Our “Secret Stash” of the Best FREE WordPress Plugins for Blogs is Now Available to the Public!
[Latest Update: August 2018]
When I first got into WordPress, many years ago, I remember thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if somebody would compile a list of “Must Have Plugins for WordPress?” Years went by while I waited for something like that to come along, but it never did.
Year’s later, those of us here at WMS thought: Why don’t we do a list ourselves? D’oh! Well, here it is! Or more exactly, here are two.
Our Best Free WordPress Plugins for Blogs (and Others) Curated List and Starter Suite for WordPress core set, the former of which you see here below, the latter of which is only a click away, is the end result of that “wish” from long ago.
Want FREE Premium Quality WordPress Plugins for Your Blog/Site? We’ve Got You Covered!
By the way, the Starter Suite will give you a core group of 100% free, reliable, versatile, compatible plugins for use on any new WordPress blog/site. This way, you can simply get started immediately, without struggling over which plugins to use. You can always experiment with additional plugins – or replacements for picks from the Stater Suite that may suit you better – as time permits. But you won’t lose a ton of time initially, as is the usual case. In fact, when you use the Starter Suite, you can have your site up and fully functional in a matter of minutes! Seriously. This is no bull.
The Starter Suite is also an excellent way to quickly build out the core of a new WordPress site in a matter of moments. It’s a no-brainer!
As far as the Best Free WordPress Plugins for Bloggers List goes, some of these plugins are totally unique. Some do for free what others charge for. All are extremely efficiently coded and should not cause performance hits on your server. They are known as “lightweight” plugins in the trade). All are designed for maximal compatibility with other offerings and WordPress themes.
If we can be so bold, be sure to follow our recommended best practices, covered in IMPORTANT INFO below, when using a new plugin for the first time.
MORE on PLUGINS and the CURATED LIST - CLICK
Here at WMS, we are avid WordPress users. We’ve been working exclusively with the platform for many years, and have thousands of man hours experience using it for blogs, e-commerce stores, news and business sites, and much, much more. All of our sites, and those of clients, are built using it. During this time, we have tried literally hundreds of themes and plugins. As a result we’ve developed a pretty good idea of what constitutes a quality piece of coding.
One of the main strengths of WordPress and perhaps the very reason for it’s popularity is all the options available to the end user. That your blog/site can be customized quickly and easily is part of its great visceral appeal. It’s also a perfectly pragmatic, bottom line consideration when choosing a platform. After all, it’s far quicker, easier and cheaper to pick a theme and some plugins – at least in theory – than it is to hire a team of designers and developers. And there are literally thousands of options, free and paid, to make your presence on the world wide web exactly what you want it to be. There are over 55,000 free WordPress plugins alone!
Which is also the bad news. In a sense, WordPress suffers from an overwhelming over-embarrassment of riches – even for seasoned professionals and experts. How does one pick a good plugin from, in some cases, dozens of competing offerings, all of which claim to do the same job? Heck, among free caching plugins, for instance, there are half a dozen 4-5 star rated products, each with it’s own small army of passionate advocates.
Excitement can quickly turn to frustration and aggravation as one literally lose days hunting for the right plugin to do one particular job. Bare minimum, you need plugins for security, caching and SEO, all popular categories with many options to choose from. How does one make an educated choice, even with ratings and reviews by the hundreds?
One place you can get a great head start, if you’re just starting out, is our WordPress Blogging Cheatsheets (coming soon). They give you a detailed blueprint on how to setup your blog/site for maximum efficiency with minimum stress. Another is our famous Starter Suite of WordPress plugins – the very core set of plugins we’re using with this site. This one thing alone will get you off to a great start. It may be the best news of all!
Because at the end of the day, aesthetics and “cool factors” aside, you need efficiency and stability with a set of plugins which just work, right? Bells and whistles are nice, but you can’t have unnecessary hassles and headaches, particularly when you’re setting out out on your WordPress journey.
The other cool place to look is our curated list of “must have plugins for WordPress.” These are some of the best, most efficiently designed “niche” plugins available today. They provide great value at no cost! We’re proud to offer this collection of what we consider to be among the very the best free WordPress plugins for bloggers – and anyone else, for that matter.
