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What Plugins Do I Need for WordPress: My Top 10 Free Plugins

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Understanding WordPress Plugins

If you are new to WordPress, you might be wondering what plugins are and how they work. In simple terms, WordPress plugins are software components that add specific functionality to your WordPress site. They are like apps for your website that can be installed and activated to enhance its features and capabilities.

WordPress plugins are available in a wide range of categories, including SEO, security, ecommerce, social media, and more. They can be free or paid, and you can find them on the official WordPress plugin repository or third-party marketplaces.

One of the best things about WordPress plugins is that they allow you to customize your website without having to write any code. You can simply search for the plugin you need, install it, and activate it to start using its features. Most plugins come with a user-friendly interface that lets you configure their settings and options according to your needs.

However, it’s important to note that not all plugins are created equal. Some plugins may slow down your website, conflict with other plugins, or even compromise its security. You’ll want to research each plugin thoroughly and plan your website wisely so that you only install the plugins that you really need.

Two young men looking at a computer screen while discussing free plugins for WordPress.

Essential Types of WordPress Plugins

When it comes to WordPress plugins, there are many types available, but not all are essential. And since each website is unique, I can’t really say that there are plugins or plugin types that each and every site must have.

For example, if you have an online store, you’ll definitely want an ecommerce plugin, such as WooCommerce or SureCart. Integrating social media platforms with your WordPress site? You”ll want to install a social sharing plugin, such as Social Warfare or Jetpack Social.

Also, while security, backup, and caching are must-haves for your website, you may not need separate plugins. If you are using a managed WordPress host like Pressable or Flywheel to host your website, these features will be included with your hosting plan. Read more about managed WordPress hosing here: “Managed WordPress vs. Shared Hosting: Which is the Best Option for Your Website?”

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Backup Plugins

Backing up your website is super important to make sure you don’t lose your valuable content in case of a hack or server failure. A backup plugin automates the process of creating backups of your website, which can be easily restored in case of any mishap.

Security Plugins

Security plugins protect your website from hackers and malware. They scan your website for vulnerabilities, block suspicious IP addresses, and monitor your site for any suspicious activity.

SEO Plugins

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) allows you to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results. SEO plugins help you optimize your content for search engines and provide suggestions to improve your website’s search engine ranking.

Contact Form Plugins

Contact forms are an easy way for visitors to get in touch with you. A contact form plugin lets you create forms that can be easily embedded on your website.

Caching Plugins

Caching plugins enhance your website’s performance by storing its pages and delivering them to visitors more quickly. This reduces the load on your server and improves your website’s speed.

To recap, these are types of WordPress plugins that many website owners would find useful, but you’ll need to decide if they are needed for your own site. Do keep in mind that installing too many plugins can slow down your website, so it’s important to only install the plugins that you need.

A computer screen displaying a selection of free WordPress plugins.

My Top 10 Free Plugins

Here are my picks for the top 10 free plugins for your WordPress website. While you may not need all of them, this list serves as an excellent starting point, especially if you are new to WordPress:

Wordfence

Enhance the security of your website with Wordfence, a free plugin that offers protection against hackers and other malicious attacks. It includes a firewall, malware scanner, and other security features to ensure the safety of your site.

UpdraftPlus

Safeguard your WordPress site with UpdraftPlus, which allows you to back up your website to the cloud (i.e. Google Drive or Dropbox.) It’s easy to schedule regular full site backups, select specific files to back up, and restore your site if something goes wrong.

A screenshot of the WordPress restore backup page with Plugins options displayed.

Antispam Bee

Keep your comment section spam-free with Antispam Bee. This plugin utilizes various techniques, including IP blocking and comment moderation, to detect and prevent spam from cluttering your site.

Google Site Kit

Connect your WordPress site to Google’s suite of tools, including Google Analytics, Search Console, and AdSense, with the assistance of Google Site Kit. With Google Site Kit, you can easily track your site’s traffic, monitor your search engine rankings, and more.

RankMath SEO

Optimize your site for search engines using RankMath SEO is used to optimize your site for search engines. This plugin offers an array of features such as keyword analysis, meta tag optimization, and sitemap generation. With RankMath SEO, you can improve your site’s search engine rankings and attract more visitors to your site.

CookieYes

Ensure compliance with the EU’s GDPR regulations by installing CookieYes. It includes a variety of features, such as a cookie consent banner and a cookie policy generator. Learn more about the necessity of cookie policies and cookie consent banners here.

