The best WordPress plugins 2020

How ingenious open source projects are, I realize again and again, when I set up a new page with my favorite CMS WordPress: Easy installation, great selection of free and premium WordPress themes, heaps of ingenious plugins for extension and modification. A few years ago, it was not possible to set up a professional website that fast and easy! There are 57,190 free plugins for almost all purposes in the WordPress plugin directory.

Finally I’ve come to update this list of the best WordPress plugins 2020 for me and to introduce you to all plugins I’m actively using in my numerous WordPress installations:

Which and how many WordPress plugins should you install?

You might wonder which WordPress plugins are really needed. That depends on which functions you want to include on your website. From my point of view there are a few must-have WordPress plugins that in my opinion should not be missing in any installation. You can find them at the top of my article. And then there are, of course, depending on the use case, needs and desired functions, a lot of optional plugins that I use or have used in various WordPress installations. The best of them I present to you here as well!

In general: The less Plugins, the better!

Especially if you are dealing with the topic of load time optimization for WordPress, many plugins will put a damper on your work. Because every plugin can possibly slow down your website. Not only the WordPress dashboard gets slower when plugins execute complex functions, but also the website itself, so there can be delays in the frontend. Many plugins bring their own stylesheet (CSS) or include one or even more JavaScript files, which have to be loaded by the user every time the page is opened.

Too many plugins make your site slow and unsafe!

Exactly for this I have written down some of my best insider tips in the section: Plugins for load time optimization. There I will tell you how you can optimize the speed of your site. But every plugin less is good for speed.

In addition, every other plugin is a potential danger by programming errors and security holes. Regarding security holes it is extremely important that you do not install unchecked plugins from dubious sources. Especially these are often contaminated with backdoors, viruses or other malware. By the way, you should not only deactivate plugins that you no longer use, but delete them completely! Because even with inactive plugins security holes can be exploited!

My 7 tips for the safe use of WordPress plugins:

  1. Only install plugins that you really need.
  2. Deactivate and delete all plugins that you no longer need.
  3. Never install plugins from unsafe sources.
  4. Do not use plugins that are no longer updated.
  5. Do not use plugins that have known security holes.
  6. Always make a backup copy of your website before installing a new plugin.
  7. Test your website and all important functions thoroughly after activating a new plugin!

All plugins in this list I have tested extensively and most of them I use myself daily! For a better overview I have grouped the plugins together.

I. SEO Plugins for WordPress

If you pay attention to a few simple things, websites based on WordPress rank excellently in the search engines! Of course there are some things that WP does not provide by itself, but that’s exactly what there are excellent plugins for, which I would like to present to you here: My favorite plugins for SEO for successful websites based on WordPress 2020…

Let’s start with the (in my opinion) best SEO plugins for WordPress:

1. WordPress-SEO-Plugin by Yoast

The free plugin from Yoast solves many of the SEO weaknesses that WordPress still has, but it needs some configuration and is now quite overloaded! I still use Yoast on many projects, but always only in the free version and always in combination with a caching plugin.

With the Yoast SEO Box in the backend you can optimize the CTR of your snippets. Here you can rewrite the page titles for each article and each page individually and assign meta-descriptions:

The plugin automatically implements the correct Canonical tag on all URLs, but you should set the archive, tag and category pages to “noindex” via the settings in the plugin, as these do not provide any added value from the search engine’s point of view. After all, this is a simple listing of the same content from other pages, just with a different filtering.

You can find this option under “Search Appearance” -> “Taxonomies”. Here’s an example of how this currently looks for my category pages:

Depending on the purpose of the page or an article, things like the Canonical tag or the Robots meta tag can also be configured individually in the Advanced section:

For example, for privacy, contact and imprint, you can simply set the option “Allow search engines to display this post in search results?” to no and thus have a meta-robots tag with the value Noindex output. If you publish a guest article that comes from another site, you can simply use the field “Canonical-URL” to refer to the original source and you will not have a problem with duplicate content:

In addition, you can deposit the Google Search Console verification and provide at least rudimentary information about the website in the form of structured data such as name, logo, search, etc. I also use the social function to output the social profiles as OpenGraph tags and JSON-LD-SameAs data.

