What WordPress Plugins Are Vital To The Success Of Your Blog?

by Derek Halpern · 140 comments

I’ll be straight up. This is a hit piece.

When I ask around, I’ve come to the conclusion that people use too many WordPress plugins.

Are you one of those people?

Well, if you’ve got to ask, the answer is probably yes.

How Many WordPress Plugins Should You Use?

When you use more plugins, your website loads slower.

And when your page loads slower, you’re killing your conversion rates, and your search engine rankings.

(Google recently announced that it uses page load times in their search algorithm. Additionally, countless studies have shown that if you increase your page load times by as little as 0.1 second, you can lose a huge amount of sales).

So how many WordPress plugins should you use?

The answer is FEWER.

You’ve got to cut WordPress plugins from your blog until you’re left with only what’s absolutely essential.

And that leads me to this next question…

What Makes A WordPress Plugin Essential?

Here’s the rule of thumb: If you stop using a plugin, and your website explodes, then you shouldn’t delete that plugin.

That’s a bit extreme, but it’s true.

There are people who use plugins because they say “I NEED THEM,” but NEED is a funny word because people think they need “related posts” at the end of their articles.

Why do you need related posts at the end of your articles?

You say you want people to find more of your content, and that’s fine.

However, you’re better off linking your other articles from WITHIN your content… not at the end of it.

So what makes a WordPress plugin essential? There are three key components:

  1. If the plugin speeds up your site, it’s essential.
  2. If the plugin eliminates spam from your site, it’s essential.
  3. If the plugin adds a feature to your site that is VITAL to your site’s success, it’s essential.

What WordPress Plugins Do I Recommend?

There’s aren’t that many that I fully recommend.

But here’s my exhaustive list:

1. W3 Total Cache – This plugin speeds up your site because it caches your site, successfully making your site load faster.

2. Akismet – Battling comment spam sucks. This plugin handles most of it for you.

3. Google XML Sitemaps – When your blog has a sitemap, it makes it easier for search engines to crawl your content. This is a VITAL to your site’s success, and that’s why I believe this is a must-have plugin.

4. A form plugin – If you’re running a blog, chances are you want to create a contact form. You could use a free form plugin like Contact Form 7, but I personally use Gravity Forms. It’s a premium plugin, but it’s got great support and functionality (it’s not for the faint of heart though. It’s not the easiest to configure).

Now, I’m not saying you can’t use more than just those 4 plugins.

But definitely don’t use 20, 30, or 40 plugins.

As a rule of thumb, I try to use fewer than 10 plugins.

(Not all WordPress plugins are created equal. Some aren’t resource hogs, others are).

What WordPress Plugins Do You Use?

Share your list in the comments!

About the Author: Derek Halpern ran marketing at DIYthemes, and is the founder of Social Triggers. To get more tips on how to be confident, sign up to his list here.

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{ 140 comments }

AC

WPML (or similar) is essential for a multilingual site.

A database optimization / revision deletion plugin is extremely useful and increases performance.

Yoast SEO – self-explanatory.

WP Smush-it – reduces image filesize.

Backup to Dropbox – because losing your database sucks.

And most importantly – good hosting. Mine is horrible and I need to change it. You can optimize all you want but you can’t fix bad hosting.

Deyson

Hey AC I highly recommend site5.com. After spending weeks searching for the perfect host I came across their site. They have great reviews, amazing support, fast load times, stable and a 30 day free trial. I am in LOVE with their hosting.

Check them out. Tell me what you think.

Ruan | EbooksTutorialsAndGuides

Hi AC,

I can highly recommend Reast Hosting who currently offers a 30-day trial at only $1. Test the server speeds and client support; if you’re not happy, cancel and they’ll even transfer your domain away to your new host without any cost to you.

After one month if you’re happy, pay only $5 per month when you sign up for 6 months and even get the first month free, which will cost you only $25. Sign up for 1 year and get your first AND last month FREE, pay in two installments of $30 and $20.

Oh did I mention this is for an UNLIMITED hosting package to host UNLIMITED domains with no restrictions on disk space and bandwidth? ;)

Excellent for WordPress hosting and I can honestly say that the technical support is far beyond excellent as I have first-hand experience asking a trillion questions. :)

Jennifer

I highly recommend Site5, too. Excellent customer service and very stable. I’ve been with them for years and can’t sing their praises loudly enough.

Mike Gamble

Hi AC,

Instead of using the WP Smush-it as a plugin, I go directly to Smush-it at http://www.smushit.com/ysmush.it/.

I totally agree about adding Yoast SEO as a must-have. That also eliminates the need for the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.

Amandeep Singh

I do not think you need the Yoast SEO plugin if you use Thesis… It has got inbuilt SEO options which helps reducing the need of WP plugins by 1. :)

Randy

Like Mike said yoast eliminates the Sitemap plugin so the plugin count stays the same. It’s also a more complete SEO solution. I’d have to agree that it’s a must have.

Clifford

Yoast SEO doesn’t work with Thesis.

Paul G.

Yoast SEO works great with Thesis – all my Thesis sites use Yoast and they all work. Probably a conflict with another plugin.

Further, just to clarify on plugins – a plugin doesn’t slow down your site badly if it’s written well, and certainly not if it doesn’t load anything on the front end.

Choose your plugins very wisely is the key.

Tim

Yoast is good but can break WP and clashes with other plugins.

I have 28 plugs.
Yoast, when activated, prevents me from creating new posts.

