101 Must Have WordPress Plugins – Go Beyond the Basics

101 Must Have WordPress Plugins

Plugins are a fundamental part of the success of WordPress. Non-tech savvy users will be happy to find that with plugins, you don’t need to become a web developer to build a professional website. There’s just one problem.

There are thousands of plugins for WordPress, many of which do the same thing. It can take some time to find out which plugins are worth trying out. So we made this list of 101 must have WordPress plugins to help you find your bearings.

Site Administration and Maintenance

This category contains plugins that help you manage and maintain your website. This includes taking care of things like updates, user management, redirects, and more. These plugins will help you cover all the basics of WordPress administration.

  1. Jetpack: Jetpack has all the essentials a beginner needs to conquer WordPress. It is built and maintained by Automattic, the people behind WordPress.com. Although it installs like a single plugin, Jetpack is a collection of “modules” that perform different functions. Use it to manage all of your sites from single dashboard, analyze traffic, SEO, security, and customize WordPress. Jetpack is free to download, but some services like VaultPress require payment.
  2. MainWP Child: manage multiple WordPress sites from a central location. The core plugin is free, but you will need to purchase extensions to get more advanced features.
  3. Capability Manager Enhanced: create users, create roles, and manage capabilities.
  4. User Role Editor: another popular, well-written plugin to manage user roles.
  5. Members: this one effectively manages user roles like the previous two. It has an intuitive user interface.
  6. Customize WordPress Login Page: create a custom login page for WordPress. Add media, change styles, add social sharing icons, and so on.
  7. Coming Soon Page and Maintenance Mode by SeedProd: a simple yet effective coming soon and maintenance mode plugin.
  8. WP Maintenance Mode: add a landing page to let your visitors know your site is undergoing maintenance or under construction.
  9. Redirection: add a custom redirect page when the URL of a webpage can’t be found. This is helpful for SEO.
  10. 404 Page: add a custom 404 redirect page to any WordPress theme.
  11. BuddyPress: a powerful community plugin for WordPress. Get all the things you need to build an online community — user profiles, activity feeds, groups, and more.
  12. BBPress: forum software you can use to host discussions on your website. Combine it with BuddyPress to build a bustling online community website.
  13. UserPro: create a community and manage frontend user profiles. Users can create accounts with their email or social media accounts. This paid plugin is well documented and user friendly.
  14. Easy Updates Manager: manage all your updates for single or multisite installations.
  15. Theme Check: easiest way to check if your theme is valid — meaning it adheres to WordPress standards and best practices.
  16. Download Monitor: a user friendly plugin to monitor downloads on your website.


Backups are important, so be sure to test the plugin so you know that it works. If you aren’t completely sure what you are doing and you can’t afford to lose any data, it may be wise to choose a paid backup service or plugin.

The free backup plugins are limited, which may be suitable if you need it for personal use or a small website. Even with the best free backup plugin you can run into some issues. The professional versions automate everything for you, so all you need to do is set it and forget it.

  1. VaultPress: hassle-free, foolproof backup service. It’s optimized for WordPress and saves your files offsite. VaultPress is available through Jetpack and can be purchased via subscription.
  2. Backup and Restore Dropbox: the free version of this plugin gives you an automated backup of your files and database. The pro version gives you more features and options.
  3. Akeeba Backup for WordPress: a lesser known but well-written plugin. The free version works just fine for small sites or beginners. The professional version offers more advanced features.
  4. UpDraftPlus: widely tested and hugely popular, UpDraftPlus is one of the most reliable backup plugins around. Get more features by using the pro version.
  5. BackWPup: one of the best free options. It’s got everything you need to stay safe and the pro version is affordable.
  6. BackupBuddy: another popular free backup plugin. This plugin has developed into a solid backup system for WordPress.
  7. BackupWordPress: automate your backups and stay safe. This plugin was created by Human Made, a company dedicated to WordPress.


Protect your site from hackers, spammers and all sorts of bots lurking on the web. Security should be one your main priorities when you are setting up your website. To learn more, read about Hardening WordPress.

