The Best WordPress Plugins 2021

17 Min.
Best WordPress  Plugins  List

With the right WordPress plugins, you can significantly increase the flexibility and success of your website. And save yourself a lot of time. We show you which WordPress plugins you need to know – for your own website and for your agency. 

When you run a website, you have to consider SEO, take care of marketing, regularly update your content and also keep an eye on WordPress security. There are days where you hardly have any time left for other work, I've experienced this myself time and time again. 

If you carry out all the activities manually instead of automating the administration of WordPress as much as possible, time will become even scarcer. Fortunately, the WordPress community offers countless extensions to help you with these tasks. You can use these tools to save time and achieve impressive results.

In this article, I'll show you what possibilities WordPress offers. I'll discuss the most important WordPress plugins I've come across in the course of my blogging career. Including tips on how to use them correctly. Are there other WordPress plugins you use and want to recommend? Feel free to use the comment function at the end of the post to share your ideas.

Not every task with WordPress needs a plugin

I frequently read questions in help forums or Facebook groups about how certain tasks can be done in WordPress. This is understandable because the content management system isn't, of course, a complete allrounder. However, the answers to the questions do sometimes shock me a little. 

You should always keep in mind that WordPress plugins can pose a security risk. Only install as many plugins as you really need as each additional line of code could theoretically serve as a gateway for attacks. Especially if the software is outdated. Consider the following points here: 

  • Keep your number of WordPress plugins as low as possible
  • Check the quality of the plugins (see this guide)
  • Update each extension as updates become available, preferably ASAP.

This minimizes the existing risk considerably. The problem arises especially with larger websites with many functions. For bigger websites, you end up having a large number of plugins you can't really do without. In this case, it's worth checking regularly whether the plugins are (still) up to date and whether you actually use them. If not, I recommend deleting the redundant and outdated plugins.

These WordPress plugins can help

I've come across so many different plugins during my time as a blogger. Today I want to introduce you to some of the tools I've used successfully in my work. I'll also include additional plugins that are worth checking out. 

Sometimes you need to look for alternatives. If a plugin is no longer compatible with another installed extension, for example. Or a plugin is getting older and no longer fulfills its purpose. In such scenarios, it can make sense to replace those WordPress plugins. 

Plugins for blocking spam 

Antispam Bee

The plugin Antispam Bee has already been explained in detail here in the magazine. I've been using Antispam Bee myself for many years on a large number of WordPress installations. No other plugin I've tried has been able to get rid of unwanted comments as well as Antispam Bee. The plugin can also be made GDPR compliant with a few settings. Problematic, however, is accessing databases. Or even comparing your own data with those in a central database. This tool will gradually start to save you a lot of time. 

WordPress  Antispam
Antispam Bee options 

You can make various settings in the options on how comments should be handled. You can either mark the comments concerned first or have them deleted directly. In addition, you can automatically trust comments from visitors who already have an approved comment. If they then comment again under a post, no further checks will be carried out.

The same also applies, for example, to users who use a Gravatar as bots rarely use such functions. The problem with both approaches is that just because an image is present or an earlier comment was approved, a more recent post could, of course, still be spam. 

Captcha plugin

A relatively unknown WordPress plugin for spam protection is called Captcha by BestWebSoft. I discovered it a few years ago in a Facebook group when one of my blogs was plagued by Brute Force attacks. Within a few hours, the comments section was flooded with spam (you can read how to protect the WordPress backend against unauthorized login attempts in this blog post).

After installing Captcha by BestWebSoft, the silence was restored within a very short time. Obviously, these were bot spam attacks. But the captcha plugin was able to suppress the comments without any problems. I'm very satisfied with the combination of this plugin with Antispam Bee on most of my blogs. Especially because the activities of genuine readers are not restricted. The plugin just works away in the background.

SEO & performance plugins for WordPress

Yoast SEO

There's a lot of competition on the market for SEO plugins. Check out our article Yoast vs Rank Math: WordPress SEO plugins compared. Nevertheless, I'm personally a huge fan of Yoast SEO – and will probably remain so.

The plugin has been with me on my blogs for many years now. I'm very satisfied with the free version and cannot complain about the quality of the posts. Especially at the beginning, Yoast made sure that I created many posts that could later achieve good rankings. Only over time did I get a feeling as a blogger for what I need to do to write high-quality texts.

