If you’re a regular WordPress user, I don’t need to tell you how great the extensibility is or how many amazing free and commercial plugins are available for the WordPress platform. You already know all that.
One of the best features of WordPress can also be its greatest drawback. There are literally so many plugins available, that it’s easy to lose track of which ones are great and which ones maintain the status quo – they’re good, but not quite great.
As we kick off a new year, we thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of the top plugins going into 2016. Believe me, it sounds easier than it is. We’ve got a roundup of 16 plugins here, but our initial list was 3 times as big. Narrowing them down to just 16 was a tough process, so if you’re a plugin developer who is wondering why you’ve been left off the list, that’s why.
It’s also important to point out that these plugins aren’t necessarily new. In fact, a few of them have stood the test of time, being on or list for quite a while, despite the increasing competition. Let’s see if these winner can maintain their standings for the rest of the year.
Without any more chit chat, let’s jump into the details – WPKube’s Best WordPress Plugins for 2016.
1. Yoast SEO Plugin
Yoast SEO Plugin (formerly WordPress SEO by Yoast) is the leader when it comes search engine optimization. The free version comes with a ton of features including sitemaps and a live page-analysis the that analyzes everything from your content, meta descriptions, keywords, SEO titles, robots meta configuration, and more. There are few bases that this plugin fails to cover and it manages to do so while keeping everything user-friendly and reliable.
Yoast pushes out regular updates and they are typically very responsive when it comes to answering customer inquiries. If you’re looking for an SEO plugin that will improve your sites visibility without a lot of hassles, look no further. Take a look at our Beginner Guide on Setting up the WordPress SEO Plugin.
2. Vault Press
Although the name simply implies backups, VaultPress (an Automattic company) does a whole lot more. This plugin keeps your site safe through a variety of methods. First, with plans starting as low as $9/month, they offer an automated backup system that manages both daily and real-time backups. As many people have discovered, backups are only 50% of the puzzle. At some point in time, you’ll need to restore a backup and VaultPress makes this process as easy as clicking a button.
On top of a great backup service, VaultPress also offers daily scans of your core files – looking for suspicious changes or anything new. If they find something unusual, you’ll receive an email. For serious threats, VaultPress will automatically fix your site.
3. WP Bruiser
Sometimes captcha’s can be downright annoying, wouldn’t you agree? WP Bruiser is a plugin that looks to solve that problem once and for all. Without your visitors even knowing it, this plugin will sit quietly in the background, identifying spam bots without ever pestering your visitors to verify the fact that they are a real person.
WP Bruiser heads off spammers at the front door, before they even have an opportunity to leave a comment. Not only does the plugin work without being connected to an outside service, it also fights brute-force attacks, plus it’s 100% free. Learn how to setup WP Bruiser in WordPress with our detailed guide.
4. iThemes Security Pro
In 2015, this plugins has established itself as the go-to security plugin for WordPress. Users who understand the importance of a secure website and who value their time, quickly grasp the value this plugin provides. iThemes Security Pro starts with the basics like enforcing strong password, two-factor authentication and scheduled malware scanning from Sucuri.
From there, things become much more thorough. Just a few of the other features include database backups, the ability to hide your login and admin, brute force protection, and locking out a user (or hacker) after too many failed login attempts. iThemes Security Pro starts at $80/year for a 2 site license which includes 12 months of updates and ticketed support.
It’s not a surprise to see another plugin from Automattic in this list. JetPack was frequently passed over just a few years ago but it’s improved to the point where it’s almost a must have plugin. In fact, t’s not uncommon for some themes to require that you install JetPack in order to enable full functionality.
Social sharing, related posts, Google site verification tools, and site stats are built in. It doesn’t stop there. JetPack also includes a variety of security features as well as tools to improve your site’s appearance and functionality. Their newest feature is centralized site management which is a way to manage the plugins, posts, and pages of your WordPress websites no matter where they are hosted.
6. Thrive Leads
If you do any type of marketing or list building on your website, Thrive Leads is a plugin that you should take a closer look at. It’s available in a variety of plans starting at $59 for a single site license all the way up to $399 for an agency license. Thrive Leads is built with one purpose in mind, and that’s building your list and increasing conversions.
Right out of the box, this plugin comes with a long list of features – enough to make anyone who knows anything about digital marketing see the value. A huge list of optin form styles, extensive A/B testing, a visual editor, statistics, and the stand-out feature – smart links. If you don’t understand how smart links work, you should head over to the Thrive Leads page and learn how they can benefit your business. And before you do that, see our in-depth review of Thrive Leads to see if this is the right solution for you.
