There are thousands of plugins for WordPress, so it’s hard to know which ones are really worth installing, especially when you’re new. That’s why I’ve prepared a selection of the best free and paid plugins that I’ve had the opportunity to use or test during my numerous years of experience.
- Here’s the program
- Definition and Installation of a WordPress Plugin
- The Best WordPress Plugins
- 1. Contact forms
- 2. SEO – Search Engine Optimization
- 3. Antispam
- 4. Access Restriction
- 5. Backup
- 6. Security
- 7. Image optimization
- 8. Lazy Load
- 9. Performances – Cache
- 10. Multilingual Sites
- 11. Page Builder
- 12. WordPress cleanup
- 13. Dead Links
- 14. Sharing on Social Networks
- 15. E-commerce
- 16. Discussion Forum
- 17. Social Network
- 18. Comments
- 19. Statistics
- 20. LightBox
- 21. Additional Blocks
- 22. Jetpack
- How to find other plugins?
- What if the plugin I need does not exist?
- What to do in case of a problem?
This article is a complement to the previously published “Practical Guide to Learn How to Create Your Website or Blog with WordPress”, part 1 and part 2. I talk about, among other things, a number of plugins that I recommend you to install but, rather than making this already quite long guide heavier, I’ve decided to tell you more about them in a separate article here.
Definition and Installation of a WordPress Plugin
So, as a reminder, a plugin is a compressed file (.zip) which, once installed, adds one or more specific and additional features to your website. We’ll see some examples in this article.
Installation can be done in different ways, but the simplest and most common is to go to the WordPress administration interface then to “Plugins › Add”. From there, just find the one you need, then click on the “Install” button, activate it, and finally set it up.
I have already explained in detail how to install a plugin in my article on how to use WordPress. If you want to know more about this topic, I invite you to read it here.
Before moving on to my top WordPress plugins, it might be useful to explain what the different versions are that I’m going to talk about for each plugin.
- Free of charge: Yep, it’s free! But the plugin sometimes exists also in a Premium and more complete version.
- Freemium: The plugin is free in its basic version but paid for in its full version, which includes all options and additional features unlocked.
- Premium: The plugin is paid but generally very complete and offers fast and free support.
The Best WordPress Plugins
The contact form is the simplest and most efficient way to allow your readers to send you an email without having to display your email address (and thus risk being flooded with spam).
WordPress does not include this type of form by default, but most themes do. If you don’t have one installed or are not happy with it, there are several free or premium plugins such as:
Contact Form 7 (Free): CF7 is quite complete, relatively simple to set up, and will suit most basic needs. Even if it is regularly updated, its interface is, on the other hand, a bit “old school” [IMG 1], but in my opinion, it is the best free plugin to create forms.
If you search a little on the Web, you can find a lot of plugins (yes, a plugin for a plugin—we’re right in the “Twilight Zone”) free, but sometimes paying, allowing you to add other features.
Ninja Forms (Freemium): like Contact Forms 7, Ninja Forms will meet most needs in its free version. The difference here is that it offers a much more modern and easier to use “Drag & Drop” visual interface [IMG 2]. The handling is immediate and childishly easy. This one is undeniably my favorite one.
This very popular plugin (20,000,000 downloads!) will allow you to build all kinds of forms and has a very complete catalog of additional features (PayPal integration, MailChimp, attachments, etc.).
The price of a module starts from $29/year, but if you need to use several of them, it might be more interesting to opt for a bundle starting from $49/year.
Gravity Forms (Premium): it’s probably the most “beginner-friendly” form I’ve ever tested; first because it comes with a very complete documentation and a quick start guide, but most of all, because it’s a Forms Builder with a really clear and intuitive interface [IMG 3] where everything is done visually.
If you are a beginner and looking for a really easy-to-use tool to create your forms, you won’t find anything simpler or more efficient. So, of course, ease has a cost, but don’t worry. Gravity Forms is relatively affordable: the user license starts at $59/year.
With Gravity Forms, you will be able to build an unlimited number of various forms (contact, quiz, survey, newsletter, quote, etc.), use certain modules (upload attachments, multiple forms, etc.), integrate certain services (Dropbox, MailChimp, PayPal Pro, Stripe, etc.), take advantage of automatic updates, and access very reactive technical support.
2SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Finding one’s website or blog post on the first page of a Google search is certainly the holy grail for most bloggers and webmasters. The techniques to achieve this are quite numerous and sometimes even complex. This is why it is interesting, even indispensable depending on the objectives you have set yourself, to install a plugin that can assist you in this task. The following are two that I think are among the best.
Yoast SEO (Free and Premium): Yoast is the most famous and probably the most powerful SEO plugin. The free version already contains all the tools you need to write your articles correctly and get Mr. Google’s attention.
After activating it, you will be asked to answer a series of questions (via the configuration wizard) that will allow Yoast to fine-tune the WordPress settings. When you’re done, you’ll get plenty of helpful hints in the right hand column [IMG4].
If you’re new to WordPress, have trouble understanding how Yoast works, and need help, I suggest you read this post which explains in detail “How to optimize WordPress for SEO” using this plugin in particular.
