WordPress pretty much runs the internet. Originally started as a blogging tool, it has evolved into a powerful website builder and a robust content management system (CMS). Today, it powers a whopping 32.3% of all websites on the internet. Here are a few fun fast facts about this mighty CMS:
- WordPress powers 14.7% of the top 100 websites in the world
- CNN, TIME.com, TechCrunch, New York Post, and many other big names are powered by WordPress
- Around 60% of the CMS market is owned by WordPress
The numbers make sense when you look at just some of the many benefits of using WordPress:
- Free: All you need is a domain name and hosting plan to install WordPress and get started.
- Easy to use and customize: Most people using WordPress don’t know how to code or design websites. It’s an ideal solution for the average non-tech savvy Joe, with thousands of (free and paid) themes which facilitate customization to suit, quite literally, every need (blogging, business, e-commerce, you name it).
- SEO-friendly: Search engines love WordPress. It is written in clean, high-quality code and produces semantic markup. That’s why WordPress websites tend to rank higher in search results. Plus, there are many SEO plugins to further optimize your website.
- Secure: While it’s true that WordPress is the most hacked into CMS, it is also true that WordPress itself is not the culprit. Security threats to a WordPress website come from other elements involved, such as the hosting provider, malware-infested themes or plugins, and user blunders. As such, WordPress is a very secure platform.
So, it is safe to say that WordPress is your best bet if you want to run a successful website without having to actually code one from scratch.
Now, as good as WordPress is for getting started, you’ll need to install plugins to make life easier as you progress. Plugins, as the name suggests, are plug-and-play apps that enable you to add new features to your website.
There are over 54,000 plugins available in the WordPress official directory. Some are paid, others are free (or freemium). They are designed to help optimize your site for search engines, protect it against spammers, improve user experience, and a lot more. There is a plugin for everything.
But don’t make the rookie mistake of installing too many plugins. All the free ones will look very alluring and useful, but it’s better to go with the “less is more” approach. Poorly coded plugins can slow down your website and increase the risk of security breaches and site crashes.
Regardless of the goal of your website, below are some essential, cherry-picked free plugins that your WordPress website absolutely must have.
Who doesn’t want their website to rank on the first page of search engines like Google? Higher rankings equate to higher traffic and ultimately, more conversions.
On-page SEO, an important aspect in the overall optimization of websites for search engines, is a piece of cake after installing the Yoast SEO plugin. Most WordPress webmasters would agree that it is their go-to plugin when you talk SEO.
It allows you to optimize your blog posts for SEO as you write them by selecting a focus keyword. Furthermore, you can optimize your title tag, meta description, and URL and view it as it would appear in Google search results.
It also evaluates your copy’s readability and gives suggestions on how to improve it. Other features include generating automatically updated XML sitemaps for your website to be submitted to Google for indexing.
MailChimp for WordPress
Building an email list is always a good idea. And the MailChimp for WordPress plugin is one of the cheapest (free!) and best ways to do it right.
MailChimp is famed in the blogosphere for being a fine piece of software that allows you to create beautiful email opt-in forms for your newsletter. It also supports seamless integration with a number of related plugins, notably WooCommerce and WPForms.
The worst feeling you may experience as a webmaster is a regret of not backing up your website when you know you should have.
Luckily, the tedious process of backing up your website or migrating to another domain (or host) is simplified by Duplicator. All you have to do is run the plugin, let it zip your site into a package, move to a new server, and run the installer file. It also boasts zero downtime when moving, migrating, or cloning a WordPress site between domains or hosts.
WP Super Cache
Slow page load times cause user frustration and increase bounce rates. Not to mention, site speed is an important SEO ranking factor, so slow speed will also hurt your rankings.
Using a cache plugin like WP Super Cache is one of the primary methods to speed up your WordPress website. So what is a web cache? It is a temporary storage location on your computer for files downloaded by your browser to display websites.
The WP Super Cache plugin generates a static HTML version of your WordPress website and serves that instead of processing the heavier PHP scripts. This results in fewer requests being made to the database and decreased page load time. It also works for visitors using a mobile device.
So, make sure to install this plugin to optimize your site speed, improve search rankings, and avoid frustrating your users.
Spam sucks. You don’t want your blog’s comment section to be filled with bogus comments that look genuine. Comment spam will ruin reader experience and damage your brand.
Your website visitors might wish to get in touch with you in order to:
- Request a quote
- Inquire about collaboration opportunities
- Solicit further information
- Appreciate your work
Having a contact form on your website is a must to facilitate two-way communication and improve the user experience. WPForms is an easy-to-use yet powerful plugin to create all the different types of contact forms. Its simple drag-and-drop interface is very beginner-friendly and it won’t take you more than a few minutes to whip up a functioning, good-looking contact form.
Additionally, it has pre-built templates for you to pick and customize. What’s more, the contact forms produced are responsive, mobile-friendly, and search engine optimized by default. It even has built-in automatic anti-spam, and you can block bots by adding a CAPTCHA, reCAPTCHA, or Google’s new Invisible reCAPTCHA.
Another user-friendly, drag-and-drop plugin is Elementor. But hold on to your hats. This one takes the concept of drag-and-drop to a whole new level.
With Elementor, you can design complicated looking websites without having to code a single line. In essence, it is a powerful page builder that eliminates back-end work by allowing real-time front-end design. It comes with built-in design templates so you don’t have to start from scratch.
And again, the end result would be totally responsive and mobile-friendly. Moreover, it also works well as a landing page plugin.
Easy Social Sharing
The importance of getting as many social shares as possible needs no introduction.
All the plugins mentioned up until now are quite well-known in the WordPress community, and deservedly so. Easy Social Sharing, however, is a relatively new kid on the block and hasn’t yet received the attention it deserves.
It enables you to easily display various popular social share buttons along with share count. To be precise, you can embed gorgeous buttons of up to 18 of the most popular social media channels. It also allows for custom colors and multiple layouts.
Cookie Notice for GDPR
It is 2019 and privacy is taken very seriously, especially in the European Union. Indeed, cybersecurity is no joke.
Even if you’re not based in the EU, it is a good idea to incorporate a cookie notice in your website, as the GDPR is not limited to firms in the EU but applies to any company/website that collects data from an EU citizen.
As it turns out, it is very easy to become GDPR compliant thanks to the Cookie Notice for GDPR plugin. It is fully adaptable to your website’s design and SEO-friendly. It is also WPML and Polylang compatible for easy translation.
Popup Maker – Popup Forms, Optins & More
Popups are a necessary evil. They might vex users, but if timed correctly, they can be a big boon for webmasters (and users!). For example, exit-intent popups can help retain one-time visitors by asking them to sign up for an email newsletter in exchange for something useful, such as a free e-book.
And with a user-friendly and highly customizable popup maker like, well, Popup Maker, you can create any type of popup ― opt-in forms, notification popups, video lightboxes, and what have you ― in no time. You can also track popup open count, set click triggers, and set a time delay, among other features.
This completes the list of vital WordPress plugins that are fundamental to any WordPress website. Of course, there are great alternatives to all the aforementioned plugins listed above, namely:
- All in One SEO Pack
- W3 Total Cache
- Antispam Bee
- Contact Form 7
- Beaver Builder
- AddToAny Share Buttons
- GDPR Cookie Consent
- Popup Builder
So, did we miss anything? Which plugins do you use for your WordPress website? Let us know in the comments below. Cheers!