Ryan

I’ve not been using the sitemap plugin, which seems pretty foolish. Adding that now.

@RyanShell

Deyson

Thank you again Derek for the awesome post!

My favorite plugins are s2member, maintenance mode and wordpress file monitor.

Have an awesome day!

Caleb Griffin

What do you think of Scribe SEO and LiveFyre? I am a minimalist by nature and only want a few plugins, but it seems to me, that without a great SEO plugin and a great chat plugin, I’m dead in the water.

Tommy Walker

I personally love Scribe, and honestly don’t see the point in LiveFyre.

Scribe, has done an excellent job for finding the “low hanging fruit” and optimizing an article for it (but you still have to do the time to do your keyword research)

And Livefyre… my question is, what’s wrong with just plain old Wordpress comments?

Danny Brown

I was one of the biggest vanilla WP comments advocate for the longest time, but Livefyre is the way comments are meant to be.

- SEO Friendly
- Real-time interactions (great for live Q&A sessions)
- Socially enabled (bring your Facebook and Twitter friends direct to the convo)
- Excellent spam filter due to registration (though you can still have guest posting)
- SocialSync (true social media conversations from Twitter and Facebook into your comments)
- LinkBack (Livefyre’s version of CommentLuv)

These are just a few reasons to check Livefyre out.

daphne

I use Scribe and LOVE it. Scribe teaches you how to write an optimized post. When I am writing now, I know all the points that I need to hit, so I don’t have to go back and fix so much. I regularly score 100 out of the gate. Scribe also identifies other sites to help with linking.

I was really surprised at how much I learned using it. I’m still going through all my back pages and optimizing those, but seriously, I have seen a difference in my rankings since using it for the past month. I’m finally on the first page of google after sitting on page two for months for my main keywords, and I am climbing on the others that I’ve identified using scribe. I’m also starting to rank for words that I thought were out of my league

Enrico Giubertoni

I think that GD Star Rating should be added to your list. It is very important cause of microdata ratings. It is a little bit difficoult to setup with W3 Total cache but indeed it’s very important for CTR. Microdata = More CTR.

kristarella

I don’t get how star ratings contribute to CTR. I understand CTR to be measuring click-through success, which can be done with analytical or heat maps, or logging, but star ratings are an extra click that not every user will necessarily make. Also, it’s only a portion of sites that will really want to track these things.

Tom Litchfield

I think what he means is microdata showing up in the SERPs. If your entry is the only one with stars on the results page chances are greater for a click-through.

Regarding the article, I don’t know if someone already mentioned it, but Contact Form 7 loads CSS and JS files site-wide, on every page, even when there is no form on the page. I like Contact Form 7 and I understand the plugin author’s dilemma, but if you are concerned about extra files being loaded you can go with a hosted contact form.

Ralph | Niche Websites

Rich Snippets would do the same.
I use this one: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/author-hreview/ But ONLY on product or software reviews.

I don’t add it to posts just to make it more visually appealing in the search engines.

Annie Sisk (Stage Presence)

Word. I cannot believe how many plugins some of my clients have piled on to their sites. And not just the page load factor – the risk of conflicts goes up exponentially with each additional plugin. I don’t find SEO plugins necessary with Thesis.

Dan Tudor

Derek,
A good piece. I think using a theme such as Thesis makes it much easier to avoid the use of plugins.

For spam protection, I’ve been piloting the Spam Free Wordpress plugin on a few client sites and I’m excited about the initial results. Plus, it doesn’t have the monthly fee associated with Akismet for commercial sites.

In addition to your list, I never deploy a site that is using Google Analytics without adding Yoast de Valk’s Google Analytics for Wordpress. It’s well written and gives you a whole lot of control.

Dan Tudor

Ugh. I meant Joost.

Nik

I use smush it too, gave me another second. I also use “use google libraries” which helped to speed it up too.

Agree on the hosting, recently switched but might switch again
Nik

judithwelltree

Derek, I am a real follower but my blog has been created by our web engineer and isn’t WordPress. All the advice out there seems centred around WordPress, please help, what’s a girl (lady) to do?

Dennis O'Brien

@ Judith….if it ain’t broke why fix it. WordPress won’t get you more traffic only good SEO will do that.

David Esrati

Because I want to create community- subscribe to comments is essential. Not everyone sets up a feed for every comment they leave. I want people coming back to have a discussion.
I love PopStats (although it doesn’t configure correctly with the auto-install). It’s a quick easy way to see what’s bringing people to your site so you know if you are doing the right thing.
Comment Rating- because I can’t moderate everything all the time. Let the community do it.
And- if your theme doesn’t do a mobile version- WPtouch and onSwipe so that mobile users get an optimized site.

Pamela

David,

Thanks for these . . . I’m updating my site now! Also, your hosting, nextwavehosting.net, has worked well and been reliable for my site. I appreciate that your firm has stayed on top of any issues and provided fast responses. Kudos!

wilson modi

Hi Derek,

Couldn’t agree more with your 3 key components.

And i absolutely agree with your exhaustive list as well :-)

I also believe less is more when it comes to plugins.

My addition to your list would be just two….

1. All in One SEO Pack: I find it to be powerful in what it says it does.

2. Hello Bar or Viper Chill Bar: For building your list.

I would love to hear from others as well.

What plugins do you really believe is critical for you?

daphne

How is the Viper Chill Bar working for you? I haven’t had much success with it and decided to give Popup Domination a try. I haven’t installed it yet, but a few people told me that it works wonders.

