With the vast amount of WordPress themes available, both free and Premium, your website can be a visual masterpiece. Looking good is not enough however if you want a website that is fast, robust, engaging, secure and useful. To provide all of these things, you are going to have to install some must have WordPress Plugins. And this applies to all websites from small blogs to large e-commerce websites.
You can download most of the essential plugins free. Premium plugins are also widely available from places such as Codecanyon. Although these cost money, the plugins are often good value and can offer more than free plugins. Other developers offer freemium plugins where you can download a free version and buy add-ons if you feel you need extra features.
The good news is:
The 10 must have WordPress plugins we are going to look at are all free!
Which must have WordPress plugins should I install?
If you are planning on having a successful blog that isn’t littered with spam comments then Askimet should be top of your plugin list. This free plugin will filter out spam comments automatically, saving you lot’s of time and worry. Askimet is hugely popular due to it’s simplicity (just install, sign up and you are done) and effectiveness.
This anti-spam plugin is developed by Automattic so you can expect a solid, well supported plugin that is constantly updated to fight spam. Installation couldn’t be simpler really. Upload the Akismet plugin to your blog, Activate it, then enter your Akismet.com API key. As easy as that! Used on millions of WordPress websites, Askimet is one of the best wordpress plugins for blogs when it comes to fighting spam.
The importance of how fast your website loads cannot be overstated. Just half a second can be the difference between a ton of visitors staying or moving away from your website and on to your competitors. A big factor in keeping your load time down is image compression. WP Smush scans every image you upload or have already added to your site. The plugin then removes all the unnecessary data and scales it for you before adding it to your media library.
After installing and activating the plugin, go into the settings. Here you can choose to automatically smush images on upload and also scan existing images. Stats on the amount of images smushed and data saved are displayed on the dashboard. You can also add directories of images that are not in your uploads directory. Smush is right up there with the best free WordPress plugins you can download.
Wordfence is the most downloaded and best security plugin for WordPress websites. The plugins Threat Defense Feed powers Wordfence with the latest firewall rules, malware signatures and malicious IP addresses needed to make sure your website is secure.
After installation you can run a scan on your site. Once completed Wordfence will list all the potential threats to your site and tell you how to fix them. This isn’t as scary as it sounds and most of the advice offered is fairly simple to action.
The plugin settings can seem a bit daunting at first with so many options. The good news is that the default options can be left as they are and you can just let the plugin do it’s stuff in the background. If you wish you can monitor data in your dashboard such as who is trying to hack your site and where they are coming from.
Having a faster website will give you more visitors and a better Google search rank. The best way to make your website faster is by using a caching plugin. Caching basically stores static html files from websites on a visitors browser. So when they revisit your pages they will load quicker. Because this is such a popular method for speeding up a website, WordPress has lots and lots of caching plugins! The most popular WordPress caching plugin is WP Super Cache.
WP Super Cache can be installed the same as any normal plugin but make sure you have custom permalinks enabled. After installation go to the plugin settings and enable caching. If you have basic knowledge about caching it is recommended you use the Simple Caching option. To make sure you are caching your pages correctly you can use the Test Cache option. Go to Go to Settings -> WP Super Cache and look for the “Cache Tester” form on the easy settings page and click “Test Cache”. If you run into any problems WP Cache offers excellent support and documentation.
WP Optimize is a free and very effective tool that automatically cleans your WordPress database allowing it to run at maximum efficiency. If you edit your content such as long posts a lot, your database will become clogged up with old revisions that take up space. You can remove all the data you don’t need including old revisions, deleted comments, spam and transient options. Regular clean-ups can be set-up or just go in and do it manually with one click whenever you feel it is necessary.
The great thing about this plugin is it’s simplicity. After activation you are pretty much ready to go. You can pick and choose the data you want to remove and then just hit the big button to start a clean-up. After the plugin has done it’s work it will tell you exactly what has been removed and how much space has been saved. WP-Optimize has over 700,000 active installations making it the most popular plugin of it’s kind.
Search Engine Optimization can be a complicated beast. Google is forever updating it’s algorithm making it more difficult to understand what it takes to make it to the top of search results. There is a plethora of information on the subject out there but it can often be over-complicated and inconsistent. Thankfully Yoast SEO plugin can be download for free to take away a lot of the pain. This plugins popularity (over 40 million downloads!) is down to how easy they make SEO for the content editor.
