WordPress plugin integration is one of the main features that allowed this CMS to become a giant platform that enabled millions of people to have a successful website.
Plugins can take your site from a regular blog to a feature-rich online store, learning platform, or company site.
Here I’ll show you how to install plugins on your site and uncover the must-haves along with a list of very useful free WordPress plugins for your site.
Advantages of WordPress Plugins
- WordPress is much easier to manage compared to a custom site. With WordPress, anyone can install a plugin. Meanwhile, for the latter, you need a professional developer to add features, which may result in complex and high-cost maintenance.
- Adds useful functionality with minimal effort – there’s a plugin for almost everything. Add whatever feature you need quickly – simply install and activate a plugin.
- It allows you to tailor your site exactly how you want it to be – plugins will enable you to configure your site to meet specific needs. There’re many options you can get either from the Official Plugin Directory or from third-party plugin directories like CodeCanyon. Need a payment gateway? No problem. Want a better way to gather customer emails – there’s a plugin for that.
- Requires significantly less technical knowledge – to use plugins, you don’t need to have development experience. But of course, some plugins are easier to use than others.
- Many free alternatives to popular plugins – because WordPress is an open-source platform, many people can contribute to enhance its performance or add new features. This applies not just to the core. There’s a massive community of developers who create open-source plugins for you to use for free.
Drawbacks of WordPress Plugins
- It can be challenging to manage and update if you use many different plugins and a niche theme together. Chances are you might need to update them one by one. Additionally, if depending on what you’re using, you might encounter compatibility issues between plugins, themes, or the version of WordPress you’re using.
- Some plugins and themes can be expensive if you require advanced features. If you’re not willing to settle for the features offered by free plugins, and your site requires advanced tools to operate, then you’ll need to be ready for the potentially expensive costs.
How to Add Plugins to WordPress
There are three ways to add plugins to your WordPress site – installing from the official Plugin Directory, manually uploading and installing, and installing plugins via FTP. However, you will need an FTP client if you choose the third method. Therefore, I do not recommend it if you’re a non-tech-savvy user.
Here, I will show you how to install and activate a plugin from the official Plugin Directory. Make sure you have access to the WordPress Dashboard as an Admin and let’s begin installing Yoast SEO – a great SEO plugin that will help improve SEO.
- Go over your WordPress Dashboard and select the Plugins section.
- At the top of the page, you’ll see the Add New button. Click on it.
- Enter the keyword, in this case, “Yoast SEO,” into the Search field. If you don’t really know the exact name or the plugin you want to install, you can browse plugins based on three categories – “Popular,” “Featured,” or “Recommended.”
- After you find the plugin, press Install Now. Once the plugin is downloaded, you’ll need to Activate it. You can also Activate the plugin from the Installed Plugins section.
To install it manually, you can just upload the plugin from your Dashboard’s admin area:
- Go over to Add New and click Upload Plugin.
- Select a downloaded plugin zip file – in this case, wordpress-seo.11.3.zip.
- Click Install Now and then Activate Plugin. That’s all! You’ve just learned how to install and activate plugins.
7 Best WordPress Plugins
Without further ado, let’s cover the best plugins you should keep your eye on. I selected these WordPress plugins based on the essential features they offer, their popularity, track record, and ease of use:
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO couldn’t make the on-page Search Engine Optimization process any simpler. It is one of the best SEO plugins that can help your WordPress site gain organic traffic from search engine result pages (SERPs). All the information and recommendations presented are comprehensive and easy to implement! Additionally, Yoast SEO offers a free and a premium version.
- Keyword or keyphrase optimization – the plugin helps measure the SEO-score of page titles, meta descriptions, keyword density, and focus keywords.
- Readability analysis – The content you write will automatically be analyzed according to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test to help you produce an easy-to-read article.
- SEO role management – Manage user roles and customize access for different sections of the plugin.
- Insight tool – The premium version allows access to automated internal linking suggestions, content insights, as well as, synonyms and related keyphrases to further optimize content.
- Snippet preview – Preview how your page will appear on Google’s result pages.
