I f you are building a WordPress site or already have one you might be wondering what are the best plugins out there that will extend your website functionality, improve the user experience and SEO for your website. So much info is out there, it must be confusing.
I’m here to break it all down for you.
In this post, I want to highlight the free essential plugins that I use for all my WordPress designs covering all the types of online businesses from blogs to Ecommerce for all your basic needs from social media sharing, security, improved user experience, to SEO and more. I took great care in giving you some of my insider tips and also consulted with the experts from scanwp.net – the WordPress theme detector
So let us start by how to search for the right plugins for your website, how to select the right ones and my expert recommendations of plugins by business genre for you.
How To Choose The Right Plugin For WordPress
☑Is My Plugin Compatible With My WordPress Version & Is It Important?
No, not necessarily although plugins authors are required to update the info on their plugins they still can be fully functional and installable. To understand plugins completely you should know all free plugins in the repository come with a special file called “read me” All these plugins submitted must contain this file with a tested up to date version. Often some authors are active on updating bug fixes and updating the read file, some are not but it still can be safe. Heres a great video from Wpbeginner explaining it thoroughly.
In the repository, the most relevant and popular plugins will always be on the top of the results, I typically check how new the plugin is, how many installs it has and then the reviews. You can also do a search on the web for the most popular plugin for the functionality you are looking for and read up on them. The next thing I look for is always the support.
Support is everything when it comes to plugins. Because plugins are tested with most of the free themes you can get in WordPress, some themes have functionality that can alter of conflict with your plugin or reversely the plugin can conflict with your theme and cause it to break its functionality or worse the entire site mainly premium themes.
I have had this happen a few times and its a frustrating process having to get into your Wp install without having access to your website. This is where support comes in, so I often go the support page and check how active the plugin author is, how long do they take to respond to support tickets. I want to stress you don’t need to do this for all plugins just the ones that have extended functionality that may conflict with other plugins or your website.
Free E-commerce Plugins
Woocommerce is the number one go to plugin to add Ecommerce to your website with all the bells and whistles to sell any kind of product online from physical products to affiliate or digital. Woocommerce is built to work seamlessly with any theme but you will sometimes run into an issue of how it looks as some themes change the style of Woocommerce. Make sure to check your theme if its Woocommerce compatible. Most premium themes are and come bundled with the plugin.
Booster for WooCommerce takes the functionality of Woo to another level, with so many added features and functionality to list. if your looking to boost your Ecommerce website this plugin has it all from editing pricing and currencies to custom buttons all the way down to emails. A definite must for all Woocommerce shops.
When it comes to conversion optimization we want to give the users the best experience they can get that leads to a sale, sometimes your customers won’t be ready to buy so by keeping them on site and having a wishlist for future purchases is a great way to keep your customers loyal and returning.
If you are running any kind of Ecommerce shop that packs and ships products this is the plugin you want to fulfill your orders. It automatically attaches a PDF to the order confirmation emails and you can download or print a packing slip right from the Woocommerce admin panel.
Free Blogging Plugins And Social Media
To improve the user’s experience on your blog you always should use tags and categories. For example, if you have a recipe site and have a category of Dinners you would want to tag a recipe with chicken to further filter post browsing. YARPP will use those tags and categories to display posts related to what your website visitor is reading and further guide them through your website.
If your running a blog, portfolio, business website, or photography website even video easy fancy box is super simple to install and use. Once its installed all the images on your website will open in a responsive framed floating window. There tons of additional features so if your looking to open images or video in a pop up floating window try this plugin.
Super simple to setup and compatible with new changes in Instagram API Instagram feed is the most flexible ways to display all your Instagram feeds even multiple accounts.
When it comes to text on page, blog posts or any content I have a bit of OCD when the text isn’t symmetrical. For some reason or another, the new text editor in WordPress has removed the underline and justify functionality. This plugin gives you the option to put it back.
What good is all the great content you have on your website if it cant be shared? Mashshare out of the box gives you that professional news site feed, although limited to a few social accounts out of the box in the free version, it does the job perfectly and what I am using on my website.
If your looking for more engagements and have people share your content from Facebook to Whatsapp AddToAny share buttons has it all, including floating share buttons.
If the default WordPress commenting system isn’t meeting your website goals Disqus will take commenting to another level. Once the plugin is installed it will seamlessly merge your current comments and use the Disqus system which also prevents commenting spam.