I love Scribe SEO. I’m also using Sharebar. I don’t know if it is the best out there, but I managed to configure it on my own, so points for it there!

Ralph | Niche Websites

Viperbar and HelloBar are great tools.

PopUp Domination works great but uses pop ups.. not sure if I like that that much. (you can do pop ups with Aweber too btw..)

I’m using the OptinSkin plugin which looks good, works great and doesn’t hinder the user experience of pop ups..

wilson

Hi Daphne,

I just installed Viper Chill a few days ago, and so far it is giving me a decent number of subscribers. I am testing it further.

Popup Domination, as far as i have heard & read, is powerful. I have not experimented with it. But i might in the near future to see how it works for me.

I have read great reviews about Scribe. Looking forward to using it someday soon.

Chuck Burns

I don’t see the need for All in One SEO with Thesis. I use the the built in Thesis Title, Description, and Keywords meta.

Will English IV

In the same vein Derek, check your plugins for redundant library calls. jQuery should only be called on pages that require them, for example. Most plugins don’t check for library conflicts and that leads to garbage code. Same with social sharing buttons. Also, if you can just forgo the fancy backend stuff and use publicly available jQuery stuff (like nivoslider and colorbox) you can deactivate the plugins, consolidate the CSS and just call those manually in your custom_functions.php file.

Sean Davis

I was just considering writing about this. I do a little work in the support forums of a Thesis centered site and I cannot believe the amount of plugins people have running when I log into their admin panels for support. I almost always have to tell them to start disabling stuff as part of the initial troubleshooting process.

The funny thing is that I can’t add to your list. Those are the EXACT plugins that I use for all of my sites. I only add more if I feel like it’s absolutely necessary. Actually, I’d add the Google Privacy Policy to the list but that’s it.

W3 Total Cache started giving me problems just recently, though. I had to disable it yesterday. For some reason, it wasn’t allowing my latest post to show for visitors. As long as I was logged in, I could see it on the blog page. They couldn’t, though. They could access the post with the direct URL but not from the blog page. If I would deactivate the plugin and then activate it again, the post could be seen. Apparently, I am not the only person to ever have that problem.

Anyway, plugins are overrated and sometimes lazy in my opinion. Easiest isn’t always best. I wish more people would learn this but hey… plugin developers have to eat too.

Sean Davis

Oops… I also use Social Sharing Toolkit for my below content G+, Twitter, and FB buttons. Considering writing some PHP to put them in my post footer, though. Actually… I think I’ll do that today.

Ralph | Niche Websites

Sean!
My Thesis guru :)

For the social sharing I usually use Digg Digg.
Can add social icons and customize them in various ways. Done deal.

Joi

As a result of this post, I double-checked one of my sites and found four activated plugins that had no business being active!

Thanks to Thesis, a lot of otherwise useful plugins aren’t necessary.

I use the following:
Shortcode Kid
Gravity Forms
ShareThis
SubHeading
YARPP
Google XML
WordPress Database Backup
Subscribe to Comments
Simple Social Icons

Geez, why am I feeling like a plugin glutton right now?

Caleb Griffin

I believe the latest version of Wordpress (or is it Thesis?) includes a Subscribe to Comments option. You shouldn’t need that plugin anymore.

Joi

Thanks Caleb. One more down!

Mark

What WP really needs natively is a Edit function for comments. It’s ridiculous to not have that.

Chuck Burns

I use W3 Total Cache, Akismet, Robots Meta by Yoast, Stat Press, Thesis Open Hook, Dagon Design sitemap, Easy Contact, and Quick Adsense. That’s 8 plug ins. I quit using “All in One SEO” plugin when I bought Thesis but started using Thesis Open Hooks. Now it looks like the Hooks manager is incorporated into Thesis if I load the Hooks Manager plugin upsate.

All though I don’t use all the features, I love Thesis, it just keeps getting better and better.

seopoet

WP Smush-it — wrong! It may bring your site down it the Yahoo!’s service is not responding.

Backup plugins — it depends whether they rely on wp-cron. If so, they will slow down your site a bit.

Google XML Sitemaps — can slow down sites as well. Yoast WP SEO sitemap functionality work better.

Subscribe to comments reloaded — great plugin, not mentioned here (not used at this site, either — how will I know now when someone responds to my rude comment, huh?).

Derek you could have done better, this article is pretty lame, you know.

jared

That list above is good – except I found contact form 7 to be dreadfully slow on sites I use contact forms on. so I use “clean contact” instead. Although some sites I’ll also just use an image of my email address on the contact page and links to social networks.

Other plugins, Blurburry PowerPress (for site with podcast), Pretty Links Light, Align RSS Images, Sharebar , & Subscribe to Comments.

wilson modi

Oh, one more i would like to include is … WordPress Ping Optimizer.

It is a great antidote to the headache that WordPress’ default ping function can sometimes be!

Michael Geneles

Good list, but I would add the following:

Redirection by John Godley – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors.

BackupBuddy – Backup – Restore – Migrate.

zimbrul

“As a rule of thumb, I try to use fewer than 10 plugins”…man, this is WordPress not Drupal! There are so many temptations out there…it’s like going to all-inclusive and you only try few courses lol.
Of course, I’m kidding. You may want to have a look in my dashboard to be terrified for a month :) )

Philippe

I’m on the road as using my iPhone so I can’t really add much right now but another essential plugin is one that will back up your site.

Very nice and informative post.