This website displays cookie policies and consent banners.

Really Simple SSL

Switching your site from HTTP to HTTPS is made easy with Really Simple SSL. With Really Simple SSL, you can help keep your site secure and protected from hackers. Check out my blog post, “Securing Your Website with SSL Certificates: A Basic Guide,” to understand why you need an SSL certificate for your website.

Pretty Links

Pretty Links is my favorite tool to create custom URLs for your site’s pages and posts. It’s full of features, including link tracking, click statistics, and, of course, making your links “pretty” and on-brand. By using Pretty Links, you can generate short and memorable URLs that are easy to share and remember.

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Fluent Forms

Easily create custom forms on your site with Fluent Forms. This plugin features a drag-and-drop form builder and seamless integration with payment gateways and other services. Fluent Forms is my go-to plugin for creating professional-looking forms that are both user-friendly and highly customizable.

Autoptimize

Improve your site’s performance with Autoptimize. It’s an easy way to compress HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files and even images on your site. When you use the Autoptimize plugin, you can improve your site’s loading speed and provide a better user experience for your visitors.

Choosing Between Free and Premium Plugins

While you can use the free versions of all of these WordPress plugins on your site, you may find that you need additional features and support, which the premium versions of these plugins can provide. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering free and premium versions of a plugin:

Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews will give you an idea of how well the plugin has worked for other users and whether or not it is worth your time to try it out. Keep in mind that ratings and reviews are not always a perfect indicator of a plugin’s quality, but they can be a helpful starting point.

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Features

Free plugins may provide basic functionality, but premium plugins often come with more advanced features that can help take your site to the next level. Consider your specific needs and determine which features are most important to you before making a decision.

Price

As you’d expect, free plugins can save you money, since premium plugins come with monthly, annual, or one-time costs. Consider your budget and the value the plugin will bring to your site before making a decision.

Overall, choosing between free and premium plugins comes down to your specific needs and preferences. If you’re looking for keyword rank tracking or advanced Google Analytics 4 tracking to up your SEO game, for example, you might want to give RankMath PRO a serious look.

Or if you’re focused on affiliate marketing, I use and highly recommend Pretty Links Pro, which allows you to create pretty links automatically and replace keywords in your site/blog with pretty links. You can read more about all the features in the premium versions of Pretty Links here.

Support

While free plugins may offer some level of support, it is often limited. Premium plugins, on the other hand, typically come with dedicated support teams that can help you with any issues you may encounter. If you are not comfortable troubleshooting issues on your own, a premium plugin may be the better choice.

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Looking for More WordPress Support?

Just getting started on your WordPress journey and looking for help with the setup?

I offer a WordPress Quick Start service, where I install a premium theme from my agency’s collection on your site along with the plugins you need for a secure and optimized website. I can also help customize your site to fit your brand, so all you’ll need to do is add your own content (text and images.)

I strive to make beautiful, user-friendly websites available to all small businesses, and I’m proud to offer this budget-friendly service to help you ease into creating a WordPress site.

Send me a message or book a call today if you’d like to learn more about this service!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I install and activate a WordPress plugin?

1. Log in to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the “Plugins” section.
2. Click on the “Add New” button.
3. Type in the name of the plugin you want to install in the search box, or upload the plugin’s zip file.
4. Click on the “Install Now” button.
5. Once the installation is complete, click on the “Activate” button to activate the plugin.

How many plugins should I have on my WordPress site?

There is no specific number of plugins that you should have on your WordPress site; however, it is recommended that you keep the number of plugins to a minimum to ensure your site’s performance is not affected. You should only install plugins that are necessary for your site’s functionality and remove any unused or outdated plugins.

How do I update plugins?

1. Go to the “Plugins” section in your WordPress dashboard.
2. If there are any updates available for your installed plugins, you will see a notification next to the plugin name.
3. Click on the “Update Now” link to update the plugin.
4. Once the update is complete, make sure to test your site to ensure there are no issues.

What should I do if a plugin causes problems on my site?

If a plugin causes problems on your site, you should first try to deactivate the plugin to see if the issue goes away. If the problem persists, you may need to uninstall the plugin and find an alternative plugin that provides the same functionality.

It is also recommended that you contact the plugin developer for support or search for a solution online. Remember to always keep a backup of your site before making any major changes.

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