My favorite WordPress plugins (and also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by experienced WordPress developers). All these plugins are clean-coded, super-fast, and best in class. I’ve also included thoughts on others that I don’t like…just so you have some context.
- See my review on Gutenberg block libraries.
- GenerateBlocks – my favorite basic one
- Qubely – probably my favorite fancy one.
- Stackable – also nice but I’ve heard about bugs and coding issues.
- Kioken – looks nice
- WP Show Posts – allows you to show posts anywhere. You can choose filters to decide which posts are shown, and then also options on how they are displayed. Very lean and when combined with other plugins, are great for getting rid of pagebuilder reliance. 🙂
- Lightweight Grid Columns – let’s you create columns, however many you want, whichever size you want. So that you can push your page layout around without having to use a pagebuilder! Genius!
- Smart Content Filter – great way for users to filters posts on busy pages.
Caching (detailed review):
- WP Performance – awesome free cache plugin. Solid, reliable, many features, amazing UI, and super unique simple way of granularly excluding/disabling optimizations.
- SWIFT Performance – Lite version is best free cache plugin, paid version is the fastest full-featured cache plugin out there.
- LiteSpeed Cache – incredible free cache plugin with many features, but only works on LiteSpeed servers. This is actually the best cache plugin if you have thousands of pages or many MANY visits (like millions).
- WP Rocket – another fast (premium) cache plugin. easy to use, not recommended for NGINX.
- Simple Cache – fastest plugin for my VPS with REDIS object cache enabled. This is recommended if you’ve done all manual optimizations possible.
- Breeze or Cache Enabler – highly recommended for NGINX servers.
- Comet Cache – fast and nice but SWIFT (free) and WP Rocket (paid) are better.
- Borlabs Cache or WP Speed of Light – other good premium cache plugins.
- WP Fastest Cache – it’s a nice one, too, but not the fastest from my testing. Many do like it.
- W3TC – I hate it. Way too bloated and technical. Incompatible with many plugins and not the fastest even when it does work!
- WP Super Cache or WPMU Hummingbird – absolute garbage. Bloated and slow.
Read my: Best WordPress Cache Plugins Review
- Autoptimize – helpful but not necessary if your theme and plugins are already optimized. (This is like a band-aid.)
- WP Gonzalez – amazing, useful, costs money.
- Plugin load filter – asset organizer plugin but simple-enough to use.
- Plugin Organiser – full asset organizer plugin but UI can get complicated.
- WordPress Asset CleanUp – supposedly WP Gonzalez but free. I like this one.
- PerfMatters – nice one by Brian Jackson.
Image compression (detailed reviews):
- ShortPixel – SP has best compression and GLOSSY formats.
- LiteSpeed Cache – can do tons of images, FREE! Great for huge sites and you don’t want to pay anything.
- WP Compress – another great compression service, perfect for sharp details. Lower price than SP. (Can also try my LIFETIME link.)
- Imagify – is 3rd place for me (in terms of quality). But I wouldn’t even use this.
- Swift Performance PRO – this paid cache plugin has image compression feature in it.
- TinyPNG/JPG – can be good sometimes but ShortPixel is definitely better!
- WP Smush/EWWW – horrible compression quality/file-size ratio.
Image, gallery, slideshow:
- Quick Featured Images – best plugin for managing/automating your featured images. Pro version is so worth the price!
- Enable Media Replace – replace media files without having to dig through FTP folders.
- reGenerate Thumbnails advanced – best IMO, easy-to-use with great filtering options.
- Metaslider (free/paid) or Smart Slider 3 (free/paid) – are the best. Metaslider is good for super simply minimal sliders. SS can do fancier things like dynamic height or showing different sliders on mobile, also more features (embedding video, changing button images, etc). Soliloquy used to be great/lightweight but has now been surpassed. Whatever you do, avoid Slider Revolution (REV Slider).
- WP Featherlight – simple jquery for lightbox. I use this (and ONLY THIS) along with default Gutenberg for building image galleries.
- WP Featherlight Disabled – my even more lightweight fork of the original WP Featherlight. (Only loads featherlight CSS/JS on pages you allow.)
- Meow Gallery – if you want a full-featured gallery, use this instead of the bloated NextGEN, FooGallery, Envira, etc.
- WP Offload Media – beautiful plugin by the respected Delicious Brains. Offloads your media files elsewhere so you can save space on your web server.
