Last Updated on July 24, 2020 by Michael Brockbank
Plugins greatly expand what you can do with WordPress. But which are the best to choose? With a repository of more than 55,000, picking the best free WordPress Plugins might seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to be.
Of course, you’ll want certain tools installed depending on your purpose. After all, it wouldn’t make much sense to add WooCommerce if you don’t plan on selling anything.
However, there are several that will work with just about any type of website.
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14 Best Free WordPress Plugins to Use Today
Each one of these plugins has a specific purpose. There are others you can try, but keep in mind that similar plugins often break each other. For instance, sometimes using two SEO-specific plugins will cause compatibility issues.
Out of the many plugins you can install in WordPress, these are easily among my favorites:
Security is a concern for any website creator. Bots and hackers don’t care if you’re website gets one visitor per day or a million. And Wordfence Security offers excellent protection in a variety of ways.
Perhaps the reason why it’s among the most popular security plugins for WordPress is due to the combination of firewall, file scanning and login protection the tool offers. You can even integrate 2FA, or two-factor authentication, for your site.
One of my favorite aspects of Wordfence is how I get an email anytime someone with admin priveledges logs into the system. This will keep me apprised if anyone other then myself tries to gain access.
2. Yoast SEO
I talk about Yoast SEO an awful lot. That’s because this plugin will help websites improve in search results of engines like Google. It comes with a vast array of tools, and its free version is well worth the install.
Not only does the tool help with SEO, but it also provides methods for authenticating search engines such as Google’s Search Console. You also have the ability to create sitemaps and control how engines crawl the website.
My favorite function of Yoast is how it helps you create content. By analyzing your text and pitting it against known superior practices, it delivers a report telling you how to improve content for better reading.
With Jetpack, you get an array of functions and tools. It comes with more than 20 different modules ranging from lazy loading images to tracking visitors and popular content.
It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of WordPress.
However, a lot of people don’t like to use Jetpack because it requires a WordPress.com account to use. On the upside, though, this account is free and is worth the tools you get from the plugin.
The two features I use all the time are Jetpack’s tracking and Publicize. Sure, I can go to Google an load up analytic data. But sometimes I prefer the layout of WordPress.com.
And Publicize is great for sharing on social media when I don’t have time to log into Zoho.
4. Google Analytics for WP
Google Analytics is one of the most utilized tracking tools online. But what if you don’t want to open a new browser window to see some data? That’s when Google Analytics Dashboard for WP comes into play.
This plugin will bring a variety of metrics from your Analytics account directly into the WordPress dashboard. This means you don’t have to flip back and forth when tracking what content visitors like most.
While you’ll still have to use Google Analytics’ website to drill down content and other features, the bulk of what most people pay attention to is available directly from WordPress.
And because I love collecting and analyzing data, this tool is easily among the best free WordPress plugins for monitoring site growth and development.
5. W3 Total Cache
Creating a cache of your website makes it appear faster. This is because certain elements are automatically saved, which means they don’t have to load from the server with each visit.
Using W3 Total Cache gives you control over what data is saved as well as providing a variety of tools for fine-tuning the experience. For one thing, it improves SEO by making the website more efficient on the Internet.
Depending on the layout of your site, W3 Total Cache can shave seconds off of load time. And when you consider most people will abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load, any way to save time is beneficial.
In fact, this plugin decreased the load time of WriterSanctuary.com by just over 25%.
6. Broken Link Checker
Broken links on your site are bad for visitors as well as search engines. The last thing either of these guests wants is to meet a 404 page. Using Broken Link Checker will keep an eye on what you need to fix before it becomes a problem.
From the WordPress dashboard, the plugin will give a warning when something on the site is broken. Then, you can use the editing screen to change the URL or remove it completely.
Any link that is found to be disconnected on my site is addressed immediately. Thanks to receiving updates via email, I can address these issues as soon as they are detected.
What if you have a theme and want to make adjustments to specific areas? While the Customizer in WordPress works well, Microthemer Lite gives you far more options for changing how the website appears.
With this plugin, you have access to virtually any area of your layout. In fact, you can change virtually any part of the site’s typography and color (without buying the premium version of said theme).
Microthemer lets me make specific changes to WriterSanctuary.com so I didn’t have to look for a whole new layout.
Although it is a bit difficult to learn at first, the potential behind the tool is incredible if you want to make specific adjustments to your posts and pages.