- Post editor flexibility – Supports both classic and Gutenberg editors.
- Constant updates – Automated updates are on by default, so you’ll be able to relax knowing your SEO is optimized with the latest available knowledge.
- Expensive – Requires you to pay $89 for the Premium version for a single site subscription.
- Lack of support – The free version doesn’t receive any customer support, while their premium support is email only.
- It requires a lot of your own input – It does not drastically and instantly increase your SEO rank unless you simultaneously do off-page search engine optimization and follow the suggestions presented.
Yoast SEO is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin, used by more than 5 million WordPress users and has a 4.7-star rating, cementing its reputation. It is well worth the investment as the premium version provides a comprehensive tool to create great content and keep your SEO in good shape.
Running an ecommerce store on your WordPress site is not rocket science with the WooCommerce plugin. For both small and large scale online businesses, WooCommerce can be a great platform to sell products online. It has tons of features that are a must for any online store – ranging from different methods of shipping, payment, accounting documentation, to tax calculation.
- Free – The most appealing key feature of WooCommerce is that it comes free. You’ll only need to pay if you need the advanced paid extensions.
- Product selling flexibility – You’re able to either sell physical, digital, and affiliate products.
- Ease of customization – You get the ability to customize product pages to meet your needs and niche fully. You can also edit product categories, price, and availability from a single dashboard.
- Feature Flexibility – Supports many kinds of shipping calculation models, payment getaways, accounting, documentation, and tax calculation options.
- Extensions availability – Allows adding hundreds of WooCommerce extensions to add new features to your online store.
- Worldwide support – Provides customer support and maintenance to clients. Just submit a ticket to the WooCommerce Helpdesk, and they will help you with any bug or problem with the default WooCommerce plugin or the official extensions.
- Payment Security – As it supports integration with the major PCI-compliant payment gateways like Stripe, your customer’s transaction details are encrypted by the third-party payment services, making them safe and sound.
- Payback guarantee – WooCommerce offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for the paid extensions and themes if you are not satisfied with their performance.
- A steep learning curve – If you want to create a highly complex online store, you’ll need time to learn how to manage the many different extensions required.
- Extensions needed – Paid extensions are often needed to enhance your WooCommerce store’s performance, so it’s not entirely free.
- Customer support limitation – The customer support may not support your native language if you’re not coming from the 58 countries listed. Furthermore, you need to be a customer and will only get access to a ticket-based email support system.
WooCommerce is a cost-effective alternative to start your online store. This WordPress plugin is backed by a 4.5-star rating. Moreover, it powers almost 30% of all online stores, so the credibility cannot be doubted. Its extensive use brings many WooCommerce optimized hosting services giving an extra layer of security and improved performance for your online store’s database.
Constant Contact is a reliable email marketing service for any WordPress user. This platform allows you to make the most of your email marketing campaign and works great when integrated with other lead generation plugins like OptinMonster.
- Drag and drop editor – Create and edit an email template by simply dragging and dropping on a layout.
- Automation – Allows auto email resends if your contacts left an email unopened. You can also automate mailing schedules and create a series of emails.
- Easy contact management – Supports auto-importing contact lists from other third-party services like Salesforce, Outlook, and Eventbrite. It also automatically unsubscribes inactive contacts.
- Real-time tracking – You can track your email marketing campaigns in real-time, so you’ll get input on how to improve your campaign performance by getting valuable insights like the click-through rate, deliverability, and spam reports.
- Plus plan – Offers an email plus plan where you can use email marketing automation, create surveys and polls, offer coupons, collect donations, and organize events via email.
- Pricing – The more contacts you have – the steeper the price gets.
- Plain form builder – The sign-up forms are quite plain, and there’s no option for other types like pop-ups and slide-ins.
Even though Constant Contact only ranks at 3 out of 5 stars, this email marketing service is very effective as 97% of the user emails reach their targets. With the pretty reasonable price of $20/month (for 500 contacts) for the basic features and $45/month for the plus plan – Constant Contact is worthwhile to complement your email marketing strategy.