Database tools & optimization:
- Advanced Database Cleaner – incredible for tidying up your DB. (I like this much better than WP Optimize.)
- editor – great for editing your database from WordPress instead of via cPanel/phpmyadmin (BE CAREFUL!)
- WP Migrate DB – easiest way to move databases and also do string rewrites. Pro version has more useful dev features.
- Better Search Replace – (formerly) my favorite database editor by Delicious Brains. Has a great “test run” feature. I use it to fix URL’s for migration or https purposes. I love that you can specify which tables. But I now do all this with the new Migrate DB.
Backup (detailed reviews):
- BackWPup – awesome free plugin that does FULL backups and even remote to S3! Yes, FREE! (my favorite)
- WPVivid – another awesome FREE full-featured backup plugin. Has extra convenient clone/staging features that BackWPup doesn’t have but can be buggy for larger sites.
- UpDraft – very popular, get it for offsite backup feature. I hate the free version but the pro version is nicer, comprehensive.
- BackUpWordPress – my favorite free backup plugin for local backups. Works well, clean/quiet interface.
- BackupBuddy – other people like it. I think it’s really annoying with many distracting screens.
- Fluent Forms – now my #1 favorite form plugin for both FREE and PAID. Easier to use in some ways and nicer design and extra features. See my review.
- Gravity Forms, Happy Forms, Piotnet Forms – all great premium forms plugins. Mostly same features but different workflow, UI, and pricing.
- Caldera – my former default. Free and works great. No bloat. I hate that it picks up a lot of spam. But it’s already abandoned now, and the team is focusing on their main commercial offering Ninja Forms.
- Contact Form 7 – I hate how it loads on every page.
Use these for moving sites or pushing from live to staging environment and vice versa.
- All-in-One WP Migration – my favorite, popular and works. Free version has 500MB limit and won’t export/import from remote destinations (S3/Gdrive/etc). TIP: you can circumvent size limit by excluding “wp-content” during export; just manually compress and extract it using cPanel’s “File Manager”.
- Duplicator – great for migrating/clone sites but also works for backups. Popular among developers. May feel too technical for newbies.
- Migrate Guru – easy to use and free…can move huge sites and handle URL rewrite for you. Only issue is it misses non-WP directories and doesn’t always work. If you’re not a pro and need something that’s ALWAYS 100% reliable, stick to AIO Migration or do things manually.
WordPress SEO Plugins:
- SEO Framework – my favorite. Clean and bloat-free. Most simple and doesn’t try to do everything for your site. SEO only!
- ALL-IN-ONE SEO (pro version) – my 2nd favorite. High quality, and fast.
- Yoast SEO – they responded to complaints and improved UI, faster, cleaner, and less bloat. Still annoying nag screens and I still prefer the others.
WordPress Redirection Plugins:
- Htaccess – not a plugin but is the most recommended method!
- Safe Redirect Manager – the best one! Enterprise grade, high quality code, super fast redirects with the least speed impact.
- Redirection – hell no! Drives me crazy that so many people use this. It slows your website down by 1-3 seconds. You’re better off just copying the redirects to your htaccess!
- Using SEO redirect function – also a “no” for me.
WordPress Membership Plugins:
- MemberPress – best membership plugin out there. I’ve tried many and this one has all the features I needed, easy and fun to use. Also great pricing that doesn’t overcharge you for necessary add-ons. See my review. I’ve also made MemberPress add-on plugins.
- Restrict Content Pro (RCP) – also good membership plugin depending on your use case. See my review.
- WooMemberships/WooSubscriptions – great if you want to integrate with WooCommerce. Overkill if you don’t.
- Easy Digital Downloads – great plugin and very friendly (industry standard for selling digital products), but a little pricey. Many basic features are add-ons cost $$$.
- MemberMouse – I hate it. Expensive and hard to work with (design & coding), also loads many scripts and slows down your site.
- DigitalAccessPass (DAP) – outdated in many ways.
- Shopify – works great, looks great. Totally worth the monthly price so you don’t spend thousands developing on WordPress/WooCommerce. Cheapest plan is $9 or $15 if you want to use it with WordPress.
- FluentSMTP – new email plugin that has more features and works well. Another miracle job by WPManageNinja team!
- WP Mail SMTP – my favorite email plugin. Works better than my old favorite “Post SMTP Mailer”.