From the same plugin developer of Woocommerce comes Akismet, you might have noticed that this comes already bundled in any new WP install. Akismet is the most popular anti-spam plugin in the repository. All your comment and contact forms submissions will be processed against a database of known spam before any malicious content can be added to your website.
Free Image Optimization Plugins
Smushit is a fantastic plugin to install to save space and to speed up your WordPress website. The simplicity of this plugin is that you just install, Smush and every time you upload a new photo it automatically compresses the images lossesly. The only con with this plugin is that you have a limited amount of images to bulk smush once you install, the pro paid version unlocks the rest of the features but I have found unless you have tons of images it does the job perfectly.
If your looking to optimize your website for load speeds and to improve the user experience and gain search engine (SEO) traction EWWW Image Optimizer is also a great option. Same as with WP Smush you can optimize images that already have been uploaded but with this plugin you have to run a batch optimize unlike Smush it where the images are compressed automatically once you upload them, none the less an awesome plugin for reducing storage space and speeding up your website.
Free Security Plugins
My personal choice to lock down my Wp installations, its has everything you need to secure your website and core files and hide the backend login area. You can read a bit more on 5 ways to protect and secure your WordPress site.
Backups should be part of your security strategy, while some hosts create daily backups its great to have one stored locally on your device. In case of malfunction or hack Duplicator is by far the easiest plugin to use to completely restore your website, theme settings, plugin settings and all.
Free Contact & Subscriber Form Plugins
Contact form is the number one most popular contact plugin for any WordPress Website, with a little customization of style and fields your good to go with the support of anti-spam captcha and integration with Akismet. The only con I have with this is the admin interface, when you need a more complicated contact form with buttons and drop down fields it can be a little challenging for the average website user.
This is my number one plugin recommendation for any type of contact form, with an easy drag and drop interface, anti spam captcha, and the ability to control the width of the fields makes creating contact forms easy. What I really like is the admin dash that gives you the ability to see on single or multiple forms a number of entries and to preview them as well. Its just complete and easy and what I use personally.
Mailchimp is one of the most popular free newsletter signup plugins in the repository. Out of the box, you get all the functionality to create opt in forms and integrate with just about any contact form plugin available. If you are looking to add subscribers and create an email list and do some outreach with your website visitors this basic plugin does it all for you.
Free Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Plugins
When it comes to features and ease of use for all your SEO needs Yoast SEO is the easiest plugin to use and the most popular. SEO is critical to gain traffic and reach all your online goals so using a plugin such as Yoast SEO is great for all your business goals.
Analytical data is important when it comes to SEO. Track your daily traffic, referrals, bounce rate, time on site. This easy to use plugin will give you all the data you need on your WP admin dashboard.
Site speed is not only great for the user experience it is also a ranking factor! Once you have the right host, and your website is optimized the last step is to add caching to your website. W3 total has it all to help improve the load speed of your website and get your content to your website visitors fast.
A sitemap tells search engine crawlers whats on your website and is a crucial part of SEO. Once you know what content on your website you want to be indexed Google XML sitemap will generate an XML file and page for your website automatically. Once you have your sitemap generated you will then submit that to google to get all your pages, posts, categories, and media indexed to get found.
The simplicity of GADWP is what I like best about this plugin. Once activated you will authorize the plugin through Gooogle analytics and get a nice easy to read analytics dashboard to check all the stats you need to track your website SEO.
This SEO plugin has more advanced features for Search Engine Optimization then the other plugins at the same time great also for beginners. If you are looking to really beef up your SEO efforts All in One SEO has all the features you will need from automatic sitemap generation to Google Amp Support.
Nothing is worse for a website then broken links. Internal links play a big part in SEO. They can guide users through your website or direct them to external information or an affiliate link all the way to instructional videos or downloads. It is important every now and then especially after a site redesign to make sure all your links are working Google does track them. Once the plugin is installed it simply scans your website for any broken links, and the handy dashboard can help you identify where they are and edit them all in one interface without having to search through your whole site. I run a broken link check at least three times a week to make sure my site is healthy for SEO and the user experience.
The Wrap Up And Final Thoughts
When it comes to website management Wordpress hands down is not only the best choice for webmasters but also for search engine optimization. With the right plugins to enhance the user experience and SEO you simply can’t get an easier content management system to work with. If your constantly looking to improve the performance of your website, plugins are the easiest and best way to do it.
Research, experiment and focus on your website goals just keep in mind some plugins do add weight to your website and can slow it down, so as they say less is more and delete the plugins you do not use anymore and give your website visitors the best experience you can offer search engines will reward you for it and so will your target audience.