WordPress has stood the test of time as not only a great open-source content management system, but a flexible platform capable of delivering a variety of content for websites across the globe. One of the greatest features of WordPress is its massive community of contributors, developers, and designers constantly building and improving the core software. While the software is fantastic on its own, and capable of almost anything (with the right tools) in the web development world, there are a number of awesome plugins that make this great software — even better! Below is a list of plugins that I find extremely useful in boosting the functionality, performance, and capabilities of the already-great CMS platform.

Most of these plugins can be downloaded and used completely free of cost! You can either search for these plugins via your WordPress admin panel (Login > Plugins > Add New > Search Plugins) or download them directly from the WordPress plugin repository.

1. W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin
W3 Total Cache WordPress Plugin

FREE (Additional paid features)

This plugin is excellent for serving up cached versions of your pages and content to improve the overall performance of your website (and ultimately benefit your SEO). The process of caching simply involves creating static versions of your dynamic page content and serving up this static content (instead of constantly generating the page content via your dynamic code) as it takes less time to produce when called by a web browser. This plug-in goes beyond just caching pages,  you can minify your CSS and JavaScript files (and other libraries or dependencies), enable gzip compression, and serve up your content from a content delivery network (a content delivery network is basically a system of servers in the “cloud “where your files will be delivered from depending on the location of the user accessing your website).

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2. Jetpack

Jetpack WordPress Plugin
Jetpack WordPress Plugin

FREE (Additional paid features)

This plug-in has many different features that make it a valuable asset to any WordPress site. The feature in particular that I use the most is Publicize, this feature allows you to automatically post your blog posts on your website to any social media platform with the click of a button. You can also customize these automatic posts via rich snippets and custom messages. Jetpack also goes on to include features such as website traffic analytics, optimization tools, website backups, and more!

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3. Disqus

Disqus Comment System WordPress Plugin
Disqus Comment System WordPress Plugin

FREE

The greatest benefit of this plug-in is its ability to prevent the constant threat of spam comments on your website. Not only do spam comments typically contain back links to websites that will hurt your SEO rankings, but  can also inject code into your website that will make your website vulnerable to future attacks. not only does this plug-in do a great job of preventing spam, but its built around a community of users who already have accounts and can participate in discussion on your website simply by logging in to their own Disqus account (rather than creating a unique user account for a website just to leave a comment). This promoted user engagement, powers discussions, and ultimately may lead to more awareness/conversions on your site.

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4. BulletProof Security

Bullet Proof Security WordPress Plugin
Bullet Proof Security WordPress Plugin

FREE (Additional paid features)

Everyone is worried about the security of their site, as they should be. If a hacker gets into your site, there is the possibility of losing all of your website data with the inability to restore your website to previous stable state. There are literally millions of bots and scripts running around the clock looking for vulnerable sites to inject malicious code and software into. This plug-in locks down the many typically vulnerable aspects of a WordPress site and also handles reports regarding attacks on your website.  From preventing repetitious website login request, to locking down your .htaccess file, to sending you activity reports on suspected hacking attempts, to backing up your site in case of a security breach – this plug-in does it all!

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5. Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin
Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin

FREE

This plug-in generates a site map for your website to submit to search engines, which is one of the most important SEO features of a site that will improve visibility across all major search engines. A sitemap helps search engine crawlers index your site and also helps users navigate the link structure of your website, increasing your visibility to search engines and users alike. This plugin not only generates a readable xml sitemap file for your website, but it goes on to notify all major search engines of any recent updates to your website posts or page content. Once this plug-in is installed, you can find the generated site map at www.<yourdomain>.com/sitemap.xml

WordPress Plugin

6. Advanced Custom Fields

Advanced Custom Fields WordPress Plugin
Advanced Custom Fields WordPress Plugin

FREE (Additional paid features)

This plugin allows you to go beyond what WordPress has to offer and really customize your theme and/or website to your liking. Have an idea for an input field that doesn’t exist on your current website? Looking to implement functionality into your site while still utilizing the robust modular features of WordPress? Advanced Custom Fields is the answer! This plugin allows you to create custom input fields and integrate them into the template of your pages/posts/etc. — giving you full control of your WordPress page/post edit screens and custom field data. This plugin is essential for any theme developer looking to further the complexity and capability of their site while still maintaining the ease of use that WordPress brings to the table (for example, in the case a site is being handed off to a non-developer client).

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7. Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 WordPress Plugin
Contact Form 7 WordPress Plugin

FREE

Contact Form 7 helps you create forms for your WordPress site in a matter of seconds! Rather than having to code up the form yourself, add the form action behavior, create submission behavior, and validate user input fields —  this plug-in takes care of all of that messy work for you! Not only is this plug-in a huge timesaver for any WordPress developer, but you can customize this juicy plug-in to do almost anything. With each form there is an additional option to include JavaScript behavior based on actions performed by the user/form.

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8. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin

FREE

I’ve been through many SEO plug-ins and in my experience, this is one of the best. It not only handles many of the vital SEO features of your site, and automates many of the SEO tags for uniform social media distribution, but it provides you with guidelines on how to successfully craft your posts and pages for visibility and exposure on Google search. This plug-in has been around as long as I can remember and has a large community of followers and contributors leading to a highly successful product that is completely free of charge. I highly recommend this plugin for any users looking to improve their search traffic and maintain page content without hiring a marketing team (in the case that you are looking to hire a professional to strategically improve your search traffic and generate qualified leads for your business, feel free to browse our SEO services!).

Site | WordPress Plugin

9. Slider Revolution

Slider Revolution WordPress Plugin
Slider Revolution WordPress Plugin

$19 One-time purchase (Additional paid plugins & features)

As I’m sure you’ve seen many times before, it is fairly common to have a a nice, large flash-type image slider or carousel on your pages. This plug-in provides  you with a do-it-yourself image/text slider which handles all types of CSS transformations, mobile friendly media queries, and customization tools to really make your slider “pop”. It comes with an easy-to-use user interface that allows you to customize every aspect of your slider from the image transitions to text animations to customizing the responsive features of your slider. While this plug-in does cost $19.00, I can honestly say that it’s worth every penny, it will save you a ridiculous amount of time and the end result is a fantastic, polished product.

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Have any WordPress plug-in suggestions of your own to add to this list?
Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below or email me directly at bryan@brytdesigns.com.

 

Author
Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web enthusiast specializing in web design, development and online marketing. He is currently attending the fully-employed MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. Feel free to send Bryan a message here.