back into the plugin settings and this time select the advanced settings. Here there are additional check boxes of settings that can be selected. Since no two sites are the same you’ll need to play with these settings a bit to see what works best for your site.
It’s predicted that within the next couple of years that around 80% of all web traffic will be from mobile devices. This is where Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project a.k.a. AMP comes in. It’s geared towards making web pages load almost instantly and provide visitors an overall better experience when viewing a website on their mobile device. However, without a good WordPress plugin, implementing AMP on a website can be challenging. Therefore it was important for us to include an AMP plugin in our list of the top WordPress plugins.
While there are several AMP plugins available, after testing several of them, Yoast SEO Glue AMP was the best (and it’s free too)! This plugin makes sure that the pages of your website contain the proper AMP code. It also integrates seamlessly with Yoast SEO and makes sure your meta data is properly implemented on your AMP pages. And not only does Yoast SEO Glue AMP get the job done, it’s easy to configure too!
Gravity Forms is the most robust WordPress form builder on the market. It has a simple to use, drag and drop interface that makes it easy to create simple contact forms within minutes. However, it’s not just a form builder for simple forms. You can also create multi page forms, forms that can perform calculations, forms that can process payments and just about any other kind of form you can imagine. It even provides the ability to create online polls, quizzes that provide a grade or score when they are completed and supports collecting online signatures.
There are also almost 40 addons that can be integrated with Gravity Forms which make it easy to expand and build upon it’s out of the box functionality. A few of my favorite addons are MailChimp, PayPal and Signatures.
Gravity Forms is a premium plugin with tiered paced pricing. It is $59 / year for a single site license (which only includes their basic addons) $159 / year for a license for 3 sites (which includes the basic and pro addons) and $259 / year for an unlimited developers license (which includes the basic, pro and elite addons). We use Gravity Forms on almost every single site that we create, so for us the unlimited developers license is the way to go.
Need help learning Gravity Forms? Get 3 FREE Gravity Form tutorials!
Having a recent backup of your website (or websites that you’re responsible for maintaining) is extremely important. That way should a site get hacked or something cause the site to break, you’ll always have a copy of it on hand that can be restored. Unless a website is hosted through a company like WP Engine (which automatically creates daily website backups which can be restored with with one click) you should have some sort of website backup system in place.
Backup Buddy makes it very easy to create both database and complete website backups. You can manually create a backup with one simple click or you can set a schedule and have the backups automatically created. You can also choose what you’d like to make a backup of such as the entire website, just the database, theme, plugins or media. It even allows multiple schedules to be set. For example you can set a schedule to have the database backed up daily and have a schedule set that creates a complete backup of your site weekly. For safe keeping you can have the backups automatically sent to a remote destination such as Amazon S3, Google Drive or DropBox.
Pro Tip: If you are responsible for creating backups and updating the plugins of your clients site, if you set up a backup schedule for each site using Backup Buddy and have it set to automatically go a remote destination and then also use the iThemes Sync plugin (listed below) it will literally only take you minutes to get all of your clients sites up to date.
Keeping the theme and plugins up to date on a WordPress website is a great way to earn recurring revenue. If you have multiple WP sites that you update, you need iThemes Sync! Instead of needing to login to each individual site and manually update everything that’s out of date, iThemes Sync allows you to login to a single dashboard and update all plugins (on multiple WP sites) with a single click, making it a major time saver! iThemes gives each account holder the ability to add 10 sites to their account for free. If you need to add more sites to your account they have 4 additional (premium plans) that range form $11 – $84 per month.
While you can create an image gallery in WordPress without any needing to install any plugins, there are many image gallery plugins available that are more visually pleasing and offer many more options than what a standard WordPress gallery does. One of the top WordPress plugins for creating image galleries is NextGen gallery.
There are a ton of amazing features that are included with this plugin. It includes an image resizer that allows you to specify a height and width that you’d like your images to be resized to. So if you upload any images that are larger than those dimensions it will automatically reduce the dimensions for you. It gives you the ability to add a meta title and alt tag to all of your images, making it SEO friendly. It has several different lightbox options to choose from and you can also have your galleries display in a slideshow. And to prevent someone from stealing any of your images, it makes it easy to apply a watermark to all of the images on your site.
