5 Must-Have Free WordPress Plugins 2018 that Experts use for Every New Website

 

We install WordPress on both local machines and live servers always.

It has almost become a routine now. However, experts have come to understand that every new WordPress install needs about 5 must have free WordPress plugins to start with.

WordPress, a very popular Content Management System (CMS) currently powers over 29% of all the sites on the internet.

This means every 1 in 4 sites that you visit is most likely running on WordPress. Sites like Sony, EA, ESPN, as well as personalities like Beyonce and Snoop Dog etc. all use WordPress to power their websites.

WordPress really seem to be the new BLACK.

Have you ever installed WordPress and wondered – what the best WordPress plugins to install are?  I do every time. it’s gradually becoming a chore.

I’m often asked the question, “What are the must-have free WordPress plugins necessary to install and activate a new vanilla WordPress install.”

In fact, there’s no one size fits all answer to this question. Especially, considering the thousands of cool WordPress plugins you can choose from the WordPress repository.

Of course, WordPress is considered as one of the best open source Content Management System (CMS) available at the moment.

These plugins offer various functionalities that make your website even more powerful. Eventually, you can turn your WordPress site into an application to perform tasks that were unthinkable before!

After my many years of flirting with the WordPress platform, I have dutifully curated my own go-to list of essential and must have free WordPress plugins to activate on every new WordPress install.

I guess you have yours too.

Obviously, these must have free WordPress plugins could be categorized into a number of subjects such as security, backup, speed, and user experience etc.

Without much ado, let’s quickly get into the things you need to consider behold installing and activating these awesome WordPress plugins on your website.

What must have Free WordPress Plugins should you be Considering?

So as website developers and designers everyone might have – not less than two plugins which can do the same thing or perform the same function or task.

No worries. You’re in good hands.

It looks like there are better alternatives to every WordPress plugin available. What may be right for Kofi may not necessarily be right for Figo.

Figo likes football whiles Kofi loves the ladies.

Forgive my biases, but I’ll try my best not to impose my thoughts and experience on you.

So for instance, instead of giving you a list of essential must have free WordPress plugins and telling you that you must certainly use these plugin, may not be helpful.

So I would rather give you my curated list of must have free WordPress plugins but also give you similar and useful alternatives which might even be better in your own estimation.

Feel free to make your own decisions. However, I will not in any way apologize for the experience I have had with most of these plug-ins.

It saves my life.  It can do same for you too. Here you are with my essential and must have free WordPress plugins I install and activate on every new vanilla WordPress install.

Remember I’m not talking about favorites, likes or best WordPress plugins here.

What we are seeking to achieve here today is the must have free WordPress plugins you need. Period!

Here’s are the plugins you must install on every website for the listed purposes.

Each will have suitable alternatives.

  • Backups
  • Spam
  • Security
  • Speed
  • search engines optimization (SEO)
  • Analytics
  • Page Builders
  • Contact Form
  1. You need a website backup first

First things first. you’ll not appreciate this fact more until you have the shocker of your life.

Every WordPress developer will attest to the stress and emotional breakdown you go through when you site is broken, down or hacked and you don’t have a backup anywhere to pick it back up.

It a pain in the rear area. I don’t recommend this experience. Try it out if you want though. In fact, these instances can cost you a client and a profitable project.

Always keep a backup.

You never know when a sudden WordPress update will break your site. You never know the security attack from bad people.

So you trust your host for a backup restore, right. What if the web host server itself comes crashing down. You’re doomed. Never trust another company with your digital asset.

It is best practice to always keep an off-site backup of your website for to cater for any emergencies.

There are many plugins that can help you achieve this aim – and I will mention the most reliable and essential must have free WordPress plugins I’ve used and recommend.

WP Time Capsule

must have free WordPress plugins - WPTC

Those guys on the WP Time Capsule team are doing a great job with this plugin. WP Time Capsule comes in a freemium model. it is available in a free version and a paid one that will cost you $36/month.

For backup purposes only – the free version may be ideal for you.

You can choose a suitable cloud storage(Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3 etc) to save your backup.

A single click backup restore.

Sign up with an email account.

