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 more than 175 WordPress plugins, which covers the following categories:
- Marketing Plugins
- eCommerce Plugins
- Development + Design Plugins
- Headless Plugins
- AI Plugins
- Customer Experience Plugins
- Security Plugins
- Business Development Plugins
- Site Optimization Plugins and more!
WordPress has become the world’s most popular content management system (CMS) for many reasons, but its wide-ranging catalog of plugins—small bits of code that can extend the functionality of your website—truly sets it apart.
Even with the proliferation of CMSs and other website-building tools in recent years, none have come close to replicating the ecosystem of WordPress plugins.
Whereas WordPress offers nearly 60,000 plugins through its official directory, site builders like Shopify and Magento provide users with access to a few thousand extensions, and others provide even fewer. The difference is apparent in the level of flexibility and customization WordPress is renowned for. If you wish to integrate a type of functionality or third-party service into your site, chances are, there’s a plugin for it.
So, how do you find the right plugin(s) for your website? While the answer will ultimately depend on your specific use case, this guide will familiarize you with the different types of WordPress plugins available today and help you identify quality plugins you can install on your site. Download the guide to dive into our list of more than 175 WordPress plugins!
While trends in technology come and go, WordPress plugins have been a steady source of flexibility and customization for millions of websites since plugin architecture became available nearly two decades ago.
For an idea of just how widely-used WordPress plugins are, check out these stats:
- The number of plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository has jumped by more than 20% over the past four years, surpassing 60,000 in 2023 (but fluctuating with the continuous addition and removal of plugins).
- The use of WordPress plugins has skyrocketed in recent years, with popular plugins such as WooCommerce seeing a more than 40% jump in adoption since 2019.
In addition to WooCommerce, some of the most popular plugins of all time are Advanced Custom Fields, Akismet Spam Protection, Contact Form by WPForms, Contact Form 7, Elementor Website Builder, Jetpack, Really Simple SSL, and Yoast.
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.
Nonetheless, we still see plugin vulnerabilities affect our customers when they fall behind on plugin updates. Maintaining plugins is simply hard to keep up with, and as a user’s 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.
The Ultimate Guide to WordPress Plugins:
Ready for a deep dive into the wide world of WordPress plugins?
Download our 2023 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!