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Which WordPress plugins do you recommend using (or not)?

Like most attentive web hosts, over the years we’ve developed a list of banned WordPress plugins that we disallow on our servers for reasons of security, performance, or otherwise. Naturally, this evolving list is appreciated by our clients, but has lead many people to say, “Okay, I get it, and I’m sure it’s helping stabilize my website. But it would be really helpful to know what alternative plugins you recommend instead?”

Generally we’ve shied away from directly endorsing third party plugins, because it can be risky business. Things can get “political” for example, and there’s always the risk of upsetting clients (again) when the recommended plugin has a problem later on, etc. But since we pride ourselves on technical SEO and performance, we’ve steadily expanded this list of recommended plugins to give our clients a better idea of what to look for, with the disclaimer that they are not our products, so no guarantees.

As always, LittleBizzy does not have any financial relationship with any of the below plugins, and we only recommend products or services that we truly believe are high quality and beneficial.

Page Builders: This is probably the most important decision you can make as a website owner, besides your theme. While plugins can easily be swapped out in case of emergency, it’s nearly impossible to make quick changes to your page builder plugin, meaning you can suffer from “lock-in”. When choosing a page builder plugin, make sure that it supports ALL posts, pages, and custom post types in WordPress. It’s never a good idea to install or use a niche page builder that for example, only allows you to design landing pages. Such products are truly a scam, designed specifically to lock you in to renewing your licensing fees. Also make sure that it’s maintained by a well-established company that is going to maintain it regularly, and will be around for the long-term, and that they have a FREE basic version that receives automatic updates to avoid your site being hacked or broken.

  • Good: Beaver Builder
  • Good: Elementor
  • Good: SiteOrigin
  • Okay: Gutenberg (not ready for production)
  • Okay: Divi Builder (no free version)
  • Okay: WPBakery (no free version)
  • Bad: Thrive Architect (no free version, their posts only, slow releases)
  • Bad: Qards (no free version, their posts only, slow releases)

eCommerce: The cool thing about WordPress is that you can keep it “lighter” by not installing eCommerce plugins if you want, for example if your website is only for news articles. But you can also easily add-on eCommerce plugins, or even third party eCommerce services if you want. Because WordPress is open source software, it’s always a better idea to stick with open source eCommerce extensions that play nicely with WordPress, otherwise you are back to “lock-in” again — and it directly effects your sales.

  • Good: WooCommerce
  • Good: Easy Digital Downloads
  • Bad: Shopify (poor integration, content lock-in)

SEO Plugins: Incredibly, after many years there are still not many SEO plugins for WordPress. Many WordPress webmasters don’t even install or use SEO plugins, believing (or assuming) that WordPress is already optimized enough. While this is partially true, there are still some important things that don’t exist in WordPress that you should be installing an SEO plugin for, like metadata (schema) and so forth.

  • Good: SEO Genius
  • Good: SEO Framework
  • Good: SEOPress
  • Okay: Yoast SEO (lots of spamvertising, hijacks WP Admin, poor quality sitemaps, bloated)
  • Bad: All In One SEO
  • Bad: Squirrley (excessive logging, bloated)

Analytics: You should never be using an analytics or statistics plugin that logs traffic data directly to your MySQL database, because such queries are impossible to cache and cause massive server load spikes (I/O disk write, specifically). During times of high traffic or even small scale DDOS attacks, your server (database) will freeze up fairly quickly, and eventually crash. Instead, learn to embed lightweight scripts that merely track your visitors but send all that data back to a remote SaaS like Google Analytics or your favorite CRM platform. WordPress is not designed for excessive logging and database writing, and its the #1 performance problem we’ve seen over the years in WordPress plugins.

  • Good: Google Analytics
  • Good: GA Google Analytics
  • Bad: Thrive Leads (bloated, excessive logging, poor coding)
  • WP Statistics (excessive logging)
  • AutomateWoo (excessive logging, bloated)

Affiliate programs: AffiliateWP

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Just as we don’t “ban” any plugins we also don’t “force” any plugins. Our goal is to provide a truly natural WordPress hosting environment free of manipulation so that even expert WordPress users feel at home with our setup. That being said, just as we strongly request you avoid certain plugins (i.e. newsletter plugins, etc), we also strongly recommend that you retain a few plugins, in particular the ones that our team installs during setup/migration. Specifically, these would be the CloudFlare plugin, the Comet Cache plugin, and for Business plan or higher customers, the CDN Linker plugin as well.

To be able to clear your CloudFlare cache, the CloudFlare plugin is mandatory. The Comet Cache plugin is the best cache plugin around, especially for WooCommerce, so we definitely recommend keeping that and not using a different cache plugin. With our optimized Nginx server setup, Comet Cache pairs very nicely with it, keeping data very simple, clean, organized, and loading super fast. We strongly dislike the W3TC plugin as its full of bugs, does not clean up after itself, and causes our customers more headaches than it solves — in fact, it can often hurt server performance more than it helps it.

The CDN Linker is our favorite way to link to MaxCDN although you are free to use another method if you wish. However there are not many alternative plugins out there that can handle this function currently, although LittleBizzy is in the middle of developing a new MaxCDN plugin for WordPress!

Just as we recommend plugins, we also DON’T recommend certain plugins. For example, most security plugins out there (Limit Login Attempts, Sucuri, WordFence, etc) severely hurt your website’s loading speed because they are constantly scanning and logging all your visitors (not to mention severely bloat your database). Therefore we highly suggest you don’t install any security plugins as CloudFlare already does a fantastic (and free) job at keeping your site safe, besides our very secure Nginx server block rules too. We also recommend taking great care with any newsletter plugins such as MailPoet that send out emails to your customers because they can not only get your server/domain penalized, but also jeopardize our relationship with SendGrid and DigitalOcean if you don’t properly monitor your sending/bounce rates; we may need to permanently ban customers who get in trouble sending out spam emails, etc.

September 2015 update: we also now recommend the Disable Emojis plugin and Disable XML-RPC plugin for all WordPress websites.

We also don’t recommend image compression plugins because they use a ton of server resources and don’t help performance whatsoever. The only thing they do is they can decrease overall page size, but you can also accomplish this by simply cropping images to a reasonable size and pre-compressing them using Photoshop, JPEGmini, TinyPNG, and what not.

Related questions:

Do you ban any WordPress plugins?

What are the ‘Must Use’ plugins for your setup?

Which security plugin(s) do you recommend?

Last modified: 22 Jun, 2019https://www.littlebizzy.com/?p=3205

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