One of the best things about WordPress is that it boasts an extensive ecosystem of, quite literally, tens of thousands of plugins written to serve virtually any purpose imaginable.

However, this is also one of the worst things about WordPress. The sheer volume of choice introduces massive decision fatigue. Worse, the vast majority of themes and plugins are mediocre; they may well cause as many problems as they solve.

Following are a list of plugins we have come to rely upon and recommend most often; you can also click on each of the links to learn more about why.

  • Affiliate WP. For generating and tracking affiliate sales.
  • Beaver Builder/Themer. For beautiful, intuitive and mobile-responsive, drag-and-drop design of your website.
  • Gravity Forms. For creating forms of any kind.
  • Imagify. For compressing your images.
  • Litespeed. For making your website faster. (Requires use of the Litespeed web server; without, try WP Rocket.)
  • Social Warfare. For social sharing of your content.
  • WooCommerce. For selling absolutely anything.
  • Wordfence. For securing your website.
  • WP Fusion. For connecting your website to your CRM/email marketing.
  • Yoast. For adjusting how your content is published to Google.

Outside of this list, when selecting a plugin to suit a particular purpose, here are a couple guiding principles we suggest you keep in mind.

Look to Established, Marketplace Leaders

Certainly, the most popular isn’t always the best. But often, the top dog is also the most versatile, mature and feature-packed.

In any case, if you're installing a free plugin, look for at least 10k+ installs and a 4.5+ star rating on the WordPress repo.

Paid is Better than Free

Writing a plugin is a labor of love.

If ever there was an industry in which we "stand on the shoulders of giants", it’s the opportunity to buy an expertly-crafted plugin — something which skilled developers spent hundreds or even thousands of hours carefully refining — for a mere couple hundred dollars.

Free plugins typically offer no support. What’s more, the plugin author is either withholding features — in hopes that you’ll upgrade to the premium edition — or is simply less incentivized to help you troubleshoot if and when something goes wrong.

In contrast, premium plugins are typically more powerful; plugin authors want to support their paying customers and are more likely to invest time and effort in support and new features.

Purchase and Install from Official Sources

Some people have gotten into the business of redistributing premium plugins which they did not write, whether for free or at a steep discount.

Surprisingly, this usually isn’t illegal — virtually all WordPress plugins are distributed under GNU licensing which permits this behavior. However, we consider it unethical and unwise.

First, the best plugin authors work hard to provide a valuable product and they deserve to be compensated for their efforts; the hack who merely re-packages their hard work as his own does not.

Second, many of these “unofficial” plugins have been modified to incorporate subtle, malicious code. The effects of installing it may range from benign to catastrophic.

Do you really want to gamble your business for the sake of saving a couple hundred bucks on legitimate copies of vital source files? We think not.

TL;DR

  • Look to established marketplace leaders; they're usually the most versatile, battle-tested and feature-rich.
  • Paid is better than free; plugin authors are incentivized to support those who support them.
  • Install from official sources, both to support the original authors and reduce your risk of exposure to malicious modifications.
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