Essential Free WordPress Plugins

I love WordPress.

I really do. While I get that it’s a weird thing to be passionate about, when you’ve worked on so many crappy websites like I have throughout the years that are plagued with issues that are inherently set-up in WordPress either out of the box or with a few simple plugins, you come to appreciate the ease of use that has made it so popular.

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!

Hey Sweet Brown, should I build my site in Joomla!?

While there are easily hundreds of thousands of WordPress plugins out there, here’s a quick list of of my favorite free plugins that I can’t do without.

SEO

WordPress SEO by Yoast

There are plenty of popular plugins that are designed to help your site rank higher in the search engines by giving you complete control of stuff like custom page titles, meta descriptions, canonicalization, meta robots tags (noindex, nofollow, noodp, etc.), Google+ Authorship and everything else that an SEO nerd like myself needs, but many of are way too complicated or are just plain trash.

And then there’s WordPress SEO. It handles everything I mentioned above and more without being overcomplicated or just plain dangerous, so definitely install this one.

Broken Link Checker

Guess what this plugin does?

Bam! Nice work. This plugin scans your blog to look for both external and internal links that are broken, which if you’ve even been referred to a great resource on a website only to be taken to an error page when you clicked it, you know how annoying that can be. This plugin will alert you when it finds a broken link, so you can either update it or delete the link easily from your WordPress dashboard. #LikeABoss

 Social Media

Shareaholic

Getting your content in front of new readers via social media is one of the absolute best ways to quickly build a following, since a share from a friend is an implied endorsement that your content is interesting/helpful/funny/etc. and would possibly be enjoyed by  others. Those sort of high value shares can drive an avalanche of traffic to your site in ways that would otherwise cost hundreds of dollars or more in traditional advertising spend.

This plugin does a lot to make it easy for your visitors to share your stuff by adding various sharing options to your pages and posts. As of this writing, you may see a black bar at the top of the page with some sharing buttons (go ahead and click them to see how they work! ;)), as well as some related posts at the bottom of the page.

Shareaholic does a lot more, but that’s how I’m using it for now. Check it out!

Privacy Friendly Facebook

You’ve probably visited sites where you see a feed that shows the most recent stuff that’s been posted to someone’s Facebook Fan Page, as well as a bunch of pictures of people that have liked the page, right?

That’s a great thing to have on your site to show your followers what’s been happening on your Fan Page while enticing them to like your page, there are two issues with that:

  1. Some people might not love having their picture shown to every single person who visits a page for privacy reasons.
  2. Pulling in that content every single time a page loads makes it unnecessarily slow.

This plugin solves both of those issues by displaying a large clickable Facebook logo instead (see on the top right of the page in the sidebar). Did you try clicking it?

Pretty cool, right?

Spam

Anti-Spam

While WordPress comes with Akismet already installed which is a very good option for fighting spam, you still have to do things like get an API key (free for personal use) and manually delete comments that are tagged as spam. Anti-Spam doesn’t make you do any of that. Just install it and forget about having to deal with generic or nonsense comments that link back to fake designer handbag/generic Viagra/online gambling/etc. sites.

One note: While I can’t say for sure that it’s the case from experience, there’s the chance that some legitimate comments may get deleted as spam by this plugin. Occasionally, a real comment that gets left by a visitor gets tagged as spam with other similar plugins when they include more than a link or two, since that’s typically a dead giveaway of a spammy comment. There’s a small chance that could happen with Anti-Spam as well.

Personally, I’d rather occasionally lose a legitimate comment from a overzealous fan than to wade though mountains of spam comments to save it from being flushed down to Hell. Again, I haven’t experienced false positives with the great plugin so far, so it may be a moot point.

Security

Wordfence

Hackers – other than “hacktivists” like Anonymous (please don’t jack up my site! :D) – are dicks. With so much spam and other dangers lurking out on the internet, it’s really important to take some simple precautions to make your WordPress blog more secure.

Wordfence is an amazing free security plugin for WordPress that does so much to keep your blog secure like:

  • Blocking users/bots who are phishing for passwords
  • Scanning your plugins/themes/core files to see if they’ve been altered
  • Searching files for common methods that hackers use to gain control of your site
  • and a lot more

What Other Free WordPress Plugins Are Essential?

There you go! Those are my top picks for free WordPress Plugins that’ll make you life a lot easier while giving you a site that’s setup to do what 95% of people need to do online. There are plenty of paid WordPress plugins that I use daily to build my business, so I’ll likely share those in a later post.

What do you think? Are they any free plugins that you would consider a “must have”? Do you know of any plugins that are better options than what is listed? Share below!

Brian Rakowski

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