Philippe

zimbrul

Look after your life man, not after plugins if you are on the road. Drive safe!

Sam

Pretty new to thesis and plugins here! Can you use a contact form plugin instead of something like aweber to collect an email list and offer a download?

Darklit

A couple more that I use are “WordPress Database Backup” for automatic DB backup and email scheduling, and I can’t help but notice the “Hello bar” at the top of this site…that is the point after all…

A free alternative is the Viper Bar for wordpress. Oh yeah!

Good post. Everyone should bookmark this and use it and the comments as a farm for incredible ideas … good luck keeping it under ten after reading them all!

Mike Turco

I think there are a lot of awesome plugins that don’t affect speed at all because they are on the back end side of wordpress.

Duplicate Post: copy an existing post or page by clicking a button

Edit Flow: allows you to organize pages and posts into custom statuses. Published, Draft, Pending and Trash were never enough for me.

WP Minify: although the cash plugin you mentioned may already do this. (I use Quick Cache, which is easier for me to understand and use.)

WP Smush.it: Automatically minimizes the size of all pics on your blog that you upload using the media manager. It uses yahoo’s smush.it service. I have to say this really is a must have.

BackUpWordPress: a simple backup program that automatically backs up your website daily and, optionally, emails you a copy of the backup.

WP Cleanfix: repairs and compacts your wp database.

Finally, and this is a “user side” plugin that probably does affect speed when someone sends me an email. I use Contact Form to DB Extension. Every time someone sends me an email through contact form 7, it adds that email to a database that I can access through the dashboard.

I totally agree with you, though, about the overuse of plugins. Other than contact form 7 and the database plugin, I don’t have any plugins loaded on my site that affect user speed overall.

Mike

Graham

For whatever reason the plugin w3 Total Cache totally destroyed my site. I would use this plugin with extreme caution and I personally do not recommend it.

I now use Quick Cache as an alternative and I have not had any issues with it.

I use all the other plugins you have mentioned and I agree that its an excellent rule of thumb to keep your plugins below 10.

kristarella

Previous versions of W3TC have been buggy in some situations and in many situations the plugin requires a significant amount of configuration, mainly in minification I think. I think the results are worth it, but it can be a bit of a chore initially.

Melanie

google sitemaps xml
wp-cycle (if I need a slider)
backup buddy
Akisment
Contact Form 7
WP-eStore (if I need a ecommerce)

Most important is use a well written theme. I use Thesis and Genesis mostly.

Margaret

Sweet! I was just looking for recommendations of how I can speed up the loading time of my site!

Thanks Derek!

TastefullyJulie

I probably have too many plugins but the pin-it button is essential since so much of my traffic comes from Pinterest.

I’m currently using AddThis for sharing. Is there something better? I don’t necessarily need all the sites like digg, reddit, linkedin and all that. Just twitter/facebook/stumble/tumblr. Thanks!

kristarella

I’d be interested to see how many clicks your PinIt buttons get. I love Pinterest, and I almost always use a browser bookmark to pin stuff.

Andrew @ cincinnati-website-design.net

@kristarella I don’t have any cool split tests for you, or any really hard numbers, but I DO highly recommend that you test a PIN-IT button out. I really feel like it has doubled the Pinterest Response/Sharing on 2 client sites. One fashion related, and one viral/humor images. Of course the site needs to have something visually interesting to pin.

Roy

Great !! However, kristarella, Can you please recommend me any way to add “Post View Counter” on my blog post? I just want to show the number of my post views… Please help me out..

TastefullyJulie

The sweet thing about the pin it button is it shows the number of times a post has been pinned. I have one that says 1K+. <3

Bruce Simmons

I saw that somewhere, someone said they use SmushIt… I used to but that didn’t get me the size compaction I was looking for. What I have done is use a desktop image editor, and ‘save as’. But in the save as option, I use the quality slide option… do I need an image to be 100% quality or 30% quality? It turns out that an image saved at 30% the quality seems to be about the same as one saved as high quality. But the lower quality images, (technically), don’t look much worse for wear and are quite a bit smaller in file size foot print.

Just sayin’.

Mountain

With Thesis and the tips you, Chris and Alex provide, who needs plugins?

Social shares? No need for a plugin, you provided code to add them ourselves.

Mobile friendly? A few lines of code make my site responsive, in a very, very subtle way – which is what I prefer.

Related posts? Perhaps not needed, but can be done without a plugin for sure.

Email sign up box? You guys showed us how to do that without a plugin too.

Example of all four on this post: http://thecatholictraveler.com/the-rome-metro-in-speeding-colors/

I do use Akismet, Gravity Forms and VaultPress. That’s it.

Amandeep Singh

Hi Mountain,

Mobile friendly? A few lines of code make my site responsive, in a very, very subtle way – which is what I prefer. – can you please help me how you have achieved this with code, please?

Mountain

Not sure I can paste CSS code here, but I’ll try…

Put this into your custom.css file:
/* Responsive width */
@media only screen and (max-width: 1274px) {
.social-post { display: none; } }

Of course, you can adjust that max-width to whatever you want and add as many rules as you want. .social-post applies to my site, but not necessarily your site.

In this example, I just wanted to remove all my social sharing links for people on mobile devices. So, as you resize your browser window, you notice that those share buttons on the left disappear when you hit a certain width.

You could also have your sidebar disappear if you wanted, or moved to the bottom. Or your nav links stacked instead of floating side by side.

Hope this helps!