Yoast’s SEO plugin also generates the sitemap XML on my pages and can theoretically even generate breadcrumbs, which I have never used. The RSS feed can be pimped and you can remove the reference to WordPress from the source code.

Unnecessary functions like the SEO analysis, the readability analysis, the cornerstone content function and the Ryte integration I always deactivate directly after installation. The SEO analysis is much too rudimentary and strict and the readability analysis does not work well in German anyway. I can’t do much with the rest either. Yoast’s SEO plugin has unfortunately become more and more heavy over the years, but hey! Don’t look a gibt horse…

I think Yoast is still the best free SEO plugin for WordPress!

2. Internal link :

One of the most important SEO measures is the creation of an intelligent and effective internal link structure with an optimized number of internal links for each article, which are both relevant for search engines and natural for the readers. The Internal Link Juicer plugin provides a set of tools to help you develop exactly this structure so that you can increase your website visits through the search engines, sell more products or convert more users.

Very cool is the possibility to assign simple keywords on each page or article, which will then automatically link to the desired page within other pages and articles. Here you have to be a bit careful not to overdo it, but in the plugin settings you can configure things like maximum number of links per post and maximum frequency, how often a post should be linked within another post. You can also easily exclude HTML areas like headlines, lists or other elements from linking. Of course you can customize the HTML output of the generated links and keep track of the most important link generators, link receivers and keywords on a separate dashboard!

With the premium version of Internal Link Juicer for 69.90 USD, you can even automatically convert focus keywords or phrases stored in Yoast SEO or RankMath into internal links and even have tag and category pages linked automatically.

The best: In contrast to many other plugins, which also link keywords automatically, the loading times in the front-end remain lightning fast due to the integrated index!

This function can be very useful for building a Wiki, for example. Let’s say you have a blog about search engine optimization and you want to convert every term that is part of your glossary of SEO terms into a link to the post with the definition of the term. To do this you simply need to create a new keyword or phrase and add it with the URL you want to use as a target. All mentions of this term will be linked to the appropriate wiki page.

In the following video of the manufacturer you get a good overview of the functions and possibilities of the plugin:

3. Structured data: snip – Structured Data Plugin

Snip is a very cool one for WordPress, built by a very capable German WordPress developer. With this plugin you can add structured data to your website using JSON+LD. This is necessary to help search engines to better understand the content of your site and to give them explicit hints about the meaning.

The special thing about structured data is that Google will display so called “Rich Snippets” or “Rich Search Results”, like stars, pictures and much more, directly in the search results, which can improve the click rate on your website!

SNIP: Structured-Data-Plugin for WordPress

With a one-time price of 59 USD the plugin is a real bargain and should not be missing in any WordPress installation!

4. Table of contents: Table of Contents Plus

TOC+ is one of my favorite plugins for WordPress! It automatically creates a table of contents with text anchors for orientation and navigation within longer articles and pages. It can also be used as a quick start in search results, like Wikipedia. The table of contents in this article was created with Table of Contents Plus, for example. Just because you offer the reader a great overview and a pleasant navigation, the usage intensity of your content will improve.

Table of Content Plus is completely free and should not be missing in any WordPress installation!

5. Search engine friendly images for WP: PB SEO Friendly Images

The plugin “PB SEO Friendly Images” from the German WordPress developer Pascal Bajorat supports you in optimizing images for search engines. It automatically adds search engine friendly alt and title attributes to images. The ALT-attribute should be included in all images of a website. If an image cannot be displayed for certain reasons, the visitor is shown the so-called alternative text describing the image. The idea for this plugin is based on the well-known WordPress plugin “SEO Friendly Images” by Vladimir Prelovac, which unfortunately has not been developed further for some time.

