Wondering what the best WordPress Plugin are for your site?
WordPress plugins are the little add-ons and software solutions that help you tweak your WordPress site and keep it running smoothly. Plugins make WordPress the best option for almost any type of website you could ever want to create.
While the “out-of-the-box” WordPress installation has limited functionality, plugins enhance your site and transform it into a fully functioning blog, eCommerce powerhouse, membership site, learning management system, and more.
The digital world changes every day. As the needs of our site change and new plugins are added as well as old ones retired, this list will be updated.
The WordPress plugin directory is huge (tens of thousands of plugins huge) and new plugins are added daily. These plugins are added to the directory by third party developers, for many of whom WordPress plugin development is their specialty and sole business.
When reviewing a plugin within the directory, you can confirm that that the plugin is compatible with your version of WordPress, see how many times the plugin has been installed, how recently it has been updated, as well as see screenshots of the different functionalities it will add.
It’s just like shopping for a product on Amazon.
Because of the sheer scope and size of the WordPress community, there is almost always more than one plugin solution to your customization problem. Let’s say I don’t like the way my site’s commenting functionality words. If I’m searching for a new comment plugin, a simple search later, and I can see which ones are most popular, what other people think about them, and how it’ll look on our site.
I also look for plugins that have been updated recently.
Updates at regular intervals mean that the plugin’s developers are actively working on addressing any bugs that might be impacting the performance of the plugin. Regular updates also mean that as WordPress releases their own updates that the plugin will remain compatible and functional.
Don’t be intimidated by the plugin installation process. It can be done with no technical expertise needed. Plugins install with a single click, and there is no coding required. If a periodic update is needed, you’ll be notified on the WordPress dashboard and updates are also executed with a single click.
What If It’s a Dud?
If it turns out you don’t like your new plugin you can easily deactivate and uninstall it with a few more clicks. Your site will go back to the way it was before you installed the plugin and again, no coding is required.
If the plugin was powering a core feature of your site though, it might be a good idea to go back and see if and how functionality has been affected.
Here’s the best part—the overwhelming majority of plugins are free to install on your site.
Many are also referred to as freemium, which is a blend of the words “free” and “premium.”
Freemium products are products that are offered for free, but the free version doesn’t include the full range of functionality. In the case of WordPress plugins, developers encourage users to use the free version for as long as they like, but paying for the premium version unlocks access to the plugin's full functionality.
In the case of freemium plugins (and freemium products in general), some users never see the need to pay for full functionality.
The freemium model allows users to try plugins then decide if they are a good fit for their site and their business. If they do like the free version, paying to unlock the full range of functionality allows the plugin to grow with the site as needs increase—a win for everyone.
For our site, we fully embrace the freemium model. The plugins we use are a mix of free and freemium solutions—of the many plugins we use, no more than a few are actually paid for.
There are a number of plugins that fill similar roles but have slightly different features. How do you know what is best for your site?
More importantly, how many plugins is too many? How long before they start dragging down your site’s performance?
This list covers all of the plugins we use every day to power our WordPress site. For each one, I take some time to talk about why we use that specific plugin, and how it impacts our business.
This doesn’t mean that your business will need each and every one of these plugins. While I personally think that many of them should be used by every WordPress site regardless of the business model and strategy, others are more specific to our overall content marketing goals.
There won’t be a quiz, but it might be a good idea to take notes.
Easy Google Fonts
- Price: Free
- What it does: Allows you to use a wider range of custom fonts than those typically available.
Easy Google Fonts is free (at time of writing) plugin that allows users to use Google fonts on their WordPress page without any additional coding.
Why We Use Easy Google Fonts
Fonts are an important aesthetic portion of a brand’s profile. The ability to access additional fonts on our site helps us replicate the exact look and feel we’re looking for on our site. Additionally, as someone who isn’t particularly coding savvy, the ability to easily integrate the fonts we rely on for visual consistency without coding is a convenient perk.
- Price: Elegant Themes subscription required - $89/year or $249 lifetime access
- What it does: Makes designing pages and posts easier.
Divi Builder is a premium drag and drop WordPress page builder that simplifies the construction process. It is similar to the plugin Page Builder by SiteOrigin, but it is better looking and more robust in many ways.
