I have been working with WordPress to design and build websites for quite a while now. And in that time, I’ve installed, used, and struggled with a ton of different plugins.

I hear people asking the following questions so often:

How many plugins is too many?“,  “How can I tell what’s a good plugin and what isn’t?” and “What plugins are best?

The answers?

Quality over quantity, but there is no magical number.” “A plugin that is updated often, that is compatible with your version of WordPress, and has a lot of good reviews is a good plugin. But those are not hard and fast rules.” and “There is no best plugin, but some are much better than others.”

To go further into the last question, here are 9 of my favorite plugins of all time. Ones that almost any website can find useful, that have great reviews, and that are lean and won’t slow your site down very much. And they are all completely free to use! Let me know in the comments if you use any of the plugins below and what you think of them!

 

404page

  • Last updated 3 days before this was written
  • 70,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 275 5-star ratings vs 4 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

The 404 page is a page people see when a link is broken. You’ve probably run into them a few times even if you don’t use the internet a whole lot. This plugin allows you to customize the 404 page to look and feel however you like within the limits of your current theme. If you want to have a fun picture up or a contact form to help people find their way, it’s entirely up to you!

 

Popup Maker

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 200,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 2,179 5-star ratings vs 23 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

While the plugin above easily lets you set up a MailChimp pop up form, sometimes you need a pop up with something else in it. A simple message or maybe a brief form. This plugin is perfect. I personally love using it in conjunction with Caldera forms to create Contact form pop-ups instead of creating a new page for Contact information. The plugin lets you add literally whatever content you want – written, images, shortcode, etc. – and customize it looks to your heart’s content!

 

Akismet 

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 5 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 689 5-star ratings vs 33 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

No one likes spam. One of the downsides to WordPress, in general, is how pervasive and annoying spam comments on your posts and pages can be. Akismet is probably the #1 most popular app to help you filter out spam messages. It automatically checks every single comment, recognizes the fishy ones, and filters them out. This not only saves you time in cleaning up your comment section, but the plugin completely blocks the worst types of spam which can save you disk space, speeds up your site, and helps protect it from malicious spammers.

 

Caldera Forms

  • Last updated 3 weeks before this was written
  • 100,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 270 5-star ratings vs 28 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Everyone needs a contact form on their site. Sometimes you need something even more complex than a simple contact form. Maybe you need a form where people can submit attachments or enter very specific types of fields. Caldera Forms allows you to build custom forms which forward the submissions directly to your email! A simple shortcode lets you drop the form onto any page or post you’d like. Now, this plugin can be buggy every so often, but their support team tends to be pretty helpful!

 

Use Any Font

  • Last updated 6 months before this was written
  • 100,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 721 5-star ratings vs 44 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Let’s face it. Google Fonts are okay, but they don’t always get the job done. If you buy a custom font and then want to use it, you’ll have to know a bit of code to be able to throw it in and start using it. This plugin lets you upload the font file, decide what kind of text you want to apply it to, and you’re DONE! Now this plugin isn’t entirely free. There’s a free of a few bucks (literally, I think I paid $5) and you get an API key to use for life for as many sites as you want! That is gold for someone like me who has used this plugin on over 15 sites by now. This plugin also goes against one of my rules: plugins should receive updates every month or so at the most. This plugin hasn’t been updated since around February, 2018. While that’s a bit worrisome, it has been tested with the newest version of WordPress which means the developer is still making sure the plugin is functioning. I still use this plugin and it has literally never given me a problem, so I feek okay suggesting it.

 

 

Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode

  • Last updated 3 weeks before this was written
  • 700,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 3,685 5-star ratings vs 4 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Have you ever wanted to make big changes to your site but didn’t want people to see your site under construction? Maybe you need to flip your theme or make some serious edits to your homepage. This plugin allows you to essentially but a curtain up over your site! You can add a few simple messages, your logo or an image, colors and fonts to match your brand, and voila! You have a branded, mobile-friendly and beautiful coming soon page that will pop up whenever someone tries to visit any page of your site. If you’re logged in, you’ll see the site as it is so you can keep working. As soon as you’re ready to “lift the curtain”, just hit “disable” and your new site is live for all to see!

 

 

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

  • Last updated 30 days before this was written
  • 1 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 276 5-star ratings vs 41 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Google Analytics is one of the most popular ways to monitor your website traffic and conversions. But not everyone likes having to log in to Google Analytics or visit the external site in order to see their data. With this simple little plugin, simple Google Analytics data is shown on your WordPress Dashboard! You can pull real-time stats and reports from the plugin as well. You do have to already have Google Analytics installed and running on your site before you can use this plugin.

 

 

 

MailChimp Forms by Optin Cat

  • Last updated 2 weeks before this was written
  • 10,000+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 49 5-star ratings vs 7 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

Call me lazy, but I hate the way MailChimp has it’s embedded forms set up. You have to know a fair bit of code to truly be able to customize your forms as you want them to appear on the site. And even still, they don’t always look too great. This plugin let’s you build your own custom sign up form (either for in-page or sidebar or pop up) and then connects it to your MailChimp account. That way, those who sign up through the form are automatically added to your MailChimp workflow and the appropriate list!

 

 

Yoast SEO

  • Last updated 1 weeks before this was written
  • 1 million+ active installs
  • Tested with the latest version of WordPress
  • 20,270 5-star ratings vs 446 1-star ratings
  • (view the WordPress plugin page here)

SEO tools are some of the most hotly debated tools in the WordPress world. I’ve heard people say they live by Yoast and some people say it’s total garbage. In my experience, it’s always performed well for me. If has a few bugs, but it should serve you more as a guide for your SEO goals rather than the end-all-be-all. SEO deals with a lot of suggestive concepts, such as “how easy is this page to read?” and “how many times should I use my keyword on this page?” What Yoast does is give you visual aids to help improve your SEO. It won’t shoot you up to page 1 on Google, but if you already have a general understanding of SEO, this plugin is a great way to focus your efforts on making improvements.