One of the many things that make WordPress the most popular CMS in the world is the huge array of WordPress plugins that can be used to add just about any kind of functionality you can think of.
That’s great, but if you’re new to all this, the above statement probably raises more questions than it answers.
What is a WordPress plugin? How much do WordPress plugins cost? How do you use them? And which ones should you install?
It’s these questions and more that we’ll answer in this comprehensive WordPress plugins guide.
A WordPress plugin is just what it sounds like. It’s a tool that ‘plugs in’ to your WordPress website to improve how it functions and performs.
Once installed and activated on your website, the plug-in acts like a small computer program constantly running in the background of your site.
Search any good plugin directory, and you’ll find tools under a huge variety of categories, from plugins to transform WordPress into an online store to those designed to stop hackers from infiltrating your site.
There are three main reasons why plugins are such an important part of the WordPress experience.
On its own, WordPress is a tremendous tool for building a website.
It’s free, easy to use, and lightweight, but it’s also pretty basic.
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Even with the addition of the in-built Gutenberg editor, which lets you add elements such as buttons, tables, and HTML anchors, there’s little you can do with the core WordPress installation beyond creating posts and pages.
If you want to sell products, create a membership site, or encourage users to subscribe to your newsletter, you’re going to need plugins for all of that.
WordPress’ immense global popularity makes it a haven for hackers and cyber attacks of all types.
Whether it’s stealing valuable user data stored on your server or infecting your site with malware, these attacks could cripple your online presence, not to mention your business. This is why it’s so important to install WordPress security plugins like the ones we’ll look at later, ensuring that your site is as healthy and hack-proof as possible.
Elsewhere, you’ll find that every new image you upload, every blog post you publish, and every contact form submission you receive puts a drain on your server’s resources. This could slow your site down to the point that it provides a frustrating experience for your users.
For this reason, it’s equally as important to use at least one performance optimization plugin so that you can be sure your site loads quickly and performs at its best at all times.
At the end of the day, the most important reason why WordPress plugins are so essential is simply that they make life easier.
Suppose you’ve just installed a new WordPress theme, for example, and you want it to look exactly like the demo. In that case, it’s so much easier to install a demo import plugin to automate the process for you rather than trying to recreate it painstakingly from scratch.
If your site features an abundance of media files, you’ll probably find that having a top WordPress media library plugin makes it so much easier to find the file you’re looking for when working on your posts and pages.
While functionality, performance, security and easier website management may all be essentials no matter what your business, WordPress’ unrivaled flexibility and the sheer variety of plugins also allow you to turn this humble CMS into a veritable powerhouse capable of catapulting your business to the next level.
From monetizing your site through product sales, memberships, affiliate links, and display ads, to capturing leads, growing an email marketing list and more, you’ll find that no matter what your blog or website goals are, there’s a plugin out there to help you achieve it.
There are two quick and easy ways to install a WordPress plugin.
Directly from Your WordPress Dashboard
1. From your WordPress dashboard, select the Plugins option and then click ‘Add New.’
2. On the next screen, use the search box to the right to look for the plugin you need. If you know the name of the plugin, you can type it in here. Otherwise, use a few keywords such as ‘SEO,’ ‘contact form’ or ‘security’ to see a list of all the different options available.
3. Select the plugin you want and click ‘Install Now.’
4. When it’s finished installing, simply click ‘Activate,’ and the plugin will be ready to use.
Upload from Your Desktop
If you’ve downloaded a plugin directly from the developer’s website or a third-party plugin directly, such as ThemeForest, repeat Step 1 from above and go to plugins – add new.
1. Click ‘Upload Plugin.’
2. Click Choose file
3. Select the plugin from your computer, then click ‘Install Now.’
4. Once installed, click ‘Activate Plugin’ and you’re good to go.
Best WordPress SEO Plugins
Yoast SEO isn’t just one of the most popular SEO plugins on the market. With over 11 million active installations, it’s one of the most widely-used plugins of any type.
The reason why Yoast is so popular becomes obvious the moment you start using it. Simply put, it’s the easiest and most effective way to ensure your posts, pages, and products are fully search engine optimized.