Mountain

And on a side note, I can’t stand the WordPress mobile plugins. Why put so much work into the design of your site, just to have some generic plugin strip it all away?

Several years ago Chris Pearson said that if you have a nicely designed site, (like all Thesis sites!) you don’t need a mobile version – or something along those lines.

I completely agree!

However, I also think there is a difference between what he was talking about at the time (plugin style) and what’s possible today (responsive).

I still doubt that most people need fully responsive websites, but I see no harm in adding a little code to make your site a bit more usable in mobile situations.

I do see the dangers in completely redesigning a site, making multiple menus, etc.

But enough of the silly mobile plugins, people!

Kowens115

What about a plugin for image galleries/slideshows? I use the NextGen Gallery, although I am not impressed with load times of slideshows.

Any suggestions for a slideshow or slider plugin?

(P.S. thanks for the *always* fantastic content!)

Marion Ryan

My favourite slider plugin is Easing Slider. Couldn’t be easier to set up and it looks good and has worked well on any client site I’ve used it on.

Gary B

The Google XML Sitemaps plugin is inefficient & resource intensive – which becomes more problematic as you site grows.

The sitemap functionality in Yoasts WordPress SEO plugin, or ‘Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps’, is much better.

Jupiter Jim

Gary B,

Your are sooooooo correct. I was at a WordCamp in Miami and one of the presenters said exactly what you are saying. People can just search plugins on WordPress org by typing in “BWP GXS” which as you said stands for Better WordPress Google XML Sitemap. I was using it before WordCamp and still use it. It’s great. It creates several sitemaps based on posts, pages, categories and then gives you and index of the sitemaps you can submit to Google Webmaster Tools or you can just submit one of the generated sitemaps if your heart so desires.

So do you use Yoast’s SEO plugin with Thesis? Should I? What’s your opinion on that. You obviously know your business.

Take Care,

Jupiter Jim

Nina

Thanks for Thesis Theme, I love it. Yes plugins are like toys. I am going to reviews my plugins. However I have a plugin that is totally necessary and I recommend it is Print Friendly check it out.

Ian

Of course you could code this in to your Style Sheet which would make Print Friendly redundant as well >> http://diythemes.com/thesis/rtfm/print-stylesheet-css/

Louis

I like to use:

Google XML Sitemaps and Contact Form 7, just like Derek. I also dig…

A5 Custom Login Page
Akismet
Lightbox plus
More Link Modifier
SEO Ultimate
ShareThis

and someone asked about SLIDERS:
Smooth Slider
SlideDeck 1 Pro (not SD2)

Hope that helps!

Melanie

Instead of a slider, do you know of any plugin/code that I could use with Thesis that gives a nice carousel effect?

I have it at the top of my site now, but that’s on a ThemeForest theme I put up about a year ago which replaced Thesis. I’d like to go back to Thesis, but I’d like to know there’s a nice carousel I could incorporate. Having it there lowered my bounce rate.

Any help appreciated.

Jay Venka

I use lazy loading for images as it improves page load times and also “delete” the pluginns that im not using instead of de-activating them… Thanks

Jason Mathes

I definitely fall under the OMG YOU HAVE TOO MANY PLUGINS category. But I am slowly going through them. If I can find a way to “code around” them – then I work on implementing them through Thesis – test test test then delete the plugin.

I think I’m currently at… 20 ugh. But it is split between 10 “Manage” plugins like what you mentioned and 10 “Fluff” plugins for adding features that I could probably either implement myself or just remove altogether.

James

Well, I use Thesis to try and reduce my plug-in count as it includes a lot of layout and SEO stuff that previously needed 3-4 plugins.

I use Redirection to handle old inbound links to the sites previous page structure.

Widget Logic, which lets me bit a bit more selective about which widget content appears on which sections of my site.

And a few social plug-ins like Tweet This.

James

I have really been enjoying ‘Formidable forms’ for contact form. I find it better than contact forms 7, but I have not used Gravity Forms. It is free, or you can purchase the upgraded, unlimited Pro license for $99, (developer’s). I also like HL Twitter plug.

Dustin @ Themespotter

Duplicate Post is great.

There is a LOT of functionality that really should be built into the WP core that would eliminate the need for probably 75% of the plugins we use.

Nancy Hendrickson

WP Smush It
Akismet
Google XML Sitemaps
Dagon Design Sitemap
WP Database Backup
WWSGD
Similar Posts

Dustin @ Themespotter WordPress Themes

In addition to my previous post, plugins like these can be eliminated if improvements were made to core WP:

Duplicate Post
Advanced Custom Fields
AntiVirus
Bulletproof security
Easy Fancybox
Executable PHP widget
Feedburner email subscription
Growmap Anti Spambot
Login Lockdown
Simple Taxonomies
Ultimate TinyMCE
Widget Logic
Relevanssi Search (how can anyone really use the default WP search?)

Cyndi Fink

Derek,
Small point, it’s WordPress, not Wordpress. Thanks for this post. It explains a lot!

Jupiter Jim

Correct.

David Stehle

I think it’s important to note that you not all cache plugins “play nice” with all web host providers.

For example, many have found that DreamHost works better with WP Super Cache as opposed to W3 Total Cache. So I suggest double checking with your host before you install a cache plugin…or else it may wreck havoc on your site.

And as far as adding things like “Related Posts” – there is no need for a plugin. If you really want “Related Posts” to appear after each post, simply hard code it in. Hard coding is always a faster, more secure, and more stable solution over using any 3rd party plugin.