If you’ve ever used and are a fan of the Ultimate for Visual Composer plugin, then you’ll really love Ultimate For Beaver Builder! This plugin was created by Brainstorm Force (which is the same company who created Ultimate For Visual Composer).
As mentioned above, out of all of the top WordPress plugins that made it to this list, Beaver Builder Pro is my favorite. But it’s also true that Ultimate Addons is right behind it.
Ultimate Addons includes over 100+ professionally designed templates that can easily be customized. It has over 45 amazing modules ranging from info circles, interactive banners, slide boxes, modal popups, flip boxes, advanced navigation menus and a ton more. It also makes it easy to create background gradients and even super simple to style forms that were built using Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7.
Ultimate For Beaver Builder seriously takes Beaver Builder Pro to a whole new level. Think of Beaver Builder and Ultimate Addons like Super Mario Brothers…Mario by himself is awesome but becomes even more awesome and powerful with fire power…and that’s what Ultimate Addons does to Beaver Builder Pro.
Beaver Themer is another one of the top WordPress plugins that we can’t live without! While page builders such as Beaver Builder Pro and Visual Composer give design freedom to the content area of pages and posts, Beaver Themer gives you the ability to add page builder functionality outside of just the content area. With Beaver Themer the sky is the limit! It gives full design control over parts of the of the site that typically have design limitations and can be trickier to design such as the header and footer. You can even create custom design layouts for Woo Commerce product pages.
It’s important to note that in order for Beaver Themer to work, the WordPress site needs to be using a theme that is compatible with Beaver Themer. The Beaver Builder Theme, Genesis, GeneratePress and Storefront theme from WooCommerce are fully compatible with Beaver Themer right out of the box. Beaver Themer requires the Beaver Builder Pro page builder plugin be installed as well.
EventOn is not your standard WordPress calendar plugin. If you own or manage a site for a company that has events on a regular basis, this is the plugin for you. Unlike standard calendar plugins that basically insert a calendar on the page and let you type out a text description of the event, EventOn includes many customizable options, making it much more visually interesting.
It is a premium plugin that includes features such as giving the event a featured image, an accordion to click to expand the full details of an event (which is useful for an event with a long description), directions to the event via Google Maps, the ability for a website visitor to import the event to their Google or iCal calendar and more.
Have events that need even more customizeable functionality? EventOn offers a bunch of premium addons to expand upon. The addons include functionality such as the ability for people to RSVP to events, create a slider of events, sell event tickets and more. See the full list of addons here.
It’s no secret that building a mailing list is a key part of staying engaged with both existing and potential customers which in turn can help increase your sales. MailChimp is the largest and one of the most popular marketing automation platforms (it’s also what we use for our mailing list). MailChimp offers a free account for the first 2000 subscribers and makes it very easy to create a campaign and design a newsletter template for your email blast.
The MailChimp for WordPress plugin can easily be integrated with several of the top WordPress plugins that are available to build forms. A few of the form plugins that it can be integrated with include Contact Form 7, Member Press and WP Forms. It’s also compatible with Gravity Forms. However, Gravity Forms has their own free MailChimp addon. So if that’s what you use to create forms, I’d recommend using the addon that Gravity Forms provides. But if you don’t use GF, the MailChimp for WordPress plugin is the way to go.
Two of the best preventative measures that you can take to keep a WordPress site secure is to update the installed WordPress plugins on a regular basis and install a security plugin. iThemes Security is a comprehensive security plugin that provides over 30 different settings that can be customizes to help keep your site secure. If you aren’t familiar with what each security setting does it can be a little daunting trying to figure out how to best configure the plugin. But one of the awesome things about this plugin is that it provides a one click button that will automatically apply some of the most important settings. Each option includes an enable / disable button, allowing you to easily pick and choose which options you want to configure.
This plugin provides protection from brute force attacks, automatically blocks an ip address that is conducting suspicious behavior, removes file writing permissions, allows you to change the default WP login url to something unique to your site and so much more.