With this plugin you can use an automatic synchronization between alt- and title-attributes, provided that one of them has been set manually and existing alt- and title-attributes are overwritten with new variants if necessary. Thereby, variable, flexible naming schemes can be used to assign the appropriate terms to each attribute. Very cool is that the plugin optimizes images within articles and pages as well as their article images (post thumbnails). After installing and activating the plugin, you only need to define the desired naming scheme for the alt and title attributes of the images, and the plugin does the rest completely automatically.

The plugin is available in a free version in the official WordPress plugin directory or you can get the pro version for 20 USD. It can also add lazy loading and the title attributes to your internal link. You can also synchronize existing alt with the title and vice versa.
Existing alt and title attributes can be easily overwritten with a custom scheme. In the Pro version the plugin also works with images in posts and post thumbnails as well as content from fields of the ACF plugin.

6. PageSpeed Plugins: Improved loading time

PageSpeed optimization is now a permanent part of SEO, that should be obvious. Google has already announced in January 2018 that from July 2018 page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile search and will actually report this on Twitter on July 9, 2018:

6.1 WP Rocket – WordPress Performance Plugin

A caching plugin is recommended for any website that plans to increase its traffic. An older or not very well dimensioned server can quickly go downhill if too many users access it at the same time. Correctly adjusted caching can increase the performance of your website hundreds or thousands of times.

WP Rocket can be recommended to anyone who cannot enable server-side caching. So if you are at an inexpensive shared host and cannot use NGINX microcaching, WP Rocket’s built-in cache will help you store all the pages of your website in the built-in cache for ultra-fast viewing. WP Rocket also allows you to reduce the file sizes of HTML, JavaScript and CSS files very easily by minimizing them.

My colleague Saša has tested WP Rocket extensively. His conclusion is:

After everything we have found out about WP Rocket so far, especially in our own tests, we can really recommend this plugin to you. It is easy to configure for a caching plugin, highly efficient, rocket fast and affordable.

6.2 Insider tip 1: Hummingbird

The free alternative to WP Rocket is in my opinion the fantastic Hummingbird plugin. With it you can basically optimize your whole WordPress installation. From the Hummingbird dashboard you can perform a performance test on Google via API and record your improvements before and after.

Especially cool is the integrated Asset Manager which allows you to compress, inline, subordinate and/or move every single CSS and JS into the footer in advanced mode! With the plugin you can check the caching rules and activate GZIP. You can also use it to cache the Gravatar avatars and for hosting environments without server-side cache, you can activate a static file cache.

6.3 Insider tip 2: Integrate Critical CSS with HFCM!

I use the tool CriticalCSS.com to generate the so-called critical CSS for each page and then integrate this into the head of the page using the Header Footer Code Manager plugin. Critical CSS is the term used to describe the styles required for the initial page layout in the upper, i.e. directly visible area, which is ideally delivered directly in HTML and is not loaded as an external resource as usual. The critical CSS code created in this way is integrated inline and minified directly into the of the page. The regular stylesheet is reloaded asynchronously by the Hummingbird plugin and packed into the browser cache.

6.4 OMGF & CAOS – Host external resources locally

The developer of these two little helpers is obviously into four-letter abbreviations. With OMGF you can reduce DNS queries and use the browser cache by simply storing the embedded Google fonts on your server, embedding them locally hosted and removing the external Google fonts. Another advantage: If you host external resources, such as Google fonts, yourself, you will find it easier to create a privacy-compliant website based on WordPress, and the page will load much faster!

CAOS is the equivalent to embed the Google Analytics JavaScript or the code of the Google Tag Manager locally hosted. You can host analytics.js/gtag.js/ga.js locally, bypass ad blockers in stealth mode, operate from the CDN, place the tracking code in the footer and much more!