SEO Press (Free and Premium): This is a great alternative to Yoast, which I use myself for some projects. The post optimization tools are similar to those of Yoast, and SEOPress will be just as effective to boost your ranking with the major search engines.
SEOPress is perhaps a little less comprehensive than Yoast but also less “exigent”. That means it will be easier to get a high SEO score for your post [IMG5].
If you are hesitating, test them to find out which one suits you best. Also, here is a post that compares the two plugins, with the pros and cons for each.
If you have activated the comments at the bottom of each of your articles, you will unfortunately have the unpleasant surprise to discover sometimes that advertising messages (SPAM) have been left by unscrupulous people. One of the weapons allowing you not to be overwhelmed by this kind of unwanted messages is to install a plugin that will take care of filtering them.
Akismet Antispam (free for personal use): Under this strange name is actually one of the most effective spam filtering tools. Developed by the WordPress team, Akismet is already preinstalled, so you just need to activate it.
In order to benefit from the free version, your site must not contain any advertising, paid products or services, or promote any business. If this is your case, you will be invited to give your email address and will receive a free activation code in exchange. For others, plans start at $7.50/month.
On the configuration side, you won’t have much to do since the settings page has only a few basic options [IMG6].
Antispam Bee (Free): There are a lot of plugins to manage spam; you just have to search for a plugin in WordPress to find it. I’ve had the opportunity to test some of them, and “Antispam Bee” is certainly the one I prefer. Easy to install, many options [IMG7], frighteningly efficient, and above all completely free, I haven’t found any flaw in it so far.
If you have just installed WordPress and are starting to build your website or blog, it’s best to restrict access to it. This will prevent Google from indexing incomplete pages or articles and keep the passing by curious away.
Password Protected (Free): You install it, choose a password, check the “enabled” checkbox above [IMG8:1], and access to your website/blog will now only be possible by password. It couldn’t be easier. And if you don’t want to have to enter this password yourself to access your site, just enter your IP address in the “Allow IP addresses” field [IMG8:2].
Hide My Site (Freemium): If you need more options, here’s a very good alternative to “Password Protect”. The free version already contains a lot of very useful options [IMG9], and the paid one is at 20$ for a website and valid for the whole life of the site where the license is installed. It will offer you, among other things, the possibility to customize your login page and the welcome message. In addition to the number of additional options, this plugin offers additional (paid) modules that will allow you to create multiple passwords, track login attempts, set expiration dates, choose the home page, and more.
If there’s one plugin you need to install urgently, it’s this one (I even wonder why I didn’t start with that). You’ll never be safe from a big problem with your site (hacking, virus, bug, etc.), hence the importance of making a regular backup of your site AND your database. Fortunately, there are plugins that will do this without having to take care of it.
UpdraftPlus (Freemium): Let’s start with the most famous one since it has more than 3 million active installations to date. And there’s a reason for that. The free version already offers all the essential options to automate your backups: Schedule backups, choose what to backup, transfer backups to a cloud service (Dropbox, Amazon S3, Google Drive) or by email, one-click restore, etc.
The paid version, which starts at $70 then $42 per year, offers some very interesting additional options: incremental backup, duplication or migration of your site, multisite compatibility, more storage destinations (OneDrive, BackBlaze, Azure, SFTP…) or database encryption. All this in addition to free and dedicated technical support.
The only reproach I could make to UpdraftPlus is its rather austere user interface [IMG10] that I find not very intuitive sometimes. So, if that’s also your case, there are other plugins that will do a good job as well but are much more pleasant to use and, above all, super intuitive.
BackupBuddy (Premium): Among all the backup plugins I’ve had the opportunity to use or test, it’s without a doubt BackupBuddy that I prefer. Once installed, the first step will be to set up the plugin via the quick setup wizard: Enter your email, set a password, choose where to send your backups and the frequency of sending, and click on “Save”. The second step… well, actually, there’s none. From now on, your backups will be executed automatically.
And if you want to make a manual backup, you can do it with a single mouse click. Just select the type of backup you want to make and voila, BackupBuddy takes care of the rest. It’s incredibly simple [IMG11].
WPvivid Backup and Migration(Freemium): For those who prefer to use a free version, this plugin is an excellent alternative. Here you can also create manual or scheduled backups (every 12 hours, daily, weekly…) and this on local storage or on the Cloud (Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3…). No configuration wizard here, but you can find your bearings quite quickly thanks to a well-thought-out interface [IMG12].
WPvivid Backup also offers a very handy tool to delete unused images in the Uploads folder of WordPress. You’ll see later how useful this can be.
The Pro version, which starts at $49/year, allows among other things to backup up to 3 websites and also multisite compatibility.
Chances are that one day your site will fall victim to various attacks from malicious hackers (yes, there are some well-meaning ones too). So, no need to run to hide under your bed trembling with panic because there are some basic security rules that will help you protect yourself from this kind of misadventure. One of them is to install a security plugin that will monitor your site for any suspicious activity.
Wordfence Security (Freemium): If you’re looking for a free plugin, this is probably the most effective way to protect yourself from attacks of any kind. It may not be the simplest to set-up (but frankly, none of them are really easy to configure for neophytes), but it is efficient, quite complete, and available in a free version [IMG13].