The Curated List of the Best Free WordPress Plugins for Blogs (and Others)
It should be said, for the record and in the spirit of total transparency, that it isn’t impossible for any one of these plugins to cause a problem on your installation. Any one of them could. But the same could and should be said of all WordPress plugins.
These days, adding new plugins is generally safe. There are coding standards from Automattic (makers of WordPress) itself. Unlike the bad old days (not too long ago) when everybody was coding their plugins with no thought to what the other guy was doing, there are rules which plugin designers adhere to. Still, coding is a complex matter – particularly when you don’t and simply can’t foresee every possible interaction between plugins – and sh*t can happen. Proceed with caution.
To use any of the plugins from our list, click on a button below. You’ll be taken to the download page for the plugin. All you’ve gotta do is download the .zip file your drive, then upload it to your site via the standard WordPress interface. DON’T UNPACK THE .ZIP FILE – let WordPress do that during the upload.
By the way, each of these is a small file, so each only takes a few seconds to download/upload. Once uploaded, all you have to do is activate the plugin — then you’re set. That’s it. Easy-peasy.
The only “cost” here for the Best FREE WordPress Plugins for Blogs, if you can call it that, is a few minutes of your time and the requirement to set up a contact email inside the plugin; this last is be sure you receive news and plugin updates about your plugin and the rest of our must have plugins for WordPress. Simple, right? 🙂
DO NOT INSTALL PLUGINS...
IMPORTANT INFO on USING THE PLUGINS - CLICK!
Must Have Plugins for WordPress – Installation and Activation Best Practices
1) Do not install any plugin until you have backed up your site!
The only exception to this I would make is in the very early stages of your blog/site, wherein you don’t have any content to worry about losing.
When first setting up your site, you can add in and try new plugins without too much worry, because starting over is not that big of a deal. But once your work is really underway, we recommend doing backups every day with an offsite service of some kind. Make sure they are automatic backups, so you don’t have to think about it.
To be really safe and secure, we believe in redundant daily backups; i.e. having multiple backups, going back at least a week or more, on two separate platforms. This may seem like overkill, but trust me when I tell you, it’s not! It’s actually the best insurance for your blog/site money can buy. Multiply redundant double backups have saved our butts on multiple occasions, when a single backup would not have. These are stories of fear and drama for another time, but losing work – or even, God forbid, an entire site – because you only had one backup and it failed, is something you NEVER want to go through. 😮
As an aside, you want to be able to get back up and running immediately if for some reason you “kill” your site or it gets corrupted, hacked or some other disaster occurs. Further, what if an error occurred that you didn’t catch for days – like, for instance, somebody gets in and defaces your site. A single day’s worth of backups won’t help. You need to go back days, maybe even weeks, to a point where your site was right. A good backup plan will allow you to do that. A bad one… Well, it won’t. 🙁
To summarize, as far as backups go, we strongly recommend that you…
- Use an off-site backup service, rather than a plugin, with a “one-click” or fast restore capability, for your primary backup.
- Use hosting which comes with automatic daily backups for your secondary backstop.
- Each backup service should be keeping weeks – preferably months – worth of backups for you.
For the record, our preferred off-site backup service is, we believe, the single best solution out there for your main backup. It’s inexpensive, rock solid and does so much more than just backup. We also much prefer it over our hosted backups, because it’s designed for fast and easy restoration. Full restores, even on a site that is hundreds of megabytes, can literally be done in minutes!
Generally speaking, doing a backup from a host is much more involved and time consuming, which is why we don’t recommend relying on your host for primary backup duties. Usually, hosts are great at hosting, but terrible at fast site restores. It’s just not what they do. Depending on the host in question and how they’ve set up their restoration process, it can even take many hours and a lot of hair-pulling to get the job done. Two of the better hosts in this regard, which we also recommend for very low cost, highly quality WordPress hosting, are to be found here and here.
But wait, you’re thinking, we’re talking WordPress; why not use a freakin’ backup plugin? Isn’t that the thing to do?
Well, it is a thing you can do. Lots of people do. But we don’t recommend it. Why? Because every plugin you install increases the chance of conflicts and slows your site down that much more. More importantly, and this is a general observation and warning, WordPress backup plugins have traditionally been buggy memory hogs which can kill your site performance (particularly during a backup), and have not been all that reliable in comparison to the best offsite services.
