My Favorite Plugins

Updated: June 29, 2015

Once you know how to install plugins, you’ll want to find some good ones. Before you go crazy (it’s easy to go crazy), I recommend you read my plugin tips. In short, plugins have a frustrating way of breaking sites so I aim to use as few as possible.

My favorite plugins and the ones I'm no longer using.

Below is a list of the plugins currently active on my site.

I’m keeping the list of plugins I’ve stopped using at the bottom of the page for reference. I noted the reason why I stopped using a specific plugin when applicable.

As of today, I have a whopping 7 plugins on my site. This changes from time to time, but I like to keep things super lightweight.

The current plugins I'm using.

To combat spam

Antispam Bee is my current spam fighter. It’s worked quite well, although not nearly as effective as turning off comments more than 30 days old. Now THAT has virtually eliminated spam. :)

I used to use the following:

  • Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P.) is the plugin I talked about in my tutorial, How to Install a Plugin. It helps cut down on spam.
  • Akismet is a good spam catcher as well. It’s automatically installed in new versions of WordPress but must still be activated. (Activation requires an API key from WordPress.com. Simply follow the prompts to get your key when you activate Akismet under Plugins–>Installed.)

For social sharing

Simple Share Buttons Adder puts social sharing icons at the end of my posts. There’s a handy setup guide and walkthrough tutorial on BlogAid.

Simple Social Icons allows you to add social media icons to your widgets in WordPress. It works great with Genesis.

For comments

Yoast Comment Hacks is a new one for me and so far so good. I used to use Send Email Only on Reply to My Comment which sends a notification to someone when they have a reply to their comment.

For the backend

WordPress SEO by Yoast makes it easy to enhance your SEO as you write your posts. See also my 7 SEO Tips post.

W3 Total Cache makes your site run faster and smoother by caching. Caching is basically keeping a copy of images and content that has already been seen so those things don’t have to be fetched from the server every time, which slows things down.

UpdraftPlus is the plugin I recommend to create automatic backups of your site. It’s free. Update: I recently deactivated this on my main site at the suggestion of my ALA.com host (Synthesis) who has a robust backup system in place.

Genesis-specific plugin

Genesis is the theme I personally useGenesis Simple Edits makes editing your byline (the bit of information like date and author name under your post titles) and your post footer (the bit of information like number of comments, categories, etc. at the end of your post) a cinch.

To build my email list (not using currently but may try again)

Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Box is a slide-in box to grab the attention of potential subscribers. This plugin has worked for me, but I think I might try Scroll Triggered Boxes (similar name, different plugin, slightly better reviews).

plugins i no longer use

WishList Member allows you to have a membership site right in WordPress. It was the first plugin I used to run The Useletter Archives. Update: I found the plugin to be cumbersome and I wasn’t impressed when a much-needed update required another payment. if I was, I would use MemberPress*

Social Sharing Toolkit is what automatically puts sharing buttons at the end of each of my posts. Update: I deleted this plugin after reading MaAnna’s review here.

Comment Reply Notification allows people who leave a comment to be notified via email if anyone responds to their comment. Update: It hasn’t been updated in 2+ years so I opted for an up-to-date one (see above).

WordPress Ping Optimizer keeps your site from being marked as a ping spammer. What’s that? Have you ever published a post but found mistakes and had to update it? Well, every time you update a post after it’s published, your pinging services are notified. This plugin only pings them once when the post is published the first time. Update: WordPress now handles this on its own.

WP Smush.it reduces the file sizes of images you upload to your blog, thus making your site run faster. I’d also recommend resizing your images. I just manually compress my images now. And I wasn’t hearing good things about this plugin after a while.

Google XML Sitemaps creates an automatic sitemap which helps the “bots” index your site more efficiently. This helps with SEO. I wrote more about it in How to Maximize Your Sitemap. Update: Now I use Yoast’s SEO plugin for this.

WP Database Backup backs up your database (posts, comments, etc.) on a regular basis. Update: As I mentioned, a better option is now UpdraftPlus.

WP Facebook Open Graph Protocol pulls the right thumbnail from your post to Facebook. Also see my Facebook Tips. Not worth a whole plugin for this. I prefer the debugger tool when there’s a problem.

WP Maintenance Mode is handy if I want to make design changes or do other maintenance without confusing anyone. Basically, I can work on my site as usual behind a screen that lets visitors know the site is undergoing a little maintenance and will be back to normal quickly. This is a nice thing if you have a demo site or a client site. I reinstall it only if I need to do some work and then delete it when it’s done.

