Essential and Free Plugins for WordPress Beginners

November 13, 2018
by Laura

The plugin functionality on WordPress is one of it's best features, allowing you to turn your website into whatever you want it to be without ever touching code. So what are the best must-have plugins for WordPress beginners? Following on from my post last week where I took you through the WordPress menu, I've compiled the plugins I recommend for new WordPress users. These will add additional functionality, provide extra security, avoid spam comments and help with search engine optimisation (SEO).

So let's dive into my top 10 must have plugins for WordPress beginners!

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is the last word in SEO plugins. The functionality of this plugin, especially considering it’s free, is honestly beyond. Even if SEO isn’t a priority for you right now (why not?), this plugin should be the first one you install. Yoast enables Open Graph (the protocol that ensures your webpage appears correctly across social media), and functions as a site map for search engine indexation. You can also edit the meta description and title of every page and post, to encourage Google and other search engines to display the most relevant content (you know that little blurb that shows up on the search results page? That’s the meta description!)

Insert headers and footers

Easily insert code directly into your headers and footers without having to access your site’s theme files. This means any code you insert will be carried with you if you change themes without needing to add it again. This is helpful for adding Google Analytics tracking codes, Pinterest and Search Console verification codes, and embedding fonts from Google Fonts!

Akismet anti-spam

If you’ve got a blog on your website, sooner or later you will encounter spam comments. While there are settings in WordPress that mean nothing is posted to your site without being approved by you, Akismet helps you skip this step altogether. It automatically detects spam comments and isolates them away before they’ve even bothered you. So super helpful, and free for non-commercial websites!

Elementor

Elementor is a blessing. It’s a page builder that basically turns WordPress into a drag and drop website (much like Weebly or Squarespace but without the pricetag). As a result, you have complete control over how every page on your site looks, without ever having to learn code. There are quite a lot of page builders out there, and my favourite is actually WPBakery Page Builder. But Elementor is the best free one I’ve found and the one I recommend for clients on a budget!

Simple Share Buttons

If you want your blog visitors to share your content on their own social media, you have to make it easy for them! This plugin lets them share your posts to their preferred social media platform with the click of a button!

Loginizer

Loginizer is a security app that protects your website against brute force attack. It works by blocking an IP address from accessing your website after they’ve entered the wrong password a certain number of times. Websites are very vulnerable to brute force attacks (which is why a very complicated and secure password is highly recommended), so don’t put yourself in the potential position of losing all your hard work to aggressive hackers!

Wordfence

Another security app, Wordfence is a firewall and malware scanner that actively searches for, blocks or isolates compromised files on your site. It notes and blocks malicious IP addresses, can require two-step verification for logins (premium feature), and monitors any potential vulnerabilities in your theme and other plugins. Wordfence regularly sends out notifications to users when a plugin is out of date (which can be a security issue), and actively monitors plugin updates and code for security violations and vulnerabilities.

WP Super Smush Image Compression and Optimization

You should 100% always be resizing your images before uploading them to your website to ensure your website can load at an optimal speed (I also recommend compressing them first as well using a service such as compressor.io or compressjpeg.com). WP Smush takes this another step further and provides additional compression to images uploaded to your site without sacrificing quality! A website that loads quickly is essential for good SEO, so ensuring your images aren’t massive is more important than you might think.

WP Super Cache

Still on website search engine optimisation and speedy load times, a caching plugin can help with this as well. Basically the plugin will save a cached version of your website that it will serve to new users so they don’t have to download the full website everytime. It can compress entire pages so they’re served to your visitors even faster, promoting a positive browsing experience!

UpDraft Plus WordPress Backup Plugin

Even though your web host (Siteground, Bluehost, Go Daddy etc) will run regular backups of your website, it may be worthwhile running them yourself as well. Relying on your host can be troublesome if you lose access due to non-payment. UpDraft runs regular backups as per your preferred schedule and saves them to your DropBox, Google Drive or other cloud based storage system. If you ever break your site or lose it due to brute force attack, this backup may be a lifesaver!

BONUS Plugins

OK so I had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten, so I've thrown in two extra plugins that may not be essential for everyone, but do provide much needed functionality for certain circumstances!

Ginger - EU Law

EDIT 13/11/19: Ginger plugin has been taken down and flagged as a security risk. Please uninstall this plugin if you're currently using it! I now recommend Osano instead, for all your compliance needs.

This bonus plugin is for businesses or blogs that are operating within the EU and / or businesses or blogs that have EU residents visiting their website. This plugin can assist in helping you become GDPR compliant, by requesting visitors accept the cookies your website collects. As always, seek independent legal advice for your own situation in achieving GDPR compliance.

Redirection

Our second bonus plugin is an easy to use 301 redirect tool. If you’ve changed domain names, deleted pages or categories, edited URL’s or changed the structure of your permalinks, Redirection is an easy way to avoid those pesky 404 Page Not Found errors. 404 errors are frustrating for users and can impact your SEO negatively, so I consider this a must have!

Do you have any other plugins you swear by as a WordPress user? Let me know in the comments below.

If you'd like more hands-on help with your WordPress website, please get in touch! I'd love to meet you.

Cheers,

Laura x

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I acknowledge the First Nations people as the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and work, i.e. Meanjin, Brisbane. Sovereignty was never ceded.
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