Clara Mathews

I use 8-10 plugins on my sites. In addition to the ones you mentioned I also use:
WP database back up
Scribe
Premise
Thesis Open Hook
WordPress Editorial Calendar
WPtouch
Yet Another Related Posts Plugin

Sandee

Do you recommend a captcha plugin (I’ve got Really Simple CAPTCHA) for Contact Form 7? I also use CBNet Ping Optimizer because I have a bad habit of editing after publication. (oops.)

Jupiter Jim

Sandee,

I use cbnet ping optimizer as well, cause I’m always edited about 10 times after it’s up and I realize this or that should be better.

Marcin

I always use:
W3 Total Cache, SEO and Analytics plugins from Yoast.
Sometimes:
NextGEN Gallery (but I am not a hard user of this).
WPtouch for tablets and smart phones (did you ever checked how much mobile traffic you have?) .
XCloner (rocks!), and you can turn it off anytime after use.

My Catholic Blog

How do you find find Yoast — does it work well with your version of Thesis?

Erin

Marcin

Oh and forgot about awesome Gravity Forms!

Danny Cruz

You made me check! Looking further… I run 8 plugins. The same 8 plugins throughout all my sites. That’s it.

Bart

Akismet
Category shortcode – to add categories to pages
Feedburner Feedsmith Extend – is this still required if using Google Feedburner?
Google XML Sitemaps
WP Database Backup – emails me my DB once a week!
Jetpack with only the following activated:
WordPress.com Stats, Enhanced Distribution, wp.me Shortlinks
JQuery Hover Footnotes
KB Linker – for internal linking – does anyone know if this really enhances SEO?
Login Lockdown
No Self Pings – is this still required?
ShareThis
Transpose Email – another way to keep the bots at bay

Any thoughts?

Joel

So, how do you know if your site is too slow due to plugins? Is there a plug-in that tells you this that you’s recommend? ;)

Anita

P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) shows you which plugin slows down your site.

Jupiter Jim

Anita,

great call. I ‘ve used it and it’s so fascinating. JUST remember to DE-activate after you get the information you need.

Ray

Derek,

Took your lead and loaded W3 Total Cache. When I activated I received
“Fatal Error” and site has crashed. Any ideas?

Thanks,
Ray

BobR

W3 Total Cache is very tricky to set up. Make sure you don t have any other cache controlling plugin enabled. A good tutorial about setting up the W3TC is at Tent Blogger

Jay Castillo

Disable W3TC’s Object Cache if you are using Thesis.

Jupiter Jim

Jay,

you are exactly right. Under the “Object Cache” section make sure that the box to the left of the “enable” label is left UNCHECKED.

Great point.

Adam

I personally never go above 5. One for spam, 1 for SEO, 1 for google Site maps, 1 for contact, Jetpack :D and Facebook connect.

I agree that the less you use the better – I have worked with clients using 20 plugins to do stuff your theme should do.

Michael Hucke

Absolutely acknowledge this.
One also should test every plugin carefully how much resources it eats up and make Wordpress slow.
As you said: less is more

Ryan

“Use Google Libraries” can speed up your site, since it loads java libraries from Google’s CDNs and reduces calls to your server. I also use a related posts plugin (YARPP), Link to Post for quickly and easily finding and inserting internal links, OptinSkin for collecting e-mails, and a couple others for specific functionality like social media buttons.

I also keep some plugins installed and only activate them when needed (WP-DBManager for optimize/repair database, Search Regex, and a couple others). If you only activate them when you use them, they don’t have constant overhead. Just make sure to always keep them up to date, even if they are inactive.

Dean

Derek, I enjoyed the post!

I have 17 running on my site hosted by Hostgator. I have no perceptible problems.

I run Scribe, Premise, W3 Total Cache, Wp touch, Xml Sitemaps, and others.

If I go beyond 20 I definitely start to feel some performance hits, both loading internally and externally. When it comes to plugins, you simply have to know whats critical and whats just nice to use.

Dean

Armen

There’s one costing you money that you could get rid of, Dean.

;)

Karry

All-In-One-Seo Pack I found very useful. It is very easy to install and less complicated to figure out how to use and it has really helped boost my blog traffic because this is where I really get to write my punchy headlines about what my blog can offer. I understand Thesis has something similar but I just haven’t had the time to explore that feature yet. The W3 Total Cache I’ve never thought of using it before so I may test that to see how that goes. Mind you! If it’s tricky to install then it’s probably not for me but thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. :-)

Maurice

Do you have any suggestions for à good internal linking plugin. I use seo smart plugin at the moment, but it’s not working very well…

Thanks à lot

Maurice

Steve Warwick

Totally disagree with you Derek. I happily run 59 plugins on a busy site.

Perhaps you misunderstand what a caching plugin does. It does away with all the DB calls, plugin loading etc. It doesn’t matter how many plugins you run – the front end of the site will still load fast – granted, the back end, not so much.

For example, one of my sites serves about 4,000 visitors per day (6,000 before the recent G slap). Home page load time is… mmmm… I just checked it with pingdom who say it loads in 721 ms (three quarters of a second for the non-technical) and the actual html page takes just 45 ms. Google webmaster tools shows their speed graph “breakpoint” at 1.5 seconds, so assuming that’s their target load speed for a site, I’m happy being twice as fast as their suggested speed goal.

The site runs wp-supercache with cloudfront (who take care of media, css and js) and has 59 plugins active – and every single one does something “vital” – however small that may be.

