We’ve built and/or managed over 300 WordPress sites sites since 2015, so we’ve decided to take a step back and look at the top wordpress plugins we use on an (almost) day-to-day basis. We’re picking one plugin for each category of what your site needs and our favorite plugin for that category:
WordPress is an amazing platform that powers over 30% of the web’s sites. One of the reasons WordPress has been so widely adopted, is due to the massive repository of plugins available for people to extend the functionality of their websites with.
We believe any WordPress website should check the following boxes and use the top wordpress plugins for each category, according to our humble list here 🙂
- Social Sharing
- Google Analytics
- User Profiles / Memberships
- Site Speed
- Newsletter Sign up and Email Marketing
OK, then let’s get right into our list of top wordpress plugins:
Our best pick: Caldera Forms.
Caldera forms is our favorite pick here. The main reason here is the amazing amount of functionality that comes with the free version, as well as the ease of use. You can do everything from conditional fields, multiple page forms, calculators and much more with the Free version. What’s more, Caldera has a library of add-ons and extensions that can integrate things like Payment gateways and other tools right into your form.
Reasons we like Caldera Forms:
- Extensive range of functionality with free Version.
- Ease of use.
- Saves entries, as well as emails them to your inbox.
- Can be extended with add-ons
Our best pick: DISQUS.
Disqus is our pick for the best comments plugin. Installing the plugin replaces the standard WordPress comments with Disqus. This not only provides a much better comments experience, it also filters out those annoying SPAM comments that many WordPress site owners are familiar with.
A Disqus account is required, which is free. You then link your Disqus account with the plugin when you install it. It’s up and running within minutes and offers a vastly better experience for comments that the standard WordPress comments.
Reasons we like Disqus:
- Better user experience for comments.
- Spam comments are taken care of as well.
- Disqus are always working on their product, so it improves over time.
- We’ve just found better engagement with Disqus comments.
Our best pick: Social Warfare.
Social Warfare has been exploding in popularity with it’s sleek design, ease of use and effective tracking. What’s more, the load time of your pages are not affected nearly as much as most other plugins, as the developer made the plugin super lightweight, whilst maintaining a slick design. This is one of those you need to try to appreciate 😉
Reasons we like Social Warfare:
- Sleek, clean design.
- Easy to install and set up on either all your pages, or just your blog posts.
- Reliable tracking of share counts.
- Flexibility on when to show share counts and which networks to share to.
Our best pick: WordFence.
Security is on everyone’s minds lately as it seems every other day some major brand name declares it’s been hacked. Makes you wonder: What chance does my small business stand against cyber attacks? Well, luckily there are developers who are dedicated to looking our for the little guy.
WordFence is one of those companies. WordFence is built specifically for WordPress and has impressive functionality included in the free version. It’s one of the top wordpress plugins in the area of security for a long list of features right out of the box. Here are some of them:
Reasons we like WordFence:
- Setting to block an IP after X amount of unsuccessful login attempts.
- Country and IP range blocking.
- Powerful Firewall.
- Block all traffic from certain referring websites.
- Customizable security “level” settings.
Our best pick: Yoast.
Yoast is the number 1 most downloaded (by far) SEO plugin in the world for a reason. It’s ease of use, with the traffic light system and impressive results are all people needed to make this one of the top wordpress plugins ever. Again having the free version come packing with most features you’ll probably ever need, Yoast is what we use for each and every one of the sites that needed to have an SEO plugin installed.
Reasons we like Yoast:
- Easy to understand instructions on every post on how to improve that page/post’s SEO
- Includes Readability checker as well.
- We’ve seen the best results from using this vs other SEO plugins.
- Again: It’s so easy 🙂
Our best pick: Monster Insights.
It’s essential to have Google Analytics installed on your website to see what is happening on it. But Google doesn’t make it super easy to install onto your site for non-techies. That’s where Monster insights comes in, it makes setting GA up on your site a breeze.
What makes Monster insights even better than the myriad of other GA plugins out there, is it’s WordPress dashboard views it generates from your analytics, the constantly improving product team and the way it guides even the most non-technical person through the set up process.
Reasons we like Monster Insights:
- Awesome product team.
- Set up is a breeze.
- Generates GA Report Views right in your WP Dashboard.
User Profiles / Memberships
Our best pick: Paid Memberships Pro.
It’s becoming increasingly popular and increasingly necessary for sites to have a “User Profile” or Member area, where users log in to view content specific to them. What used to be a nightmare to set up with developers and project managers is now made simple with PMPro.
Paid Memberships Pro can be used as either just a way for your website users to set up profiles for themselves, or it can also be used to give premium access to members that then pay a recurring subscription. This is a great way to monetize your website as well.
We’ve actually written a whole post on: Paid Memberships Sites: Why you want one and how to get started.
Reasons we like Paid Memberships Pro:
- Ability to set up either Free or Paid Profiles.
- Integration with many different payment gateways.
- Huge library of Add-Ons.
- Amazing Support Team (With Paid Version).
Site Speed: Caching and Smushing
OK, so we’re cheating a bit here by throwing two plugins into one category, but we feel that it’s necessary to have both these plugins to check the speed box. Or at least do the very minimum to improve your site’s speed:
Our best pick: WP Super Cache.
Server caching is where certain elements are stored as static objects to be reused as opposed to be called again and again every time the site loads on a users browser. This helps with site load times. While W3 Super Cache is one of the top wordpress plugins and frequently tops best caching lists, we prefer WP Super Cache just slightly over W3 🙂
Reasons we like WP Super Cache:
- Doesn’t cause saving issues when using Page Builders, as some other caching plugins do.
- Most noticeable immediate results.
Our best pick: WP Smush It.
Image size is one of largest contributing factors to page speed. What WP smush it does, is compress all the images on your site in bulk for you. While there is technically a drop in quality in the images to accommodate this, it’s so minor as not to be noticeable to the user.
Reasons we like WP Smush It:
- Smushes lots of images at once.
- No noticeable loss of image quality.
- Huge image file size differences.
Our best pick: Updraft Plus.
It’s essential that you do Daily Backups of your site in case of a disaster. Updraft Plus is our pick on our top wordpress plugins list because it just works and it also gives you a large selection of options for where to store your backups. FTP, Dropbox, Amazon S3 and many others.
Reasons we like Updraft plus:
- Works with many different storage options.
- Is reliable.
- That’s it, I mean if checks those two boxes what more do you need for backups, right? :).
Email Marketing Automation
Our best pick: ConvertKit.
ConvertKit is our pick for getting customers onto an email list. ConvertKit shies away from fancy email builders, in favor of more simple text emails. The flashy HTML emails that other providers try to one-up each other with are getting blocked by readers email providers, and don’t render in any case. ConvertKit rather decided to focus on making awesome automation building functionality available to it’s users at a fraction of the cost of what other automation builders such as Infusionsoft would cost.
It also has a WordPress plugin that makes it integrating into your site quick and easy.
Reasons we like ConvertKit:
- The Price – For marketing automation software it is dirt cheap.
- It’s user-friendly and easy to understand.
- Let’s you upload PDF and other lead magnet files to it’s site that it then sends to your opt-on subscribers.
- Amazing support team.
Bonus: Ecommerce Sites
Our best pick: Woocommerce.
OK, so this is only for those who are seeking to sell products on their site. Woocommerce is the undisputed best when it comes to creating an online store. We have an in-depth guide coming soon, check back here in October 2018 for an update 🙂
Check these boxes using this list of top wordpress plugins and your site is capable to grow with you as your business expands. If you need some more advice on exactly how to set up your site for business, feel free to Schedule a Free Call with us any time.