Type in your keyword while starting a piece of content, and the plugin gives you a score that denotes how well optimized that content is. Not only that, but it also gives you feedback and suggestions on how to improve your score and updates that score in real-time.
If you’re serious about making sure your content gets found in organic search, this is one plugin that’s well worth considering.
- Scheme controls to enhance your search engine result listings
- Internal linking suggestions
- Real-time content optimization scores with improvement suggestions.
Yoast SEO is free to use, though an upgrade is available for $99 per year.
All-in-One SEO (AIOSEO) is frequently touted as the best Yoast alternative for quality WordPress SEO, and having used this one ourselves, we have to agree.
Along with helping you optimize posts and pages for standard keywords, AIOSEO features an incredibly useful Local SEO feature to help you boost your local ranking on Google maps and a special WooCommerce tool for optimizing product pages, categories, and more in a way that’s both efficient and effective.
- On-page SEO analysis
- SEO audit checklist for your entire site with suggestions on how to boost your overall site SEO score
- Rich snippets scheme.
Like many plugins, AIOSEO has a free version, but its features are pretty limited. To really make the most of this one, you’ll need to pay for one of four plans which range in price from $49.60 – $299.60 per year.
SEMRush Writing Assistant
SEMRush is a hugely successful SEO platform that helps users to find the best keywords to target with their web content.
Taking that one step further, the SEMRush Writing Assistant not only provides recommended keywords but also helps you to improve your writing so that it’s more friendly to both search engines and end users.
Though not the most feature-rich SEO plugin on the market, the lightweight nature ensures any impact on your site performance is negligible while still incorporating all the most important on-page SEO features.
- Readability score and improvement suggestions
- Tone of Voice checker
- Plagiarism checker.
The SEMRush Writing Assistant is available as a free download. To use it, you’ll need a SEMRush account which you can also get for free.
Three premium account options are also available, charged at $119.95, $229.95, and $449.95.
Best WordPress Performance Plugins
At its heart, WP Rocket is a powerful caching plugin that improves your site speeds by saving both a static version of your pages on your server and saving cached versions of site assets on your visitors’ browser.
Yet to only talk about the plugin’s excellent caching capabilities is to do WP Rocket a disservice.
Ultimately, this powerful all-in-one performance plugin can do everything from boosting above-the-fold loading times to optimizing database performance and more.
You can learn more about this one in our complete WP Rocket review, but for now, all we’ll say is that you want your site to perform at its best, but you don’t want to rely on several different plugins to make that happen, this comprehensive performance tool may be the one for you.
- Above-the-fold optimization
- Lazy loading
There isn’t a free version of WP Rocket. However, the plugin is available in three plans charged at $49, $99, and $249.
10Web Booster is one of the few WordPress performance plugins that optimize both the front end and back end of your site.
CSS and HTML minification, lazy loading, and other standard optimization features are all present and correct here and work together with the unique backend optimization tool to ensure your page gets a Google PageSpeed score of at least 90.
As you’ll read in our 10Web Booster review, the best part is that almost everything is automated. No technical know-how or coding expertise is required to help you deliver a better, faster user experience than your competitors.
- Automated frontend and backend optimization
- Use of Critical CSS
- Image, iFrame, and video lazyload.
10Web is an excellent free tool that allows you to optimize the front end of up to 10 website homepages and five other pages.
For backend optimization, you’ll need the Pro plan, which starts at just $10 per month.
W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is one of the most trusted and well-established caching plugins, boasting over a million active installations. This simple-yet-effective plugin is often a top choice among WordPress newcomers looking for a performance plugin that’s easy to use and free of charge but doesn’t compromise on essential optimization features.
- Caching of pages, posts, tags, comments, and other key assets
- Database caching
The free version of W3 Total Cache provides everything most users could need to improve their site performance. A premium version, W3 Total Cache Pro, is also available for $8.25, offering caching statistics, fragment caching, and full-site delivery.
