20 Top Free WordPress Plugins.
A Comprehensive Appraisal Of Some Of The Best Free Plugins That Could Really Boost Your WordPress Website Or Blog.
By Robert Viney
Amazingly only 50% of businesses have a website but of the ones that do, 40% are WordPress Sites.
A WordPress website is very versatile and relatively easy to build and maintain with a large selection of free themes that you can use to customise it with. WordPress is also free and if you choose the right host, very cost effective, too.
WordPress websites also invariably perform well in Google rankings, so really small business owners have no excuses not to have their own website.
Starting Is Relatively Simple
For those who do not have a WordPress website, the process of setting up is quite simple. Just follow this process:
i) Select a good reliable host for your website to publish it onto the internet
ii) Choose your domain name or transfer your existing domain to your host
iii) Download WordPress onto the host's platform
iv) Choose a free WordPress Theme from wordpress.org for your website and download this into your new WordPress website
v) Go into the plugin section of the site and start adding your plugins to drive your website
vi) Start adding your content to your website
My WordPress websites and those of my clients are hosted by one.com - their hosting is very reliable and cost effective starting at approximately £40 per annum including the cost of the domain.
To help you, there are a good selection of YouTube videos offering WordPress tutorials, here is one of the best from Tyler Moore.
Comprehensive List Of The 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins.
Here, I offer a comprehensive list of 20 Top FREE WordPress plugins that I have been using for the past three years or so on my own WordPress websites and my clients' WordPress websites. Each plugin is fundamentally essential for the good functionality of your site, and I recommend each.
To help you, I have included screenshots of some of the plugin pages and some good tutorial videos.
1. AMP, the official WordPress AMP plugin
AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. This plugin has several functions but primarily aids the mobile loading functions of your site, making your site quicker and making the user experience enhanced, primarily.
2. Page Builder By Site Origin
The second of my 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins is one of the best and most popular page building plugins that greatly simplifies building posts and pages and allows you to arrange everything in an orderly fashion. It also allows you to rearrange your content simply by moving the individual boxes between the rows. This plugin works well with WordPress widget bundles or you can add Site Origin’s own excellent Widget Bundle Plugin, listed 3, below.
This screenshot shows the rows and widgets for a post page.
This video is a good tutorial for showing you how Site Origin Page Builder works.
3. Site Origin Widgets Bundle
WordPress already comes with its own widgets bundle that can be added to the Site Origin Page Builder format but you can also add Site Origin’s own Widgets. This is recommended, as Site Origin’s widgets are generally superior and a good way to add written content, images and link buttons, to name just a few of the functions. In this screenshot, some of the Site Origin's widgets are shown with the blue icon. I personally use the editor and image widget a lot in my posts.
4. Classic Editor For WordPress
WordPress recently changed the editing format which is not very user friendly (in my view & the view of many others, too!). This great plugin restores the editing back to the ‘better’ original version and has a rightful place in my list of 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins.
5. WP Smush by WPMU DEV
Images are a great asset to your site, enhancing the user experience but they can take up a lot of storage space, meaning images, especially large image files can slow your website loading. This plugin automatically reduces image sizes, compressing them and optimising them, as they upload into your media library. It is compatible with JPEG, GIF and PNG formats. You can also diminish file sizes further in the media library. I try to get all my image file sizes below 50KB and ideally to about 30KB.
6. Wordfence by Wordfence
The next in my list of 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins is an absolute must. It provides a firewall and malware security for your site plus a scanning tool to highlight problems. I receive, on average, twelve rogue login attempts from robots in China per day plus other random attacks and Wordfence stops these. Wordfence features hacking firewall protection, malware scan and blocking. It also allows live traffic monitoring where you can see what security threats your site is facing and where they are coming from and it allows you to take action to prevent these.
This screenshot shows the scanning page for Wordfence.
7. WP-Optimize by David Anderson, Ruhani Rabin & Team Updraft
Another must-have plugin for cleaning up and optimising your database. General use of your site can add data to your database and a large database can seriously slow your loading speed. This plugin can remove all spammy comments, trackbacks, pingbacks and post revisions as well as clearing other unwanted stuff. You should clean your database every day, if the site is a busy one.
This screenshot is the result of selecting 'Optimisation' in the 'Database' setting - here by clicking on the 'Run Optimisation' button, unwanted data is removed.
A second choice in the 'Database' setting is 'Table' and in this screenshot, the database is broken down with a total of the size of data base shown at the bottom. In this case the size is 9.6MB. You should always try to minimise the size of your database, as this will determine your website's loading time.
8. W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes
W3 Total Cache is another important plugin and the top rated WordPress Cache plugin. WordPress caching is one of the best ways to improve website performance. In simple terms, caching stores the website data temporarily in the cache so that it loads faster the next time the user opens the same page. It features page cache, data caching, object caching, browser caching and much more. It also can minify and HTTP compress many of your files, saving significantly on bandwith. From time to time you will need to clear the cache out and you can purge it with this plugin.
This screenshot shows part of the 'General Settings' page where you can set the caching parameters.
It is imperative you get the settings right for this plugin to work right. Here is good YouTube video tutorial to help you and to take you through the set-up stages.
9. Yoast SEO by Team Yoast
Another must-have plugin from my list of the 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins is essential for getting the SEO of your pages and posts right. This will allow you to get your Keyword density, page titles, meta descriptions and readability right, as well as other stuff. The free version does not include the XML sitemaps function and for that you will need number 10. You should also use the free Google Keyword Tool in conjunction with this, to ensure you use the right keywords, etc.. This plugin is very simple to use, once you get into it, but can be invaluable for getting your posts and pages right.
