WordPress is one of the best content creation tools ever created. It’s free, easy to learn, easy to use, and endlessly flexible. That’s why so many affiliate marketers, solo professionals, bloggers, activists, dreamers and doers have adopted it.
If you’ve got a WordPress blog, the odds are good you’ve installed quite a few plugins already. But you may be missing out on some better ones. This assembly of free plugins was chosen according to what you need to do on your site, how well the plugins are rated and how recently they have been updated. I think you’ll find at least one gem in here, even if you’re a WordPress pro.
1) WordPress SEO by Yoast
Search engine optimization can seem hard to understand and difficult to keep up with. It’s intimidating, and there’s a serious risk you can hurt your business instead of help it if you do SEO wrong. Until you try using this plugin on your posts.
To use WordPress SEO, you literally click a button, and it will analyze your page and give you a basic rating for how well your post is optimized for the keyword you’ve chosen. You’ll see a green button if you’ve got a well-optimized page, or a yellow button if your page is “OK”. Red means a poorly optimized post. But don’t worry if you see yellow or red. The plugin will give you a specific list of things you need to do, ranked by their importance.
We all want our pages to get found and indexed. So use this simple, free sitemap plugin to help make that happen.
3) Disqus Comment System
Want to see Disqus in action? Scroll down to the bottom of this post. Disqus is used by the GetResponse blog, and thousands of other sites. If someone has commented on another blog that uses Disqus, they’ll already have a login to use on your site if they want to comment. Disqus also weeds out comment spam, which is essential if you’ve got a site with even a minimal presence online.
Just in case you don’t want to install Disqus, but you’re getting bombarded by comment spam, try Akismet. It’s also free, widely used, and really good at getting rid of thousands of spam comments, while preserving comments from actual people.
4) UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration
Most good backup options are paid, but UpdraftPlus is good enough to be a worthy competitor, even if it is free. UpdraftPlus can also migrate sites, which is a common task related to backups. If you don’t like UpdraftPlus, BackUpWordPress is a very close runner-up in terms of features, compatibility, ratings, how recently it’s been updated and how often they resolve support threads.
There are a number of good free WordPress security plugins. This appears to be the best, but several good WordPress sites have also said nice things about All in One Security & Firewall and WordFence. WordFence has 700,000 active installs; iThemes Security has 600,000. All in One Security & Firewall has only 100,000.
While iThemes has a lot of voices supporting it, WordFence has one really attractive feature: It also speeds up your site. A lot. Up to 50 times faster.
So how should you pick which plugin is best for you? See which one conflicts with your existing plugins. Both iThemes and WordFence are compatible with most of the major plugins, but you may be using something that still creates a snag. Security plugins are especially prone to these kinds of problems. For that reason, definitely do a backup before you install any plugin, but especially a security plugin.
This is take care of all the technical nuts and bolts of site speed optimization for you. 900,000 active installs can’t be wrong.
This plugin optimizes your site’s databases. Sound boring? Maybe… at least until you start seeing your site load faster.
Most sites are being badly slowed down by oversized images. Imsanity nips that problem in the bud: It automatically resizes and optimizes new images upon upload. Got a ton of old, oversized images? No problem: Imsanity can bulk-resize them.
Runner up for a free WordPress image resizer: EWWW Image Optimizer.
This lets you add a feature box to either your home page, or to any other page on your site. It’s a snap to install, easily customizable and works with GetResponse.
This is the best alternative for those of you who hate pop-ups. A scrolling opt-in box is nearly as effective as a pop-up, and less annoying.
11) Contact Form 7
Every site needs a contact form. This is the best free option. Features include CAPTCHAs, spam filtering with Akismet, and the ability to save submitted messages within your WordPress install.
As you know, Twitter and blogging are peas in a pod. That’s why Twitter is called “micro-blogging”. Keep these two in sync with this plugin, which includes the ability to set up Twitter cards.
There are dozens of plugins and tools to add social sharing buttons to your site. So why did I pick this one? It’s notoriously easy to use, light on load, and supports over a dozen different social platforms.
14) Click to Tweet
Want more social shares? Make it brain-dead easy to share your content. This plugin makes it that easy. Despite relatively few downloads, I’ve seen this plugin used on some of the smartest marketers’ blogs. It’s giving them an edge, but you can get it too.
In addition to the static sharing buttons, it’s a good idea to have a scrolling social share bar. I like this one because it’s minimalistic, won’t slow your site and is super easy to use.
Sell ebooks or manage downloads
If you want to make a profit off your blog, the single best way is to start creating products. Sure, AdSense and affiliate programs are good, too, but products are better. This plugin makes selling products really easy.
If Easy Digital Downloads doesn’t work for you, try Download Manager.
To manage advertising
Whether you’re advertising your own products and services, or someone else’s, it’s good to have a way to manage what you’re promoting. This is not as highly rated as I would like, but it appears to be best of class for free ad manager plugins.
I saw this plugin again and again while I was checking some top Internet marketing gurus’ sites for a recent article. With so many smart marketers using this, plus 200,000 other active installs, it seems like it’s worth a look.
Having a popular posts list is an excellent way to help lure new visitors into reading more of your posts.
Want to know the hardest thing about blogging? It’s maintaining a consistent publishing schedule. Editorial calendars make that much easier.
This is not the only editorial calendar plugin. But it is free, widely used, recently updated, highly rated, and very easy to use. There’s another free editorial calendar plugin called EditFlow. Some people have sung it’s praises within the last six months, but I’m a little leery of it because it hasn’t been updated in over a year.
20) Yop Poll
I’ve used this plugin to get very interesting feedback from visitors. You can also see where they’re at in their understanding about a given topic. It’s easy to set up, has few to no conflicts, great ratings and is customizable. Using polls also makes visitors more likely to stay on your site.
21) Your favorite free WordPress plugin.
Tell us what it is in the comments.