SEO tips for WordPress

If you want to achieve good rankings with WordPress, you should prepare your content for search engines. But there also many other ways of improving your rankings. See my blog posts WordPress SEO: Optimizing texts for search engines, Image SEO with WordPress  and Internal linking with WordPress.

The SEO plugin from Yoast not only supports beginners with the right meta data in the articles. Advanced users can also take a lot from the instructions and setting options in the backend of WordPress to bring their websites to a new level.

This includes, among other things, social media presence, a sitemap for Google crawling, the customization of permalinks and descriptions for posts. Alternatives to Yoast SEO include Rank Math  and All in One SEO.

Yoast SEO analysis results
Yoast SEO has plenty of tips for optimizing your posts

Broken Link Checker

There's nothing worse than when someone reads a post on your site, clicks on an outbound link and the website – for whatever reason – isn't found. Broken links aren't going to please your readers and Google isn't impressed either. Basically, it shows that your website is not as professional and up-to-date as you'd hoped.

From an SEO perspective, a broken link can therefore have a negative effect. And this is where the WordPress plugin Broken Link Checker comes into play. With it, you can check your websites for broken links. You can then fix them to get better Google rankings.

Anyone using a professional SEO solution will usually have this function included and won't need to install the plugin. Duplicating the functionality would just waste resources.

Easy Table of Contents

Very long articles tend to have one major disadvantage: it's hard to keep track of where you are. Too much text can tempt readers into leaving the website, especially if they have to scroll for too long.

But this doesn't have to happen. With Easy Table of Contents, you can add a table of contents to your WordPress posts. It can either be added automatically at any point or manually via a shortcode. With the automated version, you can deactivate the display for individual posts.

Table of Contents WordPress  Plugin
Example of a table of contents

The table of contents can be displayed folded or unfolded with this WordPress plugin. Within the element, all headings of the article are linked as jump links so that a click leads to the corresponding paragraph.

This way you can make your long texts more reader friendly. At the same time, this process has a positive effect on the search results as the jump links of the table of contents are often also displayed there. The person searching can therefore be taken directly to the appropriate paragraph.

WP Optimize

With the upcoming Google Core Web Vitals, websites must be able to demonstrate fast loading times from June 2021. No one wants to wait unnecessarily for a website to load. That's how Google sees it too and will penalize slower websites in the future. 

The WordPress plugin WP Optimize can help you with this task in many ways. Firstly, it merges and minimizes e.g. HTML, CSS and JavaScript files. Why is this important? Because many files require multiple database queries. If you minimize these requests to one file, loading can be much faster in some cases.

WP Optimize can also help you with image compression. Check out the image optimization guide for WordPress. Image files take up the most storage space. Left uncompressed, the file size can easily take up twice as much space or more. 

To keep the space required as small as possible, the quality of the images is adjusted downwards a little. The visitor usually hardly notices a difference. But the Page Speed Insights Test does and shows you how well your site is performing. An alternative to WP Optimize is the WordPress plugin Autoptimize.

Redirection

It's not always possible to avoid content that has to be merged or even deleted. In technical jargon, this is called content recycling. Older content is reworked in order to continue to generate a lot of traffic.

Sometimes, however, a post can no longer be saved. Let's say it doesn't fits your strategy or the content no longer has value. In these exceptional cases, it can make sense to delete a post to increase the quality of the entire website.

What's not great about deleting content is that other websites may link to this content. The visitor then just gets directed to a "Content not found" message. With WordPress plugin Redirection you can avoid such scenarios and redirect your visitors directly to another website. For example, to the start page or to a new edition of the article or landing page.

XML Sitemap & Google News

The WordPress plugin XML Sitemap & Google News creates a sitemap for your blog. You can store this in Google's Search Console. Based on the sitemap, the search engines know which subpages are to be crawled. For more info, check out our article Creating and using an XML sitemap in WordPress.

XML Sitemap Google News plugin
The plugin XML Sitemap & Google News

If you use a complete solution such as Yoast SEO, however, you don't need to install this plugin as well. Yoast creates its own sitemap and this could lead to conflicts between the plugins. WordPress also offers its own sitemap by default but it's very basic and has some disadvantages.

Alternatively, you could switch off the sitemap in your SEO plugin and use this plugin instead, which also takes Google News into account. This in turn can – but is not guaranteed to – give you better consideration in Google Discover and other search engine services.

Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR / CCPA

For data protection reasons, you're required to use a cookie banner if any cookies are processed on your website. The WordPress plugin Cookie Notice & Compliance for GDPR / CCPA is the only free plugin that I know of for this purpose.

