A recent study found that 31% of websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. Due to it’s easy-to-use functionality and many integrations, it’s no surprise that it’s the first choice for people looking to expand their digital presence. Although WordPress on its own is great, using plugins can really enhance its capabilities to ensure your website is secure, optimised, looks good and performs well.
With over 54,000 plugins to choose from getting started may seem daunting, however we’ve done all the hard work for you. In this article you’ll find 10 amazing WordPress plugins that we use on most of the sites we build. What’s more they’re all completely free!
Customise the appearance of your website
Elementor is a drag-and-drop page builder that allows users to alter the appearance of their websites without needing to know code. It’s currently active on approximately 900,000 websites and has an impressing 4.8-star rating. Its simple user interface allows complex designs to be creased with ease. It’s perfect for clients who want the flexibility to regularly change the layout of their websites because the back-end remains untouched. It also shows the outcome of your work right away, which means you can be confident that it’s not going to change once published. What’s more there is also a strong Elementor online community who can offer advice and share handy tips and tricks.
Sell products on your website
If you’re looking for your WordPress website to have eCommerce functionality, look no further than WooCommerce. This plugin is active on over 4 million websites worldwide and powers 42% of all eCommerce stores. The integration offers an array of payment options including popular choices like PayPal, Stripe and all major credit cards. Merchants can exercise complete flexibility since WooCommerce allows an unlimited amount of products and product categories plus the ability to play with product descriptions, independent attributes and even allocate sales prices. WooCommerce is also completely free, making it a popular choice for those looking to scale the size of their businesses.
Collect customer data by adding forms to your website
If you’re looking to initiate conversations with website users, Contact Form 7 is what you need! It’s one of the simplest contact forms you can find. The bog-standard form they provide asks for a users name, email address, the subject of the message and the message. To put it on your website all you need to do is copy the form shortcode and paste it into a post. Moreover, if you need something more advanced, Contact Form 7 also allows customisation. You can modify the fields of the standard form or even create a new one from scratch. For this you may need to know some basic HTML but there’s tons of YouTube videos that can help you with that. The plugin also offers a good selection of field types – dates, drop down menus, check boxes, quizzes and file uploads. With it’s ability to cater to all needs it’s unsurprising that Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular WordPress plugins in the world.
Optimise your blog for search engines
If you’re going to the effort of creating a new website for your business, you’re going to want to make sure it gets seen. That’s where Yoast SEO comes in. It holds an impressive 4.9-star rating and is active on 5 million websites. Essentially it analyses the content of your website and advises you on how you can improve readability and search engine optimisation. It offers the flexibility to alter titles, meta-descriptions, focus keywords, snippets, thus improving your search engine ranking. It operates using a easy-to-use traffic light system that shows if your content is optimised or whether it could use improvement. If that’s not enough to convince you, Yoast also auto-generates XML sitemaps for your website without any additional effort. Put simply, XML sitemaps allow search engines to crawl your website more easily and rank your website accordingly.
Manage redirects and 404 errors
As well as being bad for SEO purposes, broken links are a sure-fire way to ensure your customers have negative user experiences. If this isn’t what you want, install Broken Link Checker. It automatically looks for internal and external links on your website that cause a 404 error or no longer go where they’re supposed to. This is important because Google penalises websites that have too many missing or broken links – which can really damage your websites reputability. It works by producing a report that is displayed on your WordPress dashboard of any broken links which can then be edited or dismissed.
Secure your website
After getting an SSL certificate for your website you’ll need to move it from HTTP to HTTPS. This can be done using the Really Simple SSL plugin. Having a Secure HTTP (HTTPS) makes your website more secure and difficult to hack, which is obviously what every business wants. Since July 2018 Google chrome has marked all websites without an SSL certificate as insecure, which invokes skepticism and deters people from buying from your website. The Really Simple SSL plugin will automatically detect your SSL certificate and set up your WordPress site to use HTTPs. We love this because its really comprehensive, it will set up redirects from HTTP to HTTPs and look for URLs in your content still loading from insecure HTTP sources.
Analyse your website performance
Put simply, Monster Insights is a Google Analytics plugin designed for WordPress. When it comes to website performance and growth, analytics are important. Google Analytics comprises a lot of valuable data that can be used to improve your website. To incorporate MonsterInsights into your WordPress website all you have to do is install and activate the plugin without playing with any code. Sounds simple, right? With almost 15 million downloads, Monster Insights is by far the most popular Analytics plugin since it lets you fully customise what you track and what is displayed on your dashboard. It provides intelligent insights into how visitors find and use your website, which can be used to encourage future visits.
Speed up your website
Your website cache directory fills up over time, which takes up space on your server and can cause your website to be slow-loading. Did you know that 64% of users are unwilling to wait more than 10 seconds for a website to load? Furthermore, a slow loading website can affect your search engine rankings. WP Super Cache works by generating static html files from your dynamic pages. Static files will be served to 99% of users – those who are not logged in, those who have not left a comment and users who have no viewed a password protected post. This will make your website load faster, which will ensure users stay on your website and encourage them to come back in the future.
Protect your website from security threats
To protect a house you get home insurance, to protect your car you get car insurance. To protect your website you get… WordFence? The WordFence plugin intends to protect your WordPress website from security threats using a firewall and malware scanner. Creating a website is not a small investment, it would be heartbreaking to see your hard work ruined because of vulnerability. WordFence is an impressive free security solution that provides a full firewall suite and has the ability to fight off malware and spam. Unlike other security plugins, WordFence also offers insight into overall traffic trends and hack attempts, which as a website owner is very useful. This probably explains why it is one of the most popular security plugins available on WordPress.
Optimise your website
JetPack is a freemium plugin designed by WordPress itself. It is automatically installed on every WordPress website and features an array of tools to help with site security, website performance, traffic growth, image optimisation and website appearance. Jetpack are constantly adding new modules, each of which can be activated and deactivated according to your needs. There’s currently 35 to choose from which you can read more about in this blog by WP Superstars. In essence it performs all of the functions we’ve previously mentioned in this post covering design, customisation, marketing, performance and security, plus a few additional extras. When it comes to plugins, Jetpack really is the creme de la creme.
Has your favourite WordPress plugin not made the cut? Get in touch, tell us which plugins you love and why.. we’d love to know!