What I personally love about this plugin is that it does an incremental backup which means it only add what is not there already. Saving you from server stress.

UpdraftPlus

 

must have free WordPress plugins - UPDP

Before I stumbled upon wp time capsule – Updraftplus was my go-to backup plugin. In fact, you can still see it on many of my websites.

Updraftplus is very popular now as compared to when I used it. Then, having a proper backup meant paying for a premium plugin. However, since I was working on a shoestring budget a free Updraftplus account was my only reliable option.

They also had premium packages if you want to upgrade.

I only needed the backup functionality to the free option was all I needed. I highly recommend the paid option for huge company websites with huge resources and databases.  It may save your company.

On the feature side of things, Updraftplus has almost all the functions WP Time Capsule has. The choice of a suitable cloud storage (google drive, Rackspace cloud, Dropbox, Amazon S3 etc) to save your backup.

Sign up and verify an email account now.

Which one should you go for?

In fact, I had and continue to use both plugins for different kind of projects. I love them both.

If I’m installing WordPress today – I will go for a wp time capsule account. Why?

  1. First, it is free for my purpose.
  2. Second, its ease of use.
  3. Third, for its incremental backup function

Why not Updraftplus. I have realized that my good ol’ friend eats up lots of server resources. It’s heavy on servers.

Notwithstanding, I love both plugins and choosing one won’t make me go to hell :).

2. This Spam noise…. NO Spamming

This spam thing … what is it? Do you know where he stays?

I don’t know where he stays either, but I can explain how he works and how to guard yourself against it.

Spam is an unsolicited or undesired electronic message. So spammers use automated software which submits forms with irrelevant links to advertise their website on your websites and get SEO backlinks.  

Spammers feed on your website. Period! And so you better avoid them or else……

Spamming affects your SEO score and reader’s experience if you don’t moderate comments on your posts and pages.  Thus, they will be filled with tons of content which will render your website useless.

Apparently, moderating comments and deleting spam emails from your site can be so annoying and exhaustive. That’s why you need a dedicated plugin for the purpose of detecting and blocking spam.

Let’s look at two of best must have free WordPress plugins for this purpose.

Akismet

 must have free WordPress plugins - Akismet

Akismet from Automattic comes with every new vanilla WordPress install. Automattic being the brain behind WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org until it became an open source software.

That makes it reliable, right.

At least it’s coming from the horse’s own mouth. Akismet makes use of an API service that is used by millions of websites.

Akismet is free for personal use and costs $5 per month for one commercial website. if you would like to use it to manage multiple websites, they offer a $50 per month plan as well.

This is the main function of Akismet. It runs all incoming comments through their API service and decide whether the comment is spam or not.

Isn’t that beautiful.

One of the awesome benefits of Akismet which made it appear the must have free WordPress plugins list is that – it detects a spam attack or spammer on one website, the API will trigger and protect other websites where Akismet is installed.

Antispam Bee

must have free WordPress plugins - antispam bee  

Antispam Bee blocks spam comments and trackbacks effectively and without captchas.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand that statement. I don’t either. It does what I want it to do. Period!

I will not bore you with features of a spam plugin. It will do you no good.

All you need to check is that – it works perfectly. Simple.

If you still need some features – then Antispam Bee identifies and manages spam with the help of some filters such as IP addresses, comments time, Gravatar, languages, BBCode, local as well as the public database of spammers.

Which one should you go for?

This Antispam Bee plugin is a new plugin in my toolbox. I recently heard of it from another blog I read. However, it is gradually seducing me from the Automattic supported Akismet.

For Akismet, it will definitely come with your new WordPress install. Use it if you don’t want to mess with any Antispam bee thing. However, it may not hurt to try out new plugins for a plan B.

 

3. A securityman or a watchman – Keep your Website Safe and Secure!

So WordPress is the new “ish”, right?

Just like anything that gets useful, powerful and profitable – fellow human beings get jealous.

Human beings are funny.

WordPress is no exception. Hackers, crackers, and spammers are constantly bugging websites just to destroy them.

That is a sad commentary.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. It is better to not fall prey to bad people and their malicious adventures. Get a reliable security plugin for your website today.