You would think someone might have found a solution to the comment spam that is typically associated with a WordPress site, but no, it continues to be a major problem. If your site had been around for any length of time, you’ve probably already realized that manually dealing with spam is not an option.
When it comes to comment spam, Akismet takes care of all the hard work for you – they put an end to the time-consuming task of filtering through dozens of comments and clicking delete. Personal plans are free, and premium plans are more than affordable.
8. Gravity Forms
If you have a need for custom forms on your website, Gravity Forms is a top pick for 2016, but that’s not to say that some of the competition isn’t hot on their heels. There’s an extensive list of features that let you create forms to accomplish almost any task.
Conditional Logic, custom fields, scheduled forms, pricing fields, and multi-part forms are all accomplished with relative ease. An impressive list of add-ons is also available including email integration, tons of apps, PayPal, Stripe and even Zapier.
9. Monarch Social Sharing
Monarch Social Sharing Plugin was introduced to the public in late 2014, and it remains a leader. Version 1.2 was pushed in February of 2015 and added several features like a right-hand floating sidebar, the ability to share on any social network as well as the ability to display social share buttons on the homepage, instead of just on pages and posts.
Monarch has a friendly back-end user interface that control almost every setting, and review tons of statistics. Part of what makes Monarch so attractive is the fact that purchasing access to the plugin also gives you access to everything else that Elegant Themes offers – starting at just $69/year. It’s a steal!
Don’t forget to use our ElegantThemes Coupon to get an exclusive 20% discount.
10. Short Pixel
ShortPixel is an image optimizer that focuses on ease of use. Not only is the plugin free to use for 100 images per month, but it also offers both lossy and lossless image compression. This alone makes it a versatile image optimization plugin that’s worth checking out.
All types of images can be compressed including PNG, JPG, GIF, and PDF and it’s WooCommerce compatible. Additional images are only $4.99 for 5000 image credits.
11. WP Rocket Caching Plugin
A single site license for this plugin will set you back just $39, but the speed increase for your WordPress website will be worth every penny. Part of what makes WP Rocket Caching Plugin so great is that it does more than just manage your caching. It’s compatible with CloudFlare, offers lazyload, optimizes Google Fonts, detects mobile devices, and provides DNS prefetching.
Although is has many things in common with the other popular caching plugins, WP Rocket soars above them when it comes to overall features. See our guide on How to Install and Setup WP Rocket in WordPress.
12. Limit Login Attempts
Not everyone can afford or wants a full featured security plugin like iThemes Security, and in those situations this is a plugin you’ll want to give careful consideration to. If your website has been around for any length of time, you’ll be shocked to see how often this plugin locks out users and hackers.
The basic premise of Limit Login Attempts is that it will block the IP of anyone who makes a predetermined number of failed attempts to log in to your website. You can even request email notifications if you want to be kept up to date.
13. Clef Two-Factor Authentication
If you find yourself frequently forgetting passwords, or worrying that someone might spend the time required to guess what you’re logging in with on your WordPress site, then check out this plugin. Clef offers two-factor authentication. Basically what this means is that a user will need to have your cell phone in order to log in to your WordPres website.
Logging in with Clef requires two things – your phone, and a pin or fingerprint. Up to 10k logins per month are free which makes using Clef a easy decision.
The competition for WordPress Membership plugins has really heated up over the past few years. Even with standout candidates like WooCommerce Memberships, MemberPress has risen to the challenge and come out on top. The set-up is “ridiculously easy” and the security is top notch. If you’re wondering about membership based features, MemberPress will leave a smile on your face.
With lots of control over membership privileges, pricing pages, subscription management, content drip and a ton of integrations, MemberPress is worth a closer look. To top it all off, this plugin starts at just $99/year.
Visitor engagement is a challenge for any WordPress website, and Postmatic looks to solve that problem. Using Postmatic means that new posts are emailed to users in the form of an email. No user accounts, logging in or comment forms are needed.
Postmatic helps to solve one of the biggest challenges for Websites – bringing visitors back to the site once they leave. Postmatic essentially brings the conversation to your visitors, or more accurately, delivers the conversation to their inbox – greatly simplifying the WordPress commenting process, and increasing the odds that they’ll through their email and arrive back on your website.
Ringing in The New Year
Although we’ve only just kicked off 2016, it’s exciting to think about where WordPress is headed in the next 8 months. Every year seems the same – just when you think it will be tough to come up with anything that’s new and exciting, plugin developers seem to pull something amazing out of their hat that takes advantage of the awesome extensibility of WordPress.
We hope this article you find the most essential WordPress plugins for your website. You may also want to see our post on 40 experts share their favorite WordPress plugins.
We had lots of close calls and near ties when selecting the plugins for this list. If you have a favorite plugin that you feel should have been included, please share in the comments below.