I get several user requests per day (I'm administrator & head of support in wordpress theme & plugin support forum) about plugin suggestions so I decided to create a tutorial post about this topic. Please be aware that it's my personal opinion. I know there're hundreds of plugins out there and every plugin has advantages/disadvantages.

I tested all plugins I mention below with free and premium themes – however I can't promise that they work with your theme(s). I'll maintain this list and I'll add new plugins I think you might be interested in. You can suggest plugins by posting a comment :)

WP-Search plugin(s)

This plugin replaces the standard search engine with an advanced, keyword based search index. Specify exactly what weights keywords receive based on where they appear. Give more weight to titles and less to comments. Call out specific Custom Fields one at a time (or all at once). Exclude specific Categories if you want. SearchWP automatically makes PDF files searchable; include PDF content in search queries if you’d like. Capable of handling your brochure site with just a few pages or your other property with a hundred thousand, SearchWP aims to be a solution for any WordPress-powered website.

Event manager plugin(s):

Event Espresso

Event Espresso is an event registration, ticketing and entire management solution for WordPress. Event Espresso offers all event management tools you need like custom descriptions for events, multiple event dates, multiple event times, multiple event prices, surcharges, member pricing, event location and mapping, custom email confirmations, event categories, member-only events, on-going events, attendee limits, group registrations, custom post fields/events data & you can publish events as blog posts.

Event Espresso also comes with powerful attendee records: get a quick overview of registered attendees and their payment status, easily add/edit attendee records and export attendee list to Excel and/or CSV; add or edit a payment and send customizable payment reminders and receipts. Event Espresso offers multiple methods of accepting payments. Registrants can download a PDF invoice or pay by cash, check, money order, and there is even an option to pay by bank transfer. Easily send invoices and payment reminders to registrants who have not fully paid or after manually registering someone.

If your attendees need to register offline by phone, email, fax or postal letter, use the Manual Event Registration feature. You can add the attendee’s registration and payment information. Keep all your attendees organized into one place and then use the communication, billing and other tools to manage the attendee process.

You can even setup staff members and reuse that information for multiple events or display all the events for a given staff member or setup a venue and reuse that information for multiple events. EventEspresso also offers social media integration /facebook like, etc. for all events. It also integrates in the WP calender and displays all future events. You can use the promotion code feature to allow discounts and attribute sales to a particular source.

You can use the free version Event Espresso Lite or the paid version: Event Espresso Basic/Advanced. The paid product offers a lot more features and it's worth the price – especially if you'd like to set up different tickets/prices and multiple event dates/times or recurring events.

The Events Calendar

Create and manage events quickly and easily with The Events Calendar plugin. Show off your events on your website in a calendar or an event list. Calendar grid view, which shows the current month in traditional calendar format, provides a comprehensive overview of what’s happening this month or you can use the standard list view which shows a nice loop of events. The Events Calendar offers a number of options for publishing events with a customizable page. Support for all-day events, multi-day events & shorter events with set hours. There's a pro add-on (recurring events, custom event attributes, advanced ajax calendar and widget options, dedicated support forum, etc.): The Events Calendar Pro Add-on available and you can integrate your events into your WooCommerce shop (thus sell tickets) with: Wootickets. I tested the calendar plugin with Replete & Incarnation and it worked perfectly fine (Incarnation doesn't support WooCommerce out of the box though).

Search Engine Optimization Plugin(s):

WordPress SEO by Yoast

My favorite SEO plugin. It's free and offers some great features like a search engine preview field, xml sitemap generation, keyword analysis, etc. – imho it's great for advanced SEO and integrates well in WP (admin bar, preview field, etc.)

All in One SEO

Most popular SEO plugin for WordPress. I used it before I switched to Yoast SEO. It's great for beginners and helps you to improve your website ranking results without advanced seo/wp knowledge. However it lacks in my humble opinion important features and you need to install other plugins for sitemap generation. It's useless for advanced SEO compared to Yoast SEO or SEO Ultimate. Also it's a bit outdated and the author doesn't really care about new features and updates. Do not buy the pro version because it doesn't offer any additional features and is therefor not worth the money.

SEO Ultimate

I haven't tested the plugin extensively and can't say if it's better than Yoast SEO but it seems to be feature rich and offers a lot of necessary & useful functions. It's free and open source.

