pluginThe best WordPress plugins will rock your blog or website in a fraction of the time that you could have hard-coded the same functions into your site.

And the worst WordPress plugins will crash your site and make you cry.

In searching for your own plugins, first bear in mind that today’s awesome JavaScript carousel widget may crash your site tomorrow if the developer doesn’t keep the plugin updated, or if he hasn’t written it in such a way to avoid conflicts with various themes and other plugins.

And even the most awesome plugins–TimThumb, for example–can pose a serious security risk if a vulnerability is found by hackers before the developer discovers and corrects it. There are a few other caveats, such as the occasional sneaky little footer links placed in your website by a seemingly innocuous plugin. Not cool. One recent plugin, “Easy Privacy Policy” even had a footer link to a gambling site.

That won’t help your SEO at all.

With that in mind, there is a free plugin to perform nearly any function you can imagine a website could need; you just need to know how to find and evaluate the available plugins. After you find a few candidates, try them out on your blog or website, especially with more complex plugins that you may need to modify before you choose.  The process can even take a day or two of trial and error, but many of the top plugins have such a large and enthusiastic following that you can install, configure, and forget them based on thousands of positive user reviews, such as Contact Form 7 or Google XML Sitemaps.

This is how to find the best WordPress plugins for your blog or website:

1. In your WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins>>Add New and enter your search term in the search window.

2. Scroll down the list of results and read through the descriptions to find a close match for your needs. If you don’t find a match, you can either try different search terms, or go directly to and search there. It’s the same place, but it’s easier to browse and sort when you’re not doing it from the pop-up window in your dashboard.

3. Here’s where you sort the wheat from the chaff:

screenshot of  how to find the best wordpress plugins


Follow the comments on this screenshot to learn more about your initial evaluation of a plugin’s quality and compatibility with your version of WordPress. As a rule of thumb, WordPress plugins don’t usually get updated the day, week, or even month that WordPress releases a new update. And the star rating is unreliable, but if you find a plugin with thousands of downloads that has at least 4 stars, it’s probably going to function just fine.

What you’re looking for are a few key indicators that the plugin you want to install is well-developed and well-supported by the developer. For example, the WP-table reloaded plugin does what it claims it will, and more. It is highly configurable, and the developer, though German, offers extensive plugin support site in English, as well as in German. You can’t beat that. Here is its profile on, and when you see a profile like this, you know you’ve found one of the best WordPress plugins available:

screenshot of tb-table reloaded, a top wordpress plugin.
And when you look at the profile by searching from within your WordPress dashboard, you can also find the link to the developer’s support site. Always check this out first and visit the linked page, because some developers link to a spam site, and don’t actually support the plugin. This developer has an excellent support site, however:
screenshot of plugin profile
When I was searching for the perfect table-formatting WordPress plugin, I tried WP-Table Reloaded, but I gave up at first because I would have to spend a little time to learn how to configure it, and I was in a hurry. So much for that. One long day and three failed plugins later, I was re-installing it and bonking myself in the head for wasting time.

So if you need to find the best WordPress plugins, that’s pretty much the system. And if you need the best table formatting plugin, trust me on this–install WP-Table Reloaded and learn to configure it. It’s not that difficult.

Important Tips for Installing WordPress Plugins:

  • After you install a plugin, STOP. Before you add another plugin, first check your site to make sure the plugin hasn’t adversely affected your layout or broken your theme–it happens. (Refresh your browser page first.)
  • Also check your footer to make sure the developer hasn’t snuck a spam link into your site.
  • Next, go to Plugins>>Editor, select the new plugin in your in your “Select plugin to edit:” field and look for a “Readme” file. Read it before you do anything else.
  • Most plugins have configuration options and/or instructions in one of three places:
    1. Under the plugin description in your Installed Plugins list,
    2. In the “Settings” list to the left of your dashboard, or
    3. Under “Tools” to the left of your dashboard (less common).
  • Sometimes you will only see your options in the plugin’s widget after you drag the widget to your sidebar.

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