WordPress Free Plugins to make your Website Fly
I recommend self-hosted WordPress sites with plugins for blogs, business sites and e-commerce sites. Especially for people getting started.
WordPress, if set up, used and maintained correctly, can provide you with every functionality you need from the get-go.
WordPress gives you more control and customization for less cost than any other platform.
To get the full benefit of a WordPress site you need plugins. Plugins offer custom functions and features so that a WordPress user can tailor their site to their specific needs.
There are thousands of WordPress plugins, both free and paid. I have listed my top 13 WordPress plugins for blog, business and e-commerce sites.
*Please note, if you’re not selling products or services from your website, you won’t need the 3 WooCommerce plugins I detail below.
While many of these plugins have premium or paid versions with extra features, all the versions I use and list here are completely free!
My Top 13 WordPress Free Plugins
Yoast is the number 1 WordPress plugin for SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Built by founder Joost De Valk and his team, the Yoast plugin takes care of all the technical optimization and helps you write better content. Yoast comes in the free version (that I use) and a paid version that comes with additional customer support.
When you’re writing blog posts like this, for example, Yoast will check that your images have ALT tags containing your keyword; whether you’ve written a meta description with your keyword, and whether you’ve used any subheadings.
The Yoast SEO plugin can help you control which pages Google shows in its search results and which pages it doesn’t show. By default, Yoast will tell search engines to index all your pages, including category and tag archives, but to only show the first pages in the search results.
Yoast has the most advanced XML Sitemaps functionality of any WordPress plug-in. Once you check the box, Yoast automatically creates XML sitemaps and notifies Google and Bing of the sitemap’s existence.
If you have multiple blogs then setting up Yoast on all of them might seem daunting. Yoast, however, makes it simple. You set up the plug-in once; then you export your settings and simply import them on all your other sites. Too easy!
2. Ultimate Social Media Icons PLUS
It’s important that you link your site to social media. Make it super-easy for customers to follow you on social media. Help them to share your products, images and articles on their own social media channels.
There’s plenty of excellent social media plugins out there. I love the Ultimate Social Media Icons PLUS plugin for its range of icons and customise-ability.
You can select icons from 16 designs, and you can place the share buttons before or after posts, floating, via widget, via short-code, or define the location on the page (top right, bottom left etc.)
Ultimate Social Media Icons PLUS also lets you add animations to your icons. It allows you to display a pop-up (on selected pages) asking people to follow or share you. Visitors can also subscribe to your site and receive new posts automatically by email.
Personally, I prefer my social media icons placed in the top-right corner about 120 pixels from the top of the page and floating downwards as visitors scroll down. This ensures that they’re always within view.
How you configure your social share icons is completely up to you!
3. Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan
Wordfence includes a firewall and malware scanner that were built from the ground up to protect WordPress.
The Threat Defense Feed arms Wordfence with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your website safe.
Wordfence is one of the most popular and most comprehensive WordPress security plugins available.
Some of the Key Wordfence Security Features
- The Wordfence Firewall identifies and blocks malicious traffic.
- Wordfence include an integrated malware scanner that blocks requests that include malicious code or content.
- Wordfence firewall provides protection from brute force attacks by limiting login attempts.
- The malware scanner checks core files, themes and plugins for malware, bad URLs, backdoors, SEO spam, malicious redirects and code injections.
- Checks your site for known security vulnerabilities and alerts you to any issues. Also alerts you to potential security issues when a plugin has been closed or abandoned.
- Checks your content safety by scanning file contents, posts and comments for dangerous URLs and suspicious content.
- Wordfence offers monitor visits and hack attempts not shown in other analytics packages in real time; including origin, their IP address, the time of day and time spent on your site.
4. Updraft Plus Back Up plugin
You should back up your site in case you are hacked, your server crashes, or your hosting provider goes bust.
Updraft Plus is the world’s highest ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin. It has over a million currently active installs. With this plugin you can back up your files and database into the cloud and restore with a single click!
It’s important to have other security measures in place, but backups are the ultimate insurance. In a worse-case-scenario, your website (including all related files and databases) stay safe and can be restored in no time.
Manual back-ups are a pain. However, with Updraft Plus you can simply “set and forget”, scheduling in automatic backups to save you time, work and hassle.
5. WP-Optimize – Clean, Compress, Cache
WP-Optimize is a revolutionary, all-in-one plugin that cleans your database, compresses your images and caches your site.
This simple, popular and highly effective plugin has everything you need to keep your website fast and thoroughly optimized!
It does it in three clever ways:
- It allows you to clean and optimise your database.
- It gives you the option to compress your images.
- It allows you cache your pages, for super fast load times
I have successfully installed and used WP-Optimize on several WordPress sites. It’s the only tool you’ll need clean your files, compress your images and increase your page loading times.
