When building your WordPress website, it seems like it’s really never finished. Sure, you can finish the pages and menu items needed on the site, but you’re always looking to improve your site by making it faster, rank better on Google and be more secure. Today I thought it’d be fun to share my top five free WordPress plugins I highly recommend you try.
Let’s get right into it with Yoast SEO. Yoast is a free search engine optimization plugin that lets you change how page titles and descriptions appear on Google and other search engines. Without a plugin like Yoast, you can’t control this information on your Google result and Google just guesses out what it thinks you want there and adds a nice … to the end it’s not very pretty. Yoast allows you to change this and put exactly what you wanna be there, your website, title description, all the key words to increase your chance of ranking higher. Yoast also make sure Google has the correct metadata for your site so you can get that nice page structure under your listing to help people get directly to the page they need. Whether it’s about contact, FAQ, you get the idea they can just click straight through under your website listing and go right to the page.
If you’re a blogger, Yoast totally changes how you write content. It helps you include keywords to reinforce your target search phrase, make posts long enough for the Google Algorithm to take it seriously and make it easier for readers to digest, which increases time spent on your page when people can read easier which in turn helps SEO. It’s really brilliant how it all works together. Yoast does offer a premium version, but I’ve never paid for it. I find that the free version serves my needs just fine and I’d recommend trying it for your website. Next is a simple one, but one I can’t live without. Duplicate Posts does exactly what it says. It duplicates a post or page so you can make a copy to work off. I find it so crazy that WordPress still doesn’t offer this feature natively, but Duplicate Post is free and does the job perfectly.
There’s a few reasons you might wanna do this or I’ll sometimes use it to do a Save As for a page and be able to make changes to a copy of that page without permanently changing the only version that exists, or sometimes I’m working on a landing page and simply want to duplicate an existing one to use it as a template for my second one, that’s all there is to it. It’s a simple plugin that does exactly what it says it lets you duplicate a post for page easily and work off of that copy to do whatever you need to do. Next, let’s take a look at WP Mail. This one’s a bit obscure on the surface and it seems very technical, but let me explain what it does and why you need it. By default. When any email is sent from your WordPress website, it sent through the IP address of your web server.
If you’re on shared hosting, the shared servers IP address commonly gets blacklisted as spam due to other web hosting accounts, getting compromised and hackers, utilizing it to send spam mail. Fun factory you, I bet you didn’t know that the overwhelming majority of creepy spam mail you receive comes from GoDaddy Shared Hosting servers or Bluehost or DreamHost or any of the shared hosting companies. Most of the spam mail you get in your inbox comes from compromised web hosting accounts. So what does this mean in English? Well, using the default mail settings in WordPress, there’s a good chance of email being sent from your website, getting sent to your spam folder.
This is a problem if you have a contact form on your site or receive emails, when people leave a comment on your blog posts for approval, because if you don’t regularly check your spam folder, you could miss an important inquiry. If you’re a freelancer, you might miss someone who wants to hire you because you don’t have your WordPress configured correctly to send mail the right way. WP Mail allows you to change how WordPress sends mail and it allows you to link directly to a transactional mail service like SendGrid, Amazon SES, or Sendinblue.
Again what does that mean in English? Well, you know how you use a service like Mailchimp or Constant Contact to send your marketing emails to your email list, you wouldn’t send a mass email from your Gmail account and CC everyone, probably because it would get sent directly the spam and it’s just ghetto. You don’t do it, You use a professional service like MailChimp. If you’re doing an email list and you want to do email marketing services like MailChimp and Constant Contact have special ways of sending mail to ensure a low chance of it getting sent to spam. And that’s exactly what services like SendGrid, Amazon SES, or Sendinblue do for transactional emails. Transactional emails are emails to reset your password or email such as getting a new contact form submission or new comment on your website.
I personally use Spark Post and I use the SMTP option within WP mail SMTP to connect it accordingly. Spark Post lets you send up to 500 emails per month for free and I’ve never exceeded the free limit. Using a setup like this make sure you don’t miss important emails, including security alerts from Wordfence, which is the next plugin I’m highlighting. Wordfence is a free security solution that features a Live Firewall Brute Force Protection against common attacks, email alerts for new admin logins and optional two factor authentication.
I speak from experience in saying that WordPress is not secure on its own without a proper security system. So I would advise installing Wordfence on your site immediately. Seriously, it’s totally free if you don’t have it installed, pause this video right now, hit that link in the description and go install it on your site. It’s that important. They do offer a premium version, but I’ve always used the free version and been happy with it. I won’t talk about it too much since I made a dedicated video on it here, but I will have the link in the description to all the plugins mentioned. Last let’s talk about Really Simple SSL.
I recently talked about how you can get an SSL certificate for free, but when you install it on your web server or set up Cloudflare, sometimes WordPress has trouble enforcing HTTPS on your website. Really Simple SSL is a basic free plugin that all your content on your website loaded over HTTPS and a redirect is forced. So visitors will always see that lovely lock icon. Every time they visit your site, and SSL will be configured correctly. It’s really simple to activate install it and click a few buttons and you’re set. So if SSL is working fine on your WordPress site, you don’t really need Really Simple as SSL, but if you’ve had trouble setting it up or you notice that sometimes it’s not HTTPS, I would go ahead and install it. I just install it on all of my WordPress site as a general rule i figure why not?
It can’t hurt anything. And because of that, I’ve never had trouble with my SSL configuration. So those are my top five essential WordPress plugins, but I do have two honorable mentions. Sumo and Smush. Sumo is a free exit intent popup I’ve talked about before and Smush is a free plugin that automatically compresses and downsizes images when you upload them to WordPress, it doesn’t affect the quality much, but it makes the file size smaller. This helps your site load faster, which not only boosts your SEO, but it also saves you storage space on your web hosting account.
As previously mentioned, I’ll have links to all of these plugins description below. Now I’ve gotten a few questions lately regarding drag and drop Page Builder Plugins like Elementor or WPbakery. And since this is a video talking about my essential WordPress plugins, someone’s going to ask it. They’re going to be like Christian, why did you not talk about a page builder? That’s pretty essential to WordPress. So I’ll make it simple. I wouldn’t recommend buying or using the free version of Elementary or WPbakery on their own because they’re included in good quality WordPress themes. And I think it’s best.
If you get a good word, press theme, that’s integrated and designed to work with the Page Builder Plugin directly, which would mean that the page builder plugin is included and you don’t need to find one or install one because it’s bundled with the plugin. Now here’s the thing. The WordPress theme you pick for your site can dramatically change your website, building experience. It can change based on the backend of the theme, the developer chooses to use which Page Builder Plugin they include. There’s a lot of variables that really affect how your website building experience goes just based on the theme you pick.
So if you’d like me to make a video about my top WordPress themes, drop a comment below, I think that would be an interesting video. And if it sounds good to you do be sure to let me know about that. Also if you missed it, last week I announced the launch of Craylor Academy. Craylor Academy is my new website for online courses and my new course building a WordPress website from start to finish is launching on Craylor Academy later this year.
I’ll be covering all of this juicy information in great detail including which WordPress theme you should use and a step by step guide from start to finish on building your first WordPress website, using the link in the description. You can sign up for my email list and get the course for $19 when it launches. And that’s $19 one time, by the way, no subscriptions, no upsells, no ads. If that’s something you’re interested in, be sure to hit up the link below and join the list. So what are your essential WordPress plugins? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.