- Comment Reply Email – my simple plugin that sends replies to p
Email lead generation & popup:
- MailOptin – lean, simple, fast. Limited design options but still my favorite.
- OptinMonster – the gold standard but pricey! Lots of options.
- Convert Pro – common alternative to OM, cheaper but not as many features.
- Thrive Leads – I hate it, bloated and laggy as hell if you have many pages and lots of traffic.
- Shared Counts – great for putting social networking share counts on your sites.
- Social Warfare – handles shared counts and also controlling how shared content is displayed.
- Social Pug – same as Social Warfare and good reviews but I haven’t tried it yet.
- Scriptless Social Share – simple clean way to get shared boxes, but loads faster because it doesn’t do any counts.
- Novashare – new share plugin by the respected Brian Jackson.
- DoLogin – provide easy WP-admin login link for other contractors and support staff.
- Adminimize – control what different users can see once logged in.
- User Role Editor – edit what different user roles can do once logged in.
- PHP Compatibility Checker – great to know if your WordPress themes and plugins are ready for a higher (faster) version of php.
- WP Server Stats – server stats plugin with nice info.
- AffiliateWP – is the best! Don’t use anything else. See my review.
- AffiliateRoyale – no! Don’t use it. It’s abandoned. I built an AffiliateRoyale to AffiliateWP migration script if you’d like to use.
- Relevannsi – I’ve had it forever and love it.
- SearchWP – probably the most “official” search plugin for WP.
- Algolia – good if you want something more robust and scalable for giant sites.
Any recommendations for a Calendar Plugin for WordPress as there are loads.
Give Akeeba Backup a try. rock solid.
Hey thanks for reminding me about this one. I’ve used it before even since my Joomla days! It works, too.
I tried to use SWIFT Performance, but it did not work very well, I was using WP Rocket, but after reading some things here, I ended up switching to the breezer because I use NGINX. I am a layman on the subject, to use SWIFT Performance I must do some NGINX configuration, because as I infomed it did not work on my site :(, but other than that I loved his tips, delete to Jetpack, he really tied my site, thanks for the tips and continue so if you can give more tips on compatible plugins with NGINX would be great!
Hey Rainer, I can probably able to get it to work on NGINX for you. Can you get me access?
Great list of plugins! Thank you for sharing.
You can also try a more SEO linked WordPress plugin called Trash Duplicate And 301 Redirect. It helps to find and remove duplicates and also protect you from being penalized by Google for duplicate content.
Thank you for great article.
John, can you recommend the plugin for spam detection?
Akismet is a good solution?
nice article but both SWIFT Performance and Breeze broke my site after installation. some code on the first page.
Autoptimze works fine.
Do you recommend Subscribe to Comments Reloded? If not, why not and why alternative would you recommend?
I use that one and happy with it! I’ve also written our own comments notification plugin before as well.
“Redirection – hell no! Drives me crazy that so many people use this. It slows your website down by 1-3 seconds. You’re better off just copying the redirects to your htaccess!”
Why? You can write to the htaccess, safer and easier UI than directly operate in htaccess. to make sure the htaccess never flushes from plugin bugs.
Hi Johnny, I don’t see Rank Math here! it’s a rock-solid SEO plugin with a brilliant future. I love the import feature from Yoast and a few other plugins, give it a try.
I’ve heard good things about that one, too! Will add after I check it out for a bit.
Hi. Quick question about the caching plugins you listed. I’m debating right now whether I should purchase the Swift Performance or not. I did see a not on Breeze that works well with Nginx servers. How about Swift? Are you aware of any issues with Swift & Nginx, or Breeze is just performing better?
Swift is superior to Breeze in every way. Swift works fine on NGINX. I would consider either Swift or WP Rocket for you. WPR is great if you want to just set it and forget it. Swift allows more advanced/granular controls which is nice if you have the curiosity/passion to tweak things to the max. You can find out which you prefer by trying out Swift Lite.
What is your opinion about Rank Math Seo Plugin at https://wordpress.org/plugins/seo-by-rank-math/?
Its got 456 5* reviews at the moment.
It is totally free too which makes me a tad suspicious.
Have you had a chance to check it out? Is it really better than SEO Framework? Or do you stand by SEO Framework as the best Johnny?
Oh boy, semi-controversial thought (coming up at the end). I personally don’t use Rankmath but have heard great things about it from people I respect. The claims about it being #1 do have merit, yes possibly better than SEO Framework.