Jetpack is an open-source plugin that can enhance your site’s security, performance, and management through the many features it offers. Additionally, Jetpack is developed by Automattic – the company behind WordPress.com and WooCommerce.
- Monitoring – This plugin has a 24/7 site monitoring feature that informs you about any downtime or detected security breaches via email.
- Backup and security – Jetpack offers automated real-time cloud backups with automatic restoration and login authentication with all paid plans.
- Tons of features – It offers different modules that help improve aspects ranging from visitor engagement to content quality.
- Effortless site management – Its various built-in modules allow you to easily configure your site’s SEO tools, ads, themes, layout, image loading time conversion, and analytics through a single plugin.
- Bloated user interface – Loads of features make the user interface rather confusing.
- Load time increase – It may slow down your site if you choose to use many modules at once.
- Requires a WordPress.com account – To tweak and tune all the features you need to have a WordPress.com account. However, this doesn’t mean that you must host your site on WordPress.com.
Jetpack is suitable for you if you love an all-in-one package as it offers plenty of different features, including management, engagement, security, appearance, and writing. You can get this 4.2 out of a 5-star ranked plugin for free, but you won’t have access to all the features. To get more, subscribe to the personal plan for $3.50/month, the premium plan for $9/month, or the professional plan for $29/month.
Integrating Google Analytics to your WordPress site is easy with MonsterInsights. Many big companies like Microsoft, Yelp, and Bloomberg use this service to track how their site is performing. It’s a great tool to grow your business by making data-driven decisions confidently.
- Easy setup with a simple user interface – To add the tracking code, simply log in with your Google account or paste your Google Analytics ID in the Monsterinsights menu in your website’s admin area.
- Google Analytics Dashboard – See real-time stats from your WordPress Dashboard and understand them at a glance with the help of Publisher, ecommerce, and Search Console Reports.
- Tracking ability – Track any internal, outbound, affiliate, and referral links on your site. You’ll know which content attracts visitors the most, and you can further optimize it.
- Custom tracking – Supports custom dimensions and Google Analytics event tracking. The Custom Dimension tracking allows you to generate stats for authors, post types, categories, tags, SEO score, focus keywords, and more.
- Report transfer – You can import and export reports of your analytics data in just a few clicks.
- Add-on availability – You can opt for add-ons allowing you to track Ecommerce statistics, form performance, AMP-enabled page, ads, and implement Facebook Instant Article tracking.
- Payback guarantee – Provides a 14-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the performance.
- Pretty expensive – Requires you to pay up to $99.50/year for small businesses, $199.50/year for ecommerce and big business sites, and $399.50/year for business agencies.
- Free version limitations – Most of the features of this plugin require payment, so it will not really work effectively.
MonsterInsights is the most popular Google Analytics plugin for WordPress with more than 2 million active users and a 4.3-star rating. If you want to have the chance to conveniently overview Google Analytics and make data-driven decisions – definitely consider investing in this plugin.
Your marketing strategy can get much easier with SEMrush. The open-source plugin has helped many businesses survive online and outrank competitors through valuable insights on their content. While SEMrush can be considered a separate service, it does offer a great WordPress plugin that acts as a writing assistant. But to get the most out of this incredibly powerful tool, you should consider starting a SEMrush account.
- SEO optimization – Be able to easily perform keyword research, link building, rank tracking, site auditing, check on-page SEO stats, and measure search engine result page volatility with SEMrush sensors.
- SEO writing assistant – Not only does this plugin allow you to check the overall SEO score of your article, but it also allows you to evaluate your article’s readability using the Flesch-Kincaid reading score. This also assists you in properly utilizing keywords in your article as well as to measure the originality of your article and linking quality.
- Content optimization – helps optimize content by providing features for content auditing, topic research, SEO content templates, post tracking, and keyword research.
- Competitive research overview – SEMrush is a great helper when you’re trying to outrank competitors as it provides a competitive research overview. This plugin throws in domain overviews, charts, keyword and link gap analysis, ranks, and traffic analysis to help you evaluate your strategy.