Best WordPress Security Plugins
Malcare‘s biggest selling point is its exceptional malware detection and removal feature.
Once activated on your site, the advanced malware detector runs around the clock to identify even the most complex malware. As soon as such a threat is identified, you’ll be immediately notified and completely eliminate that malware from your site at the click of a button.
Combine this with a state-of-the-art smart firewall, and it’s no wonder thousands upon thousands of WordPress professionals make Malcare their go-to security plugin of choice.
- All functionality is provided by Malcare’s servers so that the plugin doesn’t slow your site down
- Brute-force attack prevention provided by the smart firewall
- One-click malware removal.
Malcare is available as a free plugin that offers basic malware scanning and firewall features. However, to make the most of this powerful site protector, you’ll need one of the premium plans, which run between $99 and $599 depending on your chosen license.
Proudly claiming over 3 million active installations, the plugin is best known for its advanced endpoint firewall, which hackers can’t bypass in the way that standard cloud-based firewalls can be.
While the firewall may be the big selling point, the addition of a 24/7 security scanner that looks not just for malware threats but also backdoor vulnerabilities, malicious redirects, and other security problems also proves invaluable for anyone who takes their site security seriously.
- Powerful firewall which protects your core, plugin, and theme files
- Enhanced login security
- Centralized security management dashboard.
Make no mistake about it; WordFence is one of the best free security tools out there, as both the endpoint firewall and malware scanner come as standard with no charge whatsoever.
If you want additional features such as real-time IP blacklisting and country blocking, you’ll upgrade to one of the premium plans, which starts at $99.
If the idea of managing your own WordPress security leaves you feeling a little intimidated, iThemes Security may be the one for you.
While you still get malware scanning, brute-force attack prevention, and a powerful two-factor authentication tool to prevent unauthorized access are all present and correct here, and it’s the beginner-friendly usability that’s the real jewel in iTheme Security’s crown.
All the tools and features are accessed via one highly-intuitive interface and are so easy to use that even first-time WordPress users will have no time getting to grips with it.
- Hide your WordPress login URL so that hackers can’t access it
- Database backups
- 24/7 scanning and threat removal.
Like WordFence, iThemes Security’s free plugin is great as it packs in no less than 30 different security features.
However, many of them come with certain restrictions, so if you want to lift those, you’ll need to pay for one of three premium plans which cost $80, $127, or $199, depending on how many sites you use on.
Best WordPress Page Builder Plugins
Elementor is the number one page builder for WordPress. With one plugin, you can design attractive, dynamic pages using a beginner-friendly drag-and-drop editor.
Combine this with hundreds of pre-made templates to simplify the process, and there’s no denying that Elementor is the easiest way to build a stunning WordPress site.
- Drag-and-drop editor
- 100+ pre-designed widgets
- Ecommerce tools and templates.
Elementor is available for free, though you’ll be able to access more widgets and templates if you upgrade to the Pro version for $49 per year.
Divi has earned its reputation as one of the best page builders around thanks to two things:
1. A lightweight theme that offers thousands of attractive template choices
2. An easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder that offers an abundance of different website elements.
Together, these two things have helped Divi become the trusted tool for over 1.5 million WordPress users.
- 200+ website elements
- Custom CSS control
- Responsive editing.
Divi is available as a package from Elegant Themes, which costs $89 per year and also includes access to other Elegant Themes plugins.
Formerly ‘WPBakery’ Visual Composer is one of the oldest page builder plugins around, having helped millions of WordPress users to create visually stunning websites with zero technical or design expertise.
Still, just because it’s been around the block a few times doesn’t mean it’s outdated. Visual Composer’s designs stand up against any contemporary website while its drag-and-drop capabilities are only a tad more difficult than Divi’s.
- Access to hundreds of content elements
- Pop-up builder
- Theme builder.
A free version of visual composer does exist, though it’s limited in features compared to the Pro version, which is available in a variety of plans ranging from $49 to $849.
Best WordPress Marketing Plugins
OptinMonster is the ultimate website marketing and monetization plugin.