FeedBlitz Member Mail puts a check box at the end of the comment form, so anyone who leaves a comment can also subscribe to receive posts via email by checking the box. It’s an easy way to build subscribers. Update: Now I use Mad Mimi for The Useletter and don’t send posts via email.

Editorial Calendar is a great way to keep track of your posts by scheduling them. I have used this plugin only a little bit but didn’t find I used it enough to warrant keeping it activated.

Genesis Simple Hooks is a plugin that is a bit more techy, but is a nice way to add elements to your blog layout (like banner ads under your header for example, or ads at the end of single posts, etc.). Update: There’s nothing wrong with this plugin, I just no longer needed it.

Easy Recipe recommended by Linda from The Gluten-Free Homemaker allows readers to print your recipes.

What are your favorite plugins?

*There are affiliate links in this post.

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Amy,
    Great article.

    I’m a design/web developer and I teach my students here in France on how to build plugins for WordPress.

    I would add to the end:
    please DON’T become a plugins Junkie (for your sake).

    I see too many time, people adding in a lot of plugins into WordPress (I’ve seen 20 plugins in one site).

    That’s scary.
    Why?
    It’s so easy to hack your website by way of plugins.

    WordPress is pretty secure (the community keep it up-to-date).

    You can have a vulnerability issue with plugins, from what I’ve seen they a lot come from Free ones.

    Not to mention, excessive use of plugins can slow down your website, and increase maintenance (don’t forget you need to make sure the plugins are up to date).

    If I were you, use the plugins you need.

    Look into the paid only first; for only 20 bucks you can save yourself a lot of money and time in the future.

    Take care,
    Rachael

  2. says

    I just removed the “Social Sharing Toolkit” plugin from my site it was slowing down performance.

    Removing it sliced 0.4 seconds off my load time.

    When you are looking for quick load time that’s a big deal.

    Thanks for your useful tips.

    Heather Smith – Xero consultant

  3. says

    Thank you so much for posting this list! The sheer volume of plugins is pretty overwhelming and, as you said, it seems like it would be easy to go crazy with it. I’m especially thankful for the references to comment reply notifications and anti spam plugins (it’s the little things, right?) A great post as always!

  4. Holly C Wyse says

    Hi Amy,
    I just signed up to get an API code for Akismet and it directed me to a page to pay for it. I selected the option 0-$120, but now it is asking for my credit card information. You didn`t mention anything about a fee associated with it. Is this something new…

  5. says

    Thanks for giving a good alternative to Akismet!

    Which comment reply notification system are you using now? It looks like Comment Reply Notification, but when I was testing it on my testing site, it looks like there’s no way for someone to turn the notification *off* if they get tired of getting replies.

    Since their only subscribing to replies to their comment, and not just to comments in general, it might not be as much of a problem, but that still worries me.

    Thanks!

  6. Erin says

    Hi Amy, I’m just setting up my blog and Comment Reply Notification says it isn’t supported with newer versions of WordPress. Can you recommend another similar plugin?

    • Erin says

      Actually it looks like that’s the case with most of the plugins on this list. They all say that they haven’t been tested with the new version of WordPress. Is it ok to add them anyway?

      • says

        Yes unfortunately you will come across this as plugin authors neglect to keep up with WordPress updates (one of the reason I try to use as few plugins as possible!). Many times even non-updated plugins work just fine. There’s no exact science to it unfortunately. Much of it is trial and error. When you find a plugin, you have to decide how important it is to the functionality of your site. If you decide to try it, just keep an eye on things to make sure your site is working properly.

        I’m using the Comment Reply Notification at this point without issue. I don’t know of a replacement, but a quick search in the plugin directory might turn up a good one. If you find one, I’d love to hear about it!

  7. says

    Thank you for all your information. I just started a blog in March, and just switched to self-hosting last week. I’m not too tech-savvy, and I love how you can explain it n a language that I can understand. I get your emails and read them all. With 5 kids and babysitting, it’s a slow process for me, but I appreciate all of your work and help to people like me.

  8. says

    Hi Amy,

    Can you tell me which stats are the most important to display on a blog? Currently we have total # of site visits & total # of subscribers. Our # of subscribers is painfully low & almost embarrassing so we’re planning on removing that. I see that several blogs show # of Google Friend Connect followers but that is exclusive now to just Blogger blogs. Your blog only shows # of FB Likes.

    What is the plugin for this? Would you recommend any other plugins related to your blog’s number of followers?