Platinum SEO Pack

I haven't tested the plugin extensively and can't say if it's better than Yoast SEO but it seems to be feature rich and offers a lot of necessary & useful functions. It's free and open source.

Contact Form Plugins:

Formidable Free Edition & Formidable Pro

Very popular form plugin which is available in a free and pro edition. It offers more features and a better user interface than Contact Form 7. The user interface is similiar to Gravity Form's ui – you can create forms by drag'n'drop the input fields into the “form builder” area. Every form field offers a variety of options (i.e. obligatory field, field size, field calculations, key, label position, input permissions (read only), etc.). The developers categorized the fields in “Basic fields” and “Pro fields” – basic fields arestandard input elements like text fields, textareas, (multiple) select boxes, recaptcha anti spam field, radio buttons, etc. The “pro fields” are “Upload fields”, rich text fields, image fields, number, email, data, scale, webiste, user id, hidden etc.) fields.

You can also generate multi-paged forms with the addition of a page break. You can combine them without limitations and can create as many forms as you like. You can also restrict forms to logged-in users, allow them to edit previous responses, and display the user-generated or admin-generated posts and content.

The pro version of the plugin offers sleek graphical reports in the backend which makes it to a great poll plugin. View graphical reports for at-a-glance reporting for each field in your form, as well as a chart of daily submissions.

Another great feature is that it's possible to allow your users to not only create posts, pages, and custom posts types with your forms, but also to manage and edit them from the front-end of your site. Add fields for only the post title and content for a simple post, or and any of the following: post date, title, slug, excerpt, categories, tags, status (they can select whether it’s a draft or pending review), and unlimited custom fields.

The support/help desk seems be be great and one of the best out there. They're very responsive, fast and try to implement new features when the community asks for it. I.e. one of the advantages Gravity Form had was that they offered MailChimp integration. Some users requested this feature too and voila – they started to develop a mailchimp integration plugin for Formidable which goes final soon.

One of the major advantages of Formidable is that you can try it for free and that the pro upgrade (needed for poll features, advanced templates, etc.) is available for a reasonable price (varies from 37$ to $97$ for lifetime licenses with no yearly fees). Gravity Forms costs the same or even more for 1 year updates/support but offers less features.

If you're searching for an advanced (contact) form plugin which helps you to build poll and contact forms or you'd like to offer direct post publishing forms to users (i.e. magazine sites, etc.) Formidable (Pro) is the way to go.

An useful extension is the Formidable Integration extension which allows you to add a subscribe checkbox to your Formidable forms. The subscribe checkbox will appear on the form as you configured it and if ticked/checked upon the submission of the form, the user will be subscribed to a newsletter mailing list automatically. The advantage is that you get new subscribers easily and they don't need to fill out an additional form first.

Membership and E-Commerce Plugins:

Tribulant Shopping Cart Plugin

Tribulant Shopping Cart plugin gives you the ability to quickly and seamlessly integrate an online shop with a fully functional shopping cart into any WordPress website. It integrates well in our themes.
You can set up an unlimited number of products and categorize/organize them into multiple product categories.
Tribulant Shopping Cart uses WordPress pages/posts to provide shopping cart functionality. You can use shortcodes to embed products into the pages/posts.

As for product creation, Tribulant Shopping Cart provides a screen that looks very similar to the WordPress default “Add Post” screen. Through that screen you can create a new product and the plugin will save the product as a default WordPress post type. You can also optionally save it as a page.
Tribulant Shopping Cart handles product variations without problems – you add as many variation metrics as you want, i.e. size, weight, color, capacity, etc.

The shopping cart shipping features are very flexible. You can specify storewide shipping rates, per product rates, rates for bundles, and you can integrate your store with FedEx, USPS, UPS, Australia Post, and Canada Post. It offers a variety of payment gateways.

The tax management works great too. You can set whether you want to calculate rate or not, a default rate, whether to tax shipping fees, and finally, you can set a tax rate for various shipping regions.

It's also possible to sell digital goods and to offer discounts/coupon codes. You can add as many product images per product as you like and insert product archives/overviews anywhere you like (quantity & add to cart button, etc. can be displayed).