But what does “#1” or being “better” actually mean for SEO plugins varies from person to person. For some people, #1 means having the most SEO features. For others, #1 means having the most control (which could mean have fewer features). I personally like having ULTIMATE control. I don’t use any SEO plugins at all whatsoever and my sites (in my other niches, not WP) dominate Google search rankings just fine.
I’m a bit of the backwards mentality of Chris Pearson (Thesis guy who got crucified for saying this) that says SEO is best handled by the theme [rather than by plugin]. I don’t totally agree with it but see lots of clean-code benefit in using your theme to do most of your SEO dirtywork rather than to rely on a 3rd-party plugin. But having a really clean/thorough developer available to manually adjust with SEO trends is not feasible for many people.
So much information in one place! Can’t thank you enough. Found your work (recently btw) with this website extremely helpful now that I’m beginning to make a wake up and really choose good tools for the job.
I’m building a site with Genesis and a Studiopress child theme with some minor changes, but one thing that always lacks is search. Dou you have ant suggestions on plugins to implement search forms to a website? This site is all about products, so people are constantly looking for a specific one and this is a must have, but I don’t want to ruin all the improvements I’ve been making.
Again, thank you for such great content.
Hi Rafael, thanks for the kind words.
When you say “search” is lacking…do you mean a visual searchbox? Or the actual function itself? The best search plugins for most sites are probably Relevanssi and SearchWP. And if your store is much much bigger than that, you can maybe consider Elastisearch/Algolia.
In terms of UX, I don’t believe in searching. The most successful site designs promote random content discovery rather than by searching. Look at Amazon, Youtube, Facebook. Most of what you find isn’t by searching, it’s just randomly stumbled upon. Another thing, too….many ecommerce sites rely on filtering more than searching since users often don’t know what they want/need. They just like to explore…very similar in how we browse physical B&M’s. Sorry if this answer goes in circles. Hahaha.
Sometimes I have some trouble explaining what I need because I’m learning as I go. But clearing things up, what I need is in fact a search function and your suggestion of Relevanssi and SearchWP is exactly what I’m looking for. Just something more powerful than the standard WordPress native search.
To give you more context, the site has a similar proposition as Wirecutter. We just recommend products with guides and reviews, we don’t actually sell them.
I’ve read some of your articles regarding search and UX, but the problem is that for now, I can’t really do some heavy CSS by myself. I really agree that a well-thought menu and related content suggestions are much more powerful. Take me for example, just breezing through pages and pages of your site with just that (and some search to be honest haha).
Maybe I’ll give a more refined touch to these areas of our site and hold the search function to see what happens.
Thank you for the quick reply and sorry about any confusion. English is not my native language. Not even WordPress haha
Ahhh, ok….then I think you might do well with SearchWP and maybe some kind of live/ajax search plugin to go along with it. Welcome to the endless maze of WordPress. 🙂
If my server is Litespeed, then which one is better – Litespeed cache or swift performance?
Read my speed optimization and caching guides, please.
I’m a hardcore follower of you. I read all your content including speed optimization and caching guides. But still, I’m curious about this.
There is no better. I switch around depending on the site.
Johnny my man thank you for continuing the WPJohnny Saga
Every time I see your last name it reminds me of delicious Pho Ga
Your suggestions and generosity will forever be in our hearts
Unlike the other gurus your site is full of No Bullshit advice and charts
May the world keep benefiting from your genius brain, dear Johnny
I hope one day we can spar even tho I’ve lately got scrawny
With deep love and appreciation,
Hey thank you, Regev! Your challenge is accepted. 😉
I read somewhere that Relevansi can bloat the WP database. Is this true? I would like to test the lite version.
I love Relevanssi…but using it like almost 10 years now. It’s great for me. No bloat. Very active development.
Any opinions on RankMath? Seems promising
I’ve never tried it so no opinions for now. But my clients who use it seem happy with it.
Thanks for another very helpful article.
I am testing removing plugins to get a better and faster site. Earlier I have installed the Akismet because I found articles on the Internet (not yours) that this plugin is good. I have a webpage where one, at least not for the moment, is not allowed to make comments.
Does it still make sense to have it, or should I just remove it or have another solution?
If I start having comments, should I then get this plugin?
After thinking a little bit I thought it made sense to delete it since I do not use commenting. Can not see any changes neither in speed nor in content.
Is there a plugin that you would recommend for managing a number of WordPress sites? I know of InfiniteWP and WPManage. Wondering if either are good.