The tool allows you to inform your visitors about the data processing and make it compulsory for them to give their consent or not. Moreover, you can set that some scripts should only executed after consent has been given. You can provide a button for revocation – another legal requirement. See our article on designing cookie banners.

The plugin also gives you the option to add a link to your privacy policy. Some experts believe the privacy policy needs to be linked, others disagree. Alternatives include the paid WordPress plugin Borlabs Cookie.

Shariff Wrapper

Almost every website uses various social media plugins. Since the introduction of GDPR, however, their use is sometimes borderline. This is because some plugins load data without asking for the visitors' consent. 

Shariff Wrapper WordPress plugin
The WordPress plugin Shariff Wrapper

The plugin Shariff Wrapper ensures more legal certainty when using social media buttons. If you make the appropriate settings, these are only redirects. No data is loaded in advance. In my opinion, a website wanting to comply with GDPR should definitely use Shariff.

Plugins for interacting with your readers 

Newsletter

Email marketing can be another channel to stay in touch with your readers or customers. In content marketing, the statistics remain unbeaten. Emails have the highest open and click-through rates, as well as fairly high conversions, provided they contain high-quality and engaging content.

If you want to get in touch with your reader base on a regular basis, I recommend the WordPress plugin "Newsletter". You can manage an email list in accordance with GDPR and create and send newsletters directly in the WordPress backend. 

If you want more useful functions, you can simply pay for some add-ons. In principle, however, "Newsletter" can be used free of charge. By the way, your emails should be well prepared and offer added value. Otherwise, you'll hardly achieve opening rates of more than 10 percent. Good providers sometimes achieve rates of over 50 percent.

OneSignal

You've probably already come across push notifications? You visit a website and are asked whether the provider may inform you of news. This is how the plugin OneSignal works. If you stay under 30,000 notifications per month, you can use the WordPress plugin for free. If you want more notifications or more functions, you will of course have to pay a little more.

Many websites, online shops and blogs use this type of communication because you can use it to draw attention to your new posts again and again. This increases the likelihood of a conversion at some point. Or that someone will click on the ads in your blog.

WP Polls

Surveys are a great way to interact with your readers. You can collect your target audience's opinions and use them in your marketing. On the other hand, site surveys increase the interaction rate of your website, which can also have a positive effect.

Such factors can increase the length of stay and this, in turn, has an impact on your Google rankings. With a total of 90,000 active installations, the WordPress plugin WP Polls is one of the most popular. Alternatively, you can try YOP Poll or read the post The best survey plugins for WordPress.

YOP Poll Plugin for WordPress
Example of a survey with YOP Poll

Popup Builder

Opinions on pop-ups vary widely. While some swear by them and their lead numbers skyrocket, others insist they're most likely to deter visitors. Ultimately, you can see it one way or the other and just have to pay attention to your target group. Or you can simply see how your sales figures look with and without a pop-up. Your personal opinion also plays a role.

From a marketing perspective, it can make sense to use a pop-up plugin. I've had very good experiences with the Popup Builder plugin. The WordPress plugin is available free of charge and offers many useful functions. However, those who need more functionalities have to pay money for it.

Community & multilingualism

BuddyPress

Sometimes a "normal" website isn't enough. Your concept may envisage much more. For example, creating a community that is like a social network. This can make sense in certain niche topics because the demand for a community may not yet be met.

At this point, it's worth taking a look at the plugin BuddyPress. As the name suggests, you can use it to upgrade your website or blog to a community. But BuddyPress is also a suitable alternative for closed groups or teams.

On the official website, the plugin developers advertise numerous functions. Registered users have their own profiles, which can be customized as desired. Similar to Facebook, Groups can be used to bring people with similar interests together. 

Of course, users can network with each other and even send private messages. Basically, everything a community has to offer. In addition to the extensions, BuddyPress also comes with its own theme. If you want to build a community website, there's no getting around this plugin. With more than 200,000 installations, BuddyPress is not only very popular. It's also available in 45 languages and is constantly being updated. 

WPML

Do you have an international target group? Or want to expand your business into other countries? If so, you need a multilingual website. Many companies, magazines and projects have already proven that it makes sense to translate articles into other languages and then optimize them. This way you can achieve good search engine rankings for a topic in several languages.