  1. Akismet: this comment moderation plugin comes with WordPress 2.0 and later. It’s your first line of defense against spam. It’s free for personal use. It may not catch everything but it certainly holds the fort.
  2. WordFence: the people have spoken, and they love WordFence. It includes security features like a firewall, malware scanner, login security, and IP blocking. There is a premium version available that offers extended functionality. It’s very beginner friendly.
  3. All In One WP Security and Firewall: another security plugin you can use to secure user login, block specific IP addresses, put up a firewall, and more.
  4. iThemes Security: a solid choice when it comes to securing WordPress. This paid plugin locks your site down and protects it from vulnerabilities.
  5. Securi: an annual subscription based security stack for WordPress. Strong customer support and standard security features make this a popular and powerful security plugin.

Contact Forms, Maps, and Opt-In Plugins

Contact forms and opt-in plugins are very popular among WordPress users. They are useful for networking, marketing, and engaging with your visitors. For many businesses, these types of plugins are indispensable. Below are a few that dominate the competition.

  1. Contact Form 7: a free contact form builder with a track record for great support from the author, Takayuki Miyoshi. This plugin is great for creating contact forms as well as learning about front-end web development.
  2. Gravity Contact Forms: one of the best premium form builder plugins. It makes creating advanced forms easy and fun.
  3. Flamingo : a plugin designed to store contact form submissions as messages.
  4. Postman-SMTP: sometimes you may have problems getting email from your contact forms. This is a common issue. Postman SMTP can help you fix it without any trouble.
  5. Easy WP SMTP: another nice plugin to configure your outgoing email to a server other than your domain.
  6. WP Google Maps : the lite (free) version lets you create maps with unlimited markers.
  7. SumoMe: this is a collection of marketing tools you can use to grow your website. The free version has some nice tools, even if there is lots of branding by the plugin author.
  8. MailChimp for WordPress: mail chimp an incredibly popular email marketing platform. Use this plugin to connect MailChimp to your WordPress website.
  9. Ninja Kick Contact Form: another premium form builder. Use it to build non-obtrusive, user-friendly contact forms with impressive animation. You can use this plugin to style forms built with Contact Form 7 and Gravity Forms.
  10. Ninja Kick Series: All in One: this is a paid pack of plugins that gives you a contact form, a slide-in panel, and a subscription plugin. These look great on mobile devices.


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a big part of web design and development. A good strategy will make it easy for people to find you through search engines and drive traffic to your site. SEO isn’t rocket science, but it does take some experimentation and effort. The following plugins can help you stay on top of things.

  1. Jetpack Stats: site stats are automatically added when you activate Jetpack, free of charge. You get stats on site visits, most viewed pages, and search terms people use to find your page. It’s a good choice for beginners.
  2. Google Analytics by MonsterInsights : get insights, grow your website and fine tune your strategy like a pro. Formerly owned by Yoast, this plugin allows you to add the power of Google Analytics to WordPress.
  3. Yoast SEO: the most popular free SEO plugin to help you get more traffic from search engines. No one does it better than Yoast. Yoast SEO Premium is a beefed up version of Yoast SEO with more features and customer support.
  4. All-in-One SEO pack: most people prefer Yoast, but this plugin does all the same things to help manage your SEO. It’s been around for quite a while and boasts millions of downloads.
  5. Google XML Sitemaps : submit and XML sitemap to Google. This can help make your site more accessible. Although many people don’t bother with XML sitemaps, it’s part of good SEO.
  6. Broken Link Checker: get email alerts notifying you of broken links to avoid lower rankings from search engines as a result.
  7. Imsanity: automatically resizes large image files to make them a more “sane” size.
  8. Media File Renamer: automatically renames new files uploaded to your site. The pro version allows you to manually rename any media file on your site.
  9. Imagify Image Optimizer: reduce the size of your images to decrease loading time.
  10. WP Smush: this is one of the most popular image compression plugins.
  11. Shortpixel Image Optimizer: use to compress PDFs and other image files.
  12. Compress JPEG and PNG Images: a no nonsense JPEG and PNG compression plugin.

