WordPress, what a CMS right? So many available plugins, themes, and tutorials. More than 27% of world websites are powered by a WordPress CMS. A staggering statistic which kinda indicates the level of functionality and flexibility it offers to webmasters. A complete website solution with an easy-to-use aura surrounding it.
Chances are that while you are reading this another WordPress website has been launched into the vast ocean of information we call the Internet. Hell, you’ve probably reached this article by researching about WordPress after hearing that Joe from high school is making tons of money with his WordPress sites.
WordPress is that present, yes.
So what can you as a potential or existing WordPress webmaster can do about your website? Well, improve it of course. Optimize it so it loads faster for your end users. No one wants to wait for even 3 seconds for a website to load. Make it user-friendly, SEO friendly.
Plugins for WordPress can be crucial in achieving the heaven that is a perfectly-optimized-website. Of course, the server must be optimized, but plugins can help a lot in minimizing images, caching data etc…
So in this article, we will cover the top 8 must have free plugins for a WordPress site.
WordFence is a great security plugin with lots of features. It has over 22 million downloads and it’s easily the most popular WordPress security plugin. It is an open source plugin but a Premium version is also available. Wordfence Security is Multi-Site compatible and includes Cellphone Sign-in which permanently secures your WordPress website from brute force hacks.
Let’s list some of WordFence features:
- Web Application Firewall;
- Threat Defense Feed;
- Block common WordPress security threats.
- Real-time blocking of known attackers;
- Block entire malicious networks;
- Rate limit or block WordPress security threats.
WordPress Login Security
- Sign-in using your password and your cell phone to vastly improve login security;
- Enforce strong passwords among administrators, publishers, and users which improves login security;
- Login security to lock out brute force hacks;
- Scans core files, themes and plugins against WordPress.org repository versions to check their integrity;
- Scans for many known backdoors that create security holes such as R57, RootShell, Matamu, Cybershell, W4cking, Sniper, Predator, Dive, Dx etc…;
- Continuously scans for malware and phishing URLs.
- See all your traffic in real-time, including robots, humans, 404 errors, logins and logouts;
- A real-time view of all traffic including automated bots;
- Real-time traffic that includes reverse DNS and city-level geolocation;
You can easily install WordFence from your WordPress dashboard by navigating to Plugins -> Add New.
Using this plugin is also a good security practice for WordPress. It gives you a two-factor authentication using the Google Authenticator app for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. When installed the plugin settings appear in User -> Profile.
A secret key can be generated from the settings after which you can download the free Google Authenticator app on your phone and enter the secret key to connect the app to your WordPress site.
You can greatly improve your website security with Google Authenticator.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
Yoast SEO or as previously known as WordPress SEO by Yoast is probably the most complete solution for WordPress SEO plugin that ever existed. It includes a snippet editor, real time page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps and tons of optimization options in between.
By using the snippet preview you can see a rendering of what your post or page will look like in search results. Check whether your title is too long or short, whether your meta description is good in terms of a search result etc…
You can do page analysis with the plugin. That functionality checks for things that usually users forget. For instance, it checks whether you have images in your post, whether the images have alt tags containing the focus keyword for that post. It checks whether the posts are long enough, did you write a meta description and if that description contains your keyword.
With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can control which pages Google is showing in the search results.
You can create XML sitemaps with the plugin and much more.
Find more features and screenshot at the plugin WordPress page.
It’s always important to have a working backup of your WordPress site. You never know when you will need to quickly restore your site functionality by rolling back to a working install. A great and functional backup plugin for WordPress is BackUpWordPress.
It will back up your entire site including your database and all your files on a schedule that suits you.
- Super simple to use, no setup required;
- Works in low memory, “shared host” environments;
- Managing multiple schedules;
- Option to have each backup file emailed to you;
- Use of zip and mysqldump for faster backups if they are available on the server;
- Works on Linux & Windows;
- Option to exclude files and folders from your backups;
This plugin can also be installed from the WP dashboard.
Your site is finally up and running with an excellent post to match your niche. However, the speed tests you are making are showing that your images need compressing.
To remedy this, you can use the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin. It will automatically optimize your images as you upload them, convert the images to a file format that will produce the smallest images size and optimize the already uploaded images.
Reasons to use EWWW Image Optimizer:
- Your pages will load faster because smaller image sizes mean faster page loads;
- Less bandwidth usage due to optimized images which will save you hundreds of KB per image;
- Super fast;
- Best JPG optimization;
- Best PNG optimization;
- Optimize everything with the wp_image_editor class extension.
By using this plugin, your site speed will definitely improve.
Part of having an optimized site is using a good caching mechanism. W3 Total Cache is exactly that. A plugin that improves the user experience of your site by increasing website performance, reducing download times via features like content delivery network (CDN) integration.
It has over 1 million installations and is trusted by companies such ass AT&T, Mashable, MakeUseOf.com etc…
Benefits in using W3 Total Cache:
- Improvements in search engine result page rankings;
- Great improvement in overall site performance;
- Improved conversion rates;
- Browser caching;
- Optimized progressive render;
- Reduced page load time;
- Improved web server performance;
W3 Total Cache can also be configured with CloudFlare and MaxCDN altogether which makes it a must-have WordPress plugin.
Social media nowadays is the main platform for sharing information so your site presence there is of critical importance. No matter what content your WordPress site will have, the articles must be shared on social networks. And luckily for you, WordPress has a plethora of available plugins for this.
One of the best free social share plugins is: Share Buttons by AddThis.
Your readers can easily share your website content on the most popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more.
You can position the share buttons above or below your content. Choose between different button styles and sizes, include share counts to encourage your visitors to share and much more.
Over the years I’ve met customers setups that involved many WordPress websites scattered on different servers. These setups albeit secure, do not have a centralization management platform which can cause headaches if there are many WordPress sites with only one administrator to care for them.
This is where a great plugin called MainWP comes. It is the only free and self-hosted WordPress management plugin available. MainWP is the perfect solution for affiliates, marketers, developers, WordPress shops and anyone else with multiple WordPress sites.
With MainWP you get many excellent features few of which are:
- Easy Management – Manage all your sites themes and plugins with ease. The dashboard of the plugin allows easy review of which of your sites have themes and plugins ready for an upgrade.
- One Click Access – Accessing all your WP sites is easy with MainWP. You can navigate to your sites sub-menus and menus with few clicks.
- Abandoned Plugin and Theme Alerts – Some themes or plugins get abandoned by their developers and are not upgraded. MainWP will alert you of possibly abandoned plugins or themes so you can take the required measures.
- Content Management – From the MainWP dashboard, you can easily publish content to sites by picking the respective website from the list, write the content and then publish without having to go through the hassle of logging into each site.
We even have a great article written for WordPress and MainWP which you can check here.
What makes WordPress an exquisite CMS solution is the plethora of available plugins and themes that help a lot in customizing a website. In this article, we’ve covered the ones that we consider as crucial for a functioning and optimized WordPress website.