WooCommerce – eCommerce plugin for WordPress

WooCommerce is a new ecommerce plugin developed by WooThemes. It's open source and free and offers a lot of features out of the box. Some extensions add even more features to your store – i.e. popular payment gateways, product enquiry forms, etc.
A list of payment gateway plugins can be found HERE – some very popular services are supported like Google Checkout, PayPal Pro, Authorize.net, 2Checkout Form, eWay or even iDeal by Mollie. A list of all woocommerce extensions can be found HERE.

Abundance was created with WooCommerce in mind and the shop integrates perfectly into this theme. Other themes won't work with WooCommerce out of the box but with some custom work you can integrate it (css and php file modifications). If you'd like to use WooCommerce “out of the box” please go with Abundance.
WooCommerce offers a lot of features and I think it's useless to list them here because every update introduces new ones. A feature list can be found HERE.

Some very useful WooCommerce extensions are: WooCommerce QR Code Generator, WooCommerce Email Attachments, Groups WooCommerce, WooCommerce Wishlist, WooCommerce GumGallery – a product gallery plugin, Table Rate Shipping, WooCommerce Branding, WooCommerce Print Invoices, Product Enquiry Form, Product Add-Ons, Min/Max Quantities, Per Product Shipping, jPlayer, Catalog Visibility Options, Affiliate Payments (get 20% discount by using following coupon code: HOTPS20), Wootickets (requires the free Events Calendar plugin).

Groups – User membership management

Groups is a WordPress plugin that provides group-based user membership management, group-based capabilities and group-based content access control. It integrates standard WordPress capabilities and application-specific capabilities along with an extensive API.

Feature Overview:

Users: Supports an unlimited number of groups; Provides a Registered group which is automatically maintained and the users can be assigned to any group; Users are added automatically to the Registered group

Groups hierarchy: Supports group hierarchies with capability inheritance

Group capabilities: Integrates standard WordPress capabilities which can be assigned to groups and users; Supports custom capabilities: allows to define new capabilities for usage in plugins and web applications

Access control: Built-in access control that allows to restrict access to posts, pages and custom content types to specific groups and users only; control access to content by groups: shortcodes allow to control who can access content on posts, show parts to members of certain groups or to those who are not members Shortcodes: [groups_member], [groups_non_member]; control access to content by capabilities: show (or do not show) content to users who have certain capabilities Shortcodes: [groups_can], [groups_can_not]

Multisite: All features are supported independently for each blog in multisite installations

There two paid extensions available:

1) Groups File Access: Groups File Access is an extension that allows to provide file download links for authorized users. Access to files is restricted to users by their group membership.

2) Groups WooCommerce: Groups for WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that allows you to sell memberships.

S2 Member & s2Member Pro

Very popular membership plugin. It allows you to create up to 4 membership levels in the free version and different classes of memberships (free, premium, etc.). The pro module allows you to create unlimited membership levels and adds an paypal pro gateway option. Paypal Pro makes it possible to integrate the whole payment process in your website – the user doesn't need to leave your website. You can assign “Custom Capabilities” to each level and depending on your membership options this may requires manual work (shortcode scripting, etc.). S2members is a great alternative to e-member and is very user friendly. The free verson is extremely powerful and the support in the support forum (or via mail) is great.

There's also a pro version available which allows you to integrate the whole payment process in your website and the user doesn't need to leave your website. You can also create unlimited membership levels: s2Member Pro

Affiliate plugin(s):

Affiliates Pro for s2Members and WooCommerce

First – you can get an exclusive 20% discount by using following coupon code: HOTPS20.

Affilates Pro is a professional affiliate platform which can be considered as very flexible. Integration with virtually any E-Commerce platform. It integrates well into several popular membership and e-commerce plugins. Among them S2members, WooCommerce and WP e-Commerce. Referrals and affiliate link statistics are recorded and available instantly, as transactions are processed.
You can add unlimited affiliates and affiliates can sign up automatically and can also be added manually with or without user accounts. Referral amounts can be flat rates, percentage of net sales amounts and based on custom formulas and you can create dedicated affiliate area pages which are showing affiliates their stats, banners, links, profile. The plugin allows you to make PayPal mass payments which means that you simply pay your affiliates all at once. Pay-outs can be based on accumulated totals.
The standard affiliates plugin is free and open source. If you want to use it, simply install it from your WordPress Dashboard or download it from WordPress.org. Affiliates Pro offers additional features.

