Masahiko Sunami

Most Essential WordPress Plugins

Plug In!From my experience as a WordPress theme developer, I believe that you need to use as few plugins as you can, to keep your site lightweight and fast. Of course, the plugins that you use should be well written and lightweight as well. So if I need more functionality, I usually just code it into my theme functions.php file; It’s relatively straight forward and you can really dial in the code to suit exactly what you need.

Having said that, there are number of plugins that I rely on for almost every site I create. These plugins offer functionality that are otherwise too hard to implement and maintain, are all relatively lightweight, well written, have good support, and they are all FREE! I hope that you find it useful, and feel free to comment if I think I missed something.

By the way, I don’t use plugins for integrating social media, such as Facebook like buttons, Like box, Tweet buttons, etc. I tried most of the plugins out there, but they are usually too stylized, lack functionality/flexibility, use outdated code, and/or too heavy and slow. So I always coded it right into the theme, but I’ll explain that later in another post…

Site functionality

Contact Form 7 & Really Simple CAPTCHA

I think this is the best free contact form plugin. It lets you create a form fairly easily, and Really Simple CAPTCHA adds CAPTCHA functionality to the contact form which is easy and effective. Only downside is that you need to use good amount of HTML, but on the other hand it gives you great flexibility.

All in One SEO Pack

There is a lot of debate about whether this is the best SEO plugin or not, but I use it since it does what I need it to do. Only thing it lacks is ability to add “nofollow” tags, but for the most people I don’t think that’s a necessity.

Google XML Sitemaps

It automatically generates XML site maps for search engines, as well as notify them when there is a change, and it’s really easy to use. Just set it and forget it!

WP Realtime Sitemap

You can create a site map page really easily with this plugin which automatically generates a list of pages and posts with a single shortcode. You just need to set a few settings and you are good to go. Easy.

Backend Helpers


There are other backup plugins, of course, but I feel secure with using this plugin along with semi-regular backup of wp-contents folder. I usually set up an email address dedicated to receiving the regular backup of the database that this plugin sends. Great.

WP Super Edit

It lets you customize toolbar for TinyMCE Visual Editor, so you can pick and choose the buttons you want your client to use. As opposed to a popular TinyMCE Advanced plugin, this one lets you add custom CSS style menu, and I also find this one faster.

Page Comments Off Please

This plugin disables comments for new pages by default, so you don’t need to go into Quick Edit menu for each page to turn them off. Awesome.

Shortcode Emptry Paragraph Fix

I love shortcodes for adding HTML and PHP code to posts and pages without having to worry about the Visual Editor jumble the code up. Except when you have shortcode in the beginning of the post/page to which WordPress adds a paragraph tag. This plugin effectively stops that. Brilliant.


Better safe than sorry – Save yourself time and money because there are people out there who wants to hack your site!

Secure WordPress

This plugin gives you some basic enhancements to a WordPress installation.

WordPress Firewall 2

Updated version of the plugin that will block some obvious attempts to hack your site.

Block Bad Queries (BBQ)

This plugin will block invalid php queries that are potential attacks.

Limit Login Attempts

Locks a user account after a set number of failed login. It stops a brute force hack where a hacker program will attempt to log into your site by going through password combinations.

Exploit Scanner

It gives you a tool to scan your site for possible virus and malicious code. Not really necessary but it won’t hurt.

Other Plugins that I use often

Advanced Custom Fields

This lets you easily add and customize custom fields, with great flexibility. Best feature is that you can choose what kind of field you want to add, including WYSIWYG editor and image uploader. You can then use it in your theme with post_meta tags just like a normal custom field. I use it on almost all the sites I create.

Efficient Related Posts

I used to use Yet Another Related Post Plugin, which is an effective and well written plugin, except that it generates the related posts list dynamically every single time. If you have lots of posts, it can slow down your site considerably. Instead, Efficient Related Posts plugin generates the list and saves it in a database when you create a new post. So if you have lots of posts, it will take some time to refresh your list, but it only happens when you create a new post, and it won’t slow down the site for users. Only downside that is that it only creates the list based on your tags.

Display Widgets

Adds functionality to widgets where you can choose which pages/posts to show/hide a widget on. Some of the older widgets won’t work with it, and also is_dynamic_sidebar will still give you TRUE even if you have all the widgets turned off, but other than that, it’s a super useful plugin.

SmartS3 Video Plugin

I recommend my clients to use Amazon S3 for hosting video content for speed. One great feature of Amazon S3 service is that it lets you use signed URL’s to access your file, which means you don’t need to make your files public. However, incorporating signed URL to a video player is a challenge. This plugin does it all, using HTML5 code with Flow Player fallback (you can change to JW Player if you want). It’s only a BETA release right now, but it still works pretty well.

WP Simple Survey

I use this plugin for my client who wants a quiz functionality. Unlike other quiz plugin, this one lets you create a quiz, and then redirects a user to a specific page depending on the score. You can upgrade it to a paid version which will let you create more than one quiz, and also give you more options. Not the most easy plugin to use, but it works well and it offers functionality that no other plugins do.

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  1. johnny_n
    November 27, 2012 at 8:17 am

    *beautiful* website. It’s by far one of the nicest WordPress sites I’ve ever seen…

    Really helpful post — I learned a few things here.

    The only tweak I’d make to your list is to check out Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin rather than your All-In-One/XML Sitemaps plugin combo. I think you’ll be impressed.

    • mas
      November 30, 2012 at 9:29 pm

      Thanks for your comment, johnny_n.
      Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin does indeed look really good, I’ll give it a try!