Again, to emphasize. we strongly recommend you use both hosting with daily backups (or here) and a dedicated WordPress backup service. You can even get off-site backup via WordPress’s own Jetpack plugin, though our preferred provider is far cheaper and, as far as we’re concerned, far better.
2) Do not activate multiple plugins at once. Do them one at a time!
This is a critically important practice to follow, as there’s no way to know which plugin is causing a problem when you activate more than one. It’s generally OK to install more than one plugin at a time. However, you should only activate each one independently.
When you use this process, you can instantly tell if a particular plugin is a problem and take the appropriate steps (which in most cases is to deactivate and trash said plugin).
Once you’ve got a group of plugins that “work and play well together” (like our Starter Suite), then you don’t have to worry about turning them on and off as a full or partial set any longer. But to go back to the point above, anytime you begin adding new plugins or begin seriously monkeying around with your current set on an existing, in-use website, be sure you are backed up!
3) Do not install all of these plugins just because you can. Do so with a purpose.
Having a lot of cool, free plugins can make an enthusiastic WordPress user feel like he’s a kid in a candy shop. But you know what can happen if you eat too much candy, right? So avoid getting sick!
We recommend that you ONLY use the plugins you think you’re going to need. Further, after using for a while, if the plugin isn’t doing what you want it to do, think it should do for you, or is causing issues of any kind – DISABLE THE PLUGIN!
Further, it’s always a good idea to REMOVE plugins you’re not using.
There will be times it’s necessary to “park” a disabled plugin on your install, but in general, you want to remove all “dead plugins” as soon as possible. Why? Even inactive plugins put additional strain on your server and slow page load times – a very important factor in SEO. The name of the game is to make your site as streamlined and efficient as possible, and being rid of unused plugins is part of that game plan. 😉
FB LIKE TAB – FREE WP PLUGIN
SOCIAL LOCKER – FREE WP PLUGIN
This plugin creates a floating Facebook like box – a great, “sexy” way to get more likes to your Facebook page.
Generate viral buzz, bring in new folks from social media by requiring visitors to “like” your stuff in order to see it.
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
One of the best ways to build authority and generate virality to your content is via Facebook. And even though Google and Facebook are rivals, the big G still holds Facebook Likes, Shares and popular pages in high regard. In fact, in the highest of regard. Because of this, it’s even possible to rank Facebook pages in Google search, though if SEO is your goal, there are probably more efficient ways to get there.
In any event, if you’re “on Facebook” with your business, it’s important to get those page likes up as high as possible, both for SEO purposes and because Facebook’s own internal ranking algorithm gives much more weight to popular pages than to dead ones (duh).
This sweet little plugin, which adds very little load to your server, is great because it encourages visitors to give your Facebook page a like, even if they don’t visit it! 😀
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
These days, it’s all about sociality and virality. To that end, we’ve got a plugin here that will help you generate interest and excitement online with cool, interesting polls and quizzes, or even better, contests and giveaways. It’s the No Frills Prize Draw plugin below. But it can’t be used for every post or piece of content you create, because that would cheapen the whole thing (besides making a lot more work for you).
And though it used to be good enough to put some sharing buttons on your content, and it’s obligatory these days to do so, voluntary social sharing has lost a lot of it’s ooomph. This is due to a combination of factors, perhaps most important of which is that the novelty of it all is long gone. We’ve seen it ourselves over the last few years – even great, freakin’ epic content doesn’t get the sharing it once did, even if the baseline visitors remain the same. We call it “sharing fatigue,” and it’s a real thing. People just aren’t as likely to share content anymore.
But there’s a fix for that. You can FORCE people to share your stuff if it’s good enough. Social lockers require a visitor to unlock with a share or tweet in order to access the content. If you haven’t seen it before, you’ve seen it in operation on this site. And it works very well. We’ve witnessed it ourselves, and it’s made a big difference for many of our clients.
This cool little plugin makes setting up social locks incredibly simple and easy. We highly recommend you consider this method and plugin as part of your marketing tool kit!
NO FRILLS PRIZE DRAW – FREE WP PLUGIN
SWITCH PAGES – FREE WP PLUGIN
One of the best ways to create interest in your content and generate buzz is with contests and giveaways. This plugin makes it a snap!
