9 free essential WordPress plugins you need to install
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When you use WordPress, using plugins is essential to extend the functionality within WordPress. There are tens of thousands of plugins, which can make choosing the right ones difficult.
Some plugins you need on your site will depend on the type of site you are running. For example, e-commerce or membership sites will need specific plugins you won’t need if you are only running a blog.
This blog post covers some essential plugins needed in any type of site.
Every site should have a means for the reader to contact the site owner. One of the most common ways of doing this is through a contact form. Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular contact form plugins for WP. It includes all basic features, and it’s easy to use and customise.
Optin forms allow you to display a small form to capture the reader’s contact details. This form is normally used to start an e-mail list. There are different types of contact forms; some of them can be pop-ups or slides but the most simple version is a static contact form you can enter on one or several locations on the page. This is an example from my webpage:
Most free plugins for optin forms provide a set of pre-defined form designs with limited customisation options. I have tried several plugins to create my optin form and I’ve found that this one provides a simple format I can easily customise. It allows you to change colours, fonts, text, etc.
If you want to promote your blog in social media, you need a social media plugin to insert sharing buttons for the different social media platforms. This is a free plugin that adds social sharing buttons to your posts for a huge number of social sharing sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Linkedin and many more.
There are many social sharing plugins, but most of them offer a free version with limited features which normally means that the free version only works for two or three social media platforms and you need to buy the full version if you want to use any other platforms.
Images are a very important part of your blog but can take a lot of space and slow down your site if you don’t optimise them properly. Optimising your images means re-sizing them to fit the location they have on the page and also using optimisation software to compress them and reduce their size as much as possible. This plugin is an image compression and optimisation plugin that will optimise your images automatically as you upload them.
The Yoast SEO plugin is a great aid for checking your website SEO. Yoast SEO checks your website content, looking at keyword optimisation, links, readability, titles, URL names and meta descriptions. Yoast uses a traffic light system to display areas that are working well in green and problem areas in orange or red. The visual aspect of the tool makes it easy to identify problems quickly.
W3 Total Cache is a website optimisation plugin that allows you to improve your website performance. Improving website speed will improve user experience and SEO ranking. This plugin allows you to cache your site’s content and use gzip compression among other features.
This plugin provides you with a number of options to improve your site’s speed. Using Autoptimize’s free options only, my site’s speed improved from 53 to 75 for mobile in PageSpeed Insights and the load time decreased by 1s in Pingdom. So installing this plugin can quickly improve your load speed with minimal effort.
This plugin allows you to see statistics for your pages and posts directly within your WP installation.
WP V5.0 and onwards comes with the new Gutenberg editor https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/. If you are used to the old editor and don’t want to move to Gutenberg, you can install this plugin. I tried Gutenberg but found that it was taking me longer to format my blog posts as I found it harder to add blank spaces between different parts of the content to improve the format of the page. Please note that any blog posts you write with Gutenberg will continue using this editor even after you install the Classic Editor plugin.
In summary, these are some essential plugins you should install on your site. You probably need to consider a few extra plugins depending on the functionality you want to provide on your site, but you should definitely consider all the plugins on this list.