Okay so…Tiny PNG isn’t a plugin. Technically there is an old, outdated, poorly rated Tiny PNG plugin but I don’t recommend using it. What I’m referring to is https://tinypng.com which is an online jpg and png image compressor. It even supports optimized animated pngs.
With their being such a heavy emphasis for the pages of a website to load quickly, it’s important to compress images before uploading them to the website. Tiny PNG does a great job reducing the file size of an image while maintaining the quality of it. As for the cost, it gives the ability to compress up to 20 images at a time for free. So even though it’s not technically a plugin we still included it on this list because it’s something we use everyday to help keep the pages of the WP sites that we create loading quickly.
WP Smush is an image compressor plugin. You might be wondering why I’m talking about another image compressor after I just said I recommend Tiny PNG to compress images. The reason is that WP Smush can compress files that have already been uploaded to your website (and TinyPNG can’t do that). This is handy if you forgot to compress the images before uploading them to the site or have a client who already has an existing website and asks if you can help make their website load faster.
Compressing the existing images is pretty easy. Once the plugin is installed it will let you know that you’re images need to be compressed. From there it’s as simple as clicking a “Bulk Smush” button and it will start compressing the images. There is free version of this plugin, but the downside is it will only compress 50 files at a time (so if there are a lot of images on the site you’ll be sitting there for awhile). Another downside of the free plugin is that it also compresses the images to roughly only 50% of what it’s capable of compressing them to. Once it has completed compressing all of the images it will display not only how much it reduced the file size of them but it will also display how much more it could have reduced them with the pro version of the plugin.
There are a couple other handy features this plugin includes such as the ability to have it automatically compress images when they are uploaded to the site. However, unless you have the pro version of this plugin, you’re better off using Tiny PNG as the free version of WP Smush won’t compress them as much as it could. The other feature that’s nice is that you can specify a max width and height for images. Anytime a new image is uploaded it will resize it to be within those dimensions.
So you’ve published an awesome blog post that people love! That’s awesome! However, you want to be sure that it’s not a “one and done” situation where someone reads the post and then leaves your site when they’re done reading it. To help prevent that scenario from happening you need to make sure that your site is displaying links to additional posts that you’ve written somewhere on the post that the person is actively reading. But you don’t want to display just any post. You want to be displaying posts that are related to what the post the person is reading.
While a reader is actively engaged in a post they find interesting, you want your to display additional posts that are about a similar topic. This increases the odds that when they’ve completed reading the post, they’ll be more likely to click on another post and stay on your site. Which is why you’ll want to install a related posts plugin on your site.
However, the problem with many related posts plugins is that most of them tend to randomly display posts regardless of topic. Which isn’t helpful. If I’m reading a post about the benefits of eating organic food but the site is displaying additional posts about “the best way to wash a car” or “how to paint a house” I’m probably not going to care. But if it’s displaying posts about “the 3 easiest vegetables to grow” or “how to remove pesticides from produce” because I’m already reading about the topic of organic food, it’s likely that I’ll go read those posts too.
One of top WordPress plugins for related posts is Yuzo, the best related post for WordPress. They refer to themselves as the best for good reason. Yuzo does a great job of displaying a list of posts that are actually related to the active post on the page. It gives tons of customization options, letting you specify how / where posts display at a very granular level. It also supports displaying a thumbnail image of the blog post, which is much more visually interesting (and more likely to convert) than just a plain text link.
When a page or post has a URL change, in order to preserve the established rankings you need to set up a redirect to the new URL and the Redirection plugin (which is free) makes it very easy to do that. It’s most commonly used for 301 (permanent) redirects but supports 302 and 307 redirects. It also will record anytime there is a 404 error. So if you accidentally forget to set up a redirect for a particular page, you’ll be able to quickly fix it and preserve the page rankings. Additionally, you can set conditional redirects based on a website visitor’s logged in status, the browser the site is being viewed in, cookies and even set redirects based off of a custom filter.
Meta Slider is a free, light weight slider plugin that packs a big punch. When it comes to slider plugins a lot of them can be complex and time consuming to set up. However, Meta Slider is easy to configure and create a responsive slider within minutes, making it one of the top WordPress plugins to create sliders.