Security plugins for WordPress websites are quite popular. Almost everyone has one. Let’s take a look at some must have free WordPress security plugins on the blogosphere today.

WordFence

must have free WordPress plugins - wordfence

Wordfence comes as a free and a premium WordPress plugin. As the name goes – it serves as a shield for your websites against threats and unforeseen attacks.  

It is a well-known and trusted security plugin for many WordPress users. In fact, they’ve got a dedicated team who work solely to improve WordPress security and have contributed and continues to pay their quota when it comes to the security updates of the WordPress core.

Here are some known features:

  • IP blocking.
  • Built-in caching
  • Malware scanning
  • Monitors Disk space
  • 2-factor authentication
  • Blocks malicious networks.
  • Blocks, known attackers in real time.

In fact, it does whatever a security plugin has to do. Don’t hesitate to try Wordfence out.

And above all, it is FREE.

iThemes Security

 must have free WordPress plugins - iThemes Security

Also available as a free and a premium WordPress plugin – can we welcome iThemes Security into our must have free WordPress plugins list.

Apart from claiming to be the best security plugin for your WordPress iThemes Security will serve you.

Did you ever use a WordPress security plugin called “WP Better Security”? If you ever did, then you’re not new to iThemes Security.

It only changed names.

Here are some features raving fans of this plugin vouch for:

  • Built-in brute force protection
  • Ban IP addresses and hosts
  • Helpful security logs
  • Malware scanning
  • Database backups etc

Did I mention that it is FREE?   

Which one should you go for

Have I used Wordfence for some sites?  I don’t remember when, but I’ve definitely used iThemes security somewhere before. 

Let me disappoint you here. Maybe I’m wrong.

Disclaimer: I don’t regard myself as an expert on WordPress security in any way.

Apparently, I’m not a huge fan of WordPress security plugins.

First, they are quite heavy on the server side of things.

Second, they look and feel scrappy – doing so many things at once. It makes me cringe.

However, don’t follow me and compromise your website security in any way. Please go ahead and use any of the security plugins we’ve discussed above. It is for a reason why it is appearing on the must have free WordPress plugins list.

What I use instead!

Over the year I’ve fallen in love with a little WordPress plugin which takes very good care of me. I look and feel safe under the umbrella of Rename wp-login.php

must have free WordPress plugin - Rename wp-login.php

This is what the developer says on the plugin page:

Rename wp-login.php is a very light plugin that lets you easily and safely change wp-login.php to anything you want. it doesn’t literally rename or change files in the core, nor does it add rewrite rules. it simply intercepts page requests and works on any WordPress website. The wp-admin directory and wp-login.php page become inaccessible, so you should bookmark or remember the URL. Deactivating this plugin brings your site back exactly to the state it was before.   

All this plugin does is to rename your WordPress admin URL from www.yoursite.com/wp-admin to www.yoursite.com/a-word-you-like

I have it on all my websites. Nobody knows my admin URL either than me. Period.

I believe you can use it alongside any other WordPress security plugin.

It is quite tricky when you start using it – so make sure you remember the new admin URL you’ll like to use before activating it.

It does all I want it to do for me.

4. Speed is Key to your website

WordPress with its popularity comes with a price. And that price is web performance.

With so many different configurations out there WordPress can run quite slow if not set up correctly.

If your website or blog takes too long to load, you could be losing customers and money in the long run.

Google is now paying particular attention to mobile and has even incorporated page load times into its algorithm for use by mobile phones to access the web.

We will in the coming days cover a number of speed-enhancing WordPress techniques and tools in another post. However, let’s look at some must-have free WordPress plugins to increase our speed:

W3 Total Cache

must have free WordPress plugins - W3 Total Cache

Just like spamming, caching is something I love but hates to explain. What else can I say?

You don’t need to know how it works – just check the necessary boxes and improve your websites speed. That’s all.

This is a go-to plugin for many WordPress users when they seek to improve their page load times.

This feature-rich plugin just like other caching plugins can be tricky if you mess around with the advanced settings. You’re better off not tweaking any of the advanced settings unless you really know what you’re doing.

