WordPress is the number one choice of all new websites starting out on the web today. There are over 55 million WordPress based sites worldwide with an estimated 100,000+ new WordPress based sites created every day! Such mega corporations like NBC, NFL and CNN publish daily through WordPress powered blogs.
WordPress' popularity stems from it's relative ease of use, no longer do you have to understand the complex language that is known as HTML or have any programming and database knowledge. Additionally, plugins add otherwise complex features at the proverbial "touch of a button".
However, with 20,000+ known plugins in existence, it sometimes feels like you need a degree in plugins to find one that does what you want it to do. There are several must have plugins that are head and shoulders above the rest, which help to enhance WordPress security, performance, functionality and search egine optimization.
#1 – Secure-WP
Security should always be your first concern when anything is reachable publicly on the internet – that is why I rank Secure-WP as being one of the most essential WordPress plugins out there. Don’t get me wrong – WordPress does a great job natively of securing your Blog, providing that you keep the version updated.
However, Secure-WP bolsters that security further by removing oodles of information that could be used by hackers and removing some sensitive material from user accounts, while preserving this information in the administrator’s account. Good stuff!
#2 – Spam Free WordPress
Spam is a HUGE problem with WordPress blogs, which makes an anti-spam plugin one of the most essential WordPress plugins. I use Spam Free WordPress, which seems to be doing quite well. Over the course of a 6 month period, it has blocked over 8,000 spam comments, a number that seems to grow exponentially. Now imagine having to go through 40-50 spam comments per day! One of the key reasons we use plugins is to save time, and Spam Free WordPress certainly accomplishes this!
#3 – W3 Total Cache
After security and spam are taken care of, site speed is the next thing that comes to mind. No-one is going to wait around for 30 seconds for your webpage to load, so site speed is critical. I’ll now mention a couple of essential WordPress plugins that help supercharge your website.
The first is W3 Total Cache. This plugin is massively popular, downloaded almost 1.2 million times! It helps speed up your site by improving server performance, caching every aspect of your website, reducing download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration. In short, it makes your WordPress Blog faster!
#4 – WP Optimize
WordPress is database driven. The more efficient the database is, the quicker pages can be accessed from the database, the quicker your site loads to your visitors. However, over time, a WordPress database can become polluted with needless information (such as deleted content, spam comments, old page revisions etc). This increases the overall size of the database and increases access times to that database. The end result – your pages take longer to open.
WP Optimize cleans up your database automatically and keeps it streamlined by removing needless information on an ongoing basis.
#5 - Google XML Sitemaps
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of SEO related plugins. Only a handful of these I would consider essential WordPress plugins. The first is Google XML Sitemaps. A sitemap is basically a road map of your website, outlining all the individual pages and how they link together – their structure. Google and the other major search engines use such sitemaps to more efficiently crawl and index your site.
Google XML Sitemaps automatically creates such a sitemap and keeps it updated as you add new content. In addition, it also notifies all major search engines every time you create and post new content.
#6- All in One SEO Pack
All in One SEO is the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress blogs. It helps you to optimize pages and posts by automatically generating meta tags and helps you to optimize web page titles. The great thing about the All in One SEO Pack is that it is fully functional out of the box, requiring very limited configuration, making it great for those new to WordPress and SEO.
Essential WordPress Plugins Summary
The general idea of plugins, is to make your job easier running a WordPress blog, but from personal experience, finding a plugin that does what you want it to do can often be frustrating task in itself!
I cannot begin to imagine how many plugins I have tested over the years. The above 12 free and essential WordPress plugins have managed to prove their worth time and time again.
Stephanie is a published article author and internet marketing expert. Stephanie is also the co-webmaster of How to Begin a Website
- a Blog full of information and resources relating to web development, SEO and Blogging.
For a more indepth list of the most must have, 12 free WP Plugins, please see her page on essential WordPress plugins