Alleviate one of the stupid points of the WordPress interface; make accessing Pages and Posts “one click” easy!
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
Contests, giveaways, polls, questionnaires… they’re great ways to both A) engage your visitors, and B) get them on your list. And as we all know (at least those of us who have been in the marketing game for any extended period of time), the money is in the list!
This plugin is great, because it allows you to build that list in a way which is fun and non-threatening to visitors. As opt-in rates drop year by year (due to sign-up fatigue, disgust with ever-mushrooming junk headaches and general distrust of lying scumbag marketers (present company excepted, of course)), it gets harder and harder to build that list. This plugin helps level the playing field, at least a bit.
Better still is the fact that this bad boy is FREE. Most plugins and services which provide this kind of functionality are not cheap. In fact, most pull down a hefty monthly fee. So if you’re just getting your feet wet with giveaways and such like, there’s no better way to do it than with this plugin.
NOTE: Because it is a free, basic plugin, No Frills Prize Draw may not have all the advanced functionality you need, in which case, you may want to consider our recommended provider or our old favorite.
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
When you’ve been seriously using WordPress for a while, it’s shortcomings start to become obvious. Yes, as great as it is, WordPress is not perfect; fortunately, there are not many glaring shortcomings.
But one of those really annoying imperfections concerns accessing Posts and Pages. As these are the whole point of WordPress – the place where your content is delivered and where you’re going to spend the lion’s share of your time – you’d think this would be the focus of every effort by the developers to streamline. Sadly, apparently, this is not the case. Accessing Pages and Posts gets to be a real pain. You have to navigate through three levels of menu every time you wan want to access your own content.
Well, no more!
This simple, clever little plugin answers this irritating problem that’s been around in WordPress for a long time, and will undoubtedly remain as long as people are using the Classic interface. Save yourself a lot of time and aggravation, starting today, by adding in this simple little!
VA SOCIAL BUZZ – FREE WP PLUGIN
EASY AFFILIATE LINKS – FREE WP PLUGIN
A great new way to get social and go viral: Facebook fans, Twitter followers, likes and shares!
Professional link cloaking – for affiliates or anyone – made easy. Track links, protect commissions!
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
Not all WordPress themes come with social sharing built in. Others have it, but it’s not implemented very well. Worse yet, the buzz has long since gone out of “the buzz.” People just aren’t clicking those static old social sharing buttons like they once did. The thrill is gone and the bloom has gone off the rose. What to do?
Do something different!
Today, you’ve either got to give them a real reason to share, or show them something new and different which compels them to click. That’s where this plugin comes in. It does something unique and special, even if you’ve got good sociality/virality going on your site/blog. VA Social Buzz displays buttons at the end of every article, but with a difference. When visitors give your content a Like, they’re actually liking your Facebook page! They can also easily share the content to Facebook, tweet about it or even follow you on Twitter! How cool is that? Instead of just getting a Like or Share, this plugin actually builds your presence on the two biggest social networks. 😀
This buzz-building plugin is fully integrated with Google Analytics, so you can track which clicks happened where, and the full extent of the buzz your new, cool WordPress plugin is helping you generate.
CLICK for ADD'L INFO
If you want to look professional when you’re marketing products online, you need to have the ability to create “branded” links (i.e. those that come from your site). Additionally, if you’re marketing other people’s products (affiliate marketing) you need to be able to mask those usually ugly (and sometimes very long) raw links with something attractive and meaningful. No matter what you do, you need to to be able to see what links are getting clicks and which ones aren’t.
All of this capability is sorely lacking from basic WordPress, but is instantly solvable with the free Easy Affiliate Links plugin for WordPress. Now you can quickly and easily make branded links like the “big boys” without breaking a sweat, as well as know how many clicks you’re getting. This way you know if the link is doing it’s job and driving traffic to whatever destination you had in mind. Hopefully one that’s building your brand and/or business! 🙂
More Great Free WordPress Plugins to Come!
We are planning on adding to this Best FREE WordPress Plugins for Blogs, Bloggers and Others list on an ongoing basis. Bookmark this page and check back here regularly for more must have WordPress plugins as we add them in. Better still, join us to receive the latest news, info, updates, contest, freebee and sweepstakes notifications, and much, much more.
If you have thoughts, questions or concerns, please leave them in comment section below.