Many vouch for this essential free WordPress plugin as a speed booster when Fully configured.

Some Features:

  • Browser caching
  • Supports CDN
  • Minification
  • Database caching
  • Compatibility with various web hosting
  • Etc….

WP Super Cache

must have free WordPress plugins - super cache 

The twin brother of the W3 Total Cache plugin.

Another awesome choice if you want an alternative caching plugin.

WP Super Cache will have almost all the features and benefits of its twin brother W3 Total Cache. You don’t need both – activating one will be enough for the purpose.

The greatest news is that this must have free WordPress plugins are FREE to use.

Which one should you go for?

Just like I disappointed you with the security plugins – you can imagine what I’m up to here.

For your information, I don’t use any of the two plugins but I use a third option called Autoptmize.

Why I use Autoptmize

 

must have free WordPress plugins - autoptmise

If I quite remember, I needed a functionality a couple of years ago, that the two aforementioned caching plugins couldn’t offer me at that time. Then someone recommended Autoptmize to me.

Since then I’ve not looked back. The main reason I’m including it on the list of must have free WordPress plugins.

5. Optimize for Search Engines – Google loves SEO

So you have a website which is not optimized for search, then, I’m sorry – you only have an online brochure or newspaper.

If you didn’t hear that right – let me reframe it.   

If you don’t have a conversion driven website, then forget about web development or web design as a career.

Why?

This is because you’ll have a number of clients as usual but with time your services may not be needed.

If a client needs to tell customers that he or she has a website, then your work is half done. It’s your duty to upsell SEO services to clients – only until they say NO.

Imagine a website a beautifully designed website, with all your products and services and very attractive images or videos to retain visitors.

Sounds great, right?

But, if this website is not found in search engine results or does not get enough visitors, then what is the use of such an asset?

A billboard or signpost!

You cannot rely on a handful of visitors who come from the exact website URL. This makes it crucial that you bring in more visitors and attention from search engine results.

With SEO, you need to do keyword research for your client’s industry, probably write a keyworded blog post, do serious outreach and link building etc…

Optimizing your website for search means people can put in queries in google and your website will pop up to serve the purpose of the user’s visit.

SEO is quite complicated and I’m not going to attempt to lecture in any way but putting the right mechanisms in place like a third party plugin is the first step to upping your SEO game.  

Yoast SEO

must have free WordPress plugins - yoast seo

Yoast SEO is an all-in-one SEO plugin that lays the SEO foundation for your WordPress based website.

It is the only must have free WordPress plugins on SEO I’ll recommend even though there are other awesome WordPress plugins with similar traits.

This is because SEO is complicated and it takes some time to get to know even one of the plugins.

Yoast SEO is available as a free and premium version.

I’m not in anyway saying a plugin will be all you need to do SEO but it goes a long way as a foundation to do the real SEO work.

A third party plugin like Yoast SEO can help you set up a number of necessary details. Here are some features if you care to know:

What Yoast SEO does you:

  • Add better titles and meta descriptions for your website pages.
  • Manage social media preview on how your page will look when shared
  • Helps to write SEO friendly content based on Google’s webmaster rules.
  • Helps to avoid duplicate content by setting canonical URLs to prevent Google penalties.

There are more features by Yoast SEO that helps to build SEO friendly websites. With this, you can rank higher in SERPs and bring in more traffic to your website.

Everybody hates Yoast SEO for one thing – advertising. However, they’re a trusted partner because of their popularity at what they do best – SEO and their active contribution to the WordPress community.

Conclusion

Your Turn

Do you have some must have free WordPress plugins that you think need to be on this list? Feel free to share with us in the comments below. It may be added to the list during another update.

Remember your comments is my oxygen.

Let’s hear from you.

share your thoughts and inspirations with us.

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Nelson is a developer, marketer, and digital strategist. He enjoys helping entrepreneurs, business leaders and professionals like YOU get customized advice, tools, and resources needed to win online whiles you focus on what really matters to your business. Keen on helping Ghanaians become digital nomads. Nelson shares what he is learning, and unlearning.
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