    Thank you!
    Pam

  9. says

    Hey Amy. Again, I’ve been lurking around on your site most of the day and found this great post on plugins. Some I had installed already, but some I had not. I have installed almost all of them now. Thank you again for creating such useful, informative content!

  10. says

    Hello! I found your blog post while I was searching for an alternative to the Comment Reply Notification plug-in. I love this plug-in but it stopped working on my site – even after fiddling around with different settings – and then I realized how old it was! Do you know of any similar Genesis plug-ins that serve the same purpose? I couldn’t find anything on WordPress.org. Thanks!

      • Carrie says

        Amy, it was actually the 2-Step Verification in Google that interfered with my getting the messages. No matter how many threads I read, I’m still unclear if I can use an Application Specific Password as the workaround to this? If you ever hear about others encountering this problem and how it was solved via a self-hosted WP site, I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for your earlier response!

  11. says

    How many is too many plug ins? I’m getting transferred over from blogger, but I keep hearin WP users say their site has crashed because of plugins.

    • says

      I say as few plugins as you can possibly live with. Personally, I average about a dozen or so, but I’m always trying to figure out ways to decrease that number. :)

  12. Kathleen says

    Hi Amy,

    I installed the Simple Social Icons and Social Sharing toolkit. I don’t see either working. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

  13. says

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks again Amy! This is a great post. I was wondering what plug in your use for the
    Send me latest posts from blogging with Amy, which is after your comments.

  14. says

    Amy,
    I’m installing plugins!!! Oh, goodness. Anyway, tried the WP Database Backup, and it says its 2 years old and may not run with new WP files? Not sure if there is another one you recommend, or if this is the best one to use. I couldn’t find it when I searched for plugins; only found it through you web link.
    Thanks!!
    Debi

    • says

      Hmmm…I haven’t had any trouble with it. I don’t know of any newer ones off the top of my head but I’m sure there are some. I would just do a search in the plugin directory. (If you find a good one, let me know!)

  15. says

    Okay, I need help. I added the Social Sharing Toolkit plugin to my Word Press blog, but no matter what I try, I can’t get the icons to show up after my posts. I can only add them to my widget side bar. How do I get them to show up after my posts? I’m lost!

    • Kathleen says

      Cindy,

      Did you ever figure this out? I can’t seem to get this or Simple Social Icons to work. Would love to know how you fixed it if you did.

      Kathleen

      • says

        Kathleen,
        Yes I did. I went to “Settings” in the left margin under tools and clicked on “Social Sharing Toolkit.” Then I clicked on the top of the page where it says “content,” and this is where I was able to set up the icons for the page. I hope this helps. :)

  16. says

    If you go with Elegant Themes I recommend “Easy Social” plugin over “Simple Social Icons.” Also “Shareaholic” crashed my feature slider so I do not recommend that plugin if you are using Elegant Themes.

    In addition, I haven’t been able to get Comment Reply Notification to work with this theme (I am using Aggregate). Thanks! Monica

  17. says

    Anyone know of a recipe plugin that is completely free? I tried Easy Recipe, which seems great except that all the extra features (like adding links within the recipe itself) cost money. :-) I like free plugins. And I include many links in my recipes!

    • says

      Ziplist is free – and is recommended in thispost. But be aware that they keep your recipes on their own servers, not in your WordPress database. So what happens if you remove the plugin?

        • says

          Hi Amy – I since found out that they do not keep the recipes on their own servers. I am sorry for misleading you.

          The recipes are in your database, but held separately from the blog post in another database table. This is reasonable (although it is more normal to keep related recipe data in wp_postmeta as the recipe is connected to a post.) However when someone is searching your WordPress site using the standard WP search, they won’t find any recipe text. This is not great. They could have solved this by using wp_postmeta and not their own table. A way around this would be to use Google Site Search or Google Custom Search on your site instead of WP native search.

  18. Gena says

    My favorites are Jetpack by WordPress.com (does several different things, but I like it for site stats), CommentLuv ( to display the latest posts of those who comment), and Pretty Pinterest Pins (shows on a widget my latest pins).
    –Gena at ichoosejoy.org

  19. says

    I have to say I am obsessed with plug-ins since I switched to self-hosted WP. I love Link Within. At the end of my posts, it shows thumbnails of “things you might like.” It is one of my favorites out of the 2832938283 I have installed so far. =)

  20. says

    OK, I’m back, just to tell you that I found this when I wanted to install the comment reply notification plugin:

    !This plugin hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. It may no longer be maintained or supported and may have compatibility issues when used with more recent versions of WordPress.
    Comment Reply Notification

    Anyway, I’ve installed it, but it’s not working, at least on my blog. I see that here it’s working… My bad luck

  21. says

    Thank you for this great article, Amy!

