Or ‘My Top 11 Favorite FREE Plugins’

There are certain must-have plugins for WordPress that, in my opinion, every WordPress site should have, or at least an equivalent counterpart.  Some have to do with security, some with site speed, some with site usability, and some with statistics and analytics.

The plugins that I am listing here are all FREE plugins.  Many of them also have a paid premium version.  A lot of people, the maker community included, though, just can’t afford to start paying for plugins when they are starting their maker blog or personal blog.

These are the plugins that I use when starting any website.  There are some that I have upgraded to paid versions of the same plugin or to an alternate paid plugin.

I always install these as soon as the WordPress installation is complete.

My List of Must Have Plugins for WordPress

A Makers Guide to FREE Must Have Plugins for WordPress Click To Tweet

Akismet by Automattic

The Akismet plugin is so necessary that it actually comes pre-installed with WordPress.  What does it do?  Simply put, it keeps spam off your site.

Spam comments are a huge problem on the internet and getting worse.  The below image is from one of my wife’s blogs.

Akismet Stats

As you can see, there were almost 10,000 spam comments blocked by Akismet, just in the last six months.  Can you imagine how muddled up your comment section would be if there were 10,000 spam comments interspersed among the good comments?  It would mess up any sort of meaningful conversation with your followers.

This would also ruin your SEO for that page.  Comments unrelated to your post would be seen by Google as a negative and could lower your page rank.

This plugin ranks up there as one of the most important must have plugins for WordPress.

Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi

This plugin By Takayuki Miyoshi is a very popular plugin for creating forms on your site, including the ever popular Contact Form.  Everyone needs a Contact Form.

Contact forms tell your followers that you are willing to engage in private conversation with them, not just public comments on posts.  This is especially true if you are selling something on your site.

Contact forms can also cut down on the amount of spam that you would find in your inbox if you simply displayed your email address instead.

Jetpack by WordPress.com by Automattic

Jetpack is a suite of plugins all wrapped up into one.  However, there are two of these that I consider must have plugins for WordPress; Protect, and Site Stats.

Protect does just what its name implies.  It protects you from malicious login attempts (or brute force attacks) from would-be hackers.   The image below is from a previous website that I used to own.  As you can see, it has helped me to avoid having been hacked quite a few times.

Jetpack Protect

Site Stats, again, just as the name implies, gives you several stats for your site.  The nicest part of this plugin is that it displays a bar graph showing site visits, most viewed pages, and search terms people used to find your site, all on your WordPress dashboard.  It only gives you a few stats, but it is a good overview of your sites traffic.

Pre-Publish Post Checklist by Andrew Mead

Ok, so this one may not be a “must have” WordPress plugin, but I find myself not being able to write a blog post without it.  This plugin puts a checklist on the ‘Edit Post’ page for every post you write. The checklist only appears in the admin/back end of WordPress, so your visitors will never see it.

Basically, in the settings, you set up a master checklist that you want for every post you write.  You can also control what happens if you try to publish your post without having everything checked off.  There are 3 options:

  1. You can completely prevent the author from publishing their post.
  2. You show a warning to the author about incomplete checklist items, but they can still publish if they want.
  3. Or you can let the author publish without any warnings.

I choose number 2 on my sites so that I can disregard certain items if they don’t apply.

Some of the items I have on my checklist are:

  • Add featured image (1080×675)
  • Add min of 1 other image besides a featured image
  • End with question & “Leave a comment below”
  • “Green” YOAST SEO rating

I currently have 20 items on my list.  Being in the early stages of recovering from perfectionism, this plugin has saved me from several headaches.

SumoMe by SumoMe

SumoMe is a suite of tools that are all about growing your email list and social sharing.  If you want your website to be found by people, you can’t only rely on Google to send traffic your way.  Social media is a must for broadcasting your message.

The three tools in the suite that I think are must-have WordPress Plugins are:

  • Share – Makes it easy for people to share your content on a variety of social media outlets.  It adds that side bar of social media sharing icons that you see on the left side my Shoestring Woodworker site.
  • List Builder – A pop-up call to action to help collect email addresses.  The List Builder adds one of those annoying pop-ups that ask you for your email address.  Everyone hates these things but they are necessary to having a successful blog.
  • Image Share – An easy way for people to share your images to social media outlets.  This plugin adds social media share buttons to your images when a visitor hovers over one.

I used to use these on my sites, but I have since started using the Monarch and Bloom plugins from Elegant Themes since I have a lifetime membership and I am an affiliate there now.  Monarch and Bloom are premium plugins that do essentially the same thing but have a few more options to them, such as more control over the colors of the share icons.  You’ll notice that the share icons on this site match my themes colors.

