The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins
WordPress has come a long way since its launch in 2003. As WordPress adoption has grown, so too has the ecosystem of WordPress plugins, which continues to expand and meet new demands for customization and flexibility.
Today there are nearly 60,000 free plugins available in the WordPress Plugin repository alone, not to mention the growing list of premium plugins available from other vendors. With such a wide list of options to choose from, how do you know which plugins are the best?
To help you narrow down your list, this guide provides an overview of some of the best WordPress plugins based on research, statistics, hands-on experience, and overall popularity within the WordPress Plugin Repository.
All of the plugins we’ve compiled are recently updated, highly rated, and grouped into specific categories so you can cut down on search time. Download the ebook using the form on the right for our in-depth list of WordPress plugins, which covers the following categories:
- Marketing Plugins
- eCommerce Plugins
- Development + Design Plugins
- Media Plugins
- Customer Experience Plugins
- Security Plugins
- Business Development Plugins
- Site Optimization Plugins
- Miscellaneous Plugins and more!
A Vast Ecosystem of Integrations
WordPress is the world’s #1 content management system (CMS) for a number of reasons, but its inherent flexibility is usually at the top of the list.
While proprietary software can limit a user’s ability to add custom features to a website or integrate with other platforms, WordPress is widely known for its ability to integrate with just about anything. This is thanks in large part to its vast ecosystem of modular code or plugins.
WordPress is awesome because of its ability to easily extend and expand its functionality through plugins.
WordPress plugins are pieces of software that enable you to easily add new features and functionality to your websites. From maps and charts to SEO and eCommerce tools, plugins are added through the WordPress admin dashboard or by downloading a zip file directly (this usually requires some familiarity with File Transfer Protocol).
Keep all of your plugins (and themes) updated with WP Engine.
With nearly 60,000 free WordPress plugins to choose from—not to mention thousands of premium plugins available for a one-time or recurring fee—finding the plugins you need versus those you can do without is no small task. While the answer will ultimately depend on your specific use case, this guide will help you become more familiar with the different types of WordPress plugins available today, and identify some of the best plugins you might consider installing on your site.
Plugins Remain Extremely Popular
While trends in technology constantly ebb and flow, WordPress plugins have remained a steady source of flexibility and customization for millions of websites since plugin architecture became available nearly two decades ago.
For a real-world view into just how widely-used WordPress plugins are, check out these stats:
The number of free plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository has jumped by about 20% over the past three years—from around 50,000 to nearly 60,000.
Today, more than 25 million websites use at least one WordPress plugin, and with the growth trajectory of WordPress in CMS market share alone, that number is likely to continue going up.
Of the top 10,000 websites by traffic, more than 30% have at least one plugin installed. Among live websites hosted in the U.S. alone, more than 6.7 million are using WordPress plugins.
Some of the most popular plugins of all time are Contact Form 7, Yoast SEO, Elementor Website Builder, Classic Editor, Akismet Spam Protection, WooCommerce, JetPack, Really Simple SSL, and Contact Form by WPForms, each with more than 5 million active installations.
Ongoing Plugin Maintenance and Management
There’s no question that plugins are massively popular, but managing them remains a challenge for many WordPress users. Like any piece of software, plugins require regular updates and maintenance to ensure that bugs and security vulnerabilities are routinely patched.
At WP Engine, we keep a close eye on the growing plugin ecosystem and even maintain a list of plugins that are disallowed on our platform, often because they are at odds with our own internal security standards.
Get back to business. Delegate plugin and theme maintenance to WP Engine.
Nonetheless, we still see an average of around 50 plugin vulnerabilities affect our customers every month, the majority of which are due to overdue updates. Maintaining plugins is simply hard to keep up with, and as a users’ plugin portfolio grows, so does the task of keeping each plugin up-to-date and secure.
Manage Smarter, Not Harder
WP Engine’s Smart Plugin Manager solves the issue of time-consuming plugin maintenance by automating plugin updates to keep your sites secure. Once Smart Plugin Manager is up and running, you no longer have to devote valuable time and resources to regularly reviewing and updating plugins.
Instead, plugins are automatically checked for updates every 24 hours. And to ensure those updates don’t interfere with your workflow, you can select an ideal time of day for them to occur.
Finally, because some plugin updates may be more critical for certain sites, Smart Plugin Manager allows updates to be customized on an individual basis, so they run automatically or manually, depending on user preference for each plugin.
More than 50,000 sites already rely on Smart Plugin Manager for plugin maintenance, and since its launch in 2019, it’s been responsible for more than 1 million automated plugin updates.
Smart Plugin Manager is also expanding its feature set, with more granularity for the update process and the ability to include theme updates in your automated maintenance. It’s also finding a valuable use case with agencies that are harnessing the power of Smart Plugin Manager to provide additional, automated services to their clients.
For agencies who offer hosting directly to their clients, and for freelancers or other hosting resellers that are managing client plugins manually, Smart Plugin Manager can provide a significant reduction in the time and resources spent on routine plugin maintenance. For businesses that haven’t offered this service to clients yet, Smart Plugin Manager offers a straightforward way to get started.
Find out more about Smart Plugin Manager here, or speak to a representative for answers to your questions.
The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins: 2022 Edition
Ready for a deep dive into the wide world of WordPress plugins?
Download our 2022 edition of The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins to find out more.
We can’t wait to see what plugins can do for your site!