Wordfence includes a firewall that scans all incoming and outgoing traffic, a malware scanner that regularly checks your site for infections, and several options to enhance the overall security of your WordPress site. Two-factor authentication, for example, is a very useful secure login feature that is used by banks and government agencies around the world, among others.
The Pro version of Wordfence, which starts at $99/year, includes a real-time Threat Defense Feed, the ability to block visitors from the countries of your choice, additional firewall rules, and a few other advanced protection options.
Sucuri Security (Freemium): This plugin offers pretty much the same tools as Wordfence to ensure the security of your site (malware detection, blacklist, and WordPress file integrity monitoring, etc.). The difference here is that there is no firewall included in the free version of Sucuri.
One of the most appreciated features among users is the fact that Sucuri will assist you in repairing any damage caused in the event of an attack. Because yes, even with rock-solid security, no site is unfortunately 100% impenetrable. But you can easily check the security level of your site via the Sucuri dashboard, which is very clear [IMG14].
The paid version of Sucuri Security starts at $199/year (just under $17/month) and offers among other things, such as malware cleaning (no page limit), removal of websites from the blacklist, but above all, an extremely effective firewall. Based on Cloud/WAF (Web Application Firewall) technology, it is designed to stop all upstream attacks and hacking attempts before they can even reach your website.
What to choose between Wordfence and Sucuri?
According to several articles, including one published on kinsta.com, the Premium version of Sucuri is a truly robust solution in terms of security and performance. This is most certainly due to the formidable efficiency of their firewall, the low impact on performance (Sucuri servers manage all your scans remotely), but also for the high quality and highly responsive technical support provided. If your project is a bit ambitious, whether you manage a corporate website or an online store, this is really the solution to consider seriously. Otherwise, Wordfence is suitable for smaller projects, such as blogs and smaller websites.
Either way, whether you opt for one or the other, I recommend that you consult the documentation to find out how to set up your security plugin correctly. And if you’re struggling to do so, you should know that there are videos in the form of very well-made tutorials that you can easily find on YouTube.
All In One WP Security & Firewall (Free): Here is a solution I’ve used a few times already for small projects or while waiting to migrate to a more robust solution. This plugin includes a firewall, a module to prevent spam and various attacks such as Brute Force, a malware scanner, etc. The list is quite impressive.
What I especially like about this one is the simplicity with which you can set up each module. Each option has a value between 5 and 20 points, which will help you to see the level of security achieved. A small counter displayed on the dashboard will show you the current score [IMG15].
In terms of efficiency, AIO WP Security is probably not the best, but it is completely free, very intuitive and quite complete, and available in several languages.
Each of the images you add to your site has a weight and, therefore, an impact on the loading time of your pages and posts. And the bigger and more numerous these images are, the longer it will take the browser to load them all. The problem is that Mr. Google doesn’t like this, pages that take time to load. This can, therefore, have a direct impact on your SEO. That’s why it’s important to adapt as much as possible the size of the images that will be used by WordPress, as I explained here. But it is also possible to compress the images to reduce their weight while preserving their quality and without changing their size. Several plugins do this very well and even for free.
ShortPixel Image Optimizer (Freemium): ShortPixel offers a lot of very interesting features, including support for the WebP format (a lighter image format developed by Google and increasingly used), conversion from PNG and GIF to JPG, choice of compression level, the ability to automatically reduce large images but also backup the originals ones, etc. [IMG16]
ShortPixel allows you to optimize up to 100 images per month for free. If you exceed this quota, you can either opt for a monthly plan that starts at $3.99/5,000 images/month, or for their “One Time Credits” formula, which is a package for a bundle of X images and never expires. It goes from $9.99 for 10,000 images to $249 for 500,000.
Robin Image Optimizer (Freemium): It’s certainly not the best known, and the free version offers even a little less option than ShortPixel (e.g. no custom folder or WebP conversion), but it has the huge advantage of not imposing a limit on the number of images optimized per month, and that’s pretty remarkable. I also find that the interface is visually very nice [IMG17]. The only limit here will be the size of each image, which cannot exceed 5 MB (But honestly, who sends 5 MB images on their site?).
The Pro version starts at $39/year and, therefore, offers the possibility to convert your images to Webp format, the optimization of images contained in a custom folder, but also the compatibility with Multisite as well as the NextGEN Gallery plugin, the access to faster servers, and finally a better technical support via their website.
Let’s stay in the field of images since with this type of plugin you will be able to defer their displaying on your pages and posts. You have probably already noticed, when you were browsing some websites, that images appeared as you scrolled down the page? Well, that’s the lazy load. The advantage, as you can guess, is that not all the images have to be downloaded immediately, which saves a lot of time for the page loading.
Before installing anything, it should also be pointed out that since version 5.5, WordPress includes a new HTML attribute for the deferred loading of images. Concretely, this means that modern browsers such as Chrome, Edge, and Firefox will apply this “native lazy loading” without you having to do anything. But for the moment, it only works on images. So, it may still be necessary for the deferred loading of videos and iframe, as well as for compatibility with other browsers such as Safari and Opera, for example.
