In this post, we’ll look at 10 essential free WordPress plugins covering 10 different categories, from security and SEO to social media and image optimization.
With so many great (and not so great) plugins available, choosing the right ones can be an overwhelming task. However, you can save yourself a lot of time and effort with this list of the essentials to help you get your website up and running as quickly as possible.
Essential WordPress Plugins
1. Comment Spam Prevention
We touched on spam protection briefly in the contact forms section, stating how Visual Form Builder includes a verification field to stop your contact forms from being abused by automated spammers. As anyone with a WordPress blog already up and running should know, almost as soon as your site goes live it will start receiving a steady stream of unwanted spam comments, which only increases over time.
Thankfully there are a few services and plugins you can use to stem the tide of comment spam and avoid your site being turned into a link farm. Of these options, one of the first plugins you should activate on a new website is Akismet.
This plugin integrates the free (for personal use) Akismet comment spam prevention service with your WordPress site to direct suspicious looking comments straight into your spam folder. While the Akismet plugin is now pre-installed with WordPress, you still need to sign up for an account and activate the plugin on your site.
2. Database and File Backup Plugins
BackUpWordPress – BackUpWordPress will back up your entire site including your database and all your files on a schedule that suits you.
Even if your website is safe and secure from hackers, it’s essential that you have a backup solution in place. Unintentional user error can be just as devastating as a planned malicious attack, so don’t delay when it comes to setting up regular scheduled backups on your website.
BackWPup is my free backup plugin of choice. It’s a great option as it can automatically deliver your backups to a range of external destinations. This includes Dropbox, SugarSync, S3, or an FTP server. You can set your own backup schedule, and your site can be restored from the backup archive at any point.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
All in One SEO Pack – Out-of-the-box SEO for your WordPress blog. Install the all in one SEO pack or the “WordPress SEO by Yoast” plugin (you don’t need to install both).
WordPress SEO by Yoast – Yoast’s all in one SEO solution for your WordPress blog: SEO titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs & much more.
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin generates an XML-Sitemap compliant sitemap of your WordPress blog. This format is supported by Ask.com, Google, YAHOO, and MSN Search. The SEO plugins listed above can also do the sitemap for you.
4. Blog Security Plugin
All In One WP Security & Firewall – The All In One WordPress Security and Firewall is the ultimate security plugin that will take your WordPress site’s security to a whole new level.
BulletProof Security – BulletProof security plugin offers website security protection against XSS, RFI, CRLF, CSRF, Base64, Code Injection and SQL Injection.
Wordfence Security – The Wordfence WordPress security plugin provides free enterprise-class WordPress security.
5. Caching WordPress Plugins
W3 Total Cache – The fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin. After you use the w3 total cache plugin you won’t go back to using WP Super Cache.
WP Super Cache – WP Super Cache is a static caching plugin for WordPress. It generates HTML files that are served directly by Apache without processing comparatively heavy PHP scripts. By using this plugin you will speed up your WordPress blog significantly.
6. Contact Forms Related
Contact Form 7 – Contact Form 7 can manage multiple contact forms, plus you can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup. The form supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA, Akismet spam filtering, and so on.
Contact Form – The Contact Form plugin allows you to implement a feedback form to a web-page or a post in no time.
Gravity Forms – Build and publish your WordPress forms in just minutes. No drudgery, just quick and easy form-building.
7. Social Networking
Social Media and Share Icons – Social media plugin which adds social media icons to your website with tons of customization features
Share This – This is a very useful plugin that allows your visitors to share a post/page with others. Supports e-mail and posting to social bookmarking sites.
Fat-Free WordPress Social Share Buttons Plugin – This is a very simple and FAT-FREE share button plugin that adds Google plus one, Facebook and Twitter share buttons to your blog posts.
8. Photo Gallery Plugin
NextGen Gallery – The most popular WordPress photo gallery plugin.
Simple Photo Gallery – If you are looking for an effective, reliable, yet simple to use photo gallery plugin, then check this gallery plugin out. I use it whenever I need a photo gallery plugin.
9. For Google Adsense
Simple Google Adsense insertion – Easy to use a WordPress plugin to insert Google Adsense to your posts, pages, and sidebar.
Google Adsense Plugin – Google AdSense Plugin allows you to set parameters of the ads displaying, such as format (text ad, image, text with an image or link), size, color of the elements in the ad block, rounded corners and the ad block position on the website.
Google Adsense – The AdSense Plugin enables you to easily use Google’s products – including Webmaster Tools – with your WordPress site.
10. Best Related Posts Plugin
Yuzo – Related Posts is highly recommended as it can display related posts to your stories with different features of text and image size. Best of all, it doesn’t slow down the site.
Inline Related Posts – Displays related articles inline with your content instead of below the articles.
Manual Related Posts – This plugin allows you to manually add related posts to a post.
Many consider Yet Another Related Posts Plugin (YARPP) to be the best post related plugin with one of the most complete algorithms to find related posts. The con is that it can be very resource-intensive for a heavy site, and that’s why we don’t rever to it as the best here.
Please suggest your favorite WordPress plugins through the comment area below. So I can check them out and possibly add them to this useful WordPress plugins list.