The WordPress plugin market is always in a constant state of evolution.
Certain high-quality WordPress plugins continue to stay on top year after year due to committed development by their owners and support from customers. Others fall behind and are replaced by newer plugins that have been released to the market.
Discussions about which plugins and solutions are best for WordPress users always generate a lot of debate. This is perhaps because there are so many fantastic WordPress plugins on the market and because we all use WordPress in different ways.
Despite the subjective nature of “Best Of” lists, we at aThemes wanted to share what we considered the best WordPress plugins of 2021. Our list is divided into 12 categories, and for each category, we have declared a free and a premium solution.
Best WordPress SEO Plugins
Do you run an SEO agency?
If so, we recommend checking out our list of the best SEO agency WordPress themes on the market.
1. The SEO Framework – Free
The SEO Framework has everything you need for SEO. It will automatically generate titles, descriptions, and canonical URLs, and it comes with built-in sitemap functionality.
One of my favourite features is the SEO bar that is displayed next to posts and pages. It helps you easily see at a glance the SEO status of an article.
Premium SEO Solutions
Best Caching WordPress Plugins
For a more in-depth comparison, also check out our article about the best WordPress caching plugins that we tested with the GTmetrix, Pingdom, and Google PageSpeed Insights tools.
2. WP Fastest Cache – Free
WP Fastest Cache is an effective caching WordPress plugin that is easy to use.
The plugin uses Mod_Rewrite to create static HTML pages of your whole website. It features file minification, Gzip compression, and browser caching. There is also support for SSL certificates, content delivery networks, and Cloudflare.
The premium version of WP Fastest Cache is available from $49.99. It adds caching for mobile and widgets, lazy loading for images, database cleanup options, and improved file modification.
3. WP Rocket – $49+
The beauty of WP Rocket (review) is that you simply activate the plugin and it will instantly improve the page loading time of your website. Advanced options are still available for technical users who want to change the default settings.
Features include page caching, cache pre-loading, Gzip compression, browser caching, lazy loading of images, CDN support, import and export functionality, and more.
A license for WP Rocket retails at $49 per year for one website, $99 for three websites, and $249 for an unlimited number of websites.
Best WordPress Contact Form Plugins
If you are interested in more contact form plugins, check out our collection of the best contact form WordPress plugins that takes a more comprehensive look at the market.
4. weForms – Free
weForms is a user-friendly contact form WordPress plugin that can be downloaded free of charge from WordPress.org.
The plugin helps prevent spam using Google’s reCAPTCHA service and allows you to view all form submissions from the WordPress admin area.
An unlimited number of forms can be created with its drag-and-drop form builder. 12 custom form fields are available within the builder together with design elements such as columns, section breaks, and custom HTML.
The pro version of the plugin retails from $39 per year. It adds advanced features such as conditional logic, file uploading, and integration with popular email marketing delivery services.
5. Ninja Forms – $29+
Ninja Forms can be downloaded from WordPress.org free of charge. With an intuitive drag-and-drop interface and a collection of over twelve form fields, it should not surprise you that the free version of Ninja Forms is installed on over 1,000,000 WordPress websites.
What really sets Ninja Forms apart are the premium extensions that are available for the plugin. Extensions allow you to add conditional logic, multi-part forms, file uploading, frontend posting, and user analytics. Integration support for many popular online services can be added too.
Extensions retail from $29 and up for use on one website. This means that if you require many extensions Ninja Forms can be a costly solution, however the beauty of extensions is that you only need to purchase the additional functionality you need.
Best WordPress Social Media Plugins
Be sure to check out our list of the best social media plugins for WordPress for a more detailed look at WordPress social media solutions.
6. Simple Share Buttons Adder – Free
Simple Share Buttons Adder can be used to display social media sharing buttons before or after your content area (or both if you prefer).
You can define the text that is displayed, the locations on your website the sharing buttons are activated, and change many styling and configuration settings.
With Simple Share Buttons Adder, you also get access to premium-like features such as custom colors, button positioning, and custom button sizes.
7. Easy Social Share Buttons – $20
Easy Social Share Buttons can lay claim to being the ultimate social media solution for WordPress. It boasts hundreds of options, support for over 31 social media services, and 40 unique template designs. All for only $20.
Sharing buttons can be displayed in multiple different positions and there are many different button styles, animations, and variations.
The volume of features packaged with Easy Social Share Buttons can be overwhelming at first. Thankfully, the developers have included an “Easy Mode” that simplifies the process of integrating social media on your website.
Best WordPress Popup Plugins
If you want a more comprehensive look at what popup solutions are available to you, check out our detailed list of the best WordPress popup plugins — from simple free options to heavy-duty marketing tools.
8. Popup Maker – Free
Popup Maker is a free popup WordPress plugin that gives you full control over when popups are displayed.
You can define triggers to display popups after a form is submitted, a link is clicked, or after a timed delay. Popups can also be restricted to certain areas of your website.
Six popup themes are included, however there is also an integrated theme builder to help you create your custom popup designs.
17 premium extensions are available that extend functionality further. Additional features include an advanced theme builder, video popups, analytics, and email marketing integration.