Social Media

There’s no escaping the gravitational pull of social media. Ideas spread like wildfire these days. It’s a cost effective way to connect with an audience for many large and small organizations. The following plugins will help you share your content across all of the most popular social media organizations.

  1. Jetpack Sharing: the Jetpack sharing module is one of the easiest ways to add social sharing buttons to your website. It’s free and simple to setup.
  2. Sharaholic: a slick social media plugin that includes content recommendations, social sharing, analytics, and more. This is one of the best and it has lots of features. It also includes official support from WooCommerce.
  3. Monarch: an all-in-one social sharing plugin. This one can do the job of a few different plugins. It’s compatible with 35+ social networks. To use it, you must purchase a yearly subscription.
  4. Social Media and Share Icons (Ultimate Social Media): a free and awesome social sharing plugin. It allows you to add clickable social sharing icons in multiple styles.
  5. Social Locker: a paid social sharing plugin that locks content based on conditions you set. Use it to increase social shares, get more leads, land subscribers, and analyze your results.
  6. Social Share Buttons — Social Pug: a slick, simple plugin that adds content sharing buttons to your posts or pages.
  7. SocialFans: a fast plugin to add social counters to your site. There are lots of options and features built in, but you will need to make a purchase to download.
  8. Share Buttons by AddThis: one of the easiest social sharing button plugins to use. It is also free.
  9. Social Share and Locker Pro: this is a very handy, premium social sharing plugin that comes with plenty of extra features and pre-defined styles.
  10. Social Warfare: another all-in-one social sharing solution that requires a yearly subscription. This plugin is fast and reliable.


WordPress started out as a blogging platform in 2003, but it has developed into so much more. You can use it to build a first-class online store or marketplace like Amazon. Below are a few of the best ecommerce plugins to help you display products and take payments directly from your website.

  1. WooCommerce: a powerful ecommerce plugin you can use to sell anything online. It’s free but you’ll most likely need download or purchase extensions to accomplish your goals.
  2. WP eCommerce: another ecommerce platform for WordPress. It’s widely popular and works with many different payment gateways.
  3. Marketify: a paid plugin that gives you everything you need to start a digital marketplace.
  4. WooCommerce Simplify Commerce Gateway: a very simple way to setup a merchant and payment gateway by MasterCard.
  5. Authorize.net Payment Gateway: use this plugin with WooCommerce to accept card payments using an Authorize.net gateway.
  6. WooCommerce Stripe Payment Gateway: accept major debit/credit card payments using the Stripe payment gateway.
  7. PayPal Pro Payment Gateway: collect credit card payments through the WooCommerce PayPal Pro Payment Gateway.
  8. Give: accept donations via PayPal. It’s easy to setup and use.
  9. Easy Digital Downloads: sell digital goods and services from your website. One of the best and simplest options for selling digital goods like eBooks.

Performance and Optimization

These plugins can help you optimize your media files, lower page loading time, and speed up your site. A few of the caching plugins do the exact same thing. They are all good plugins, the one you choose will depend on your workflow and preference.

  1. W3 Total Cache: great caching plugin for WordPress. There are lots of settings that may throw beginners off.
  2. Cache Enabler: another free caching plugin that can speed up perceived loading time. Works well with image optimization plugins.
  3. Simple Cache: great for beginners, simple to setup and use.
  4. WP Super Cache: cache your websites files in 3 different ways.
  5. Comet Cache: well-documented caching plugin that offers great PHP caching.
  6. Autoptimize: minimizes your HTML, CSS and JavaScript code for faster loading time. Combine it with a caching plugin for more power.
  7. Lazy Load: uses JavaScript to only load images when they are visible in the viewport.
  8. WP Smush: an image optimization plugin that reduces file size and site load time. A premium version is available through WPMU DEV.