- Reporting and management – There are marketing calendars, a reports feature, and lead generation tools that can enhance your workflow.
- Pricing tiers – Provides a tiered payment method, but it is quite expensive. The Pro plan costs $99.95/month, the Guru Plan costs $199.95/month, and the Business plan costs $399.95/month.
- Bloated user interface – As it comes with an abundance of features for your marketing strategy, SEMrush’s user interface becomes very confusing if you’re new to it.
- Requires a SEMrush account – To get the most out of SEMrush, you’ll need to leave your WordPress dashboard and head onto their site.
Used by more than 3 million users with a 4.1-star rating, this plugin allows you to analyze more than 10 billion keywords, and improve your content’s readability and SEO value greatly.
The Elementor Page Builder allows you to design beautiful web pages without any technical knowledge. You can customize your WordPress page’s layout, design, templates, and elements quickly by installing and utilizing this plugin.
This plugin allows you to build and design fully customizable web page layouts with the front-end page builder. Build the perfect website without using any code at all. Let’s cover the pros and cons to understand better how Elementor stands out from other WordPress page builders.
- Page Builder – Easily create posts and pages with plenty of customization options.
- Theme Builder – There is a robust theme builder that can help customize your site’s theme easily.
- Popup Builder – Create stunning popups that suit your site’s niche easily.
- Widgets – There are more than 80 built-in widget designs available for customization.
- Drag-and-drop interface – Allows you to customize every element of your site simply by clicking and dragging items.
- Live Editing – You can see changes as you make them in the Elementor Preview when editing text and designing your site.
- Revision history – There’s a revision history feature whenever you customize your web pages, so it’s easy to undo or redo every action.
- Compatible with almost any WordPress theme and plugin – Works seamlessly with many other plugins and themes. So, you don’t have to worry about incompatibility issues with your favorite tools.
- Responsive design – Supports mobile editing and responsive design. You can also customize your site based on your visitor device type.
- Translation and RTL ready – Supports over 23 languages and is RTL language friendly.
- Built-in Maintenance mode – There’s a maintenance mode that can be turned on whenever you want to go offline during the customization process.
- Resource availability – There are a lot of tutorials and documentation that can guide you through editing and customizing your page.
- Support availability – The customer support can only be reached through ticket-based emails.
- Pricing – The professional version requires you to pay $49/year for a single site, so using Elementor for multiple sites is going to be pricey.
With the Elementor Page Builder WordPress plugin in your hands, web design is faster and easier, as you can see changes in real-time in one window. No wonder it ranks at 4.8 out of 5 stars. The free version is already useful even with the feature limitations. So, if you’re not really making money by being a web designer, the free version is enough.
6 Must-Have Free WordPress Plugins
Apart from the paid versions of plugins, you can prominently make the most of your WordPress site with free ones. Here, I point out six free WordPress plugins worth your attention, based on popularity and the value of their features:
Fixing broken links within your website has never been so easy with the Broken Link Checker plugin. This plugin allows you to easily and automatically edit links directly from your dashboard. You should only activate the WordPress plugin when you’re managing broken links as this may slow down your website. Once you’re done, deactivate the plugin and use it when you do regularly scheduled broken link checks.
- Broken link monitoring – It allows you to monitor links across your whole site, including custom areas like the blogroll, pages, posts, comments, etc. It detects broken links, missing redirects, and even images.
- Broken link notifications – You will automatically be notified whenever this plugin detects broken links. The notification will be sent to your email and directly to your WordPress Dashboard.
- Broken link configuration – Directly fix broken links by editing, unlinking, marking, hiding, or ignoring the damaged URLs from your plugin’s page in the Dashboard admin area.
- Negatively impacts loading time – The bigger your website, the longer it takes to scan for broken links. Moreover, as the plugin will regularly work to scan for them, it may slow down your site. So, it’s better to deactivate and uninstall the plugin whenever it is not used.