Yoast allows you to set up to 5 keywords per page. It will then give you an analysis of how your keywords are performing within your content. Even better it will tell you how to improve your content both for your keywords and for the contents readability.It can become an addiction trying to make sure everything meets the set requirements with a green dot!
As well optimizing your page content, Yoast has many other strings to its bow. Sitemaps, robot.txt files, sitemaps and permalinks can all be complex but Yoast has simple settings for such things. After plugin activation just go through the Yoast set up wizard and you are ready to go. This excellent plugin will put you on the path to google domination!
Tracking visitors is essential if you want to know how to improve your website. Google Analytics is an amazing free resource that offers in-depth data of your websites traffic. You can find out how many people are looking at your site, where they came from, which pages they are looking at and much more. Even better you can link to your Google Analytics straight from your WordPress admin area using the Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights plugin.
Before installing the MonserInsights plugin you will need a Google Analytics account with an active tracking code linked to your website. There are numerous guides and articles explaining how to set up your Google Analytics account. Once you have your tracking code in place just install the plugin and link it to your Google Analytics account. You can now view vital user stats straight in your WordPress website dashboard. Or head over to Google Analytics for more detailed data.
Most good WordPress themes tend to offer various template layout options. But there is always going to be situations where a page needs a layout that is beyond a themes capabilities. Page builder plugins have become extremely popular recently and a few really good options are now available. Site Origin Page Builder with over 1 million active installs is one of the coolest WordPress plugins you can download.
Using an intuitive interface it really couldn’t be simpler to put together even a complex magazine style layout. Drag and drop rows and blocks of varying sizes into place to create your desired look. You can then populate these areas with text, html, images and pretty much anything else you could need on a web page. You can add standard widgets into your layout using the SiteOrigin widget bundle. The other great thing about this plugin is that it works with any theme giving you the freedom to create pages as complex as you wish.
The must have WordPress plugins we have looked at so far will make your website secure, quicker, great to look at and easy to crawl. But all of these things will mean nothing if you can’t get visitors to your site. Promoting a website, no matter how passionate you are about it, can sometimes be the most difficult thing to achieve for a lot of website owners. You need to put yourself out there. Get people interested in your brand. The Sumo plugin offers a suite of tools that make it easier to get visitors to join your email list, share your articles and interact with your content.
After you install and activate the plugin you will access to your own Sumo dashboard. From the dashboard you can set up new apps for your website such as a pop up or share buttons. Other options include a contact form, smart bar, heat maps and much more. The dashboard will also show you stats on how these apps are performing. Sumo is a great collection of tools that can push your website to the next level. It is one of the best WordPress plugins for businesses of all sizes. And it is particularly useful if you are looking to monetize your blog or website.
As mentioned above, the Sumo plugin includes a contact form among its many nice marketing tools. However if you want a contact form that goes that extra mile then WP Forms Drag & Drop Form Builder is an excellent choice. WPForms allows you to build contact forms, subscription forms, payment forms, and other type of forms using a simple yet powerful interface. All you have to do is embed a shortcode into your page and you are ready to go.
With drag and drop capabilities and a simple to follow set up, you can put a form up on your website in minutes. Add all your necessary fields, buttons, drop-downs etc with ease. WPForms also comes with pre-built templates to save you even more time. The plugin has been download over 6 million times and is by far the easiest form builder plugin out there at the moment.
The meteoric rise in the popularity of WordPress has swamped the market with thousands of plugins. A lot of them are very good. Some not so good. It’s not too difficult to dig out the best free plugins though. WordPress.org is a huge library of free themes and plugins. The good thing is these plugins and themes have all been tested and approved by experienced WordPress core developers.
Head over to the WordPress plugin section, search for the type of plugin you need and have a look through the list. You will see details of number of downloads, when it was last updated and support questions. Make sure you check these out before opting to install a plugin. It’s important that the plugin is well supported and updated regularly. Also check out the link to the plugin developers website to see if they are a trusted source.
Obviously your plugin choices will depend on your niche and what you want your website to achieve. However, no matter what your subject choice may be, certain plugins are essential for your website to attract visitors. And that’s what we all want, right?