Customizing WordPress

WordPress gives beginners the power to build like professionals. The following plugins are designed to help you do things like design pages from scratch, style webpages, extend your WordPress theme, and create a multilingual site.

  1. Jetpack Related Posts: uses filters to display similar content to the current post.
  2. WP Job Manager: with this plugin you can add a job board to your site. Created by lightweight, free and works like a champ.
  3. WPML: allows you to create and manage multilingual sites with ease. WPML make sure your site is “translation ready.”
  4. PolyLang: another plugin to create bilingual or multilingual websites. You must purchase the professional version to receive support from the author.
  5. Bogo : a simple multilingual plugin you can use to translate posts or pages.
  6. Black Studio TinyMCE Widget: adds a new Visual Editor that enables you to add rich text and media to your sidebars easily.
  7. TinyMCE: this plugin allows you to customize the WordPress Visual Editor. This is great for bloggers looking to optimize their workflow.
  8. Upload Larger Plugins: if your web hosting has a low maximum file upload limit, you can use this plugin as a workaround.
  9. Advanced Custom Fields: add lots of functionality to your site with this plugin. Savvy WordPress users and developers can use Custom Fields in many ways to extend functionality.
  10. Simple Custom CSS: a quick and easy way to add custom CSS that overrides the default styles. Free and easy to use.
  11. Yellow Pencil: Visual CSS Style Editor: a paid CSS editor you can use to add custom styles to your site. Customize any theme or plugin and see your changes in real-time.
  12. Child Theme Wizard: create a child theme directly from the dashboard. For more information, see Child Themes.
  13. Child Theme Configurator: use this plugin to create and manage your child themes with ease. This is a great tool for developers.
  14. Beaver Builder: this 100% frontend page builder is intuitive and beginner friendly. You can crank out pixel perfect pages without having to code at all. Professionals can use it to speed up the design process.
  15. Cornerstone: this is another drag and drop page builder you can use to create and edit pages without coding. It was originally created as a component of X-Theme.
  16. Page Builder by SiteOrigin: this page builder works really well — especially for a free plugin.
  17. Visual Composer: you can’t mention WordPress page builders without mentioning Visual Composer. It’s an extensive website building plugin with tons of possibilities.
  18. Divi: this page builder originally came as part of the Divi theme, but it was so useful that the developers decided to make it a standalone plugin.

Media Galleries

WordPress is simple enough for anyone who has ever used a word processing program. But there is a slight learning curve when it comes to multimedia displays. These plugins can help you build killer displays to impress your visitors. We have some aggregators and a few plugins to help you build multimedia slideshows.

  1. Flow-Flow Social Stream: display unlimited social media feeds from the most popular networks in a card style grid. There is a free version of this aggregator, but it’s more of a test drive for the premium version.
  2. Juicer: another aggregator for social network feeds. The limited version is free as long as you create an account on the plugin’s official website. You can purchase a monthly subscription plan to get more functionality.
  3. Hungry Feed: embed and display RSS feeds anywhere on your posts and pages with a shortcode.
  4. Advance Portfolio Grid: create responsive grids to display images. The professional version comes with advanced filtering.
  5. LayerSlider: a slider plugin that comes bundled with many different themes for free. Build impressive slides with animated effects.
  6. Slider Revolution: another responsive slider plugin that builds beautiful slides. It also comes bundled with many themes for free or available as a standalone plugin.

You’ll Never Run Out of Plugin Options

As you can see, WordPress allows you to build anything from a simple blog to a complex social network without a lot of work. Plugins give you the power and flexibility to make it happen. We hope that this list gives you some great starting points and saves you some time.

There are lots of good plugins that perform the same function on this list, so you might have to review some of them before you make your final choice. Fortunately most of these are free and the paid ones typically offer good customer support.

Image based on WP Plugins by Sean MacEntee. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Brenda Barron

About Brenda Barron

Brenda is an active online publisher and experienced WordPress blogger. She has been building websites since 1997. In addition, she publishes science fiction and fantasy stories under the name Brenda Stokes Barron.