It includes 4 different types of responsive sliders; Flex Slider 2, Responsive Slides, Coin Slider and Nivo Slider (the Nivo slider is my fav). Most of the sliders have multiple transition effects to choose from as well. In addition to the different types of sliders it also includes features such as a drag and drop interface (making it easy to order the slides), ability to make the slider full width or fixed width, the ability to add a meta descriptions to optimize each of the sliders and a whole lot more.
There is a premium version of this plugin that gives additional functionality such as html slides, YouTube and Vimeo slides, thumbnail navigation, video background, etc. Here’s a link to see the full list of premium features.
If you’re looking to add e-commerce functionality to your WordPress site, look no further than Woo Commerce. When it comes to high quality and near endless versatility, Woo Commerce is the way to go. It provides a solid e-commerce foundation that gives you the ability to build upon and customize it to your specific needs.
Whether you’re looking to sell one simple product like a coffee mug or have a giant online store that sells tons of products that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, textures, finishes, etc. and need to be able to offer a variety of shipping methods, process credit cards and get it all integrated into Quickbooks, Woo Commerce is by far the best choice. Even if you aren’t selling a physical product but instead sell digital products or are a company that offers services that are appointment based…it can all be done using WooCommerce. I could go on for another 12 paragraphs on many of the ways WooCommerce can be used…but I think you get the idea.
I should mention that the basic functionality that’s included in the WooCommerce plugin is free. And it includes a lot of great out of the box functionality such product variations (i.e. the ability for someone to order a product in a variety colors, sizes, etc), a variety of shipping options, the ability to add multiple images of each product, add product SKUs, process payments with PayPal and a whole lot more…making Woo Commerce the top WordPress plugin to create out of the box e-commerce functionality. To create some of the more robust e-commerce functionality that I mentioned above does require premium plugins (or what WooCommerce refers to as extensions).
Don’t forget if you are using a theme that supports Beaver Themer (mentioned above) it will give you much more design flexibility when creating your WooCommerce pages.
When it comes to SEO, Yoast SEO is by far one of the top WordPress plugins. It easy to optimize a website for search engines. It gives the ability to specify a keyword on each page / post of a site. Once you enter the keyword that you want to target for a particular page or post it will automatically provide a report of how well (or poorly) the content on the page has been optimized. Below is an example of what a sample Yoast report looks like.
Another extremely helpful feature of Yoast SEO is if in the Reading settings you have the “Discourage Search Engines From Viewing This Site” box checked, it will prominently display a warning message in the top of the admin area of the site. This is super beneficial, otherwise you could end up blocking search engines from your site without even realizing it.
This plugin allows you to create rich snippets of your content. Rich snippets are useful because they allow you to create a descriptive, visually interesting summary of your website’s content on a page by page basis. For example if you have written an article about a recipe, in addition to displaying a description in the search engine results you can also have it display a featured image of the recipe. By having an image display in the search engine results, it makes your post more eye catching and increases the likeliness that it will be clicked (and it can help you rank higher in the search engines as well). There are a variety of schema markups that can be created with this plugin such as reviews, event, people, products, recipes, videos and articles.
XML Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to see the entire structure of your website. Obviously you want to make sure that search engines can find all of the pages and posts on your site and XML sitemaps do a good job of making sure that your content can be found.
Google XML Sitemaps notifies all of the major search engines every time a new page or post is published. It also gives the ability to specify a how often you’d like search engines to crawl your site. For example you can request that it crawls posts weekly, the Home page monthly, etc.
To help keep the pages on a website loading at an optimal speed, it’s important to make sure your site has a caching system in place. Some hosting companies such as WP Engine and (somewhat recently) HostGator have built in caching that do a good job. However, if your hosting package does not include caching you should install a caching plugin.
When I’m in need of a caching plugin, WP Fastest Cache is my go to choice. It’s a relatively lightweight plugin that is easy to configure and has a positive impact on the page load speed. There are definitely more heavy duty caching plugins available but if you’re optimizing the file size of the images on your website and are have installed Autoptimize (featured above) WP Fastest Cache should do the trick.
And that wraps up our list of the top WordPress plugins for 2018!
If you think there’s a “must have” plugin that we didn’t include on this, let us know what it is and why you love it!
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