One other thing I’d like to mention is how you can see your changes in a preview before publishing them on your website.[template id=”2087″]
8. Shortcodes Ultimate
Before you look for a plugin for a certain task, take a look at what Shortcodes Ultimate can add to WordPress. It has over 50 functions for adding elements to content directly from the post or page editing screen.
You can add buttons, tabs, galleries, sliders and a whole lot more by just clicking the “Insert Shortcode” button when creating your content. It’s simple yet effective to create various components to engage your audience.
In fact, it’s how I created the Buy Me a Coffee button on this website in the right sidebar.
9. WP File Manager
Sometimes, it’s helpful to use FTP programs like FileZilla to access your site and make file modifications. With File Manager, you can do it directly from the WordPress admin panel.
This is very helpful when you want to copy, delete or upload plugin and theme files without accessing cPanel or using FileZilla. I use it often in troubleshooting and uploading files to the site.
One of the features I like most about File Manager is that it limits users to the WordPress site only. So if you have more than one domain or other files in your root directory, you don’t have to worry about other users accessing them.
10. Contact Form by WPForms
Adding a contact form can help you land clients as a freelancer or simply give people a method to get in touch. Contact Form by WPForms is an excellent tool to give you this feature for free.
Using a drag-and-drop interface, you can make a variety of adjustments for just about any purpose. Radio buttons, drop-down selections and more are wrapped up in this plugin.
If you bought the pro version, you could even add payment methods to the form.
If you want to see this plugin in action, you can take a look at my contact form on this blog. It took me less than 5 minutes to set it up, and the form works brilliantly.
It’s easily among the best free WordPress plugins mostly because of its features and capabilities.
11. Really Simple SSL
Remember how I mentioned the importance of security? Adding a secure sockets layer to your site is a way to promote that protection. In reality, Google puts more emphasis on secured sites in search results, anyway.
Take a look at any result page when looking something up in Google. Nowadays, most websites in those pages start with, “https:“. This is evidence of an SSL certificate.
With Really Simple SSL, you can quickly activate a certificate to create a secured portal for visitors. However, you need to have an SSL attached to your site before using this plugin.
Some hosts will have free SSLs available to you. But you will still have to check with your web host regarding access to those certificates.
With my web host, I merely installed the plugin and activated the SSL. It took less than two minutes to add the certificate.
12. OneSignal Push Notifications
You don’t want to just attract new visitors to your site. It’s all about engaging and getting people to come back. OneSignal helps with this by sending notifications to subscribers any time you create new content.
It works much like YouTube when you subscribed to a channel. Any time you publish a new post, fans will get a popup message through a push notification.
It’s easy to set up and customize while giving you access to the developer’s own secured site for push notifications if you don’t have your own SSL yet.
An aspect I really like is the ability to send push notifications without publishing content. So if you’re site is running a special, or if you want your audience to know something vital, you can log in and send a quick message to followers.
I have nearly 1,000 subscribers spread out over my three websites with more joining every week.
The comment section can help you connect with an audience while providing ideas for future content. And wpDiscuz gives you control over many aspects of that area of your posts.
It’s compatible with a myriad of other plugins including BuddyPress, Ultimate Member and Akismet Anti-Spam.
Some of the features you have access to include integration with social networks like Facebook as well as lazy loading the section so your pages still load fast.
I use it here on Writer Sanctuary…so if you want an example, you can look below at the comment section.
No best free WordPress plugin list would be complete without a way to back up your files. UpdraftPlus gives you plenty of control for what is saved and quick restores should something go wrong on your site.
The best part of this plugin, at least for me, is the ability to save backups to the Cloud. I can easily connect Dropbox or Google Drive to the plugin and save files. Which means I have access to my backups no matter where I am or what device I am using.
The premium service has quite a few additions that are nice as well, such as database encryption. However, the free version works exceptionally well and is a great tool to keep your site maintained.
These are the Basics…
This list of the best free WordPress plugins consists of tools I use on a daily basis. Whether it’s for my blogs or my client’s web hosting website, they are some of the most prominent I come across.
There’s nothing wrong with finding other free tools to use that may serve your purpose better. But you’ll lose nothing but a few minutes of your time by checking out these tools on this list.
What are some of your favorite plugins and why? Let me know in the comment section below. Perhaps I can expand the list with something I’ve never seen before.
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