Quick question: Do you know what IFC, The New York Post, The Walt Disney Company, and WNBA have in common? Ponder the answer for a moment, as the tie that binds the four organizations isn’t obvious. Go ahead, I’ve got a minute. Stumped? It’s the WordPress content management system (CMS) that powers their websites.
If you aren’t hip to WordPress, here’s a short explanation of what it’s about. WordPress is a flexible, easy-to-set-up Web publishing platform that has served as the foundation for more than 60 million websites since its launch more than a decade ago. Its popularity has spawned an incredibly rich plug-in ecosystem that gives users the ability to improve their sites in many ways, including search engine optimization (SEO), article enhancement, and comments management. In short, there are an amazing number of ways to trick out your WordPress installation’s base functionality, whether you’re hosting your own website or using a managed WordPress hosting service.
There are more than 43,000 WordPress plug-ins available as I write this piece. The upside? There are a ton of plug-ins to choose from. The downside? There are a ton of plug-ins to choose from. As with the Android and iOS app stores, the WordPress plug-in catalog houses countless goodies mixed in with even more duds. This guide’s goal is to highlight those that will most benefit your website. You can, of course, visit WordPress’ Most Popular Plug-in Directory to see the most downloaded plug-ins of the moment, but you’ll miss many great potential additions by not digging deeper. That, however, is a potentially massive time sink, so I’ve done the digging on your behalf.
I’ve tested numerous WordPress plug-ins—both good and bad—to compile this list of the best that will help your site perform like a champ. And they do it without costing you a cent, because these plug-ins are all free (although some do offer premium levels with additional functionality). If you’ve explored this list before, you’ll notice some changes this time around. I’ve updated the list to reflect some of my new, favorite WordPress plug-ins. I think you’ll like them. I also removed the plug-ins that are no longer available, as well as the plug-ins that haven’t been updated in more than a year. An out-of-date plug-in may work with your recently updated WordPress installation, but it’s not guaranteed to do so.
Oh, one more thing. Now’s the time I should mention that plug-ins can only be installed in self-hosted WordPress sites; if WordPress.com is your host, this article isn’t for you.
If you’re self-hosting and you’re ready to enhance your WordPress-powered site, check out these excellent plug-ins. Got a favorite plug-in that I haven’t mentioned? Feel free to shout it out in the comments section below.