The plugin author is very responsive when it comes to feature requests, bug reports and support requests in general.

s2Members Integration

The integration provides all the features of the Affiliates Pro plugin, plus:

-) Affiliate referrals are created automatically when a member makes a payment.
-) Support for recurring payments, if you continue to pay your affiliates for recurring subscription payments, the corresponding referrals are created automatically for the initial affiliate.
-) Refunds and reversed payments can automatically reject referrals.
-) Notifications are sent to the site administrator when a new referral has been granted.
-) Affiliates are notified of new referrals.
-) Automatically handles s2Member API Notifications – there is no need to set up notification URLs manually for payment or refund/reversal notifications.

WooCommerce Integration

The integration provides all the features of the Affiliates Pro plugin, plus:

Affiliates Pro automates referral handling with respect to the order status. It will react to changes in order status and adjust the referral status accordingly. Eg it will cancel affiliate payments if the order status is set to cancelled, etc.
Affiliates Pro will add a dedicated option page for WooCommerce specific settings which allows you to configure the behaviour for each order status, affiliate sale, etc.

The plugin comes with a lot of shortcodes which help you to design the affiliate areas/pages individually. During my tests all shortcodes worked flawlessly with Kriesi's theme Propulsion and no css adjustments were required.

Post/Page/Content/Image Plugins:

Pretty Link Free & Pretty Link Pro

Shrink, track and share any URL on the Internet from your WordPress website. Unlike other link shrinking services like tinyurl, budurl, and bit.ly, this plugin allows you to create shortlinks coming from your own domain. It's very helpful if you'd like to shorten long urls (i.e. with php parameters, etc.) or if you'd like to convert useless into meaningful urls. Pretty Links can help you a lot to imrove your seo.

It helps you to mask affiliate link if you like and/or to sort, organize, group the links or to export & import them. Pretty Link tracks each hit on your URL and provides a full, detailed report of where the hit came from, the browser, os and host. You’ll also have full control over how all of your links look and you’ll be able to track all kinds of data about them. You can also choose between different redirection types.

Pretty Link Pro offers another great function – it can search through your entire site and replace keywords with your (affiliate) links. This can safe you a lot of time.

The plugin also allows you to put a customizable bar at the top of any of your links that will showcase your website and branding, and allow them to re-tweet the link.

Foobar – WordPress Notification Bars

The Foobar is a plugin for WordPress that allows you to add a highly customizable bar to the top of your blog or website. You can display different notifications on different pages and define a default bar that will display on all your pages. You can create as many notification bars as you like. And manage them all from the WordPress backend. Then decide which bar you want to display on which page or post, and select which bar you want as your default. Check out the demos to see what we are talking about. Each Foobar can have different colors, different heights, different borders, different open/close button themes. A Foobar can be fixed at the top of the site, or it can be inline, so that it scrolls out of view. I.e. set your Foobar to display after 3 seconds, or only show it once your visitor scrolls the page. You can define multiple messages for each Foobar. Easliy add new messages (which can contain HTML). Then easily reorder them using drag and drop.

NextGen Gallery

Very popular and powerful photo gallery plugin. It allows you to create as many image galleries as you like with a great image uploader. It's easy to handle galleries, thumbnail generation, image branding etc. with this plugin and it's imho more user friendly than WP's image attachments. It's free and open source.

Maintenance & performace plugins:


WP Rocket is the most powerful caching plugin in the world. Use it to improve the speed of your WordPress site, SEO rankings and conversions. No coding required.

Regenerate Thumbnails

Very useful plugin if you change the thumbnail dimensions. It will regenerate all uploaded WP images based on your new settings.

Search and Replace

Helps you to search and replace words and text strings in your database. Very useful if you i.e. changed your company name or domain and you want to batch replace all occurrences with a new text.

Forum Plugins:


Very popular free forum made by WP developers. They're working on a wordpress plugin (already in beta). The forum doesn't offer many features out of the box but it's resource friendly, it loads fast, it's user friendly and can be extended by various plugins. If you aren't in a hurry I'd wait until the final version is released.