But how can something like this be implemented with WordPress? You could publish the posts and pages in each language separately. But then your homepage would be overcrowded with the different languages. Only half of the posts (with only two languages) would be noticed by the target group. This would not only be a waste of resources but Google and your readers would also be irritated.

For this reason, you should consider sorting and linking your multilingual posts. The WordPress plugin WPML can help you with this task, see the instructions for setting up WPML. In just a few steps, you can create different post versions in different languages.

wp unboxed Weglot WordPress
wp unboxed is also multilingual but we use Weglot 

WPML is not just a plugin for managing different languages. You can use it to get in touch with professional translators who can help you create your articles in other languages. This way, you can get even more out of your project without investing a lot of time.

WPML isn't free; there are three plans you can purchase. For a multilingual blog, a multilingual CMS or for your multilingual agency. While only blog content is translated in the first plan, the second one allows you to have an entire CMS translated. The third plan is aimed primarily at agencies wanting to offer several websites in several languages. If you'd like to try an alternative plugin, you can take a look at Polylang or TranslatePress.

Other WordPress plugins

WP Statistics

Your views and visitor numbers play an important role. Especially if your website or blog is designed to sell products and services, for example, or to earn money with advertising. Although the number of visitors is not the most important thing, many companies measure their potential by such values. Theoretically, more hits mean more attention for the advertising companies.

But that's not the only reason why a WordPress plugin for statistics makes sense. The numbers often tell you which pages and contents you might need to rework. You can also see which posts get the most views. This helps you to get to know your target groups better.

I've been using the plugin WP Statistics for my projects for many years and am very satisfied. In addition to the pure numbers about the calls, you can also see from which websites your visitors are directed to you. Furthermore, the plugin provides you with information about the end devices and, if applicable, the countries.

I'd like to stress at this point, however, that if you want to collect this kind of data, according to GDPR you need the visitors' consent to do so. There are setting options in the plugin to make it GDPR compliant. Alternatives to this tool include Google Analytics, Statify or WordPress Popular Posts.

Avoid legal warnings

Always clarify the issue of legal security with a law firm that is familiar with online law. Such law firms can check your website and recommend changes to avoid warnings. Alternatively, take a look at offers from services such as the Händlerbund or the IT-Recht-Kanzlei.

AdRotate

If you want to advertise on your magazine or blog and earn money with it, you need the necessary traffic to convince companies. But this alone is not enough. Just as important is the implementation of advertising media in the WordPress backend.

After all, you don't want to manually edit every affiliate link (see Passive Income with Affiliate Marketing). Imagine you have 1,000 subpages and all links are set manually. Changing these links would take an enormous amount of time. Alternatively, you could of course make changes directly in the database with an SQL command and there are plugins, like the one mentioned earlier on, that can do this for you.

In my opinion, the best alternative for this problem is a WordPress plugin for managing advertising banners. Or rather, advertising media in general, since simple text links are often used in addition to banners.

I've been working with AdRotate for many years. You can not only create different ad media in this plugin, but you can also set up whole groups that display certain banners or links in rotation. These ads can then be integrated either via shortcode or even directly in the source code of your child theme.

AdRotate WordPress  Ads
Create an ad with AdRotate

The many functions make this plugin an all-rounder for managing advertising or call-to-actions in a blog or on any other website. In addition to the display, this plugin offers click statistics and, in the Premium version, some functions for more ease of use. For example, you can display ads only at certain times of day or only in certain countries. But in my eyes, the free version is already pretty impressive. Alternative plugins include Ad Inserter and WP Insert.

Updraft Plus

With the WordPress plugin Updraft Plus, you can easily create backups of your website. As we all know, security is one of the most important tasks you need to take care of. Regular data backups give you peace of mind – even if your site goes down completely.

You might think such things are unlikely to happen to you and are therefore irrelevant. But anyone who earns money with a website should consider the risk. What would you do, for example, if all your data – for whatever reason – suddenly disappeared? Or if your site got hacked and you wanted to quickly restore the original version? If your website is not accessible for a few hours or even a few days, the fallout from the damage may be enormous.

If you're not very familiar with data backups, the plugin Updraft Plus is there to assist you. Experienced users should rather make backups manually. Or use integrated backups like those at RAIDBOXES. Users who don't want to handle the backups themselves can use Updraft to create backups easily and conveniently in the WordPress backend.

You can even schedule backups in advance or send them to a cloud service of your choice where they'll be stored. Personally, however, I would advise against using a cloud service. Especially if you process sensitive data. For such cases, Updraft offers database encryption – but only in the Premium version.

