WordPress powers around 74.6 million websites on the Internet for a reason. It comes with some great features for your website right out of the box, and it’s open-source. One of the things you’ll love about WordPress, is that there are tons of plugins for different types of functionality. The WordPress plugin directory has around 43,000 plugins. WOW! That’s awesome right? Or maybe not? Honestly, it depends. If you’re new to WordPress, you’ll most likely be overwhelmed by having so many options to choose from. To help you out, I’ve created a list of 5 essential free WordPress plugins that you can install to extend your website’s functionality (these are the basic ones though, don’t forget to think about other cool ones like social sharing plugins, or email marketing ones, etc). You do need to check if the plugins are actually allowed if you’re using Managed WordPress hosting.
Plugin for Spam: Akismet
Akismet is a plugin that protects you from spam comments. It checks the comments on your posts and pages, and hides the ones that look like spam. Those comments will show in your “Comments” section in the admin panel. From there, you can either delete the spam message or publish it – it’s totally up to you.
Just so there is no misunderstanding, Akismet is a plugin that comes with WordPress by default. But you’ll still need to register on their website and get a unique API key to activate and use the plugin. That’s why I’ve placed it in this list. For personal blogs, you can get the key for free, but they do have paid plans for commercial websites.
Plugin for Security: Wordfence
Wordfence is the ultimate security plugin for your website. Think of it as an anti-virus software that scans your files and looks for malware and potential security threats. Wordfence comes with many security and performance features like Scan, Live Traffic, Performance Setup, Blocked IPs, etc. The plugin has a free and premium version – that offers some advanced features. For example, the premium version allows you to block entire countries by IP and login with your smartphone via SMS.
I should probably mention that this is one of the highest rated plugins in WordPress. To check the full feature list and download this plugin, click here.
Plugin for SEO: Yoast
Yoast is a comprehensive SEO plugin that allows you to fully optimize your content for search engines like Google and Bing. It allows you to set a focus keyword and meta description for your posts and pages. Furthermore, it analyses your content and suggests what you should improve form a SEO standpoint. It also previews those changes in a snippet that shows exactly how your content will appear in Google.
Yoast can do so much more. It enables you to fully customize how your post types, taxonomies and archives will look in the search. It also connects your website with Google Search console, and generates XML sitemaps that search engines use when they crawl your website.
You can download and use Yost SEO for free! If you haven’t used it the past, I strongly encourage you to check out some tutorials on YouTube. Click here to go to the download page.
Plugin for Performance: W3 Total Cache
Website performance is something that you’ll need to work on – sooner or later. W3 Total Cache is a free plugin for WordPress that enables you to do all these things that seem so complicated with just a few mouse clicks. It offers wide array of options that can make your website up to 10 times faster (keeping in mind that your web host also plays a big part, if you choose a quality Australian WordPress host, you might not need a caching plugin). Here are some of the things you can configure:
- Page Cache
- Minify CSS and JS files
- Browser Cache
- Database Cache
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to analyse your website, and it will show you which areas should be improved. Once you know what Google considers a “weak spot” on your website, you can use the W3 Total Cache plugin to fix those issues.
Download W3 Total Cache from here.
Plugin for Backups: Updraft Plus
Updraft Plus is a great free plugin that keeps your files save. It keeps versions of your database and WordPress files on the side, in case something goes wrong. You can schedule backups daily, weekly or on a monthly basis. One of the things I like about Updraft, is that download or restore backups right there from the admin panel.
You can download Updraft Plus from the WordPress plugin directory.
A Word of Advice
Image by: Zekelhuter (via Wiki Commons)
Be careful when you install plugins in WordPress. Overuse of plugins or using bad-coded plugins can slow down your website or even worse, cause you compatibility issues. Always install plugins that are regularly updated, and have a decent rating.
Featured image credit: Joe (via Flickr)