6.5 Image optimization: WP Smush it or EWWW Image Optimizer

Improve your page speed by optimizing your images with one of these two plugins. You should know that images should be delivered in the correct size and optimally compressed. This can be realized in WordPress either with WP Smush it or the EWWW Image Optimizer. Both plugins optimize the images that are uploaded or created by other plugins. The best is that you can also optimize all images that have already been uploaded and will be converted into the best file format. You also save disk space and bandwidth.

Caution: Of course you can also use it to compress already uploaded images, but then these images might lose their ranking in the Google image search!

6.6 For Speed-Freaks: AMP

Whether or not to provide your website with AMP is a strategic decision that everyone has to make for themselves. In some industries, such as news and recipes, it is already no longer possible without, but AMP makes the pages very fast … for this it is (at present still) really difficult to make an AMP website look good – here I tried out very much in the last months.

The official AMP plugin from the WordPress makers is a good start to add support for the Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP). This open source initiative aims to provide content optimized for mobile devices that can be loaded instantly anywhere. With the plugin enabled, all posts on the WordPress website will then have a dynamically generated, AMP-compatible version that can be accessed by appending /amp/ to the end of the post URL. Meanwhile you can even switch to AMP-First, i.e. all URLs in WordPress are delivered exclusively in AMP.

AMP

6.7 Optional: deactivate functions in WordPress

I also use one of the following three plugins in almost every installation to disable certain WordPress features and reduce the number of included resources. Which one is right for you depends a bit on what you need on the website and what makes it slow:

A) Clearfy – WordPress optimization plugin and disable ultimate tweaker

With Clearfy I disabled only a few functions in WordPress in the beginning, but the plugin has become a really comprehensive tool to make WordPress faster, safer and more comfortable.

B) Autoptimize

The Autoptimize plugin accelerates your website, similar to WP-Disable by optimizing CSS, JS, images, Google fonts and more. You can use it to optimize (minification) the CSS and JavaScript code, merge CSS and JS files, i.e. merge all linked CSS and JS files to load them so that rendering is not blocked. I also use the plugin to remove the embedded Google fonts, which I then embed again with the next plugin hosted locally.

C) Reduce HTTP Requests, Disable Emojis & Disable Embeds, Speedup WooCommerce

I use the formerly called WP-Disable plugin on many older WordPress instances. Besides removing query strings (GET parameters) from CSS and JS files, it can do some more useful things to reduce requests and load external resources in WordPress. For example you can disable the annoying embeds that are often created automatically when inserting links and disable the emojis that are loaded from WordPress servers. You can also disable gravatars, RSS, XML-RPC, autosave, pingbacks and trackbacks and close comments on posts older than 20 days. In the of the page you can remove the Windows Live Writer tag, the Shortlink tag, the WP API and some others.

7. Redirection, 404 & 410

Redirection is a very useful free plugin, especially when reanimating Expired Domains or if your site has changed a lot, for example after a relaunch. Redirection lists all incoming requests that generate 404 errors and then offers you the possibility to redirect them accordingly for the search engine and the user via 301 redirection. The plugin also monitors changes in the permalinks of pages and articles and automatically adds a 301 redirection from the old URL to the new one!

The 410 for WordPress plugin, on the other hand, sends HTTP 410 (Gone) replies to requests for pages that no longer exist in your blog, i.e. that have been knowingly and intentionally deleted. This way, the search engine knows that this content will no longer recur, and takes it out of the index more quickly and no longer crawls it (so often).

8. The best Share-Buttons for WordPress

In the past I always used the Easy Social Share buttons and there is nothing wrong with that. However, if you really want to approach the topic of social signals and share buttons in a professional manner, there is no way around mashshare in my opinion!

Recommendation: Mashshare

The share buttons of Mashshare load extremely fast and hardly affect the loading time of the website. Mashshare even supports AMP and popular caching plugins! With a few paid plugins in Mashshare you can configure the display, position etc. really well. There are very cool display forms like the Share-Bar and a Google Analytics integration to track the users of the Share-Buttons:

Furthermore, the buttons work completely responsively, even when using a caching plugin, which is unfortunately not the case with the Easy Social Share buttons.

