WordPress plugins are to your website what cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits are to a baked potato.
… Only a crazy person would want to have a site without them.
With the right suite of plugins incorporated into your backend, you can dramatically (and instantaneously) improve the functionality, aesthetic, and efficiency of your site both for yourself and your viewers.
However, with the myriad of options available to the average webmaster, the challenge of finding the best WordPress plugins can feel all but impossible.
After all, it only takes one janky line of code or installation gone awry to transform your formerly beautiful and sleek website into a jumbled mess of nonsensical code, wonky themes, and broken functionality.
Not to worry.
We’ve done all of the heavy liftings for you, installing and reviewing countless plugins to determine once and for all which ones are worth your time and which ones aren’t.
So, without any further ado here is our list of the top 12 WordPress plugins for 2021.
1. Contact Form 7
If you need a plugin that will allow you to seamlessly create and manage multiple contact forms, use reCaptcha verification, and ensure that all spammy submissions are filtered out with Askimet (more on them in a second), then Contact Form 7 is the last WordPress plugin you’ll ever need.
This simple plugin allows you to skip all of the extra codings so that you can quickly create and publish beautiful contact forms that will have your users blowing up your inbox.
With more than 5 million active installations, 1,100 5-star reviews, and the low low price of absolutely free, we can promise you that you won’t find a better contact form plugin anywhere on the interwebs.
2. Yoast SEO
When it comes to on-page search engine optimization, few plugins can shine a candle to the efficacy and functionality of Yoast SEO.
Assuming that you’ve already conducted basic keyword research, the Yoast plugin will hold you by the hand and guide you step by step through the process of optimizing your new content for the search engine gods.
From the density of your target keyword to the optimization of your title and h2 tags, to basic readability and metadata, Yoast SEO makes on-page search engine optimization so easy a caveman could do it (if he knew what SEO is, I suppose).
3. Akismet Anti-Spam
Developed by the genius team behind the software of WordPress itself (the good folks of Automattic) Askimet Anti-Spam is the only plugin that you’ll need to keep the spammers at bay and maintain the long-term integrity of your site.
The plugin reviews and filters every comment that is shared on your website, providing a status history for each one so that you can determine which comments were found spammy by Askimet or the moderator.
You also have the ability to view the number of approved comments for each user, look at the URLs in the comment body, and remove any less-than-useful links you may find.
The best part? Askimet is free to download and use for all personal sites and the premium version (which comes with a slew of additional security goodies) cost pennies on the dollar, allowing you to keep your site beautiful and spam-free regardless of your budget.
For those of you who opted to take a slightly less conventional route with your eCommerce adventures (a.k.a. not using Shopify), WooCommerce is the all-in-one open source eCommerce platform for WordPress webmasters.
With a plethora of features, extensions, and customizations built into the platform, WooCommerce makes selling on your WordPress site easier than ever before.
From their abundance of themes (all of which come with unrestricted customization), to the ability to sell physical, digital, and affiliate products, to the countless conversion optimization tools, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single plugin that can match WooCommerce in terms of usability or price (just $12.95/month for their most advanced package).
5. TinyMCE Advanced
If you’ve ever created content on the backend of WordPress and inexplicably found yourself unable to locate a specific button or feature on the Visual Editor toolbar, then TinyMCE Advanced is the plugin that you’ve been waiting for.
This simple free-to-use plugin allows you to add, remove, and rearrange the buttons shown in the Visual Editor toolbar, giving you the ability to configure up to four rows of buttons that include (but certainly aren’t limited to) font sizes, font family, text/background colors, tables, and much more.
With the click of a button, TinyMCE allows you to dramatically streamline and simplify your backend WordPress experience, meaning that you can focus on what you do best and leave all of that tedious “button searching” behind you.
6. WordFence Security
With the proliferation of cyber attacks and website hacks in 2018, website security is more important than ever before.
Offering both free and paid version WordFence Security gives you access to an abundance of tools including:
- WordPress core file integrity verification and repair.
- Malware, virus, and backdoor scanning.
- A firewall that includes rate limiting, blocking fake Google crawlers, IP whitelisting and IP blocking.
- Real-time traffic that includes Google Crawlers, RSS feed readers and all other crawlers and bots. (Google Analytics does not include this data.)
- Email alerts of warnings and critical problems.
- Brute force hacking protection.
- And a whole lot more.
If you’re concerned about the security and integrity of your website, WordFence Security will allow you to rest easy knowing that your website, much like the customers of Allstate, is in good hands.
7. Google XML Sitemaps
Yet another useful SEO plugin for WordPress, Google XML Sitemaps helps search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! (people still use that, right?) to better index your website with a special XML sitemap.
As soon as you install and activate the plugin, it will automatically create an XML sitemap that makes it easy for search engine bots to view, crawl, and index your site so that you can enjoy a boost in your rankings and some extra “SEO Juice” for years to come.
8. WP Super Cache
In 2021, the speed of your website is everything. And with WP Super Cache, you can quickly and painlessly increase your website’s baseline speed.
This free and easy-to-use plugin generates static HTML files from your dynamic WordPress site meaning that the web server will use that file instead of processing the heavier (and slower) PHP scripts.
With its nominal price tag and ease of configuration, WP Super Cache is an essential plugin for any webmaster looking to increase their site speed and enjoy all of the benefits that come with it.
9. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by ExactMetrics
If you’ve ever wanted to track the real-time traffic details of your website without logging into and attempting to navigate the labyrinthine Google Analytics website, then Google Analytics Dashboard for WP by Exact Metrics (try saying that three times fast!) is the plugin you’ve been searching for.
This plugin allows you to monitor not only the real-time traffic stats and acquisition channels but also the:
- Sessions, organic searches, page views, bounce rate analytics stats
- Locations, pages, referrers, keywords, 404 errors analytics stats
- Traffic channels, social networks, traffic mediums, search engines analytics stats
- Device categories, browsers, operating systems, screen resolutions, mobile brands analytics stats
And, since it’s free to use for both personal and commercial sites, you have nothing to lose by clicking ‘download‘ and giving it a try.
10. UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin
Nothing is more frustrating (or terrifying) for the average webmaster than the prospect of losing all of their hard work and content due to a faulty update or accidental coding fluke.
Luckily, with UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup, the world’s highest rated (2,400+ 5-star reviews and counting) scheduled backup plugin, you can put those fears and frustrations behind you.
All you have to do is click ‘install’ and rest easy as all of your data is seamlessly backed up into the cloud.
11. Elementor Page Builder
If the Divi Builder and BoldGrid had a brainchild that was converted into a WordPress plugin, the Elementor Page Builder would be it.
With a suite of developer tools and a seamless visual builder that allows anyone (and I do mean anyone) to design stunning web pages in a matter of minutes, Elementor Page builder is, bar none, one of the most effective and easy-to-use WordPress page builder plugins on the market today.
At only $50/year for a single website, Elementor is well worth the money and will allow you to quickly and professionally create gorgeous pages so fast that it will make your head spin.
12. Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Nothing will bog down your website or slow your load times faster than oversized and unoptimized images.
Luckily, with Smush Image Compression and Optimization, you can compress, resize, and optimize all of your website’s images in less than a day.
Just click here to learn why Smush Image Compression and Optimization is considered the best free image compression plugin in the WordPress marketplace.