In addition to a smart wireframe module construction, Divi's Visual Editor (pictured below) allows for real time feedback on changes with desktop, mobile, and tablet display previews.
The super-simple Divi Visual Editor in action.
Why We Use Divi Builder
It is also a part of the Elegant Themes suite of premium plugins, of which we also use Monarch. Because our site is powered by a premium theme from Elegant Themes, the Divi Builder is a clear choice. It helps us layout and modify nearly every aspect of our pages and posts with a simple drag and drop format that produces beautiful results.
Child Theme Configurator
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Allows us to use custom CSS without having to recode for updates.
In WordPress, developers use child themes as a way to customize an out-of-the-box theme without sacrificing the ability to benefit from updates to that theme. If that sounds a little confusing, let me explain.
In the past, changes to a theme would be scrubbed when that theme was updated. This meant that developers would have to make a choice: either redo all their custom work or risk using an out-of-date theme with known defects.
In the end, that choice is really no choice at all.
Obsolete versions of themes are vulnerable to being exploited. Developers may be resistant to redoing potentially hours of custom coding, but a successful breach could mean that the entire site is compromised along with any sensitive data.
As a result of a collective effort between the WordPress core team and the community-at-large, the concept of parent and child themes emerged.
A child theme inherits the features and functionality of the parent theme without modifying the parent theme in any way. This means that all of the desired changes can be made to a child theme without fear of losing those changes when it comes time to update the parent theme.
Why We Use The Child Theme Configurator
We use the Child Theme Configurator plugin because it allows us to go above and beyond the regular customization options that are presented in WordPress. Not only does it provide increased functionality over the stock option, it is faster and easier to locate the CSS snippets we need to change, all without modifying the parent theme’s code.
This isn’t one of the plugins we use on a daily basis, but the convenience and functionality it offers is helpful when we do need to make small changes to our site’s child theme.
The creation and maintenance of a child theme is a best practice for developers who use WordPress to power their sites, and we’re no exception. While there is expanded functionality with the premium pro version of the Child Theme Configurator plugin, the functionality of the free version has been more than adequate for our theme modification needs.
Q2W3 Fixed Widget
- Price: Free
- What it does: Allows you to create fix widgets on screen while scrolling.
This plugin is all function and no flair.
There are a number of reasons developers may want widgets or other features to stay on the screen while readers are navigating around a screen. The most common reason I can think of is for opt-ins and navigation features, but the sky is the limit when it comes to design options.
Basically, if you can dream it, you can tack it down on the screen and have it move with the reader.
Why We Use Q2W3
We like to keep it light on the widgets so that the reading experience isn’t cluttered, but what we do put in the sidebar we do want to make an impact.
So, that means on desktop displays, our email opt-in and brand overview travel as readers scroll. Simple to use, easy to execute, and predictable results. What more could you ask for?
- Price: Requires a ClickFunnels subscription: $97/month - $297/month
- What it does: Allows you to build landing pages, sales funnels and more.
ClickFunnels is a SaaS (software as a service) digital platform that allows businesses to create digital “funnels” or different lead page sequences that walk customers through the buying process. ClickFunnels also acts as an all-in-one digital marketing dashboard that allows marketers to send broadcast emails, drive subscribers, and increase sales across a variety of customer segments.
Clickfunnels has exploded onto the radar of many digital marketers with easy to use tools and predictable, sustainable results.
Why We Use ClickFunnels
Before we started using ClickFunnels we were using LeadPages. LeadPages is perfectly fine, but after trying out ClickFunnels, LeadPages feels static and clunky. There is simply no substitute for being able to build a dynamic sales funnel.
It is the difference between watching a movie at home, then seeing that same movie in an IMAX theater. It’s the same thing, just better.
The full range of tools and tactics that thousands of users love about ClickFunnels can fill three posts as large as this one (and they will, stay tuned) but in the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about ClickFunnels, you can try their funnel building software risk free for 14 days.
- Price: Requires a LeadQuizzes subscription – starts at $16/month
- What it does: Allows you to create quizzes to engage audience and collect their e-mails.
Another way we collect our visitors’ contact information is by using quizzes. Quizzes engage our audience, and the results ultimately provide them with value. Once you create a LeadQuizzes account you can download the leadquizzes plugin and connect your account.
