7 Must Have Free WordPress Plug-Ins
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I have created a lot of small business WP websites over the past several years, trying out a lot of different plugins.
If you have a self-hosted WordPress (WP) website or are thinking about creating one then you need to incorporate plugins to run your site. Amazingly there are quite a few free WordPress plugins that have stood the test of time. We all know how quickly technology changes, take cell phones for instance. By the time you fork over hundreds of dollars and buy a brand new smart phone it’s already obsolete, the next generation being in production and another version is being developed. For the life of me I will never understand why people would spend so much money on a bleeping phone. Anyway, WordPress users are lucky when it comes to creating awesome websites since there are a ton of free plugins available from the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. (WordPress is an Open Source project.)
What exactly are WP plug-ins and why do you need them? WP plugins are small programs or bits of software that make your website better. They can be added to extend, enhance and expand the functionality of a site. If you can think of something to make your website better, somebody probably already created a plug-in for you to use.
There are thousands of free plugins to choose from, but be careful, not all of them are being maintained properly and some of them don’t play nice with others. Sometimes a plugin’s code will get in the way of another plugin, causing compatibility issues, that’s where a paid plugin might come into play. Plugins that you pay a fee for usually offer full time support and their developers work hard to maintain the security and compatibility of plugins with the latest WP version, themes and other plugins. Over time plugins can become obsolete and some maintenance is required as your site grows.
Here’s another bit of advice. Before you go into your Plugins folder on your WP dashboard to download something new always, always, always back up your database. 99% of the time the download of a new plugin will go without a glitch, but there is always a chance that something might go wrong. Unless you’re a programmer and know your way around the various datebases, your hosting site, etc. always create a back up before using a new plugin.
Now, let’s take a look at the Plug-ins that I install in every one of my own and my customers websites.
Since backups are so very important I will start with the backup plugin BackWPup Free. This plugin can be used to save your complete installation and push them to an external Backup Service, like Dropbox, S3, FTP and many more. There has been a few times now that we would have lost a lot of data if it hasn’t been for this nifty plugin. There is some set up before you can start creating backups and do remember to test your backups before you need them. Tips: I always create two backups (to ‘folder’ and ‘ftp’) of the database, plug-in list and files. If your files get too large you will have to break them down into several jobs.
2. WP Super Cache
This is a very fast caching engine for WP sites. The WP Super Cache plugin generates static html files from your dynamic WordPress blog. After the html files is generated your webserver will serve those files instead of processing the comparatively heavier and more expensive WordPress PHP scripts. There is a one-time set up procedure in order for the plugin to work properly. Read this easy to follow ‘Beginners Guide‘ for a step by step walk through set up and installation.
Incredible one in all plugin with a ton of features. Check it out and pick the ones that are right for you. That’s one of the reasons I like this plugin, you don’t have to use everything or every feature in the plugin, you actually have a choice! Jetpack now comes already installed when you create a new WP website, all you have to do is activate it and link to a WordPress.com account. Don’t like any of it? Simply deactivate the plugin.
- Customization. Make your WordPress site uniquely yours with Custom CSS, Carousels, spam-free Contact Forms, Sidebar Widgets, Infinite Scroll, and Tiled Galleries.
- Mobile theme. Instant and customizable lightweight responsive theme designed for phones and tablets.
- Content tools. Create and publish richer content with Post by Email, Shortcode Embeds, Markdown, Beautiful Math, Spelling, and VideoPress.
- Visitor engagement. Increase your traffic and keep visitors coming back with Enhanced Distribution, spam-free Comments, Shortlinks, Likes, Notifications, Related Posts, Publicize, Social Sharing, Subscriptions, and Site Verification Tools.
- Site performance. Speed up image delivery with the Photon CDN and access to visitor Stats.
- Security. Keep your WordPress site up, safe, and protected with Single Sign On, Jetpack Monitor, and Akismet anti-spam.
4. Login Lockdown
Anyone landing on your Admin page can try to login to your site with as many incorrect attempts as they want. Login Lockdown limits the number of attempts someone can login from a given IP range within a certain time period. This simple plug-in adds an easy to configure layer of security to your site preventing hackers from a force attack of your login page.
5. Broken Link Checker
The name of this plugin says it all! Broken Link Checker will monitor your site looking for broken links and lets you know if any are found. You can then edit the URL, remove the link completely, mark it as “not broken” if it was detected incorrectly or dismiss it to get the ‘strike-through’ effect for broken links. As your site grows you will not have time to check every link to see if it’s still working properly, that’s why this is an important plugin.
6. All In One SEO Pack
There are many great SEO plugins available, All In One SEO Pack is the one I have used for years now and have never had any issues with. It is very easy to use and effective. Activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress, visit your SEO options (All in One SEO – General Settings), configure any options as desired, and then enable the plugin. That’s it! All in One SEO Pack allows you to display the SEO title, keywords, description on all pages and posts and lets you check or un-check various other settings like Robots Meta NOINDEX, Exclude From Sitemap, etc.
I started using this plugin about two years ago. WP-Optimize is an extensive WordPress database cleanup and optimization tool. Every time you save a post or page update, WP will create a revision of it. You might end up with a ton of revisions, for example, if you have a post which is approximately 100KB data and you have 5 revisions of that post, the total space wasted is about 500KB. And if you have 100 posts similar to it, you have 50MB database space wasted. That’s a lot of wasted database space. This plugin will not just clean out revisions, but delete spam and unapproved comments as well as and shrink any wasted space in database tables.
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this article, there are thousands of plug-ins to choose from and I truly believe these 7 free WP plugins are a must have for every small business website.
If you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in a free version or it just doesn’t work for you, there are also ‘Paid Plug-ins’ available. The developers will charge a monthly or yearly fee and in return they offer much better support and additional features.
Do you use a WP plug-in that you can’t live without? Please share in the comment section below.
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