Newsletter Plugins:

Tribulant Newsletter Plugin

Very powerful and feature rich newsletter plugin. It offers tons of features – among them comment notifications, post subscriptions with user lists support and of course a newsletter function for custom newsletter composing. You can even create and import your own email themes/templates and create several email/subscription lists which help you to write emails to certain users or target group only. The standard email templates look great and display correct in most email clients. Another great feature is the paid subscription feature which allows you to sell subscriptions by using popular gateways like PayPal and 2CheckOut. The support is very responsive and quick and the plugin is fair priced.

The user interface is very user friendly (especially compaired to plugins like MailPress) and the setup can be done quick and easy and it integrates well in Kriesis themes. It offers an ajax subscription widget and a widget without javascript/ajax function. You can import your wordpress users and add them to mailing lists and you can activate an “auto” subscription or subscription checkbox for newly registered users and the user registration form.

Other features: autoresponders, smtp support, WordPress MU compatible, custom fields for additional user information (birthdays, profession, etc.), newsletter scheduler, email tracking, etc.

A really useful extension is the Embedded Images Extension which enables you to attach/embed images into emails instead of loading them remotely. With regular HTML emails, images are loaded via HTTP from a remote location as the source of the image into the email or webmail client. These images are usually blocked until allowed/shown by the user and even then, the images take some time to load into the email from the remote source.

In the contrary, the embedded images extension will scan each outgoing newsletter for images and attach the images to the email, embedding them into the content. The advantages of sending emails this way is that it prevents image disabling in email and webmail clients, images load immediately as the email is opened by the user and all emails are cross-client compatible.

Another very useful extension is the Formidable Integration extension which allows you to add a subscribe checkbox to your Formidable forms. The subscribe checkbox will appear on the form as you configured it and if ticked/checked upon the submission of the form, the user will be subscribed to a newsletter mailing list automatically. The advantage is that you get new subscribers easily and they don't need to fill out an additional form first.

Widget Plugins:

Widget Logic

This plugin helps you to add widget to specific pages/posts only. Very powerful and free.

Display Widgets

Show or hide widget areas on specific pages. Very powerful and free.

Multilanguage / Language Plugins:

WPML – WordPress Multilanguage Plugin

The plugin makes it easy to run a multilingual website with a single WordPress install. Choose languages for your site and start translating content. By default ir comes with over 40 languages but you can add your own language too.

It comes with great translation management. You can turn ordinary WordPress users into “translators”. Translators can access only specific translation jobs which Editors assign to them. WPML sends notification emails, provides a translation management screen, a jobs-queue and side-by-side translation editor. The plugin frees you from the hassle of editing PO files and uploading MO files. You can translate texts in other plugins and in Admin screens directly from the String Translation interface.

You’ll see where the texts come from both in the code and in the site and translate right from within the WordPress Admin panel.

When visitors leave comments in languages that you don’t speak, WPML automatically uses machine translation to help you read them.

You can reply in your language and use human translation before your comments are published – all fully automated.


All Inkl Web Hosting

I got several requests which hoster I/we recommend. This question is hard to answer because it depends on your budget, your user traffic, your project (private or business?), your location and the location of your target market. We host our websites with All Inkl Webhosting:
The advantage of this hoster is that:
1) The fees are fair and transparent
2) Hosting is fast (at least for me with All-Inkl Premium account).
3) 24h/7 support – which is a real 24/7 support so you can call/write them at midnight or Christmas Eve and someone will answer. I had only a few questions but they were very friendly and helpful. They alo help you to transfer domains, etc.

One drawback I discovered is that their website is only available in German language (maybe only for me?). However the support accepts requests in English and German. The servers are based in Germany.

That said I really recommend this hoster and I can't say something negative about it. However there're many other popular hosters out there which offer a great value in return. Keep in mind though that you get what you pay for. A $4 hoster won't give you the same performance & service like a $15 hoster. The $15 hoster can't compete with a $100, etc.
Cheap hosting is great for private websites and blogs but it can (and probably will) hurt your business if you rely on quick loading times and multimedia content (like videos and music files which cause a lot of traffic and require high upload/download rates). Cache plugins like W3TC can improve the performance to a certain extent but they can't (and never will) compensate a slow, bad hosting service.

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