Update: There are a few plugins I’ve discovered since I wrote this post which I’m including her. Each one of them are proving useful enough to me to tell you about here.
Slider Revolution has excellent performance when it comes to load-speed and functionality when your users actually see it. It can be grueling work learning to work with the software and get it to look exactly how you want, but when it comes to having a great Hero image slider I don’t think there’s a better alternative. No other slider program I’ve tried looks this good.
I’ve found their support a bit lackluster at times as they seem to not want to help you. But the plugin is only $19, which for a premium plugin with this much capability I believe is well worth it. You will encounter a few glitches here and there which may shed a few years off your WordPress development life, however, if all you need is one or two great sliders, it’s worth the extra stress.
If you’re looking for a clean and stylish author box plugin, this one has what you need. I got the itch to use an author box after reading countless articles on Forbes and loving the personal touch that it seems to give to each article. I use the “Dropdown” option and I love it.
Really Simple SSL
Very simply, if you’re switching your site over to SSL, Really Simple SSL is the best solution. For some technical reason above my knowledge level, the logo to the left of the https:// will still show unsecured on much of the content of your site. A support specialist at SiteGround recommended Really Simple SSL and I’ve been using it ever since. When you make the switch to SSL, download this plugin.
Woopra is a great, free plugin for tracking users and analytics data on WordPress sites. It’s similar to Kissmetrics and others in the way that it tracks people and events, but in my humble opinion it’s much easier to use. It’s one of the best tools for tracking the behavior of users on your site.
And now for the original list….
1. Contact Form 7
I use Contact Form 7 because it’s one of the easiest contact form plugins out there. It looks better than most standard contact forms, however, the free version doesn’t allow for a thank you page redirect. Learn more here.
2. Facebook Comments
If you want people to leave comments on your site this is one of the best plugins for the job. It’s much easier for people to leave comments when they don’t have to fill out any other information. Almost everyone is already logged into Facebook while surfing the web, so this plugin makes it about as easy as it gets for people to leave comments.
3. Image Widget
This is the easiest plugin I’ve found to place pictures in your sidebar that link to other parts of your website. Many image widgets don’t allow for a link, and others are just more difficult to use. I have found the Image Widget to be the best for me. More here.
LazyLoad allows pictures and videos to be loaded only when they’re needed, instead of being loaded all at once when someone visits the page that contains them. This dramatically decreases load time and improves user experience. Get it here.
Update 3/18/2017: I have since stopped using LazyLoad. I had no problems with the plugin’s performance itself. However, a few months ago I started noticing a lot of glitches with certain plugins not functioning and elements not loading correctly on certain pages. After deactivating all plugins and re-activating them one-by-one, I realized that LazyLoad was having problems with many of my other plugins.
This could certainly be a problem specific to me and the Avada theme, but for now, I’m not using it. LazyLoad still remains one of the most widely used and highest rated plugins for WordPress though, so it’s worth checking for yourself.
5. Link Checker
Google doesn’t like broken links on your website. Maybe more importantly, there’s not much more infuriating than getting excited about reading or seeing something, only to suffer a huge let down because the link doesn’t actually work. Link Checker fixes that problem by running a check on your website and telling you if any links are broken.
6. Pretty Link Lite
If you need to have vanity URL’s for tracking purposes, or just an easy URL to shout out on a Podcast or the radio, this is one of the simplest plugins. Simply write a simple custom link such as weavercommunication.com/plugins and then set the actual link that it will link to. Check it out here.
This plugin allows you to fix widgets to your sidebar. Do you notice over to the right that the ad for my own content moves while you scroll? That’s thanks to the Q2W3 Fixed Widget. It can be a bit wonky from time to time, but even sites as big as TIME Magazine and CNN mess up their sidebars from time to time.
(UPDATE) I recently deactivated Q2W3 Fixed Widget after discovering that it was causing my embedded media not to show up. I’ve replaced it with “Fixed Widget” which you can find here.
8. Responsive Pricing Table
This is a great plugin that gives you a ton of value even in the free version. It’s perfect for comparing the prices of related products and services in a visually dynamic way. Read more here.
9. Social Login, Social Sharing by miniOrange
I had to hunt far and wide for a social sharing plugin that fit the bill for my site. Many free versions wouldn’t let you customize the icons, or they caused my site to glitch, or they wouldn’t let you customize the title of the sharing box. This plugin has been perfect for me. You can see it at the bottom of this post. It allows people to share posts just like this one with very little effort. Check out the plugin here.
10. UpDraft Plus
I use this plugin to backup my site before I make major changes. It’s an absolute necessity to keep current back-ups of your site. Just in case you screw something up, it’s a life saver to have a “back-up” plan. All pun intended 😉 It allows you to save your backups to your email, Google Drive, or Dropbox. Find it here.
This plugin was developed by the New York Times, and now you can find it on sites across the web. It subtly suggests the next article for you to read at the bottom of the page when you get to the bottom of an article. The best part, in my opinion, is that if a reader starts to scroll back up the page the “Next Post” goes away. Very effective and non-intrusive, you can see this plugin work by scrolling to the bottom of this post. Read more here.
12. WP Smush
This allows your website to reduce the size of the images that are hosted on your site. This is another big factor in speeding up the load time of your site, which again is a major factor in the SEO ranking of your site. This plugin is a must have for sure. Get it here.
13. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO has become the de-facto choice for all WordPress sites, simply because it’s that good. It helps non-SEO experts keep their sites up to par with SEO best practices to give your site’s content the best chance to rank highly.
Setting up Caching on your site is one of the quickest ways to improve user experience and decrease load time. CometCache has by far been the easiest plugin to use for Caching in my experience, and I still only use the free version. You won’t have to change much from the default settings in this plugin. You can get the plugin here.
I’ve been through countless other plugins that have had their own benefits and drawbacks, but these 14 are plugins that I would consider staples on my website. Let me know what plugins you’re loving right now by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: All of the links in the above post are affiliate links and I make millions every year just from people clicking them and downloading the plugins. Okay, actually that’s not true. None of the links above are affiliate links, and I make zero money from them. I’ve included links to help you find the plugin if you’re interested, and to help many of the free plugin developers get some SEO juice for their much appreaciated hard work.