With a 4.2 out of 5-star rating and more than 700 thousand users, Broken Link Checker is really a top-notch free plugin for avoiding broken links. This plugin is highly customizable, so almost all the negative sides can be handled and suppressed as you tweak and tune the settings to reduce the loading time.
With the free version of the MonsterInsights Lite plugin, growing your business is easier. You can monitor and connect Google Analytics to your WordPress site. So, you will get the statistics useful for your business’ decision making and evaluation process right on your WordPress dashboard.
- Quick setup – Once installed and activated, this plugin allows you to set up Google Analytics with a few clicks.
- Google Analytics tracking – Simply monitor the Google Analytics stats via your WordPress Dashboard. All the essential information will be waiting for you every time you log in.
- Analytics report – Comes with a report filter that allows you to get the necessary stats for your business at a glance, rather than having to browse each time manually.
- No coding needed – You don’t have to add Google Analytics code to your website.
- Tracking limit – The free version cannot customize the Google Analytics tracking limits. So, it limits the tracking to 10 million hits/month for each web property. Moreover, it does not allow users to track ad, ecommerce, custom data, and form performance.
With more than two million active users and a 4.3 out of 5-star rating, MonsterInsights Lite is very helpful when integrating Google Analytics to your site. But, the price for the paid version might be a bit steep for a beginner webmaster. Fortunately, if you run a personal website and want to start making money from your site, this free version is worth trying.
Google XML Sitemaps helps search engines easily index websites with an XML sitemap. This plugin works by creating a specific sitemap for your WordPress site once it is installed and activated. The site’s complete structure noted by the XML sitemap assists search engine bots in crawling and indexing your site.
- SEO boost – As an XML sitemap provides the complete structure of your site to search engines, they will crawl and index it faster.
- Compatibility – It is compatible with all kinds of WordPress pages, custom URLs, and other plugins within your site. It even works seamlessly in either the newest or older WordPress versions.
- Multiple search engines – This plugin supports multiple search engines, not only Google, but also Bing, Yahoo, MSN Search, and even Ask. It also auto notifies search engines whenever any changes or updates are made within your site.
- Light and simple user interface – It’s easy to customize all parameters through your Dashboard, so you need zero PHP skills or file changes. Moreover, this works seamlessly with all of your plugins and themes, so it will not slow your site down.
- Sitemap customization – Not only can you prioritize specific content, but also exclude it from your sitemap. Do so via the “Additional pages” and “Excluded items” sections.
- Translations – Bundled with various languages and auto-translation activation. You can participate in improving the plugins’ language support by submitting your native language translation.
- Forums and Support – Find many solutions and even participate in developing the plugin in the User Voice Forums.
- No official support staff – If you run into an issue, your only help-line will be the community forum.
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin automatically creates an Extensible Markup Language map of your site’s pages. This makes sure all of them are reachable to search engines. While it does not directly improve SEO, this free plugin is recommended, for its ability to speed up the crawling and indexing of your site.
Not only does this plugin benefit you if you have a big site with many pages and uncommon structure, but it will be helpful for building an online presence for brand new sites.
4. WP Mail SMTP
WP Mail SMTP is an easy-to-use plugin for configuring email sending through SMTP on WordPress. It works by substituting WordPress’ PHP mail() function with SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) as PHP is easier to compromise and often gets emails stuck in the spam folder. Users can specify any SMTP settings and details and works with the most popular mail platforms.
- Mailer options – Gives you the possibility to set up SMTP on four different mailing services, namely – Gmail, Mailgun, SendGrid, and other SMTP ready options.
- Test emails – It allows you to do email testing, to check the deliverability and if your emails are landing where you want them to land.
- Error notification – Gives you error messages for troubleshooting.
- Support availability – Customer support is available to help you when you face any issues. It’s worth mentioning that support for free users is only available via forums, while pro users get access to one-on-one email support.
- Well-maintained – Regular updates for this plugin solve bugs in a timely manner.
- Limited documentation – The available documentation is for basic troubleshooting.
- Setup requires some technical knowledge – If you’re not familiar with basic email settings, you’ll need to do a google search or two to set this plugin up.
