Before we get started, let’s answer a few questions for those who are just started and don’t know a thing about plugins.
What is a plugin?
A plugin is a software that adds functionality and features to your website. Think of apps on android phones and how boring and useless they will be without them. So plugins are kind of like apps for your WordPress website.
Why are plugins important?
They add functionality to your website. Because without them, it’s almost impossible to operate a healthy website. Some important plugins should be installed like security and anti-spam etc. Think of essential pre-installed apps on your phone like messages, contact, calendar, etc.
“Okay, but how do I know which plugins I should install?”
It depends on what website you are trying to build. Some plugins will be useful for e-commerce and some will be useful for personal blogs etc.
There is a plugin for everything you can think of in terms of websites. WordPress has more than 55,000 plugins so it can be overwhelming and confusing as you don’t know which of these you actually need.
You can overdo it sometimes.
Trust me, been there done that.
Also installing too many plugins slows down your website which is a big no-no. You need to aim for the best functionality and fast speed of your website.
A rule of thumb is to not exceed more than 20 plugins on your site. Of course, it can be more or less depending upon your experience and how well you know how to manage them. Some even use 50 and do okay. So don’t bound yourself with these numbers and do what’s best for your site.
But remember nothing is worth compromising your site’s speed over.
Also Read: Why My First Blog Failed | 14 Mistakes I Did
1. AKISMET ANTI-SPAM
It is a plugin that protects your site from spam. There are thousands of spam comments on sites every second. Akismet anti-spam plugin automatically deletes all of that trash and keeps your site clean.
And if by accident a comment or two is left unfiltered, you can manually mark it as spam so that they include that in their databases. It’s a must-have for all sites.
One of the first things I did was to install it before anything else.
Sucuri is a security plugin that protects your site from malware and other related nuisances. Also, they provide email notifications if something unusual happens to your site to keep you updated. Paid plans include firewall protection to keep your site safe from brute force and malicious threats.
Another alternative to Sucuri would be Wordfence. It’s very similar to Sucuri and many people have different opinions as to what suits them. Some say Wordfence slows their sites and others are pretty okay with it. But these two would be the best free plugins for WordPress sites in terms of security.
3. UPDRAFT PLUS
It is a very essential plugin that backs up your site. Never leave this important step. Just like backing up your phone data is very important so is backing up your site. Updraft plus handles all that for you. It schedules your backups so that in unforeseen circumstances your most important data is backed up in cloud storage. It has over 3 million currently active installations.
4. RANK MATH
No matter what kind of site you are building, SEO optimization is a must. Rank math is an SEO plugin that provides you with the necessary tools to attract traffic to your site. It lets you customize SEO search settings like meta description, and meta title and guides you where keywords are necessary on each blog post. You can also check how each blog post will look on the search engine results page (SERPs), in rich snippets, and even when shared on social media.
Its close alternative would be the famous Yoast SEO plugin. It is a very powerful and amazing SEO plugin. It also comes with XML Site map support which is a very important feature to have. Otherwise, you would have to install another plugin for it which isn’t very ideal.
The only downside is that its readability and suggestions are just…suggestions. It’s a very beginner-friendly plugin I won’t lie but after some time its suggestions kind of start to irk. A similar example would be peer pressure. If you can ignore those, then great!
Elementor is a page-building plugin. You can build and design your site to your liking. If there is something of your theme that you don’t like you can customize it through Elementor. Website builders use it a lot to build high-end sites.
It’s a very great plugin to have and what is even best is that it’s a drag-and-drop page builder. So no coding knowledge is required. It eased my life a lot but your preferences could be different. It’s not a very essential plugin to have like the security ones. If you feel that your theme’s customization is enough, you can wait and see before installing it.
Also Read: Best Free Themes for your WordPress Blog
Another alternative to it would be BEAVER BUILDER. It is also an amazing page builder plugin. I, however, found Elementor very easy to use.
It’s a plugin that helps you check your site’s analytics and stats from Google Analytics. Monterinsights connects your site to Google Analytics which shows you from A to Z how people find and use your website. And based on the data you plan and execute your business strategy. It’s just that simple.
Now the question may arise what if you want to track your analytics directly from Google analytics without the plugin?
It is possible but you would need to have coding knowledge and would need to dive a bit deeper into the files. Honestly having a plugin for it is much much easier.
Pro tip: Also Connect Google Search Console (it is not a plugin) with your site for even better results and data. Thank me later.
7. WP SUPER CACHE
It’s one of many essential plugins to have. WP Super Cache stores temporary CSS files, HTML pages, and other related things like web images onto your visitor’s web browser. This enables returning visitors to experience even faster site speed than when they first visited. The sever load speed increases, and of course, the faster the site’s speed the better the user experience thus more conversions.
It is super-efficient and one of the best free plugins for WordPress.
Another great alternative would be Cache Enabler. Remember you don’t need more than one plugin for this purpose.
8. WP FORMS
WP Forms is a drag-and-drop contact form builder plugin. It comes with pre-built templates for your convenience which are in my experience more than enough. They are mobile-friendly and also optimized for site speed. Pre-built templates include a contact form, marketing form, request a quote form, donation form, payment order form, registration form, or subscription form among many others.
Alternative: Contact form 7
Contact form 7 is also a very powerful plugin. It supports anti-spam filtering and also makes it easy for us to set up forms on posts and pages using shortcodes. But the key difference between the two is that WP forms are more focused on user-friendliness. Many people face a bit of a challenge when setting up contact forms on their website through Contact form 7.
It is a plugin for e-commerce websites. WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin that enables you to set up your store and sell your products online much like Shopify albeit with no monthly charges. Millions of stores are powered by WooCommerce online. It deserves to be included as one best free plugins for WordPress e-commerce websites. It also has paid extensions to further enhance your online store’s features. But a free plan is more than enough for beginners.
10. Compress JPEG & PNG images by TinyPNG
It is an image-optimizing plugin that automatically reduces the file size of your images to increase the site’s speed. You should never upload an image with a file size of over 100KB. Doing so would significantly decrease your site’s efficiency.
TinyPNG does the work for you. Whatever images you see on the sites are already optimized either by a plugin or by external means. TinyPNG comes with 500 free image uploads per month after which it starts charging. If you don’t upload too many images then it may be the right pick for you. It is also WooCommerce supported and there is no file size limit unlike many plugins of the same niche.
Other alternative plugin would be reSmush.it, Optimole, and EWWW (yeah that’s an actual name lol)
TinyPNG also has an online site to compress images (free) for anyone who doesn’t want to use a plugin. But make sure to resize your image first. You can use Picmonkey.
Another great online alternative that handles both resizing and compressing: Pixlr
So, there you have it.
Always remember to install the security, backup, and anti-spam plugins on your site. You can later upgrade it to their premium plans for maximum protection and benefits. If not the ones mentioned here, then any other of your choice. But never leave this important step.