Warning: Some plugins (image compression, cache, WP optimization) already include a lazy load function among the others offered. Most of the time it will be an option that can be activated just by checking a checkbox. If this is the case for one of those you have or plan to install, it is better not to install a second one then because it could lead to some important malfunctions on your site.
a3 Lazy Load (Free): This is a very good, little easy to use plugin. Compatible with the native Lazy loading I was telling you about above, it also supports videos and iframe. It also offers a whole range of additional options that can be very useful [IMG18]. Among these, you can choose the sections where to apply it (content of pages/articles, widgets, thumbnails…), exclude some others via a class or attribute, add a spinner and compatibility with the Jetpack plugin.
- IMAGE 18 a3 Lazy Load
Let’s continue our quest for performance optimization with a rather special type of plugin: the cache. To understand how it works, let’s first take a quick look at how WordPress works. Each time a user accesses your site, the browser must first process all the PHP requests received by WordPress, by your theme, and by all your plugins, but also load JS scripts and CSS styles. All this slows down considerably the loading of the requested page, of course. And that’s where our cache plugin comes in. What it will do is “aggregate” all this data into a simple static HTML page, much lighter, which will be saved on your web server.
Tip: If you’re in the process of building your website/blog, it’s best to install a cache only after you’ve completed the design and installed all the features, just before the “Grand Opening”. This is because the cache distributes a “compiled” version of your page which is stored in memory, so you won’t see the changes you make to it without first clearing the cache.
As you’ll have understood, the cache is an important element, even capital, to ensure the proper functioning of your site and especially to guarantee an optimal user experience. With the backup plugin, the security plugin, and possibly the SEO plugin if you are building a blog, it is one of the plugins that I install on every WordPress project.
WP-Rocket (Premium): Of all the comparisons I’ve consulted recently, most of the time it always comes out the same winner: WP-Rocket. And I must admit that I was myself impressed by the rather incredible performance gain when I first installed it on one of my projects. So, it’s a premium plugin, but the price/performance ratio is, in my opinion, really worth it.
The installation is simple and the configuration of the different options is quite intuitive [IMG19]. And if you encounter some difficulties, you’ll find videos to help you in the “Tutorials” tab and have access to their VIP technical support.
WP-Rocket costs $49/year, but you will be able to get 50% or more discount when you renew your subscription. The plugin includes not only the most efficient cache function on the market but also a lazy load option, GZIP compression, CSS and JS file minification and combination, Cache preloading, several database optimization options, and the possibility to integrate a CDN. In short, all the tools you need to guarantee your site a Formula 1 performance.
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers located in different geographical locations around the globe. If you use this service, each server will keep a copy of your website, so that it can be delivered faster to a user located nearby.
Let’s imagine that your website is hosted somewhere in France. If a user located in Australia wishes to connect to it, the pages will be displayed more slowly because of the distance the data must travel before reaching his device. On the other hand, if you have subscribed to a CDN service, the content will then be delivered by a much closer server and, therefore, much faster. If your project is international in scope, the use of such a service can be very advantageous.
LiteSpeed Cache (Free): If you’re looking for a free plugin, you should like this one. The user interface is clear and pleasant [IMG20], and even if you don’t reach the performance levels of WP-Rocket, you will find some similar tools such as the option to minimize and compile JS/CSS files as well as many others.
W3 Total Cache (Freemium): This is not the easiest plugin to configure, but W3 Total Cache often ranks well in the various comparative tests found on Google. It offers all the essential tools such as browser caching, CDN support, CSS/JS file minification, etc. It also offers database minification, which can have a positive impact on the loading of your site.
If, like us at sweekr.com, you wish to propose your site in several languages, you will need to use a plugin capable of handling all the technical aspects necessary for this task, and displaying the different elements in the language chosen by each user. Well, I’m not hiding the fact that it’s a lot of extra work, but the big advantage is the number of visitors you’ll see tenfold.
WPML (Premium): The full version of WPML (WordPress Multi Language) includes several plugins. The advantage is that you will be able to install only the one(s) you need, saving space and performance. Some time ago, WPML had the drawback of having a rather important impact on the performance of the site, but this problem has been fixed since version 4.3.
As soon as you have installed the main plugin, you will be invited to define a series of basic options via the configuration wizard (choice of main language, secondary languages, where to display the language selector, etc.). Then, you can start translating all the elements of your site one by one: pages, posts, navigation menus, categories, tags, etc. It might not be easy to get started right away, but the documentation provided is very clear and available in several languages. It is without a doubt the most powerful and efficient plugin I’ve ever used [IMG22].
WPML is compatible with a lot of free or premium themes and plugins and even offers specific add-on for some of them (e.g. WooCommerce and BuddyPress). And if you encounter any problem translating an item or plugin, their support, also available in several languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic…), is really efficient. I’ve needed it a few times and have never been disappointed.
Packages start at only 29$/year (renewal at 21$), and the full package is at 79$/year (renewal at 59$). This last one allows you to have access to all the add-ons but is not essential for small projects. The best is to compare the different plans if you’re hesitating.
Polylang (Freemium): Here is a free alternative that may be suitable for not too ambitious website/blog projects. It will give you the possibility to translate already quite a lot of content, despite its few limitations. The user interface is both simple and convenient [IMG23], and like WPML, you can use the configuration wizard to set the basic parameters.