In this screen shot, the bottom of a post or page is shown, illustrating the meta description for the page, readability and keyword, etc..
SEO is fairly complicated but getting it right is important, so I recommend you view this YouTube tutorial on how this Yoast plugin can help you.
10. Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold
This plugin improves the SEO by creating sitemaps of your website and submitting these to the major search engines. The plugin is supposed to do this automatically, but I found you need to also submit your site to Google, Bing and Yahoo manually too, at least for the first time.
11. UpdraftPlus by Updraftplus.com
Another must-have plugin that allows you to back-up and restore your files. WordPress can be fickle and can be susceptible to random attacks, so keeping a back will allow you to restore your site, if you get stuck. It is a good practice to back-up before and after each change to your website or when you optimise your site in 7, above. The feature allows you to store your back up on your website or remotely on Dropbox or Google Drive, etc..
12. All In One Security by Tips & Tricks
This plugin adds additional security features especially that of blocking Spam. I use this plugin on all my clients’ websites very successfully but you must go into the settings to activate the anti-spam function. A good alternative is the free version of Askimet, but beware it is only free for personal use, not for business or commercial use.
13. GDPR by Trew Knowledge
14. Really Simple SSL by Rogier Lankhorst
You should be moving your site to HTTPS/SSL to make it more secure for yourself and your visitors. This will also help you avoid the horrible ‘NOT SECURE’ warning from Google for Chrome browsers who visit non-HTTPS sites. The most cost effective way to do this is to use a hosting company that provides free SSL certificates, such as one.com. Then, activating this plugin does the rest. As the name suggests, it is ‘Really Simple’.
15. A3 Lazy Load by a3rev Software
If your site features many images, these may take a while to load which risks losing the impatient visitor, increasing your bounce rate. This plugin solves this problem. It replaces your post and page images, post thumbnails, gravatar images and content iframes with a placeholder and loads the content as it gets close to entering the browser screen. In other words, the images only display when the user scrolls to that part of the page, thus speeding up crucial loading time. This plugin also saves precious bandwith, boosts optimization and SEO and works with text widgets and embedded videos from YouTube and Vimeo. Particularly good for mobile users of your site.
16. Google Analytics by MonsterInsights
Understanding the visitors to your site is paramount, if you are to grow it. This excellent plugin will provide much information including who your visitors are, where they come from, how long they stay, which pages they visit, to list just a few of the many functions. To make it work you will need to link it to your Google account and your ‘Google My Business’ account - if you have not created the latter account yet, it is a good move to do this.
17. Jetpack by Autommattic & WordPress
Another good plugin from my list of the 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins provides a number of widgets and tools that takes care of your site security, website performance, traffic growth, image optimization, website appearance and a lot more. It is also a good alternative to the Google Analytics Plugin (16) for a simplified analytics tool.
In this screen shot, some of the widgets from Jetpack are shown when selecting 'Add Widget' button in the Site Origin Page Builder function.
There is much to this plugin and this excellent video explains much more.
18. Social Media Follow Buttons Bar by Space-X-Chimp
There are many social follow plugins available, but I have found this is a neat one that works well and is easy to add. It also has a ‘floating’ share option, too. It is important to persuade your visitors to follow you on Social Media, to increase your exposure and this plugin makes that easy. A good addition to my list of 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins.
19. Sassy Social Share by Team Heator
Sharing your content is another great way to increase your awareness. Again, many social share plugins exist but I find this works well. You can link to more than 100 platforms, making it really useful. The plugin also creates its own widget which can easily be added in Site Origin’s Page Builder.
20. Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi
This is a great plugin where it is possible to create a customised contact form to suit your website and needs without additional extra coding etc.. Nice and simple!
This YouTube video tutorial shows you more.
My List Of The 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins Provides The Basic Essentials
There are loads of other good plugins available, but in my view, this list of the 20 Top Free WordPress Plugins represents the best WordPress Plugins for providing the basic essentials for improving your site SEO, optimizing loading speeds, providing hardened security, for marketing your site and for making you site work efficiently and effectively.
Plugins can interfere with each other but this selection all work together well without conflict for most themes.
These are the basics and if you want to customise your website further, such as adding an ecommerce or membership function, for instance, you will obviously need additional plugins.
When adding new plugins to your site, always ensure the plugin is compatible with the theme you use. Each plugin will state whether it has been tested on your theme. For every new plugin, you should read the notes and reviews etc., included, and you should go through the settings to ensure each plugin is set up right and will work right for your site.
Regularly Update Your Plugins
You should also only use plugins that are regularly updated and have been updated within the past three months or so. These updates are improvements that can also contain the latest security coding to guard against the latest virus and malware threats. It is good practice to update all plugins as soon as the updates are issued.
All plugins might contain weaknesses that could allow access to your site by rogue external threats and it is important to think that the more plugins you have, the greater the risk. Plugins can be big files and can slow down your website's loading, so you should be mindful to only use the minimum number required to ensure good functionality of your site - ideally no more than thirty in total but nearer to twenty if possible.
Please note: The screenshots shown in this article may differ or change as the respective plugins are updated.
This List Is Designed For Small Businesses
This list is designed specifically to help startups, new businesses and small businesses to get started or to improve their sites.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact me below or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, if you have any great plugin suggestions, I would love to hear them.
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