Redirection by John Godley

This is a great plugin for monitoring 404 errors.  If you have ever changed the URL of a post or page that has already been crawled by google, or someone else may have linked to, you will need to create a 301 redirect so that Google or your visitor can find the new content.

Having bad links to your site without 301 redirects can be bad for your SEO.  The Redirection plugin is an easy way to create these redirects.

Because this is the second go-around for this web site, I needed to create a bunch of redirects since my old content is no longer here.

Revision Control by Dion Hulse

This plugin is one that I have only recently discovered.  If you write your posts in the WordPress editor and save your work often, (which is good practice, by the way), you might not know that every time you save your draft WordPress saves and entirely new version of your draft.

There really isn’t anything wrong with this, except that it can really increase the size of your database.  Having a bloated database can slow your site down, which can frustrate and lose visitors.

I have seen some of my posts that have over 50 revisions.  It simply isn’t necessary for me to retain all of those revisions.

The Revision Control plugin allows me to set the number of revisions to keep for posts and pages separately.  I have the max number of revisions set to 3 for both of them.

NOTE:  The downside of this using this plugin is that it is no longer being maintained.  As I write this post, it still seems to be working, but I am on the lookout for another one that has the same features and is being maintained.  If you know of a good plugin that does this please let me know in the comments below.

Updraft Plus Backup & Restoration by UpdraftPlus.com

This is another one of the most important must have plugins for WordPress.  You will always want to keep a backup of your site that exists someplace other than your where your site is hosted.

Updraft Plus Backup & Restoration is easy to set up and easy to use.  It is definitely one of those ‘set it and forget it’ plugins.  I have my site set up to backup my entire WordPress website and database once a week.  I have it backup my site to my free Dropbox account.

It runs automatically and then sends me an email when it is done.  Easy peasy 🙂

There are a variety of backup options, from manual to automatic, backup to Amazon S3 (or compatible), Dropbox, Google Drive, Rackspace Cloud, etc.  The list goes on.

I have never had to restore my site, so I really can’t speak to how well that works, however, the plugin has over 1800 reviews and has a 5-star rating, so it must work pretty well.

Wordfence Security by Wordfence

Just as the name implies, Wordfence Security is a Security plugin.  It will protect your WordPress site from all sorts of bad things.  It allows you to monitor in real time who or what is accessing your site at any given time.  If you find that someone is trying to hack into your site, Wordfence allows you to block them.

There are several blocking features, as well as login security features. It also will scan your site for malware and viruses.  It continuously monitors your site for threats.

It also has some caching features to help speed up your site.  I currently don’t use the caching because I already use WP Fastest Cache, but I do use the rest of the security features.

Wordfence is definitely one of the most important must have plugins for WordPress.

WP Fastest Cache by Emre Vona or W3 Total Cache by Frederick Townes

Speaking of caching, you will want your site to be the fastest it can be.  It seems that Google does take speed into account when ranking your site.   You can test the speed of your site at Google’s PageSpeed Insights.  It will usually recommend some form of caching for your site.

That’s where caching plugins come into play.  There are two plugins that I have used.  On my other sites, I use W3 Total Cache.  On this site, I use WP Fastest Cache.  It seems to kind of depend on the theme being used as to which plugin will give you the better score.  My sites seem to score in the high 80’s to low 90’s.  I don’t think that I have ever seen a score higher than 93.

Yoast SEO by Team Yoast

Last but not least is Yoast SEO.  This plugin, I believe, is one of the most important must have plugins for WordPress in this list.

This is a great plugin that will help you do the things that need to be done in order to make your site and page rank-able (not sure if that’s really a word, but oh well).

When writing posts or pages, the plugin will give you a red, orange, or green light depending on how well you are sticking to good SEO guidelines.  In addition to the lights, it gives you suggestions and reminders of what you should do.

Yoast SEO Suggestions

It will give you a preview of what your site will look like in a google search, which is completely modifiable.  You can also easily setup your meta tags for social media sharing.

Yoast SEO will also create an XML Sitemap for your site as well.  You will then need to submit that sitemap to Google so that they can properly index your site.

There is actually quite a bit more to this plugin, which I will cover in a future post.

Round up of Resources

A Makers Guide to FREE Must Have Plugins for WordPress Click To Tweet

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

There are a lot of other plugins out there, but the one’s that I have mentioned above, the must have plugins for WordPress, are the ones that I have found to be the most critical in having a successful website.  In my opinion, even if you don’t use the ones listed, you should at least use one that has equivalent functionality.

Are there must have plugins for WordPress that you find to be absolutely critical to a successful website?  Which ones?  Let me know in the comments below.

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