The Pro version is 99$/year and will offer you the possibility to translate URL slugs, to share the same slug in the URL, or to duplicate articles from one language to another. To this, you have to add the cost of any additional modules you might need (only WooCommerce, for now), but even if you have to pay, I personally prefer to opt for the $79 “Multilingual CMS” version of WPML, which already includes all the modules. But of course, it’s up to you.
There are automatic translation plugins, some using the Google Translation API, but I would advise against using it. The human language is something so complex, and even the latest generation of AI will have a hard time handling it properly. Users don’t like having to read a poorly translated text because they find it really tiring.
However, if you don’t have the time or the budget to offer your site in several languages, weglot.com is, among the 3 solutions I tested, the one that offers the most satisfactory results. The free version allows you to translate up to 2000 words, and if you need more, their Premium offers start at $9/month.
I talked about it in the first part of my article about WordPress, the Page Builder are plugins that allow you to build and modify pages and articles easily, via a visual interface that allows you to add all the elements using “drag’n drop”. So, basically, you have your page on one side and all the available elements on the other, which you just have to drag one after the other to start building it. It’s a very simple solution that I think is mostly for beginners as well as for those who are more experienced but want to save time.
To be honest, I’ve never used this kind of plugin since I code all my pages and articles in HTML/CSS. However, I took the time to test the most famous and best rated ones in order to give you my opinion (Yeah, I know. I’m too good).
Elementor (Freemium): I must admit that it’s really easy to use, and indeed, it makes the task of creating pages and articles much easier. This plugin offers a really nice and intuitive user interface [IMG24]. To get started, go to your WordPress admin area and then to “Elementor › Getting started”. From there, you can watch a short video that explains, in a nutshell, how it works. Then, when you’re ready, click on “Create Your First Page” to… well, create your first page.
Of all the Page Builder plugins I’ve tested, Elementor is the one I found most pleasant to use. Moreover, this free version comes with all the basic elements (called “Widgets” here) needed to create pages/articles. Each of these elements can be easily modified via the “Content”, “Style” and “Advanced” tabs, which offers really high customization possibilities.
The Pro version, at $49/year for a website, brings more than 90 additional elements, 300 templates (predefined and editable design), 10 complete website template kits, a form builder and a popup builder, and the possibility to add your own CSS styles to each widget.
Beaver Builder Lite (Freemium): This is another very popular Page Builder. It works under the same principle, but the interface is just different (but not less efficient). They offer a demo page where you can test all the power and ease of use of this tool.
For this test, I installed the “Lite” version of Beaver Builder. This one contains quite a few elements but could be enough to build basic pages/articles. Using the interface is rather pleasant, adding new modules is done via the small “+” icon located in the top right corner, and modifying those already inserted on the left window [IMG25].
The plan, starting at 99$ (standard), offers access to all Pro modules, does not impose any limit on the number of websites, and allows you to open the doors of their “World-Class Support” (5 stars technical assistance) for one year. If your site is rather large or if you plan to use Beaver Builder on several projects, this option may be more interesting for you.
SiteOrigin Page Builder (Free): This plugin works a little differently since the user interface is fully integrated into the WordPress editor (Gutenberg or classic), and the insertion of different elements is not done via drag and drop but by a click. This system, which I find less visual [IMG26], looks more like the Gutenberg one than the two previous ones. But with more than a million active installations, I guess that it has found its fans.
The big advantage over Gutenberg is that all content inserted here is based on responsive columns, and therefore, directly compatible with any screen size (laptop, tablet, and mobile). SiteOrigin Page Builder is free, compatible with most free or premium themes (which is not necessarily the case with the other two), and available in 17 languages.
Good to know: Another option you might want to consider is DIVI, which I’ve already mentioned here. DIVI is not a plugin but a theme with a powerful Page Builder integrated. It features a fully visual interface, similar to Elementor and Beaver Builder, as well as “drag’n drop” element insertion. This premium theme costs 89$/year (or 249$ for a lifetime license), and comes with hundreds of layout packs that you can use to start just about any type of website and for an unlimited number of projects.
After using it for some time, you may notice some slowdowns in WordPress performance. This may happen because the database is starting to show signs of clogging and disorganization. But fortunately, again, there are plugins that will take care of the cleanup.
Warning: Be sure to make a backup of your files + database BEFORE using this type of plugin. Because even if the ones I’m going to present here are trustworthy and of good quality, nobody is safe from a bug or other malfunction. It happened to me, and I spent hours fixing the problem. You have been warned.
Advanced DB Cleaner (Freemium): This is a good plugin, with a simple and efficient interface [IMG27]. Thanks to its various tools, you can clean up WordPress tables such as those containing post revisions and drafts, comments, meta data, etc. And if you wish, you can even schedule an automatic cleanup via the “Add New Schedule” button. The “Tables” tab will show all your tables and an indication of how much space you can save after the cleanup.
The free version already contains all the necessary options to clean your database, but if you need more, this plugin also offers a Pro version for $39 (no annual plan, one payment only). This one offers the ability to search for specific elements in your DB, detects orphaned tables and options, and gives you access to their personalized technical support.
WPS Cleaner (Free): This is another very good plugin, more basic but no less efficient. The cleaning is done by section, via the different tabs located at the top (posts, comments, terms, etc.) [IMG28]. For each line, you will have a cleanup button displaying the number of items that will be cleaned. You can also easily remove unused plugins, themes, images, and files.