By the way, Mashshare is developed by a German and the support is excellent!

Alternative: Easy Social Share Buttons

As already mentioned, the low-cost alternative for integrating the social share buttons is the Easy Social Share Buttons plugin. It is very conveniently configurable with many options and services. Costs a paltry 14 USD and is worth every cent!

Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress

Packed with everything you could need to connect your website to social media, Easy Social Share Buttons is probably the most comprehensive WordPress plugin for social share buttons on the market. Easy Social Share Buttons is compatible with over 50 social networks and offers countless design options with endless choices, including more than 30 automated display methods, unlimited colors and styles, detailed share button customization for each site. I especially like the integrated Click-To-Tweet feature.

9. Push Notifications

Once a real insider tip in terms of marketing were push notification plugins, but they are now quite common. They make it easy and free of charge to send visitors on mobile devices and some desktop browsers such as Google Chrome new content directly to their cell phones by means of push notifications, thus creating a kind of newsletter list and making them a bit more independent of Google and Co.

The best known plugin is from OneSignal and is still free for up to 10,000 active recipients.

A relatively new alternative is FoxPush – a new web push notification technology for website owners, super smart, super simple and super targeted. FoxPush takes the existing web push notification technology to a new level with large data volumes, behavioral targeting and a variety of features to maximize impact and relevance.

II. Other useful WordPress plugins

1. Plugin for domain transfers

If you want to move your WordPress website to another domain, you should install the plugin “Better Search Replace”. For example, I have changed the domain rhodes-deutschland.de to hey-uni.de I only had to enter the following two lines in the wp-config.php:

define('WP_HOME','https://www.hey-uni.de'); define('WP_SITEURL','https://www.hey-uni.de');

and then replace all occurrences of “rhodes-deutschland.de” with “hey-uni.de” in all database entries in the backend via Better Search Replace.

Better Search Replace WordPress Plugin for domain transfer

Already the domain was changed and all images and resources are loaded from the new domain.

2. wpDiscuz – the best comment system for WordPress

wpDiscuz is an excellent comment system with a lot of features. It is similar to Disqus, but is lighter and does not rely on a third-party service. It improves the loading time and usability and can be configured and adapted very nicely.

3. Improve the internal search in WordPress

A) Relevanssi

Relevanssi virtually replaces the WordPress standard search and enables many additional functions such as partial hits, search hit highlighting, weighting by title, text etc. – a really useful plugin that makes sense for any page with a search box.

B) Search Meter

Very exciting: With Search Meter it is possible to log internal searches and then evaluate them. It is especially interesting to see what visitors are looking for without having suitable content available. You can create new content for this purpose or sometimes the term is only missing in the title or text of a page …

4. Plugins for more security in WordPress

The issue of security in WordPress is extremely important. Most of the security related topics should already be covered by your hoster, but I will recommend a few more WordPress plugins, which can help you to make your WordPress a little bit more secure, independent from your hoster:

A) BackWPup – Backup Solution

ATTENTION: Backups should better be external and independent from your webspace!

But if you are looking for a plugin that creates backups directly in WordPress, you can use BackWPup to create WordPress backups. You can easily create and configure them and let them run automatically in the background. Even offers dropbox support. Highly recommended! BackWPup is the all-in-one backup solution for WordPress.

III. Special: Marketing Plugins for WordPress

I am very grateful for suggestions, tips and discussions about other great WordPress plugins. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me in the comments!

Did you know: WordPress is the most successful CMS in the world!

Meanwhile WordPress has not only arrived on the CMS market, it has even taken over the market leadership. WP is no longer just used for blogs, but for countless websites in all sizes, languages and countries. WordPress currently has a proud 63.5% market share in the field of content management systems, making WordPress the undisputed leader!

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