9. OptinMonster – $108+
OptinMonster is a versatile lead generation solution that is packed full of features. It can be used to create professional opt-in forms in just a few minutes.
Features include popups, A/B form testing, full-screen signup forms, mobile-specific forms, inline forms, floating bars, and much more.
Pricing for OptinMonster starts at $9 per month ($108 per year). Additional features are only unlocked in the higher-priced plans, so be sure to check the plan you choose has what you need.
Best Drag and Drop WordPress Page Builders
Drag and drop page builders have become an important part of how we use WordPress.
To see a detailed comparison of the top page building solutions in the industry, have a look at our list of the best WordPress page builder plugins.
10. Elementor – Free
With over 4 million activate installations, Elementor is one of the most popular free WordPress page builders.
Layouts can be customized using a modern user interface at the frontend of your website. Dozens of content widgets are available for content, such as videos, sliders, maps, and testimonials. Plus, the integrated role manager helps you define what your website’s users can and cannot do.
The full version of Elementor can be purchased from $49 per year. It unlocks over 50 additional content elements such as pricing tables, call to actions, and Facebook integration. Elementor Pro also adds 300+ pro template layouts, a popup builder, and a WooCommerce Builder.
11. Beaver Builder – $99+
Beaver Builder (review) is an advanced drag and drop page builder that lets you customize pages using a frontend editor. Dozens of basic and advanced content modules come packaged with the plugin. The default WordPress widgets are available too.
The interface is user-friendly and the integrated template manager allows you to select from dozens of professional layouts. Be sure to check out the demo of Beaver Builder to get a full appreciation of what this plugin can do.
Pricing for Beaver Builder starts from $99 for use on an unlimited number of websites and support for one year. It costs $199 if you need multisite integration and $399 if you need to rebrand the plugin using white labeling.
Best Anti-Spam Solutions
Suffering from comment spam?
If you are looking to improve your website’s comment setup, check out our article about the best WordPress comment plugins.
12. Cerber Security – Free
Cerber Security, or to give its full name “Cerber Security, Antispam & Malware Scan”, is a feature-packed suite of security tools that protects your website against spam, trojans, malware, and hacker attempts.
The main dashboard gives you an overview of mitigated attacks, login lockouts, prevented spam, and other security-related activity. From the main settings area, you can limit logins, enable proactive security rules, customize your WordPress login page, and adjust activity settings.
The hardening section allows you to protect your website from known WordPress exploits. For example, you can block access to the XML-RPC server, protect admin scripts such as load-scripts.php and load-styles.php, and disable the WordPress REST API.
Cerber Security is free to download, however a pro version is available from $99. Upgrading will give you premium support, cloud-based protection against known malicious IP addresses, hourly and daily security scans, and a host of other advanced security options.
13. CleanTalk – $8+
If you are really struggling with spam, you should check out CleanTalk.
CleanTalk does not require users to enter a CAPTCHA field or answer any questions. The plugin will check the IP address of each entry against millions of known bots and stop them from publishing their submission. I have found it to be the most efficient method of stopping persistent spammers in their tracks.
Pricing starts from only $8 per website per year. That works out at only 67 cents per month. The cost per website reduces further when you purchase plans for multiple websites.
Best Security Solutions
Whilst they are not advanced “All in One” WordPress security solutions, we also recommend Login LockDown for preventing unauthorized access and WP Security Audit Log for keeping track of every change on your website.
14. WordFence – Free
WordFence is the choice of millions of WordPress users for website security. It is easy to understand why, as the plugin is packed full of features.
WordFence offers a firewall, many blocking options, login security, website monitoring, security scanning, and more.
WordFence Premium offers enhanced security features such as country blocking and password auditing for only $8.25 per month.
15. Sucuri Firewall – $9.99+ per month
Anyone who has had their website compromised before understands how important website security is to your business.
From $9.99 per month, Sucuri Firewall adds a website application firewall and content delivery network to your website. It also adds Layer 7 DDoS protection and protects your website from brute force attacks.
Their website security plans start from $199.99 per year. All plans include security monitoring, malware detection, and malware cleanup.
Best Backup Solutions
To see what options are available to you for backing up your website, be sure to read our article about the different ways to back up WordPress.
If you want to dig even deeper, we also recommend reading our guide about how to set up a WordPress staging site.
16. UpdraftPlus – Free
Currently installed on over 2 million WordPress websites, UpdraftPlus is a versatile backup solution that can be used to back up your website manually or automatically via a schedule.
Backups can be made to a number of services including UpdraftPlus Vault, Amazon S3, Dropbox, Rackspace Cloud Files, Google Drive, Google Cloud Storage, DreamHost DreamObjects, FTP, and OpenStack (Swift). Email backups are also available. Features include quick website restores, website duplication, and part or full backups.
The premium version retails from $50.82 per year. It unlocks many more backup locations and adds support for WordPress multisite and website cloning.
17. BlogVault – $7.40+ per month
BlogVault is an affordable backup solution that can reliably back up your websites. It boasts many great features including one-click restores, test restores, and website migration.
All backups are kept for 30 days and there is an option to upload your backups directly to Dropbox as a fail-safe.