You may not know it, but Mr. Google’s bots love to see links (internal and external) in the articles and pages they visit. The problem with adding links is that some of them end up not leading anywhere after a while (the famous 404 error page), either because the target page has changed address or has simply been deleted. To solve this problem, there is no need to manually check every link on every page of your site. Fortunately, there are other simpler solutions.
Warning: This type of plugin can be quite resource consuming. So, if your site or blog contains a lot of links, it is possible that the overall performance will be affected. To solve this, I suggest that you activate this plugin just long enough to run a full scan and then deactivate it, or better yet, to follow the alternative solutions described in this article.
Broken Link Checker (Free): This plugin is now developed by WPMU Dev, a company specialized in WordPress plugins development, whose team assures to have optimized the code in order to minimize the impact on WP global performance. That’s good to know.
The presentation here is rather basic, even a bit austere [IMG29], but hey, after all, what we ask from an plugin is to be efficient, not a Van Gogh masterpiece. The interface is clean but clear, and you can find all the options in the different tabs. The most interesting ones allow for example to set the checking cycle (every x hours), to search also for broken image and video links, to receive a notification of broken links by email, to apply a specific CSS style to them, to propose alternatives, and some others.
Link Checker (Freemium): This is another interesting plugin that, unlike the previous one, will also check image and video links [IMG30]. However, there are very few options, and this free version is limited to 500 links. To be able to check more links, you’ll have to go through the Pro version which raises this quota to 25.000 links, but costs $45/year.
14Sharing on Social Networks
If your theme does not already include social sharing icons, which are essential to exist on the web, you can use a plugin that will display them on pages and posts of your blog.
AddToAny Share Buttons (Free): Unless you have very specific needs, this plugin will suit most website and blog projects. All the options are there: choice between nearly a hundred sharing icons [IMG31], their position, size, style, display adapted to mobile screens, the possibility to add your own JS/CSS code… This is a great plugin that is also completely free.
Ultimate Social Media Icons PLUS (Freemium): This one offers a lot of features that should delight those who think AddToAny doesn’t offer enough [IMG32]. So, in the program, we’ll find 16 different icon styles, the possibility of applying various animations and displaying a share counter next to each icon, etc.
The free version, of course, has some restrictions, including the number of social icons, which is limited to 15. To access other icons (more than 260!), other styles, icon animations, etc., you will have to opt for the Pro version at $30, which includes 6 months of support and updates.
There are plenty of solutions to create an online store. But did you know that WordPress can, with a simple plugin, transform itself into a highly customizable store? And for free! Here’s how.
WooCommerce (Free): With more than 5 million active installations, this is the most used E-commerce solutions in the world. And it’s easy to see why when you take a closer look at all the benefits it has to offer.
- WooCommerce is completely free. The only costs you might have will be in the eventual purchase of a Premium theme or plugins, but there are many free or freemium ones as well.
- WooCommerce allows you to sell all types of products, such as physical and digital goods, subscriptions, reservations, etc.
- WooCommerce is supported by a big community of developers and users. This means, on the one hand, that the plugin is regularly updated, but also that you will find help quite easily in case of problems.
- There are many payment gateways for the purchase of your products. The most popular is Stripe which is free (no monthly fees) and only takes a commission for each transaction.
- WooCommerce is fully and seamlessly integrated with WordPress, so their use is very similar. If you know how to use WordPress, you will know how to use WooCommerce.
I’ll stop here, even if there is a lot more to say, as this plugin is so vast and offers many possibilities. I’m thinking of writing an article entirely dedicated to WooCommerce, and I’ll probably do it as soon as I find some time. Until then, if you want to know more and learn how to use it, you can follow this link.
- IMAGE 33 WooCommerce installation
- IMAGE 34 WooCommerce: Product page
- IMAGE 35 WooCommerce: Demo with Porto theme
If you want to integrate a discussion forum to your site, and so allow your users to exchange about various topics with each other but also with you, here are some solutions I recommend.
Tip: There is another possibility to have a forum than using a plugin. You can opt for an external solution, such as Forumotion or phpBB for example, and bridge it using a sub-domain to link it to your website. This will allow you to lighten WP, but you won’t have a total and absolute control of it as it is the case with a plugin. Read this article or this one if you want to learn more about it.
Bbpress (Free): This is the one I chose for this site [IMG36]. It is free and includes all the necessary features. The options are basic, but it has the essentials, like allowing users to embed media (YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, etc…) directly into topics and replies, bookmarking topics, allowing non-registered users to create topics and replies, designating one or more moderators, etc.
The only problem, in my opinion, is that Bbpress comes with a very basic design. This can be a drawback if you have no knowledge of HTML/CSS, or don’t have the budget to hire someone to do it for you. On the other hand, there is a very strong community behind Bbpress. So, you will easily find help in case of a problem.
To see what it might look like (after a small lifting), take a look at the newly created Forum.
ForumEngine (Premium): If you are looking for a complete and turnkey solution [IMG37], this one should suit you. All the functions are there, and the customization options are numerous. Moreover, you can choose between different basic designs and change the colors of most elements.