With a high 4.4-star rating, WP Mail SMTP is really beneficial for WordPress users who want to streamline their method of sending emails, while increasing deliverability rates. As a result, your site’s mail is less likely to land in the spam folder or get hijacked.
Its capability to cover different SMTP providers makes this WordPress plugin stand out from the rest.
Creating and managing PHP code snippets on your site has never been so easy! With the Code Snippets plugin, you can extend the functionality of your site without tweaking your functions.php file through the theme editor.
- Simple user interface – Manage snippets with an easy peasy user interface that allows you to add, activate, deactivate, name, and edit snippets simply from your Dashboard.
- Light – It does not affect your site’s loading time.
- Snippet transferability – Allows you to export, import, and transfer snippets.
- Multi-language support – Supports more than ten languages, but if your native language is not available yet, you can help by adding the translation.
- Large community – As this plugin is helping many people, you can find the user community on Facebook. There’s also a WordPress support forum to go to when you have any issues.
- No designated customer support – This free plugin does not provide official customer support. You need to find solutions for issues in the Support Forum, User Community, or directly by contacting the developer directly.
With more than a hundred thousand users and a 4.8 out of 5-star rating, this plugin is beneficial for those who want to avoid using FTP to manage their theme’s functions.php file. You can easily manage snippets without risking your site.
With W3 Total Cache, you can decrease your site’s loading time in a single installation. This WordPress cache plugin improves performance and reduces download times with a content delivery network (CDN) feature.
- SEO boost – It allows you to optimize your SEO rank as it improves your site’s performance.
- Performance boost – Its instant repeat page view feature, progressive rendering, and improved web server performance features practically guarantee a performance improvement. You can also examine performance insights to set future strategies with caching statistics.
- Cache Customization – The plugin is filled with cache customization options that allow you to enable page caching, opcode, database, object, browser, and fragment caching.
- Storage saving – You get the ability to minify your database and clear various caches that may save storage.
- CDN support – Supports content delivery network transparency with theme files, media libraries, and WordPress itself.
- Steep learning curve – To make the most of this plugin, you need to dig deep into the settings as there are many configurations that need to be made.
- Needs CDN activation – This plugin will not work without a CDN provider, most of which do not come free.
This 4.3 star ranked plugin with more than a million active installations, is really a top-notch free tool to improve your website’s loading time.
If you have a content-heavy website, this plugin is really worth a try. Not only will users be less likely to abandon your site, but the search engines will also rank it higher.
WordPress plugins are the cornerstone of this CMS and can turn your site into anything you need it to be. It’s essential to make your site meet the specific needs of your visitors. Not only can you increase your site’s performance, but also build a long-term online presence.
As there are thousands of plugins available, it’s important to consider how your site is supposed to function before deciding on the plugins that you’ll need. Here are the must-have plugins:
- Yoast SEO – optimizes on-page SEO with a single tool.
- WooCommerce – turns your site into an ecommerce ready platform.
- Constant Contact – provides email marketing services with robust features.
- Jetpack – enhance WordPress site security, performance, and management with one single tool.
- MonsterInsights – allows data-driven decision making by integrating your WordPress site with Google Analytics tracking.
- SEMrush – provides an all-in-one SEO writing assistant for WordPress sites.
- Elementor Page Builder – easily design and manage WordPress pages with no coding skills.
And as a little bonus, let’s review the best free WordPress plugins that beginner webmasters will love:
- Broken Link Checker – automatically scan for and manage broken links from the WordPress Dashboard.
- MonsterInsights Lite – integrates WordPress sites with Google Analytics for free.
- Google XML Sitemaps – helps search engines to better crawl and index your website.
- WP Mail SMTP – simplifies sending emails through WordPress while improving deliverability.
- Code Snippets – provides an easy way to add code snippets to the functions.php file without using an FTP client.
- W3 Total Cache – helps you decrease page loading time.
So, have you decided which plugins you’ll definitely need? Stop wasting your WordPress site’s power, and start making the best of it with plugins!