The plugin offers 100+ attractive, conversion-optimized templates to help you grow your subscriber list, boost sales and generate leads through a range of interactive features.
From popups and floating bars to slide-ins and full-screen overlays, no plugin offers more options for grabbing your audience’s attention and nailing that conversion.
- Page-level targeting
- A/B testing
- Targeting based on user exit intent.
OptinMonster doesn’t offer a free version. Its plans range from $9 – $49 per month.
It’s no secret that analytics plays an integral role in the success of your marketing campaigns. The more data you have about what worked and what didn’t work last time, the better you’ll be able to fine-tune your next campaign for even better results.
This is where MonsterInsights comes into its own. The popular plugin takes your Google Analytics data and makes it easy to understand, arming you with all the information you need to grow your audience.
- Real-time analytics
- Measures over 100 data points
- Affiliate link and ads tracking.
MonsterInsights has a limited free version, but to get the full benefit, it’s worth upgrading to one of the premium plans, which cost between $99 – $399 per year.
Our favorite WordPress plugin for marketing automation, SendinBlue takes the hard work out of creating and managing an email subscription service from within WordPress.
As you may recall from our SendinBlue review, The drag-and-drop editor and variety of templates make it a breeze to design both sign-up forms and the emails themselves, while the automated behavior-based email triggers help you to run a successful campaign with minimal effort.
- Preview how your email messages look on multiple devices
- CSS editing capability
- Automatically trigger emails based on user behavior.
SendinBlue offers a free plan limited to 300 emails per day. If you need more than that, plans start at $25 for 20,000 emails per month.
Contact Form 7
With over 5 million active installations, there’s little denying that Contact Form 7 is the most popular free WordPress contact form plugin on the market.
Still, it’s not just the fact that it’s free which makes it so universally well-regarded in the WordPress community.
The ability to manage multiple forms and customize each one to match your branding, along with powerful anti-spam tools make it not just the best free form plugin, but the all-round best form plugin of all.
- Compatible with the Flamingo plugin which allows you to save submitted messages within WordPress
- Includes eCAPTCHA and Akismet spam protection
- Compatible with top email marketing programs such as SendinBlue
Contact Form 7 is completely free to use, though users can donate to thank and support the developer.
Free form plugins like Contact Form 7 may be great, but they’re designed more for basic lead capture and enquiries, but if you’re looking for advanced forms that you can make an integral part of your overall sales and marketing strategy, then a premium solution like Gravity Forms is the way to go.
Of course, this isn’t the only premium form plugin out there, but it is the only one that combines a beginner-friendly visual form editor with AI-based conditional logic so that you build one form and have it tailored to each individual user depending on certain details like their location or age.
Combine all that with numerous options for collecting online payments, and Gravity Forms certainly makes an invaluable addition to any WordPress site.
- Workflow automations
- In-depth data analytics
- Integrations with a variety of third-party services including Hubspot, PayPal, Zapier, MailChimp, CampaignMonitor and more.
Sadly, you won’t find a free version of Gravity forms, but what you will find is three quality plans priced at $59, $159, and $259.
Finally, we come to WPForms, one of the oldest and most widely-used contact form plugins around.
What I really like about this one is that its drag-and-drop editor is so smoothly intuitive to use, making it a breeze to customize one of the many pre-designed form templates.
If you’re a novice, you may find WPForms simplicity is the best way to create a variety of forms which look great and function flawlessly.
- View all form entries in one dashboard
- Create subscription forms and connect with your email marketing service
- Get instant notifications when a user fills out your contact form.
The free version of WPForms is a great start for creating basic contact forms, but if you want access to more templates and advanced form elements, that will cost you.
Fortunately, WPForms is very well priced, with plans starting from as little as $39.50 per year.
By now, you’ve learned almost everything you need to know about why you need WordPress plugins, which ones to use, and how to use them, but we’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the unlimited functionality that these tools can offer.
If you’re starting an online store, check out our guides to the best shopping cart plugins and the best plugins for selling digital downloads, or, if you’re running multiple WordPress sites at once, you may love our guide to the best WordPress multisite management tools.