This plugin costs $49/year, is available in several languages, can be installed on an unlimited number of websites, and includes 12 months of technical support and updates.
wpForo et Asgaros (Free; Free and paid add-ons): For this third solution, I hesitated a long time between wpForo [IMG38] and Asgaros [IMG39] Forum. They both work in a similar way, have a pretty nice design, offer a very clear configuration interface with many options, and are both highly customizable. Even after installing and testing them both, I couldn’t decide which one I liked better. Let’s say then that they are tied for this third place. You be the judge, though.
- IMAGE 36 Bbpress
- IMAGE 37 ForumEngine
- IMAGE 38 The design of wpForo
- IMAGE 39 The many options of Asgaros Forum
The proof that WordPress is really a very flexible tool is that you can even turn it into a real social network website. Well, maybe not as elaborate as Facebook (though…), but that can look like something similar, anyway.
BuddyPress (Free): Another solution used here on Sweekr. Like Bbpress, there are quite a number of useful options, but the original design is quite basic. This plugin has 8 modules [IMG40] that can be activated separately and will allow users to customize their account, create groups, send private messages, etc.
There is of course a news feed where everyone can post messages and reply to those left by other members. There are also a lot of free plugins that add extra features like Activity Plus Reloaded that allows you to post one or more images as well as videos from platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Dailymotion.
PeepSo (Freemium): If you’re looking for a solution that can turn your site into a customized version of Facebook, this is the one you need [IMG41]. But let’s say it right away, the free version is really light because it doesn’t give you the possibility to upload images or videos, add friends, chat with other members, or create groups. So, let’s be clear, without these basic features, there’ll be no Facebook.
That being said, let’s see what PeepSo offers in this free version. Among the basic features, you get user profiles with avatars and cover images, the possibility to publish images (externally hosted) and videos (YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion…) via a URL link, schedule the publication of a message, the “Like” button, the integration of “hashtags”, mood icons, widgets, real-time notifications, etc.
The paid version starts at 129$/year (Basic Bundle), includes 6 plugins that fill the gaps I mentioned above, the ability to publish polls, their “Gecko” theme, 2 weeks (only?!) of technical support, and 1 year of updates.
Tip: I mentioned above the possibility of externalizing your forum to reduce the impact of this type of plugin on the WordPress overall performance. Note that it is possible to link an external social networking platform such as Tribe, Ning or Socialveo in the same way, using a subdomain. I suggest this other article to learn more about subdomains and WordPress.
WordPress offers a comment section just below each post on your blog but also at the bottom of your pages when this option is enabled. This comment block is pretty basic, and if you want to elaborate on it a bit, here are a few solutions that will help you.
wpDiscuz (Free; Paid modules): This very popular plugin will not only bring some original features to your comments area but will also greatly improve its design [IMG42]. Once installed, you will be able to choose between 3 different layouts as well as either a light or dark style, to add a static icon to your posts for faster display of comments, to allow readers to react to a specific part of the text via a small icon placed right next to it, to give readers the ability to rate your posts, etc. You can test all this on their demo page.
wpDiscuz offers 18 add-ons that can be purchased separately (prices range from $9 to $25) or all together via the $99 bundle. The most interesting ones allow you to upload photos, videos and audio files (wpDiscuz Media Uploader), integrate video, social networks, audio and photo content (wpDiscuz Embeds), or add an emoticon package (wpDiscuz Emoticons).
De:comments (Premium): This one, which I used on a former project (dead since, may it rest in peace), is distinguished by its elegant design and its many features [IMG43]. Among them, a badge system encouraging readers to be more active in the comments space, the publication of images, videos and animated GIFs, a voting system for each comment, the possibility to connect via social networks, etc. Moreover, it is highly customizable, adapts to all types of screens, and is available in 18 languages.
This plugin costs $50/year, and during this period, offers access to technical support and the latest updates. No demo page here, but you can go to the comment section of their blog to see how it works.
- IMAGE 42 wpDiscuz
- IMAGE 43 De:comments
Ah les starts! Ces données magiques qui nous aident à progresser… mais nous empêchent de dormir la nuit.
GA Google Analytics (Freemium): Google Analytics is one of the essential tools that allows you to collect detailed statistics on the traffic of your website. This information is crucial if you want to improve your visibility on the Internet and increase traffic to your site.
I’m not going to give you a course on this subject (others have already done so), but you should know that the integration with WordPress is relatively simple: Basically, you go to the Google Analytics website, you create an account, and then get an identification code that you will have to insert in your pages. To do this, you can use the GA Google Analytics plugin which will do it for you. Then you just have to go to your Google Analytics account to follow the evolution of your traffic.
This free version, which offers some basic options [IMG44], is simple, light, and easy to use but also regularly updated. GA is also available in a PRO version where you can add multiple tracking codes, have a live preview of all tracking codes, choose multiple locations to insert the tracking code, disable tracking for all logged in users but also for any post ID, user role, or post type, etc. If you are interested in any of these PRO options, the good news is that this PRO version only costs $15 one time, so no subscription here.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights (Freemium): If you’re looking for something more powerful or offering more features, GAFWBMI should be of interest to you. Once you have created your tracking code, this plugin will connect to your Google Analytics account in order to offer you several services. Among them is the ability to view detailed analytics results directly from your WP admin area [IMG45].