    Some comments about my favourite plugins:
    -Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin (G.A.S.P.) – I’m just using Akismet and it’s ok.
    -The WordPress SEO Plugin by Yoast – I prefer All in One SEO, but I’ve tried this plugin and it’s very good. I’m using all in one SEO just because I had some interferences with my mobile website plugin…
    -Google XML Sitemaps – a great plugin – Guys, use it for Google Webmaster tools
    -WP Database Backup – I’m using this plugin for one of my websites. If you have a website with lots of images, try Backup to Dropbox, so you can save your images too.
    -W3 Total Cache – hm, I rather not say. Anyway, I’m not using this plugin anymore.
    -Smush.it -use it, use it use it. A great plugin
    -Ping Optimizer – if you don’t post daily and you don’t make too many updates to your articles, you don’t really need it. But, as Amy said it’s a great plugin – so…use it 😉
    -Facebook and social sharing – of course!

    Comment Reply Notification – For this one I have to thank to Amy. Actually, I have to thank for this whole article. OK now, I’m gonna go, cause I have to install Comment Reply Notification on my blog.

    Ah
    @Julie: yes, akismet is free

  22. says

    Great list, I don’t use all of those but I do love the ones you mention and I do use, like Genesis plugins, and WP SEO plugin.
    My favorites lately are a few premium ones, like Premise and Optin Skin.
    I didn’t know about the recipe one though, that is a good take away for me, since I can use it on one of my sites, I really hope it looks good when I try it. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Lisa says

    First, I need to tell you….. Thank you.. You have helped me so much getting my blog up and running. I couldn’t have done it without your help. I am still learning and have a long way before I can say I have a blog page. But I have a question concerning one of the plug-ins. It’s the WP Database Backup. The plug in hasn’t been updated since 2010. I was told if a plug-in hasn’t been updated in a long time be careful because it may not work with the newer WP plugins. I hope I explained it correctly. Any advice? Thanks!

  24. says

    Is akismet a free plugin? I keep trying to install it but it seems like it is trying to charge be $5/month? For that reason I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve been getting alot of weird spam on my site so I feel like I need to do something. Thanks!

  25. says

    I’m so happy I read this. I have been going back in and correcting mistakes or just making small edits on my posts a lot since I launched it earlier this week. Glad I read about the pinging, I’d be marked as spam for sure. :)

    Also, I was trying to get my Feedburner established. I’m having a lot of confusion with it, and their help page says that FeedSmith isn’t recommended. I loaded TentBlogger instead. I hope that’s a good one, since I don’t feel like I know yet what is a good Plugin and what is a bad one!

  26. says

    I really really like CommentLuv and wish more people used it. Having the name of a post beside your name is a good way to get people to click over to your blog when they see your comment on a blog. If your post titles are good ones you can get a lot more traffic this way.

  27. says

    First of all I completely stumbled upon you by doing a google search of “how to write an ebook” and loved your post on that. Such great simple information, then I thought, I have to read her ebook–boom! purchased your ebook, then I of course registered for your email and low and behold this email popped up in my email. I have had my blog for 3 years but have not really kept up with new and improved plug-ins so this was relevant great timing with GREAT content. You are doing things right and I plan on sharing your helpful tips with my leaders.

    Thank you!
    Anna

  28. says

    Thanks Amy, I needed to go through and update my plugins. Bluehosts keeps telling me that my site keeps going down because of them. I only had 6 but apparently something was making it unhappy. I am going through these and changing out some of my older ones.

  29. says

    Hello again! Sorry I seem to always have TONS of questions. Here it is:

    I have tried to put a link in my posts and comments on my own blog and I can’t seem to make them stick. I follow the prompts on the toolbar and hit what I’m supposed to, but…nothing. I tried to choose from available posts and that didn’t work. So I went to the post, copied and pasted the url myself and it still didn’t work. I scrolled down to be sure there wasn’t another ‘save’ button or anything. Is there a plugin or widget that I’m supposed to upload? I tried looking for one, but came up empty. What in the world am I doing wrong?

  30. says

    First, I must say that I absolutely love your blog! It has made this wordpress second go round much easier, more successful, and I will continually be referring back to you! I also refer others to you because of your fabulousness! … Now my question … or perhaps request … Do you know of a good shopping cart plugin for wordpress? Or where I can read a good tutorial for one? I would really, really love any suggestions for a wordpress shopping cart!!

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