At the end of the day, stating you “should only run 10 plugins max” makes an interesting linkbait post but in reality having a successful site comes down to testing and doing what works.

For example, you say “people think they need “related posts” at the end of their articles”. I say, yeah I do – I’ll take the 25% increase in pageviews – thanks.

My 2c is find what works and ignore what bloggers say, unless they can back up their point with solid data – then test.

As for plugins – wp-hashcash + akismet takes care of a lot of spam (but we massively block at the server level with mod_security so your mileage may vary) . We couldn’t function without WordPress Editorial Calendar for arranging/scheduling posts and WP-Touch Pro for mobile.

Steve

ssman

i read one article from Google official,she does not suggest small site use any sitemap xml, it’s useless. the sitemap xml only useful for large website.

Dustin

What are people’s thought’s about security plugins?

Glynis

Right now I’m using 17 plug-ins. I feel all are necessary at this time seeing that I can’t afford to buy a framework with the ones built in.

Why didn’t you include a comment plug-in that makes that section more secure?

Aaron

For what it’s worth I read this article and switched from the Contact Form 7 plugin, to the ContactMe.com. It bumped my Google Page Speed results up from 79 to 82. Of course the Contact Me form is branded…so there is a trade off.

David

Hi thanks for this, I was thinking of adding some things to my site, so I appreciate the heads up on the other point of view.

David

RunEatRepeat

I’m busted! I have a ton of plugins :( I didn’t realize that was a bad thing until just now…

Sybille

It’s easy for you to say “fewer is better”. However, when you don’t know code it’s simply necessary to use some plug ins which help you achive the same thing as writing code. My website is a CMS and not a blog, and even with the wonderful Thesis, BYOBwebsite plug ins have helped me do just that.

Trung Nguyen

I also removed some WP plugins to make my blog loading faster. I consider we should only install about 15 to 20 plugins are enough.

Jeff the Entrepreneur

I use JQuery Lazy Load for faster image loading.
I definitely agree that the smaller is the plugin number, the better.
I am a minimalist.

Ralph | Niche Websites

One not to be forgotten.
Broken Link Checker…

keeps your affiliate links up to date
You comment’s websites connected
And Google happy :)

Heather Hansen

What plug in do you use to back up your blog site?

Dennis O'Brien

I use far more than any recommended number but still have a load time under 2s. It was longer before Thesis 1.84 :) I use many of Rick Anderson’s plugins but they had a combined Style Sheet before 1.84 and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. What could be better than a widgetized site for somebody who knows little of hard coding.

Aaron D

I use Post Expirator for my sites with time-sensitive info that I need removed at a pre-determined time — such as a meeting notice that I want removed after the meeting starts.

Is there another plugin that does something similar, with less drain, or perhaps a way to write that into my site’s php?

Amandeep Singh

I think having Ping Optimizer plugin also helps… and is one of the plugins I add on every fresh wp installation….

Finland Blog

Great subject
I am happy with Hostgator/Business hosting.
Regarding the plugins,I need to use W3Total Cache as it wirks well with MaxCDN.I cannot seem to intergrate my CDN with other cache plugins

Other than that I notice no one has mentioned a mobile plugin
I believe that more readers are acessing my blog with mobile devices,so I find it extremely useful to have installed.
I chose wptouch pro as it works so well with many hand held mobiles
Good post worth really thinking about

Tinh

Great list but the funny thing is that W3 Total Cache is not a good friend with Thesis :-) I switched to use Wp Super Cache then as I could not upgrade Thesis with W3

Lowell

Excellent list. I generate sitemaps using an independent sitemap generator uploaded to my server. It has a feature that notifies Google when a new sitemap has been generated which I need to do manually. I assume the WP Plugin automatically creates a new sitemap when you post, or do you have to manually generate it?

Steve

Easy Tynt – this is a great way to get credit when someone copies your content
WPTouch – BIG FAN, yet another easy way to present your blog for mobile content as well as present a way for the user to switch to desktop version without loosing your ability to present AdSense

Bernard Go

Hi, a total neophyte here. I only started my WordPress + Thesis website a few days ago. The only plugin I have that was recommended by Derek was Akismet (Personal). Thank you for recommending W3 Total Cache, Google XML Sitemaps, and Contact Form 7/Gravity Forms. I read somewhere that you might want to put a HTML sitemap page to allow site visitors to navigate your website easily. Matt Cutts also recommends it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5LIlkhxl2s&feature=relmfu
What HTML sitemap do you recommend?

Mike

I totally agree with trying to use around ten plugins. The thing you left out is that you most likely have highly customized themes that include alot of functionality. For the average WP user, it’s not so simple to just drop a function in custom_functions.php to take care of adding a FB like button at the end of each post. They need to install a plugin – and this is how some people end up with 30 of them.

jezza101

As helpful as a “rule of thumb” can be to the novice, ultimately it will help to understand the detail. Certain plugins can and will generate extra work loads for your system, this can be down to additional database queries, calls to external resources or simply poorly written code. Others, such as cache plugins, will help to mitigate some of these problems.

As always I would urge people to try things for themselves. Question whether you are really adding something to your site with the plugin and then see what happens. Take measurements, use Google’s tools to monitor speed, see what is really happening.

If performance is maintained then why not keep plugins that you genuinly think add value to your site? If a plugin slows down your site then understand the implications that might have of the quality score Google will assign to you, if the plugin adds little value then consider dropping it. Keep monitoring the site after each additional install.