Pricing starts from $7.40 per month for one website and $16.58 per month for up to five websites. Unlimited backup plans are also available.
Best Image Optimization WordPress Plugins
To find out more about the top solutions on the market, check out our collection of the best WordPress image optimization plugins.
18. Ewww Image Optimizer – Free
Ewww Image Optimizer can drastically reduce the weight of images on your website by decreasing their file sizes. It works with JPEG, GIF, and PNG images. The plugin can reduce the size of PDF files too.
Images can be optimized on an individual basis or in bulk. Images that have been optimized yet are noted so that they are not edited again.
It has full support for the WordPress media library and popular WordPress gallery plugins such as NextGEN, Gallery Grand Flagallery, and FooGallery.
19. Imagify – Free / $4.99+ per month
Developed by the same team that created WP Rocket, Imagify can be used to compress JPG, GIF, and PNG images on the fly. Their service can reduce file sizes to a third of the original without loss of image quality. This can result in a similar reduction in bandwidth and backup costs.
A free plan is available that gives you 25MB of image compression per month, however active websites will probably need one of their premium plans. Their cheapest plan costs $4.99 per month. This will give you 1GB of data, which is approximately 10,000 images.
Alternatively, you can just purchase data as and when you need. You can purchase 2GB (20,000 images) for $8.99, 5GB (50,000 images) for $19.99, 15GB (150,000 images) for $39.99, and 50GB (500,000 images) for $69.99 per month.
Best WordPress Gallery Plugins
Want to see how the most popular WordPress gallery plugins compare?
Our collection of the best WordPress gallery plugins will show you exactly what the top solutions can do.
20. NextGen Gallery – Free
NextGen Gallery continues to be one of the best gallery solutions available to WordPress users. First launched in 2007, the plugin is active on more than 800,000 WordPress websites.
It can be used to upload images to galleries and assign those galleries to tags and albums. Images can be displayed in thumbnails and slideshows.
Upgrading to NextGen Plus for $79 unlocks gallery types such as filmstrip, masonry, mosaic, blog style, grid, and list. Lightbox functionality is enhanced too. NextGen Pro retails at $139 and adds ecommerce functionality.
21. Envira Gallery – $29+
Envira Gallery is a beautiful gallery WordPress plugin that has a great range of gallery templates. Responsive galleries can be created in minutes using a drag and drop builder.
A basic license for Envira costs $29 and offers one year of support and updates for one website. The plus license costs $69 and adds advanced features such as password protection, gallery themes, watermarking, and Dropbox imports.
The pro license costs $99 and adds features such as social sharing, deep linking, video support, ecommerce support, dynamic galleries, and more.
Best Slider WordPress Plugins
For a more detailed comparison of the most popular and highly-rated solutions available online, check out our article about the best WordPress slider plugins.
22. Smart Slider 3 – Free
Smart Slider 3 is a fantastic free slider plugin that lets you create professional slides and carousels.
Its modern visual builder allows you to easily create slides using headers, text, buttons, images, and videos. Content can be aligned in many different column structures.
The sheer number of configurations within the plugin is staggering. There are hundreds of options to help you change the size of slides, how slides are loaded, where things are positioned, and how everything is styled.
11 pre-made slide templates are included in Smart Slider 3, but over 180 templates are made available if you upgrade to Smart Slider 3 Pro, which retails from only $35 per year.
Upgrading adds many more slider and layer types and makes a host of slider effects available.
23. Slider Revolution – $29
There is very little that Slider Revolution cannot do. It can be used to create regular slideshows, newsletter signup pages, carousels, media galleries, and more.
Everything is controlled from an advanced visual editor that lets you adjust each slide in any way you wish. By taking advantage of its layers system you can make professional slides in minutes.
The plugin retails for only $29. Check out the demo of Slider Revolution to see exactly what it is capable of.
Best WordPress Membership Plugins
There are many great membership solutions available for WordPress.
In our collection of the best WordPress membership plugins, we review the top choices and see how they compare.
24. Ultimate Member – Free
Ultimate Member is a user-profile and membership solution that offers frontend user-profiles, customizable registration and login forms, custom user roles, and membership directories.
Using Ultimate Member, you can restrict access to content for specific custom post types and taxonomies. Around a dozen email templates are also available for notifying members, and each one can be modified.
Your membership website can be improved significantly via 25 premium extensions. Additional features that are available include private messaging, user reviews, social media logins, and MailChimp integration.
25. MemberPress – $149+
Retailing from $149 per year, MemberPress is probably not the cheapest WordPress membership solution on the market, however we believe it is the most complete membership package, as it includes many advanced features not found elsewhere.
You can use it to create complex access rules to define who can and cannot access different areas of your website. Community forums can be integrated into MemberPress and be restricted to paying members. It also features many tools to help you promote your website, such as coupons, dynamic pricing pages, and a built-in affiliate program.
MemberPress also integrates perfectly with other solutions, provides detailed reports about sales activity, and supports many different payment gateways.
What Say You?
I hope you have enjoyed our list of the best WordPress plugins available in 2021.
Do you agree with our list or did we miss out your favourite WordPress plugin? Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know.
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