You’ll have to try them all yourself and see which one fits your workflow best.
For gallery, HappyFiles Pro have the function of create gallery from folder, super nice.
Organize the images to specify folder, and add HappyFiles gallery block.
Hi, what plugin do you recommend for a comments section?
I prefer the native WordPress comments system.
Hey do you have a suggestion for an Ad manager plugin? I’m using Advanced Ads right now. Also do you have any best practices for ads?
Thanks for this post! Is there a plugin you’d recommend to prevent spam user registrations?
For auction plugin would you recommend – https://wordpress.org/plugins/auction-software/
I would like to know your thoughts. Thanks
Any thoughts on best Security plugin for 2020/2021?
If I use any, it’s always going to be WordFence.
Any suggestion for tracking script managers like the Intelly Tracking Code Manager Pro?
Not really because I don’t use them.
Hello bro, great staff here. I want a quick suggestions, I have cloudways DO server, redis with elementor page builder. I am not getting a good result with breeze caching plugin on mobile device, what should I do ?? 🙁
Try WP Performance. It’s simple but much more performant than Breeze. You can share your URL on my Facebook group if you want more accurate tips. Otherwise, nobody can help you blindly like this.
Any recommendation for Table plugins?
Also curious about a recommendation for a table plugin.
Ninja Tables. I really like the company behind it.
Reed Taylor Sutton
Unfortunately the support team and devs who work with NinjaTables are rather below par compared to other Fluent products (namely CRM and Forms).
This list needs a refresh! Some of the recommended plugins have not been tested with 3+ major core updates.
When it comes to optimizing CSS and JS what is better? autoptimize or Asset Cleanup? I am looking for a free option to let me unload some of the unused CSS and JS loading on my sites.
And, I love how Asset Cleanup allows you to manually unload the stylesheets and scripts individually from each page but, I don´t know if their modification feature is better than autoptimize or if I can use them together (is it recommended?).
I don’t like optimizing CSS/JS with a plugin. If I do any at all I prefer to do it manually.
It’s great to learn new things every day… I will definitely give Swift Performance a try. Until now I was using W3TC, somehow by default. Thank you Johnny for all the useful information!
From what I see, Kioken seems to be discontinued, they had a promising start long ago with some unique features, so it is a bit a pity
Really? Where did you hear that?
I just had a look at their support forum, and it seems that the author of that plugin is acting again, and downloads also have increased too. So I have to correct myself on my statement!
Before that there has been nearly half a year no response on support issues, so that was what made me think the plugin was probably dead.
Curious why ElasticPress didn’t make it to the recommended search plugins..
Hi Johnny, How you fetch users profile pictures automatically, Like without login my profile picture was showing in comment section
Register with Gravatar.
John @ S4
Curious to see if Yoast changes much in the near future following the fact that it’s just been bought by NewFold (EIG).
Not for opt-in, just for popup but I came across a lightweight plugin.
Any thoughts on a custom field plugin of choice? ACF Pro vs Meta Box Pro?
I’m a diehard ACF PRO till I die. Buttttt….MetaBox’s ease-of-use and pricing make it more appealing every time I hear about it. Really active development and friendly community, too.
Good to know.
Hey Jonny, Thanks for such a wonderful piece of quality info.
I am using Newspaper11 WordPress theme along with WPX hosting + W3Total Cache Plugin
Pls share your views on these?
You can read my other guides to know how I feel about them. (Basically, NO & NO.)
Thank you for sharing all of your knowledge with all of us.
I am curious which ajax dukter toy would use for a Woocommerce store?
You said BeRocket is not a good choice. But what is then? FacetWP or GrisbuilderWP for instance?
What is the best security plugin one should use to tackle bots or spam? Any recommendations?
By far, Wordfence (in combination with Cloudflare) — both the free or premium options work well. We’ve tried SG Security and iThemes Security, but did not perform as expected.
Thanks for the great list of plugins. Some I already use, some I’ll have to take for a test run.
Great article. Thank you!
If I may, Perfmatters deserves a lot more credit than noted. Both Brian Jackson and Brett Jackson (brothers) – the plugin developers – provide excellent support. Their plugin is impeccable and gets the job done all the time.
Thoughts on ElasticPress / Elasticsearch?
I’m getting good result using these plugins:
1. Super Page Cache for Cloudflare
2. WP Meteor