Why We Use LeadQuizzes
These quizzes give us another tool for collecting the email addresses of our site’s visitors. As I have said before, the focus of your online efforts should be collecting the contact information of your visitors and customers. The more ways you can do this, the better.
Quizzes are a tool every business should use in their lead generation efforts, and Lead Quizzes is hands down the best program to use.
- Price: Requires ActiveCampaign subscription. Starts at $15/month
- What it does: Allows you to communicate with your audience.
Once you have the email addresses of your visitors and customers, you need a tool that will store their information, organize it into different email lists, and allow you to send them hyper-targeted messages.
There are a ton of different email marketing tools available. Sometimes it seems like new ones are popping up every day. After trying all the major email automation tools available since we started our business, I eventually found the best option: ActiveCampaign. Once you create an ActiveCampaign account you can download the plugin and connect your account.
Why We Use Active Campaign
ActiveCampaign offers far more options than other major tools on the market today. You can create ultra-specific targeting and filtering of your lists based on hundreds of unique data points, such as; if a person opened your latest email, if they clicked on a link within your latest email, if they have visited your site recently, etc.
The email template designer is one of the best out there. Most tools offer the same basic design options, but ActiveCampaign has a wide range of customization options, making it easy to create emails you actually like looking at. And, for the price, ActiveCampaign is far better than the rest.
- Price: Requires OptinMonster subscription. Starts at $9/month
- What it does: Allows you to collect e-mails from your visitors.
OptinMonster is lead generation software that helps brands build their subscriber list by finding and developing leads through conversion-minded opt-ins. This software’s API allows users to use a full suite of OptinMonster tools on their WordPress site.
These opt-ins interface with email marketing software such as Mail Chimp or Clickfunnels, and the circle is completed for brands who want to increase their sales via email marketing.
Why We Use OptinMonster
Opt ins have become a fact of life for both online content publishers as well as audiences. Publishers have a need to create a more intimate, sustained dialogue with their audience and to this end they push subscriptions. Audiences want free, valuable content, and as long as brands can provide that not only on their sites, but also in their regular communications, an uneasy truce is struck.
We understand that opt-ins are necessary, but they can also be intrusive and annoying. For our audience, they provide true value—our Weekly Digest emails never inundate our subscribers and they are a fun roundup of the week in brief.
But people already receive a lot of emails. And too many opt-ins can really detract from the content experience. We have all been on pages where pop ups, flashing sidebars, and laggy, lavish opt-in offers made us abandon the site altogether.
- Price: Free
- What it does: Optimizes your site a superior mobile experience.
AMP stands for accelerated mobile pages and it is a program that was introduced by Google as an open standard for publishers to shave valuable load time off mobile page displays without sacrificing looks or functionality.
Page speed is given a significant weight by Google and other search engines, so having the fastest load times possible helps online publishers (like ClydeBank Media) build a strong SEO foundation. AMP pages are condensed versions of full pages that are optimized for mobile so they look great and load quickly across a range of devices.
Google’s first priority is to give users of their search engine the best possible results for their queries. At the same time, more people are conducting Google searches from their mobile devices.
Search engines are facilitators that match search queries with the results that are a best fit, so it is in Google’s best interest that their results are always improving. The AMP program is designed to serve this end and provide the tools that digital publishers will need to improve the quality of their results for Google’s users.
This plugin automatically appends /amp/ to the ends of all posts dynamically when those posts are accessed by mobile devices via Google's search result pages.
Why We Use AMP
As a free Google property that helps us compete from an SEO perspective across a range of devices, the use of AMP pages is a no brainer. This plugin is easy to setup and runs smoothly.
AMP-enabled pages show up in Google’s SERPS with a lightning bolt icon. AMP validation can be executed with the AMP Chrome extension (Google Chrome users only) to allow admins and publishers to check their work.
- Price: Free
- What it does: Optimizes your site for faster loading speeds.
Autoptimize is another plugin you can use to increase the page load speeds on your site. You should be continually improving your site’s page load speeds as it is one of the many factors that impact your SEO profile.
Autoptimize aggregates, minifies and caches scripts and styles on your site make the code more lightweight. You don’t need to have any technical experience to setup the plugin, just install and turn on and Autoptimize will do the rest.
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Decrease file sizes to increase site speed
WP Smush is a tool that compresses image file sizes automatically. It works behind the scenes to ensure that page delivery speeds are not affected by hi-res images.