I don’t use many myself, I like to keep things simple. The two essential ones that I use are ones that I wrote myself to make managing multiple sites as easy as possible!

I have one that quickly and easily pulls up products from Amazon by entering minimal information, essentially just a keyword. This ensures blog posts have current products / prices so I don’t have to go back and update them! And a second that manages my affiliate links – who wants to continuously look up tracking IDs when you can enter them once and let the plugin do the rest!

Fortunately for plugin authors Wordpress provides a number of ways to cache data, for example the transient cache, which other dedicated cache plugins will handle. So a well written plugin can take advantage of your caching strategy without having to write specific code.

steve

Great recommendations throughout!

What plugin do you recommend for affiliate link management – cloaking, providing a short, clean link URL, managed from a central place?

Anne

A colleague told me about backupcreator.com $47 plugin. I have been aware of the potential for problems with plugins. Does anyone know about this one? I see various recommendations for backups, but I am not much of a geek, don’t code, etc.
Thanks for any input!
Anne

Sarah Lawrence Hinson

It’s true I do need to minimize my plugin use. One thing that happens with too many plugins is that there is too much continual update and maintenance to be done, especially by a Mom blogger like me.

I’m a fairly able techie setting things up (used to work on Sun Unix systems so it all felt eerily familiar when I started on WordPress) but don’t program so need to rely on plugins to match my vision of what I WANT to have instead of what the software gives me directly (also figured out some Thesis hooks so far) but I only work between 9am-2.30pm until school is out so it has to be good and work well, quickly with few problemos!

Love, love Thesis tho. Have other sites in the works and they will be Thesis framed for sure. Alternative health and wellness and spirituality is a growing market.

I have Derek’s list, plus (many I will not mention, because I must tidy, )
SEOPressor by Daniel Tan. I like this plugin because it’s improved my writing skills as well as my SEO awareness. And when I’m doing a book review it really does help the review get ‘up there’.

Commentluv. Great for a mom blogger, know there are blogging purists on here and I totally get that, but it’s not my audience. And Andy Bailey’s awright. He’s British (gets a vote from me).

Pinterest hooks from Thesis work great thanks again! (Please don’t sent me hate mail, women bloggers are all about social).

Scrolling Social Sharebar. Again, mom blogger stuff (I won’t mention that I have s*xy bookmarks too or you’ll want to wash my mouth out with soap and water).

I’m sure at this point that W3 total cache is saving my bacon.

YARPP, Fast Secure Contact Form (the other one busts my site I know I know probably the plugins) Amazon Affiliate Link Localizer and then there are the Official Facebook Widgets. Building a community here people…and did I mention BlogFrog? Oops.

Thanks for the useful articles Derek, now I just somebody to help me get my Thesis fat footer hooks to work right…they stay horizontal and won’t go into three neat columns and I dunno why. Now don’t go telling me it’s because I have too many plugins! ;-)

Cheers
Sarah
A Mom On A Spiritual Journey!

RJ Johnson

I use “Fix Rss Feeds” and find it invaluable when FeedBurner has broken something. What are your thoughts? Your article did get me to chopping others out.
Thanks,
RJ

Paul G.

As I see it, there are only 5 Essential plugins on any WordPress site.

By essential, I mean they are needed for the health and performance of your site. Not to provide “user” functionality.

Essential:
Broken Link Checker
Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (if you allow comments)
Redirection
W3 Total Cache
WordPress SEO (better SEO services than thesis + XML Sitemaps)

Good Functionality:
Configure SMTP (if you need good email support) – no impact your user experience
Q and A (if you need FAQs)
Relevanssi (for good search)
Simple Lightbox (for displaying in-post images nicely)
WPtouch (if you want a quick mobile solution)
WordPress Twitter Bootstrap CSS (for using Twitter Bootstrap if you need)

The last one I know wont impact your user experience because I wrote it and it’s built with minimizing any impact on performance in-mind.

Cheers,
Paul.

Mark

Great post! I like your choices for plugins but here are some we have had great luck with:

1. Antispam Bee – Stops almost 100% of spam with no fuss.
2. Wordpress Firewall 2 – Helps keeps attacks from damaging the site and lets you know by email it has fought off an attack.
3. Captcha – Love this for stopping the fake comments problem.
4. Kstats Reloaded – Not perfect but food for some stats info.

Thanks again:-)

Mark

I forgot a couple we also use:
1. Slick contact forms – EZ slide out forms for every page/post quick contact.
2. Share this by lockerz – Nice clean fast sharing tool for your site posts/pages.

yvonne

I’ve tried the WP Cache and Super Cache plug-in but it seem so complicated to configure. Actually, the super cache broke my site so I had to un-install it. Are there any other great options?

Robnonstop
Dustin

I’m still curious on people’s thoughts regarding all the security plugins out there. There are people/blogs that say to not use more than 3-4 total WP plugins, and then other people who say you should be running 5+ security plugins, in addition to other plugins. Are security plugins needed?

Laura

This post is getting a bit dated. WordPress has a contact form of it’s own now. No need for the extra plugin.

I don’t know if you read these old comments… but WP has a new feedback form you can add to your individual post. Have you tried that yet? I only noticed it on the latest update but haven’t found a real use for it so far.

Fajar

Im using just 5 plugin.

- Woocommerce plugin
- Doc Presser plugin
- Google XML sitemap generator
- SEO smartlinks
- W3 total cache.