In addition to the basic options, the PRO version offers some additional ones such as detailed audience reports, E-Commerce and affiliate links support, Search Console results, site speed, etc… To see a complete overview of the different PRO packages, which start at $99/year, click here.
Need a lightbox? You know, this feature that allows you to click on a thumbnail image to make it appear full screen. Yes, exactly like most of the images on this page. Well, that’s a lightbox. Do you want one?
Responsive Lightbox & Gallery (Freemium): If you need choices and options [IMG46], you’ll be served. First of all because you can choose between 8 lightboxes (SwipeBox, PrettyBox, FancyBox, etc.) and benefit from many customization options for each of them, but also because the developers of this plugin had the good idea to integrate a gallery builder, which via a “drag’n drop” interface will allow you to create great photo galleries.
Each lightbox is available in its basic version which is already sufficient to meet most of your needs. However, if you wish to opt for a more elaborate version, several Pro modules are available on their website, with prices ranging from $14 to $49.
Lightbox with PhotoSwipe (Free): Looking for something simpler but effective? This one is perfect then. It’s completely free and offers all the necessary options to integrate a lightbox to your website [IMG47].
Info: For your lightbox to work, your image must be linked to a media file when you add it to your page or article. If you don’t see what this is about, I explain it in more detail in the second part of my article on how to use WordPress.
You are using the Gutenberg editor but find that it lacks some type of blocks. No problem, there are some plugins that should help you.
Ultimate Gutenberg Blocks (Free): This plugin integrates about 30 additional blocks in WordPress. You don’t have to do anything—just install it, and you’ll find them with all the other blocks [IMG48] when you create a page or an article.
Gutentor (Free): If adding a few blocks is not enough for you, then try Gutentor. This plugin will literally boost WordPress with an impressive collection of [IMG49] ready-to-use and beautifully designed blocks and templates, plus offering plenty of customization options. You’ll hardly find anything better.
OK, let’s get to the last one. I’m going to present to you Jetpack, a plugin out of category which is a bit like the Swiss Army knife of WordPress.
Jetpack (Freemium): Jetpack has more than 5 million users, which makes it the most popular WordPress plugin. This multi-functional tool integrates a suite of essential WordPress features grouped into different categories: Security, Performance, Writing, Sharing, and Traffic.
With Jetpack, you can for example:
- Automatically optimize your images and activate the lazy loading function.
- Boost the loading of your pages by distributing your images and static files (CSS/JS) via a CDN.
- Activate the protection against Brute Force attacks.
- Add social network sharing buttons.
- Add a “Like” button to your articles and pages.
- Allow visitors to use a Facebook, Twitter, Google or WordPress.com account to leave comments.
- Offer visitors the ability to subscribe to new articles and comments via email.
- Receive alerts if your site is offline.
- View your site statistics.
- Preview how your content will be displayed on search engines.
- Generate XML sitemaps to improve your SEO.
Jetpack also offers several PRO plans with additional services. The price of these packages varies from $7.50/month to $70 for the complete bundle. Among these services, you will find:
- The creation of automated daily backups of your website (files + database).
- A daily automated scan to keep your site safe from security threats.
- A system that automatically removes spam from comments and forms.
- An unlimited “Video Host” service to quickly broadcast your videos.
- The ability to add a payment button, via Stripe.
- Google Analytics integration.
- Access to the WordPress advertising program.
If you want to know more about the Pros options, you can consult their comparison table available on their website.
- IMAGE 50 Jetpack
How to find other plugins?
There are plenty of sites where you can find free, freemium, or premium plugins for WordPress. I’ll list a few here, but if you have trouble finding what you’re looking for, a simple Google search should help.
- WordPress.org: This is the official WordPress directory. You will find plenty of free or freemium plugins.
- Codecanyon: A very large choice of premium plugins, with a very efficient search filter.
- Mojo Marketplace: A large selection of premium plugins.
- WPMU DEV: There you will find some quality plugins.
What if the plugin I need does not exist?
If you really can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you can contact a WordPress developer who will create a custom plugin just for you. You can find a freelance developer on sites such as:
What to do in case of a problem?
The settings of each plugin vary greatly from one to another, and some of them do not require any particular action while others require a lot of time. Moreover, it also depends on your own needs, and that’s why it’s difficult for me to explain it here. But if you have problems installing or setting up a plugin, there are several options to help you:
- Read the documentation that comes with the plugin or go to the author’s or publisher’s website where you can view or download it.
- Search for tutorials on YouTube that explain how to do it.
- Post a question on the plugin’s page in the WordPress plugin page or directly on the author’s support website.
- Do a Google search with the right keywords
- Post the question directly on a support forum such as wordpress.org or on StackExchange.
Voilà, we finally arrive at the end of this list, not exhaustive of course, of the best plugins (in my opinion) for WordPress. Yes, I was talking about 20 plugins, but there were a bit more, so I put them here anyway. This article is longer than expected (sorry for that), but I wanted to include all the information I think is important to help you make your choice.
Don’t hesitate to suggest the ones you prefer and that are not in this list, or to tell me what you think about the ones I talked about here.