Why We Use WP Smush
Other than having a fantastic name, WP Smush lends itself well to a strong SEO strategy. Page load time is an important factor in Google’s algorithm, and the more we can do to shave fractions of seconds off of that critical metric, the higher our chances of ranking higher in Google’s SERPs.
At ClydeBank Media.com we try to stay sensible about the size and number of images we use, but there is an overall trend toward using as many splashy images as possible. And why shouldn’t designers want to use lots of images?
Stories are often best told visually, and high-quality images simply look great.
The problem is that too many big files means precious time can be added to page display times and that hurts your bounce rate as well as your SEO profile.
WP Smush helps bridge that gap and allows designers to walk the line between big visual statements and sensible load times.
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Optimizes your site for SEO.
Yoast SEO is a plugin that is designed to execute and augment a successful SEO strategy.
This plugin has it all. From grading the SEO scores of each page and post, to allowing users to tinker with redirects, sitemap structure, metadata, and even the display of your site in the SERPs.
Why We Use Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is the most comprehensive and through SEO tool my team and I have ever used.
The degree to which it quickly becomes an invaluable tool is pretty astonishing. Literally every facet of each page is graded and modifiable for successful on page scores. Additionally, Yoast takes a holistic approach to SEO (the only right way to do it) and helps users optimized every aspect of their entire site to yield the best possible SEO profile.
Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Optimizes your SEO data for your AMP pages
Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP integrates Yoast SEO into your AMP pages.
As mobile optimized pages become more important to Google, you need to ensure you have AMP pages and that they are optimized. This plugin will ensure that the correct metadata that you have input into Yoast is being utilized on your AMP pages.
You can also use this plugin to change the default AMP design for your site. You need the Yoast plugin in order to use Glue for Yoast SEO & AMP.
- Price: Elegant Themes subscription required - $89/year or $249 lifetime access
- What it does: Add social sharing icons to your pages and posts.
Monarch is a social sharing plugin that allows users to customize their social sharing buttons nearly endlessly. It is part of the Elegant Themes suite of plugins, of which we use also use the Divi Builder (but chose OptinMonster instead of Bloom).
Monarch is a premium plugin, and the level of customization and full scope and range of options is pretty impressive.
Why We Use Monarch
Part of the reason we use Monarch is that the theme that powers ClydeBank Media.com is also an Elegant Themes product.
That, coupled with the fact that social sharing buttons are an absolute must-have in today’s digital landscape mean that a social sharing solution that looks good and is fully customizable is a slam dunk.
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Adds robust comment feature to pages and posts
Disqus is a popular third-party comment plugin that replaces the standard WordPress comment system for posts. It is a globally networked comment system which means that once someone comments on your post, that thread becomes visible to the entire Disqus community.
Why We Use Disqus
Disqus is like a comment system on steroids. Not only does it provide the functionality of a standard comment system, but it also incorporates the discoverability aspect of a community forum that is used regularly by thousands of users.
It hasn’t all been roses when it comes to the story of Disqus however. When we initially made the decision to switch to this commenting platform, it offered more functionality. Users could start their own threads on Disqus in the topic of their choosing instead of simply piggybacking off comments made on posts or articles from around the web.
At time of writing, this functionality has been stalled by the Disqus team with the stated reason that certain elements within the Disqus community were abusing this functionality. In short, the trolls got to it and ruined it for the rest of us.
Despite losing this conversation capacity, Disqus is still a leader in our eyes for enhanced commenting that includes a discoverability component. Part of what spurred our descion to use Disqus in the first place was the number of high profile sites we saw using the service, sites that command significantly more traffic than our own.
As your paid commitment to Disqus grows, so too do the features you have access to. We use a lower tier plan that is very affordable, and allows us to turn off the ads that power the free version of Disqus, but pricing scales with business need.
- Price: Free
- What it does: Allows you to build FB audiences from your site visitors
From the PixelYourSite plugin description:
“Manage the New Facebook Pixel with Just a Few Clicks. WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads integration. The New Facebook Pixel can be a very powerful tool for anyone doing Facebook ads, and with the PixelYourSite plugin, you can unleash its real potential.”
The Facebook pixel is a code snippet that tracks the actions visitors to your site from Facebook make so that they can be retargeted later with Facebook ads. The pixel is a key part of a Facebook retargeting strategy.