6. WP Accessibility
The WP Accessibility plugin helps with a variety of common accessibility problems in WordPress themes. While most accessibility issues can’t be addressed without directly changing your theme, WP Accessibility adds several helpful accessibility features with a minimum amount of setup or expert knowledge.
Some of the features added by WP Accessibility include:
- Adds an outline to the keyboard focus state for focusable elements.
- Adds a toolbar toggling between high contrast, large print, and desaturated (grayscale) views of your theme.
- Adds a long description to images. Use the image’s “Description” field to add long descriptions.
- Enforcement for alt attributes on images.
- Easily identify images without alt attributes in the Media Library
- And more…
This plugin is intended to help with deficiencies commonly found in WordPress themes. It cannot correct every problem, but provides tools to fix some issues, supplement the accessibility of your site, or identify problems.
7. Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights
Setting up analytics always sounded complicated to me. With MonsterInsights, from Optin Monster, you can set up your analytics in just a few mouse clicks.
From your WordPress dashboard you can see how visitors find and use your website. This helps you to improve your site’s design and content to keep visitors returning.
If you don’t know where your traffic is coming from, or your audience behaviour, you don’t know what’s working on your site and what needs to be changed or removed.
That means you’re flying blind, and that’s not a good place to be for any business.
8. GDPR Cookie Compliance
This plugin is especially useful in preparing your site for the following cookie law, data protection and privacy regulations:
- GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation (European Union)
- PIPEDA: The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Canada)
- CCPA: The California Consumer Privacy Act (California, United States)
- AAP: Australia’s Privacy Principles (Australia)
- LGPD: The Brazilian General Data Protection Law (Brazil)
- DSGVO, CNIL, PECR, DPA and other cookie law, data and privacy regulations
9. Duplicate Post
This plugin allows users to clone posts or pages of any type or copy them to new drafts for further editing.
There is also a template tag, so you can put it in your templates and clone your posts/pages from the front-end. Clicking on the link will lead you to the edit page for the new draft, just like the admin bar link.
10. Captcha by BestWebSoft
Captcha plugin by BestWebSoft is one of the best security solutions to protect your WordPress website forms from spam entries. It can be used for login, registration, password recovery, comments form and much more.
It is easy to use and manage, a simple and effective plugin which will always guard your website forms.
- Add captcha to login forms, registration forms, reset password forms
- Compatible with latest WordPress version
- Incredibly simple settings for fast setup without modifying code
- Detailed step-by-step documentations and videos
- Multilingual and RTL ready
Free Plugins for E-Commerce
If you’re going to sell products, services, or digital products directly from your website, these plugins are for you.
Flexible, free, and with hundreds of free and paid extensions and related plugins, WooCommerce offers you a comprehensive, fully-customizable package for setting up e-commerce functionality.
Put it this way; if you’re selling from a WordPress site, you should be using WooCommerce.
12. WooCommerce PayPal Express Checkout Gateway
With more than 179 million active customer accounts worldwide, adding PayPal as a payment option to your WooCommerce store is a must-have.
PayPal Express Checkout for WooCommerce allows your customers to skip the WooCommerce checkout and use PayPal instead. This means fewer clicks across fewer screens, and more chance your customers will complete their purchase with you.
Using this plugin customers can easily checkout without a PayPal account. Customers can also use a range of credit cards instead, including VISA, Mastercard, American Express and more.
Payment processing is handled by PayPal’s secure servers, so you don’t have to worry about handling sensitive payment information on your site.
13. WooCommerce Stripe payment gateway
Want to take customer’s credit card information securely without have a separate merchant account? If so, then having a Stripe account is a must. And once you have this set up to take payments, you can easily link it to WooCommerce via the dedicated plugin.
Using your plugin for Stripe, which now includes Apple Pay, you can accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, and Diners Club cards, even Bitcoin, directly on your store.
Stripe has no setup fees, no monthly fees and no hidden costs. You only get charged when you earn money! Earnings are transferred to your bank account in the currency of your choice (my Australian Stripe account is set to Australian Dollars, instead of US Dollars).
Is WordPress Free? With these Plugins it is!
If you run a WordPress site, you might already be using some of these plugins. Or maybe you use something similar. That’s fine. It doesn’t matter much if you get the outcome you’re looking for.
These very clever multi-function plugins enable your WordPress site to run like a secure, fast, responsive, customer-focused, well-oiled machine. At zero financial cost to you.
Yes, it takes a little more time and know-how to put it all together. But if you want maximum control over your site and your business, I believe it’s worth it.
No paid, ready out-of-the-box web or e-commerce platform (think Wix or Shopify) will give you the range of options at such a low cost that your own self-hosted WordPress site will give you.
It’s your choice.