Subscribe to Comments Reloaded

You've probably already seen WordPress websites where you can get notifications about new comments. This can be done quite easily with the plugin Subscribe to Comments Reloaded. Thanks to the double opt-in, the plugin can be used in compliance with the GDPR.

The legislator stipulates that there needs to be a second step involved in registration. This means registration has to be explicitly confirmed. Otherwise, anyone can easily register you and your address on other people's websites without your consent.

The plugin also allows visitors to register without having to make a comment themselves. I personally find this function very useful. How often have I found an interesting article on the internet and not wanted to write anything about it because another comment was already there? But I would have still liked to have been notified of any replies.

Comment notifications are particularly interesting for blogs and magazines because readers often leave a question in the comments. Without a corresponding notification function, they would have to check the blog regularly for new comments. A more convenient solution is therefore to use a plugin that informs you when new comments are posted. With large websites, however, you should keep an eye on performance. Especially if many visitors have set up a comment subscription and want to be notified.

Online shop with WordPress

WooCommerce

If you run a blog or a website with WordPress, there are many ways to achieve your goals. You can create a blog in the traditional style, a community or even an online shop. The choices are near limitless. In fact, you're only limited by the WordPress plugins you choose and your budget.

When it comes to running an online shop, my first choice is definitely the plugin WooCommerce. This plugin is very popular in the WordPress community and, with over 5 million active installations, it's one of the most downloaded in history.

Getting started with WooCommerce

Do you want to find out who should use WooCommerce and how the shop system can be set up? What about the available extensions and themes? Or how to make WooCommerce as legally compliant as possible? You can learn about all these topics in our e-book Online shops with WooCommerce.

With WooCommerce, you can not only create product pages and their descriptions, but also use custom themes. In addition, WooCommerce is optimized for SEO and offers many useful functions.

If you had to program a shop manually or build it with the "normal" WordPress tools, you would quickly reach your limits and likely give up. But thanks to WooCommerce, your shop can have an integrated payment system and you can easily manage taxes and shipping options.

WooCommerce Wizard
WooCommerce guides you through the setup step by step

In addition, there are hundreds of extensions in the WooCommerce Marketplace, some of which are even available free of charge. It's probably hard to get to your online shop faster if you want to host, expand and manage it yourself. An alternative is BigCommerce but it's not as widespread.

My conclusion on WordPress plugins

WordPress offers you so many great options. More often than not, you're only limited by your imagination when it comes to functionality. The WordPress plugin directory is jam-packed with plugins for all possible use cases. Generally speaking, you'll be able to find a solution – if not many – for whatever you're trying to achieve.

Many webmasters are, however, too spoilt for choice. Which plugin solution is the right one for your project? Of course, the popular plugins have proven themselves and been on the market for years. On the other hand, it doesn't mean that newer plugins are any less good. On the contrary, sometimes the market is revitalized by new providers because the older plugins have to catch up in terms of functionality. Nevertheless, check every plugin thoroughly to see whether it has really been developed to a high standard. Check out our 13 tips for choosing the right WordPress plugins.

Which plugins do you really need?

I always advise my clients that don't necessarily need a plugin to solve every problem. Some WordPress are, however, indispensable. The SEO plugins I mentioned, for example. Yoast SEO helps me regularly optimize my posts so I can achieve good rankings. Of course, I could also do this without Yoast SEO, but the effort required would be significantly higher.

Other essential plugins include Antispam Bee and the Captcha plugin from BestWebSoft, both of which have always protected my blogs very well from spam and bot attacks. One important must-have is a cookie banner extension. If you don't ask your visitors for consent when using cookies, you'll quickly receive a warning for non-compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

If you want to run a shop, on the other hand, there's almost no getting around WooCommerce. This is because cloud solutions such as Shopify are often much less expandable. And that's the main advantage of many WordPress plugins – they take a lot of work off your hands and save you time. You can thus remain flexible and invest your freed-up time in other tasks.

Your questions and tips for WordPress plugins

Which WordPress plugins can you recommend? What questions do you have? We're looking forward to your comment. Are you interested in WordPress and WooCommerce? Follow RAIDBOXES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and sign up to our newsletter.

Ronny Schneider is an SEO & WordPress professional. He regularly writes about how blogs and online magazines can be made successful on his blog. In addition, he offers help with setting up blogs with WordPress as well as optimization services.

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