Retargeting, along with all the other moving pieces it takes to make a digital advertising strategy work, could fill a whole book, so I won’t get into it here. The basic concept for those who don’t know though, is once someone has visited your site or interacted with your brand from Facebook, the pixel adds them to a custom audience based on the actions they took on your site.
The value here is that it is possible for your brand to craft messaging that speaks to the exact phase in the buying process your custom audience is in.
Did they make a purchase? Great, they will see ads in their news feed that offer upsells.
Did they download a lead magnet? Great, they will see ads in their news feed that encourage them to follow up.
Did they just browse and not purchase anything at all? That’s fine too, they will see ads in their news feed that promote a special offer or incentive to turn them into customers.
That may be an oversimplification but at its heart, that’s how Facebook retargeting works.
Why We Use PixelYourSite
Social advertising is fast becoming a must-have facet of audience engagement for brands that operate in the digital space. And more and more brands can’t afford not to be in the digital space.
Facebook, despite all its ups and downs, is still the social media platform with the most developed and robust advertising solutions. It is also still the most ubiquitous social media platform, and it presents the largest audience cross section.
Additionally, while other brands may find more success advertising on platforms that speak more toward younger users, our product mix is better suited to a larger age range that crosses a wide variety of demographic boundary lines.
Advertising on Facebook simply makes sense for us, and being able to install the Facebook pixel easily and uniformly to drive our retargeting efforts is a no-brainer for us.
- Price: Starting at $129 for lifetime access
- What it does: Allows you to host and sell courses from your site.
LearnDash allows you to transfor your WordPress site into a complete Learning Management System (LMS). Multiple Fortune 500 companies, major universities and training organizations use LearnDash to build their own online campuses.
Why We Use LearnDash?
LearnDash provides us with robust functionality to build out our online courses on our WordPress site. We use LearnDash for every aspect of our online course from monetization and creation of user account to the development of dynamic quizzes and gamification.
- Price: Freemium
- What it does: Allows you to sell products and services from your site.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce solution for WordPress sites. It is a plugin that is designed to provide eCommerce capability to WordPress sites and mimic the functionality of Shopify, which is arguably a better eCommerce platform.
WooCommerce also comes with Stripe, which is a payment processing solution that allows users to collect credit card payment information securely on their sites.
Why We Use WooCommerce
ClydeBank Media has a lot to offer but the biggest way we make money is by selling books.
The majority of our sales are handled by distributors and third party vendors, but we still need to be able to sell directly to our customers as well. We didn’t start with WordPress, but now that we’re here, we need a way to handle sales in an attractive way that works for us as well as our customers.
That’s where WooCommerce comes in.
We can maintain our entire library of books, process orders, and with WooCommerce’s Stripe integration, collect a range of payments safely and securely.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is that what my dad told me about being handy around the house also applies to WordPress plugins: use the right tool for the job otherwise you’ll have a hell of a headache on your hands.
Unfortunately, sometimes the best way to figure out which plugin is right for the job is through trial and error. Fortunately for you, we’ve tried quite a few and found plugin solutions to problems you may not have realized you had.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer when it comes to selecting WordPress plugins is to select them based on need. If you have a need, try to find a plugin that satisfies that need. And don’t be afraid to swap it out for one that better fulfills that need. The right tool for the job may not be the first one you pick up.
Don’t install a plugin because it satisfies a need you don’t have. That, more than anything, will drag down your site and create, as my dad calls it, “one hell of a headache.”
Information About Affiliate Sales
Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.'
This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, ClydeBank Media will receive an affiliate commission. We only review and recommend products and services we personally have used and have found valuable. We would never recommend a product or service to you that we don't think will improve your business, or that we haven't vetted.
Affiliate sales help us maintain our blog and produce new content on a regular basis. Our affiliate relationships do not impact our editorial decision-making process.
Any and all opinions expressed in this, or any of our posts, are those of the person expressing them and do not reflect the opinions, policies, or positions of ClydeBank Media.
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John co-founded ClydeBank Media in 2013. Focusing on adding as much value as possible to the market, John, with the support of the exceptional team at ClydeBank Media, has helped guide the early growth of the company. He currently serves as the Director and as a contributor to the ClydeBank Media blog.