Ahh, free WordPress plugins … the problem-solving, easy-to-install, little bits of code that make WordPress so customizable and so great.
If you’re thinking about using WordPress, then you’ve probably already heard about plugins, and why they’re one of the reasons why WordPress powers 32% (!) of the Internet (source).
In fact, both paid and free plugins are one of the many reasons why I use WordPress, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Combined with powerful WordPress themes like Divi, plugins allowed a no-coding-background digital strategist like me to make a living building websites. Pretty cool.
(See why I became an affiliate marketer for Elegant Themes – and Divi – here).
BUT, if you’re a newbie, where do you start? Not to worry – your ‘big sister’ is here to walk you through the plugins that you should install on your website right away, plus how to find more when you need ‘em.
So keep reading for my favourite, must-install-right-away WordPress plugins!
Yes, WordPress is inherently good for SEO.* Beloved SEO expert (and former Google lead) Matt Cutts has even said WordPress solves 80-90% of SEO mechanics right out of the box (source).
(*SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization’ and it means just what it sounds like: things you can do to make it easier for search engines like Google to find and index your website, and show it to potential users. Really important to get a handle on seo if you want to get more traffic to your site.)
So even if you just use WordPress and do nothing else, you’ll still be doing pretty good SEO wise, especially if you put out regular content. (Need more ideas for your blog? See here).
But there’s a great little plugin to amp up your SEO, and it’s got a robust free version, so it’s always one of the first things I add to new WordPress sites – why not?
Introducing Yoast SEO. I love this plugin because it just lets you take all the SEO stress you may be experiencing and forget about it. Leave it to the experts!
Set up is pretty simple, and the free version has always worked well enough for me. They do offer paid versions if you really want to ramp things up. But I’d recommend sticking with the free version while you figure things out.
They’ve also got tons of great SEO resources available on their website, as well as good documentation to help you get started. So what are you waiting for? 🙂
You’re building a WordPress site, right? So why not go full-hog, and install WordPress’ own and recommended Jetpack.
Jetpack offers a lot of features that don’t come out of the box with WordPress, like app integration, extra security features and, my favourite, site stats and analytics.
It does take a little more work to set up (see how here), and I don’t use all the features. But I really like that it lets me see my site stats at a glance when I login to my WordPress dashboard.
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP
Similarly, you can also set up Google Analytics Dashboard for WP if you would like to see you stats at a glance. This plugin will also give you extra insight into how users are interacting with your site.
And more importantly, this is a really helpful plugin if you plan to use Google Analytics (which you should – because web traffic analytics is really important).
This plugin also makes it easy to add your Google tracking code, so that you don’t need to mess around with the code yourself. That in and of itself is worth it if you’re a newbie!
You might already know that I loooooove unsplash.com, which is a great resource for stunning and free (free!) high quality images.
(Just found this on Unsplash this morning … I mean, come on!)
The only issue for a newbie using Unsplash is that the images are quite large, pixel-wise. This is great for some usages … but you don’t want to add any big images to your website, because they can slow your pages down and even affect your Google ranking.
(Word to the wise: I try to keep all my images under 150kb. Sometimes I go over a bit, but do your best to keep your images the same size or much smaller).
Now, I have Photoshop, so I can easily shrink down my images an necessary. But that only works if you have Photoshop!
So what to do if you want to use your big beautiful images, but you don’t have any photo-shrinking software on hand?
That’s where the free WordPress plugin Instant Images comes in! This is a really cool new plugin that I’m stoked to now be using. Makes things so simple!
Title and Nofollow for Links
This one’s only really important if you’re building an affiliate site. That means that you’re selling products or services for another company and getting paid a commission.
Now, Google has said that it wants paid links, like affiliate links, to be tagged ‘no follow,’ and what Google wants, Google gets!
Tagging a link ‘no follow’ basically means you’re telling search engines not to give this link the same weight and authority they give to organic links. You’re letting them know that this link is a bit different from others on your site, because you’re hoping to get paid through it.
The easiest way I’ve found to make some (*but not all,) of my links ‘no follow’ is to use a free WordPress plugin. Remember, you only want to make your affiliate links be ‘no follow’ – the rest can stay normal.
There are a few plugins around for this purpose. My favourite is Title and Nofollow for Links. Once installed, for every link I add, I have the option of going in and making it nofollow. Super easy! INSERT GRAPHIC
How To Find More Plugins
Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s another reason why WordPress is so great. There are literally tens of millions of websites out there using it. And that means if you need to add something to your website – an ecommerce store, a great portfolio grid, a live chat box, a spam blocker, extra security, social media integration, you name – then there is probably a plugin you can use.
And because they’re so popular? All you gotta do is use Google to find ’em! Seriously, whatever you’re thinking you might like to add to your site, just Google it with “WordPress plugin” and you’ll likely find something.
Of course, WordPress has a directory you can always check out.
And another word to the wise. Lots of popular plugins will have their own websites. I still like to check out a plugin’s ‘official’ page on WordPress, so I can get a non-biased handle on it. Particularly important to look at how many people have downloaded it, its rating, and whether it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. Also good to see that it’s updated frequently and has good support.
So that’s it! Start with these free WordPress plugins and add more as necessary, and your site will be awesome in no time!
Psssst …. like the Pinterest graphic in this post?
I built it super easily and FOR FREE using Canva.
And all these great images are from Unsplash, and they were FREE too!
They’re two of my favourite online resources available to digitial marketers …
find them all with links here!